Six months later, the same girl was running down the streets, away from the first doors she’d entered since coming to the city.
“Wait!” a voice barked from behind. “I’m not done with you yet!”
She crossed another street. “I’m sorry!” she yelled back. “My brother needs me!”
“I know that’s why you–argh!” The bottle in his right hand broke into shards, leaving blood trickling from his fingers. Maybe he’d gripped it too tight. Or maybe……”Witch!” he shouted, throwing a relatively larger piece of glass at her.
As the glass flew in a perfect parabola, the girl whipped around to see it. At the same instant, a strong arm was wound around her waist and pulled her into an alley.
“I’ll take care of that. Stay here,” came a steady, authoritative voice behind her. She watched as the arm around her waist loosened its grip and the man it belonged to stepped out onto the street. The one who had been chasing her fell to the ground unconscious.
Her rescuer turned back to her. He wore a crew cut. On his rectangular face was a pair of squinting brown eyes. He gave her an impression that he was a…businessman, as the city people would say.
“Are you okay?” his baritone asked.
“Yes,” she replied.
“You came to the city to enhance your skills, right?”
“What?” That startled her. “How do you know?”
“You could barely break a bottle.” He chuckled.
“No, I can do more–” she started to protest.
“Then show me,” he said. “And I’ll teach you the rest. A delicate girl like you shouldn’t be out here without proper witchcraft. Besides, you have great potential.”
“You’ll…teach me?” she tested.
He nodded. “Then you can help your brother too.” He added, “I’m Jem.” He held out his hand.
She put hers in it. “Sapphire.”
Jem nodded again. He turned away and began walking. Sapphire heard him mumble, “Nobody will hurt you if you’re with me.”