**Continued from Part II**
Rowan was out of Johnny’s house within thirty minutes. She hurried down the street, her new candles and book safely tucked into her messenger bag, and took the steps up to her porch as quickly as she could. She opened the front door and was greeted with the smell of garlic and tomatoes. She knew immediately that she had taken too long, that dinner was ready, and she was late.
“I’m home,” Rowan called as she dropped her bag on the couch and hurried across the house to the kitchen. She entered just as her mother was pulling a loaf of garlic bread out of the oven. “I’m sorry I’m late.”
Her mother looked over at her as she set the pan on the counter. “It’s all right, Rowan. Your brother set the table.” She began to transfer the bread to a serving plate as she added, “I hope you had a nice time at your friend’s house.”
Rowan nodded earnestly. “Yes, mom,” she replied. “Thank you for saying that I could go. Do you want any help, mom? I could carry the spaghetti…”
“You’re such a sweet girl,” her mother said. “Don’t worry about a thing, darling. Just wash your hands and meet us in the dining room.”
Her mother was already walking away with the platter, leaving her standing there, unsure what to say. It took her a moment to get over the fact that she was not in trouble, that her mother was still being overly lenient with her, but once that wore off, she shook her head and hurried over to the sink.
The rest of dinner was uneventful. It was one of her favorites, with salad and grilled vegetables– and lots of pasta. Her older brother and little cleared the table afterwards, and Rowan was free to head to her room. It was strange to not have her mother checking in on her homework, or insisting that she get to bed early, or any of the myriad of other things that her mother usually did to ensure that she was a top-notch student.
It had been like that ever since the news came that Komala had only a couple of days left Rowan wondered whether he mother really knew how to react to someone so young dying. Maybe she’d lost a friend in a similar way, maybe it was because she worried about Rowan, but nobody knew; She wouldn’t talk about it.
Rowan didn’t like the candles that night. She couldn’t really. Instead, she put in the next Type O Negative album that Johnny had lent her, hurried through her math and social studies homework, and then laid on her bed to read The Book of Samhain and Spirits. She fell asleep with the book on her chest.
Her dream that night was of the wind. It blew the autumn leaves around her, and ran through her hair like fingers reaching out from the darkness. As eerie as that should have felt it was comforting to her. The rest of her dream was her walking down a long, winding path at night, light only by an occasional light. dim and soft and just barely in the periphery of her vision. She would look up now and then, and sometimes find herself in the city, sometimes in a wooded area, and sometimes on a sprawling grassy hill. The one constant was the wind, ever blowing, and cool but not quite cold.
She woke up to droplets on her cheeks and realized that they were her own tears. The last few moments of her dream were quickly fading away, and the more she grasped at them, the more slippery they became. Had a voice come been calling her name, or was that just the moaning of the wind?
Rowan wiped the tears away, and pushed herself to sit up. The book tumbled down to rest beside her, and she stared at the cover. It looked at though Johnny head read it very closely, even several times.
“‘Samhain…'” she whispered, reading the word again. Then she sighed heavily. “Oh Komala… Why did this happen in October, of all months?”
It was another minute before she was able to push herself out of the bed and walk out of her room. By the time she returned, she could hardly remember how she had managed to get through her morning routine. Auto-pilot seemed to take over whenever the pangs of sadness returned to her heart, and she rarely remembered making it through some moments.
Rowan packed the book and CDs back into her bag, but pulled out the candles and placed them in a safe drawer of her dresser. Downstairs, her parents greeted her warmly. They seemed surprised every morning that she made it down, as though they never expected her to carry on after losing her friend. Still, when she insisted that she was fine to go to school, she was given breakfast, and was off on her way in no time at all.
The crisp autumn air was her favorite way of clearing her mind and starting the day off fresh. She walked all on her own, enjoying the quiet, not being fussed over, not being interrupted from her thoughts.
Johnny was waiting for her by her locker. She replied to his wide grin with a weak smile.
“Are you going to be here every morning from now on?” she asked him as she turned the knob on her locker.
“Well…” he began, his smile fading as his mind rushed to decipher what she had just said. “Not if you don’t want me to.”
Rowan realized that she must have sounded annoyed, and quickly softened her tone. “Sorry,” she told him as she pulled out the things that she would need her her first two classes. “I’m just not used to this, I guess.”
“That’s okay. So how was the book?”
“It’s pretty interesting,” she replied, closing her locker and spinning the knob. “I think it will be a while before I try anything goes in it, though.”
“That’s probably a good idea,” he agreed as they began walking.
He walked with her all the way to her first class, and rushed off to his own as soon as the first bell rang. They didn’t see each other again until lunch, when she was invited by Johnny to sit with his friends and get to know them. As infinitely shy as she felt, she was glad to be so welcomed into their group.
Her next few days passed in a sort of haze. She read into the night, falling asleep with the book time and again (and with a Type O Negative CD playing in the background), and spending her days listening to Johnny and his friends talk about music, movies, and math homework.
It was late October before she finally felt ready to try out what she had been studying in. She’d had to collect a few more items in order to truly be prepared, and it wasn’t until the 30th that she was able to find just the right candle holders.
Her mother was out that night, a special date for her and Rowan’s father, her siblings at various friends houses, so she ended up having the house to herself. Rowan made a brief phone call to Johnny comma and he wished her the best of luck.
With the sun now down, she stepped into her room and knelt down before the altar she had made on her small coffee table. The book laid open to the special word that she would read. Smell the incense that she had been burning from the moment that she’d been alone in the house. Taking a deep breath, suddenly shaking with nervousness, Rowan lit a match and held it up to the first black candle.
**Continued in Part IV**