It felt like time had stopped from the moment Camila Noceda answered her door to be greeted by her long-lost daughter, soaking wet and accompanied by four strange teenagers. Her mother openly cried and hugged her tight as Luz apologized for scaring her and frantically tried to explain the circumstances that had brought them here. There were parts that Camila could not understand, at least not in one evening. It was enough for her to know that some terrible event had transpired in the other world, and now these children were trapped here without their families…just as Luz had been for so long.
“These are my friends. Willow, Gus, and Hunter,” Luz pointed to them one by one, “and this is Amity.” In the last word there was something funny in Luz’s voice that Camila couldn’t quite place. “She’s…the best student in our school.” The pink-haired girl blushed but said nothing.
Being a medical professional, Camila set about bringing the children antiseptic and bandages for their cuts and scrapes. While this transpired, Vee sweetly offered to share her meal with their guests. Camila, however, insisted on preparing a fresh pot of soup and a soothing kettle of tea. The blonde boy offered her a quick “Thank you, ma’am,” while the smaller boy and the girl with glasses meekly nodded. But the pink-haired girl, the one who looked like an elf, politely bowed her head and said “Gracias, Senora,” as if she’d been rehearsing it. When Camila regarded her with surprise, she blurted out, “Luz has been teaching me human language but I’m not very good yet I only know a few phrases I hope I said that correctly-”
“Amity, that was perfect,” Luz beamed. For just a moment, Camila noticed her daughter looking happy again. “We call it Spanish by the way. Wait, how is it that everyone on the Boiling Isles speaks English anyway?”
“What’s English?” Gus, the youngest one, asked. “I was going to ask how you and your mom learned Boiling Isles Standard. It didn’t exist as a language until Belos came to power and made it the official-oh, nevermind. I just got it.”
Camila left the children to their conversation as she retrieved an inflatable mattress from the basement. Finally alone, she took a minute to gather her thoughts. She hadn’t expected Luz to look so much older. Not that she had grown much, but the look in her eyes had changed. Her demeanor was more confident, but also masking pain. These children were shell-shocked. For the most part, they had sat quietly while Camila made dinner. Hunter had offered the occasional suggestion as to how they might find a way home, while Willow had given vague reassurances that everything would be alright somehow. No one but Vee had done more than pick at their food.
Luz had explained that the other kids were witches, not humans. Was a witch a vocation or a species? There was so much Camila didn’t know, so much that she had yet to ask in the wake of her daughter’s return. They all had pointed ears, but the girl called Amity struck Camila as the most…fae. With her colorful hair and black dress, she looked like she had stepped out of one of Luz’s fantasy books. And she was so jittery around Camila, alternately too afraid to look her in the eye or desperately trying to impress her.
Camila plugged in an electric air pump and used it to re-inflate the mattress. Thank god it still worked, she didn’t want anyone to have to sleep on the floor. As the machine whirred to life, she remembered something Luz had said. These are my friends…and this is Amity. Was Amity not a friend? Did they not get along? Was this someone she could trust?
Camila felt a sudden tinge of anxiety at the number of strangers she had let into her house. There was so much she didn’t understand. How could she guarantee that her home was safe from whatever dangers they faced? As she made her way back to the living room, her basilisk child stopped her and made a shhh gesture with her finger. “They're asleep,” Vee whispered. “All of them! They must have been really, really tired.”
Camila smiled. “Thank you for telling me, carino. Why don’t you go to bed too. It’s late for you. I’ll take care of our guests.”
In her living room, Camila found Hunter, Gus, and Willow passed out on the sofa. Amity was reclining in a soft armchair, while Luz was sitting on the floor, her back and neck awkwardly propped against the chair’s side. How she managed to sleep like that, Camila had no idea.
She decided to gently wake them one-by-one rather than letting them sleep uncomfortably. As she approached the armchair, she noticed a journal that had been left propped open on the end table. The handwriting was far too neat to belong to Luz. Apparently, Amity had been taking notes on their conversation:
Ideas for Returning Home:
- Check local library for records of witch sightings
- Research something called isekai (maybe Luz was making a joke idk)
- Steal particles from Large Hadron Collider
- Need one more idea before I fall asle
Camila chuckled. Luz had said that Amity was studious. Taking notes and making lists was evidently her way of calming her mind in a crisis. Her curiosity getting the better of her, Camila flipped back a few pages. She had a strange sense that Amity was hiding something, and she needed to be cautious for the sake of Luz and Vee. What she read next was…unexpected:
Ok, that didn’t mean anything. The witch girl had written down her name for some reason. Maybe just so she wouldn’t forget it. Only…she had written it several times, in different styles of elaborate calligraphy:
Mrs. Senora Noceda
She wasn’t sure when this page was written, but it wasn’t from this evening. Was this girl, who Camila had been told was a witch, trying to cast some sort of spell on her? No, surely she was just being paranoid. But how could she say what was or wasn’t rational when she didn’t know the rules of their world? Taking a calming breath, she turned the page again:
What? Camila thought.
Mrs. Amity Blight-Noceda
Senora Amity Noceda
Now presenting Luz Noceda, the human master of glyph magic, and her wife, abomination sorceress Amity Noceda
Cute Names for Half-Human Babies:
Camila closed the notebook. She remembered how Luz’s voice got lighter when she said the name “Amity.” She remembered how Luz lit up in response to Amity’s use of Spanish. She remembered how nervous and formal her own husband had been, years ago, when he first met Camila’s parents. She had her answer.
Amity was not a friend.
Camila’s eyes began to tear up again. Her Luz had come so far, which was what Camila had wanted for her. But why did she have to grow up so fast?
Camila Noceda may not yet understand her daughter’s magical world, but she trusted her. She would look after these children as if they were her own. She would deliver them safely back to their families. Someone on the Boiling Isles had fed and sheltered her child. How could she do any less?
Looking over at Luz, she saw now why the teen had fallen asleep so awkwardly. Her arm was stretched up along the far side of the chair, where her fingers were intertwined with Amity’s.
"Ay que linda," Camila whispered.
She made a mental note to herself about sleeping arrangements. Luz’s room had a bunk bed that she and Vee could share. Willow and Amity would have a bed and a cot in the guest bedroom. Gus and Hunter could take the foldout couch and the inflatable mattress in the living room. Camila trusted her daughter, but setting boundaries was important. Especially for lovie-dovie teenagers.