Chapter Twelve

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Jeremiah is waiting for me when I walk out of school at the end of the day, but he takes one look at my expression and frowns.

"What's going on?"

I glare at him, and he takes a step back. Feeling guilty for projecting my bad mood at him, I shrug. "Sorry. Rough week."

A smile stretches across his face. "Want to take a ride with me? It's a pretty day for a drive, and I promise I'll go fast enough that your stress won't be able to keep up."

I hesitate, Becca's nasty words warring with my parent's new dating rule and snarling together in my mind, but then I start to smile. "I don't care where we go, but you better not go the speed limit."

"Perfect. Let's go!"

I toss my bag into his back seat and open the rusty passenger door. The windows open manually, so I crank the handle a few times while Miah starts the engine and pulls out of the school parking lot on two wheels.

For a few minutes, I let go of everything and stick my hand out the window, my fingers dancing over the air currents as we drive down mostly deserted backroads. It feels surreal to be there beside Miah, but at the same time, something about it feels so right, too. I glance at him out of the corner of my eye, thinking about what Becca had said. Is he just using me for spells? What would he say if I told him I couldn't scribe? But all that's changed, I remind myself. I CAN scribe now.

Miah glances over and catches me watching him. He raises an eyebrow. "Want to talk about it?"

I frown, remembering everything that's going wrong, but then I shake my head. "Not really. But thank you."

He nods. "Sophomore year really sucked for me."

I'm surprised; it's not like I stalk him, but I've always paid attention to Miah, and it seems like things come effortlessly to him. "How come?"

His grip tightens on the wheel. "My dad."

I think back, searching my memory. Miah's folks have been separated since we were in elementary school, but I don't really know Mr. Smallwood. He lives out near the coast, and Miah goes out there to spend vacations with him, so I haven't seen them together. Miah's mom works with my dad, though, plus I'm used to seeing her around the neighborhood walking their dog, a huge black mastiff. "What happened?" Suddenly, I wonder if his dad is sick or something, and I feel awful for asking.

Miah glances at me and releases his grip on the steering wheel. "We had a big fight last year is all. He doesn't agree with what I want for my future." He pauses, as if he wants to say more, but then he closes his mouth and silence settles on the car.

Even though I'm usually a pretty quiet person, I'm too nervous around Miah to keep my mouth shut, so I start babbling. "I haven't got a clue what I want to do after high school, and I honestly don't think Mom or Dad will care. They're too fixated on Christina and her Threes."

Miah winces. "Don't remind me. I'm dreading that exam."

For a moment, I'd forgotten that he's the same age as my sister, and I pat his leg sympathetically. "It can't be that bad, right?"

He snorts. "Sure. It only determines everything about my magical future." There's an edge to his voice, and I pull my hand away, suddenly uncertain.

"What do you want to do? I mean, after school and stuff."

He glances at me. "You promise you won't laugh?"

I nod, wondering what could possibly be weird enough that Miah sounds more like a shy little boy than the charismatic, confident caster I'm used to.

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