Chapter One: Esmee One

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Author's Notes: This chapter contains a small child in peril. 

Thank you to Hubby for the edit, and helping me improve this chapter. 

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Esmee Duncan first realised she and the other passengers of the number 444 bus were in danger when the vehicle swerved. Esmee lurched forward in her seat, her headphones falling out of her ears as she grabbed the nearby rail.

Her eyes widened as she looked out the window scanning the road for what could have caused the bus to go off course.

Her attention was drawn back to the bus when a toddler in a buggy started crying and the mother offered a bag of sweets to quieten them.

Untangling her headphones, Esmee heard a thunderous screech to her right. Her head jolted in search of the noise, only to see a lorry speeding towards the back of the bus, the horn blaring helplessly.

Nothing could be done to stop the lorry, and within seconds the impact reverberated throughout the bus, causing it to violently spin before toppling onto its side. As people were flung from their seats, Esmee's head crashed against the window with a sickening thud.

Esmee forced her eyes open, the acrid smell of burning assaulting her nostrils. It took a few moments for her to get her bearings and realise she'd briefly passed out. She sat up and looked around, noticing the bus was flipped on its side. Unconscious passengers were sprawled on the floor, shards of glass and metal debris scattered around them.

Esmee clambered to her feet, her first instinct to check on the toddler who'd been crying.

Stepping carefully over passengers, she made her way to the front of the bus, where the mother was crouched on the floor holding a small, wriggling bundle wrapped in a blood-soaked blanket.

Tears streamed down the woman's cheeks. "Help me. My little girl won't stop bleeding."

Esmee looked around for the driver, but his body lay seemingly motionless in the driver's cabin. She tried to rouse him, but the mother said, "We don't have time."

Esmee's chest tightened, she knew what she had to do, but to do so would risk everything and change her life forever.

Esmee took a deep breath and collected her thoughts.

It'll be okay. It'll be okay. It'll be okay.

Her mind flashed to an image of her own mom, who she'd kissed goodbye just an hour ago when she'd left for work. She'd be at the pharmacy by now.

What if I don't make it out alive? A dark voice in the back of her head asked.

Esmee imagined her mom at work, the police arriving to tell her there'd been an accident, and her mom breaking down.

She shook the image from her head and repeated, It'll be okay. It'll be okay. It'll be okay.

She kneeled in front of the woman. "I ... I can help her."

Wide-eyed the mother asked, "Are you a nurse or something?

"Or ... something. Can I touch her?"

The mother hesitated, but only for a moment, before she pulled back the blanket to reveal a girl of about two with a large laceration across her throat.

Hands quivering, Esmee reached out and laid her palms on the child's wound. A bright light radiated from her fingertips, causing small white strands of light to appear within the wound, knitting it seamlessly back together.

When the little girl gurgled and started to cry, the mother snatched her back.

"You're a witch?" The woman's eyes narrowed and Esmee bowed her head. "Get away from me. Get away from my daughter. What have you done to her? You've passed your magic onto her, haven't you? I swear to God, if she develops powers and dies I'll find you. How could you do this to my little girl? Now the PID will take her way."

"I...I saved her," Esmee stammered.

"I'd rather she died than turn into a witch like you."

Esmee turned away. She expected this, but had clung to the hope the mother would be grateful her child got to see another day.

She shuffled to the back of the bus to check on other passengers as the driver roused and stood up. He started evacuating passengers, the first being the toddler and their mother.

Esmee had imagined revealing herself as a witch for months, picturing her parents' reactions. She hoped eventual shock would give way to acceptance, maybe even pride. She never imagined the first person she'd tell would be a complete stranger.

Before Esmee could slip into the crowd of other passengers the driver grabbed her arm.

"You'll need to speak to the paramedics when they arrive, just so they know what you, erm, did."

Esmee's gaze drifted to the floor and she scuffed the ground with the tip of her trainer.

"Yeah, okay. Sure."

She'd had every intention of leaving unnoticed if she could. She wasn't hurt, and she'd read enough in the news to know she didn't need to be around when the emergency services arrived. These days you couldn't open a paper or turn on the TV without seeing another report of the Paranormal Investigations Department, known as the PID for short, taking in a suspected witch for questioning. Answering government questions, and the horror stories that came with them, was something she always hoped to avoid.

But what if magic affected the way the little girl healed? She wondered. The hospital really did need to know what had happened for the child's own safety.

Damn it.

Knowing she'd never live with herself if her magic had some adverse effect on the toddler, Esmee joined the group of other passengers waiting for the emergency services to arrive.

When the paramedics, fire brigade, and police finally arrived everyone was soon swept up in getting checked over, or telling the authorities what had happened on the bus. Esmee lingered near the back of the group, stalling before she spoke to the paramedics. The matter was taken out of her hands when a young woman approached.

"Hey, I'm Charlotte Davies, with city hospital. You were the one who helped the little girl, right?"

Charlotte's gaze held no malice as her eyes swept over Esmee, just curiosity.

Esmee raised her head and made eye contact with Charlotte. "Yeah, that was me. I'm guessing the mother told you what I did?"

Charlotte smiled. "She did. The amount of times I could've done with someone like you," she trailed off. "If it were up to me I'd give you a pat on the back and send you on your way. But, you know the law..."

"You have to call the PID?"

Charlotte glanced away, and her shoulders slumped. "I'm afraid so. If anyone found out I knew you're a witch and didn't report it, I'd lose my job."

Esmee's head sunk. "Ahh. It's okay. I understand you're just doing what you've got to. What do you need me to do?"

"Just come to the hospital with us. I can give you a once over and make sure you're not injured from the accident while we wait for someone from the PID to arrive."

Esmee knew it was the right thing to do and knew in all likelihood the media overexaggerated how tough the PID were, but still her instincts screamed at her to run.

Headlines from the past few months flashed through her mind: Local Family on the Run after Twins Display Magical Abilities. Search for Athlete Who used Magic to Win Marathon Still Ongoing. School Teacher Jailed for Harbouring Magical Fugitives.

Charlotte offered her a small smile. "It'll be okay. What you did was incredibly brave and selfless, the PID will see that. Hopefully."

Esmee sighed and raked her hands through her long red hair, hoping Charlotte was right. No matter what happened next, she'd saved someone's life today and that was something to be proud of.

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