Emrys wasn’t being cooperative. Dixie had wanted to be head cheerleader, had given him the wish, but he’d cocked his head and then shook it slowly before saying no. This wasn’t how it was supposed to go. Dixie had realized that cold day in January that he had said he could grant her wishes in return for her protection, but now he was pulling back, always telling her what he couldn’t do. How was she supposed to run the town for him if she couldn’t even be head cheerleader?
The spring day was pleasant, though the ground still felt soaked from all the snow they’d had, a record year with the snowfall in January totaling almost fifteen inches from that one single storm alone. Dixie’s house had been without power for four days, three days longer than Helen’s house down in town. School had been closed the whole week which meant makeup days in the summer when things were too hot to be comfortable and the summer sun would call them all with her bright rays and warm breath.
For now the last of the daffodils and the first of the early tulips that lined the edge of the yard against the encroachment of the forestland wagged their heads at her, like Emrys wagging a finger. Dixie couldn’t really see them, of course, because she had to keep her eyes closed. Opening them, she’d see only the faintest of shadows, and Emrys would make it harder for her to connect with him the next time.
She did, however, feel the breeze on her neck, felt the hairs that had pulled free from her barrette tickling her cheeks, and smelled the floral scent of the tulips along with the pungent odor of manure that her momma had just spread around the raised vegetable garden that sat just behind Zoe.
It was a smell she couldn’t get used to, realized very young that she wasn’t cut out to be a farm girl, no matter what her momma hoped. She could garden, but she wanted to garden without the stink of the manure and wondered about how to do that. Or maybe she wouldn’t garden at all and become a woman who purchased flowers down in town because of the fine hand her husband had at crafting furniture, not that many young men did that any more. So many of the handcrafted items were no longer selling.
Maybe she’d marry a banker instead, Dixie thought.
“Lorne will find something,” Emrys assured her. Not, of course, that she and Lorne were going out quite like that. They’d dated a few times. Dixie had even kissed him but wasn’t sure she liked the way his kisses made her feel. Dwight Rogers had beat Lorne to asking her to the Winter Formal and he’d kissed her, even rubbed his large hands against her breasts—outside of her dress, of course—while pressing himself against her, making her feel all kinds of sexy, and she’d liked that much better.
“Dwight’s an idiot,” Emrys said, picking up her thoughts. “And not for you. He’ll leave Corbin Meadow when he graduates and go to Boone to college and study business where he’ll think he knows more than he does. He’ll come home someday, broken and tired and wishing he’d never left.”
It sounded like a curse.
“Why can’t I be head cheerleader?” Dixie demanded again, pushing the boys from her thoughts.
“I can’t influence that many people. I can influence things, sometimes make things appear. If you wanted a big tree in your yard, that I can do. People are harder,” Emrys explained. “If you really wanted Dwight, I could probably make sure he was yours but only so long as he stayed in Corbin Meadow, which is where you have to stay.”
“Why?” Dixie was pouting. She still wanted to run away to California where she could sit in the sunshine on the beach there. She had the figure for being an actress, after all. If Emrys couldn’t really help her with power and taking care of the town, maybe she should leave.
“Because you’re the only one who can stop the others, hold them back,” Emrys said, a sort of sigh as if he were getting tired of giving the same explanation over and over again. Not that Dixie cared what he wanted. She was feeling peevish about not getting her wish to be head cheerleader.
“I didn’t say you wouldn’t be,” Emrys said. “Just that I can’t make it happen. Maybe you’ll be good enough.”
“It’s not about good,” Dixie explained. “It’s about popularity. And I’m not nearly as popular as Dana Boyd.”
Emrys said nothing. Dixie knew there wasn’t anything to say. Dana had the long hair that curled just so like the women on television, and her long, slender legs made the heads of every male in town turn to take a better look when she walked around in shorts that showed off the entire length, practically showing off her butt as well. Dana was not someone Dixie could compete with, not and still live in the house with her parents because her momma would have had a fit if she wore shorts that short.
“You say I’m supposed to make sure you stay safe here,” Dixie said, “and that it’s important, but you have to put me in a position to influence the town so I can make sure to keep you safe.”
“You don’t have to have influence, exactly,” Emrys said. “You just need to be here. You need to be able to say, ‘Emrys, hold the line,’ and I can do that. Or ‘Emrys, keep me safe.’”
“If I’m keeping you safe, then what do you keep me safe from?” Dixie asked.
“There are more things in heaven and earth, lovely Dixie, than you have dreamed of,” Emrys said, giving a poor nod to Shakespeare. He always told Dixie he didn’t read minds but then he went off and said things like that. Sometimes she was certain he was hiding things from her.
“I haven’t had to say that, so where are they, these others?” Dixie asked.
“Your mother insisted I keep you safe. She made the pact long ago, when she was still a girl not much older than you,” Emrys said. “Her sister and brother each wished for safety for themselves and any of their children. Though all of them have long since abandoned me. Your momma is the only one who comes close to speaking to me still.”
“Why is that?” Dixie asked.
“The world intrudes,” Emrys said. “It’s harder to understand the natural world today because there is so much other stuff. You have those televisions and the radio and cars which are so noisy, and how can I compete with those noises? Your aunt and uncle left for green pastures down in the city instead of listening to the natural world, to me. Now they forget. They forget my trees and my people. They forget even me.”
“I don’t want to forget you,” Dixie said. “Make sure I don’t!”
Emrys gave her a grin and a wink. She felt something inside her, like flies spinning around looking for an exit, and then the sensation was gone and she was just Dixie again, but Emrys had a new place with her, a connection that was nearly as strong as she had to her mother and father. She wondered if her demand had been like a wish and he’d granted it.
“You won’t forget me now,” Emrys said.
Dixie shivered in the sudden breeze that came up. She turned a little and her eyes flew open, though she had wanted to ask about the others. The day felt chilly and the sun seemed to have gone behind a cloud, though she didn’t see a single cloud in the sky. Dixie shivered again and thought about this new connection to Emrys. She couldn’t say whether or not it had been a good idea to demand that after all.
Chapter 14 will be coming next Friday. Don’t want to wait? Find the book here.