Chapter 16: Connections

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Chapter 16: Connections

Miraculously, our luck held for the rest of the week. Since Lucia's mom was going to New Jersey for the day on Sunday, we didn't even have to be overly sneaky about our last-possession-before-the-cure plan. Better still, it gave me a few extra days to strut the new and improved Mills around the apartment — and not just to win back some much-needed trust. If my father was trying to make things peaceable between us, I was going to try too.

Ephraim and I hadn't had any more deep, confessional conversations, but he began to take an active interest in my life. He'd asked me what spells I was practicing and what living as a human had been like. He also stopped making as a big a deal of me needing to fit in. In exile, a human life is necessary, he'd told me last night over Chinese take-out, before qualifying that with: it can be had in moderation. While I had to live amongst humans and be competent at it, what I did at home behind closed doors was still my own business — even if it was magic.

Something in our awkward, smashed-together family unit had changed, and I suspected whatever was at its root was bigger than the threat of the vigilante sorcerers. Though I couldn't think of what it might be. At least I wasn't getting the tired, old log line of be human anymore; it had become work what you are to your advantage, and be smart about it.

I could respect that.

But I still woke up every day thinking I was dreaming.

When Saturday evening came around, I stuffed the smallest of Bruce's coolers under my bed and spent the rest of the night making repeated, furtive trips to the kitchen to fill it with ice cubes. Sunday morning, right after breakfast, I carefully prepared the concoction for Lucia's protection spell in an old jar I'd fished out of the recycling and washed up while taking care of the dishes. A couple days after Christmas, Lucia had left a "care package" for me at the concierge's desk downstairs, and as promised, it held all the necessary materials. If something went wrong with the possession, I'd have no time to measure the ingredients, combine the mixture and chant the chants needed to imbue it with its magical power. It had to be prepared in advance, just in case.

There was no way we were walking into this unprepared like last time. I had a plan and a back-up plan, and I'd spent days honing them.

Of course, there were still uncertainties: I worried Bruce might make a stink about my duffle bag, perhaps even insisting on riffling through it, but he said nothing as we climbed into his Jeep. We drove to Lucia's place in companionable silence; now that there were fewer secrets, there was less tension.

"Call me when you want to be picked up," Bruce said as I hopped out in front of Lucia's apartment.

"Will do," I chirped cheerfully.

As Bruce drove off down the street, I made my way up the front steps of Lucia's building. Once his Jeep turned the corner, however, I spun around, bounded back down to the sidewalk and knocked on the door of the psychic shop. The store, it turned out, was "public" enough for our purposes. If the general human populace could enter, so could ghosts. Apparently spirits were more like the vampires of human folklore than the Nosferatu were. Hilarious.

"Hi, Mills!" Lucia said, as she swung open the door and threw her arms around me. "So good to see you." Neither Bruce nor Ephraim were much for physical displays of affection, so I'd grown unaccustomed to such enthusiastic hugs.

"You too," I said, patting her back. "Are you trying to squeeze my guts out?"

"No, sorry. She unwound her vice-like arms from my torso. "It's just..."

"I know." I dropped my duffle bag by the counter and made my way to the centre of the store. Lucia trailed a step or two behind me. "So are you sure about this?" I asked. "There's a lot of stuff in here that could get broken, if this goes sideways."

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