Roy watched as the cab drove away, leaving the young girl alone at the edge of the mansion’s driveway. She was glancing about the expansive grounds with only a suitcase and a backpack to her name before she trudged up the walkway to the front door. The echo over the doorbell rang over Roy’s head, but he didn’t move until she was already inside the house. Vaguely, he thought he heard Willow’s enthusiastic greeting rise through the open window and he shook his head fondly as he imagined Willow explaining in rapid detail what exactly happened at the Ripple Effect grounds.
“What can she do?” Roy glanced back at Sierra as he spoke, seeing the older woman typing on one of her computers while a second behind her scrolled on. No doubt Sierra was working on multiple projects again.
“What did she look like?” Sierra asked in return. Her gaze never wavered from her computer screen.
Roy knew Sierra’s mental rapports with the security systems around the manor had already told her who had just entered the mansion. “She was probably almost as tall as me,” Roy rattled off, “tanned skin, long dark hair kept down…”
“Casually dressed,” Roy said, “in clothes that looked a bit worn down from what I could tell. She didn’t walk in a rush, but she wasn’t hesitating either, like she has nowhere else to be and isn’t afraid of a new place. Didn’t have many possessions, likely having come from a background where she didn’t have or didn’t need much. She came alone.”
Sierra’s eyes finally looked at him, but her typing never ceased. “Conclusions?”
“She came from a home,” Roy said, “either an orphanage or a foster system… Like me.”
The click-clacking stopped and Sierra gave him a crooked smile. “That’s one scenario,” she said. “Excellent observations, Roy. Most of them are true.”
Sierra glanced at the printer on one of her shelves and it turned on with her mental command. As the machine spewed out reports, Sierra continued speaking to Roy. “Rather than come from a foster home,” she said, “Hazel White was found on the streets in the city. She was a squatter in one of the abandoned clinics that are scheduled for demolition on the city’s outskirts. She earned money by drawing.”
Roy raised an eyebrow. “Drawing? She did portraits?”
“Of a sort,” Sierra said. “Her drawings are animated. That is her gift. Most assumed it was magic, merely illusions when her chalk birds flew off of the sidewalk.”
“Interesting.” Roy shoved his hands in his pockets. “Why did you feel the need to tell me all this about her?”
“You always were one of our most perceptive students,” Sierra said. “We’d like you to mentor her.”
“You’re joking.” Roy shook his head. “Why would you want me to do that? Eddie would be better at making someone else feel at home than me.”
“We have a few more students scheduled to join us,” Sierra said, “and Eddie will be a mentor for one of them. However, we feel as if Hazel will do well under your tutelage. You both come from similar backgrounds—”
“We’re both orphans,” Roy deadpanned.
Sierra carried off as if he said nothing. “And you have learned the importance of using your gift for defensive purposes, something that Hazel needs to learn. She can be reckless with her powers and doesn’t understand the danger she imposes on the world.” Sierra paused. “We found Hazel because she had drawn and brought to life a dragon in the middle of the park. She set it on a man that, as far as we are aware, had heckled her skills. Josh and Willow had lured the chalk dragon into one of the ponds in order to stop it, and Hazel was more upset about the loss of her dragon than the fact that it had nearly crushed a man.
“You used to have similar feelings for the world,” Sierra said pointedly, and Roy didn’t deny her words. “We feel as if you both could benefit from this mentorship.”
Roy ran a hand through his hair. “Nothing that I say will convince you to rethink this, would it?” She shook her head. “Then I won’t argue. When should I meet her?”
“Allow her a few minutes to let her get settled in first,” Sierra said. “One of us teachers will inform her of the mentorship program we have here after dinner, but it wouldn’t hurt to formally introduce yourself before then. Perhaps you can escort her to the dining room.”
Sierra turned her attention back to her machines, and Roy took that as a silent dismissal. With a half-hearted wave, he left Sierra’s office.