Hidden Short Story

Sophia’s Portal

M. Lathan, 2/2023,

A fun what if short story, set at the end of Lost. (This is self edited, so please excuse any typos I may have missed.)

Dedication: To Syan, thanks for loving these books and reminding me to do something special to celebrate how long they’ve been out!


She didn’t stand a chance. 

I saw it in her eyes—those soft brown eyes I’d once thought were cold and violent from the occasional glance over Lydia’s shoulder. I’d always watched her as she’d watched her daughter, never watching for myself. Until it was almost too late. 

Those eyes were now swimming with emotions much too heavy for her to handle. I doubted Christine could’ve put into words all the feelings at war inside her. On one hand, she had the most powerful mind in the world. She knew things without knowing them. Thousands of facts and outcomes drifted freely at her fingertips, so she had to know exactly what would happen if she jumped into the portal those fools had made. If Lydia chose her family over the world, the world would end. No question. No chance of happiness for anyone. 

When Lydia was still a girl, and already a devil, Mona would wake up screaming about how important she was, how everything was going to rest of her shoulders. In many ways, the weight of it all eventually broke Lydia. I didn’t help. I tried to make it easier, make it fair, but things couldn’t end well for someone that vital to the way the world spins. It required too much of her back then, and even more of her now.

The cracks from her great breaking could be seen in the angel she made. As she stood before me, my amulet freshly draped around her neck, those cracks had never been so clear. All her pain, all the utter unfairness from growing up completely alone as the most powerful woman in the world watched, and her henchman—dreadful me—did nothing about it.

I. Did. Nothing. About it.

Pain hit me anew. All these years, I didn’t expect Lydia’s cracks to find ways to fissure me—outside of her tone, her episodes, and how she was physically incapable of not breaking things just for me to find and clean. I didn’t expect to be the broken one. But in truth, the worst day of my life had been months ago when, just to get Lydia to focus on a U.N. meeting, I’d offered to watch her child over the mirror. The same mirror I’d used many times to make her sign things, free people from cells. She’d missed too many days of work while putting her parents’ home in the right shape for her daughter. And I’d rolled my eyes at it, at how easily she could drop everything and ignore the people who’d died since she’d decided to neglect her duties. So I’d watched and…

Life would be a lot easier if Christine was a copy. I hadn’t realized how much I’d needed her to be one of those bred monsters, devoid of humanity. I’d needed it like I’d needed my next breath, because without it, I couldn’t hide from the child I’d let sit in an orphanage for years. What had hit me first was how much she looked like her father. It had been over a decade since I’d forced Lydia to stop watching her ex. It made her impossible to deal with. And impossible for her to do her job of managing crisis after crisis on a near constant loop.

Christopher Gavin was the biggest crisis in the world to her and watching him swept everything else she needed to think about away. Where her daughter brought her peace, Christopher brought her utter turmoil. And Christine looked just like him. That was what I was thinking when those girls started bothering her at her door, saying those terrible things.

It didn’t take anything after that to convince me that she wasn’t a copy. Those girls had hurt her with their words. And not that copies couldn’t be hurt. It was just that I’d seen Lydia throw a plate at a wall because her pasta was cold. When she was wronged even slightly more than that, she was positively violent. Christine’s heart wasn’t the same, and it had killed me. 

It was still killing me as I let her go tonight, knowing full well what she would try to do with the portal. I couldn’t stop her. When it came down to it, I was a common witch, born in a forest longer ago than I liked to admit, and taught nothing of the high magic that could rival psychic powers. I was strong. It certainly had surprised Mona when she’d met me. The amount of power I could summon made no logical sense, but even with that, I was still me. And Christine was stronger than Lydia Shaw. I had to let her go.

I had to let her try.

Or at least let her think she was trying.

I arrived at the pool a moment after her and watched from the shadows as she made quick work of her enemies. Then it was just her and her mother. Lydia pleaded from the water. She couldn’t move. Dark, heavy magic floated from the pool and latched on to the air around us. The backyard was full of foul power. Just as Christine began to lower herself in, I snapped my fingers and pulled her out. Lydia, for the first time in her life, looked grateful. Until …

Until I jumped in myself. With another snap, I returned my amulet to my neck, just in case I was wrong, just in case this didn’t go as planned. 

“Stop, you wretched witch,” Lydia said. “I will strike you down.”

“Threats. Always threats with you. But think…” She shook her head, eyes in a panic. “Think about that day I came to your office to stop the massacre. What would’ve happened if I’d taken her? What would her life had been like?”

I’d seen Lydia cry too many times, enough to be totally desensitized by how intensely she felt things, but these were different tears. Soft ones. Tears that said she’d wondered the same thing and didn’t want to know if we’d missed a chance to give this wonderful girl a better life. The swirling pool told me when she gave in. She thought about it, that day when I’d risked my life so that I didn’t have to watch more of my kind die.

We drifted back, back, back, until we were both there. 

She was facing a wide window, and I couldn’t breathe. She was choking me with her mind and dragging me ever so slowly along her wooden floor. 

“Let me help,” I croaked out. She turned with a wicked smile. God, how many times had I seen that look on her face? The girl who liked to smash glass for fun. The girl who’d loved chaos and nothing else until she met a boy. The boy. That was how I would change things. 

“Christopher,” I said. “Should know.” She released my throat from her mind’s grip. But not fully. The weight of it, of her, hovered inches above my skin. “He should know about his daughter. I can fix what you did to his mind.”

“It’s not reversable, not without hurting him,” she whispered.

Because I was from the future where I knew differently, I said, “I can do it. It’ll take me two months. In that time, she can stay with me. I can … fix it.”

She locked eyes with me, and said, more to herself than anything, “You’re not you. You’re … a different you.” Of course, she would figure this out. She was herself after all, and not the older version I was stuck with now.

“Lydia, we don’t have a lot of time.”

“Time,” she whispered. “You’ve toyed with time.” And after a moment, she nodded and added, “Bitch, you better know what you’re doing. I swear to God.”

And with that crassness I’d come to loathe more every day, the world spun around us. Spun and spun until humid air whipped around me. Spun until the humidity turned to a full-on rain. Until I was sinking inside of it. 

And submerged into a pool. 

A blurry figure hovered above me. I could just make out her curly hair against the brilliant sky. “Nana,” she said, as my head emerged from the water. “Like … what are you even doing? A ritual or something?”

Christine. She’d called me … Nana. 

“Never mind,” she said. “Why you’re naked is your business.” Naked? Hmm, the magic must have made things from my old life invisible to her. “Can we go out?”

Without waiting for my answer, her attention turned to her phone. The case was the loudest shade of pink … and bejeweled. As were her nails. She was wearing something that would’ve made us both blush without the portal, that clearly worked—a horribly small denim skirt and a shirt that needed to stop pretending to be a shirt. Her bra matched her nails and phone and was clearly meant to be seen. She looked a lot like Emma did before meeting Remi Vaughn. 

“Dude, why are you naked?” Pauly said, striding to the pool’s edge. I snapped my fingers and changed that as the sight of me suspiciously naked drove him to laughter. 

“Dude?” I said. I climbed out and reached to tuck strands of his long hair behind his ear. “I beg your pardon, little boy.”

“Yes … dude, babe, lady. Love. Whatever.” He shoved Christine for no reason. She balanced herself without reacting or even looking up from her phone. “Loser, did she say yes?”

“Of course, she did,” Christine answered. “She never says no to me.” Then she took Paul’s hand, and they disappeared. 


We landed inside a club in Arizona, the most famous witch haven in the country. I was a regular here, so my sudden appearance shocked no one. To them, nothing about me was out of place or odd. They had no idea that my status as a witch was a complete fabrication.

Without windows, it might as well have been midnight. The crowd was only half of its usual size, but I was sure there was a line leading down the street. Rei’s was the place to be on a Saturday. All day, if you had clearance to publicly mingle and if your parents allowed it. Mine allowed whatever I wanted. My dad was almost always on tour now. And Nana … was the biggest softy on the planet when it came to me.

Officially, I was here to make up with Emma. She’d said some things, and I’d said worse things. She’d called me spoiled. I’d called her evil. I’d barely meant it, but her sister was back. So of course, she’d turned into the worst version of herself. Again. Unofficially, I was here to prove that Sophia and my dad were raging liars. And every part of my life was made up. 

Paul hooked an arm around my neck as we moved through the crowd. That was another reason why Emma was livid at me. Because of touchy-feely Paul. But he was my brother. Just a brother, and not brother in the secretly in love with him way that Emma meant it. We’d lived next door to each other our whole lives, and Emma was our third Musketeer. Sometimes, she lived with Sophia too, and so did I when my dad was gone. Paul’s mom homeschooled us. We used to take baths together. Sophia made all of our meals and tucked us into the same beds too many nights to count. But when Em’s parents got out of their legal trouble, she’d moved home, started school in Paris. When it was safe for magical kind to come out of hiding in Texas, Paul and I had started school together, and Emma had complained about being the third wheel to our duo ever since. Whenever we fought about something, we were actually just fighting about who was closer to Paul.

We found her in a shadowy corner of the club stapled to Edith’s side. Edith was, like Emma, an eerily beautiful girl. In the last three weeks, I’d seen her three times, and each time her hair had been different. Long pink waves the first time, then a platinum bob, and today … a buzz cut. She sat on a table in an effortless cool way, laughing with her head tilted back. It was exactly how I’d seen her in my vision. 

This was going to work. Everything would change tonight. The lies would end. I was sure of it.

“Oh, Emmy. It’s your friends who hate you,” Edith said. “Isn’t that what you told me? They hate you?” Emma looked like she wanted to die next to her. She was wearing black jeans, black boots, and a black tank top. It was exactly the sort of plain outfit she’d banned me from wearing when we were younger. 

“We’re here to apologize,” Paul said, even though he hadn’t done anything. He just always found himself in the middle of our spats. As he continued smoothing things over, going along with a plan he had no idea about, my phone buzzed in my hand. 

“Nana,” I answered. “I’ll call you right back. Love you. Bye.”

“Wait, Christine—”

I would apologize for cutting her off later. By the end of every day, I tended to rack up a lot of things to be sorry about. A clipped tone, not cleaning my room, a fit of rage. Those fits were mostly about why my dad had been “on tour” for months longer than he’d planned to be. And why there were literal holes in my memories from the last few years. Person-sized holes. 

Someone was … missing, and when I thought about it for too long, the world went fuzzy. Blank.

A few times, I’d triggered seizures that had left me unconscious for days just to fill those holes, find that someone. I was becoming unnaturally certain that Edith was the key to it, and that she would say something, while standing on a table, wearing exactly the outfit she was wearing, as Emma tried to pull her down, that would make everything slide into place. 

So when she climbed on the table, my heart turned into a frantic drum, strapped to a fleet of horses, crashing down the side of a mountain. There was no slowing it. Every voice in my head screamed that this was the biggest moment of my life. Bigger than discovering I wasn’t a witch. Bigger than touching Pop’s throat once and pointing out exactly where I’d sensed a growth and exactly how to fix it. Bigger than doing a homework assignment about Egypt once and literally going there. 

This moment was … everything. 

“Excuse me.”

I’d been waiting for weeks to hear Edith’s voice and to finally see the end of a vision that always ended abruptly when she started speaking. But it wasn’t her voice that spun me around. This one was deeper, wrapped in warmth and coming from the most handsome face I’d ever seen. The cutest mouth that could ever exist. The greenest eyes in the history of eyes. I got lost in them, and I swore I could see snow drifting across a lush forest for a moment inside them. The scent of snow overwhelmed my senses, then the sound of a crackling campfire. And howling. 

“I’m, um, taking orders,” he said. I blinked a few times and forced myself to look away from his eyes. His mouth wasn’t any less overwhelming to stare at, so I found a neutral spot on his neck. Then I found a freckle there and suddenly wanted to die there. 

What was wrong with me? 

Never had I ever wanted to hear someone’s thoughts before. The one and only Christine v. Paul brawl had happened because I’d spied into his mind and couldn’t stop myself from asking him, in front of everyone, why he let such small things make him so sad. I’d ended up with a bloody nose, and I’d turned into a feral cat on his face, and we’d both learned not to fight in front of Nana. But right now, I needed to hear this boy’s mind for some reason.

I tried, and … nothing. Absolutely nothing was coming from him. And I might have been about to faint from trying.

“Orders for drinks,” he said. “My manager asked me to, um, ask you, um … if you wanted something.”

With complete certainty, I said, “You’re lying.” And he smiled.

Oh sweet Jesus in heaven.

It was a beautiful thing to behold.

I couldn’t read his mind, but I could read him. That smirk, those eyes, the way he held his head to the side like it was just too heavy to hold up. Like there was a lot on his mind. And on his heart. Maybe … something about his mom. Definitely something about his mom. I knew the feeling. My mother was always on my mind. Both Paul and Em were tired of visiting her grave with me. 

That was wrong.

Something was very wrong with that grave and my mom and … 

“You okay?” the boy asked. 

He pointed to my nose. Because I had nosebleeds daily, I knew to wipe and tilt my head back. As I did, my vision blurred and my thoughts scrambled. I suddenly couldn’t remember what I’d been thinking about when my nose started bleeding.

I was not prepared for the boy to produce a napkin from somewhere and hold it to my nose. My empty mind filled with a thousand things to say to him, to ask him. But instead of anything that made sense, I said, “Nathaniel?” 

With a gentle hand, he guided my face down until our eyes met. “What magic is that?” he said. 

“What do you mean?”

“You guessed my name. Sort of my name. It’s just … Nathan.”

Thomas. Nathan Thomas? Something about his last name felt wrong, and something about my body felt close to collapsing. He steadied me against his ridiculously big arm.

“I’m totally fine, um, Nathan,” I said. And moved away to stand on my own. “Contrary to what it looks like, I’m really so so so okay.”

“You look okay,” he said. “More than okay. I mean …” 

“You look more than okay?” Paul said, in a mocking tone. He threw his arm around the beautiful waiter. Nathan. “Come on. Do better. Try again. We’re all waiting to hear it.” 

“Hear what?” Nathan said.

“A better pickup line for our princess, Christine. Who, by the way, is never moved by pickup lines. No pressure.” 

Emma, who I hadn’t spoken to all week, came over just to whisper, “He’s very cute.” 

“Thank you,” Nathan answered, and tapped his ear to clue us in on his super-hearing. After an awkward moment, we all laughed. A real, belly shaking laugh. I couldn’t remember the last time something so stupid had been so funny.

I’d spent my life between one wrong moment and the next. From learning magic alongside my friends for what felt like no reason, to every time someone mentioned the name—

My brain glitched, and at the same moment, the boy smiled at me. It was like rebooting an old computer and then programing it with thoughts of him, him, him, him, him.

Until Edith said, “I swear to you on this night, we are going to kill her. We’re going to take out Lydia Shaw.” 

We spun around, and Nathan stepped in front of me. Guarding me, it felt, from Edith. I had to touch his arm to get him to move. He seemed unaware that he’d done it.  

A crowd had gathered to dote on Edith, filled with the sort of people who didn’t come to Rei’s for fun. They came to gripe about the way things were with witches staying in their zones and being heavily policed. The conditions. The poverty. It was easy to forget what life was like outside of our wealthy neighborhood where no one thought to ask if you were human or not. They just assumed it. Edith was wealthy too, by extension of Sophia who never seemed to run out of money to give away, so for her to become the face of this movement didn’t fit. It was like her many hairstyles, perhaps something she was trying out for now. 

“As long as she lives, we are in chains,” she said. A surprising number of people cheered. Lydia Shaw was not someone people mocked publicly. She was—

My mind blanked. Fully. Completely. A solid minute passed before I strung two words together in my head. 

“Chris,” Em said. “Let’s get out of here. I really want to talk about our fight.”

Our fight. Right. I was here to make up with Emma. No.

No, I wasn’t.

I was here to hear Edith speak.

“Maybe Mr. Cute Butt could give you his number,” she said, “and you could call him sometime. And we could find something better to do tonight and stop fighting because I really need to tell you about this thing that happened with Sophie, and no one would understand it but you. You know how she gets.”

“Mr. Cute Butt?” Paul and Nathan said in harmony.

Edith began to chant, “No. More. Lydia. No. More. Lydia. No. More. Lydia.”

No more Lydia.

My instincts screamed at me to join the chant. I didn’t get many chances to follow my instincts. Sophia had made sure of that. But something felt right about it. 

My instincts had also told me that it wasn’t Sophia who’d rescued me from the desert that day. That it wasn’t Sophia who’d pulled me out of smokey rooms when I’d set fire to things. And that I’d done that more times than I’ve been allowed to remember.

I followed my instincts and chanted, “No. More. Lydia.”

Paul laughed, thinking I was making a joke. Em tried to shush me, then ran over to her sister to pull her down from the table. Just like in my vision. 

Then … Edith’s eyes locked with mine. “Princess,” she said. “You with us?”

“I am.” I didn’t know why I was. I didn’t know why I needed to be. 

“Because you’re perfect for something I have planned. Tonight.”

I glanced at Mr. Cute Butt. It was way too hard to walk away from him, but something about this moment with Edith called to me. A song I was powerless to ignore. Three steps forward, and her crowd swallowed me up. In the center of it, she leaned close to my ear and whispered, “Emma told me you’re not really a witch. Don’t be mad. She didn’t have much of a choice. But I’ve been waiting to get close enough to you to ask for a favor.”

“What’s the favor?” I said. My powers answered before she did. She wanted me to break into Lydia Shaw’s house. 

Everything clicked into place suddenly. Why, for weeks, I hadn’t been able to close my eyes without seeing this club, this girl. Our lives had collided perfectly to create an opportunity for me to finally see her up close. For me to unravel the reason why I couldn’t keep my thoughts straight when thinking about—

My mind became ribbons again. Floating, falling, strips of nothing, until Edith said, “We found her home. Lost three people in the process of digging out the info, and my girl said she saw you. You, Christine. Inside.”

“Saw me … as in the future?” I asked.

“In a freaking crystal ball, doing this. We planned for this to happen next week, but I don’t believe in coincidences. Let’s do this tonight. We just need you to test the spell to get inside, and use your … other gifts to get you the rest of the way.” She brought her hands to my face. Her whole tragic life story screamed through my mind in warped speed. I ignored it to focus on the task at hand. “And then you’ll get yourself out of there before anyone sees you. Okay?”

She didn’t expect me to get out. But she was right. There was no such thing as a coincidence. I needed to do this. Tonight. I was sure of it. 

Edith held out her hand to me, and as I took it, I heard Emma, Paul, and Mr. Cute Butt yell, “No!” 


We moved to a seedy studio apartment with grimy yellow walls and a stained mattress covered with drug paraphernalia in the center of the room. Edith walked me to the kitchen area. I ignored the movement inside a sink full of dishes. 

“It’s in Paris,” she said. 

“Where she lives?” 

“Yes. We’re going to get you past these serious wards she has on the place. Magical wards, so our own people are working against us to protect her.” As she spoke, a few of her followers appeared from nothing, surrounding us. Then surrounding me as she slowly backed away. 

“Right now?” I said.

“No time like the present. Psychics are dangerous like that. The more you think of something, the more time you give them to feel you thinking about something, and the more screwed you get. But … you wouldn’t know anything about that, would you?” 

It was a threat. Do this or she’d expose that I’d been asked to pretend to be a witch. And that meant that I wasn’t one of them, that I was the daughter of a hunter. A copy that Sophia Ewing helped raise.

That would put Nana in danger. And my dad. And maybe my mother’s grave if they really wanted to find their real enemy. That grave …

The grave…

“Let’s do this,” Edith said, and snatched my mind away from a cliff. I noticed then that she was high out of her mind and that her plan was only half as baked. 

They started chanting. And I was gone. 

There was nothing but darkness. The chanting voices ended at once. I was starting to think I would never see light again until a pinpoint of brightness poked through. The circle widened slowly until it became head-sized, and through it, a bright white apartment. All modern and expensive looking. The opposite of my home with Dad or Nana’s. “Jump,” Edith yelled from somewhere. “Go. Now!” 

And I did, if only because I was sure they’d kill me if I didn’t. Or they’d try. I couldn’t remember it totally, but I had flashes of that fight with Paul not being my first. Or last. More holes. I was done not knowing about my own life. 

I closed my eyes and imagined myself in that room, and in an instant, I was there, standing in front of a starkly white leather sofa. My wedged heels sunk into white, plush carpet. I was a burst of color in the sterile room. My ears rang for a few seconds, and when they cleared, a voice that shouldn’t have been there cut through me. 

“Talk to her. She works for you!” My dad. Yelling? I’d never heard his voice above a calm whisper, even on my worst days. But he was shouting now.

“I don’t control Sophia.” That voice cut worse. Lydia was … here. With my dad. Talking about Nana. My thoughts tried to scatter, but I grabbed hold of those ribbons and forced them to stay in place. “I’ve never controlled Sophia, and I think it’s hilarious how you’re here trying to get me to side with you, to do something for you, when I have spent years doing everything you two ask of me to barely get to see my daughter in passing.”



Realization knocked on the door of my mind, only to get snatched away, leaving my brain empty of everything but their voices.

“You’ve really found the damn audacity over the years, Christopher,” she said. 

“This isn’t about me. She’s doing to me what she does to Nick and Lacey. She’s taken her.”

“Because of the seizures,” Lydia said. “Because of everything. She means … well.”

“And you don’t care? About her taking my kid? Her swearing that I’m the key to triggering her memories? That works for you?”

“When has this arrangement ever worked for me?” she said. “Name one damn day.”

“Oh, I don’t know, Lydia. Maybe when you became even richer and famous and loved and feared. Pick any day. Pick any of those things that you were so willing to trade her for in the first place.”

“I didn’t trade … you know what. No. I can’t have this fight again. I can’t do this. You’re driving me crazy.”

“At least it’ll be a short drive.”   

Silence. Deadly silence. 

I took my first step forward, surprisingly steady on shaking legs and party shoes. I walked toward where their voices had come from, past a spotless kitchen, a long glass dining table set for one. A completely unlived in home. I turned the corner and found them, backs turned, in a room that had been made into a home gym. Dad broke the tense silence and whispered, “I didn’t mean that, Lyd. I’m … tired. And sad. And I miss her. And I don’t know how to convince Sophia that I’m not what’s bad for my own kid right now.”

I remembered how to talk and said, “So you’re not on tour?” They both whipped toward the door. My brain cracked open at the sight of her, letting much needed light in. The most famous woman in the world.

Lydia Shaw.

Lydia freaking Shaw.

She was my mother. 

I’d learned this too many times to count, starting when I was twelve. I’d been watching TV with Dad, Nana was going between her house and ours for the extra oven space, and Lydia Shaw was on the news. She was talking about new restrictions for shapeshifters or something like that, and my dad became a bonfire of emotions. I couldn’t sit still from everything he made me feel. Rage and hurt and terrible loneliness. I started to ask him what was wrong, and what was wrong with me that I could literally feel what he was feeling, and my mind answered for me. Seeing his ex’s face hurt like hell, hearing her voice made him want to die, and I was starting to remind him of her more and more each day.

Because she was my mother. 

They’d let me remember that for a week. I’d met Lydia, cried with her as she’d apologized and explained herself. But … someone had been tracking her movements, and I’d ended up snatched from school and thrown into a rival hunter’s cage. It had only lasted three short, yet extremely terrifying, minutes. Lydia burned down everything around me without so much as heating the cage. That night, Sophia decided I shouldn’t remember any of it. 

Except … flashes of that night, of her, kept coming to me in dreams for months after. Nothing had felt right, or real, until Em and Paul moved in my room and refused to leave my bed until I did.

Another memory flooded in. I was lost in a desert and a hand appeared in the sandstorm. Her hand. She’d found me quickly and took me home. The memory of the rescue was gone before they finished fighting over whose fault it was. 

From then, I got to remember that I wasn’t a just witch with strange magic. I was allowed to know about psychic powers, but they made me believe I had a dead mother. And I grieved her. 

They let me grieve her for years.

I’d figured that out when I was fourteen. I showed up at some fancy lunch Lydia was having and made a scene that no one remembered. The next time, I set fire to our house. The next time, fire to Sophia’s. Not because I’d had an accident with my mind, but because I was pissed and something had to burn for it. 

Standing with them now in her apartment, my thoughts of course started to cascade down a cliff. I was suddenly thinking that I’d gone to see my dad on tour and we were talking in a room alone, with no one else. But I held on with everything I had and whispered, “Please,” to the empty space in my life. “Please wait. Please not yet, Mom.”

 I stopped falling, and time somehow stopped moving, and she appeared in the midst of it all. 

And smiled. 

“Hey,” I said, because I was lame.

“Hey, kid.”

Another memory slid into place. Me, at sixteen, showing up here by the force of my own will. This was not my first time in this immaculate apartment. My first time, I’d crashed in while she was sitting calmly on the sofa, seemingly waiting for me. She’d whittled out of a few hours out of her hectic life to sit with me before sending me home empty-headed. 

“This isn’t working, Mom.”

“It never has. We can’t seem to stop you from looking for me.” She pulled me into her arms, and I watched my dad fall apart over her shoulder. I knew what came next, now that I knew anything at all. Something terrible would happen. She would disappear, or one of her enemies would find me, or Sophia would have to play sole parent while my dad struggled with this arrangement. Or all of it. 

Or I would happen. I would ruin it all on my own with seizures or outbursts or by generally being me. 

“Don’t do that,” Mom said. “This isn’t on you. This thing with us.” She gestured behind her to my dad. “It’s beautiful and broken and impossible. And nothing can fix what I had to break.”

“Mom, there has to be something we can do.” My voice was the weakest it had ever been. 

“If there was something, angel, I would do it,” she said. “I’ve seen thousands of versions of the future, ten thousands really, where you’re alone or with him or with her or with me, all unhappy. Always in danger.”

“And it never works?” I asked. 

“Except once. After a lot of unhappiness, for all of us, we had a slight chance of getting it right many years later.” Her smile turned sad, eyes thoughtful like she wished for this future more than anything in the world. “And I think we would’ve had a pet wolf. Or big white dog. I can’t really tell. Either way, you just have to trust me. Stop trying to find me. You have to.” 

I was trapped between this feeling of knowing with absolute certainty that she was right, and also knowing that there was something damaged in me that would keep trying to ruin my life until all of it, terrible or not, was allowed to exist. While I stood there, holding on to this woman who couldn’t be in my life, three things happened.

Mom yelled for me to duck.

My dad’s eyes widened.

And Edith Arnaud appeared from nothing.


Christine vanished, and I called Lydia. She didn’t answer, that call or the three other times I tried as I dripped all over the mansion I apparently lived in. It was grand and beautifully made in a Spanish style with windows that all somehow found a perfect view of a lake. And it was a personal hell, mostly because it was quiet. Empty. How would I have all this space without filling it with people? 

I found my husband asleep in a library in the middle of the day, a newspaper folded over his stomach. There were signs of Paul everywhere. Tons of scarves draped on things and a slew of hair products in a bathroom just off the massive living room. The walls were filled with overly perfect art. Christine’s art, done by a power in her mind to replicate her mother’s gifts. I passed one of a vase of peonies that looked computer generated. Then a portrait of me that could’ve come to life and started talking right there on the wall. Each one had an unsettling flawlessness to it. 

After climbing a winding staircase, I found her room. My life in this world started to bleed through, and I remembered her growing up here. She’d mostly lived next door but always had her own room in my house. I saw her with missing teeth. I heard her laughing with Emma and Paul.

And I heard her screaming. 

I jumped in the doorway, the sound was so real. So piercing. Though it was just a memory, it meant that this world wasn’t entirely happy. 

But what world was? This had to be the best thing for her. Yes, that was what I always did. The best thing for her by any means. Another memory forced its way in—of Lydia screaming, begging to see her, begging to hold her or be the one to comfort her after a fall, standing outside in the freezing cold because I couldn’t let her in. I couldn’t let her be seen here. Next, I remembered the same thing happening with Christopher Gavin eventually. All to stop what? Seizures, that was right. A search for her real past, that kept nagging her when she read her father’s mind, was damaging my little love’s brain. And I had to stop it. 

I would—I would protect her at all costs.

Even now, at that club, I was protecting her. The staff was my staff essentially. No one could really call you controlling when you were only ever trying to help. Those kids needed jobs and I simply influenced the decision for their hiring, at the very place that my three precious lambs wanted to spend all of their time. 

My body went wholly still as I remembered something from yesterday. Someone had been at that club …

Someone I needed to worry about.


She had Emma in her clutches again, and Christine’s immediately foreseeable future was starting to tangle with that ungrateful, savage, horrible girl. Edith was a baby version of Lydia without meds and potions and Christine. The thought made me shiver where I stood. I had to get her away from Emma and everyone in my family. 

I called Lydia again, and it dawned on me—Christopher. She wasn’t answering because of Christopher and how they’d been sneaking around and meeting up. Again. Keeping those two away from each other was a constant thorn in my eyeball. I was going to pull out all of my hair if I popped in on them one more time or had to lecture them about why mortal enemies shouldn’t also sleep together. She was never going to be able to leave her life for him, not truly. He didn’t know how to forgive, not truly. And neither of them knew how to let go, so the cycle continued.

Surprisingly, he answered on the first ring.


He … hated me. I knew this man, from my quickly fading life, to be soft. Gentle. Too gentle to know and love Lydia. The way he’d said my name suggested that the gentle version of him did not exist here. 

“Where are you?” I asked.

“What does that matter if I’m not with my child?”

Right. I’d taken her again. “It’s the seizures,” I said, slowly at first, then my words tumbled out as this life became realer than my last one. “Once I figure out why the spells I have in place aren’t healing these … spots in her mind … I’ll bring her home. I promise.”

“You promised that last month.”

“I don’t like your tone, Christopher. I’m only trying to help.”

“I hate the way you help. And … what are you calling me for?”

“I … right. Lydia. Where is she?”

He sighed—a long, painful sound. “How should I know?”

“Because she’s not answering, and you’re the only distraction in her life that I can’t control.” Distraction was too harsh. They were hopelessly, tragically in love. It was hard to respect that when those feelings just made them stupid, but I knew what they shared was real. 

“I haven’t spoken to her in weeks,” he said. “Do try to keep up.”

“That’s impossible with you two. Are you sure? Are you lying to me?”

“Sophia. Jesus. I’m not lying. I need to go. And only call me back when you’re not going to attack me for showing up to give my kid a hug, will you?” 

He hung up, and for a moment I stood near the banister, my eyes glazing over this grand home, this grand life, and tried to collect my thoughts.

I was supposed to be doing something. Saving Christine? Fixing things?


I snapped my fingers and brought myself to the basement where I kept the sort of magic only Gregory was allowed to see me do. Bubbling beakers and smoking cauldrons greeted me, and I smiled at how comfortable I felt here. It reminded me of my real life, and my real hidden den at home.

It was getting really hard to remember what that home looked like, though. But I had bigger problems.

I reached my hand into a ceramic pot and tossed its contents into the air around me. “Reveal all,” I said to the powder. And to direct it, I whispered, “Edith.” The powder swirled and shifted, flowing in this direction and that, until it modeled her form. And a crowd at Rei’s. And…

“My dear,” Gregory said, as he appeared before me. “It’s ready.”

I looked away from the forming prediction. Gregory held out a vial of green liquid, his face somewhere between sad and annoyed. 

“What’s this?” I said.

“Are you joking? Trial forty-three of the potion. For … Christine?”

“Right. Yes.”

For Christine’s powers. I was going to turn them off. For good. And he was crossed with me over it. “This is what’s best for her,” I said. 

“Whatever you need to tell yourself, my love.” I jumped at his tone. He had never, in our long lives …

No, he always had that tone with me. He didn’t like that I played puppet master so much, but playing it had saved millions of lives. And put a beautifully complicated child in my care, and life couldn’t stop throwing the worst of itself at her every day. It didn’t take a break. There was always something to fear and fight, and I’d reached my mind’s end. I needed to tell him I was a wreck. That I’d been pulled in too many directions and everyone who needed my help and needed me to be everything to them were on the verge of pulling me apart. But he left me alone in the basement before I could form the words. 

No matter. I was too busy to stew on this strain between us or anything else. The world didn’t make itself spin. There was a powerful woman to keep in line. Mouths to feed. Deals to strike. And Christine. It was almost like she was a universal wildcard. Something fate didn’t know how to contend with. I had to do something to set that right, and I had a theory.

What if all of it started and ended with Lydia’s strength? Lydia should’ve been an heiress. Filthy rich on both sides. That should’ve been enough, but she’d wanted more power than money could buy. She’d pushed herself too far and passed these gifts that shouldn’t have been to her daughter. If this latest potion worked, without killing Christine—killing Lydia, really—would I fix the tendency for life itself to want to take her out?

I’d never brewed something strong enough to clear Christine’s mind totally. I’d tried when she was younger, even slowed the progression of them to almost mimic magic. One day, I’d pressed a vial to her lips and Lydia had appeared just in time to slap it away, the contents spilling out and burning a hole in the floor. Pure poison. I’d almost given her poison, and a part of me would never forgive myself for the mistake. Neither would Lydia, but I had to keep trying. One of these days, that sweet girl was going to burn down another house and we wouldn’t be lucky enough to get out.

“At all costs,” I said, absently and struggling to remember something. Either why I felt so insane about this mission, or something about Lydia, or … Edith.


I spun around to the cloud of powder I’d thrown in the air. It had started to disperse, but there, floating and terrible, was an image of that unsavable girl slicing a knife across Christine’s throat.  

I ran to the furthest table, in the darkest corner of the basement and yanked a velvet cloth away from my mother’s crystal ball. As dust gusted into the air, I said, “Lydia Shaw.” It showed her instantly.

With her arms wrapped around Christine.



This never ended well. 

Edith appeared behind Christine. As her hand raised, radiating visible power that seemed to freeze Lydia in place, I snapped my fingers.

And appeared between them. The knife moved with exquisite slowness. I had time to see the hate in Edith’s eyes, see it turn to joy as she saw my neck beneath the blade. I had time to remember every moment with Christine. The joy of getting her from that orphanage, the strangely judgmental look on the nuns’ faces as I claimed her as mine, healing Christopher and setting them up in the house next door. Every meal. Every laugh. Every screaming fight between her and Emma and Paul. 

I even had time renew the wordless spell I was using to slow said time for longer. My mother called it Crawling. Making seconds slow to a crawl. I used my remaining time to remember something I once said to Christine on a dark day.

Your life will not be perfect, but there will be something absolutely marvelous about it, even if that marvelous thing is the breath you take. 

Light glinted off the knife. The sight of it jolted me back into my real mind. Edith was dead. I hadn’t saved her. Lydia hadn’t saved her. For years, we’d tried, but her thirst for blood and shadowy magic had won. So this wasn’t real. 

What was real, and left behind in my world: Christine laughing with her friends, healing from her past, loving me despite me leaving her in that place to rot. Loving all of us because she knew we’d done the right thing. The only possible thing. And here I was, doing exactly what I always told her not to do—letting hard memories and the regret they bring swallow me up. Just that fast, it had consumed me. If I got us out of this jam, I was going to have to give that angel more grace on her sadder days and praise her more when she made moves to get out of them. My own pain had taken me down before I’d felt it coming.

At the last moment, as my skin began to split around the knife, I clutched my necklace and ended it all.

I came to with a gasp in Christine’s bedroom just as she turned away from me, my necklace again on her neck. “Do the right thing,” I whispered. It was both a hope and a spell to ensure it would come true that followed her out of the door. 

The end.

Thanks for reading. 

Sophia is honestly one of my favorite people, even though she isn’t real. Lol. She actually started off as a few characters. Lydia had a maid, and Christine (her name was Elizabeth at the time and I don’t remember why I changed it) had this wise figure in her life who took her from St. Catalina, and then Paul and Emma (her name was Ariane at the time for some reason) they had a grandmother. And one day, I was like … wait these people are the same person, just wearing a lot of hats and stretched too thin, and lowkey controlling. So Sophia was born. When I was writing Lost, I actually imagined many characters using that portal and Sophia’s was my favorite. I have one for Lydia using it herself as well. Stay tuned.