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The Innocent And The Orphan

THE INNOCENT AND THE ORPHAN


(Sahar Ghayar)

BOOK 1

Earth

PREFACE:

The alliance between an adult and a child was not something I had anticipated. Normally, adults wouldn’t put their
entire faith in a child as young as this one was.

But I was confident that he would handle more than any other grown-up would, and from what it looked like, there was
too much to bear.

Although I hadn’t known him for a very long time, I had no second thoughts concerning the new little friend I had. He
was already my only family.

Knowing that helping him was the only way to have my answers, I couldn’t back down; he was my last hope, just like I
was his.

There was no question now that I trusted the little boy more than anyone of my other friends - not that I remembered
any of them.

I swore to myself, I would find him his answers, even if I didn’t find mine in the process.

=========================================================

1. INTERROGATIONS

Who was I?

Where was I?

Why was I here?

What had happened to me?

All of those questions could find no anwer in my memory.

A woman standing a few feet away from me just waved at me.

“Hi Aurea,” she greeted me.

My name was Aurea, I remembered that. But why couldn’t I remember anything else? I had understood what the
woman had just said to me, so I must know how to talk. And she was now walking towards me, so this must be real.

“Who are you?” I asked the stranger woman.

“Why I’m Jamie. Your roomate,” she answered, slightly confused. “Are you all right? You look a bit lost.”

“I am lost. I can’t remember anything.”

“What?”

“I… I don’t remember meeting you for example, but you seem to know me.”

Jamie eyed me suspiciously.

“Are you joking again?” she asked.

“No… Do I joke a lot? I don’t remember that.”

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The Innocent And The Orphan

Jamie’s expression turned to concern immediately.

“Oh my… That ball must’ve hit you hard in the head. You probably had one of those amnesias I heard about on TV
yesterday,” she mused.

“Amnesia? And what ball?” I wondered.

“Poor Phœnix was just playing, he didn’t mean to hit you with it,” Jamie defended the kid.

“Who’s Phœnix?”

It was really frustrating for me; there I was trying to remember who I was, and Jamie had to bring me more mysteries I
couldn’t understand.

“Oh dear,” Jamie’s expression was worried again. “Come on in. I know a great remedy for amnesias. My grandma used
to make it during the Second World War. That’s how she met my grandad, you know,” she bragged.

“There’s been a war?!”

“Oh don’t worry! It was a long time ago. Now let’s get inside and get you fixed up, shall we?”

Jamie held my arm and led me inside a building, onto the fifth floor. Then we entered an appartment, numbered 205.
The kitchen was the first room behind the front door. The walls, the cupboards, the closets… everything was painted a
light blue sky. There was enough space in there to fit only five people; six would be squeezed.

There was a small table in the center of the room with two chairs, all of the same color. Jamie told me to sit on one of
the chairs while she opened the fridge right behind the seat where I was, and took out a number of ingredients.

I could tell that there was cinnemon, lemon juice, salt and butter between the food that Jamie had taken, just by
smelling them.

How come I could remember food and my name but nothing else? Maybe Jamie was the answer to my million
questions.

“Here, drink this, honey,” Jamie ordered me.

The cup she had handed me contained a greyish looking liquid which smelled like barbecue mixed with salt and lemon.
I took it willingly enough, even though the smell repulsed me just a bit.

“This’ll get your engine back on in a week, tops,” Jamie continued.

Slowly, I took a careful sip from the strange juice and regretted it immediately; it tasted even worse than it smelled. But
I couldn’t offend Jamie, so I pretended to keep drinking.

“Thank you,” I said with difficulty, pretending to swallow.

“You’re welcome sweety,” she replied with a smile.

With her childish expression, Jamie looked like she was still young, maybe in her early twenties. When she smiled,
small dimples appeared on her forhead, which made her look older. She had a very warm face, friendly, with huge dark
green eyes that made her look childlike, straight dark brown hair that didn’t reach any longer than her shoulders, and a
round face that showed just how kind she was.

I sighed and looked her in the eyes.

“Jamie, would you mind helping me?” I asked tentatively.

“Sure thing darling. What do you need?” she agreed quickly.

“Information. On who I am. I’d like to remember my life.”

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The Innocent And The Orphan

“I’ll tell you as much as I know.”

I smiled in relief, then went on.

“Thank you. Okay, so what do you know about me?”

“Well, your name is Aurea. I don’t know your last name, and I’m pretty sure you’re not more than 27 years old, though
I don’t know when’s your birthday. Um… you work at ‘Johnny’s restaurant’, it’s only a few blocs away, and you and I
have been roomates for 2 years. Other than that, I really don’t know anything about your past.”

“Where am I?”

“Well, you’re in New Jersey.”

“New Jersey? Where’s that?”

“In the continent of America. Duh!”

“A…merica?”

Jamie looked at me like I was crazy.

“On Earth!”

“That’s a planet?”

“Of course!”

A planet I’d never heard of? Why didn’t I even remember that?

“But why did I come to… New Jersey?” I stuttered on the name, not quite sure how to say it.

“I’m not sure. I guess you were looking for a job. All I know is that you came here about 7 years ago. You were barely
older than a college girl,” she explained.

“What about before that?”

“I really don’t know. You never talked about it, and I never wanted to disturb your privacy. It seemed to me like you
didn’t enjoy much talking about yourself.”

“Okay. Well, how did I have amnesia in the first place? You said something about a ball and Phœnix…”

“All I know is that you were going out to take the newspaper, and the kids from the orphanage accidentally hit you on
the head with a basket ball. It was that adorable boy Phœnix. He has such a beautiful face!”

“Who’s Phœnix?”

“He’s one of the kids at the St Augustine orphanage.”

“Orphan, so he lost his parents, right?”

“Well his dad died a couple of months ago, but no one knows who his mom is. If you ask me, I think she ran away from
them.”

“Why would anyone do that?”

The idea was repulsive to me for some reason. Why would a mother abandon her child? How could she live with
herself after that? But most importantly, why does it make me feel so sick?

“My niece goes to the same school as Phœnix. He told her once that his parents were barely 17 when they had him. She
must have been too scared to take care of a child while still being one herself, so I’m guessing she ran away and left her
baby to his father. Bit irresponsible if you ask me. She shouldn’t have had a child in the first place if she was going to

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The Innocent And The Orphan

abandon him. That reminds me of a story I heard about on the news…” Jamie went on with her speculations, looking at
the ceiling of the tiny kitchen.

But I was already feeling bad for the poor Phœnix boy. I found herself wanting to know more about him. Jamie seemed
one of those people who just babbled on and on about the boring story of their life, and I knew I had to be the one to
remind her of the real point of discussion.

“Hey, Jamie?” I interrupted her tale.

Jamie’s eyes refocused on mine, and she frowned at the interlude. I sighed and smiled apologetically.

“Sorry, I just wanted to ask you another question,” I explained myself with a friendly tone.

Jamie’s eybrows relaxed instantly and her lips pulled up in a half smile.

“You really want my help? You’ve never asked me for anything before,” she pointed out, though I didn’t remember.

“Yes, really,” I assured her. “You’re the only person I’ve seen so far.”

“All right then.” Jamie seemed pleased. “But if it’s about you, I have to warn you, I’ve told you everything I know. You
and I were never close enough for you to tell me anything more than that.”

I puckered my lips as I remembered that I still had no clue on who I was. Rearranging my thoughts, I asked another
question, still about the same subject, though.

“How much do you know about Phœnix, then?”

“Not much. I’ve seen him a few times. Talked to him only once. But I can tell he’s an adorable boy. He’s very mature
for his age. Incredibly bright as well. I think he could be a pretty good choice for my niece.”

I immediately sensed Jamie going into distraction. I didn’t interrupt her this time, not wanting to hurt her feelings. I
pretended to keep listening, waiting for her to stop.

“She’s got a bit of a crush on him, you see,” she went on. “He’s all she talks about. ‘Phœnix this and Phœnix that’!”
She sighed. “Too bad he’s got blue eyes.” That pulled me back up.

“What’s wrong with blue eyes?” I demanded, an edge of insulance that I couldn’t understand in my voice. Jamie didn’t
think much of the interruption this time.

“Blue eyes are cursed. Duh! They kill whoever you come to love.”

“I have blue eyes,” I pointed out and understood why I had found the idea insulting.

“Yes, but you’re a woman. Blue eyes are a curse to boys and men.”

“Says who?”

“Everybody knows that!”

I barely resisted rolling my eyes at the stupid superstition. Instead, I tried to change the subject.

“Well, um, since you don’t know much about me, do you know someone who does? I really need to regain my
memory.”

“Hmm… maybe you should ask Johnny, your boss. He wouldn’t have hired you if he didn’t know anything about you,
right?” My face immediately light up at the suggestion.

“Yes, great idea.” There was a short pause. “Slight problem. I have no idea where my work place is.”

Jamie laughed. “Don’t worry. That, I can help you with,” she assured me.

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The Innocent And The Orphan

The trip didn’t take long, Jamie knew her way well. It was only a dozen blocs away from the appartment. The
restaurant wasn’t very fancy. Big enough but not too decorativally taken care of. The walls were tinted a fair dark green
and had some blanc spots in a few places and only a couple of tables were taken, which made me think this wasn’t a
very popular place.

Johnny was a friendly person on the surface, but as I spoke to him more, he seemed to be the kind of people who put on
a poker face for the sake of their wallet getting heavier - though by the look of his restaurant, that was hardly the case.
He was dressed in a formal green suit, matching the color of the walls, and had apparently dived his head in a gel bath;
his dark black hair was sparkling, looking solid as a rock, and pulled down to the left side of his skinny face, over his
brown eyes.

“Aurea, Jamie, how are you today?” he greeted us with a polite smile.

“Fine, thank you,” Jamie responded with a friendly tone.

“What brings you here today?” he wondered.

“Aurea needs your help.”

In a few minutes, Jamie had explained the situation to Johnny. All the while, his face was expressionless, speculative,
and when the story was over, a hint of suspicion appeared on his face.

“Is this another one of your jokes Aurea?” he asked skeptically.

I trew my arms up in the air.

“Why does everyone keep telling me that?” I complained. “Am I that much of a prankster?”

Johnny pursed his lips while Jamie smiled playfully.

“Well,” Johnny was considering, “pretty much, yeah.”

He and Jamie laughed out loud. I groaned impatiently and the seriousness came back to their faces. Johnny considered
me for a couple of seconds then appeared to choose an interpretation.

“Okay, fine, I’ll believe you. You have amnesia,” he concluded. “What now?”

“Will you help me remember myself then?” I asked hopefully.

“Sure. I’ll do what I can for you. What’s the first thing you want to know?”

I asked the first question that came to my head.

“When did you first meet me and when did you hire me?”

“It wasn’t that long ago. Maybe around 5 years ago, though you had come more than 7 years ago,” he explained, trying
to remember the exact timing. “You had run away from college and you needed a job,” he continued while staring into
the small white portion of the wall behind me.

“I ran away from college? Why?” I asked incredulously.

“Well, that was what I had presumed. You were barely 19 or something when you came, you couldn’t have graduated
yet and you were completely alone. I’m not even sure you knew who your parents were, even back then.”

“Why did you hire me?” It seemed odly suspicious to hire a runaway. For all he knew, I could have burned down the
school and was being chased by the police.

Johnny hesitated, as if there was something worse to it than hiring a wanted person. Jamie eyed him warily; it was
obvious she didn’t have a clue what the answer was. I waited, determined not to back away no matter what the truth
was.

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“Okay, here’s the real story. I hired you because… you attrackted clients like magnets,” he confessed. “The food you
make is heavenly! And I desperatly needed some money. I was in gambling and… I had lost so much, owed so many
people. When you came, and I saw the effect your food had on people, I hired you.”

This wasn’t as bad as I had imagined it would be. So he had hired me to use me to win some cash. No big deal! It
would have been a whole lot worse if he had hired me for something as big as being in a relationship with me for
example. Then it would have been even more frustration to me not to remember a bigger part of my life.

“You were a fast worker. And a very effective one, too,” he continued. “And you got me out of my financial problem.”

“Did I work alone?”

“Only two days a week. The other two days you had a couple of chefs assisting you, and they work alone during the
three days of the week you have off.”

I glanced around at the empty restaurant, except for the two occupied tables.

“So today is one of my three days off then?” I asked.

“Yes, and as you can see, there’s hardly any costumers. You are the whole key to my success. You work even faster than
ten chefs together.”

“How was able to work so fast?” I wondered curiously.

“I don’t know. But you’ve always had a lucky word you’d say right before you finish a meal. Um.. it was something
like… venire. And then you’d say the name of the meal to get the luck on it. Plus, you’d never let anyone watch you
while you were working. Those two other chefs, all they do is serve food, take orders and clean after costumers
whenever you’re here.”

“Really? Venire? Are you sure?” I checked.

“Positive,” he affirmed.

Suddenly, Jamie gasped and I turned to see her looking at her watch.

“Oh my gosh! I’m going to be late for my work,” she realised. “I’m sorry Aurea. I’ve got to go. Would you be able to
find your way home?”

“Yes, of course! Go on. I’m leaving in a few minutes anyway” I promised her.

“Thanks. I owe you,” she yelled while runnning out.

Johnny looked hesitantly at me after Jamie had left.

“Well, that’s all I know. Hey, do you mind working today?” he asked hopefully. “I could use some help around here.”

I glimpsed around the room again and surpressed a smile.

“It doesn’t look like you need help to me. There’s hardly any customers. Besides, I don’t even remember how to
prepare food. Amnesia, remember?” I reminded him.

“Right. Do you think you’ll remember though?” He wasn’t so confident anymore.

“I don’t know,” I answered honestly. “I’ll let you know.”

“Well, I hope I was of some help to you. I really owe you the most. You’re a very good person Aurea.” He smiled
kindly at me. This was definitely an honest smile.

I couldn’t help returning the smile. That was a comfort to me. Perhaps I wasn’t as bad as I had thought. I would try to
keep that in mind.

“And I’m sorry that I can’t give you any more information,” he went on. “I hope you regain your memory.”

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The Innocent And The Orphan

“Thanks for your help,” I answered before heading for the door. It shouldn’t be so hard to find the appartment again.

I took the first turn I was sure of and kept going forward, remembering that it wasn’t that long of a walk.

This visit was absolutely unsatisfying. I hadn’t found out anything I wanted to. All I had understood about my
personnality was that I was a funny person. How would that help remember who I really was? It’s not like I had just
acted like any jokester when I was with Jamie and Johnny. What if the person I used to show them was not the real me?
What if I had been a liar about my entire life?

It was going to be harder than I thought, to regain her memory. At first, I had hoped that being around people I knew, in
places I went to, would help me somehow. But it didn’t have any effect on me.

What bothered me the most was that I didn’t even understand why I was so desperate to regain my memory. My
instincts were telling me to figure everything out but I couldn’t see why. Had I done something in my past that I had
wanted never to forget?

I glimpsed around me for half a second. Only six more blocks to go. I had enough time to think while being alone.
Then I remembered that Jamie was at work and that the appartment must be empty. But that didn’t make me go faster.
Either I was in the appartment or outside on the street, it didn’t matter. I just wanted to be alone.

Johnny and Jamie’s words came back to me, arranged in a way that they appeared successively, by order.

I had come to New Jersey seven to eight years ago when I was 19 years old. Two years after that, I had found my job at
Johnny’s restaurant. And then four years later, Jamie and I became roomates. I couldn’t even remember those few
years.

But what could have happened during the gap between them? What had I done when I had come before finding a job?
Had I been I living all by myself? What had even happened before that?

The most important question was; what was it that made me move here in the first place? As I asked myself that, I
found a yearning towards it. This was what I wanted to find out. Why had I run away from college? Or was it even true
that I had escaped my education?

Worried and utterly annoyed, I looked around me for the third time, just to distract myself. To my right, was a sign
reading St Augustine Orphanage, Helping The Ones Who Are Alone. It surprised me a little qhen I started wondering if
the little boy Phœnix was anywhere I could see him or talk to him. For some reason, finding out the story of his life
held the same curiousity I had to reaching mine, though not as strong.

I stopped right in place after I saw a couple of kids playing in the garden of the orphanage, and a third one sitting alone
on the sidewalk, invisible to them, reading a book. When I looked closer, I saw the title Pride and Prejudice on the
front cover.

Odd. Wasn’t that a book for adults? I had been the only one to understand it in my school year, so how could a 9 year
old child grasp any word of it?

My heart flipped weirdly in my chest. Had I just recalled a memory on my own? A memory about my school year as a
teenager... Litterature had been my favorite subject, though I couldn’t quite understand the strories without help from
my tutore. Pride and Prejudice had been my favorite book. It was the first book I read on my own.

Slightly glad that I finally recognised a part of my past, I continued my walk. It still wasn’t enough to completely
satisfy me. So I had loved reading, that wasn’t such a great news. I was happy to admit that I had been in school and
that I had loved it. I defintely wouldn’t have run away.

My stomach unexpectedly growled loudly and I laughed out loud. I hadn’t realised how hungry I was.

Pleased to find something to distract me, I started thinking what I could have for breakfast. Or was it lunch time? I
didn’t care, I just wanted to eat. I recalled Johnny telling me how good of a cook I was. I wondered if I could cook
again. Then I remembered the exact words he had told me: “But you’ve always had a lucky word you’d say right before
you finish a meal. Um.. it was something like… venire. And then you’d say the name of the meal to get the luck on it.”

“Venire…” I murmured, and frowned.

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Why did I ever use that word? Luck wasn’t something I believed in. At least I didn’t think I did.

“Venire. And then the name of the meal,” I speculated out loud. Maybe if I tried saying it, it would jog something in my
memory. “Venire… orange?”

Suddenly, a small round orange was in my hand. I yelled and dropped it.

“Whoa!” I shouted. “What the…?”

I looked down at the ground. It was still there. I hadn’t imagined it. An orange had litteraly come out of nowhere in my
hand.

Erasing the panic in me, I tried again.

“Venire… chicken?”

All of a sudden, a chicken appeared between my two hands. A live big chicken. Terrified, it clapped its wings hastily,
trying to get free from me.

I screamed and let it run away.

“Whoa…” I murmured.

I stared after the chicken, amazed at what I had just discovered. Did I have the gift to make food appear out of thin air?
What if it wasn’t just food?

I took a deep breath and braced myself for the next try.

“Venire bracelet,” I whispered, too scared to say it any louder.

Around my wrist, a golden lace appeared with a small locket at one end. I opened it but found it empty.

A new feeling reigned in me; I was talented. I wasn’t a normal human, I had a supernatural gift. A sense of pride coverd
me. I was special and I loved that.

“Wow that’s pretty,” a voice to my right said. I jumped and turned around.

In front of me, the boy who was reading just a few minutes ago stood staring at me, with his head coocked to one side.
Dressed in jeans, a red shirt and a blue jacket, with red shoes, he looked like he could be 8 or 9 years old, but I couldn’t
be sure. His eyes, deep blue, were locked on the bracelet surrounding my wrist.

“Um... thank you,” I managed.

“I didn’t know you could make something as pretty as that,” he continued.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Well, you’ve never created anything this nice before. It’s always been nothing more than a hat or a cape.”

My eyes opened wide and my mouth popped open. Did this kid know anything about the newly discovered gift I had?

“Have you seen me do that before?” I asked, stunned.

“Yeah. Twice. The first time was by accident, but the second time, I… I was spying on you,” he admitted, embarrassed.

By his appearance, I judged that it wasn’t on bad intentions.

“Why?”

“Because I’ve never met anyone else who could do magic. And I was curious.”

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“Magic?”

Was that what I had done? It wasn’t like I had any idea what was happening with me. Maybe this little person was
going to give me the help I needed.

“Yes, magic,” he answered.

I deliberated for a few seconds. “What’s your name?” I demanded.

“I’m Ferus Phœnix. Nice to meet you,” he replied as he held out his hand with a smile on his face.

My face light up at the sound of his name. There he was, finally!

“Hey! I’ve been looking for you,” I sang happily and took his hand in mine.

Phœnix’ eyebrows pulled together in a frown, obviously intrigued by what I had just said. “Really? Why?” Slowly, he
took his hand back.

“No reason. By the way why did you throw a ball on my head?” I remembered how I had sort of woken up earlier this
morning.

His brows relaxed into an arch. “Oh I was just trying to play with the other kids. They made me play. But I don’t like it,
I prefer to read.”

“Why? You’re a kid, all kids like to play.”

“Not me. It’s so silly to just throw a ball to each other. Where’s the fun in that? Anyway, I’m sorry I hit you with it. It
was my first time throwing a ball and I didn’t mean to hurt anybody.” He eyed me with a faintly concerned expression.
“You’re not really… injured are you?”

I surpressed sarcasm. “Injured? No. But I did loose my memory.”

Phœnix‘ face turned even more worried.

“What? You had amnesia?”

I was surprised he even knew a medical word like amnesia.

“Yeah. And Jamie gave me a remidy for it.” Though it hasn’t really been working, I added crossly in her mind.

Phœnix instantly calmed his face into a mock.

“And you believed her? Jamie is very superstitious. Did you know she thinks wearing pink on Easter is good luck?”

“Then why don’t I remember anything?” I challenged.

“Because you’re a magical person, like me.” The way he said, it was almost smug.

There were two meanings in his words, but I asked about the last one.

“You have magic, too?”

He shrugged his shoulders.

“Yeah, I do.”

I gazed at him suspiciously and crossed my arms.

“Prove it,” I said. This made him smile proudly.

“Okay. Look at your bracelet.”

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The Innocent And The Orphan

I lifted my arm to my eyes and waited. Slowly, gradually, the color of my bracelet turned from golden to blue, pink,
green, red and finally back to gold.

I refolded my arms and turned back to Phœnix, still unconvinced.

“That could have been me” I replied.

“How did you do it, then?” he defied.

I deliberated for a minute. “I don’t know,” I finally admitted.

Phœnix half smiled, winning. “I do. Coloring spell. It’s the easiest of all spells.”

He glanced around him, checking that the road was empty besides us two, then looked back at me. He grinned
angelically, staring straight into my eyes, when suddenly, his own skin tone changed. I rubbed her eyes, blinked several
times, even slapped myself once, - which made him burst in laughter - but his skin was still the same snow white color.
I gasped as he transformed into a greenish blue color.

Phœnix laughed again at my expression and turned his skin back to its usual color. His laugh was clearly that of a child,
ringing like a bell. Yet, everything else about him had made me think maybe he didn’t act much like a child.

“Okay, so maybe you do have magic” I accepted. “And apparently, you know more than I do.”

“It’s really not so hard,” he assured me. “I have been practising for nearly my entire life. Magic is easy for the biggest
part.”

“But what does it mean that I have magic, anyway? Is it a good thing or a bad thing?”

“Well, that depends on how you look at it. For me, it’s the greatest blessing. I don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t have
magic.”

“Why is that?” I wondered.

“If I didn’t have magic, sister Sofie would probably have caught me getting out of the orphanage and would have
brought me straight to mother Karen, and I would have been grounded by now.”

“You ran away?” I whispered, shocked. “Why?”

He shrugged indifferently. “I just get bored with their silly games, like basketball. Don’t worry, I’m not going to stay
out forever. I don’t have anywhere else to go anyway,” he added when he saw my concern. “I’m an orphan and I don’t
know any member of my family.”

That brought me back to this morning when Jamie had told me that Phœnix had lost his father two months ago. I felt
bad for him, even seeing him smiling as he was now. Not wanting to ask him about it, worried it might upset him, I
decided to change the subject.

“Is there any special place where other people with magic live?”

“Yeah, they live on Solcis.”

Astonishment ran through my entire body as the familiar sound of that rang, and made it impossible to speak. I was
suddenly frozen.

“Solcis…” I mouthed.

I knew that place very well. It was where I was born, where I had grew up, where I had learned magic at school, along
with other subjects.

Solcis was my home, the planet I was from.

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The Innocent And The Orphan

2. SOLCIS

I couldn’t move. I couldn’t untie my knuckles or unfold my arms crossed around my chest. The shock was not getting
any lighter, though I had been standing there for several minutes, gazing into thin air.

Phœnix was as still as I was, waiting for me to respond, watching carefully, more patient than a teacher with his slow
students. But I couldn’t even twitch a finger.

Solcis.

I remembered being there, as a child and a teenager. I remembered school, and studying. I even recalled doing magic,
but I didn’t find any spells I used to say. I also remembered how much I loved that planet.

I suddenly understood why I hadn’t been able to recognise any of the places Jamie had told me earlier in the morning. I
hadn’t heard of them when I was on Solcis.

Phœnix finally cracked out to impatience.

“What’s wrong with you?” he asked.

My gaze shifted to him. I couldn’t answer for a long moment.

“It’s kind of hard to explain. And it’s a very long story,” I finally said.

He contemplated for half a minute. “Well,” he replied, “how about we go somewhere we could talk. It seems to me that
this conversation is going to take a long time.”

That distracted me a little bit from the shock. “Won’t you get in trouble if you stay out of the orphanage for too long?”

He smiled, smug again. “Nope. Not when I have magic on my side. Don’t worry about me, just tell me where we could
go.”

It didn’t take long for me find the ideal place.

“My appartment is empty right now. So that would be the perfect place,” I answered.

Phœnix’ face light up. “Perfect. I always wanted to know what your house looked like from the inside.”

Weird. “Why?”

“I constantly immagine the kind of magical stuff you would have there.”

Oh. “Well, you’re going to be really disappointed. I have nothing out of the ordinary in there. Everything only a normal
human being needs.”

He shrugged his shoulders and started walking in front of me. I followed after him and quickly caught up.

“Do you even know where I live?” I asked dubiously.

“Sure. I see through the window of your kitchen from my bedroom. You’re only three blocs away,” he replied. “I’ll race
you there,” he added before taking off.

I laughed out loud before running after him. This curious little kid was suddenly the most enjoyable company I had
since this morning. It wasn’t difficult for me to catch him. He was already at the elevator in my building, one hand
holding it open for me, another on the button of the fifth floor. I joined him in and he pressed the button.

Phœnix found a spare key under the rug, in front of the appartment, and opened the door. He ran straight to the window,
pointing at a building outside.

“See? That’s my bedroom,” he explained.

And I could see it; a tiny little room with just one bed and a small closet.

- 11 -
The Innocent And The Orphan

“Yeah, I see it,” I answered. “Now come sit down. Would you like something? Water?” I offered.

“Water’s good,” he agreed, going to take a seat in the living room, to the right side of the kitchen.

I opened the fridge and got a bottle of water, then took out two cups from the cupboard, and followed Phœnix. We both
sat down on a red couch which was on the east wall of the room.

“Here you go,” I said as I handed him one of the cups and poured water in it.

“Thank you, Aurea,” he said as he drank the whole thing.

My eyes opened wide with shock, and I stared at him for a long moment. He saw the alarm on my face.

“What?” he asked, concerned, as he placed the cup on the side table.

“How – how do you know my name?” I mumbled.

“Oh… well like I said earlier, I’ve spied on you. I wasn’t trying to intrude, I was just trying to make sure you were
really a magic person. I couldn’t be sure from the first time.”

“Okay, but when did you hear my name?” I pressed. “There’s a difference between watching and listening.”

“Um… I eavesdropped on you at work with Johnny once… and once in here with Jamie.” He glanced at me, his
expression apologetic. “That doesn’t bother you, does it?”

I wasn’t sure about that. It definitely didn’t bother me right now, but maybe it had bothered me before when I had
caught him doing it.

Whoa. Another memory. This time it was of my life here.

“Did I… ever catch you?” I dared to ask him.

His eyes were both embarassed and astonished.

“Did you just remember something of your past?” he whispered.

“That depends. Did I ever catch you or the memory I just had is not true?” I pushed.

Slowly, he nodded, the same expression not leaving his face.

“Once,” he explained. “But you didn’t think much of it. You just smiled at me when you saw me looking through your
kitchen window.” After a long pause, he added in a low voice, “How did you do that? Remember a part of your life on
Earth? It’s not supposed to be possible.”

I frowned. “Why not?”

Phœnix took a deep breath, obviously getting ready to tell a long story. I felt suddenly nervous. Would I recognize
anything he was about to tell me?

“Okay,” he started. “To avoid complicating things, why don’t I start with the beginning?”

I shrugged in approval.

“Fisrt things first then. Solcis. My father has explained to me everything he knew about the magical world. Solcis is a
planet. There’s no immediate need for you to understand everything regarding it right now, you just need to understand
why you lost your memory.”

“You know why I lost my memory,” I said, my tone almost accusing.

“Yeah, I do. See, like any country, Solcis has laws. It’s not just a planet where people are allowed to do as they wish.
You could consider it a country instead of a planet because it’s so small that it isn’t divided into different continents and

- 12 -
The Innocent And The Orphan

countries like here on Earth. It’s actually no bigger than Canada in surface. If you’d like to imagine Solcis, you could
picture Canada isolated from the rest of the planet and give it a round form.

“Anyway, like I said, there are rules and laws, and if you break the regulations or don’t follow them there’s
consequences. It could change depending on which rule was broken, what crime was commited.”

“Crime?” I echoed.

“Yeah. What kind of rules do you think there is? It’s a crime to steal for example, no matter where you are. There’s all
sorts of rules and laws, and all of them must be followed, like in any other place. Criminals get punished according to
the sort and size of the crime they committed. For example, if you steal a big amount of money, you spend 20 to 25
years in prison.”

“Who gets to decide how long?” I demanded, interested in knowing.

“The Royal family,” he explained. I raised my eybrows questioningly. “The family members are the king and the
queen. I don’t know if they have any children, or if they’re still alive for that matter. My father never told me any dates.

“Anyway, the biggest punishment there is on Solcis is banishment. They send you away to another planet that…”

“So I have done the biggest crime there is?” I interrupted, alarmed.

“I think so. There’s no other justification to why you’re here and not there.”

How was he able to speak so casually about it? I was very much panicking in my insides.

“But, you’re here and not there, too,” I pointed out, struggling to hide the fear from my face.

“That’s because I’m a runaway.”

“Runaway? From what?” I speculated, vaguely distracted from the panic.

“The story of my life is not what we’re talking about right now. We’re talking about you. My story will come later,” he
objected in a srick tone.

“Alright,” I agreed. “So which crime causes banishment?” I continued, trying not to show how afraid of the answer I
was. He didn’t seem to see through me. Or he did see and I was too nervous to notice. In any case, he went on and
replied carelessly.

“Intentional murder.”

My mouth hung open for two seconds before I recollected herself. “Murder?!” I murmured, horrified. “I killed
someone?!”

“I believe so.” How could he be so relaxed with a murderer sitting right next to him?

Remembering what Johnny had told me this morning, you’re a good person, I suddenly disagreed with the thoughts I
had had then. I wasn’t a good person at all. Murder is never a sign of any good. I had been hoping to regain some part
of my past, something to clarify who I was and what I was doing here. But now, I just didn’t want to hear any more of
it. How could I have killed a person? I tried to remember feeling no regret to killing, or even pleasure, but all I felt was
disgust and horror.

And also, now that I knew some part of the truth, guilt. A whole lot of it. It crushed me like a foot crushed a spider. It
was probaly a very larger guilt then anyone had ever felt in history; no one would ever bear an emotion this strong.

I tried to cringe away from it, or at least think of something else, but it was all that was on my mind in the moment. I
looked around me, hoping to see something that would divert me, and I saw the concerned features on Phœnix’ face.

It all happened in a flash; one second I was sitting right beside him, the other I was at the other side of the room. What
if I hurt him by accident? Or worse, on purpose?

“Get out of here Phœnix,” I ordered in a dark voice which clouded my sadness to see him leave, my only friend so far.

- 13 -
The Innocent And The Orphan

Several emotion crossed his face, all at once. I was able to recognise some of them; shock, hurt, disappointment and
sadness.

“Why?” he asked in a small voice.

“I’m a murder,” I reminded him impatiently. Why was he making it so difficult? I didn’t want to hurt him. Why wasn’t
he grasping my words and running away? “Aren’t you afraid of me?”

“No,” he responded in a softer tone.

Finally, the diversion I was waiting for.

“Why not?” I asked, both intrigued and cautious.

“Because you don’t remember anything.”

I considered that for a moment. Okay so I didn’t remember killing, not even the desire to kill. Maybe right now I would
be incapable of harming him, but hadn’t I remebered many things this morning? Couldn’t I recall my need for
destruction at any time?

“But I might remember at any second and jump to hurt you,” I said my theory out loud.

“I don’t think you can. Why don’t sit back down and I’ll explain the rest?” he suggested.

After a moment of hesitation, I took my seat again by Phœnix’ side, a little further than I had been before jumping off
it.

“I have many reasons to believe that you won’t ever harm me. For one thing, the upshot of that crime isn’t just
banishment. The Royal family also erases the memory of the criminal. Well not entirely, you’re just left with every
knowledge you need to take care of yourself. Therefore, you can talk, read, walk and all of the other things that are
essential to live.

“Secondly, even with an erased memory, the personnality of someone is in the genes” -how did he even know what a
gene was? - “and it doesn’t really change. For that reason, if you don’t feel any nessecity to kill me right now, than you
never did have that feeling.”

There was a hole in his logic though. “I did kill before. Or else I wouldn’t be in this situation.”

“See, this is where it gets good. I don’t think you killed someone. I think there was a mistake and you were really an
innocent accused of doing something you didn’t.”

“What makes you think I’m innocent?” I asked doubtfully, though I did feel a tad relieved.

“For the reason I just told you. If you don’t have any need to hurt me right now then you never did. Character is not
something that could change. I think you’re a good person and always have been.” He smiled at me reassuringly.

What was it about his smile? It made me somehow feel glad to have found this child, and very touched that he was
convinced I wasn’t a criminal. I even believed his theory, it was a logical explanation to why I hadn’t wanted to harm
him.

I smiled back. “Are you sure you’re even a kid? You look like one, you walk like one, you even talk and laugh like one,
but you don’t think like a child.”

He laughed out loud, and I joined him.

“My father was very strict with me, and I was very patient with him. I always accepted everything he tought me, even
the things I didn’t want to learn, like biology. Oh yeah, I know a lot of biology,” he added when I looked dubiously at
him. “I even understand litterature. It’s my favorite subject.” He reached the right pocket of his jacket and took out a
small book. Pride and Prejudice, which he was reading earlier. “This is my favorite book. I’ve read it about a hundred
times and I keep reading it. I can’t get enough of it.”

- 14 -
The Innocent And The Orphan

“So it’s thanks to your father that you became so mature?”

“I wouldn’t say thanks to. More like because of. How would you like it if you were taught all sorts of things since you
were only 3 years old?”

“Three? Wow, harsh,” I complained. “Why did you ever go along with him anyway?”

“He’s my father, I loved him. He was my only family. Until I got admitted into the orphanage, I didn’t know anyone
other than him. I wasn’t going to object to anything he wanted. Anyway, we’re not talking about me right now, so let’s
just change the subject for now, please,” he begged, a hint of despair in his voice.

It seemed to be a very hard topic for him to talk about, and I didn’t want to push him too far, so I agreed without a
hesitation. I went back to what we had been talking about a few minutes ago.

“How come I don’t remember anything but I have been here for nearly eight years?” I asked, searching to check if my
attempt to distract him from his sudden misery was working.

It was. He looked at me with the same proud face he had when he was clarifying something he knew and I didn’t.

“Because it takes a bit less than eight years to erase 75% of a person’s memory. The phase in which you would be in
during that time is called no life.”

“But how did I meet some people if I wasn’t alive, then?” I questioned, not understanding the concept.

“No. No life doesn’t mean you’re dead,” he disagreed. “It means that your brain is unconscious but the rest of your
body functions instinctively to take care of you and let you lead a normal life. The phase is over when the erasing is
complete, and then your brain will be consious again, but with no memory at all of your past.”

I stared at him, looking as if I couldn’t believe my ears.

“Wow,” I mouthed, amazed. “They do all that just to prevent criminals from murdering again? Why don’t they just send
them to jail, or execute them and get it over with?”

Phœnix shook his head disapprovingly. “Murder is a serious crime. Jail isn’t an enough punishment for it. And if they
kill the criminals, then they commit the same felony they did.”

I snorted. “Seems to me like the Royal family is pretty descent.”

“I think so. I don’t know much about them. It was the only thing my father never taught me.” He deliberated for a
second, deep in thought. “You know, if they made a mistake in judging you had murdered, I doubt they’ll be able to
help you prove you’re innocent.”

I saw the meaning behind his words and grinned. “And by that, you mean I should try to prove I’m innocent, right?”

Phœnix’ lips pulled up in a half smile. “Busted!” he admitted happily.

I chuckled. “Okay, well suppose I did agree to that. Where would I start? I can’t even go to Solcis, I don’t know how.”

He stood up and went to the center of the room. He then placed his right hand on his chest and lifted the other one 45
degrees up.

“I, Ferus Phœnix, vow to help you, Aurea, prove you’re not a criminal,” he promised.

I laughed out loud and stood up. I snapped a military salute at him and he mimicked my action. Both of us laughed
after that, enjoying the humoring moment.

Then I was serious again. “Phœnix, you can’t really believe I can do that, can you?”

His smile disappeared, and along came the surprise. “Why not? Don’t you believe you’re innocent?”

“It’s not that. I just think it’s a long shot to be able to prove it. I doubt anyone will let me try. Besides, if I’m going to be
happy here, why should I try to find some old life? I’ll just adapt to this new one.”

- 15 -
The Innocent And The Orphan

So fast that I wasn’t even sure I saw it, Phœnix flashed a disappointed look towards the window. He was trying to hide
it from me, but I saw it before he had comlpetely turned around.

Something I had said had bothered him? I tried remebering what I could have said that was somehow insulting, but
came out empty handed. He had vowed to help me prove I was innocent, and I had said it was a long shot.

That was when I understood the meaning of the words he had used.

“You were serious when you said you wanted to help me?” I guessed.

He twisted his gaze back to me and looked down, not bothering to hide his hurt feelings anymore.

“Hey,” I said in a soothing voice. “It’s all right. I don’t understand why it makes you so sad. I’m fine with it.”

He looked up at me with his sad eyes and tried to explain what was on his head.

“I wanted to go back to Solcis,” he admitted. “It’s the only thing I have close to home.”

Pity washed through me. Though I had been avoinding this subject, I couldn’t stop myself from opening this
discussion.

I sat back down on the couch and patted it on my right, an invitation for him to join me. He consented, the sadness
never leaving his eyes.

“Okay. So you have been getting me out of this suject for almost half an hour now. It’s time you tell me about the story
of your life,” I whispered, comforting.

Phœnix sighed heavily. “Guess I knew it was coming, I just tried to avoid it.”

“Why?”

“It’s a… disturbing topic for me to discuss.”

I couldn’t help it, I had to put my arm around him, rubbing his shoulder. It didn’t seem to bother him. Quite the
contrary even, he shifted closer to me, resting his head on my neck. That brought a new feeling in me. I wasn’t sure
what it was. It seemed almost… protective. Though I wasn’t sure why I felt any need to protect a child that wasn’t even
hmine, or even what to protect him from.

Both of us jumped when my stomach roared, and then both of us laughed.

“I’m going to guess that you haven’t had breakfast yet,” he teased playfully.

“Busted!” I laughed, quoting him. “Oh dang! I don’t know how to prepare food,” I remembered.

“Don’t worry. I do,” he assured me.

My eyes popped open and my jaw hung; I was stunned. Was there something he couldn’t do? Would I ever get used to
his numerous surprising abilities? He laughed at my expression.

“You really have to stop being so amazed by what I can do. I’m a very talented kid,” he bragged.

I puckered her lips. “Show off,” I joked.

He laughed again. “What would you like?” he asked me.

I considered the idea for a few seconds. What did I like to eat? The answer wasn’t so hard to find, I would have known
it even if I hadn’t lost memory; my mouth was already watering at the thought, planting an aproximate taste of it on my
tongue.

“Pancakes,” I replied.

- 16 -
The Innocent And The Orphan

He nodded and then moved back to the kitchen.

=========================================================

3. EXCEPTIONAL

Phœnix was very good at preparing food. He only used magic once, after he had asked me where the appropriate
material and ingredients were, before realising I probably had no idea, and laughing. He searched for everything
himself. It didn’t take him long using the venire spell.

The cooking didn’t take long either. He was fast in mixing up the elements, and it wasn’t two minutes later that the first
pancake was ready. Phœnix also handed me the grape juice.

“Mmm… these are good! Where did you learn to cook, anyway?” I asked in a mouthfull. “Oh my goodness, they don’t
make you cook at the orphanage, do they?” I added before he even answered.

“No. The people at the orphanage are all very nice,” he guaranteed. “My father and I used to take cooking classes
together. He was a very bad cook when we first came here, and he didn’t have any help.”

I hesitated for a long moment, staring at Phœnix’ back, preparing the second pancake, before asking my next question.

“What happened to your mom?”

He sighed. “I don’t know. My father would never tell me anything about her.”

“Why not?”

“Everytime I brought her up, he would mutter something about how stupid and wicked she was. He thinks she’s the
worse thing that ever happened to him… But I think that, deep inside, he misses her just a bit.”

“I’m sorry,” I apologised honestly.

He turned, his hand layed out in front of him, and shrugged his shoulders.

“It’s fine, really.”

Though I felt he was trying to reassure me, I saw how much it hurt him to talk of his parents.

I handed him the empty plate, on which he placed the second and last pancake. After that, he put all the dishes in the
sink and washed them. I saw him scrubbing the bowl for the third time.

“Stalling?” I challenged, smiling internally.

He smiled half-heartedly. “Kinda. Aren’t you eating that?” he asked, poiting at the still unbitten pancake.

In three bites, I finished the last piece of my breakfast, and this time washed the plate, fork and knife myself.
Afterward, I almost pushed Phœnix back to the living room and onto the couch.

“Don’t you want anything to drink?” he delayed.

“Stop running away,” I ordered in a fierce voice.

He moaned in loss. “Fine.”

“Why is that such a hard subject to speak of?” I asked in kinder tone.

“You have to understand the situation I’m in. I grew up without a mother and with a very demanding father. It certainly
is hard to tell anyone the story of my life. It’s a very unpleasant one.”

“What do you mean? How much unpleasant was it?”

- 17 -
The Innocent And The Orphan

“Very. Aside from the head mother, you’re the only one who I will ever have told that story, - though she doesn’t know
entirely everything, of course; I’m not allowed to tell any non-magical person about my abilities - so please don’t be
judgmental.”

“I’ll be as open-minded as I can,” I promied.

“Thank you.” He thought carefully before speaking again, seeming unsure where to start.

“Why don’t you begin with the basics; your name, your birth place, your father…” I suggested.

“Yeah, okay,” he agreed. “My name is Ferus Phœnix, as you probaly already know, and I’m almost 10 years old, my
birthday is in exactly four weeks. I was born on Solcis, like you certainly were, and my parents weren’t 17 yet when
they had me. Well, my father was, but I know that my mother is a few month younger than him, so I’m pretty sure she
wasn’t 17 yet when she was pregnant with me. I have no idea why and how she got pregnant so young, but my father’s
always told me he didn’t regret having me at all. He always said it with affection, so I think he meant it, I think my
father really did love me. But I’m not so sure about what he’d said about my mother; that, on the other hand, she didn’t
want me and that it was why she had run away from us. She actually loved me.” He spoke those few words with
unshakable faith.

“How do you know that?”

“She was the one who named me. I know that because my father didn’t even know the meaning of my name. Ferus
Phœnix stands for proudness and exceptionality. If she really didn’t care about me, why did she call me exceptional?”

I smiled reassuringly. “You have a very nice name.”

He returned the smile. “Thanks. Yours is not so bad. Aure, as in Gold. Your name is Gold. Haha! Very nice name.”

I frowned at his newest attempt at diversion. “Back to the point.”

He smiled wickedly. “It’s hard to distract you, isn’ it?”

I laughed. “Apparently so,” I bragged. “Now tell me more.”

“Well,” he continued, serious again, “I don’t know why my mother left. I’m not even sure she did. I’ve had a thought
once that maybe my father was the one who ran away from her, and took me with him. It would be either because he
loved me and didn’t want her to have me, or he hated her and wanted to get back at her. Either way, I don’t think it was
my mother who ran away.”

“Was he…” I hesitated, wondering if this question would upset him.

“What? Go ahead, ask me,” he encouraged.

“Was your father… a bad person?”

“You mean dangerous, right?” he guessed, and I nodded. “I’ve had many fears of him. He obviously isn’t physically
dangerous, since he never hurt a fly. But he did have some… evil thoughts and… ambitions. Like when he younger; he
told me his biggest ambition was to become king. He even confessed almost killing someone to get there. But he said
that my birth made him change his mind about that. He didn’t want to become a ruler anymore. Instead, he wanted me
to be one. That’s why he teached me so many things when I was too young to learn.” He sighed.

“What happened to him?” I asked in a low voice, hoping this question wouldn’t hit a sensitive cord.

“He died two months ago from a rare sort of cancer. Apparently, he caught it no more than a year before he died, from
the last trip to Africa, and it had spread very fastly to his brain. And then he brain-died, and the doctors couldn’t do
anything more to save him.” The expression on his face showed that he might be about to cry.

“Africa?” I asked, just to try and lift his mood up again.

“Yeah, we used to travel a lot. His parents were very rich, and they left him all of their fortune, which is now rightfully
mine, and I can’t even use it. Mother Karen is very careful not to mention that fact when couples looking for adoption

- 18 -
The Innocent And The Orphan

come to the orphanage. She really cares a lot for me.” He smiled tenderly, and went on. “You know what I’ll do once
I’m old enough to use that money?”

I shook my head. “No, what?”

“I’ll give it all to charity. Everybody has a right to live. So I would help them.”

“Good for you.” I smiled approvingly. “Now go back to the subject,” I said in a stricter tone.

“Dang! You’re good!” he murmured, impressed.

“Thank you very much.”

He sighed for what seemed the hundredth time. “My parents were really young when they first met, but I honestly
believe that they loved each other. Even before I came along, my father asked my mother several times to marry him.
And after my birth, he gave it many shots, too. But my mother always thought she was too young to get married.

“The first time he proposed to her, they were 15, and the last time they were 18. After the last try, he decided that she
was never going to agree, which was one of the many reasons I think of that he left. He’d had many reasons I suppose,
because he’s not the kind of person that hurts someone over something as stupid as rejecting him. Trust me on that.

“Anyway, I never believed what he would say about my mother not wanting me. I would always pretend to listen and
pretend to agree, but inside, I would be arguing with him, and refusing every word he would say.

“I thought once why isn’t she looking for me? But then I realised she must not have known where he had run away to,
and I decided to search for her instead. I made that decision two years ago, and I have been looking for her ever since.
Of cousre, I was doing that without my father’s knowledge because he definitely wouldn’t approve. And then I had to
stop altogether when he died and I was admitted in the orphanage, because I can’t ever go out of there alone.”

I remembered then that Phœnix was hiding out of the orphanage and wondered if I would get him in trouble.

“Hey, speaking of that, when are you planning to go back? To the orphanage, I mean?” I asked, allowing myself to be
sidetracked.

He saw that, and smiled his wicked smile again. “I’m in no hurry. See, I’ve installed a magical detector that rings in my
head everytime someone tries to open the door of my room, which is locked, so I can apparate there in no time. Nobody
will ever know I was gone, and nobody will ever notice me sneaking in, because both are done by magic.” He looked at
me with a slightly amused smile. “I told you not to worry about me,” he reminded me.

I couldn’t help it. There was a protective side in me that I couldn’t fight, no matter how much I tried.

“And I thought you’re not easily ditracted?” he teased.

“I’m not. I just wanted to know that. You didn’t distract me, I distracted myself this time.”

He flashed his wicked smile back at me. “If you say so,” he taunted.

“Stop trying to sidetrack me - I’m the only one allowed to do that - and tell me more about your parents.”

“Alright, alright,” he gave up. “What else do you want to know?”

I picked an easy question to ask out of the million I had in mind. “You said you have been searching for your mother.
How exactly? What have you been doing?”

“I have been making trips to Solcis, visiting the places my father had been to,” he responded.

“Do you even know places there?” How much did he know about everything?

“Yes. My father not only taught me everything that is taught on Earth, but also everything he had learned on Solcis.
Including its geography. So I know the map of the planet and I have visited a very few of the villages and cities, I don’t
really dare to go anywhere my father never told me anything about, and he’s told me so little about each city he’s been
to. I don’t know Solcis so much… in person, per say. I just know about it from what I’ve learned and read.”

- 19 -
The Innocent And The Orphan

Suddenly, Phœnix leaned his head to one side, and looked strangely at me, his expression calculating. I frowned and
tried to understand what he was doing.

“What’s wrong with you?” I asked after a pause.

“Hey, I just had an idea. You know how I can’t look for my mom anymore since my father died?” he started.

I nodded slowly, not seeing where this was going.

“Well, what if you could help me with that?”

I still didn’t get it. Help him find his mother? How? I didn’t even know how to help myself, let along a 10 year old
child.

“What could I ever do to help you out?” I asked, intrigued and entirely curious. “I barely know my way around here.
How could I help you search for someone even you don’t know?”

He bit lip, an obvious sign to embarrassment. “Well, it’s not the search I was thinking about. I was actually hoping that
maybe you could help me get away from the orphanage.”

It was still unclear for me what Phœnix was trying to say. “You mean like run away?”

He shook his head, still embarrassed. “No. Not run away. If I did that and nobody found me, then I would be placed as
missing and the wrong people might get accused of harming me.”

I started feeling tired with this game. “Would you just get to the point, please?”

He bit his lip harder. “Would you adopt me?” he dared to ask under his breath.

I froze, taken off guard. “Adopt you?” I whispered, unable to say it any louder. “What?”

And then the words were running out from him at a very fast speed. “It’s just temporary, just until I can find her. You
don’t have to really want to keep me, I just want to be able to get out of the orphanage without raising suspicions, and I
can’t do the same thing I’m doing right now - install a magical alarm - because it doesn’t work on such immense
distances. And I promise, once I can leave, you don’t have to go with me, you could stay here if that’s what you want.
Just help me get out and that’s it. I’m not asking you to help me look for her, too, I just…”

I finally moved by putting my hand over his mouth. “Stop for a second and let me think,” I demanded in a low voice.

Unable to speak, he nodded, and waited while I thought the whole idea through.

Adopt a kid I barely knew… Who does such insanity? Oh, right probably a lot of couples adopted kids after just a few
meetings. But why did this feel like it was different? I didn’t feel like this child in particular was any stranger to me. I
had gotten used to him in just an hour, maybe even less. Hadn’t I felt protective of him? Even caring? He definitely
didn’t feel like a stranger to me, quite the contrary, I considered him as a friend already.

Alright, considering I did adopt him, what would we do? Neither of us knew their way around on Solcis. Of course,
together, we probably had a better chance at finding a way, two heads are better than one. But I was having a hard time
immagining how I would help him find his mother; though he hadn’t asked me - or rather, he had said he wouldn’t ask
me - to accompany him to Solcis, if I was going to adopt him, I wouldn’t let him go there on his own.

However, I didn’t remember anything much about mu own life, and I had decided to regain my memory, hadn’t I? I
couldn’t give that idea up and welcome a new one, could I?

My lips stretched up in a triumphant smile, putting a plan together. Phœnix shoved my hand away from his mouth to
ask me “What are you thinking about?’

“I have a better idea than yours,” I announced.

“Tell me,” he said, excited.

- 20 -
The Innocent And The Orphan

“Well, for one thing, I really don’t want you to forget that I want to rememeber my life,” I reminded him.

His face fell. “Oh, right.”

“Okay, so here’s what I think. You want to find your mom, and you can’t do it alone, and I want to find my past, and
I’ve proven that I can’t do that all by myself. We both need to go to Solcis for both our cases. So I’m thinking we both
need each other. Here’s what I can offer, I help you if you help me; I’ll give you an alliby to leave and take you to
Solcis, if you will teach me everything you know about magic and Solcis so that I can stay alive there, and we would
help each other out in both problems. But,” I interrupted, as he was obviously about to agree, “think it over, really over.
I mean take some time to consider it, maybe a few days. I mean it, I’m serious,” I insisted.

His eyes narrowed and his brows furrowed just the tiniset bit, not very much pleased with the last part. “Why?” he
asked.

I wasn’t sure he would be mature enough to understand what I was about to say. Maybe I shouldn’t speak the reason
behind my persistance that he think it through… Although, so far, he had demonstrated how understanding he could be,
even for things I didn’t think he would know. Was I willing to put him in such a position?

Phœnix saw how much I was struggling to speak. “What? What is on your mind?”

“I-I’m not sure how to-to tell you tha-that exactly,” I stuttered.

His brows creased even harder, and he coocked his head to one side, not understanding. I took a deep breath.

“You have to remember that… you don’t know me. You can’t know how my personnality is, I may not be a good
person…” I sighed. “Just, think about every angle of this, er, alliance, okay?”

Finally getting it, Phœnix nodded in agreement. There was nothing in his face to indicate that it was a complicated
request for him. He seemed to have honestly realised how serious I was. It was important that he knew all the choices
he had before deciding what his next move was.

As for me, I had chosen to go through with the plan if he were to agree. And even after he went back to the orphanage,
just a couple of minutes later, I was still contemplating about what I would do if he didn’t approve.

Obviously, I only had very few answers to my mysterious past, and I needed more than just that. The question about
why I had come to Earth had seemed to be the most vital one, and now that I knew the answer, I wanted immensely to
prove it wrong. The idea of me being a murder revolted me. I had to be innocent, I just had to be.

So she would go to Solcis in any case. I would find a way to go there, I would search for my answers, and I would
prove myself clean. It shouldn’t be that difficult, right?

“Dang,” I murmured.

Okay, so it might be complicated, especially for the part where I had to go to Solcis on my own. How would I even do
that? Was there some sort of “magical portal” that would lead from Earth to Solcis? There had to be a way since I did
come the other way around a few years ago.

Swearing to myself that I would somehow fulfill the mission of understanding the truth and proving my blamelessness,
I got up and wandered around my apartment, exploring it for what might have seemed like the first time.

There was only one bedroom, large enough to contain two beds and a closet, one small bathroom, pink tinted walls all
over it, and the kitchen and living room I had already been in. No matter how many times I made the tour of the small
dwelling, nothing jogged my memory, nothing reminded me of anything that had ever happened with me in it. This was
a very new place to me.

=========================================================

4. CONSIDERATIONS

I got into hobbies quicker than I had immagined. It wasn’t a couple of days later that I left my job, using the excuse of
lacking cooking skills, and claiming to be wanting to go back to my hometown and find my family again. Johnny had
asked me when I was planning to travel, naturally suspicious since I still hadn’t packed any of my things. My answer

- 21 -
The Innocent And The Orphan

was that I was trying to track down anyone I suspected was related to me according to my family name, and that I was
hoping to head for wherever city I found them the most gathering. It was a lie since I had no idea what my family name
was, but that stopped Johnny’s questionning.

I hunted for activities I might have liked, launching into the most popular ones like swimming, and also the cheapest
ones; I wasn’t planning on going broke, but apparently, I had a very large sum of money in my account, enough for me
to survive unemployed for three months, one month if I was an overspender - which I turned out not to be, thankfully.

Swimming turned out to be my favorite activity. I also enjoyed to horse ride and paint. It seemed I had some talent for
drawing details around me; I would focus very much on the color tones of everything surrounding me while paiting,
and I had some sense as to how to mix colors to get the perfect one. I especially enjoyed drawing a view of lakes; the
water had so many different colors in it and I simply couldn’t resist.

A full three weeks passed without my seeing or hearing Phœnix. I wasn’t very worried, I was sure he was going to talk
to me at some point, either to refuse my offer or to accept it. I wasn’t nervous about the answer either, I had made up
my mind to go alone if he turned down my proposal. Besides, I was the one who asked him to really evaluate his
options. Though I had not expected him to take so long, I waited patiently.

A very small part of me was still going with the possibility of me being guilty, and the other part of myself faught with
it, vowing that if that were the case, I wouldn’t harm him, not even a little bit. There seemed to be some kind of
magnetism that pulled me to Phœnix’ life, and I felt like I really cared about the little boy; his life was already a
valuable point to me.

I also reserved a part of the day - whenever Jamie was at work - to practising all spells I had remembered so far. That
wasn’t so hard, I remembered only two spells besides venire, the object appearer; I recalled the object disappearer,
coactare, and the color changer, colore. Although of course, those spells wouldn’t help me go to Solcis, I kept
practising them , hoping it would bring back other memories.

Every Saturday afternoon, I would spend my time at the beach, either tanning or swimming in the pool. I didn’t mind
spending time alone. It was actually more of a relief; being alone allowed me to think more clearly, because there
would be nobody to interrupt me or to contradict me. Alone was quieter.

After a three hours swim, I would head back home, take a bath then go to my favorite calm spot at the parc and draw in
silence. It took twenty minutes to get from my appartment to the parc, and the time alone let me have some more
thinking time.

Then I would go back home, have dinner and go to sleep. And during every hour of my day, I would think about
Phœnix.

This day, I was wondering once again where Phœnix was; this was usually the topic on my mind. I wanted so badly to
go visit him in the orphanage, talk to him again, but I resisted; I was leaving the choice to him. I wasn’t going to force
myself on him. Still, as crazy as it seemed, he was the only enjoyable company I had had so far, though we had only
interacted once.

“Aurea,” the familiar voice called.

I lifted my eyes, looking ahead, and my heart filled with joy and relief as I saw him standing in front of my building,
waiting for me. His face was cold, expressionless, wich turned my relief to worry. If he had decided to not go with me,
what would I do? True, I would go alone, but I wouldn’t see him again. Would it hurt me, or would I be able to go
without him?

I hurried to join him - almost ran - and lifted my hand to shake his. But he surprised me by grabbing me by the waist
with one arm and hugging me. I rubbed his shoulder, returning the welcome.

“Hey Phœnix,” I greeted him, smiling. “How’s it going?”

“Good,” he answered, not returning the smile. “And you?”

“Not bad.” And after second thought, “I quit my job,” I announced cheerfully.

He let go of me and looked up at me, confusion breaking through his composed neutral mask. “Why?” he asked.

- 22 -
The Innocent And The Orphan

“I don’t want to look like I’m running away if I leave,” I explained.

The neutral expression returned to his face as soon as he realised what I meant. “Oh.”

We stood there for a long moment, just staring at each other, both of us not knowing how to start the conversation. It
was clear that we were both nervous and had a lot to say to each other.

“Um,” I began, “why don’t we… er… get inside my appartment? It’s empty right now and Jamie won’t be back for
another hour,” I suggested.

“Alright,” Phœnix agreed quickly.

We walked silently, the atmosphere between us filled with tension. Nervous was the main feeling I was having. But I
couldn’t tell how Phœnix felt, his expression was so empty that I couldn’t tell what was on his mind. There could be
hidden excitement, as I hoped, or there was simply the bad news I was awaiting for and not completely believing was
coming.

If he was to say no because he was afraid of me, I planned to object by letting him know the vow I made to herself, that
I wouldn’t harm him no matter who I turned out to be. That was my backup plan. The problem was that if he refused
even this, I didn’t know how to proceed.

I opened the door and entered first, Phœnix on my flanks. Once I was inside, I remembered my wet hair; I had been
swimming for nearly three hours.

“Hey, um, I need to take a quick shower,” I told Phœnix. “It will only take a few minutes. Is that okay?”

He shrugged indifferently. “I have loads of time. I can wait., I don’t mind.”

I nodded and headed to my closet from where I took out a towel and some clean cloths, then went to the bathroom. I
didn’t take long, I had become fast at showering. Sometimes, if I wanted to relax, I would fill the tub with hot water
and spend an hour in it.

But I had no time for that right now. Phœnix was waiting for me.

Perfeclty clean and positively worried, I joined Phœnix in the kitchen, who had prepared dinner for the both of us,
though it was only six in the afternoon. He had prepared a salad and some cheese sandwiches, with fresh juice.

“Why did you do that? You didn’t have to make anyhing for me,” I assured him, though my stomach curled around at
the smell of swiss cheese. I loved swiss cheese.

He looked at me with an apologetic face. “Sorry, I was just hungry and I figured you might want to eat as well. Is that
okay, or should I put everything back in the fridge?”

My eyes widened. “No, I just didn’t want you to feel like you had to make some for me as well. I don’t mind you eating
here, I just don’t have dinner until two hours.”

“Oh. Sorry, I’ll put it back…”

“No, no, it’s fine,” I interrupted him, and then smiled reassuringly. “I actually adore swiss cheese, I can never resist it.
It always makes me hungry. And since you have proven yourself a great chef, I absolutetly can’t say no to that.”

He smiled for a small second then recomposed his expression.

“Well, come on then,” he said as he gestured toward the chair in front of him, and sat down at the other one.

“Thank you,” I consented as I sat down as well.

After just one bite of the first sandwich I took, I was melting from its great taste. It wasn’t long before I finished it and
took another one.

“This is really good,” I said, emphasising the ‘really’.

- 23 -
The Innocent And The Orphan

“Thank you,” he replied.

Dinner was quiet, we didn’t talk while we eated. Instead, we both waited till the sandwiches were all done, all five of
them, and the small bowl of salad was just a bowl again. When we were done, I looked at him with a questionning
gaze.

“Are you waiting for me to begin?” Phœnix asked.

I smiled and nodded. “Unless you want me to start?”

“No, I don’t mind. I just… I don’t know where to begin.”

“Well, tell me what you have been doing since three weeks,” I proposed.

“Right. Well, after I left your place, I came right back to the orphanage. I haven’t been doing really exciting stuff, I’ve
just been thinking a lot. About what you told me. And, to tell you the truth, I’m not really sure what to do.”

I listened carefully, and felt relieved that he hadn’t made up his mind yet.

“What have you been thinking about?” I asked.

“Mostly, I was arguing with myself, using the reason you gave me, not to agree. I really had no idea if I could trust you,
you were right, and I didn’t know how much time I could spend with you, and if it would be a bad idea. But my other
side didn’t feel any threat, and kept insisting that I should do this. I was having this internal fight for more than a week,
and I was still lost between the two sides. Then I started thinking that this argument was heading nowhere, because the
side of me that wanted to agree was stronger even though it had no convincing reasons. I had no idea why that part was
winnig since clearly, the other side was the one who was right. I tried to find out why I wanted to do this with you so
badly, and I couldn’t come up with anything. And then, just yesterday, I understood it all. I remembered at first what
you had offered me and several reasons appeared to me as to why I wanted very much to agree. The first one was the
easiest one to realise; by adopting me, I would have a family again, even if it meant that we may have to not stay that
way if you didn’t want to proceed on Solcis with me, but we would still be legally a family. And since I had lost my
only family, I had wanted to have another one again. The second reason I understood was the hardest for me to admit,
because, as much as a stranger you were to me, I really felt like I’ve known you for a vey long time. I don’t know why I
feel this, but I already consider you like my best friend, and you are bound to trust your friends.”

So he had felt it, too? The strange connection we shared from the very first words we had communicated to each other?
I didn’t understand how it was possible, but I felt like I knew this kid, from the inside out. I knew when he was trying
to distract me, I understood what would hurt him and tried to avoid it, I knew what would make him laugh and what
would make him sad. And from what I rememebered of the first and last time we had spoken, he understood me as
well, even more than I understood myself. So how come we couldn’t understand why we felt this way?

“And the third reason, which was the one that was causing my agreeing side to win, was that I really wanted to find my
mom. I have been dreaming about reuniting with her since I started asking question about her when I was only 5 years
old. I wanted to find her so bad that I had convinced myself unconsiously that I wouldn’t care to journey with a
murderer in the process. I just want to find her.”

Phœnix’ long speech ended with that. I had listened carefully and understood everything he had explained. He was
willing enough to go with me. Though he wasn’t absolutely, one hundred per cent sure that it was a good idea, the part
of him that wanted to be with his mother again silenced the part that said it was a dangerous trip. In the end, he had let
his emotional side win over his rational side.

But now that he put it that way, it was me who was having second thoughts about it. Was I really capable of not
harming him if I wanted to?

“Hmm…” I mused.

“Well?” he asked impatiently. “I told you my side, now tell me yours.”

“Alright. Well, the first thing I did was find distracions, right after I quit my job. I wasn’t sure what to do, but I had to
find something that would allow me to spend some time alone so I could think more clearly. I didn’t think you would
take so long to find your answer, so after a week, I started getting anxious, and I began to plan what I would do if you

- 24 -
The Innocent And The Orphan

didn’t agree. I had remembered a couple of other spells and I was hoping I would remember more. But nothing I ever
did reminded me of anything. I didn’t understand what it was that triggered the other memories I had, and after a lot of
considerations, I realised that you had helped me the most with that, and I started being impatient to why you hadn’t
come to me yet. I waited, but I was very tensed. As much as I was convinced that I would still go even if you refused, I
didn’t think that option was going to happen, I didn’t believe it. I sort of kept hoping and wishing you would agree, so
much that I believed you would, and ruled out every other possibility. But I didn’t stop worrying that you would
somehow say no, and that part kept me worried the whole time. I still don’t know if you agree and that makes me even
more nervous. So will you please ease up on me and tell me what you decided?” I almost begged.

“I told you, I don’t know what to do either. I’m confused. The biggest part of me wants to say yes, but the small,
rational, smart part of me is bugging me with the big ‘no, it’s dangerous’, and I’m just puzzled,” he replied with a soft
pleading tone.

We stared into each other’s blue eyes, each one more perplexed than the other. It seemed the decision was harder than
we thought it would be. How to decide? Both of us were torn between accepting and refusing, to each their own
reasons to agree, but both with the same reasons of backing away.

“If only there was some way to see the future,” I wished, “then we would know for sure if this is going to be
dangerous.”

“The future is unpredictable,” Phœnix pointed out.

“I know, I just wish it wasn’t. I just wish there was something to guarantee that I won’t harm you in any way.”

We sighed at the same time, wich made us laugh low laughs. That seemed to ease up some of the tension, and I was
able to try and think of a way to fix the situation.

What if we did it anyway? The worst that could happen would be me trying to kill Phœnix. Wasn’t there a way to
prevent this? He was stronger than me after all - at least, so far, he appeared to be. Wouldn’t he be able to run? Or
would I be stronger than him and catch him?

No, I couldn’t let myself think that way. I was not going to so much as scratch him, no matter what, I had vowed to
myself, and I would keep my promise. Even if I had to harm myself to keep from harming him. I wouldn’t do it. That
was the only thing that could comfort me.

I sighed again. “All I give you right now is that I swear to hurt myself before I hurt you. I can’t say anything else with
any more certainty than this. But I don’t know if it would be enough. I can’t trust myself because I don’t know myself.”

He looked at me with his head leaning to one side, seeming as pained by the unknown as I was.

“Why don’t we go back a little?” he suggested.

I didn’t understand and frowned. He immediately recognised the confusion on my face and explained.

“I mean let us remember all the motives that led us to this, and see if it convinces us to go through with this,” he
clarified.

Ah. “Okay,” I agreed. “Er, I guess we started out where you suggested that I should prove I was innocent,” I started.

“And I vowed to help you prove that,” he finished, a hint of a smile pulling up at his lips. “And you snapped a military
salute,” he giggled.

I joined him and laughed at the happy memory.

“And you said you wanted to find your mom,” I continued seriously.

Phœnix pursed his lips. “I really think I would be willing to travel with a murderer to find her.”

I sighed yet again. “I know that, but I don’t know if I’m willing to let you. I know I want to regain my memory and I
know I can’t do it alone, but I can’t risk putting you in danger, if I was really a danger.”

- 25 -
The Innocent And The Orphan

He almost smiled. “Well, I don’t know if you remember as well as I do, but I distinctly recall me explaining to you why
I thought you were innocent.”

I tried to remember what he had said, and it all came back to me. “Yes, I remember,” I said with a brighter tone, my
face lighting up. “You said that personnality was in the genes and that nothing would change it. So if I don’t have any
intention to hurt you right now then I never did harm anybody.”

He flashed his wicked smile at me, looking pleased that he finally found something to support the part of tus that
wanted to go to Solcis together. I felt better as well.

“So is that enough for us to consider the idea?” he asked, hopeful.

I pursed my lips. Maybe it was a good enough motive, it meant something bigger than just instincts of danger. Genes
and biology was something easily relied on with certainty, but a feeling of risk might be wrong.

“I guess it is good enough, it’s probaly better to use this reason to go on with the plan than the one where you don’t care
if you travel with a criminal,” I smiled a little bit at that.

He giggled, amused. “Yeah, my argument was probably as bad as a burned turkey on Thanksgiving.”

I burst out in laughter, faking it just a little bit too much. Once again, he saw right through me.

“You have no idea what Thanksgiving is, do you?” he teased, his wicked smile lighting up his face.

“Nope, not a clue. But it sounded funny the way you said it.” I laughed again, this time at my stupidity, and he laughed
with me.

“What have you remembered so far?” he asked, changing the subject.

I glared at him, realising what he was trying to diverte me from the main point. “I’m going to let myself be distracted
by your question this time, but only because I really want you to know the answer.”

His lips pulled up in a half smile. “Whatever you say.”

I rolled her eyes, but went on anyway. “I remember going to school on Solcis and doing magic, that was the first
memory I had. Then I recalled catching you spying on me…”

He held up his hands, interrupting me. “I was not spying, I was just checking who you were!” he defended himself.

I grinned. “I know. Don’t sweat it, I was just kidding.” Her grin turned kind. “Next, I remembered two other spells,
coactare and colore. And that was the last memory I had.”

“Wow. Most of the time, I was with you when you remembered.”

“Yeah. I told you, I think you’re some sort of activation key to it. Maybe it’s because you’re a magical person, too, I
don’t know. But you’e certainly a lot more helpful than Johnny or Jamie or any other place or person so called familiar
to me.”

I couldn’t help making a face at the word ‘familiar’. It sounded so meaningless in my case; nothing was familiar to me.

Phœnix’ whole face light up. “Hey, I just had an idea!” he almost yelled.

My stomach spun weirdly inside me. “What?” I exclaimed.

“You seem convinced that I could help you regain your memory. What if we could try to do that, and according to what
your memories are, we would decide what kind of person you are and choose to go to Solcis together or not? And
maybe if I teach you magic, that would help you even more?”

Aha! A very reasonable and convincing argument. “Great! I love that plan,” I aproved.

Phœnix clapped his hands triumphly, and jumped off his seat. I just couldn’t resist laughing.

- 26 -
The Innocent And The Orphan

“Calm down, we’re not done. We still need a pretty convincing alliby as to why you would be visiting me so much,”
she reminded him. “And I won’t let you just keep sneaking out, no, we’re not lying about that anymore,” I added fastly
when he opened his mouth to protest.

His jaw locked back on the upper part of his mouth. “Okay, what do we say, then?” he asked.

I smiled. I already knew the answer; I had been hoping for it from the very first moment he suggested it.

“How about I adopt you?” I said as casually as possible, though my heart was hammering very fast at the excitement.

His eyes popped out and his mouth hung open for a good thirty seconds before he jumped at my neck and hugged me
so tightly that I suffocated. I put both her arms around him, one comforting, the other trying to pull him away.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you…” he chanted.

“Can’t… breath…” I gasped.

He immediately retreated, the happiest expression in the world on his face. His joy was so big, he couldn’t stop himself
from swaying back and forth, left to right, drawing circles with his waist, with his hands locked tightly together behind
his back. And I couldn’t help bursting out in laughter at his pleasure.

“It’s a good thing you’re happy about it,” I pronounced between two giggles.

“Oh I’m not happy,” he objected. “Happy is a very small word compared to what I’m feeling right now. I’m in
ecstasy!” he announced, swinging his arms around him as he said it.

I felt as happy as he was, his ‘ecstasy’ reflected in me.

A low tap on the door made them both jump. Who could it have been? I wasn’t expecting someone to visit. I didn’t
know anyone to exchange visits with. And that was when I remembered that I wasn’t the only person who lived in the
appartment.

“Shoot, Jamie,” I told him in a whisper as the tapping got louder. “Coming,” I called, staring at him, waiting for him to
come up with a plan.

“It’s okay, let her in,” he mouthed.

Unsure, I stood up and opened the door right behind me, revealing Jamie behind it. As soon as she saw the company I
was having, she scowled.

“Hi Aurea,” she greeted me. “What’s going on here?”

I turned my gaze at Phœnix for help; I didn’t know how to lie. His response surprised her; he smiled at Jamie the most
polite smile.

“Hi miss Darling. I assume Aurea hasn’t told you the good news yet?”

Jamie looked at me, confused. “What good news?”

He looked at me to proceed, but I hadn’t understood where he was going with this. So he continued slowly.

“We’re going to become a family,” he announced proudly.

And that was when it clicked. It was okay to tell Jamie I was planning to adopt Phœnix, so long as she didn’t know the
real reason why.

“What do you mean?” Jamie asked, still not getting it.

It was me who answered this time. “I’m going to adopt Phœnix,” I declared, smiling.

Jamie’s eyes opened wide with surprise, and it showed it was a good news to her as well.

- 27 -
The Innocent And The Orphan

“Really?” she squealed, showing her teeth through her smile.

Phœnix and I nodded at the same time, both sharing the same joy and excitement. Jamie squeacked cheerfully and
went over to hug both of us with her two arms, congratulating us.

I felt weird at that moment. It was almost… delight. Delight at becoming a new mom. It was a really good feeling, and
it was even better that I was going to become Phœnix’ mom; somehow that made it even greater. But the reason was -
like most things about my life so far - unknown.

Phœnix made his way out of Jamie’s not-so-comfortable embrace, still giggling, hugged me goodbye and left back to
the orphanage. I was still smiling when I turned back to Jamie, and I didn’t realise at first that she was frowning. Jamie
was rearranging the dishes, her back towards me.

When I did see her, I was worried. She looked like she was deep in thinking, concentrating on a certain idea that
seemed unpleasant.

“What’s wrong Jamie?” I asked her.

The childish features took over her expressions, and she looked innocently at me. It was only those features on her face
that confirmed to me that she was younger than me. She always looked like an adult in her mid thirties more than one
who was 21.

“Oh nothing’s wrong Aurea, really,” she assured me.

I took it she meant that litterly; Jamie was never a good liar, and she always chose her words in a way that they were
true to her. So that meant nothing was wrong, just that something was bothering her.

“Is there something bothering you?” I tried again.

“No,” she replied, but this time I detected her lie.

“Jamie, I know you’re lying. Just tell me what’s on your mind.”

With a resigned sigh, she gave up hiding whatever she was hiding from me.

“You’re my friend Aurea. I care very much about you. You know that, right?”

My eyes widened. “Of course Jamie. I care about you, too,” I promised her.

“Well, I was just wondering if... you know... you were making a mistake adopting Phœnix when you’re alone like that.
You know that my parents adopted me when I was 6 and they kept complaining about me not being good enough until I
finally ran away two years ago.”

“Oh.”

I couldn’t help feeling pity towards her. I hadn’t known that. Or maybe I had and just didn’t remember. I still didn’t
understand what was worrying her though.

It wasn’t until a moment or two that it sank in.

“Oh no, you think I will treat Phœnix like your parents…” I trailed off.

By the look on her face, I knew this was it.

“Oh, no Jamie, don’t worry. I won’t. I… I wasn’t sure at first of the decicison, I had asked him to think about it first
because I wanted him to chose, and… I actually really care about him Jamie. I took it very seriously when the idea
occurred to me. I do want a very good relationship with him.”

“I wasn’t doubting that… I just meant that… I want to make sure… you’re sure about that,” she hardly said. “When I
ran away, my sister was the only one that kept contact with me. My parents still know where I live and they never paid
me any visit or said they were sorry or that they wanted me back home or anything, and I’ve had a terrible idea of them

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The Innocent And The Orphan

since then. I just… I don’t want you to mess it up so that Phœnix hates you, too, because you’re a good person Aurea,
and it feels stupid to be mad at you.”

I couldn’t answer for a long time. I just stood there, staring at her, astounded. And she didn’t look good either, she was
a little bit worried, worried that she’d said the wrong thing, yet she didn’t make any movement to suggest she wanted to
take it back.

When I finally found my voice again, I managed to smile reassuringly.

“Jamie, I’m really touched that you feel that way,” I said, honest. “I know you must be afraid of what might happen to
us because of your past, but I have to promise you that you shouldn’t worry about me or Phœnix. What we have is…
you could call it a pact. We promised that we would help each other out in this.”

She seemed slightly better then. “So you really are going to take good care of him?” she checked.

I nodded. “I’ve been wanting to be Phœnix’ mother since I first met him.”

Until that point, I have been lying to a very high extent, just so she wouldn’t know what the real purpose of the pact
was. But the last thing I declared appeared to me as completely true.

I had been wanting to be his mother all along. That was the reason why I felt so protective of him. The reaon why I was
worried he wouldn’t accept my offer of helping him. The reason I was happier to be his mother than another child’s.

I loved Phœnix.

==========================================================

5. TRAININGS

Phœnix and I didn’t wait for the adoption to be complete to start training. The day after we had made up our mind, I
went to the orphanage and filed a request for adopting him. And the next day, I bought a new house, one that was out of
sight and very unsuspicious, where Phœnix and I could spend time practising magic without anyone else’s intervention
or interruption.

Before the adoption was complete, we were using the alliby that we wanted to get to know each other better, and I was
allowed to take him out to places where we could spend the time together. Of course, most of the time was spent at my
new place, training.

But we actually did spend time at other places; we went to the beach several times, and we watched a few movies
together, just to see if I could remember some of my favorites, and we ended up talking about his favorites. Every trip
out we spent was now reserved for me to know what he loved and hated. But the trips didn’t start until after the
adoption. Before that, it was just my training that was going on between us.

Firstly, Phœnix taught me the easiest spells. I already knew three easy spells, object appearing and disappearing and
color changing, so we didn’t spend more than three days on these. I didn’t just learn the spells, I also needed to have the
necessary information on each spell - Was it useful? Was it permanent? Was there any counterspell for it? - so that I
knew everything there was to know about magic.

Next, I was to learn the petrification spell. We met up at my house at 8 in the morning. It was early because we would
have breakfast together. Phœnix didn’t mind cooking for the both of us all by himself, but I had to learn to feed myself
alone. So he would help me out and I would be the one cooking. Today, I was going to learn to make french pancakes.

“All you need to worry about when you make the mix is if you put the right amount of all the ingrediants,” he repeated.
“Now, you’ve got enough flower and eggs, you need the right amount of water, …”

“Yeah, I know all the ingredients Phœnix,” I interrupted him, amused that he thinks teaching me was like teaching a
child. “I got the mix ready, I just need to know how not to burn the crepes, now.”

He giggled and guided me through preparing the perfect crepes. He then presented me with two options I could eat
them with: nutella chocolat or strawberry jam, those were his two favorites. I chose the nutella and he mimicked me.

“Wow! It’s delicious,” I said after the first bite, sounding astonished.

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The Innocent And The Orphan

“You look surprised,” he pointed out with a smile.

“I didn’t think this would be good with anything but maple syrup,” I admitted.

“Well, crepes and pancakes don’t have the same taste, so they’re not as good with the same additions.”

We finished breakfast in no more than half an hour - it was so good we ate everything very fast - and it took me ten
minutes to clean up after us - I had become very fast with cleaning.

We sat down in the living room, the tables and the couches pushed far against the wall. This room was the biggest in
the house and it was bigger than the one at the appartment with Jamie. Plus, the bonus point was that this room was the
only one with dark curtains around the windows, so privacy and secrecy were not something we were worried about.

“So teach, what do you have for me today?” I asked.

“Well, we’re past the easy spells by now, so you might think that the spell I’m going to teach you today is hard. But I
think you’ll get the hang of it easily,” he explained.

I nodded. “Okay.”

“What you need to know about petrification is that it doesn’t wear off with time, so to un-petrifie someone you’ll have
to say the spell again. But it’s not deadly. You could consider it like freezing food; it doesn’t do any damage.”

There wasn’t much to know about the petrification spell. The hardest part was to actually perform it.

“The spell is petrafacere,” Phœnix reminded me. “Now try doing it to me.”

“What? To you? No way. I’m not going to freeze you,” I objected.

“I’ll be fine. I can undo it myself if something goes wrong and you can’t turn me back.”

I took a deep breath. “Petrafacere,” I mumbled.

Phœnix stood still for a second, but I could see that he was still breathing and blinking, and concluded it hadn’t worked.
He smiled teasingly at me, which made me try again.

“Petrafacere,” I repeated.

He danced around, still making fun of me. I tried again, and again, and again, and it didn’t work, he was still dancing. It
was when he started making funny faces at me that I decided to give up. There was something wrong with my
performance and he knew what it was but wasn’t saying anything to taunt me. I waited for him to be serious again, but
he didn’t stop.

“Okay, cut it out and tell me what I was doing wrong,” I finally said.

He was still grinning, but at least he wasn’t moving any more. “You didn’t do anything wrong. You’re doing it exactly
right.”

Which sent me to complete confusion. “Then why can’t I freeze you?”

“Because you don’t want to.”

Which made me even more confused.

He understood immediately and explained, serious again. “You’re worried about me, so you’re not really getting any
magic out of you. It’s like you’re only speaking. You’re not actually trying to do the spell.”

I sighed. It was true, I didn’t want to freeze him. I didn’t want to do anything to him that might have harmed him.

“Aurea,” he said in a soothing voice, “you’re worrying yourself for nothing. Petrification is really not on the list of
harmful spells. What are you so worried about? Nothing’s going to happen.”

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The Innocent And The Orphan

Feelings were the last thing I expected to have as an obstacle. I didn’t recognise the source of them, and as long as I
didn’t know why I was so afraid, it was going to stand in my way.

Phœnix seemed to be more or less more mature than his age. He understood every word I had told him, and even more
than I did. Should I share this with him?

“Aurea?” he whispered, anxious that I didn’t respond.

I sighed. “I’m sorry. I don’t want to be dumping my feelings on you. I mean you’re only ten…”

“No, tell me,” he interrupted me, confident.

After second thought, I agreed. “Okay, well, I’m not really sure why this is happening, but I’m really afraid for you.
And not just now, all the time. I’m afraid something will happen to you, and you’ll get hurt… I’m not sure what is the
cause of that but I know it’s there and I can’t shake it off.”

He frowned, trying to make a rationnal explaination out of what I had just said. “I think what you’re going through is
that… you’re really considering yourself as my mother,” he precessed, amazing me again. “It’s not a bad thing,
actually.”

“But because of it, I can’t do any spells that I feel may harm you.”

He puckered his lips. “You seem to be under the impression that I can’t protect myself because I’m only a kid. I don’t
think I can do anything to make you stop that. How about you try petrifying something else?” he suggested.

“Okay, but it has to be something that moves,” I agreed.

“Obviously. Hmm... let’s see. What do you have here that can be petrified?”

I shrugged. I didn’t have any cat or anything alive that I could practise on.

“I know,” he yelled. “Water.”

I raised my eyebrows. “Water? How could that help?”

“If it’s water that is falling, we can tell it’s petrified because it would look like it’s frozen.”

“Good idea,” I approved.

I took out two large buckets from the cleaning room. Phœnix put water in the first one and held it over the second. His
plan - yes, hi plan, not mine - was that he spills the water fron the first to the second bucket, and I’d have to freeze it
before the bucket in his hands was empty. He decided to start pouring it slowly first, so that I could catch on.

He slowly turned the pail around, and water went down little by little. It took me almost five tries to make the spell. I
then unfreezed them and we started again, this time the water was going faster. I did it from the first try.

When it came down to throwing the whole contain at once, the liquid was frozen before it even touched the second
bucket. I knew by then that I had done it. So did Phœnix, for he held it above his head and moved it around, and
remained dry.

I had an idea to try it non-verbally, just for laughs, and it worked. But before Phœnix could remove the container, he
was already wet. I burst out laughing, while he took what was left in the pail and chased me to try and dump it on me. I
managed to get out of the way before the water hit me.

“I don’t even know why I bother to do this without magic,” he suddenly said, and dropped the bucket.

My eyes widened and I started retreating slowly as he took his attacking position.

“No, no! That’s cheating,” I complained.

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The Innocent And The Orphan

He smiled wickedly, enjoying the fact that I was powerless in this case. I took another step back, bigger than the other
ones, but I knew he would get me first. He was getting closer the further I tried to escape, he had magic on his side.

Alright, if he was going to do this, two could play at this game. I braced myself to try the spell again. “Petrafacere,” I
shrieked.

He stopped right where he was, the smile still on his face. I knew it had worked, and I laughed again. Still, I felt like I
was the cheater here, so I quickly removed the spell. As soon as he was free, his smile decomposed, and instead, he was
now impressed.

“Wow, I did not see that coming,” he admitted. “That was great.”

I smiled. “Thank you,” I said.

“When did you change your mind about using spells on me?”

“I figured since nothing happened to the water - it didn’t break or anything when it was frozen - so you would be safe
as well.”

He nodded, still amazed. “Your spell was pretty powerful. I couldn’t unfreeze myself in time. Even if you didn’t do it
though, I’m sure I would’ve gotten it eventually.”

“Right. Whatever you say,” I teased, making us both laugh again.

After that day, it didn’t take long to masterize the petrification spell. I wasn’t afraid to use it on Phœnix anymore, now
that I was sure it was safe. I went on practising it on everything that was able to move. In a matter of two days, I could
do the petrification spell blindfolded.

Over the next few weeks, I learned not to fear using spells on Phœnix, of course I was using only the ones which – so
he explained – could hurt him in no way. I nailed the telepathic transmition spell, – which was used instead of phones
on Solcis that allows two people to communicate through their thoughts – the transformation spell, – allowing to
transform an object into another – the memory modifying spell, – we had a small problem with that because Phœnix
couldn’t remember his name and the counter spell, so I just tried the same spell and he regained his memory – the truth
and obediance spells – and their counter-curse – were a lot of fun to practise, and finally telekinesis.

Phœnix left the hardest and harmful spells to after the adoption was complete and after he moved in with me. There
were too many spells that he had learned but, at my request, he only taught me the ones I needed to know while
travelling on Solcis.

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