Cover: Look After Our Own

Decorative suitcases rest on a luggage cart behind the raven-haired owner as she and her snowy-eyed friend watch the wreckage of their campus filmed by several news crews as Headmaster Neth and Professor Tameri escort them around. Assuming they aren’t currently broadcasting live, Tyra laments what the evening news will look like, and how it’s going to ruin her future in more ways than she can count.

     A horn blares nearby and Tyra turns her head. Down the two-lane road leading from the school, hidden in the shadows and away from the sights of the cameras. She trembles to see it. The black town car is the exact model is the one her mother uses exclusively. She’s not ready for that confrontation, not right on the heels of saying goodbye to Nuria. Her tears start to flow without her even realizing she’s already begun to sob and whimper.

     “Tyra…” Nuria turns and spots the car. “Is that them?”

     Tyra nods as she tries her best to stem the flood of her tears to no avail.

     “Maybe I should talk to them?”

     Tyra lowers her hands from her face, admitting defeat to her immense sorrow, and looks Nuria in the eyes. “Look around you, Nuria. There’s nothing to be done! Four Hearts Academy is done for! I was barely able to return after barely interfering with a trial that nobody even remembers anymore! After all of this,” she waves her arms to the wrecked campus, “do you really think I’ll be allowed back? There’s nothing to be allowed back to, Nuria! It’s all over!”

     Tyra begins to wail as she finally accepts that she’ll never escape her home. She’s given it her best shot, but the world itself seems to be against her dreams. She doesn’t believe herself strong enough to challenge the world. No barrier, weapon, or knowledge she possesses is great enough for such a battle.

     She feels the warm embrace of Nuria’s arms around her, as well as a cold sprinkling of tears against her cheek. She feels her tears meld with Nuria’s.

     “Nothing’s over, Tyra. Yes, we’re in a bind. I’m not stupid enough to ignore all of this.” She feels Nuria’s head lift off of her shoulder. “But everyone survived. You, me, my brother. Everyone. Some of them know this place as their only home. For others, this is their best home. Four Hearts Academy is not going to vanish. I don’t know how, or how to make sure of that, but I believe it’ll be back. We’ll be back.”


     “No buts, Tyra. We made a solemn vow, remember. I didn’t mean it for just this year. I meant forever. I’m not letting anyone stop us from being together. As a matter of fact…”

     Nuria relinquishes Tyra and heads straight for the town car in the shadows. Tyra calls out for her to stop, not surprised her feeble protest does no good. So, she instead dries her face, grabs her bags, and races after Nuria, catching up to her as she gets there.

     The driver gets out of the car, dressed for service in a black suit and a long mane of sandy brown hair spilling beneath his cap, a pair of shades tight on his face. “Ma’am, I need you to–”

     “Shut up,” she tells him, passing right on by to the back door and stops there.

     Tyra drops her bags and nibbles of her nails. The next worst thing to her confronting her mother is Nuria doing so. She’s dreaded this inevitability since learning Nuria was potentially a phoenix, and the pressure mounts in her throat as her heart races wildly. She feels about ready to vomit when the door cracks open. Nuria backs away to allow the occupant to exit, and the second Tyra sees a head of long and wavy brunette hair instead of the same jet-black shade of her own.

     “Tyra, sweetie, are you done giving me heart attacks?” the woman asks, then turns to Nuria. “And you must be the phoenix, correct? Hi, I’m Aranda. It’s a pleasure to meet you at long last.” She extends her hand to Nuria. The phoenix turns to Tyra and the young angel gives her an approving nod, adding a smile to try and soften Nuria’s grimace.

     “I’m Nuria.” She shakes Aranda’s hand promptly.

     “My, my, that’s some grip you have there. And with such an expression on your face and your hard march over here, I can’t help but wonder if there’s something you’d like to say?”

     The pressure in Tyra’s heart returns.

     “There sure is. I don’t know if stating it to you alone is effective, so if there’s anyone else that needs to know, make sure that you relay this message to them.” Nuria drops Aranda’s hand, then her body flares up all over with golden fire, her eyes turning from snowy-white to gilded-bronze. “I have no intention of letting Tyra out of my life, so when FHA gets back on its feet and I learn she’s been denied the right to attend, I will find you all, wherever you live, and I will bust her out myself. Of that, you can be sure. You got a problem with that, T?”

     Tyra is caught so off guard by Nuria’s threat that for a second, she disregards the stunned looks on Aranda’s and her driver’s faces. She is again blown away by the fearlessness Nuria exhibits, never knowing when that well will bottom out. But today, she’s glad it’s still deeper than necessary. She grins and steps up to Nuria. “You just light the signal fire and I’ll fight my way out from the inside and we’ll meet in the middle.” She lifts her fist. Nuria extinguishes her body, then connects her fist to Tyra’s.

     Aranda’s sudden giggling catches their immediate attention. “Well, well, you’re certainly living up to the legend Tyra spun of you last spring.” She nods to the driver and he gets back in the car. “For what it’s worth, I’m on Tyra’s side, too. I’d hate to split you two up, especially after all of this. So, when you come in body blazing, try to remember that. Okay?” Aranda winks at her. “But we should get a move on, Tyra. Your mother, well, I’m sure you know.”

     “Yeah, I know.” Tyra gathers her bags and gives Nuria one last longing gaze before getting into the town car.

     “I hope to see you soon, Nuria,” Aranda says before sliding into the town car, then shuts the door.

     Tyra watches through the tinted windows as they start to pull away. Nuria stands there for a few moments before racing back to campus. She heaves a sigh of relief; thankful her mother was not present. Such a threat made to her might’ve forced her to order Tegan to detain Nuria. Speaking of. “I’m sorry, Tegan. I wanted her to meet you, too.”

The driver removes his shades and looks into Tyra’s eyes through the rearview mirror. “It’s fine, Tyra. And rest assured, just like her, I fight for me and mine, too.” His snowy-white eyes gleam gilded-bronze.

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