The last days of spring were a bit of a head trip for me. I couldn’t believe that I was about to go back to school. Sure, it was for something totally unrelated to actual academics, but I still found myself thinking about book study routines, seating arrangements, class schedules, and whose notes to copy to get the best chance to pass. I didn’t have time to stick around the Silverthorne building to see who else might have been in my class block. Would I see that Eli guy again? Or any of those boys in the olive jackets?
Maybe Sol was right. Maybe I was overthinking things. It was hard not to when my biggest worry a month ago was “will this painting sell?” and not “will I accidentally burn someone’s house down trying to create a fireball?”
I almost didn’t notice when the Summer Dawn Festival came around. Spring Fest was the only one of these seasonal festivals that actually felt like a holiday because it marked the beginning of the new year and Mom and Dad didn’t have to go to work. Summer Fest felt like a normal day for anyone my age who didn’t have to go to school. A lot of the stores were still open, and some of them sold discounted water guns and ice cream to the kids to prepare them for the hot weather. I took advantage of it, of course. There was nothing that helped make me feel like a kid again than standing in line for the ice cream truck and coming away with a soft-serve chocolate ice cream cone for only one dollar. Sol spent the day hanging out at the Matrix billiard hall with a couple of her high school friends. I felt like I should have asked to tag along with her just to say “hello”, even though chances were high that I would never have seen any of them again.
The next morning was when I felt like summer really started for me. The temperature was starting to rise, so I found myself sleeping with the bedroom window open because I didn’t have an air conditioner. Not only did it threaten to attract flies, but I thought a mosquito slipped in and bit my leg while I was asleep. I was not happy about it when I went downstairs to eat my morning cereal.
“Dad! Do you know where the anti-itch cream is?” I asked.
“It’s in the medicine cabinet upstairs,” he said.
“And the bug spray?”
“On your mother’s dresser.”
I got the items I needed and put on as much as I possibly could. Something told me that the secret to keeping those bugs away was the horrible smell.
Dad had just finished getting off the phone when I made it back downstairs. “Dr. Keller left a message for us on Friday. He said he wants to schedule an appointment for you for tomorrow morning. Should I go ahead and do it?”
“Sure,” I said. “The sooner, the better.”
“How is your hand feeling, Deanna?” Mom asked as she entered the living room.
“Pretty good, I guess. I haven’t felt any soreness or cramps in it lately.”
“Do you have your physical forms ready, too?”
“Yup…right here.” I showed Mom the folder that I got from Lillian. All of the papers were tucked in both sides as neatly as possible. The registration form wasn’t necessary for me to take with me to Dr. Keller’s office, but I didn’t want to leave it behind and risk losing it.
“Now, I won’t be able to take you to the doctor’s office this time,” Dad said. “Do you think you can handle getting there and back on your own?”
“Sure, if MATS cooperates…”
The MATS bus to St. Gabriel followed the same road that we nearly got trapped on last time. Some of the construction that slowed traffic to a crawl was finished, but I didn’t like having to worry about getting stuck when there wasn’t an alternative road for the bus to follow. I needed to remember to give myself an extra half-hour to compensate.
Mom held her nose as she got closer to me, probably smelling the bug spray on my arms and legs. “If you’re planning on going out today, Dee,” she said, “don’t forget to drink plenty of liquids. There’s some orange juice in the fridge if you want some of that.”
“The good stuff, I hope?”
“If by ‘the good stuff’ you mean ‘made from fresh-squeezed oranges’, then yes. Those little plastic quote-unquote ‘juice jugs’ you used to drink as a kid are no good for you. You’re better off with the real thing. Your taste buds will thank you.”
Mom and Dad gathered around me for a group hug and then headed out the door, leaving me to clean up the dishes for them. The dish rack was full, so I had to empty it and wipe any excess water from the dishes with a cloth before putting them back in the cabinet. All the rattling and clanking made me nervous about breaking them and having more to clean up.
I decided that it would be a good day to go for a walk outside. My sketchbook was almost full and ready for sale, but I didn’t yet have the drive to start any new drawings. I wasn’t going out to gather inspiration this time, though. Even the tiniest bit of exercise would help my physical go a little more smoothly.
First, I needed to drink that glass of orange juice I’d been craving. Mom was right…the fresh-squeezed juice really was better.
Next, I went upstairs to put on some sweatpants before returning to the fridge for a bottle of water to drink while it was still at its coldest. When I stepped outside, the air felt warm and humid. I didn’t smell any rain on the horizon, but I still didn’t want to stay outside too long…just enough to work up a good sweat.
I started off by walking past Cherry’s Consignments and Emerson Park, hoping to see Sol practicing her magic again. I didn’t see her or anyone else I knew hanging around the park, so I kept walking until I reached the bus stop. It was a long walk back home from where I was, but I didn’t feel like I’d done enough, so I went around until I reached Fifth Corner Goods and did the whole route again, but faster.
Now I felt like I was getting somewhere.
I tried to keep from drinking my entire bottle of water while I was jogging, but I got so sweaty that I had to take a sip at least once every minute. My arms felt like they were getting soggy, as well.
After finishing my second lap, I walked into Cherry’s, where I was greeted with the pleasant low hum of an air conditioner. Elias was at the front register conducting business as usual while his father examined and rearranged the inventory, scribbling notes into his notepad and slapping yellow stickers on some of the items. “I really should think about extending the seven-day storage limit,” he said to himself. “We’ve got so much boxed merchandise to mail back that I don’t know how I’m going to deal with it all.”
That wasn’t the most encouraging sign. I hoped the shop wasn’t in danger of going under.
When I went to greet Elias, he looked a lot happier to see me than when we first met. The television in the background wasn’t turned on, allowing him to focus on the storefront. “What’s up? Do anything fun over the spring break?” I asked.
“Nah… I’ve mostly been working,” he said. “Tomorrow, I have to go out and get my books ready for next semester’s classes.”
“Ugh…my least favorite part of college. At least when you go to a specialty or a trade school, there’s a good chance you can still use some of the books you bought after you leave.”
“Do you still have your old books, Deanna?”
“I do, but I only look at them when I want to paint something a certain way. Most of the time, I’m just making stuff up from memory.”
A customer behind me brought in a binder with a stack of sketches. I couldn’t see what was on them, but there had to be at least forty pages of drawings inside. He asked if he could sell them individually at three dollars each, with Elias trying to explain that each sketch would have to be labeled individually in order to keep the inventory properly straightened out. “Honestly, I think you might have better luck putting these up at a yard sale,” he said. “It’ll save us both a lot of time.”
The customer gave Elias a disappointed sigh, took his sketchbook and left. Elias and I sighed in turn, lamenting the loss of a potential sale. “I was just trying to help,” he muttered.
The store was empty again, save for myself and the Cherrys. It must have been a slow sales day.
“So, uh…I’m going to the doctor’s office tomorrow,” I said to Elias while I waited for someone else to come through the door. “I have to get a physical and some X-rays done.”
“Really? What happened?”
“I injured my hand a while back and my doctor wanted to do a follow-up.”
“Is that why you’re wearing these gloves?”
“Yeah. There was a bit of scarring.”
From the sound of Elias’ gasp, I wondered if he thought I’d seriously injured myself, or gave myself those scars on purpose somehow. I didn’t know how to broach the topic in a way that wouldn’t cause him to freak out. He probably already read the newspaper article where I used magic in public for the first time. I felt like I made a mistake in hinting at how I got those scars.
“I hope it’s nothing serious,” he said.
“Me too,” I said. “I’ll let you know if they find anything weird, okay?”
I went back home and showered to get rid of the lingering smell of sweat, and then I tossed my gloves into the hamper to be washed. When I looked down at my right hand, I thought my enchanter’s sign had grown a few extra lines. I thought it was just the light playing tricks on me again. If signs really could evolve, what did they mean? Did it indicate that I was getting better with my magic? Would I get a more complete sign when I used enough of it, instead of those dumb, squiggly lines?
I set those questions aside as I spent the rest of the day trying to read more of Violet Arcana. The more I read of it, the less I wanted to finish it.
The next morning after breakfast, I took my Silverthorne School folder with me to the bus stop. Riding down the road to St. Gabriel Medical Center felt faster than it did when I was in Dad’s car. It was less fun because I didn’t have any music to listen to other than a couple of passengers who refused to put their headphones on when playing music from their phones. I didn’t even have books to read to fall back on, so I resorted to looking out the window and admiring the scenery.
The bus dropped me off a few blocks away from the strip mall near the medical center. I had to be extra-careful walking around with my folder because there were more people walking down the street than I expected. I didn’t want to bump into anyone and drop my folder or risk getting it or my wallet stolen.
Once I got inside the medical center, I had to wait for almost half an hour to be seen. When it was my turn to go, I was inspected by the same assistant who examined me in my last visit. “Hello again, Ms. Richardson,” she said. “Are you ready for your exam?”
“I’m not really sure, to be honest,” I told her. “I wasn’t expecting to come in to do an X-ray and a physical in the same day.”
“I think it’s better to get them both out of the way now so as not to worry about them later.”
The assistant took the usual preliminary measurements before passing them off to Dr. Keller. I took the physical forms out of my folder and handed them to him. The sooner I got it over with, the better I would feel at the end of the day.
“Good morning, Deanna,” he said. “How are you adjusting to your new sign?”
“I think I’m pretty used to it by now,” I told him. “Sometimes when I cast a spell, my hand gets hot, but I can’t tell if that’s from me or from the wand I’m using.”
“That’s a normal reaction,” Dr. Keller said, “but it might be a cause for concern given the way your sign was created. Let’s get your physical examination done first, and then we can get to the X-rays.”
The doctor spent the next half-hour running tests on everything from my eyesight to my reflexes. Having cotton swabs, thermometers, tongue depressors, and flashlights shoved into so many parts of my body was aggravating, but I was willing to endure it if it got me one step closer to getting into Silverthorne. He gave me a few more approving looks than he did during my last visit. Looks like that jog around the park did me some good after all.
“Very good. Now, I’ll need you to put this on while I scan your hand.”
The doctor gave me a large, blocky suit to wear over the rest of my body, supposedly to protect me from the radiation from the X-ray machine. I put my hand on a small, flat surface on a machine next to the patient’s chair, and the doctor asked me to move it around a few times so he could examine different parts of my skeleton. It only took a few minutes for him to print out the images after the scanning was complete. It turned out that the wand accident partially crushed one of the bones in my right hand, and it was a small miracle that I could still move my middle finger. It was going to require some surgery to remove the bone fragments around the area of impact and insert something to reconnect the bones to at least give the impression that my hand was whole again.
“I feel like I should warn you ahead of time that the surgery will be quite costly,” Dr. Keller said, “and you may not be able to use your right hand for a few weeks until the bone fully heals. On the other hand – no pun intended – you can continue to use your wand as you have been, but I would suggest limiting the number or intensity of spells you cast a day with it to avoid putting any stress on that fracture. Try occasionally using your left hand, as well. If you ever feel like your hand is cramping up and the pain is intense, call me or a nearby medical center immediately.“
Breaking my hand was a frightening thing to consider, not just because I’d lose a lot of money getting it fixed, but also because it would prevent me from doing the things I was really good at – magic, painting, or drawing. I’d never practiced doing any of those things with my left hand. If something were to go wrong during the surgery and I couldn’t use that hand at all, then I’d be in a lot of trouble.
Dr. Keller gave me my completed physical forms after confirming I was healthy enough to attend school despite my bone fracture. “I still wish I knew how your hand healed up so quickly.”
“Me too,” I said. “I thought my doorknob was going to punch a hole all the way through. Such is the wonder of magic, I guess.”
“Well, you should be thankful that it didn’t, and I hope you do well with your training.”
Once I paid for my visit and I was cleared to leave, I waited for about half an hour for the next bus to take me home. Even if I had remembered to check the bus schedule for return trips, it wouldn’t have been any less frustrating of a wait. Now it was back to the grind of painting, practicing spell gestures, going to work, and hoping that I wouldn’t hurt myself doing any of it before my classes began.