Priya

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Tonya lined up outside the Loon Lake University registrar's office. Courses had already started, and she had been trying for weeks to get out of a third-year physics class and into the first-year English class she was supposed to be taking. How did these screw-ups happen? Torn between defying her parents and attending University of Toronto, or relenting and going to Loon Lake, she had waited until the last moment and chosen her courses in a rush. She was so flustered she had clicked the wrong selection and now the course she wanted was full.

It wasn't a long lineup, but it was moving so slowly she would need a haircut soon. Breakfast was hours ago. Tonya's stomach grumbled for lunch. She shouldn't even be here except the computer system had mysteriously rejected her password and wouldn't allow a reset.

She had tried phoning and email but couldn't get a reply from anybody. When things got this messed up, Aunt Helen always said, "face-to-face is best."

Aunt Helen's preference for face-to-face wasn't completely innocent. As a child, Tonya's parents had kept her aunt's powers secret. It wasn't until the summer Tonya went to work in her aunt's Herbal Healing Shop that the clients told her everything. One lady credited Aunt Helen with changing her life in grade six. A mean girl bullied her every day so one night, Aunt Helen had charmed the neighborhood dogs to howl under the bully's window and keep her awake all night. The next morning at school, when she threatened to keep doing it, the bully promised to reform.

Too bad Tonya's family were Purists, the strictest of Loon Lake's magic factions. Like the Trads, they kept magic from outsiders, but they also forbade its study. It was a rule her aunt chose to ignore.

Aunt Helen could have charmed Tonya up to the front of the line. Tonya sighed. After their aborted dinner, her aunt hadn't answered texts or calls. Mom admitted she was seeing specialists but would say no more. Ever since Aunt Helen insisted on kissing her and giving her that pendant, Tonya suspected the worst.

Ahead of Tonya, a girl with shiny black hair streaked with purple raised her hands over her head and posed, as if she just finished a gymnastics routine. Next, she put her hands on her hips and thrust back her shoulders like a comic book hero. When the girl started conducting an invisible orchestra, Tonya couldn't help but ask, "What are you doing?"

The girl turned, revealing a pretty, brown, heart-shaped face, nestled in a mane of black and purple curls. "I'm claiming my power. You must see this Ted Talk." She held her phone out to Tonya. "Women lose marks in school and fail in business because they get meek around assertive men."

"Hmm," Tonya wasn't that interested in the video, but she was fascinated by a girl who wasn't embarrassed to do crazy things in public.

"I'm Tonya."

"Priya." She reached out and shook Tonya's hand like they were grown-ups which, Tonya supposed, they were.

"What are you in for?"

"Huh?"

Priya grinned. "What are you studying?"

"English and History."

"Whose history?"

"Local history." There was a three hundred-year-old schism between the founding families of Loon Lake. History class would be an excuse to visit City Hall's archives and read about the feuding, in the words of the individuals who started it.

"That sounds absolutely fascinating." Priya chuckled.

Tonya didn't blame her. To an outsider, the history of Loon Lake must sound yawn-worthy.

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