The Magic of Growing Up: A Short Story
A short, sweet story about puppy love set in the world of Jimi Rodriguez’s fantasy novel From Chaos Comes Order.
The Magic of Growing Up
Academic Age, Year 482, Month of Fire
“I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of the cafeteria food,” said JT.
“I already am,” said Iliana, short dress swishing at her thighs. “Honestly, it’s the same stuff every time. Mace better bring us something good.”
Only two years ago, JT wasn’t promised any food, much less food so tasty. “Hey, it’s free! Can’t beat that!”
Iliana rolled her icy blue eyes. “What’s so special about that? All food is free once you learn the magic. I’m getting close. Stupid Mason won’t teach me. The older kids get everything, I swear.”
Like free food, JT would never get tired of Iliana’s voice. He didn’t care if she was complaining, reading aloud, yelling at him, whispering to him, or anything else. She was the best part of living in Valcrest. As much as he missed his mother, Iliana could always make the homesick go away.
“We’re only one year away,” he reminded her.
“I hate waiting,” she said flatly.
He didn’t mind. He waited his whole life, for everything. He waited for his mother to remember him; she never did. He waited for his magic powers to kick in; they never did. He waited for Iliana to realize he loved her; she never did. He would never tell her any of those things. They were only twelve years old. No one would believe he knew what love was. No one would believe his mother could forget about him. No one would believe he could live at a magic school and have no power. Like always, he kept his secrets to himself.
“Why are you so quiet?” Iliana asked, disrupting his thoughts.
“Just thinking.” He never lied to Iliana.
“Still thinking about our kiss?”
“You’re never going to stop teasing me about it, are you?” They were close to the winding path at the edge of the cliffs behind the school.
She shook her head. “Nope!”
He let her start down the path first. It crept down back and forth in a zig-zag pattern until they descended to the beach below. It was their favorite hangout spot in the summer months. “Well, you should. You were blushing too!”
Iliana stopped on the path. “JT, you were blushing for a whole ten minutes. I can’t understand why. It’s a simple kiss.”
“Come on,” he said, nudging her to continue. He understood why he couldn’t stop blushing. Iliana was the most perfect girl in the world. It was a simple kiss to her, but not to him. His only relief was knowing their kiss didn’t change the friendship. Iliana never seemed to change. She was unphased about sharing their first kiss together, but he took an entire week to get over it.
She stopped short when they reached the end of the path where the packed dirt met soft, loose golden sand. The beach was nothing like his home beaches on Eslor Island, where the sand was rough and black.
He knew she was thinking of something interesting.
She would never hesitate to get her toes in the sand. “New magic?” he guessed.
“Yeah, watch this.” She held her hands in front of her. The sand before them compressed, creating a new narrow path leading to the ocean.
JT was always impressed by her power. “That’s amazing, Iliana. Which type of magic was that?”
“Air. It’s windy, so I used that.”
She spoke of magic as if it were as simple as learning the alphabet. If she were anyone else, he would have been jealous. “Beautiful,” he said, about her more than the magic.
Iliana sprinted down the path. “Race you to the water!” she yelled.
JT was paralyzed. Iliana wasn’t a playful person, and he couldn’t remember seeing her run. He watched her for a second before jumping into action. His legs were much longer than hers, and he was a great runner. He closed the distance between them quickly. Steps before they reached the water, he grabbed her around the waist, twisting to lift her off the ground.
She screamed in surprise, her legs flying into the air.
At the first splash of water, JT backpedaled twice before falling backwards. He landed with a thud but broke the fall for Iliana. The shallow water didn’t break his fall much. Despite cringing on impact, he didn’t mind the pain. Iliana’s fit of laughter was worth anything. She didn’t laugh enough.
“Let me go!” she screamed, squirming in his arms.
He released her, taking in a deep breath when he collected himself.
She rolled over, facing him. “You should have let me win.”
“You hate when I let you win.” He stared into her perfect eyes. JT could see the ocean in them before her lips pressed into a smile. Only her smile could distract him from her eyes.
“I want another kiss,” she said.
He did too. Last time they’d kissed, he’d failed to compose himself. If they kissed again, he would be better. He promised himself to control his breathing and play it cool. “I’m never going to tell you no,” he said as confidently as he could.
“Good. I hate when people tell me no.” She lowered herself and kissed him.
Their first kiss had been rushed. They’d both been curious about what it would be like to kiss someone. This kiss was different. It was slower, softer, and despite his promise to himself, JT felt himself blush. He held his breath for as long as the kiss lasted. As gentle waves rolled over his shoulders, he realized Iliana was his favorite part of growing up.
“The Magic of Growing Up” takes place near the beginning of my debut novel, Chaos. While the main story focuses on an older version of the JT you see in this story, I wanted the chance to express how differently things were for him and his first true love, Iliana. I often wish people would write about younger characters and their feelings. Falling in love for the first time, even if it’s only puppy love, is a sweet and memorable experience.
In “The Magic of Growing Up,” we see JT wishing he could be cooler, find some interesting things to say to Iliana, and still embarrassed about not being able to get over their first kiss. From Chaos Comes Order is a series full of magic, murder, and romance. I wanted to view these characters as they were before they had to experience the pain of growing up in a society that says, “People die every day.” There is no cure for murder or violence, and characters cannot help but adjust to such brutality. When they were young, JT and Iliana had a friendship full of curiosity, a “let’s try this!” attitude, and spontaneity. Some of my best memories are from this age, and though my childhood was difficult, there were precious moments I hold onto. I hope that I’ve conveyed the joy and wonder of childhood in this story.
If you enjoyed this small glimpse into the world I’ve created, I hope you’ll consider reading the series. Book One: Chaos and Book Two: Destroyer are available now. Book Three: Savior, will release later in 2020. Thank you for reading!
— Jimi Rodriguez
More about Jimi and his work
Jimi is an author from Houston, TX. After graduating from Ohio State University, he became a teacher in his hometown. He went on to obtain a master’s degree from Ohio University. Today, he lives in Houston with his wife and two children.
For years, he told his students stories of the characters in From Chaos Comes Order. The characters were a work of friendship, as many major roles in the story were conceived by his friends in writing and life. Finally, he created the series From Chaos Comes Order.
In addition to being a writer, Jimi is also the vice president of a non-profit, SWITCH Arts & Recreation Center. I did a profile of his non-profit here on Voyage of the Mind that you can check out if you’re interested in more details. SWITCH is currently raising money for building design.
Find Jimi on Twitter @JimiARodriguez, and on his website — if you subscribe to his mailing list, you’ll get a secret document about JT, the main character of this story and his novel Chaos. You can also check out his Facebook author page, his Amazon author page, or his GoodReads page for more info about him and his books.
We hope you enjoyed “The Magic of Growing Up” from Jimi Rodriguez!
If you’re interested in reading more of Jimi’s work, you should most certainly pick up a copy of his novel Chaos, first in his series From Chaos Comes Order. Here’s the pitch!
Surviving in a school of magic and murder is not easy!
Jacob Titus is a forgotten boy from Eslor Island. With an absent father and a mother who battles Alzheimer’s disease, Jacob has long learned to care for himself. When he is discovered by a magical talent hunter, Jacob makes the difficult choice to leave his home and enter the Valcrest School for the Promised.
As his school years go by, Jacob has to spend as much time trying to stay alive as he does finding a cure for his mother. As violence and blood lust at the school escalate, Jacob must learn to figure out who he can trust. All he wanted was to save his mother. Now he must save himself.
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