None of us wanted to do it, really. Lindsey’s mother made us. Lindsey told everybody when she passed out invitations. “It’s going to be a boy-girl party,” she told us girls in undertones. “I’m not sure what that means. But my mom is awfully enthusiastic about it.”
I told Lindsey sure, of course I’d come. She looked at me strangely. I guess after they drove me home from Angie’s slumber party in tears the month before, she didn’t expect me to want to go to any more parties. But I had bigger things on my mind.
Leah was the new girl, pretty, exotic, and a little wild. There were all sorts of rumors about what she’d done with boys at her old school. I didn’t believe the rumors, but I didn’t stick up for her, either. Somebody else was at the bottom of the heap momentarily, and I took enough of a guilty pleasure from it not to intercede on Leah’s behalf. It probably wouldn’t have done her any good if I had. When you’re the smart girl, everybody assumes you know nothing about “going out.”
Besides, I had my own reasons to be wary of Leah.
I was on my way to the library a few days before Lindsey handed out the invitations to her party. On my way past the cafeteria, I saw Leah rooting around in one of the garbage cans, poking at it gingerly with a fork. I walked up behind her quietly. “What are you doing?”
She jumped, half-turning. “Oh, Brooke. Um, hi. You scared me.”
“What are you doing?”
“I was hungry.”
Yeah, right. With the way she turned up her nose as she poked that stuff? No way was she going to eat it. And if she’d been looking for a retainer or a ring or something, she would have said so. I folded my arms and looked deeply skeptical. “Try again.”
She leaned towards me, lowering her voice. “Do you believe in magic?”
Living with my mother the witch made that like believing in air. Not that she bothered to teach me much of it. “Sure. Do you?”
“Yeah. I’m a wizard.”
“I can show you, if you want,” she said. Her dark hair fell in a curtain around her face, and she brushed it back impatiently.
“What could you show me?”
“Well, this, for example.” She poked at the trash. “Angie was eating a sandwich on rye bread. So if I can dig it up, I can get the spit off the places she bit into it. I can make her do stuff.”
“Yeah, but it’s worth it. For little stuff. I mean, if I really wanted her to be, like, my slave or something, I’d need blood, or more spit, or sweat or something. But I have to stay in practice.”
“Where’d you learn all this stuff?” I asked.
“My uncle. You don’t believe me, do you?” Leah glared fiercely.
I stood my ground. “I believe you – I guess.”
“Well, I’ll prove it to you!”
She finally found the offending rye bread and picked the bitten edges off it, crumbling them and mashing them into her hands. She started muttering, much more rhythmically than my mom usually did, and drawing with the bread on her palm.
“What’s that for?” I asked.
She stopped and frowned at me. “It’s the way you cast a spell. Listen, if you want to see, you’re going to have to keep quiet. Spells like this take a certain beat to them, you know, like a song or something, so if I get distracted, I’m going to have to start over again. And it’ll take forever.”
It took a long time anyway. The odd emphases were not at all lulling, so I felt every minute that we were standing there, waiting for the janitor or one of the lunch ladies to come out from the kitchen and catch us. Nobody did, and it didn’t take quite ten minutes before Leah said, “There. It’s done.”
“So what now?” I asked.
Sean came around the corner. “What are you guys doing?”
“Oh, just hanging around,” I said. “I was on my way to the library, and I ran into Leah.”
Leah surreptitiously wiped the bread off her palms behind her back, smiling winningly at Sean. He looked a little skeptical but smiled back. I squirmed inside. If there was anybody I’d want to tell about magic, it would have been Sean. Of course, that was impossible.
That afternoon, with an air of bewilderment, Angie did the hard half of Leah’s math homework. She loaned Leah her favorite sparkly pencil and didn’t even wince when Leah broke it. All the other girls watched them suspiciously. Leah kept shooting looks of triumph my way.
My mom is a good witch, on the Committee for the Ethical Use of Magic. Everybody at school thinks she’s a nurse, though. Anyway, I told Mom what Leah had showed and told me, and she and my dad frowned at each other.
“I don’t really have time for this, what with the Mirgaz sisters coming to trial this week,” said Mom.
“Maybe this could be Brooke’s project,” Dad suggested.
Mom -- [End of Preview.]