First, though, stop by the previous parts of the story to see how we got here.
I Was Expecting You: Part Four by Nicole Pyles
Zack's step faltered when he heard Morgan laugh.
"Oh, the fated lovers rule the forest story. Yeah. I think that's the wrong fairy tale."
The woman spun around just inside the dim house, her eyes reflecting light from somewhere inside making them glow.
"Morgan, you don't know a thing about fairy tales. Now come on in. The scones won't wait."
Morgan crossed her arms, jutting one hip out to stare at the shadowed hut. "No way. No way! This is not what I signed up for."
"Get in the house," Zack told her, using his hand at the palm of her back to direct her inside.
"Hey! What gives you the right?"
"I babysat your four year old self for half the day. That kind of erases any feelings of intimidation I might have had."
Morgan stumbled. When Zack tried to help her she shoved off his hand, marching into the house on her own power.
The old woman was pouring four cups of tea, three at empty tables and one for a college kid scribbling in a note book.
"Zack and Morgan, meet Riley," the old woman introduced. The writer held up a finger, showing mostly the short bob of hair. Zack thought he was a boy until the person looked up, showing a mix of delicate and strong features. The slightly over-sized jacket over a v-neck tee didn't help the mystery. Zack looked at Morgan to see if she might know. Her eyes moved around the cabin, her features drawn into a frown.
"Thank you, Peggy." Riley's voice didn't help Jack, either. He decided it didn't matter, the writer was still a person. Then Peggy chuckled.
"Anytime for the Director of Fate."
Morgan's head snapped around and her eyes narrowed onto Riley.
"So you're responsible for this mess?"
Riley closed the notebook and slid the pen into the spiral ring. Morgan tapped the toe of her pointed shoe.
"I'm not Fate. I help Fate out a bit, nudge people back into the right lines when they get too far off track."
"You're the one who's off track this time." Morgan stalked to the table, pressing her fingertips into the wood and leaning forward. "What is all this about me being fated to rule this forest. With him," she added as an afterthought, jerking her head Zack's way.
"Gee, thanks," he murmured. Peggy smiled and offered him a seat. Zack decided to take it and watch the drama unfold.
Riley and Peggy didn't rise to Morgan's bait. Peggy suggested Morgan take a seat. She shook her head, her purple and orange ribbons dancing over her hair. Zack got up, grabbed her arm to move her away from the chair, then maneuvered it out and her in it.
"Zack," Peggy began, sitting down. "Show Morgan." Zack looked between everyone at the table before glancing up at the chandelier. It was made of twisted metal branches decorated with delicate bronze leaves. The bulbs on it were shaped to look like candle flames and didn't give off much light. It was enough.
Zack pulled out a flip notebook and small pencil he always kept with him. Flipping to an open page, he sketched, drawing the light down, forming it into a column on the table, shaping it and molding it into a stem, curling countless petals in on themselves, flaring the outer ones just a touch at the tips.
He looked up to see the rose in the center of the table. He reached out, gently grasped the stem and pulled it away from the light, revealed the real flower with in and handed it to Morgan.
He thought she might refuse it. She accepted it with an expressionless face, her eyes caught by the deep purple petals. Her free hand reached up to cup the flower. When it came away, it had been replaced with a sun shaped flower though it kept the rich color.
"Daisies are my favorite." She spoke quietly, like she was making a confession.
"You each think I gave you this power," Peggy said. "You were born with it. With Riley's help, you found your way here when you needed to. There's something about this part of the forest that wakes up sleeping power. Each of you needed something it gave you. Zack, you needed the light. Morgan, you needed to be able to transform parts of your life into something more beautiful."
Morgan blushed and Zack thought of her dad with her need to transform things. Zack's need was more literal His family didn't have much money. Electricity was used to heat water and food. When the sun went down, there were no lights to turn on. With his power, Zack could pull in the light from the streetlamp and fill his room with it, among other things.
Riley smiled at the two. "I'm here just to meet you today. You got here on your own. We may need to help each other in the future. It's always good to know your friends."
"Why are we friends?" Morgan asked, brushing the soft petals against her cheek. The movement hypnotized Zack. He followed the flower petals across her cheek down to her dark lips each time it made the trip.
"Fated to be together can mean a lot of things," Riley spoke with a secret smile. "It's up to you to decide what exactly that means beyond the job description. Yours is to bring a little light into people's lives, to transform it into something that can make them smile."
"And we get our orders from you?" Zack asked, pulled back into the conversation.
"Not always. A moment of happiness can be fate-changing, but oftentimes it's more reaffirming. You two know about struggles. You cannot change the world, or even the circumstance, but you can choose that moment to spend that special gift to make it easier to smile."
"This is ridiculous." But there was hope in Morgan's words.
"You'll come here every day after school," Peggy instructed. "I'll teach you what I can. You'll practice within my guidelines, then when you graduate, all of this is yours." Her face glowed as she gestured around the small cottage. Morgan's lips twisted.
"It will need some redecorating," she grumbled.
"It's a good thing you're just the girl to do it," Peggy agreed brightly. Morgan blinked, then looked around the place with new eyes.
"Okay," she said slowly.
"So you agree?" Zack asked her quietly. Morgan met his eyes.
"I can remember every surprising, happy moment of my life. If I can help those moments happen, I'm in."
Zack grinned. "Me, too."
"It's settled, then," Peggy agreed. She reached into the deep pocket on her witch's dress. "Here are your excuses for school today. You better get going if you're going to be home after school. Morgan, your dad is taken care of, passed out on the couch. He'll think it was all a dream if you play your cards right. Are you ready, children?"
Her eyes asked more than if they were ready to go. Her smile suggested she already knew the answer.
"Yeah," Morgan agreed.
"Sure," Zack echoed.
When they left the house, there was a path made of light weaving between the trees, directing them where to go. They didn't know it, but this path was a part of them, part of the sadness they would heal and part of the happiness they could bring. With this well-lit path, they would never be lost again.