Chapter Twenty-Five

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Wednesday morning dawned bright and clear, and I smiled as I looked out the window at the street. After the trip to the beach and my spell work the day before, I felt confident that today would bring better things than the rest of the week. I resisted the urge to text Justin, trusting that the magic I had begun would bring him to me. Instead, I took a long shower. I drew hearts in the fog on the bathroom mirror, then laughed at my foolishness and wiped them away with my hand. I had never been so silly, even the year before, when things with Justin had been intense. Brushing my teeth, I wondered if my mushy mood was a by-product of dedicating myself to a goddess of love. Or maybe, I wondered fleetingly, it's the rebound from the love spell.

"Good morning, sunshine!" Dad greeted me with a smile when I strolled into the kitchen. "You look like you're in a fabulous mood!"

"I am." I grabbed a bagel and some peanut butter and sat down at the table with him. The paper was next to him, folded messily, and I glanced at the front page. "Anything interesting in the world?"

Dad sighed. "Interesting, yes. Good? Not really. There was an earthquake in Asia last week, and a lot of people are still without basic needs."

I hummed as I spread the chunky peanut butter on my bagel, not really listening.

"And I'm in the middle of a major project at work, so there's a lot on my mind. Did you have fun with your mother yesterday?"

I nodded. "Yeah, it was just what I needed."

Dad looked thoughtful. "I don't know if it was what your mom needed."

I looked around, realizing for the first time that we were the only ones in the kitchen. "Where is she, anyway?"

"She's got a headache, so she decided to lie down. I think she'll be staying home again today."

My mother had only ever missed three days of work that I could remember: yesterday, the time I broke my arm in third grade, and the previous winter when Dad had walking pneumonia. She never stayed home when she was sick, trusting instead in magic and herbs to heal her quickly. What if the ritual we'd done yesterday had sapped her strength? Fleetingly, I wondered if there might be a way I could use Red magic to recharge her. I'd never done anything like that before, though, and I didn't really want to experiment on Mom. Still, I should try to do something. "Maybe I should stay home with her."

"No." Dad shook his head. "You can't afford to miss any more school."

I shrugged, not making eye contact as I bit into my breakfast. "I guess. Well, I'll at least come right home at the end of the day. I'll tell Rochelle we can hang out later."

Dad beamed at me. "That's my girl. It wouldn't break my heart if you stopped hanging out with Rochelle altogether."

Usually, when my dad said something like that, I got angry. Today, nothing seemed to faze me. I shrugged again. "She's my best friend. I'm not going to ditch her."

Dad folded the paper and tossed back the rest of his coffee. "Just think about it, sweetie. You don't want to spend your time with someone so ... negative, do you?" He didn't wait for my answer as he picked up his briefcase and glanced at the clock. "I'll try to be home around six. Look in on your mother before you leave, okay?"

I nodded as the door swung shut. Finishing the second half of my bagel in one bite, I raced up the stairs two at a time. I tapped gently on Mom's door, and when I didn't hear any response, I opened it slowly. My parents' bedroom was dark and I could barely see Mom's lumpy shape passed out on the bed. Quietly, I shut the door. She probably just needs to sleep, I reasoned as I grabbed my bag and cell phone off my desk. Once I was out the door, my worries about Mom were quickly replaced with heady anticipation. I had a feeling that my spell would yield results today, and I knew just the place to wait for that to happen.

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