Chapter Eighteen

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I woke up with sunlight streaming across the bed, but my mouth tasted like old socks and honey. I stretched groggily, and my hand brushed against the mirror Aphrodite had given me. I picked it up and began to examine it.

It sparkled too much to be copper, and I realized it was actually finely hammered rose gold. The handle was narrow but fit comfortably in my hand, and the round frame was etched with roses and vines. I turned it over and almost dropped it.

Staring up at me out of the glass was my reflection, still wearing the glamour. Even as I looked, the magic began to fade and my features returned to normal. Had the mirror carried some residual energy from the spell, or had I really managed to hold onto the glamour while I slept? I checked the mirror again, but now my hair was its usual frizzy, dull auburn. My eyes still gleamed, however, and it was hard to look away from myself. That was odd. What had Aphrodite said about the spell? It should have only lasted for as long as I was focused on it, but I was pretty sure I hadn't been thinking about the spell while I slept. I'd have to ask her about that the next time I saw her; maybe I'd done something wrong.

Crossing my room, I set the mirror on top of my bookcase, next to the athame Mom had given me. Seeing it sitting there reminded me that I would have to face the music with my parents sooner or later. I was glad Rochelle had lied about where I was last night, but that wouldn't change the fact that I'd run away. True, Dad had sort of suggested it, but I hadn't stuck around to say goodbye to Mom, and I wasn't sure what kind of reception I'd get now. I ran a comb through my hair and changed my shirt, but I decided I would wait to shower until I'd gotten the confrontation out of the way.

I headed down the stairs and paused before stepping onto the main floor. No one came around the corner screaming at me, so I took a deep breath and called, "Mom, Dad? Good morning?"

"Morning, sweetie! We're out back." Their chorused response sounded far too cheery, and I slunk toward their voices with trepidation. When I reached the sliding glass door that led out to the garden, I paused to take in the scene.

My dad was sitting in the old wicker chair, holding a cup of coffee. Mom was beside him, on her knees in the herb garden. She was trimming back the rosemary with a small pair of shears. Her sun hat shaded her face, but she wasn't wearing any gloves; Mom loves to feel the dirt as she works her plant magic. The image was so normal, so perfectly average, that I started to sweat. Who were they trying to fool? I eased the door open and stepped outside.

"There you are, sleepyhead. Did you have a good time with Rochelle?" Mom smiled up at me. Cautiously, I nodded. Dad set his coffee cup down and looked at me with a slight grimace, and I braced myself.

"You know I really don't like you spending so much time with that girl. Has she made her declaration yet?"

Before I could answer, Mom jumped to my defense. "Oh, let it go, Richard. They're best friends, and there's nothing that says Black and Green Witches shouldn't be friends."

It took a minute for her words to sink in, but when they did, I asked, slowly, "Black and Green, Mom?"

She laughed. "Of course. You think we don't know that Rochelle is going to follow the Black path?" She patted my foot with her dirt-covered hand.

"It's been pretty obvious," Dad hissed under his breath.

"But you said Black and Green. What are you talking about?"

Dad looked up at me in concern. "Are you feeling alright?"

Mom rose, dusting off her legs swiftly. "She's probably just tired. You know girls, Richard, they stay up all night talking, then pretend that they were asleep the whole time." Mom kissed my cheek as she turned to go inside. "But I hope you aren't too tired to remember your Dedicancy ceremony. Dad and I are so proud of you!"

As she went into the house, I looked at my dad. "What ceremony?" They couldn't possibly know the details of last night, could they?

He looked up, surprised. "I think you do need to lie down! It's all you've talked about for a month. You declared to the Green path last month, on the night before your birthday. I don't think I want to know what you girls were doing last night if you can't remember something as important as that!"

***

Shaking, I raced up the stairs to my room. I shut the door and looked around. The athame and the mirror sat side by side, right where I had left them. I dug through my backpack, and I breathed a sigh of relief when I found the three pomegranate seeds in the bottom. Clearly, I wasn't the one who was going crazy. With that thought, my relief left me. What in the world had happened? My parents were acting as if the last month had never happened, and what was worse, they seemed to have a whole different set of memories than I had. It was like I'd stumbled into some kind of alternate universe.

I grabbed my phone and texted Justin a quick question. "What path do I follow?"

My phone buzzed almost immediately.

"Justin," I answered quickly, "tell me."

"Calm down, Darlena. What's wrong?"

"Just tell me what kind of magic I practice."

Justin paused. "I don't know if that's something I should say over the phone. What if she's listening?"

"Who, Justin?"

Silence.

"Can I come over?"

"Give me ten minutes, Darlena."

"I'll give you five."

I hung up. I paused for a second, remembering that I still hadn't showered. I didn't want Justin seeing me after the mess in Atlanta. I shuddered when I thought of the truck driver and what had almost happened. Deciding that a few minutes wouldn't make a difference, I sent a quick text and headed for the bathroom.

I turned the water up as hot as I could, letting it scald my skin as I tried to forget everything that had happened last night. Why in the world did my parents think I had declared to their path? It didn't make any sense. Unless, I thought, not noticing the shampoo running into my eyes, someone had made them forget. But who would do that? And, a bigger question: why bother screwing with my parents' memories but leaving mine intact?

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