Chapter 1: Prologue
The door to the attic is shut, but the sound of the muffled sobs coming from the other side drift into the hall like a foul smell. His eyes slip shut, and he takes a moment to compose himself. It always kills him a little when Tina cries, and over the last month he's spent more hours holding her trembling body than he can count. Tina was so close to her parents and nineteen is too young for this much grief.
He slowly pushes the door open, and his eyes automatically find the small girl in the middle of the room, tightly gripping an oversized book like it's a life preserver. Her forehead is pressed to the biding, and her tears dot the cover as they rush from her chocolate eyes. She glances up, hearing his approach, but doesn't move until his arms are around her, and then she slowly allows her own to pull him closer. They've become pretty good at nonverbal communication, so he knows to gently stroke her back and wait for the storm to pass.
When her sobs finally deteriorate into soft sniffles, she pulls back and gives him a small smile of appreciation. His heart constricts as he's reminded that there's nothing that he can do - really do - for her, but he hopes that she knows that if he had to climb to the moon, he would, if it would bring her parents back and end her private hell. He leans forward and lays a loving kiss on her cheek before gesturing to the book in her hand.
"Any news," he asks, because he'd rather talk about anything than the reasons behind Tina's tears. He'd discuss it into next Tuesday if she wanted, he knows, but he hates the idea of helplessly watching her cry. So he hopes the subject of witchcraft is a safe one.
"No," she answers quietly. She turns to the first page, the page she always turns to, and carefully outlines the words of the prophecy with the tip of her index finger. Her parents had just began telling her about her destiny in the days leading up to their deaths, and when the unexpected attack had stolen their lives, she had been left with so many more questions than answers.
"No, Mom, no! No, don't die. Please, mom! I NEED YOU! I can't do this alone."
She never talks about the nightmares, but thinks that Mike can guess.
("There's a book in the attic," her mother had gasped as the blood poured from her stomach and pooled around her and the lifeless body of her husband. "It's ... called The Book of ... The Book of Shadows. You'll need it, Tina. Use it to call the others." "What others," she'd choked out through the lump in her throat.
"Mom, what others?" And it wasn't until she noticed her mother's sightless eyes that she knew she'd never get a reply.)
Mike reaches out and brushes a lock of hair behind her ear. "There's still plenty of time."
"No, there's not," she whispers, her eyes not leaving the page. "This prophecy says that the book passes on to three friends that will be the most powerful witches of all time, and that they have to claim their powers by the time the oldest turns twenty-one." She doesn't continue her argument, knowing that Mike can hear the unsaid words: And I don't even have friends.
"You're only nineteen."
Her lips twitch, and when a small smile lightens her features, his heart lets out a sigh of relief. God, he loves her smile.
"We both know the premonitions are supposed to go to me," she returns. She's referencing a line from the book that states the youngest witch inherits the gift of premonitions, the middle the ability to freeze time, and the oldest the gift of telekinesis. She doesn't know why she's so sure of her place, especially considering that neither of her parents had time to even show her the book, but she knows it the same way she knows that chocolate chip cookies will always be her favorite, and that she's going to marry Mike some day. She just does.
Mike doesn't argue. He hasn't doubted her once since she shared all this with him, the day of her parents' death, and it warms her a little to think of his unwavering trust. Tina's never really been the kind of girl to think of a man as indispensable, but looking at her boyfriend now gives her strength and hope and she knows it's because he so effortlessly takes her at her word. It hardens her resolve, and she finds herself flipping to the next page in the ancient book.
"I'm going to cast it," she says, then she looks to him to see his reaction.
She expects fear or disapproval, but there's nothing like that there, just a hint of confusion. "I thought you wanted to wait until you had figured out who the other two witches are."
"I did. I do. But I can barely sleep with all this hanging over me, and maybe you think I'm crazy, but I'm sure we are running out of time. I have to."
He nods, understanding, and helps his girlfriend to her feet, before taking an uneasy step back.
Tina takes the book over to the stand where it is normally displayed, and Mike can't resist a shiver when the nearby windows allow the moonlight to lighten the pages. But he sends her a smile when she glances up quickly before she begins to read:
"Powers of the witches rise,
course unseen across the skies,
come to us who call you near,
come to us and settle here."
She takes a deep breath, and lights a candle, the only supplies she has and, luckily, the only thing she needs for the spell. There's a moment of complete silence as the pair waits, and when nothing happens, Tina is hit with a surge of emptiness. She's not sure why she's so disappointed - she's always had doubts about the success of the spell without knowing who the other girls are, but it saddens her all the same.
"Why don't you take a break," Mike suggests, taking a step towards the door. "Let's go make some cookies, and then you can try again."
She nods and follows him down the stairs, to the kitchen. And it's not until they're helping themselves to the freshly baked batch that upstairs, a candle goes out.
And in a small apartment in New York City, and a sorority house in New Haven, two candles ignite.
"This prophecy says that the book passes on to three friends that will be the most powerful witches of all time, and that they have the claim their powers by the time the oldest turns 21." She doesn't continue her argument, knowing that Mike can hear the unsaid words: And I don't even have friends.
Rachel Berry has made a lot of impulsive decisions in her life. There's the time she sent that girl, Sunshine, to the crack house because Rachel Berry doesn't do background vocals. Or when she made out with her "ex" to get back at her boyfriend for lying about his sexual exploits. Or when she blew her audition for the prestigious NYADA, then tracked down the dean and begged her to come to the glee club's Nationals Competition to hear just how epic her voice can be. Things other people would call "crazy" probably, but she was never one to leave her dreams to chance. The dream of starring in a Broadway show, the dream of having the perfect boyfriend. So she's pretty familiar with throwing caution to the wind and doing what she feels is right, in her own, Rachel-type way.
Which is why she's storming out of her Theater 201 class, and slamming the door behind her.
"Ridiculous," she mutters furiously to herself as she steps out into the warm evening. "Absolutely ridiculous. 'Mediocre.' 'Mediocre.' That woman wouldn't know a good thing if it jumped up on stage and serenaded her with Endless Love completely naked." She lets out a loud humph and pulls her cell phone from her purse. As her fingers immediately begin scrolling through her contacts for a sympathetic ear, the full weight of what she's just done hits her like a ton of bricks.
She chose Use Somebody by Kings of Leon for Solo-Tuesday thinking that if she tweaked the key, and went bigger on some of the notes, that it could actually be pretty amazing. And there's something special, she's always thought, about doing a song by the opposite gender. Kurt thought so, Mr. Shue thought so. But Mrs. Sheena? Obviously not so much.
"Honestly, Rachel," the professor had groaned at the end, "when are you going to learn that these complicated arrangements make you look like you're trying to hide behind a big song?" Then she'd met Rachel's eyes, and there was a cruel glint, like she was almost enjoying this humiliation. "Mediocre, at best. I'm starting to wonder if you're right for this program at all."
Rachel had been speechless. At first. But then before she knew what was happening, she was exploding at the teacher for being biased, jealous, and a few other words that she tries not to dwell on right now. She's pretty sure she just ended her relationship with NYADA.
It's a little terrifying, if she's being honest with herself. She's been on this path for so long, since she was born, practically, and just like that, because of a bad review she's thrown it all away. It reminds her so sharply of her high school self that it takes every ounce of her self-control to swallow back the tears.
It's Quinn's name that she stops on, and her thumb hovers over the call button for a long moment before she blinks and scrolls back up. She knows that her best friend will be understanding (and they are best friends, because apparently that's what happens when you take the bully and the geek away from high school, and place them in totally new cities) but for some reason the idea of calling her makes Rachel nervous. It's not that she's embarrassed, exactly, but until she has a new game plan she's not ready to hear the concern in the older girl's voice. So instead, she hits the 'K,' presses 'talk,' and waits.
"This better be good, Berry. I've got six hours to finish this costume for Angel, and I haven't even started on the sequins yet."
Rachel smiles, despite the impatient tone. This is exactly why she called Kurt. He's a perfect example of someone who had a hiccup when following his dreams, and it worked out just fine for him. Following NYADA's mystifying rejection, Kurt had applied for late admission to the Fashion Institute of Technology, where he had attended school for three semesters before being offered a job sewing the costumes for the revival of RENT. It's a job he loves, but that doesn't stop him from closing himself off from the world when his workload gets too heavy. So it's a testament to how close the two of them have remained that he is even taking her call.
"I think I just dropped out of school." She tries to say it like it doesn't mean anything, like her life isn't about to come crumbling down around her, but supposes it's sort of a lost cause when her voice breaks.
There's utter silence on the other end of the line, kind of a rarity when she's talking to Kurt. No hum of a sewing machine, no gasp of pain as he sticks himself with a needle. He's giving her his undivided attention, and she realizes that it's because of how bad this situation is. She wants to yell that it's not that big of a deal, that loads of Broadway actresses don't have the education to back up their career, but every soothing argument sounds hollow to her heartbroken ears.
"Okay," Kurt finally replies, and he says it with the authority of someone who has a plan. Hope flutters in Rachel's stomach. "Okay. Here's what you're going to do." The sewing machine in the background suddenly comes to life, and the sound is strangely comforting. "I heard they're doing auditions for next year's Beauty and the Beast and the guy doing the casting is a friend-" Kurt suddenly gives a very telling, and self-deprecating laugh "Well, not a friend exactly-"
"Kurt," Rachel interrupts sharply. "Do you think we could save this for the next time we have dinner? I'm really not in the right mood to gush about your new boy-toy." She says it without malice because when all this is over, she actually will want the details. She hopes Kurt is chalking up her impatience to her distracted frame of mind, and to her relief he doesn't even comment on it.
"I'll give him a call and tell him you're coming in for an audition. But you need to hurry," he warns. She hears the faint sound of scissors cutting fabric in the background. "The auditions start in an hour."
The moment her name is called, she's hit with the familiar rush, the one she always feels when her shoes touch the hard wood of the stage. She takes a deep breath and makes her way to the front, then looks out into the audience. The other auditions have left for the day, but she doesn't let the lack of onlookers faze her in the least. Even better this way, she thinks as she gives a confident smile.
"I'll be singing I Told You So, as covered by Carrie Underwood," she calls out.
Adam, as he had introduced himself to the group, nods and gestures for her to continue. "Whenever you're ready, Ms. Berry."
She clears her throat, then as she opens her mouth to sing, the words get stuck in her throat. Mediocre, Mrs. Sheena had said. Mediocre. And while an hour ago Rachel had been quite sure that she had never heard a more ludicrous statement, she's suddenly filled with a strange sense of foreboding. Something's wrong about all of this. She still feels the rush at the anticipation of the impending performance, but the joy she had traveled to New York with a few years ago is missing entirely. She's grateful to Kurt for setting this up for her, but there's a whisper in the back of her mind that this isn't where she's supposed to be.
Now that is ludicrous. She's trained her whole life for this moment, this audition, her very first for a Broadway show. She was made for this moment. She's Rachel Freaking Berry, for crying out loud. High-strung, high-maintenance, and so talented that she could have had any future she wanted. This is supposed to be her pay off for her years of rigorous training.
She shakes these confusing thoughts from her mind, and tries to focus on the audition at hand. As her eyes move back to Adam in the front row, her heart constricts. He's packing up his things, not even looking at the stage. "Wait," she cries. Nonono. "Wait, please!"
Adam glances over his shoulder. "Look, Ms. Berry, you're obviously you're not ready for this."
"I am! I just needed some time to-" Her voice breaks off as she realizes that he's not listening and it's all too much. She started the day as a promising Musical Theater student, and she's ending it by bombing yet another important audition. She throws out her hands, not sure what she's doing, really, and Adam freezes.
Like, literally freezes.
He's mid-step, still turned away, and his hand is in a strange angle where the man had began slinging his bag over his shoulder. Trembling, Rachel takes a confused step forward. "A-a-Adam?"
And in an instant it passes. Time starts moving forward right where it had left off, and the weirdest part of it all is that Adam doesn't seem to realize that anything is amiss. He continues out the door, leaving Rachel to wonder:
What the hell just happened?