A few nights before summer ended, a big storm blew in. Thunder echoed off the Cascade Mountains, lightning flashed, and rain swamped the lake and flooded the streams. Áurmiddo and I and the rest of our cabinmates sat on the covered porch outside our cabin watching the storm. Suddenly, a dark mass rose from the lake’s surface. My eyes grew big.
“Es ina cràcoa?” Áurmiddo whispered to me.
“Yes, I think it’s a kraken,” I replied, scrutinizing the large creature with multiple waving arms, red eyes and…a black wig on its head?
“Well, well, well,” it shouted down at me and Áurmiddo, looming twenty feet above us, rain pouring down on its scaly skin. My blood cooled. My heart stopped beating. I squeezed Áurmiddo’s hand harder.
“Paràsàfàna!” Áurmiddo shouted.
“Devlina du Vel!” I exclaimed angrily.
“The one and only baby,” Devlina cackled.
“You’re dead!” I said angrily, standing up and walking to the edge of the covered deck.
“Matter is neither created nor destroyed. Check your science book, baby,” she called out to me from the lake.
“I can’t believe this is Paràsàfàna, Mäu Licuria, the worst of all Malevolents,” Áurmiddo whispered to me.
“That’s me!” she said floating above the lake. She slithered up the shore and towered above the swaying pine trees. “Back to destroy this dimension once and for all.”
“Not a bad idea,” Nàdo said. “So backward here.”
“You have to plug lamps in to light them!” Vêrnadetta shouted.
They all laughed.
“Devlina!” I said. “You know I’ll stop you. It’s my duty—my family’s duty.”
“Oh, go blow it out your ear, kid,” she said. “Your family is full of poop. I heard you on the phone. What mom won’t let her son come home when he asks to? What mom hates boys kissing boys?”
“You heard me?” I asked curiously.
“I hear all, my love,” she revealed.
“Oh, so you’re some champion for youth? For love? As I recall, you tried to kill me—twice!”
“Details, details,” she said.
“Why do you look like that?” I asked as the rain blew in onto my bare feet.
Devlina looked down at her scales, warts and claws. “I have to acclimate and return to my beauty. That spell you cast three years ago did this to me.”
The other Magicals looked at me.
“Wow,” Llorosso said. “You did that?”
I shrugged, then said, “Devlina, why don’t you go find some other dimension and wreak havoc?”
“Because I want to destroy this dimension,” she said. “Plus, my husband Zid’dra is here. I am over him.”
“What does that mean?” I asked.
“He’s a cheater,” Devlina said.
“Huh?” I responded.
“Nothing,” Devlina said. “Look, truthfully, you should relax and be a kid. Stop worrying about your ten-year plan and your brand. Honestly, boys your age should worry about skateboarding and kissing!”
Áurmiddo turned and smiled at me. “See?” he said.
I sighed. If it were only that easy.
“Why can’t you let me simply, oh, I don’t know, wipe out this dimension and get rid of all the awful Ordinaries—you know, the ones who hate boys kissing boys,” Devlina said.
“It won’t work,” I said.
The gravity keeping the universe spinning required balance—good and evil, positive and negative—carefully calibrated. Devlina threatened that balance by trying to destroy Ordinaries. My family was charged with protecting that balance. I was charged with stopping Devlina. I didn’t have a choice.
“You do have choices,” Devlina said reading my mind as red mist rose from the grass. “I’ll see you around, sweetheart.”
And with that she was gone. Nàdo, Llorosso, and Vêrnadetta began talking excitedly. Áurmiddo leaned his head on my shoulder. My life just got so much more complex. Áurmiddo changed everything for me. How would my family react? What would everyone think of me? Devlina’s return reminded me of my oath to protect Earth, save the Ordinaries, and fight the Malevolents. I longed to be a normal boy like Áurmiddo. I was born into the rich and powerful Delomary clan with all the associated obligations, including fighting Devlina.
I sighed. Soon I’d be back in Burbank and more confused than ever. The gulf between me and Barn had widened these past few weeks. How could I tell him about my kiss? He wouldn’t understand me. Áurmiddo would be seven thousand years in the past.
Adding to my confusion lately, Dad had started calling me, explaining he wanted a relationship with me. Mom didn’t like me talking to Dad. A part of me had this need to talk to Dad, maybe to figure out what it meant to be a man. Still, I couldn’t tell him about my kiss with Áurmiddo since he was conservative and might not approve of boys kissing boys. His family, the Smiths, had a grudge against my family since the divorce and wanted to see my family knocked off our perch.
If only Áurmiddo could come with me, but I knew that wasn’t possible. If only I had a friend like him, someone I could totally be myself with. That was what I needed right now: someone who could look beyond my bright-red hair and my ten-year plan and brand, someone who could see all of me and want to be my friend.
The clouds retreated over the mountains and the moon shone onto the lake. Cassiopeia glowed above us. Áurmiddo squeezed my hand.