A tear dripped on the glass that covered the picture of me and my best friend Harper. I had found the picture frame on my carpet on the floor next to the other pictures, where I had left them before the fight with my evil self. I knew that I should be glad that everything had gone well. I had got my magic back and saved the world – once again. With the help of my magical powers, I had been able to repair the damage in our living room and kitchen. Harper and I had stayed in Italy for another two hours before we went back home. The living room had been empty and there was no one else to be seen. I had made the door to Italy disappear and replaced the damaged furniture with repaired furniture. I didn't know where my parents were, but to be honest, I was very happy that they didn't seem to be here. I was absolutely not able to face them. Of course, after the events of the last few hours everything was fine again. Everyone was alive and well and the evil had been defeated. But no matter what had happened afterwards, I could still remember what they had said to me before the events.
"You should grow up, Alex", I whispered to myself. "Justin would never do a spell that he didn't know how to undo."
I had really learned my lesson during the day. I realized that I had only become the family wizard because of who I was. I was even more powerful than Justin. But why was it so hard to accept every part of my character? I already knew the answer without thinking about it, but I would never admit that the source of my current problems lasted long ago. Justin had always been the focus of my family's attention. Mom and dad had always been proud of him because he was a smart young man who always studied half of the day and did everything right. He had always succeeded in everything, for example his own spell or the fact that he solved my problems every time. I understood why my parents were proud of him, but secretly it annoyed me every time his opinion counted more than mine. I was angry every time they laughed at me, when I had an idea or tried to help someone. I laughed about it, but inside I was angry. Even Max looked up to our older brother and stood by him when things got dangerous. I was surprised that my parents never asked themselves why I always got into trouble voluntarily. Maybe it was the only way to get attention. Sure, it is part of my character that I get into trouble, but I was convinced that even a small part of myself wanted to get attention. And the bad way was the only way to achieve that goal. I could never have been better than Justin, neither in school nor as a person. And the other problem was the fact that I appreciated Justin for who he was. I was also very proud of him and often jealous that I wasn't more like him. However, it was one thing to reproach myself for not being as good as him, but it is a completely different thing when my family says the things, I think, out loud almost every day. I thought that my family would be prouder of me once I was the family wizard, or that I would be appreciated as much as my brother. I guess I was wrong. They still complained about my behavior or my handling of magic. Since the first day, they wanted me to grow up or take on more responsibility.
I wiped the tears from the picture and also from my face when I put my wand on my bedside table, took off my jacket and lay down on my bed and looked at the picture of me and my best friend. Harper was really the best friend you could have. She hadn't said a word after I fixed the furniture, and she hadn't followed me when I turned around wordlessly and climbed up the stairs. She knew that the best strategy was to leave me alone when I was sad. From that moment on I hadn't changed my position for an hour. I stared at the ceiling of my room and thought about what had happened and how it could have happened at all. The bad version of myself would never have appeared if I had never had the desire to change my personality in order to do a favor for my family and my boyfriend. I hadn't seen Mason since Italy, and I assumed he had gone home or been out. Maybe he would call me later.
I wasn't angry with Mason or my parents. Not really. I sighed. Maybe I should call someone who could understand my problem. It might be a mistake to call that person but I knew he was the only one I could talk to about the demons in my head. I took my mobile phone and called the first number on my contact list. It rang twice when I heard a crack and then a strong voice: "Justin Russo, how can I help you?"
"Really?", I said sarcastically and couldn't help but smile about him. "You couldn't answer my calls for hours and now when it's all over, you have time to talk to me?"
"Sorry, Alex, that I missed your calls but I was busy being the headmaster of WizTech", he answered sarcastically. "I was convinced that it couldn't be that important when you called me. I thought it was because I didn't show up at home or something."
"Thank you, great headmaster", I replied. "If you had answered the calls, you could have prevented the evil Alex from trying to kidnap my family and take over the world with Dominic."
"Wait, what?", he said, and it sounded like he got up from a chair. "Evil Alex? Taking over the world? Dominic? Who's Dominic?"
"Long face, brown hair, evil smile. Was discreetly megalomaniac and self-indulgent. He was a student at WizTech. You should have known him."
"Wait a minute, is that the Dominic who is been missing all day?", Justin asked suspiciously.
"You can stop looking for him", I said lightly. "He will never turn up again."
"What happened, Alex?"
"Short version?", I asked. "Ever since I became the family wizard, mom and dad have complained about me non-stop. They are so proud of you and disappointed in me because I'm not the grown up wizard they want me to be. So I thought it would be better to became what they want, so they can appreciate who I am. I created a version of myself with all my bad qualities. At first she was still trapped in the mirror, but somehow she managed to escape and caught my family in Italy. And Dominic was Gorog's nephew and tried to take over the world with the help of evil Alex. So I had to save the world again, but was almost killed in the attempt, but with Mason's help I was finally able to defeat them both and got my magic back."
There was a long silence at the other end of the phone. "All right, I see we have to talk another time about the details of this story", my brother murmured hesitantly. "So Dominic was Gorog's nephew?"
"Yes", I replied. "He wanted to avenge his uncle's death and rule the world by eradicating all mortals and enslaving all the wizards to obey him. He needed me to activate his machine called Dominic 1000. Don't ask me why that thing was called Dominic 1000 or what in general was his idea behind this plan. It was pretty stupid. Let's move on: So he kidnapped our family to force me to activate the machine."
"He kidnapped our family? Is everyone back? Are they all right?", he asked immediately.
I sighed. "Yes, they're fine. Everyone is okay. I was able to save them before it was too late."
"And the mortals?"
"They are all back where they were before", I said contentedly. "I destroyed the machine and Mason threw Dominic down the Leaning Tower of Pisa."
"I'm sorry, what? Dominic is dead? Too much information for one day", Justin said, horrified.
"I told you, you don't need to worry about him anymore", I replied. "He never would have surrendered if Mason hadn't gotten away and helped me. I could not defeat him and protect our family at the same time."
"But you did it somehow."
"Yes", I said. "Dominic is gone and our family is safe."
Another long pause. "You see, Alex?" I could hear him smiling. "You didn't need my advice. You were able to handle the situation on your own. You were powerful enough to save the world again."
"Normally, that would drive you nuts", I laughed.
"Not since I realized that it is your job to be the powerful wizard who protects our family, and I'm the wizard who runs WizTech. You are far more powerful than I am."
"But you are a grown up wizard who is always reliable and does everything right. Our parents are so proud of you", I murmured.
"They are proud of you too", he replied softly.
"They organized a party for you because you are the headmaster of WizTech. I never got a party for becoming the family wizard or Max because he works in the sub station-"
"Max will never get a party for working in the sub station", Justin interrupted me. "Alex, do not doubt your abilities."
"Easy to say when mom and dad reminds you every day how proud they are of you and that you should have been the family wizard", I whispered, feeling the tears coming back."
"That is not true, Alex."
"Hours ago dad said to mom that you would never do a spell you didn't know how to undo and they repeated more than three times that I should finally grow up."
Justin sighed. "I think they didn't mean it like that."
"They've meant it since I was born. They've always been more proud of you than me", I cried.
"Alex", he murmured. "They love you as much as they love me, and they are proud of you too but they are not able to show it to you. You are perfect just the way you are. You're my annoying, adorable little sister and I love you for who you are. Harper loves you for who you are and even Max does. We love you because you love us for who we are. Has Harper talked to you yet?"
I wiped away my tears. "Yes. She said everyone should try to appreciate me for who I am."
"That's exactly what I say", he replied calmly. "You became who you are now because you stayed who you are. Mom and dad didn't mean it and if they don't stop talking about it, don't listen to them any more. You know the truth."
I sniffed and suppressed a sob. "I miss you, Justin."
I heard him sigh. "I miss you too. Listen, I'm trying to get everything ready here and get home as soon as possible. Does that sound good?"
I smiled. "Sounds really good."
I was relieved that Justin was coming today. I really missed my brother. Not only because he helped me out of difficult situations, but because he was the only family member you could talk to about serious things and who didn't judge you directly. It was good to know that I would see him soon.
A knock on the door interrupted my thoughts. I sighed softly and didn't look up when I said "Come in". Apart from the fact that I was expecting my best friend, I was quite surprised when I saw my parents standing in the doorway. I slowly sat up so that my back rested against the headboard of my bed and I looked down at my hands in my lap. "Justin, I'll see you later. Mom and dad want to talk to me. Will you let me know before you come?"
"Of course. I'll call you. And remember what I said. They didn't mean it like that. Listen to what they have to say."
"Thank you, Justin. See you later."
"See you later."
I ended the call and put my phone aside.
"May we come in?", mom asked cautiously. Her voice was soft and hesitant, a complete difference from her angry voice a few hours ago when she left Italy, when she accused me of destroying the apartment, even though she knew that I did it to protect them. I shrugged without looking up. I didn't know what their intention was and what they expected from me, so I decided to let them take the next step. I felt the mattress give way under me as I gathered my courage and looked up.
Mom looked at her fingers as if she didn't know what to say, and even dad looked insecure.
"Have you talked to Justin?", she began the conversation reluctantly.
I rolled my eyes. "Yes. Your precious son is coming home today. Don't forget to put the poster back up."
I knew that it was the completely wrong approach to continue this conversation because it was going in the wrong direction. I decided that it would be better to put my grudge aside and defuse the situation. "Are you all right? Did Dominic or Alex harm you?"
Dad shook his head. "No, we are fine. Thank you for saving us."
"You are my family, and my family always comes first", I said. "Whether Dominic would have taken over the world. I would have never have let him hurt you."
"We knew that, honey", mom replied. "At first we were shocked because we thought you actually had become evil, but deep in our hearts we knew that it couldn't have been you. You would never turn to the dark side and betray your family."
"That's right", I murmured. "I never did that, and I would never do anything like that."
"How did the evil Alex come to be? Where did she come from?", mom asked.
I looked down again. "I created her."
"Why?", dad asked, confused, as if he didn't understand the reason why I created an evil version of his daughter. A much more evil version than I already was.
"I tried to separate the bad and selfish part of my character from the rest of me, and bundled that part into a copy of myself that existed in the mirror at the beginning. I don't know how she escaped but it's me. I always find ways." I couldn't help but smile at the awkwardness of that situation.
"Am I getting this right?", mom asked. "You've created a bad version of yourself, so you'd just be a nicer version of the old you? Why would you do that?"
I gave dad a meaningful look and he didn't even try to pretend that he didn't know the reason.
"Jerry?", mom said when she noticed we were exchanging looks.
"We put too much pressure on you, didn't we?", dad asked me.
I nodded lightly. "You always say how proud you are of Justin and that he is such a good wizard and the headmaster of WizTech but you were never proud of me because I'm the family wizard. To you I am not responsible or reliable enough to be a full wizard, and I am too reckless with my magic. You always want me to grow up but you never consider that I don't want to grow up too soon. I want to be who I am, and I ask you to appreciate me for who I am."
"We appreciate you very much for who you are", dad replied and put his arm around my shoulder. "We loved you the way you are when you were younger, and we still love you now and will always love you for who you are, because you are Alex, our daughter, our little girl and the Russo family wizard. Sure, you use magic in selfish ways and whenever you want or when you are too lazy to do something by hand but when it comes right down to it, you are a responsible, powerful wizard. You saved us and saved the world from Dominic and yourself. You never would have had to do that if we hadn't forced you to grow up again and again."
"Honey, I'm sorry we always compare you to Justin but sometimes it's hard to deal with three children whose personalities couldn't be more different", mom said and dad nodded in agreement.
"You never compared Max to Justin or told him to grow up", I complained.
Dad looked at me as if I had lost my mind. "And you are convinced that that would work? Max and grow up?"
I frowned. That was an argument.
"We will never compare Max to you and Justin, because Max will always be a helpless, foolish person, and we are so relieved that he hasn't become the family wizard or even stayed a wizard at all", mom said.
"We only compare you to Justin because you are a strong woman who can make something big. Something bigger than she already is. We have great faith in you. We wouldn't compare you to Justin if we had given up hope in you. But perhaps we should realize that we can't compare you to Justin", dad said and stroked my back. I listened to them without looking up, resting my head on my dad's shoulder.
"Justin is a clever person but he is not as powerful as you. And often it was your impulsiveness that saved the world. Precisely because you do not always do what is expected of you."
"We are so sorry, honey", mom said, stroking my hair.
I smiled at her. "I've also learned that it is better if I stay who I am. I'm a better wizard and even a better person if I do not only consist of my good qualities. My bad qualities help me to become the strong person that I am. And I began to appreciate myself for my good and my bad parts of my personality. I was always jealous of Justin because he is so perfect but he is perfect in what he does, and I am perfect at being the family wizard and his annoying little sister. I love Max for being so foolish and I love Justin for being so nerdy."
"And we love you for being so irresponsible with magic", mom said and laughed.
"If you want I can also do the laundry with my magic", I laughed and hugged her briefly. "Growing up is boring. Look at dad, he's still complaining that we don't have enough pudding in our fridge."
"Hey", he interrupted me. "Pudding is very important to me."
Mom rolled her eyes and I suppressed a laughter, when we heard a knock on the front door.
"That's Justin", I said, and jumped out of my bed. I hugged my parents one last time before we left my room arm in arm.
I smiled all over my face as I wrapped my arms around the neck of my big brother and enjoyed the calmness he radiated. My family joined the group hug with laughter and I was convinced that we would remain a strong family forever. No matter what happens. A family with rough edges, who argued and blamed each other, but who stuck together when it mattered and where everyone was loved for who he was. We protected each other and were there for each other. We were different people but a strong unity. But everything was perfect the way it was. Because each of us made this family complete. We were a perfect family because everyone was who he was. And we would stay that way forever.