Chapter Nineteen

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It doesn't take long for me to realize why Christina looked so freaked. Mom switches the radio off and glances at me. "Do you have any new spells for tonight?"

For a minute, I forget I'm wearing Christina's body. "I've been working on some," I say, wondering if she'd even believe me that it seems like I can actually scribe all of a sudden, but then I catch sight of my perfectly manicured hands, hands that are not my own, and I clench my fists, remembering. I'm not Shelby right now; I'm Christina.

Mom nods once. "I wish you'd let me scribe for you, at least until you get through your Threes."

I feel cold and hot at the same time. Her words click in my brain, and I realize where we're going. It's Tuesday, which means Mom and I are headed to one of Christina's practice sessions for her big casting exam. And I've never cast a spell in my life! Beneath my panic, I also feel a sliver of curiosity. I'd assumed Mom was scribing for Christina when it became clear that I wouldn't be able to, but that's not what it sounds like. Why didn't she tell me about this? True, we'd only had the morning to try to fill each other in on our swapped identities, but I can't help feeling totally blindsided by just about everything that's happened to me today. If Mom isn't her scribe, who is?

Trying to look nonchalant, I shrug. "If you've got a spell in mind, I guess I could use it tonight."

Mom's face brightens. "I know just the thing. It's short, but impressive. You should be able to memorize it before we get there." She reaches for her purse with one hand. "I think my notepad should be open to it."

I hesitate, but then I dig through the purse. My fingers close on Mom's palm sized notepad, where she keeps the grocery lists and a few random spells. When I was younger, Mom had made a big deal out of buying me my own mini notebook, since she said a scribe should always have a way to write her spells, no matter where she was. I never used it, though; at first, I wanted to wait and save it for a spell that would impress everybody, and then later, when I realized my spells were a mess, I didn't see the point. For a moment, I almost open my mouth and tell Mom everything, but then I click my teeth shut. Christina and I will figure it out. For now, I just have to play my part.

Flipping through the notebook, my eyes land on a page that says "spell for stunned silence." I glance at Mom. "Is it the silence spell?"

She nods. "I thought something like that would be a good way to show your strength in a subtle way; if you can make everyone in the room fall silent, whether they want to or not, you'll stand out more than if you use another flashy explosion."

Her tone is gently critical, and even though I have no idea what she's talking about, I bristle. "There's nothing wrong with being flashy," I say, not sure if I'm defending me or Christina.

Mom sighs. "I know, but there's also nothing wrong with subtle power. Sometimes, silence is a better defense than fireworks."

Fireworks? Oh, God, what kind of stuff has Christina been doing? I remember what Jeremiah said about throwing stars, and I swallow, trying to clamp down on my nerves. "I'll give it a try tonight, if it seems like it'll fit."

Mom nods, but her shoulders relax. "Thank you." She pauses. "I'm glad you're willing to take my advice."

I want to tell her that I've always listened to her, but that's me, Shelby. I guess I'm not the only one Christina has tried to ignore. I chew on the inside of my lip, wondering if I can ask a question without making Mom suspicious. "Do you think I'll have to cast tonight? I mean, could I just, you know, watch?"

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