Lia awoke in the largest, softest bed that she had ever seen before in her life. Instead of the rough ceiling of the apartment, the bed had a little roof of sky blue cloth above it.
She sat up and looked around. The room looked like it was from a movie. The walls were covered with pale blue and gold wallpaper, and there were big bright paintings hanging on them.
There room was huge. There were two large windows along the wall to her left, and the sun was streaming through the pulled drapes. To her right was a sitting area with two chairs and a couch. There was a table with a mirror, and a mirror on a stand next to that. In front of her, across the room, was a desk.
She had to go to the bathroom, and she could see one through an open door to the left of the desk. She used the facilities, came back into the room, and flopped on the bed. Where was Lex?
There was a creak at the far end of the room, and a woman entered the room. She was wearing a blue powder suit that went perfectly with the wallpaper and carrying a notebook in her hands. She looked up at Lia, and she smiled.
“Hello,” she said pleasantly. “You’re finally awake. Are you hungry? You’ve been asleep for a long time. Five whole days, actually.”
“Tell you what then, why don’t you get dressed and we’ll go down and get something to eat for breakfast.”
Lia looked down at herself. She was wearing long white shirt made of flannel or something similar. “I don’t have anything else.” The white shirt wasn’t hers either, but she wasn’t sure if the woman knew that. She still thought that all of her surroundings could be a dream.
The woman went to one of the doors in the wall, and opened it. It was a walk-in closet, and it was filled with clothes that appeared to be her size.
“Why don’t I pick out something for you,” the woman suggested. “What is your favorite color?”
The woman ran her hand along the shelves for a moment, and she pulled a beautiful blue dress out. It was fancier than anything Lia had ever owned before.
“Wow,” Lia said breathlessly. “Wow,” she said again when she couldn’t think of anything else.
“I’m Annabelle,” said the woman. “What’s your name?”
“It’s nice to meet you, Lia. Is that short for something?”
“What is your last name, Lia?”
“Rodriguez,” she said. Annabelle seemed nice enough, and while she helped Lia into the brilliant azure dress, Lia asked, “How did I get here?”
“You don’t remember?”
Lia shook her head, and Annabelle brushed it out of her face.
“I’ll let Mr. Mohan explain that to you.” Lia frowned. It was like a fairy tale, and she was old enough to know that fairy tales were just stories. Annabelle continued on before Lia could ask another question. “You have lovely hair, Lia. I’ve got a ribbon that would look lovely on you.” She ducked back into the closet for a moment and came back with a ribbon that perfectly matched the dress.
As she tied up Lia’s hair, Annabelle asked about Lia’s parents.
“They’re dead,” Lia said sadly, thinking of her mother.
“Who takes care of you, then?”
“Alex. He’s been taking care of me since my father died.”
“Does he live here in
“He must be very worried about you. Do you know his phone number? I could call him and let him know that you’re okay.”
“We didn’t have a phone.”
“An address then?”
Lia gave her the address and number of the apartment. Annabelle paused momentarily to write in her notebook for a notebook. She looked up and smiled. “I’ll make sure that one of Mr. Mohan’s assistants stops by and makes sure that Alex knows that you’re safe.”
“Is this where Mr. Mohan lives?” Lia asked, wondering again how she had woken up in this fairytale.
“In another section, but yes, Mr. Mohan lives here. There you go.” She gestured to a mirror. Lia went over to it and looked in. The face staring back at her seemed subtly alien peering out over the blue dress. She hadn’t worn a dress in years, not since her mother died, and even then it hadn’t been a dress like this.
There was a tap on the door, and another woman peeked through. “Anna?” came the voice.
The door opened, and a frowning older Asian woman entered. She was dressed in a black suit. The only color was from her brilliant red lipstick.
“This is Miss Chi-Wong, Lia. She’s another of Mr. Mohan’s assistants.”
Miss Chi-Wong nodded stiffly and then said, “Mr. Mohan is waiting.”
“Perfect timing then. Come on, Lia. Would you like to meet
Lia nodded. Annabelle took her hand and led her out of the room.
The corridors fit the room that they’d exited. There was dark wood everywhere and there were paintings on all of the walls, although these were more about battles instead of flowers.
The hallways were wide, and Annabelle led her through them until they arrived at a set of double doors. Annabelle opened one of the doors and ushered Lia through.
There was a long stone table in this room, and there were a few people sitting around it eating and talking. Two of them were very familiar, and Lia’s eyes were drawn to the one at the head of the table. He had blue eyes and was listening to another man with black hair.
“. . . devaluation of the peso, of course. I don’t foresee any real problem, but I suggest divesting ourselves of what we can before there are any more issues.”
The man with black hair finished and the people at the table looked at Lia and Annabelle.
The man at the head of the table stood and approached her smiling. She had seen him before, both times in dreams.
“Our guest is awake!” said the man with blue eyes, beaming with happiness.
“Mr. Mohan, this is Celia Rodriguez. Lia, this is Mr. William Chander Mohan.”
“Just Will for you, Celia!” Mr. Mohan stuck out his hand, and Lia shook it. “Do you prefer Lia?”
She nodded, nervous again in front of so many new people.
Mr. Mohan looked around, and gestured to the others. “I think we’re done for now.” Most of the people at the table stood, gathered their things, and left, leaving only Mr. Mohan, the man with black hair, Annabelle, and Lia.
“There’s breakfast. What would you like, Lia”
“Do you have pancakes?”
“We certainly do. Miss Leigh?”
Annabelle nodded, and then knelt by Lia. “I’m going to go tell the chef. If you need anything I’ll be just around the corner, okay?”
Lia nodded again. She left, and Lia turned back to Mr. Mohan.
“Welcome to my home, Lia. I hope you were comfortable.” Mr. Mohan gestured for Lia to take a seat at the table, but he stood next to his own seat.
She nodded. “How did I get here?”
“Very direct. First things first then.” He blinked, and as he opened his eyes again, everything slowed.
His eyes were an unbelievably pure blue color. The same color that was in the walls and in the sky in the winter. As Lia looked into them she felt swept away, as though there was a rush of water pouring out of him and filling the room with torrents of bitterly cold water.
“Remember,” Mr. Mohan said, and Lia did.
“Oh,” she said.
Mr. Mohan had obviously expected something more. She looked at him, and found that his shoulders had tightened. The other man, the one with black hair, was also starring at her intently.
“I flew here,” Lia said. “I was a bird. A raven.” She could remember everything perfectly now. The air along her feathers, and the first time she’d seen him on the terrace.
“That’s right. You are a wereraven, a person that can change form, as are Michael and I. That makes you very special, Lia.”
Lia sat for a moment as the last bits of her memories solidified and came together. “Why couldn’t I remember before?”
“You were too wild. Eventually you will learn to master it yourself but at the moment I have mastered it for you.”
She could remember the cage now. They’d caged her when they brought her here. She’d even seen the cage on a table in the hallway outside of her room but hadn’t recognized it at the time. “Are you holding me prisoner?”
“You are an honored guest, Lia. We do request that you stay until you understand your gifts and abilities, but after that you are free to go if you wish. If you wish to stay, you could do that as well.”
“What about Lex?”
“Who is Lex?”
“He was the one taking care of me. He’s having trouble finding work. Could you help him find a job?”
Mr. Mohan nodded. “Did you tell Annabelle?”
“Annabelle will send someone to find him and invite him to come here. Once I have met him, I will see what I can do. Until then, you have much to learn. I tried to awaken your mind when you came to me on the full moon, but you fell asleep instead. If you are to be safe, you need others of your own kind around.”
“Are you also a . . . wereraven?”
“We are lycanthropes, but not wereravens. I am a weretiger and Michael is a werewolf.”
Mr. Mohan gestured to Michael. Michael stood, pushed his chair back in, and then came around the table. Lia twisted to look at him.
Michael shivered, and suddenly he dropped down. He shivered, and suddenly there was wolf, nearly as tall as Lia’s shoulder and covered with black fur. Its eyes were gold.
Lia looked at it wonderingly and then reached out slowly. Michael bared his teeth but Lia ignored him. He looked at Mr. Mohan and then back at her and allowed her to run her hand through his fur. It was very thick and coarse and he smelled funny, like ink from a printer almost.
“Good girl,” Mr. Mohan said proudly. He gestured, and Michael backed away and became human again. He returned to his chair without saying another word.
“Why weren’t you frightened?” Mr. Mohan asked Lia.
“He wouldn’t have hurt me.”
“Michael is many things, but safe is not one of them.”
Lia frowned. “He knew that you were watching.”
“That he did. You are a brave girl, none the less.”
“What happened to his clothes?”
“Michael is unusually skilled in that regard. His clothes become part of his wolf form, and then change back when he becomes human again. I cannot change with clothing, and neither can most shape shifters. All of us have different skills. For instance, I can do this.”
He held up his hand, and the fingers changed shape, becoming vicious looking pale claws with silver fur running along his hand. “Some of us are able to partly change or to gain certain attributes from our avatars when we are still human looking.”
“What can I do?”
“We don’t know yet. We’ll learn that as we go along. Tell me, Lia, were you ever attacked by a raven?”
Lia shook her head.
“Are you sure, not even when you were an infant?”
Lia shook her head again.
“There are some people that are born lycanthropes. I am one. They tend to be very powerful. Did you ever see one of your parents do anything unusual? Heal from a cut or burn very quickly, or change shape?”
“No. But . . . I don’t remember my mother very well.”
“What about your father?”
Lia bit the inside of her lip but said nothing.
Mr. Mohan paused, and then smiled. “Never mind that for now, then. I would like to instruct you. There is a month before the next full moon, and you will feel compelled to change then. Hopefully you will be prepared before that time.”
Annabelle re-entered the room, and held the door open for a Hispanic man carrying a tray of food. There were pancakes and fruit, as well as yogurt in a tall glass dish and a huge glass of orange juice.
“I’m sorry, but I must go. I have much business to attend too. We will talk later, Lia. Until then, if there is anything you need, Annabelle will be happy to provide it for you.”
“Thank you,” said Lia automatically.
Mr. Mohan and Michael both left. Michael nodded to her politely as he passed her, but he didn't look happy.
When they left, Lia began to eat, but she was still wondering where Lex was.