**Continued from Part I**
She listened to it that night. She couldn’t listen to it right away, of course; she’d stopped by Komala’s house to visit her parents, and then there was homework to get caught up on; she didn’t want to get too far behind, even if the teachers were offering to exempt her from the work. Before she knew it, dinner was ready, and she was always glad to eat with her family. So she was not able to put the CD in until quite late.
The album ended up being the most beautiful this she had heard. So was in love with the lead singer’s voice, the way it soothed her and reassured her. Rowan listened to the first half of it with the lights turned down low, while she curled up in her armchair. Halfway through “Die With Me,” however, she got up and opened her laptop, letting the lyrics drift through her room while she looked up information about the band. She was fascinated right from the first article she found.
Rowan slept with the album playing on repeat that night. It comforted her in a way that she could not explain, but she knew that she could not stop listening. When she woke up, she moved the disc to her portable CD player, and listened to it on her headphones as she walked to school.
Johnny walked up to her while she was getting a book from her locker.
“You like it, don’t you?”
When Rowan looked up, she found him grinning. “I thought you didn’t smile,” she told him as she pulled out one headphone.
“Usually I don’t have reason to,” he replied with a shrug. “Which song was your favorite?”
“I…” Rowan paused and looked at her watch. “I’m sorry, but I can’t be late.”
Johnny shrugged again. “I get it. I’ll see you at lunch, then.”
Rowan tried to reply, but he took off before she could get another word out. She sat through her next three classes as nervous as she was excited. What would they talk about?
By lunchtime, she could hardly decide whether she was starving or had lost her appetite. She took a lunch tray anyway. When she walked over to the tale where she usually sat, Johnny was already there, waiting for her. He gained when he saw her.
She sat down slowly, smiling back at him. “Hi,” she finally said.
He smirked. “No reason to be shy,” he reassured her as he took a lunch sack from his backpack. “I kept meaning to talk to you before… well… anyway, I never got the chance.”
Rowan nodded and looked down at her lunch tray.
“You really don’t talk much,” Johnny noted as he pulled a sandwich out of the bag.
“I guess I don’t really know what to say,” Rowan admitted.
“But you liked the music?”
“Of course I did,” she assured him. “It was sad… but also beautiful.”
“I figured Peter would have that effect on you,” Johnny said, grinning as though very satisfied with himself.
“I looked up information about the band,” Rowan added. “Peter died about a year and a half ago.”
“Yeah. It’s pretty sad, all that talent being gone.” Johnny worked on his sandwich for a couple minutes before speaking again. “But at least he made some great music while he was around.”
Rowan was halfway through her own plate by then. “Do you have other albums by the band?”
“You bet!” Johnny replied. “They’re my favorite. Did you want to listen to one in particular?”
His question brought a smile to Rowan’s face. She ended up accepting an invitation to Johnny’s house after school, and spending part of her lunch with his friends. They were not as crude and unprincipled as she had feared they would be, and she was relieved to have given them a chance.
Johnny’s house was only a couple blocks away from the school, although in the opposite direction from her own home. It was a nice enough house, and his mother was very welcoming of all of his guests. His room wasn’t as clean as she kept her own, but at least it also wasn’t a disastrous mess. he had the family’s old couch against one wall, so that all of his friends could sit comfortably. They chatted for a while, and even played some Castlevania, until friends started to say that it was time that they departed.
By about 5 P.M., it was just Johnny and Rowan. When he excused himself to the bathroom, she began to look around his room curiously. He had several posters for his favorite bands– half of them Type O Negative– One that looked like the sorcerer in a D&D handbook, and couple that were medieval-themed. The most curious thing that she noticed was an assemblage of items on a low bookshelf. There was a mammalian small laying on a carved wooden box, an oval mirror in a black iron frame, an incense burner, and even a bundle of partially-burned sage in a clay bowl. She was kneeling down to look over over the book titles when he came back.
“Oh, you found the altar,” he said as he stepped up beside her.
Rowan stood up quickly, feeling the heat growing in her cheeks. “I- I’m sorry, I didn’t realize…”
“It’s all right,” he shrugged. “You couldn’t do any harm just by looking.”
She gave him a grateful smile, then looked back to the shelf. “I didn’t know you were into stuff like that.”
“I wouldn’t call it something that I’m ‘into,'” he replied. “I believe in it, yeah, but it’s not a fad or anything, you know what I mean?”
She nodded, and he went on. “You’ve always seemed pretty open-minded to me.”
“Yeah…” she agreed.
He sat down on the floor in front of the shelf, and Rowan followed suit. “Listen, I want to know if I can give you something,” Johnny said, a certain unease filling his voice. “I’m not sure what you’re going to think about it, though, so just don’t get mad at me, okay?”
“Ummmm… yeah, okay,” Rowan replied.
Johnny rubbed the back of his head before speaking. “So… I know it’s really hard to lose someone you care about. My dad passed away a few years back–”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Rowan replied, the emotion in her face changing, gloom coming to the forefront.
“Thanks. But this is the important part: I’ve spent the past few months looking for a way to contact him, and I’ve finally got it working.”
“You can contact the dead?” Her brow raised as he brain sped through reasons to believe him– or not.
Johnny nodded earnestly. “I talk to him every few days, and let him know how I’m doing. So I was wondering… maybe you’d like to contact Komala…”
Rowan stared at him for a long time, her mouth agape.
“Please don’t be angry,” Johnny said when he could bear the silence no longer. “I’m not trying to be weird or anything.”
He opened a box on the shelf, and pulled out three black candles, the wax smelling fresh, but not something that came from a factory. He pressed then into her hands and met her eyes.
“I can give you the candles, and the book…”
“Johnny,” Rowan whispered, staring back at him.
“Yeah?” he replied, looking all the more worried.
“Are you sure it will work?” she asked. “Komala’s family believes in reincarnation.”
“The book explains what you need to know,” Johnny assured her. “I’m that you still have time… Look, just take these, and at least tell me you’ll try?”
Rowan stared at him for a long time before giving him a slow nod. She couldn’t explain why, but it seemed to her that she could trust him. At the very worst, she would only be wasting her time, and a few of his candles. It seemed like an easy trade for one more chance to be able to speak with Komala.
***To be continued in Part Three***