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Updated: Oct 25, 2021

Chapter Thirty-Seven

Educational Snooping

“No, Mika.” Tomorrow sticks a hand in my face as I sit down across from her at breakfast on Saturday morning. “Soren doesn’t want our help, and I don’t want to help him.”

“I wasn’t going to say anything about that...”

“Oh, so you weren’t going to bring up the same topic you’ve been bringing up every day, for the millionth time?”

It’s been a week since our soul magic failed, and I wouldn’t go as far as to say I’ve brought it up a million times. Maybe, like, forty-six. “Actually, no. I wasn’t today.”

Tomorrow releases a dramatic sigh of relief.

Clearing my throat, I announce, “But since you brought it up, I do have something to say.” I take a swig of my orange juice, ignoring Tomorrow’s epic eye roll. “Last night I decided I’m going to do it. The soul-tie.”

“Look, it’s your prerogative if you want to be soul-tied to Soren Cain for the rest of eternity,” Tomorrow scowls, “but I am of the opinion that he’s just like his uncle. An entitled, self-serving dickwart.”

“Shhh, Morrow,” Tuesday swats at her twin. “They have a bond. You can’t ask Mika to just ignore that.”

Tomorrow gives me a pointed look. “Sometimes Mika looks like she would prefer to. I still think there’s room to sway her.”

I clear my throat, pinned uncomfortably by her unwavering glare. “Don’t worry, Tomorrow. I didn’t expect your approval. You’ve made it very clear how you feel about Soren.”

“For a good five minutes in the middle, I thought I might feel differently. I don’t.” Tomorrow shrugs. “Thought you might find the update helpful, since you’re about to bind your magic to him for all time.”

An irritable sigh drags through my lips. “You can’t be mad that I have an ‘out’ and then mad if I use it.”

“Why not?”

My eyes grow wide as I cross my arms defensively. “Um, because that’s not fair.”

Tomorrow glowers. “Feelings aren’t fair, Mika. And why would mine care about yours?”

Sab moves her gaze between us. “Everyone makes mistakes, guys. We won’t get anywhere—”

“Ughhh,” Tomorrow gives an eye roll so epic that if I hadn’t known better, I would’ve thought she was a necromancer by the whites of her eyes. “Is this what Catholics do? Forgive people?”

“Yes,” I answer for Sabbath. “Except when it comes to themselves.”

Sliding her eyes away from me and my religious commentary, Sabbath makes a desperate attempt to change the topic. “Tuesday, have you heard from Zach, yet?”

Tu brushes a wisp of emerald hair from her face, sorrow overcoming her countenance. “No. It’s very unusual. I’m trying not to worry, but—I’m worried.”

“Can you do a location spell on a ghost?” I ask.

“Not technically, but I’ve tried. It just keeps pointing me to Stillwood, but I don’t know why he would be there all this time, and—”

“And I won’t let her go tromping by herself through a forest when she can only see him for a minute a day,” Tomorrow says gruffly.

I nod. “That’s best, Tu. You shouldn’t go in there looking for him. I’m sure he’s fine... I mean, what’s going to happen to him?” I stop short of saying anything else, because I don’t want to be insensitive, but... the kid’s already dead.

“What happened to him?” Sabbath asks, shyly. “Zach. When he died.”

My eyes edge to Sabbath in warning, but truthfully, I’m also curious. No one at Spellfall knows much, because Tu’s mysteriously dead boyfriend had gone to a different witching school, and apparently it’s far more interesting to spin sensationalized lies than to just ask for the truth.

There’s an awkward pause, and then Tomorrow bolts up from her seat. “I don’t want to be here anymore.”

“Sorry, sorry,” Sabbath backtracks as we watch Tomorrow stalk off. “It was impolite to ask, Tu.”

“It’s okay,” she says. “I like talking about Zach. I don’t often get to. People don’t like to ask, and Tomorrow... well, you saw.”

“Why is she like that?” Sab asks.

“Me, Morrow, Zach, and Zach’s cousin Barrett all grew up together, before Spellfall. Tomorrow and Zach were quite close, and I think it’s hard for her... that I get to see him and she can’t. And also, what she said before was true. About how awful it was for me when he died.”

“It was back in fourth year, wasn’t it?”

Tu nods. “In the summer between third and fourth year, Zach’s cousin was in a terrible accident. They were best friends and both obsessed with soul magic. Zach couldn’t just let it rest, so he wanted to try astral projection to retrieve Barrett’s soul. Something went wrong—a spirit, posing as Barrett. It took him captive, played tricks on him. Zach made a bad deal that was supposed to bring him back to life, but it only brought him back. He’s still stuck on the other side.”

“And he hasn’t tried to move on?”

Tu hesitates. “Maybe I’ve given him too much hope that we’d find a way to bring him home. Morrow and I had both hoped to get into a Brood with higher conjuring skills. Necromancy. Runes. But that didn’t happen. Luckily, I came up with the spell that helps me and Zach see one another, but it almost makes it worse sometimes. To spend every day waiting only for a single minute... what kind of life is that?”

“A sad one,” Sabbath agrees, “for both of you.”

Tuesday is pensive for a moment, and then she comes back to us. “I was actually going to tell him that it was best we start looking for a way for him to move on. And that’s when you two asked about the soul magic, and Soren made our deal.”

“Do you think Soren can help?”

She shrugs. “I don’t know, Mika. We’ve tried a lot of crazy things this year. I like to hope that anything could be possible.”

I don’t point out that none of those crazy things have gone particularly well.

* * *

All I want to do is rip the shirt off of Soren Cain and stick a knife on him. Unfortunately, he makes me wait.

Over the next two weeks, Soren does his best to dig up anything he can find on performing the rites necessary to seal the soul-tie. Honestly, I think he’s also waiting for me to come to my senses. Fortunately for him, I’m too good at doing the right thing, and this seems to have left me with absolutely no sense at all.

I would never tell Sabbath this, but sometimes I really think bad witch is the way to go.

As expected, the theme of this year continues: dead ends, literal or otherwise. By the time Saturday rolls around, Soren doesn’t have any more leads on the rites than he did before. But tonight, rites or not, we are cutting that rune into him. I need to get this magical power surge over with.

The bells clang nine o’clock with a somber toll, and I huff my way up the last few steps. Dragging my feet to Soren’s door, I’m greeted by his perfect scrawl looping across a piece of paper, informing me that he’ll meet me later.

Yes. Helpful, Soren. Wait until I’ve mounted nine flights of stairs to tell me you’re running an hour behind.

Groaning, I consider my route back to the ground floor and promptly decide that I do not want that much exercise today. Instead, I let myself into Soren’s room. That’s what he gets, teaching Tomorrow a low-level lock picking rune in front of all of us and then not warding his door properly.

My hands have a nervous tick to them as I pace his room, my knees jumpy when I collapse onto his bed. Maybe I should’ve sat on the couch by the empty fireplace, but that would’ve felt too much like waiting, and I’ve done enough of that already. Now that I know about my magic, it’s like I can feel it roiling underneath my skin, itchy and untouchable. I’d rather have some time to master my power before I play matchmaker with it, anyway.

Matchmaker. Ew.

A knife glints from Soren’s desk, and my heart thrashes inside me. Omens. Will Soren do it? Or will I have to set the knife to his skin myself, trace the rune’s lines with the point of a blade, and watch him bleed? My stomach knots up at the thought.

I need a distraction before I bolt. Running my hand over his bedspread, I frown. Soren’s one of those people who makes his bed every morning. What a pointlessly responsible thing to do. I sigh and fall back on the mattress, wondering if he snores. If his mouth falls open when he sleeps, and he drools on his pillow.

I kind of hope so. It’s a very humbling image of Soren that I’ve conjured in my head.

But even the mesmerizing crystals blinking at me from the chandelier above aren’t distracting enough. Shooting up, I stomp over to his desk and have a stare-off with this knife. It mocks me with its gilded handle, the upward flick of its glittering point. Next to it lies a far more intriguing Moleskine notebook.

Curious, I flip it open. It’s absolutely magnificent. The pages are flooded with practice sketches, scribbles, notes that detail the anatomy of different runes in Soren’s flawless penmanship. Flicking through a few, it’s easy to see how runes is its very own pillar of magic. It’s an art form, really, each line signifying some specific stroke of power. Tight lines and hard angles, perfect geometry mastered by muscle memory. It’s all so very... Soren.

I find myself shaking my head. In another life, he totally could have been an artist in some enchantless tattoo shop, wielding ink and needles instead of blood and knives.

On one of the pages, I find an unlabelled rune scratched into the paper over and over. It’s clearly practice, and I pass a fingertip over it, wondering why it looks familiar to someone as untrained in runes as me. Soon, the beautiful renderings all begin to blur together and I find myself in need of something else to keep me busy. Soren’s closet light is on, the double doors slightly ajar. It’s practically calling to me.

Snooping it is. But, like, educational snooping.

Remembering this is where Soren keeps his spirits, the alchemist in me is three steps ahead of herself in delight. A private peek into Soren Cain’s supply of dangerous and rare elixirs? Why, what basic witch could pass up such a treat?

Jostling the top drawer open, I’m rewarded with an array of toxins so wonderful that I release an awed little gasp. Belladonna, widow’s wail, blackfang, tricker’s tongue—

I pause. Blackfang. Of course, Soren of all people would have the means to procure it, but...why? I hardly imagine he’s needed to make any venomous quiches lately.

A revolting, terrifying thought slides over me. Frozen in the patch of light falling from his closet, my mind races too far ahead of logic for me to keep up. Even as I think through it, I can’t seem to put together any explanation other than the one my brain is now fixated on. My gut sinks like a ship drowning in the ocean. I hope with everything in me that I’m wrong.

It takes me a long while to get my feet to move, and when they do, I don’t get very far.

WHAT DID MIKA FIND OUT?! Now taking your theories in the comments below ;)

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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