Jeremy took a deep breath as he stared at the apartment door infront of him. His life was about to change. It was hard to believe that he had gone from being the dorky kid in school — who had been repeatedly trapped in his locker by bullies — to standing on the threshold of becoming one of the masters of the universe. This was the determining moment of his existence. The most profound thing that would ever happen to him. This opportunity to learn from the most powerful magicians still residing on this plane of reality…
The door opened. An old black woman stood in the doorway. Her face was so wrinkled it sort of reminded him of a prune. She was supporting most of her weight, which couldn’t have been more than ninety pounds, with the aid of a walker. It was a gaudy looking metal frame with its front prongs fitted into neon yellow-green tennis balls. She was so frail looking that Jeremy was almost afraid to breathe too hard, in fear that a sharp exhale could snap her in half. She was almost half way there on her own accord. Judging by her crooked posture, her spine was collapsing in on itself.
“Well hello, young man.” The old lady smiled politely, but her eyes seemed to narrow in a critical fashion. Jeremy got the feeling that she was sizing him up.
He checked the crumpled piece of paper. 93, he read the number again before glancing back up at the door. 93, in big, black numbers.
“You must be Jeremy. I’m Betsy. Everyone is waiting to meet you.” She didn’t bother to escort him inside. He followed the woman as she moved slowly down the hall and into the living room area. There was a circle of two sofas and a recliner chair around a large table. There was also an assortment of fabric and sewing tools. A group of seniors were gathered around the table, each one working on a project.
Jeremy recognized the squares as quilt patches. His grandmother, before she passed away, had been an accomplished quilter. She had offered to teach him, but at thirteen he had been more interested in nu metal than old school comforters. Thankfully he was seventeen now and had since discovered Punk and Thrash…
“Let me introduce everyone.” Betsy said without looking back at him.
She motioned to a plump Asian woman, probably in her seventies wearing a small pair of reading glasses. “Agnes.” Then, she worked her way counter-clockwise around the circle.
A lady — despite the Adam’s apple — of mixed race. Her gray hair was set in rollers. “Mimi.”
An older latino genteman, by far the youngest of the group, around sixty years old. He was still quite muscular, though he had a bit of a beer gut, with a visible tattoo of a gay pride flag on his neck. “Sebastian.”
Jeremy, who looked bewildered with a semi slack-jawed expression on his face, nodded. Without thinking he blurted out, “I think I’m in the wrong place. I don’t think this is where I’m supposed to be…”
“You should adjust your perspective on where you’re supposed to be. Problem solved… and what on earth are you wearing, young man?” Mimi cut in.
Agnes, who was sharing a sofa with her, nudged her with an elbow. “Oh hush, Mimi.” Though she did laugh when she took a moment to look Jeremy over. He was wearing a leather trench coat, ripped black jeans, and a pair of combat boots.
“What? You don’t have that same outfit in your closet, Mimi? Sebastian teased.
“Oh you beast…” Mimi threw one of the sofa pillows at him.
“IT’S JUST…” Jeremy hadn’t meant to say it so loudly, interrupting their banter, “I expected to see a room full of heterosexual white men doing, you know… magickal stuff.”
The room went silent.
“He’s not very perceptive, is he?” Sebastian said shaking his head.
“Honest though.” Agnes responded quickly.
“Funny.” Mimi smirked.
“Now, leave the boy alone.” Betsy made a tsk-tsk motion with her fingers. “Don’t pay any attention to their teasing. They’re just poking at the tiger’s cage. I swear, it’s enough to make a person explode.” She pursed her lips looking awfully serious, but only for a moment as she mumbled to the others, “Remember what happened to the last one.”
The room fell silent again.
“Honey, why don’t you sit down next to Sebastian and I’ll get you a cup of tea. Are you hungry? We’ve got sandwiches in the kitchen.” Betsy gave Jeremy a nudge towards the sofas. It was surprisingly forceful for someone with a body so slight.
Jeremy, still looking a bit dazed, made his way over to Sebastian. The boy noticed that there was a faint indentation in the cushion next to the older man. Jeremy didn’t know why, but his eyes teared up instantly.
Sebastian, who noticed this reflexive reaction, called into the kitchen. “I was wrong. He’s got good eyes.” Then, he turned his attention to Jeremy. “It’s alright kid, have a seat.”
The old guy handed over the square of fabric he had been embellishing. “Here. Finish sewing this for me.”
“I don’t know how to sew.” Jeremy said, sounding a bit more shy than he wanted.
“Now, you’re learning.” Sebastian answered. He showed the younger man a few basics.
By the time Betsy came back from the kitchen, Jeremy had finished what was left of the quilt patch. It looked almost like an abstract pattern at first, but the oranges, reds, and yellows hinted that what he had been sewing were flames.
“Dear, would you be kind enough to push that table to the side of the room? We’re going to put all of the pieces together now.” Agnes asked in a sweet voice…
A half an hour later, the quilt was finished. It was placed in the middle of the room, where the table had been.
Jeremy made a face. “This is a bit… morbid? What is this supposed to be?”
“You really should stop using that word…” Mimi scrunched her nose.
“Do you need some more tea, hon?” Betsy was already filling his cup before he could answer…
A couple of hours later and Jeremy was bored out of his skull. His elders had spent the entire afternoon selecting the color scheme for the new quilt they were planning to start tomorrow.
Jeremy stood up. “It’s getting sort of late… guess I should go.”
“Oh? Well, if you must dear. But hold on one moment, alright? Could you do this old lady a favor and turn on the television for me?” Betsy smiled.
“Yeah, Sure.” Jeremy had never seen a set so old. There was no remote control. You actually had to flip it on manually.
“Channel 9.” Betsy requested.
“Thanks, Jim. I’m standing outside of what used to be Global Bank’s corporate headquarters. There’s no official word on what caused the fire…”
Jeremy’s mouth fell open. His eyes took a moment to go from the television screen, to the quilt in the middle of the room, and back to the television.
“Did you… You guys did this? Didn’t you?” He pointed to the screen. “With this?!” He pointed at the quilt.
“You mean We, dear.” Betsy took a sip of tea. “Oh. Did you have someplace else you wanted to be?”
“Fuck no!” Jeremy blushed. “I mean, no ma’am… I mean, fuck! I’m not going anywhere!” He rushed to sit back down.
Sebastian patted him on the shoulder. “Hey, I like this kid! Let’s not get this one blown up, okay?
Jeremy’s face turned white. “Huh?”
“It’s a long story. I better put another kettle on.” Betsy, once again, disappeared into the kitchen.