It goes without saying that Nirupa didnít tell Dara anything about what happened in school that day. Dara had warned Ni to stay far from the book of shadows but, the blood of her kin had called Nirupa. Ni had made the first step towards the thrilling and mysterious path of magic. There would be no turning back. Yet, she was dying to tell Dara about the great success of her first spell. Ni felt so guilty for keeping a secret from her that she couldnít eat during lunch.
Dara noticed she was out of sorts. "Are you all right, Ni?" Nirupa nodded. Her mother was watching her closely. She suspected something. Nirupa looked away. Her mother didnít push any further.
"What do you think about inviting Melissa and her grandmother over this afternoon?" she asked Nirupa, after lunch.
"Yes!" Nirupa shouted joyfully. "Mom, thatís a great idea. Melissa and her grandmother are so poor," Nirupa said. "When I took that butter cookie, I felt I was eating their only food and leaving them with nothing. But even so Melissa is the best pupil in our class."
Dara nodded. "Itís a good reminder for you, Ni, to be grateful for the good things you have in life."
"I know. Nirupa nodded. "I am. Iím so thankful for you, and Lisa and our home. And now my wish, to have a close friend, has come true, too. I donít need anything more." As she was saying this Ni thought of her father. Since the day she received her Dad's book of shadows there wasn't a single moment Ni wouldn't think of him. "Why do you think daddy wants me and him to become the rulers of the world? Why does he need the whole world? Is this his own choice or is the desire inherited from his ancestors? Can we inherit wishes? "
Dara looked into Nirupaís eyes, but she didnít say anything.
"Do you think man is born greedy? Do you think thatís true Mom? Was Dad born that way, or did something happen to him later in life?"
Her mother sighed. "I donít know what to say, Nirupa. The one thing Iím sure of is that prophecies come true in most cases."
"Melissaís grandmother doesnít think so. She told me people choose their own path."
"She is right," Dara stammered.
"So what is the truth Mom? I want to know!"
Nirupa could tell her mom was upset. "I swear I donít know. Nothing seems clear or sure to me anymore," Dara put her arm around Nirupaís shoulders. "When you have a child that you must protect, it is never easy to be sure."
"Well I think people choose what they like most to do. Like Melissa, she didnít choose Jane as her friend, even though things would have been easier for her if she did. She chose me."
Dara nodded and smiled. After that Dara sent Nirupa to her room to do homework while she called Melissaís grandmother who agreed to come to visit at five oíclock.
Lisa came too, admitting that joining in with house guests appealed her and she would not let this rare opportunity to slip by.
Nirupa, enjoying Melissaís company an hour later, watched as Lisa rushed in, a little late. Nirupa and Melissa both hugged Lisa. Then Lisa shook hands with Melissaís grandmother and settled into an armchair.
"Are you a magician, too Lisa? ďMelissaís grandmother asked.
"Me? No, no, no, I am just an ordinary human being," Lisa smiled. ďI have no magical skills."
"Lisa is my best friend," Dara said. "We are childhood friends."
"I and Saprina were best friends too, Melissa's' grandma said, but life drifted us apart."
"Please tell us more," Ni asked.
"We both had a great argument and, despite our great friendship and love, we never spoke to each other again. Saprina was paranoid. According to her, any man was a potential Atlanteanís descendant. Marianne paused. "The girl does know about the prophecy, doesnít she?" she asked. Nirupa nodded.
"All right then," Marianne went on, "I once told Saprina that the prophecy would certainly come true in its due time, as it was right for the world to embark on a new epoch. Thatís what separated us. She accused me of laughing at her worries.
"Why did you think so?" Nirupa asked. "Why did you think grandma was wrong?"
"My mother descended from an old gypsy tribe. And she married my father who was not gipsy. My mother was an extraordinary magician. She was also a very clever woman and helped many people in need. She herself told me the legend and the prophecy as she had heard it from her gypsy parents. Gypsies believed that all happens because of us. Nothing is written in stars. Thatís what I told Saprina and she got mad at me."
"Which is the truth then?" Melissa asked.
"I believe that the truth about the prophecy is of no importance at all," Marianne said. Our destiny may change if we have our good will. But still, I feel there must be more to the prophecy. There must be something here, a great mystery, which has been long forgotten, or someone has concealed it intentionally."
Everybody was silent. Ni was getting edgy. So the prophecy was to be taken seriously, which meant she had to find out more about her father's past, about her own skills and above all she had to understand how the book of shadows worked. "There are adventures on their way, I feel it," Ni thought and couldn't keep herself from smiling. "
"Would you like more coffee?" Lisa broke the silence. No need to worry guys. We have each other to lean on and weíll cross that bridge when we come to it..."
At that moment, a knock at the door interrupted Lisaís words. Dara and Lisa exchanged a quick glance.
"Are you expecting someone?" Dara asked.
"No. I am not." Lisa replied.
"Neither am I," Dara said. "Probably some neighbor has come to visit, although usually they donít come to visit at this hour."
"I will go and see." Lisa headed towards the outside door.
Whoever was at the door continued to knock unceasingly and ring the bell at the same time.
"Coming," Lisa shouted "Wait! Just be patient."
Lisa returned two minutes later.
"It was the postman," she said. "He brought this. ďShe held up a large envelope.
Dara snatched the envelope from Lisaís hand. "I get so excited whenever I receive letters. ďTo Mrs. Dara Hakra," she read while tearing the envelope open.
Dara pulled out some official-looking documents. Nirupa watched as her mother turned them around in her hands bewildered, and then picked one of them.
"It must be the reply from the Institute of Archaeology of Madrid about the objects we sent to them for examination," Dara said to Lisa opening the letter. "But this is so fast. We sent it just three days ago.
"Go on, read it," Lisa said.
"Mom, read it aloud, "Nirupa said. She was very curious to know who had sent her Mom letters.
"Nirupa give me time to read it first," Dara replied. As Dara read, Nirupa saw the anxiety on her motherís face.
Dara sat down, her face pale, and began to open the other letters, those carrying seals, which seemed like important documents.
"I think we had better leave now," Marianne said. "Come on Melissa say 'Goodbye' to Nirupa and everyone."
"Oh No," Dara said. "Please stay. This is no secret, though it did surprise me. Nirupa, come here."
Her heart pounding, Nirupa went to her mother. Dara put her arm around Nirupa.
"It is a letter from my husband's lawyers," she said. Her motherís eyes filled with tears. "They inform me that Carlos died yesterday in an accident."
"Died?" Nirupa stammered. "How did it happen? ďShe felt totally numb as if she had a piece of ice instead of her heart.
"His car lost control and slammed into a tree, killing him." Dara replied. "He was probably drunk. He was returning from a celebration party in the outskirts of Madrid."
"How did his lawyers find your home address to send the letter to?" Lisa inquired.
"I donít know. But it doesnít matter anymore. Now heís gone from this world forever and that changes everything." Dara sighed. "I have a feeling he always knew where we lived." She caressed Nirupaís hair, even as she wiped away her own tears with her other hand.
"If there is any good side to this tragedy, it is this: You are free now. You donít need to hide anymore." Marianne said. "
Melissa hugged Nirupa.
"I feel so strange," Nirupa said. "I know that my father was evil, but I still wish I had met him." Ni looked over at Dara. Dara seemed lost in thoughts. She was silently browsing through the letters but her mind was clearly elsewhere. Now and then she would wipe tears from her eyes with the back of her hand.
"Mom!" Nirupa called her.
"Yes? Oh I'm sorry," Dara drifted back. I was gone for a while. I have so many memories. Deep down I have always waited for my husband to come back to us. So silly of me."
"Mom," Ni said. Are we going to the funeral?"
"Go? To Spain?" Dara's voice trembled. "Oh there is more," Dara said shaking the opened pages in front of their eyes. "Carlosí lawyers write me that Carlos has left in his will everything he possessed to Nirupa and me. They want me to travel to Spain to accept my inheritance. Carlos was very wealthy. And what is more," she looked at Nirupa, "he has left you a castle in the South of Spain. His familyís castle. You are their only direct descendant."
"Carlos had no brothers or sisters," Lisa said. "Even his parents had no close relatives. They had passed away at a young age."
"A castle!" Nirupa stammered. "A real castle?"
"Your father came from an old aristocratic family," Dara explained. "I, myself, have never been to Spain. I have never seen the castle of his family because I and your father met, fell in love, married and lived in India. We had planned to go there when you were older, but that journey never took place, as the events took a different direction. "
"We will go to live in the castle!" Ni said enthusiastically.
"So, what do you intend to do with the castle?Ē. Marianne asked. "It belongs to Nirupa, of course, but it is your responsibility to manage it until she reaches the required age. Are you going to live there?
"Never!" Dara shook her head. "That could never be. Nirupa will not go to Spain, not even to attend the funeral. If it were up to me, Iíd sell that castle off and rid myself of it forever. I cannot do that, so let it stay where it is until thorns and brambles cover it."
"But you have to go to Spain," Lisa said. "You have to arrange the documents to receive the property from the bank. And Dara, you need to take Ni with you."
"Thatís impossible, too," Dara said. "Look at this. ďShe held out the papers in her hand. "The will says we e must live in Spain and look after the castle, or the will becomes invalid."
"What will you do then?" Lisa asked.
"What will I do?" Dara said. ďIíll forget the existence of this will. Thatís what Iíll do. We donít need that money. I cannot take the risk of bringing Nirupa to her fatherís home. Nirupa is free to honor her fatherís memory. We might even go and throw flowers in the sea, since we will not go to put them on his grave. After this, we will forget about the existence of this castle. It is too much. It will only remind us of the troubled part of our lives we are trying to forget."
Nirupa disagreed. She wanted very much to go to see that castle that had belonged to her father and now belonged to her. But looking at her motherís angry face, she didnít dare say a word. Not now, but she was determined she would later.
Marianne and Melissa stood up to go home. Dara asked them to stay longer but Marianne and Melissa said good-bye and left. Lisa, complaining of a headache, went home also. Nirupa couldnít help but feel that Lisa was upset with Dara about her decision.
Once the house was empty, Nirupa said that she would go to bed, as she did not feel like having supper. Dara didnít object. The telephone rang, just as Nirupa was kissing her mother goodnight. It was Lisa, sobbing on the phone. Dara tried to console her and finally hung up. Nirupa looked at her mother, her own eyes filling with tears. Dara hugged her. "Your Dad was a friend to Lisa," her mother said. "We all know he was a dangerous man, but I loved him Ni" Her mother stopped and swallowed. Nirupa could see her mother too was struggling not to cry. Ni could notice her motherís sadness although Dara tried to hide it.
"You feel sad, huh?" Ni asked while Dara sat on the bed.
"Yes." Dara sighed. "Despite what happened, I loved your father very much. Nirupa saw tears gathering in her motherís eyes, but she quickly wiped them away and smiled. "But, Nirupa, this was really the most perfect solution. You are out of danger, and we have to go on."
"I feel sad, too," Nirupa said. "I hoped a lot to meet my dad one day. Forgive me, mom, but i cannot hate him, although he was bad."
"Sweetheart," Dara said her tone of voice becoming serious now, "you must never hate your father. Not only because he was your father, but also you should never give in to hate in life. You should learn how to understand peopleís weaknesses and forgive them. Hatred makes you equal to those that have wronged you. Isnít that sad?" Having said these words, Dara gave Ni a kiss on the forehead and was about to leave, but Ni called after her again.
"Mom, I must tell you something I have kept secret from you," Ni said. ďI know youíll be upset, but I have to tell you."
"What is it?" Dara asked. Nirupa could see her motherís concern on her face.
Nirupa twisted the corner of the bed sheet, trying to get the courage to say what she needed to say, "I havenít obeyed your advice." Dara frowned. Nirupa swallowed hard and went on. "I took Dadís book of shadows from the attic and I cast a little spell on Jane. I made her grow rabbitís ears and a pigís nose. Melissa knows about it.
"Oh my God!" Dara said putting one hand on her heart. She looked so shocked.
"But Mom Ni added quickly," my first spell was successful íI am so happy Iíve inherited the gifts of my grandparents. Iím already a real magician. Now shout at me if you like."
To Nirupaís astonishment, Dara didnít look angry at all. She caressed Nirupaís hair and smiled
"Do you think that this is enough to call yourself a magician?" she said. "You need to learn a lot, my baby. You have chosen the most difficult path. I am happy though that you told me the truth yourself. This time, I will forgive you, but never lie to me anymore " Nirupa nodded. "Besides," Dara went on "Who can advise you better than your mom when it comes to casting spells?"
Nirupa jumped from her bed and put her arms around Daraís neck hugging her.
"I love you so much, Mom," she said, She felt so light, so relieved now that sheíd told her secret.
"Time to get to sleep now. Good night, my little darling! ďDara switched off the light.
"Good night, Mom," Ni said, pulling up the covers.
"Hey, Ni," Dara poked the head round the half opened door. "Well done. That little imp deserved it"
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