The World Walkers: Raenarin: Rachel: The First Day

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the World Walkers: Raenarin collection
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Everything had been harder than Rachel expected it to be. Clothes, food, sleeping… she wasn’t entirely certain what was making it so difficult, but she did think being in Niall’s bed was part of the problem. He’d taken the settee in the lounge as his bed, even though she told him that she’d be fine there herself because she didn’t want to be any more of a burden than she already was, and it had been a long time since she’d slept in a bed. The last time she’d gone to sleep she’d been a cat, which meant making herself comfortable anywhere she pleased, but being a human… she sighed, sitting up. Being human once more meant she had to follow the rules and going to sleep in a bed, no matter how uncomfortable she was, seemed to be one of them, yet… she glanced down at the floor. Without letting herself think about it she slipped onto the floor, pulling the covers with her.

When Rachel woke up Niall was standing in the doorway smiling at her. Obviously being on the floor had made going to sleep easier, instead of spending most of the night tossing and turning in the bed. Biting on her lip she looked at him, hoping he didn’t mind her having his covers on the floor, because that was something she hadn’t thought about before she moved. All she’d thought about was sleep. It seemed her body had become used to cat naps, so going to bed at night felt wrong, and in the middle of the day she’d had to force away the urge to curl up on the sofa for a couple of hours. That was when she’d realised how hard changing back was going to be.

“It’s okay, Rachel,” he said, as though he knew what she was thinking, but knowing Niall he could see the emotions in her eyes. Being a cat for so long meant she hadn’t learnt how to hide them, the way most humans did. “You can sleep where you want. Honestly, the reason I gave you the bed was to give you the privacy of a room of your own. I can’t imagine what it must be like for you to be human again, after spending so long being a cat, so I thought the change to spend some time alone might make things easier for you. It was never about you actually sleeping in the bed.”

She found herself nibbling on her lip again as she tried to work out how to reply. “In order to truly become human again I have to accept what it means and the time will come when I have no other choice – I will have to sleep in a bed again.”

Niall shook his head. “No, you don’t. Even though you’ve turned back into your human form I don’t believe you will ever truly be human, not when you spent the majority of your formative years as a cat, so don’t force yourself to be something you’re not. All you can do is take things one day at a time until you feel like yourself again, because pushing yourself to change faster than you can will just make things harder.”

Rachel sighed. “I want to be human again.” She wrapped her arms around herself, doing her best to keep herself from falling apart, because everything had changed so much and she didn’t know how she was going to cope with it all. “You might be right though. I just…” Shaking her head, she did her best to stay calm, even though she did feel like screaming out all her rage at the person who had changed her. “I don’t know where to go from here, Niall. I have so few options and those I do have are ones I probably shouldn’t chose.”

“Actually I was thinking about that.” He sat on the end of the bed. “I want to help you, even though you seem to think this is your problem to deal with alone, and because of that I sat up a little later than usual trying to work out what you could do next. Finding your family isn’t something I would suggest you do straight away, but there is another way of finding out for certain who you are. Normally I wouldn’t suggest this, because I don’t trust the Walkers any more than I trust the Witches – it’s just going to be safer taking that route.”

“There was a time when I wanted to be a Walker.”

“You’re still young, so it is still possible.”

“Maybe.” Rachel shrugged. She didn’t think they’d be willing to take someone like her on. “So you think I should go to the Walker Council’s office today and talk to them?”

“I know they try to keep records of everything that happens here and if they don’t know you do have another option.”

“Which is?”

“Go to Siaral and talk to the Wish Mages. They do keep records of everything that happens on every world, so they know what they can and can’t change, because there are certain things that should never be changed.”

Blinking away tears Rachel tried not to let her lack of knowledge get to her, as she knew it was something she was going to have to deal with on a regular basis. “How do you know about them?”

“I’ve been lucky enough to travel a little and one of the worlds I like the most is Siaral. The Wish Mages aren’t something everyone knows about, because they like to keep their existence hidden, just in case.” Niall sighed. “Unsurprisingly they truly believe the Council would make the decision to execute anyone with the ability to grant wishes the same way they one did to the natural Walkers.”

“Are you a natural?”

“Unfortunately, no, I have to buy my tattoos.” He bit his lip. “Right now I have enough in my savings account to purchase one tattoo if you wanted to go to Siaral, but the decision is entirely up to you. Even though I have no idea what you’re going through I know you’re going to need time to come to terms with what’s happened.”

Rachel brushed her hand through her hair. “I really do.” She wrapped her arm around herself again, feeling more comfortable that way, because having a human body again, one that was so much bigger than before, was something she couldn’t get used to. “I want to know who I am, but at the same time I’m terrified. Everything we talked about has made me decision so much harder than it was before and I should have expected that. Becoming human again was never going to be simple, no matter how much I want it to be. All of the choices I need to make are going to be difficult.” She shivered. “Things that were simple before are never going to be that way again.”

“No, they’re not.” Niall studied Rachel. “That doesn’t mean they aren’t worth doing, Rachel, and in time you will have to make some hard choices. I don’t have the income to be able to look after you for the rest of your life now that you’re human.”

“Sorry.”

“Don’t apologise. This isn’t your fault. I knew there might be something unusual about you from the day I adopted you, although I don’t think even the agency expected you to turn human.”
“Honestly, I don’t think anyone really knows what the Witches are capable of. Shapeshifting children…” Rachel shook her head. “Would I have lived a normal human lifespan? Or was I getting close to my death?”

“You didn’t seem close to death.” Niall smiled. “From the moment you got here you were bouncing all over the place and it was all I could do to stop you from breaking certain items I’d rather like to keep. Eventually you did calm down, though, so I thought you were going to be a wonderful companion once you really got used to be here.”

Biting hard on her lip Rachel blinked back more tears. “Niall…”

He shook his head. “I didn’t say any of that to make you feel guilty. How many times do I need to tell you this isn’t your fault? Yes, I am going to miss my cat, but that had nothing to do with the choices you made.” He shrugged. “Even if you did do something that irritated a Witch so much she turned you into a cat I still wouldn’t blame you. You couldn’t have known what she would do, any more than you knew falling into my bath would turn you back.”

“I don’t know why it did. I’m sure I’ve fallen into bath water before and nothing happened.”

“Were they using bath salts?”

The memories of her life as a cat had, mostly, faded. “I have no idea what they were using in their bath, but I very much doubt any of them were.”

“Maybe it was the salt water that turned you back.”

Rachel did her best to dig through the memories that she had left. “That is possible. We are nowhere near the sea here, so the likelihood of me falling into salt water at any other time is very low.” She looked at Niall. “Now I have this urge to find some cats to test this theory with, although I doubt any of them will be in the same position as me…” As she looked back down at the floor she blinked away more tears. “I wouldn’t want to put them through this. There is a part of me who really does want to go to the Witches to see if they’ll turn me back into a cat.”

“Wouldn’t that be giving up?”

“Probably, but I’m not sure I care. I don’t remember being a cat, now, but I do know that the last memories I have are of me being a little girl who had her whole life ahead of her. Now…” She looked down at herself. “There was no transition for me. I didn’t go through the gawky teenage phases that I always thought I was. I didn’t have a chance to decide what I really want to do with my life, or kiss a boy, or go to a dance, and that isn’t even the hardest thing to come to terms with.” She didn’t have any choice that time but to let the tears trickle down her cheeks. “What I have to come to terms with is that everyone thinks I’m dead, along with the rest of my family. I can’t walk into the nearest World Walker Council office and tell them who I am, because I don’t think they’re going to believe me when I tell them that I spent the last decade as a cat – it’s something I have difficulty believing and it happened to me. Yesterday I was a cat and today I am a human. Wrapping my head around that, around the fact I was probably changed by the Witch who killed my parents, it’s so difficult, Niall.

“All I really want to do is fall apart. I want to let myself sob and scream for the girl I was, for the teenager I never had a chance to be, for the woman I am now. I just can’t, because if I do I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to put myself back together. You might have the patience to help me, but I don’t want you to have to deal with that, not when you already have do much to deal with, because I’m your unexpected house guest, with no money, no clothes, and no life. There’s a chance my only option is to start again and if it is I’m not certain that I want to do it here. Raenarin is terrifying, but I want to pay you back for your kindness, and I can’t do that if I leave our world behind.”

“You don’t need to.”

Smiling, Rachel shook her head. The smile faded quickly, but it was nice to have someone in her life who was willing to help her, because she knew there was a chance she would have found herself on the streets after her unexpected change. “I knew you were going to say that. You might not feel like I need to, but I do. There was no reason for you to let me stay here when I turned back – you could have kicked me out the way I’m sure other people would have done.”

“No, I couldn’t, and I don’t know how anyone else could, Rachel. You were naked, confused, and quite obviously terrified, so if anyone did kick someone like you out of their home instead of helping…” Niall shook his head. “If it was local I’m sure I would have heard of it and if it wasn’t…” He bit his lip. “How do you think you’d cope if I went out for a little while?”

“I don’t know. Why do you ask?”

“There are places I can go and people I can ask about these sorts of things, but it might take me the whole day, so I don’t want to leave you if you don’t think you could cope with that.”

“Niall, I do appreciate you asking, but you can stop living your life just because I’m here. I will be able to cope alone.” Rachel bit her lip. “It’ll be strange to be alone in your house, but it might do me some good.”

“Promise me one thing?”

“What?”

“Treat it the same way you would if it was your home, Rachel. As far as I’m concerned it will be your home until you’re ready to move out.”

“You’re planning on sleeping in the lounge until I leave?”

“If that’s what it takes to make you stay, yes, but I was thinking I could adapt this room so there’s space for both of us. All I need is a big curtain in the middle, to give us both some privacy, and I am out during the day.” Niall studied her. “You could sleep during the day if you wanted. I’m sure there are jobs you could do that mean you have to, so that might be simpler for you than trying to change yourself in ways that may not be possible any more.”

“Maybe.” Rachel was relieved someone else was trying to come up with ideas, because she had no idea where to start. “Thank you, for being so kind to me and trying to think of ways we can make this work, but I don’t want you to feel like you have to.”

“Of course I have to. You don’t have anywhere else to go and the last thing I’m going to do is let you deal with this on your own. I want you to have a life, one that isn’t blighted by what that Witch did to you, which might mean changing a few things, but that isn’t a problem. You deserve a chance, so I’m going to give you one.” She opened her mouth to speak. “Don’t argue with me. I know it’s not something I have to do. I want to. I really do.”

“Why?”

“As much as I hate to say it I don’t know why. I’ve had chances that you haven’t, I’ve been able to live my life, and now I can help someone else. If I’d had a choice it wouldn’t be you, because I hate that you’re going through all of this, but I will do what I can to make things easier, if I can. One of the ways I can do that is by giving you some space here to call your own, even if you only do that for a little while, so that you can sort yourself out, if that really is possible.”

“I hope it is, but getting a job…” Rachel sighed. “I didn’t finish school. I never had a chance to be tested to see if I was a Witch. My choices are limited because of what happened to me and part of that is due to the fact I am probably technically dead.”

“That’s not as much of a problem as you might think it is. It’s not unusual for the doors of the Web to send people here, so all sorts of people have had to start their lives all over again, and it could be easier if we simply pretend that’s what happened to you.” Niall looked at Rachel, his eyes narrowed. “We also have to think about what might happen to you if someone finds out you are alive. It might be best for you if you did stay dead. All we need to do is give you another family name, tell everyone you came from somewhere else, and we should be able to keep you safe.”

Rachel swallowed around the huge ball of fear that felt like it was choking her. “I didn’t think of that.”

“You’ve been through too much to think of all these things and that’s part of the reason I want to help you. I really do think it’s important that we make our decisions based on what information we have – that information tells us that someone, for some reason, wanted your family dead. Unfortunately we don’t know why they wanted your family dead, so there is a chance they might still be out there and they might still want you dead.” Niall shrugged. “If you’re going to be okay I’m going to head out and see if I can find out anything more, so we can make a more informed decision.”

“We?” Their eyes met. “You keep saying we, when these decisions, really, should be mine alone. I hate getting you involved in this, because if someone does want me dead…” Rachel stood up. “I think, maybe, I shouldn’t stay, Niall, just in case. I don’t want you to get hurt.”

“Give me until the end of today, please, before you make that decision. If I find out that someone does want to kill you and you still want to leave then I’m not going to stop you, but right now we don’t know enough for you to walk away.”

Studying him, seeing the determination in his eyes, Rachel nodded. “I’ll give you the time you need to find out everything you can. I don’t want you to be a part of this, but you’re more likely to be able to learn what I need to know, because I don’t know enough about this Raenarin.” She sighed. “Got any books in your house?”


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