Chapter 34:


Phantom Adagio

Nastya and I were walking silently next to each other in the dark hallways of the monastery. There was a desolate silent atmosphere coming from these hallways, and yet I could not help but feel that we were being watched. When I looked around, there was hardly anyone around since we were still early for the assembly. I guess that feeling of unease must stem from the change of scenery and the way this building was made. The large hallways circumvented a courtyard garden, so you could see if people were walking on the other side of the building. I quickly touched my hairclip to charge my courage again. It was a good thing Aunt Christina gave me something to tap courage from. She was good at that kind of thing. Somehow she always knew what I needed before I even realized that I would be needing it.

The tension that was hanging between Nastya and me wasn’t helping with that eerie feeling either. It made me doubt and self-conscious about everything that I was doing. I was finally in a position where I could speak freely with her, but I was having a hard time finding my words. Where did I even start? I had no idea what I had done wrong…

“Did you prepare your speech?” She eventually broke the ice when we were almost in the chapel. I nodded.

“Aunt Christina helped me write it. I am just a bit nervous to talk to so many people.” I said while we entered the still empty chapel.

“I am sure my rival will manage. After playing so brilliantly for a full hall in Flagey this will be a piece of cake.” That was only because I did not care what the audience thought back then. Now I wanted to make at least a decent impression in my new school. My whole reputation for my stay here could go down the drain if I managed to mess up here. Playing music and talking to a crowd are also completely different things.

Since we still had time and I did not really know what to say, I looked around the chapel to see if we could do something about this weird atmosphere between the two of us. My gaze fell on the big candelabra where people lighted a candle to pray for their close ones, so I impulsively said, “I would like to light a candle for my mother.” Nastya looked at me with big eyes and nodded understandingly.

“Nice way to go Fleure. Bring in your dead mother in the conversation to lighten the mood.” I berated myself inside my head. What on earth was I doing?

I put a coin in the box and lit a candle while putting my hands together in prayer. I noticed that Nastya did the same thing. That’s right. She had lost her parents too. My suggestion was even worse than I initially realized. But even though we were both spending time in solemn silence, it did feel like we were sharing a special moment right now.

While I was praying for my mother, I brought my hand to my head to touch my mother’s hairclip, only to notice that it was missing. Did I already lose my mother’s heirloom in just a couple of hours?

Nervously I started looking around to see if it was still on me somewhere. I had just touched it while we were in the hallway, so it could not be far. With a bit of luck, it would be stuck on my clothes somewhere.

“What is wrong?” Nastya asked.

“I lost my hair clip.”

“Calm down it is just a clip.”

“I need it. It was my mother’s.” Nastya’s eyes turned big at that piece of crucial information and said, “Calm down, I’ll help you to look.”

She brought her hand to my hair but scared that she would reveal my scar, I instinctively pulled away and knocked over the large candelabra behind me while doing so.

Immediately fire was all around me making me freeze up. I could see Nastya was trying to calm me down before images of the accident that took away Lise and my parents were penetrating my mind. I could hear the screams in the car, the smell... That terrible smell penetrated my nostrils. I fell down to my knees screaming in agony while I relived the most horrible moment of my life while everything around me went dark…

I recognized this place. I was in limbo. The only difference from my last visits was that I could see that now, time outside had not stopped. I saw Nastya doing her utmost best to wake me up and bring me back.

“So, you know this place. Interesting… It seems like I am on the right track…”

A deep male voice spoke to me. I could not move, and a dark shadow swirled around me.

“What do you want from me?” I said while trying to free myself.

“I brought you here because you reek of ghosts. I felt a strong connection to the afterlife in that hair ornament of yours but that wasn’t it. Where are they?”

“So, you are the one that took it!” I knew I could not just have lost it so quickly. I suddenly remembered that eerie feeling of being followed. That must have been his doing.

Was he that wraith Rosalinde was so scared of? If that were true, it meant he was after Lise and Rosalinde. I glared at him and said, “I have no idea what you are talking about.”

“Oh, but I think you do.” His hand moved toward my chest, but instead of hitting it, it went right inside. I felt myself fading away.

“Tell me what you know. If you lose consciousness here, you won’t even move to the afterlife.” I’d rather die than betray Lise like that. There was no way that I was going to tell him anything. I felt myself starting to slip away slowly. “Don’t be so foolish. The dead and the living should not mix. The natural order must be restored.”

While I felt that I wasn’t going to last long anymore I felt something warm touch my forehead and a bright flash suddenly hit the dark area, and the dark shadowy hand dissipated, and a regular man stood in front of me with a baffled look on his face. He looked up to where we could see what was happening outside and said “N-Nastya? What are you doing here? You know her?” Then he turned back to me. “Tsk. I will let you go for now. Consider yourself lucky. But don’t think that this will be the end of it. I will be back for those answers.”


I woke up in an unfamiliar room. A brunette with her hair bound in a ponytail in her late twenties with an open white vest over her clothes walked toward me and said “Good, you’re awake. We were really worried for a while.”

Seeing my disoriented look, she said “You’re in the school infirmary. I am Tine Vanderhelen, the school nurse. But you can just call me Tine. It’s not like I am a teacher and I feel old when people call me Mis.”

“The entrance ceremony?” I asked. Deep down I already knew the answer that would follow. “You’ve been out for almost 24 hours dear.” No that was not what I expected to hear. This was a lot worse.

“I lost a day?!”

“You are lucky to have a dear friend like Nastya. Make sure to thank her. Not only did she carry you here, but she also spent the whole night watching over you. When I arrived here this morning, she was sleeping in the armchair next to your bed holding your hand. Even though it was an incredibly dear sight, I gave her a serious scolding for that. She should have gone to her bed.”

“Nastya did what?”

“It was really touching to see. The two of you must be really close. It brought back plenty of memories from my high school days.”

Then she grabbed something out of the pocket of her vest before continuing. “When she had to leave for class, she told me to give you this when you woke up.”

It was my mother’s hairclip. She must have looked for it. I held it close to my heart and a warm feeling of gratefulness washed over me. I was happy that I did not lose it. I would have to look after it better from now on.

“You had other visitors too. All cute girls. You are quite the popular one, aren’t you?” I could feel my cheeks starting to turn red.

“I only know three people in this school,” I replied sulkily. That hardly counts as being popular, does it?

Tine smiled at me in a way that would suggest we were sharing a secret.

“Well, onto business. Nastya told me what happened, but can you tell me what happened in your eyes.”

“The large flames triggered a panic attack. It had been a while, so I let my guard down. I’m still not good with big fires.” Of course, I wasn’t going to tell her anything about what happened in limbo.

Tine nodded understandingly. “Fire was a big word though. The burning candles fell to the ground, but except for the little flames going out, there never was a fire. Fire does not spread that easily on a marble floor.”

“No fire? But I clearly remembered…” Had my mind taken over again? Or had that wraith done something to me?

“I read your school file, so I know a little bit about your background. I would recommend you talk to the school counselor.”

“Oh God, please no. Not that ordeal again. I was finally rid of that… This was just a single attack. It has been months. Please!”

Tine looked me intensely in the eyes trying to read something before she clearly came to a decision. “Fine, I won’t send you to the CLB counselor for now, but in return, if anything however little happens, you have to promise to come to the infirmary and talk to me about it. I am here for you.”

Well, having a chat with her is better than having to go to a counselor right away, so I agreed to her terms.

“Ok. I hope we will get along fine. I expect you to check in at least every week. Even if it is just to have a cup of coffee.”

A little later Frank burst into the infirmary. “Thank God, you are awake! I came immediately when I got a message from Tine that you woke up. How are you feeling?” Then I heard him mumble “I really hope I won’t have to call Christina… She will eat me alive if this comes out.”

That was a small mix of priorities there, Frank…

“I feel fine,” I answered. “I am sorry for the opening ceremony.”

“Oh, don’t worry. Nastya gave a speech in your stead and there wasn’t much damage that couldn’t be repaired…”

The damage reminded me of what I had witnessed in limbo. Lise, Rosalinde! I needed to warn them.

“Can I go to my own room?”

Frank turned around to Tine who nodded. “But promise to rest for the rest of the day!”

As quickly as I could, I got up and when I was at the door of the infirmary, I heard Frank try one of the most cringy pickup lines on Tine that I had ever heard “Do you believe in love at first sight, or should I pass by again?” It made me cringe so hard that I felt shivers run through my entire skeleton, but I had no time to witness the results. I needed to get back to Lise and Rosalinde.