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Updated: Aug 16, 2021

Chapter Twenty-Seven

An Exhale of Magic

The fire burns down to embers in the hearth, the hours passing us by. When the grandfather clock chimes two hours past midnight, the twins rise sleepily from the sofa. “Tomorrow and I have to leave early in the morning to catch our train. We’ll miss you!”

Tu makes the rounds, handing out hugs like gifts. I look away when Soren wraps his giant arms around her small frame.

“She’ll miss you,” Tomorrow clarifies. “I’ll think about you all maybe once.”

“Have a safe holiday,” Sabbath says with a heavy-eyed smile. “Tell Zach we wish him a merry Christmas, too.” She looks around hesitantly, like she thinks Zach might be in here with us right now.

“Oh,” Tuesday frowns. “I haven’t seen Zach in a while. Sometimes we get out of sync. It’s difficult to plan every day around a single minute.” A look of concern passes over her face. “But I’ll certainly tell him when I see him.”

One by one, our group meanders out for the night, until it’s just Soren and I left in the dark. He stokes the fire for me and then resumes his place in his preferred armchair. I know I should leave, but I can’t make myself get up.

“So, I guess we’re both stuck here for the holidays,” I say glumly, peering out the window into the dark night. The moon has a bright ring around it, backlighting the snow as it cascades in a merry jaunt through the sky.

Flames dance in his eyes as Soren stares just past my head and into the fire, arms folded over one another. “I like being alone.”

“Oh,” I say. I’m not sure how to respond to this answer which seems in conflict with my presence. “I can go—”


We sit in the silence a moment, fire crackling at my back. “Are you sad to not go home for Christmas?” he finally asks.

“It’s all the same.” I shrug. “Definitely not excited about my dad finding out why, though. He’s going to have a heart attack.”

“Well, we all know that Sabbath could fix that.”

I spare a chuckle for one of his rare jokes. “I don’t think she likes being our secret weapon.”

“She’s special,” he says, quietly.


“No—her gifts are rare. Even among necromancers.”

“Ah, so when you say Sab’s special, you only mean in the way that benefits you.”

A sharp exhale escapes through Soren’s nose, but other than this reaction, he ignores me. “Tuesday knows now, of course.”

“The spell? Well, yeah. Since she’s the only one who can read the book.” I can see he’s been holding onto this for a while, grappling with how to talk about his secret slowly coming out. “Why do you think she’s not saying anything?”

He shrugs. “Maybe she’s biding her time. Waiting to use it for collateral.”

“Are we talking about the same person?” I frown. “It’s Tu. She’d never. The only person who might even think about it is Tomorrow, and frankly, I think she’s secretly so grateful a runer is giving her the time of day that you could murder half the student population tomorrow and she wouldn’t give a damn. Actually, after that she just might worship you.”

“And what do we even know about this Nik kid, anyway?” Soren insists. His calm demeanor is loosening again, the fear shaking out.

“I know Sabbath likes him, and she’s a good judge of character.”

“She’s infatuated.”

My eyes roll. “She needs to work on her subtlety.”

“I don’t think he minds.” The look Soren gives me is piercing, his voice completely restrained. Still, my focus jumps awkwardly down to the pillows underneath me, which I am now determined to adjust. “Sabbath used to be friends with Amandine,” he adds, as if this is further proof against Sabbath’s judgement.

You’re friends with Amandine,” I point out. “‘Friends.’” I do little air quotes to clarify, which is not actually that clarifying since I don’t know what’s going on between them. Soren doesn’t seem keen to share, either. I sigh. “Amandine is working with Enzo. She’s passing out philters like candy, and we both know she has her eye on you.”

“She does,” he agrees.

My cheeks heat angrily. “So why am I so worried you’re about to let yourself be next?”

Soren looks me straight in the eye. “She’s hot.”

I glare at him, slowly watching his brows lift, his eyes lighten, a small curl come to his lips. He’s annoying me on purpose.

You.…” Grumbling, I yank a pillow from under my knee and throw it at him. He dodges, but it collides with his face and bounces lamely to the ground, drawing a surprised laugh from him. Delight bounds through the sound. Soren sounds like a kid, carefree and unbridled. I grin, unable to help myself with those dimples on full display.

When he finally stops, I have to look away. The heat has stayed in my cheeks, but it’s not defiance anymore. In fact, my whole body is feeling a little heated. I scoot away from the fire, but it does little to help.

“Soren,” I begin, forcing authority into my voice. “It’s too late to get cold feet. We are the people here. We’re the people helping you. Stop doubting us.”

“The people we trust are the ones most capable of hurting us.”

My expression wavers. Of course, this is true. I nod reluctantly, Soren’s words conjuring a vision of my dad and that bright light of his that swallowed my mother whole.

I open my mouth slowly, finding myself more than willing to further incriminate myself tonight. “I was trying to contact her,” I confess to Soren, “when I died. The séance went wrong... I mean, obviously.” I pause, watching his body stiffen with this news. “It’s unfair, that if I ever get five minutes with my mom’s ghost, I’ve got to ask why she did it. How she turned into the world’s greatest traitor practically overnight. I’ll never get to see her face and just miss it. I’m mad at her for that.”

Soren’s eyes are troubled, full of regret. “Where were you, when you found out?”

“Home. She came back. I never knew why she came back, why…” The words claw their way up from my heart and crawl out of my mouth, hushed. “I watched her die. Saw the exact moment she destroyed my family. I know it destroyed the world, too, but—”

“At that age, our family is our world,” Soren agrees quietly.

I nod. “Where were you?”

His eyes are lost to the memory, fingers flexing as if he’s back in that moment right now. “I was playing with two toy horses. My father had spelled them to gallop the night before, and I was trying to make the same magic work on my own. I remember the horses shivering to life, limbs stretching. Then, just as they began to run, they toppled over.” A frown flickers over his face. “I don’t remember who told me, or when. In my head, all I can ever see are the two toy horses I couldn’t make gallop.”

It takes a while for Soren to come back to reality, and when he does, I watch him brush a hand mindlessly through his hair.

“I don’t remember the madness.” The admission tumbles from my lips. “Not the way they described it. I remember...” I shake my head, willing some powerful memory to come forward. “Well, honestly, I barely remember her at all. There’s not much left in my life to remember her by, except what’s in the history books.”

“And you don’t read those, surely,” Soren says.

“As little as possible,” I nod. “But I did use to have dreams about her.”

Soren’s eyes fasten on me. “What happened in the dreams?”

“I would wake up thinking she was calling to me from another room. That’s the thing I remember most, I guess. The sound of her voice. She had this little saying she’d always tell me, whenever I was afraid. ‘What flower is afraid to bloom, Mika?’'”

I’m forced to turn back to the fire as my face tightens with emotion. I have to escape the intensity of Soren’s eyes. “There was a second part to it, but I forget the rest of it. Can’t remember where she got it from. It’s strange—I’ve never told anyone about that before, not even Sab.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t want to scare her, you know? Sabbath is so afraid of herself most of the time. Of what she’s capable of.”

“She can raise the dead. It’s ridiculous for her to be afraid of her powers.”

“But is it?” I say, thinking aloud. “I mean, I have the exact same fear.”

The fire crackles in the hearth. When Soren doesn’t immediately reply, I glance back at him.

He’s staring at me strangely. “Why are you so afraid of who you are, Mika?” he asks.

“Coming from the guy who’s desperate to change who he is?” I counter. “We all have things about ourselves that we struggle to understand. Everyone has to decide how to use the gifts they have. How to make sense of the lives they’ve been dealt. All the schooling in the world won’t teach us how to wield ourselves.”

Maybe there’s something in all of us that’s like a rubber band, I want to say. Stretching out, looking to hook onto something. The longer we go without finding it, the thinner we become, until we just… snap.

But then, saying that would feel like sealing my fate.

Soren’s lips curve down thoughtfully and he breathes in. “You told me you aren’t your mother, but everything you’ve said since makes me believe you’re afraid you’ll become her.”

“Of course I’m afraid of that, Soren. Luckily, only average witches do alchemy, even the ones who are good at it.”

Soren closes his eyes painfully, shaking his head. “You excel at potions because it’s more about your mind than your magic. And a mind is a true reflection of the power it contains. Don’t belittle yourself, Mika. I don’t understand why you do that.”

I shrug. “Because I like believing it.”

“You like believing you are less than you are?”

“Don’t you think it’s easier to believe you’re powerless than to decide what to do with all of the power?”

“You won’t be like her,” he promises quietly, like he knows exactly what I’m thinking.

“You can’t know that!” My voice rises, quivering, terrified of its own ability to betray my fears so wholly. “She went mad, Soren. My dad has talked about her one time in almost a decade. Do you know what he told me? He told me how terrified he was that I would inherit that same insanity.”

I never understood why Dad believed that. Except that maybe Mom’s madness had been like cancer in the human world—a vicious anomaly in nature, set on destroying life through bloodlines. For the last eight years, I’ve held the fear in my body, drowning in the gazes of those who know who I am. Interpreting their stares not only as judgment but the promise of my destiny.

“When I found that I was less adept at conjuring magic than everyone else—despite my lineage—I was relieved. I decided I would excel at being average. Being average is being safe.”

Being average extinguishes the potential of history ever repeating itself.

“So, yeah, I’m grateful,” I finish, my tone forced. I’m trying to override the look of dissent ripe on Soren’s face.

“That you’re ordinary?”

I nod.

Soren’s eyes flicker briefly, something shifting between us—an exhale of magic. I ignore it. “If only that were true.” He stands abruptly, a buildup coming unspooled in his body language as his eyes find the fire. “Then again, maybe your fears are already real, Mika. You are mad. Mad enough to believe such things.”

Mad. The word rakes against me. My nostrils flare indignantly. “Yeah? That’s what you think of me? What else do you think I am?”

“Brash. Stubborn.” He turns all his attention to me, his face a mask of frustration. “Infuriating.”

I don’t know why it’s so much easier to hear insults from him than compliments. Maybe because I don’t know what I would do if Soren Cain gave me a compliment while hovering six inches from my face, which is where he is now. He’s come to stand right in front of me, close enough that I can see the tick in his jaw.

“Arrogant. Unusually ready for a fight for someone your size.” His breath stirs my hair. “And not at all average,” he growls.

I hesitate, heart blundering thunderously against my chest. Before I can think of something clever to say, he withdraws.

“Why are you like that?” I accuse.

“Like what?”

“Blank. You’re just—” I search for the words. “You pretend to be apathetic on purpose. I can feel it, every time you hold back. Why do you do it?”

“I’m honest.”

I believe that, to a degree. Soren Cain is as honest as often as he can afford. “Being honest and being vulnerable aren’t the same thing, Soren.” I set my hands on my hips. “I dare you to let down your wall, fully, for even one second.”

Soren stares at me, all hard and icy as usual. It’s an impossible thing I’ve just asked him to do, and now I wish I hadn’t shown interest in his vulnerability.

Then I feel it. It comes slowly to his eyes, but I feel it happen in the space between us too, like a creaky, rusty window being jostled against its frame, sliding open ever so slowly on a cool autumn day.

There, that’s not so bad, is it?

Chills erupt along my skin. I look down to see that where his sleeve is rolled up, his skin is also speckled with the cold, bright, deeply foreign feeling of this, too.

And then that sensation from the ball comes over me again, the feeling of a limb emerging out of me, stretching, sparking with an insistent hunger. I look down at my hands, horrified to find them wreathed in a blue flame. It crawls up my forearm, skirting the surface of my skin, but I can feel it deeper—under—like my veins have become an ocean of waves, racing to swallow one another.

The blue flares out from my fingertips, bubbling up into the air around me until the whole room is bathed in its light. The limb is my magic, and it’s reaching…

For Soren.

I look up at him, petrified. His eyes glisten with the blue light, making him look almost sinister. The flames have swept across his arms, too.

“What in the unholy…” I whisper, terrified.

Like magnets, our arms reach for each other, sparks leaping out to merge our fires. As it eats its way up both our arms, the power transforms into a streak of electricity, arcing above our heads and forming a silky wall of magic between us.

Separated by the shimmering surface, I peer through at Soren, feeling as though I’m staring at my reflection in an essence portal.

I don’t know what’s written across my face, but I expect it’s similar to what I see on his—wild eyes, creased brow, mouth slightly agape. I’m too scared to move, my heart ramming against my ribcage with a painful fury.

Are we doing this? What kind of magic is this?!

“A portal,” Soren whispers in answer to my thought. “We’ve created a... portal.”

“To where?” I ask frantically. “How?!”

I’m about to yank my hand away, but I can’t bring myself to do it. Before I can make up my mind, the blue bursts.

Light floods the room, taking everything with it.

Oooooh boy, we finally get to dive head first into one of the biggest epiphanies of seventh year...! (Also, I just love the bonding that happens in this chapter. The vulnerability. Slowly, but surely, our two love birds are softening. *muahaha*)

Where do you think their portal is taking them?

xx Jessa


Copyright © 2019 Jessa Lucas

All rights reserved. This work or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the author except for the use of brief quotations.

This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

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