"Please help me", I cried desperately, shaking my head and trying to wake me out of this horrible nightmare. While sobbing, I looked around for my brother Justin, although I knew that he disappeared seconds ago. Just like Max.
I looked into my dad's eyes. His expression was similar to mine, full of despair and confusion. "Honey, I'm sorry. I think it's too late."
Honey! That was the name I'd been missing for days. Actually, since the day I cast a spell on my parents so that they couldn't remember their own children. But I knew that this statement was just what it was: a statement. A simple statement, without the endless love for a daughter that always resonated in his undertone, because I still knew that he didn't know who I am. But he tried. I felt that he was trying to remember me. At this very moment he tried to help me like a real father would, but I knew the differences. My dad would hug me and tell me that everything would be all right. But he stood in front of me and did not know what to do. I felt pity for him. He saw me, a girl who claimed to be his daughter. He has just lost both of his sons and was about to loose his only daughter, but he didn't know what to feel about that. Since he didn't know he has children and could only believe the word of three strangers. My sobbing got stronger and more and more tears were streaming down my cheeks.
"Please dad, please remember me!", I cry but my voice broke down. I rushed forward and clung to my father's body with a firm grip. I've lost my two brothers, the only people who could remember me as part of their family. Max, my foolish little brother, who was not to blame for the situation. Justin, the most sincere person in the world and the wizard who should have won the wizard competition. He would know what to do, he was a much better wizard than I ever will be. He was supposed to be here and safe us but now I was left. With my parents, who didn't remember me. I was alone.
I didn't feel the strong arms around my body trying to reassure me, not the soft whisper in my ears that everything is okay and that I was not alone. I knew that I was alone. There was no way I could let go of my dad now, the only anchor in my life, not until I would disappear forever.
The strong grip around my shoulders became tighter and I squeezed myself even tighter into those arms and cried as if there was no tomorrow.
I shook my head. I was not ready to face reality. I was gonna stay here until it was over, hoping it was all just a bad nightmare. Soothing hands caressed my hair.
The hands disappear to be replaced on my shoulders and shook my slightly.
"Alex, honey, wake up!"
I squeezed my eyes together and a scream escaped my throat as I felt the darkness surrounding me.
I opened my eyes abruptly, looked around in confusion and tried to recognize my surroundings. I sat on my bed, my blanket wrinkled and half on the floor, and it was dark. First I saw my baggage in the corner of the room. That was the moment when I realized that I was still in the Caribbean, on vacation. Not at home in my room. Instantly my tears started to flow again, because I realized that it was not a dream. Maybe dad had taken me back to the accommodation until I would disappear. I was surprised it hadn't happened already. Only seconds had passed since I had opened my eyes and I slowly began to regain full consciousness. Still sobbing, I calmed myself down a little bit. Immediately, I was able to hear my surroundings.
"Alex?", someone whispered to me carefully. I flinched back and realized that I couldn't move at all. I looked down and recognized the feeling that had never left me. My dad's arms were still around me, holding me tight to his chest, my head under his chin and his hand gently stroking my back. I turned my head to see my mom beside me, concern in her eyes.
"Alex, are you okay?", she asked again, carefully not to frighten me. I was not able to answer, so I looked around the room and saw Max on his own bed by the window, kneeling and not knowing what to do with me. He just looked too overwhelmed with the situation. A situation I just began to realize. Next to me was Justin sitting on the edge of my bed, concern in his eyes as well. I realized that they are all in their pyjamas, so it must be very late at night. M brother touched my hand that rested on my father's arm. "Alex, can you hear me? Everything is fine, it was just a dream."
Immediately, I gripped his hand firmly in order to ascertain that he wasn't just another product of my dreams. When I realized that everything around me seemed real, I started to sob again.
"I thought I had lost you all", I cried, hiding my face on my dad's shoulder. He began to stroke my back again without saying a word.
"We know, honey, we could hear you whimpering all the way into our room", he answered in a low voice.
"Justin took you in his arms, but he couldn't calm you down", my mom explained.
"I thought you had disappeared", I whispered and looked in Justin's direction. "You had disappeared right before my eyes. Dad was the last person I saw, but he didn't know who I am. I couldn't let him go."
"I felt that, honey", dad said with a faint giggle. "When I took you in my arms, you held on to me like a drowning person."
"You couldn't remember me!"
"But we can remember you", my mom murmured. "It is over. Your brothers are back and so are our memories." She stroked my hair and I relaxed in my dad's arms to recover from the shock.
"It was just a bad dream", Justin whispered to me and smiled. I returned the smile weakly. I could feel that Justin and I had developed a much closer bond through the little trip and now appreciated that we had each other.
"Maybe it would be better if the three of you would talk about what happened", mom suggested. "We don't want anyone waking up screaming again tonight, and there is not enough space in our bed for all of us."
I had to start laughing, and my family joined in. The idea was just too weird that the five of us would sleep in one bed together. I remembered when we were younger and they had actually done something regularly.
"That sounds like a good idea", Justin replied.
"Let's go to the couch. There's more space for all of us", dad said and helped me up, still putting his arm around my shoulder to support me. I felt weak on my legs as we entered the living room.
Max sat down on the right side of the couch, still very confused, and he looked as if he felt out of place. I patted his hair as I walked past him and sat on the couch between dad and Justin.
"Who wants to start?", mom asked, waiting patiently for us to tell her the whole story.
When we finally saw our parents again after yesterday's events, we had been more than happy and spent the whole day together on the beach and the evening in the living room, laughing all the time. It had felt like nothing had ever happened, but it had felt right because we could forget the events for a short moment. We hadn't told them what had happened. We only mentioned the short story that I had unintentionally created another reality where our parents didn't know who we were, that Justin and I were looking for the Stone of Dreams while Max tried to convince mom and dad that they love each other. That was all. We had not been able to tell them. The memories had been too painful and the fear that we couldn't face the past was too strong. Actually we wanted to bring up the subject after the holiday and our parents had been skeptical but had agreed. But now everything was different. I had underestimated my vivid dreams that had put us in this situation. I hadn't been able to talk about the events but now I felt stable enough to do so. But I was not sure how to begin the report. I shared a look with Justin, who seemed as unsure as I was, so we looked at Max.
He sighed. "All right, let's get started. So Alex had expressed her wish and accidentally conjured up another reality. You two couldn't remember your own children, we don't blame you – okay maybe a little bit – but you can imagine that we were very overwhelmed when our dad suddenly had magical powers again and didn't know his own wife anymore-"
"So we tried to steal the spell book from you, Dad, but you caught us – we never imagined you were such a powerful wizard - so we had to improvise. We told you we were young wizards and asked you hypothetically how we could reverse the spell", Justin continued. "After that, Justin and I – and this really strange dude and his parrot – went in search of the Stone of Dreams. We left Max behind to convince you two that you love each other and that he is your son."
From my position on my dad's shoulder, I saw our parents sharing a look like they couldn't imagine that they couldn't remember each other. Or their three children.
"But Dad, you were really annoying", Max moaned. Dad raised his eyebrows. "You kept flirting with different girls – until I turned one of them into a dog-"
Mom looked reproachfully at our dad, who only raised his hands innocently.
"Okay, that's not important", Justin interrupted again to defuse the situation. "Alex and I found the stone but that damn parrot stole it. Then we met you again and you both were finally ready to believe us, but the stone was gone, and then-", he interrupted again and looked at me.
I sat a little more upright. "Dad, you convinced Justin and me to enter the wizard competition."
"What?", dad asked. "But you are much too young."
"It was too dangerous!", mom cried and looked worried.
"We knew that, mom, thank you, but it was the only way to reverse the spell", I said. "It was not an option not to do it and get our old life back at the same time. I'd rather get my parents and brothers back than not enter a competition because it's too dangerous. You are my family. Besides, you know I like danger."
"Yes we know", mom sighed and put her head back on the couch to take a deep breath. "Still, I'm convinced that it was too dangerous."
"Dad was with us", I defended ourselves. Justin thanked me with a gentle smile. "He had no memory of us, but he was with us and ready to protect us if it was too dangerous."
Mom sighed again and looked at our father, who gave her a reassuring smile. That was always the point for mom, she trusted dad with her life and she knew that neither she or he would ever abandon us if we need them.
"Okay fine", she murmured, not really convinced but calmer than before. "How was the competition?"
"It was difficult because we really weren't ready and we didn't know some helpful spells. By the way, Dad?", Justin looked at our father. "You didn't tell us the competition consists of only magic including fire, air, water and earth."
Dad opened his mouth as if he wanted to say something, but he didn't know how to phrase it, as he often does when he realizes that he made a mistake and doesn't want to admit it. I giggled softly.
"Wait wait", Max interrupted. "I thought the competition is about fighting."
"We thought the same thing", Justin said. "But we were wrong. That's why I knew only so few spells because I've been practicing fighting spells for years now."
"It looks like we're gonna have to change our focus in magical training", I smiled at dad and tried to end the subject so he wouldn't have to explain himself.
"Anyway", Justin continued. "It was a tough fight but in the end-"
"Of course you won the competition", mom smiled.
Justin's smile disappeared for a second. I myself rolled my eyes, took dad's arm off my shoulder and stood up swiftly.
"Honey?", dad asked. He sounded slightly insecure.
"Are you sad because Justin beat you in the competition?", mom asked, and I could feel her taking me in her arms from behind. I felt the tears in my eyes again. It was always the same. Mom never realized how painful her words could be, even when she didn't mean it like that. I also knew that I might overreact but for years I never said anything about it, and it hurt me that she had no confidence in me, either personally or in my ability.
"No", Justin replied reluctantly. "Alex has won the competition."
I turned from the embrace and looked at my family, tears in my eyes. "Thank you for believing in my abilities so strongly." With that, I turned around and left the accommodation.
It was warm outside, although it was past midnight but the moon was shining brightly and it was easier for me to breathe. I leaned against the railing. It was an overreaction but mom should try to think about what she said and how she said it. I knew that Justin was a much better wizard than I was but it was hard to hear this almost every day from every member of the family, including Max because he never thought much of his abilities. Still, they shouldn't forget that they have three children who share the same goal and all three would love to win the competition.
I heard the door open but didn't turn around. I simply hoped it wouldn't be mom. I really love her and that's why I didn't want her to come out because I knew my impulsiveness and I didn't want to make things worse.
I exhaled with relief. It was just my dad but it was the best thing that could have happened. Dad was also a person who rarely trusted my abilities and he always preferred Justin when it came to magical things but he would understand me because I was his little girl and he always tried to understand me.
"Honey, I'm sorry that I underestimated you", he murmured and stood next to me on the railing.
"You haven't said anything. It was only mom."
"I know but I also know that we often say that Justin will be the wizard of the family, and I think we were too sure of that without thinking about you or Max", he said and looked at me.
"To be honest", I giggled. "I don't think Max will be the family wizard because he's not trying hard in his training but he might surprise us too."
"The fact is that no matter which one of you learns the most or not, we can never be sure who will be the family wizard, and it is sad but it took me too long to realize that. I hope you can forgive me?"
"I forgave you and mom long ago. Sure, it was never nice to hear something like that,", I murmured and smiled back. "But I know that Justin is a better wizard than I am. Could you still try to support me, too? And Max as well?"
"I'll try but you must understand that it is really hard to do this", dad replied. "Maybe it is too hard for me to see my children grow up, and the fact that you won the wizard competition shows me that you are more mature than I thought. That makes me and your mom very proud of you but it is also very overwhelming. Justin has always been the oldest child who took care of himself and rarely asked for our advice. With him, it would not surprise us if he would win the competition, because afterwards he would be almost as independent as he is now. But you are still my little daughter and Max our clumsy son, who needed our help for years, and it is hard for us to see you both growing up and maybe don't needing us anymore."
"Daddy", I cried, leaning my head on his shoulder. "I will always need you. Just because I'm an adult does not mean that I don't need your advice or your help. And it was only through this stupid event that I really realized how important you all are to me and what a great family we actually are, sticking together in these hard times. I'll always need my family, no matter which one of us will be the full wizard."
"And no matter which one of you will be the full wizard, mom and I will always be there for the three of you. Our home will always be your home."
"Sounds good, because I'm not planning on moving out anytime soon", I laughed. "But now I'm still sixteen. Can you promise me that we take things easy and enjoy our time as a family? Sometime that won't be possible anymore."
Dad nodded without hesitation. "I'm very proud of you. And I love you, honey."
"I love you too, Dad", I replied, wrapping my am around his waist as we went back to the living room.
Mom sat tense on the couch and seemed to wait for me. She opened the mouth to say something but I raised my hand to interrupt her. "Everything is all right, Mom. It was an overreaction on my part. Let's talk about it another time."
Mom smiled at me and gave me a long hug. Then we leaned back on the couch as before and Justin explained what had happened during the competition.
"Wait, why didn't Max compete?", dad asked after a few minutes.
"Because of the spell, he had just disappeared minutes before, like a faded memory", I murmured sadly. "Right after I won the competition, even Justin said he couldn't remember me. I was completely desperate because he was the one who knew how to undo the spell. After that, he disappeared just like Max, and I was alone on the field with dad. He tried to calm me down but this time it didn't work because it felt completely wrong." I looked my father in the eyes. "You didn't act like my dad because you couldn't remember me and you tried to pretend you were someone you're not. I was so desperate because I was alone with two people who are my parents but were complete strangers. I've never felt so alone and I didn't know what to do."
Dad took me a little tighter in his arms.
"Even if you hadn't made it, we wouldn't have let you down", mom said, squeezing my hand.
I looked at her. "No, but we would have been a strange constellation of three strangers who don't know each other, but know that they are family in another reality."
"That sounds really complicated", Max shouted in between. "But it also sounds pretty stupid."
"Thank you", I said and threw a pillow at him, which he fought back out of indignation. "Besides, my two brothers wouldn't have been there and then this family wouldn't have been complete."
"Aw", cried Justin. "I can't believe you would say something like that."
"Enjoy it because it'll be the last time", I smiled and he smiled in return.
"And then what happened?", mom asked after a few seconds of silence.
I didn't have to think long. "I don't really know how you did it, but you suddenly came with the Stone of Dreams and I could reverse the spell."
"And then everything was fine again", Justin said.
"But Alex?", Max asked. "You really didn't keep your powers? Are you stupid?"
I shook my head. "No, I just wanted my family back and I want another chance for us to make it better. The three of us and not Justin and I alone. We three of us with more practice and at that moment we are ready."
"But you could have been the family wizard by now", he raved.
"But what would I have got out of it?", I asked and shook my head. "I was in shock and I wanted nothing more than to have everything back the way it was. I don't care about my powers when it comes to my family. And I felt so incredibly sorry for Justin because he was so sad and I thought it would be fair to give us all a chance to repeat the competition."
"That was a wise decision, honey", mom said and stroked my arm, smiling happily.
"Despite the fact that everything is fine now", Justin continued. "I understand Alex' fears. It was horrible when we realized that you didn't know as anymore and we were alone. But I can't imagine what it must feel like to lose your parents and your brothers too." He looked at me and smiled reassuringly.
"And I don't want you to ever experience such terrible feelings, not even for a few seconds", I whispered softly and smiled back.
"Can I now tell you the story of how I tried to set up mom and dad?", Max asked Justin, who immediately started to laugh. That was the reason why we loved Max. He always managed to lighten the mood with his innocent, foolish nature.
When he began to tell his funny experiences of the story about a flirtatious dad and a somewhat self-indulgent mom, we changed our position to a more comfortable one. Dad put his feet on the coffee table and took the blanket that was on the sofa and spread it over the five of us. I snuggled up comfortably by his side, my head on his chest and his chin on my head. My dad had always been the member of the family I trusted most, besides Justin. I trusted him in a different way as I did with Justin. My dad was my dad with whom I felt safe and who would hopefully accompany me for a long time to come. Simply because I needed him. I had closed my eyes and listened to Max's story. Under other circumstances, I would have listened to him and laughed all the time but yesterday's events took their toll and my eyes became heavier and heavier. At some point I felt Justin's head rest against my shoulder, and I reached out to hold his hand. He squeezed my hand briefly and Dad began to stroke my arm, allowing me to relax even more.
I peeked through my closed eyes and watched Max talk excitedly for a moment and mom who was having a great time, dad listened intently and smiled slightly and Justin and I both had our eyes closed. I squeezed his hand tighter and snuggled even closer to my dad. Justin and I had finally realized how important we are to each other and nobody could take this memory away from us.
I felt myself slowly dozing off, feeling protected in my dad's arms and holding my older brother's hand. Because now it felt right. Everything was all right and we remembered each other. We were going to spend the rest of our holidays together to cope with the past and grow together as a family. At home everything would be different again anyway but for now we could cuddle and enjoy the time as a loving and caring family.