The wardrobe to Narnia. The rabbithole to Wonderland. All the stories where ordinary, almost boring things turn out to be magic make you start to realize that anything can be magical. Miraculous.
That's how my magic was - beautiful, majestic, shining and barely real, and then gone forever.
It started with a rainy day when I had no umbrella. I huddled under the awnings, keeping my head down as water dripped off the roofs and onto my hair.
I sighed, checking my phone for the millionth time. My mom was supposed to pick me up, but she was late as usual. Another drop of water landed on my head, and I sighed.
"Hey," a voice said.
I looked up, and my eyes met with his large, amber ones. He smiled at me crookedly.
"Oh, hi," I said, smiling shyly.
"What's your name?" he asked. Without thinking, I answered.
"Benjamin," I said, brushing my soaked, ginger hair out of my face. Rain ran down my glasses, making my vision blurry.
"I'm Jace," the boy said. "Do you need this?" he added, holding out his umbrella.
"Oh, um, no thanks. My mom will pick me up soon, she's just late," I explained, blushing, though I didn't know why.
"I can walk you home, if you like," Jace offered. "Then you wouldn't have to wait in the rain."
"Okay," I said, pulling out my phone again and texting my mom to tell her where I was going.
Jace was much taller than me, so he held the umbrella above us both. The gentle patter of rain on top of it made it hard to hear what he was saying, but I could still hear his voice. It was soothing somehow - rhythmic and deep, but also smooth and polished.
I found myself just listening to the dips and rises of his voice, not much what he was saying. As we walked, he made gestures that seemed to ripple the air, and we arrived at my street much faster than we should have.
"Well, I guess this is where I let you go," he said. He started to hand me the umbrella, and I took it reluctantly.
"You need it more than me, you're the one walking home," I said, trying to push it back into his hand.
"It will give me an excuse to talk to you, though," he said, not taking it. He waved and started walking away until he was just a dull figure in the rain, and then the falling drops rippled around him and he was gone.
I shrugged and turned to go back inside, taking a last look behind me into the rain.
We met up for coffee the next day - well, he got coffee, and I sipped a too sweet hot cocoa with a pile of whipped cream sprinkled with cinnamon. We sat in a booth near the window looking out into the graveyard. It was raining again, and wind blew the leaves past us on the sidewalk.
I brought his umbrella to return, plus my mom's old one - a slightly crumpled, bright red one that wouldn't open properly. He wore a long, black coat, I wore round spectacles and a thick wool sweater.
I sipped my hot cocoa, holding it and enjoying the warmth it radiated into my hands. It fogged up my glasses, but I didn't mind too much.
I watched him sip the coffee - he made the simple motion look elegant and charming.
"How did you do that thing yesterday?" I asked him, watching him intently.
"What thing?" he asked.
"Where you, like, teleported. Or whatever you did. The walk to my house was way too quick," I explained awkwardly.
"You noticed that, did you?" he said. Unsure how to respond, I nodded.
"Let's take a walk," he said, standing up and picking up his cup of coffee.
We left the coffee shop and started to walk down the sidewalk.
"It's all about finding the doorways," he said. "Like how the rain dripping off the roof forms an arch, you can walk through it and choose where you want to go. Why don't you try?"
We started to walk through the arch it formed, and I squeezed my eyes shut, picturing the graveyard in my mind's eye. I opened one eye, but we were still on the sidewalk.
"Try again," Jace said. "See the archway under that tree, where the branch meets the ground?"
He pulled me underneath it, and again I squeezed my eyes shut, trying to concentrate.
"Try to relax," Jace said.
I stopped clenching my fists so hard and squeezing my eyes so shut, just focusing on the graveyard, under the willow tree where the lilies grew.
I opened my eyes, and my mouth fell open - we were there, exactly where I pictured.
"You did it," Jace said, grinning at me. "You're a natural, I didn't get it until my sixth or seventh try."
"Oh, well, um, thanks," I said, glancing at the ground, blushing.
Jace moved a bit closer.
"You're cute when you blush," he told me, making my face go even redder.
We kissed then, my back pressed against Eliot Shelby's grave. His lips tasted bitter, like the coffee he'd been drinking, but I didn't mind.
Now that I knew where to look, I saw doorways everywhere. Cracks on the pavement forming thresholds. Cars and buildings lining up to form arches and doors.
Jace and I met up every morning for coffee/hot chocolate. We would sit in the cafe, talking and laughing. We would lie in the graveyard, staring up at the sky, noticing how the branches cut it up into a thousand pieces. We would sit facing each other and telling each other everything we liked about each other.
His amber eyes, his dark hair, his laughter and his crooked smile, his magic . . .
He told me he liked my round glasses - he called them "Harry Potter" glasses, my tousled ginger hair, my blushing, my shyness.
I don't exactly know what it was that we had - sweet and euphoric and chaotic and fast. It was like a blizzard, or a fire - it swept me up, turning me around and around until I didn't know which way was up or down. It made me dizzy, drunk.
Maybe it was love. Maybe it was something different, something wilder and more dangerous. I don't know.
We were sitting in the park. He was picking at his nails, fiddling with the grass, bored. I watched him out of the corner of my eye. I loved to look at him, he was beautiful.
In the edge of my vision, I saw a shadow flicker and then move. I sat up, watching as it got closer.
"Jace," I hissed urgently. "Jace, look."
He looked up disinterestedly and then noticed the shadows. He stood up, panicked.
"Ben, get back," he said. I saw him look around for a doorway, for a way out, but the shadows were everywhere.
"What are they?"
My voice was squeaky and scared - if we got out of this, Jace would tease me for it, though even he seemed worried.
The shadows seemed to grow and grow, and everything was dark. Jace looked around.
"Stay back," he shouted, but they just kept coming and coming.
He glanced back at me, and I'll never forget his face then - half dark, scared, barely recognizable, but his amber eyes were still the same.
He picked me up easily - I was light, tiny for my age he told me - and placed me on top of a grave, away from the shadows on the ground. From where I was standing, I could see hundreds of doorways that weren't there on the ground.
"Go," he shouted. "Go!"
"Jace," I managed to get out. "Please, I love you."
He never took his eyes, his beautiful, terrified eyes off of me.
"I know. I love you too." he said. "Now go!"
I took a last look at him and then stepped into the doorway. I never saw him again. I don't know what happened to him.
I wasn't able to use the doorways again. They were still there, I still saw them, telling me to step through, go anywhere, wherever I wanted.
But the only place I wanted to go was back to the coffee shop, with both of our umbrellas dripping wet, my glasses foggy from my hot chocolate. Back to the graveyard, where we kissed for the first time. His hand in mine, telling me it was okay, to just relax.
I could go anywhere through those doorways but the one place I wanted to be, and that seemed like the worst part of all.
Everytime I even got close to a doorway, all I could hear was his voice.
"Everything will be okay."
"Go, just go!"
"I love you."
At every arch I saw, at every door I could open, I closed my eyes and moved on.
They were secret passageways to everywhere, everything, but what's the point of magic if you don't have anyone to share it with?
Sure, ordinary objects can be magical, but that's because of people. People are what make things extraordinary. People are what create magic. I'll miss magic forever, but not as much as I miss Jace.