After I got home from hanging out with Sol and her friends, I settled back into my routine of eating lunch and dinner and trying to think of ideas for my next painting. Since I hadn’t done any cityscapes for a while and I was only a few days away from my first day of magic school, I thought it would be a good idea to challenge myself and paint the exterior of the Silverthorne School building. I had to start my sketches from memory because I didn’t think to take any reference photos when I went to apply. The painting would take me longer to finish due to my new schedule, but it could potentially sell for a lot more money than my normal paintings if someone was interested enough in it.
While I worked on the sketch, I couldn’t help thinking about the results of my X-rays. The injury looked serious, but it didn’t feel serious. Did the effects of the magic crystal do something weird with my nerves? Would I even feel it if, thanks to some unexplained accident, the fracture spread to other parts of my hand? The implications were too disturbing to consider.
Being too reckless with my magic usage was a bad idea, but the opposite – being too cautious – would also be unhelpful. It would take some time for me to figure out the right balance of practice and rest to keep my hand healthy while still learning enough to keep pace with my class.
I woke up on Monday morning feeling anxious. Even though I wasn’t supposed to start class until Tuesday, the first day of the new school season always gave me something to worry about. This time, I thought about what Dad told me: that even though I’d be in what amounted to a mid-level magic class, there was still bound to be at least one person who knew the material better than everyone else. I hoped that there would be enough people in my class who were almost as green as me so that I wouldn’t feel as awkward about being the “new girl”.
I almost forgot about my library books until I noticed them stacked on top of my dresser. There wasn’t much time for me to study them further, and I had already copied or memorized the most interesting bits in my personal spellbook, so I gave them to Mom to return so I wouldn’t be penalized for keeping them a few days late.
After Mom and Dad left for work, I went back to Emerson Park. Not to practice – I had already done plenty of that, including at that very park – but to relax and enjoy the outdoors before it got too hot to do so. I hadn’t gone out to enjoy a day in the park since I got my new powers.
With the younger kids back in school, the adults had the park to themselves again. There wasn’t a single witch or wizard in sight. I didn’t know why that fact alone was so comforting to me, even though I was one myself.
It felt like a good time to take some pictures of the scenery for inspiration for later pictures, so I snapped some of the gates, the pathway leading to the crossroads, and even the tree that I hid behind when I first, um…”spotted” Sol. The patch of grass that I danced around on that day had recovered its natural color. I had to give credit to the groundskeepers for keeping this park looking nice day after day, even when people like me went ahead and spoiled it.
That afternoon, I looked at the spellbook I had created and wondered if I would be allowed to use it instead of an official text. I knew Lillian told me I didn’t have to buy a big spellbook, but there was no way I was going to use every spell it had. I just wanted to keep notes on the ones that looked interesting to me. That way, there’d be less flipping around for me to do if I were allowed to use spellbooks or notes during my lessons.
My new classes wouldn’t be the end of my busy week. In addition to my Tuesday and Thursday morning sessions at Silverthorne, I also had to work Wednesday morning and Friday afternoon. I hadn’t run into anyone from work during any of my practice sessions, so I doubted that anyone other than Randy knew about my second hobby. That would certainly be a weird break room conversation topic…
When Mom and Dad got home from work, they both seemed to be in a good mood.
“We finally found someone who’s going to fix the front windows at a good price,” Mom said as she poked at the plastic covering up the hole. “The living room is going to be a bit messy when you get in from class tomorrow, but it’ll be worth it in the end. Trust me.”
“Did they ever figure out which one of those kids threw that rock in the first place?” Dad asked.
I didn’t have a clue. The police didn’t give out any names since everyone involved in that altercation was a minor. Whoever was responsible probably wouldn’t be throwing any more rocks at houses for a while, if their parents had anything to say about it.
I offered to help Dad prepare spaghetti for dinner to try to help take my mind off that incident, but it only helped a little bit. The problem was going to get fixed and there wasn’t anything more for me to do, so…why was I so aggravated over something so minor? Freaking out about it was getting me nowhere. I decided to let it go and focus on things that really mattered, like getting through my magic school course and not getting fired from my job. Again, minor things, but at least they were positive things to worry about.
After we ate dinner, I sat and watched a couple of concert videos while trying to figure out the bus schedule in order to save me some time. It was supposed to rain early with the possibility of thunderstorms. I was not looking forward to sitting underneath the bus stop for that ride home.
Tuesday was the moment of truth. I’d gone to sleep an hour early so that there’d be no doubt about me having enough energy to get through the day. My wand, spellbook, and umbrella were right by my drawing desk so I’d have easy access to them when I woke up. I even had my clothes selected, ironed, and hung up next to that ghastly-looking yellow raincoat.
I was ready.
I got up, ate a bowl of corn flakes, showered, and then put my clothes on before Mom or Dad woke up, which was no easy feat because neither of them was a heavy sleeper. Dad got up and did his usual routine of breakfast, ironing his clothes, and watching the morning news, while Mom came downstairs still wearing her nightcap and white bunny pajamas. She didn’t look sick or tired, but she didn’t look comfortable, either.
“Are you okay, Mom?” I asked.
“I’m fine,” she said, but I wasn’t convinced. “I don’t think I’m going to go to work today.”
“Something wrong, honey?” Dad asked.
“No, not really. One of us has to stay home and wait for the window guy to come. Since you’re driving, Van, it might as well be me.”
“I would have taken the day if you’d asked me to. I could have just dropped you off at work and come back home.”
Mom yawned and stretched, grunting loudly as she lowered her arms. It sounded like she either slept on her arm the wrong way or pulled a muscle while cleaning. Dad was quick to rush over to Mom’s side to try to find out where she was hurting. “On second thought, maybe it would be a better idea for you to stay home today,” he said.
“I’ll go get the muscle rub, Mom,” I said. “Just sit tight.”
I fetched a jar of muscle pain cream and some of the pain medicine I’d used after my accident. Dad applied some cream to Mom’s arms and shoulders and I watched as her mood slowly transformed from grumpy to giddy. “Oh, yeah…that’s that good stuff,” she cooed. “I can feel it working already! Thanks, you two.”
Mom tried to sit up on the sofa and watch the rest of the morning news broadcast as Dad kissed her goodbye before going to work. She then turned to me and asked, “How do you feel? Excited to go back to school?”
There was a question I didn’t think I’d be asked again since I first entered middle school. “‘Excited’ isn’t quite the right word,” I told her. “‘Intrigued’, maybe.”
“I’m still trying to get over the fact that Sharonia even has a magic academy,” Mom said. “Something tells me I should have expected it since the day Marisol and her mother took us out to that magic shop. Crazy, isn’t it?”
“Well, magic is usually the province of smaller towns like ours. That might not play as well in places like Lucason or Westcott, where there are more tightly-packed buildings that are easy to damage.”
Mom had seen enough of the weather and traffic reports and opted to turn off the television in favor of some music. She was going to be home all day, so I couldn’t blame her for wanting to listen to something uplifting to take her mind off the pain. Dancing to the music wasn’t an option given the state she was in, so she could only safely express her enjoyment of the music through head-bobbing and toe-tapping.
“Are you heading out now, sweetie?” she asked as the rain started to fall. “I know you don’t need me to say this because I’ve probably said it a thousand times already, but…be careful out there.”
“I will, Mom. You should be careful too.”
It wasn’t easy for me to find a safe spot to hug Mom because I couldn’t tell where exactly she was hurting, so I just went for it. She leaned up to kiss me on the cheek, not moving from her place on the sofa. It was probably better for her to stay where she was until she felt comfortable moving around again.
Going to the bus stop was more awkward than I thought it would be. Sure, I had remembered to place all my stuff in a bag just before I left the house (thanks, Mom!), but I didn’t want to be caught checking it every few minutes to make sure everything was still there. Plastic bags were noisy…and not completely waterproof. I wished I hadn’t donated my only book bag to charity after I graduated.
Eli got on the bus at the same stop I last remembered seeing him. He took a seat closer to the front of the bus this time. Was he avoiding me? Or did he notice me and want to avoid giving off a “stalker” vibe like he did last time? Either way, we didn’t say anything to each other again as we both rode toward the Silverthorne School building. I sent a couple of quick “good morning” text messages to Sol and Violet to keep myself from getting bored.
When the bus dropped us off at Silverthorne, I decided to walk up and greet him. From the look of things, he was going to be one of my new classmates.
“Hey there,” I said as we passed a couple of students heading toward the bus stop with umbrellas in their hands. “Eli, right?”
“Yeah,” he said. “Guess we’re gonna be in the same class after all, huh?”
“Seems that way.”
This was driving me crazy. I wanted to have a normal conversation with this guy, but neither of us could think of anything to say. I felt like I was trying to talk to my uncle. If Eli were ten, maybe twenty years younger, it wouldn’t have been a problem.
When we got to the front desk, the receptionist asked us each to pay for our tuition, and a security guard came to inspect our wands to make sure they weren’t damaged or modified in the time since our entrance exams. Eli paid the full 200 dollars for his stay. It looked like he was in it for the long haul.
After handing over my 100-dollar check and having my wand inspected, I followed Eli to the classroom where Lillian, Vanessa, and a few other students were waiting for us.
“Good morning, Deanna… Good morning, Eli,” Lillian said. “We’re just waiting for one more person to come in, and then we can get started.”
I took a seat in one of the desks in the center row and listened to the other students hold small talk among themselves. I didn’t have anything to say right away. This being the first class of the summer, I had a feeling I’d learn more about everyone when we formally introduced ourselves.
The last student, a tall, black-haired woman wearing a white raincoat and boots, checked her cell phone as she looked for an open seat. “Ugh…just barely made it,” she said.
“So nice of you to join us, Adrienne.”
“I would have been here sooner, but my car wouldn’t start on time, and I couldn’t find a good parking space, and…”
“Let’s save the excuses for…never,” Vanessa quipped, to my mild amusement. “Come on in and have a seat.”
As Adrienne sat down in the desk behind me, I took a deep breath and looked around at the students in my class. Two of them, not including Eli, were old enough to be my parents if I’d been born into a different family. I couldn’t tell how many of them were experienced magic users just by looking at them. Nobody had any capes or cloaks on like Lillian did. It was probably better that way, as it made me feel less like I was attending a “school for magic-users” and more like a “school that just happened to teach magic”, which was way less intimidating.
Now I just needed to sit tight and steel myself for whatever lessons Lillian and Vanessa had planned.