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Updated: Oct 11, 2021

Chapter Thirty-Five

Normal Hands & Thwarted Plans

“Mika,” Thorncaster drawls just as I leave Architecture of Magic on Wednesday. I turn back hesitantly to see her standing by her desk, looking disapproving as usual. “A word?”

When I go to exchange my customary uh-oh look with Sabbath, she just shrugs at me and wanders off, leaving me to face Thorncaster alone. I swallow back the rising ache in my throat—not out of fear of our professor, but of the distance Sabbath is putting between us.

I trudge back into the classroom against the current of exiting students.

“Would you like to explain why you didn’t turn in your assignment from Monday?”

“I... forgot,” I say lamely.

The truth is that Sabbath had promised to help me with the questions on thaumaturgy and mysticism, but I haven’t seen her alone in two days. Even when I’ve gotten back to our room at night, I’ve found her already asleep, back turned to me.

Thorncaster purses her lips. “You’ve always been a decent student, Mika. I’ve been disappointed by what I’ve seen this year. Practicing unsanctioned magic, sneaking around. Late assignments.”

I nod, my face warming. “Sorry, I’ve been”—what, cavorting with unicorns? Stealing human hearts? Traveling to post-apocalyptic dimensions, accidentally?—“distracted this year,” I finish. “I don’t know why.”

Thorncaster eyes me warily. “Friday, understood?”

It takes me a second to realize she’s talking about the assignment. Once I do, I can’t stop nodding in relief. “Yes! Thank you, Professor. I’ll have it to you then! Friday!”

I hasten out of the room before her probing eyes reward her with all my secrets, and wind my way down to the banquet hall as quickly as I can, hoping I can catch Sab before she bolts. She’s been eating quicker than usual, and I suspect the sole reason is my presence.

“Hey. Sab. Can you please, please help me with the questions from Architecture of Magic?” I plead as I slip next to her at lunch.

She barely glances my way. “It was due Monday.”

“I know. But I needed your help.”

Finally, she slides her gaze over to me. “Sure, I’ll help you after dinner.”

“Thank you.” I make my smile bigger than usual to compensate for the fake one she gives me.

When she looks away, I roll my eyes. Sabbath and I have only been in a real fight once in six years. While it wasn’t over anything nearly as important as someone’s soul, it was still the worst.

Finding us among the crowded seats, the Jones twins pop onto the benches across from us. Tomorrow won’t look me in the eye, either.

“Hey, Mika,” Tuesday smiles.

At least someone isn’t mad at me. “Hey.”

She looks around. “Where’s Nik?”

“He had a meeting with Thorncaster, I think,” Sabbath answers.

The conversation grinds to an awkward halt when no one asks where Soren is. There’s no need, though—he’s busying himself with being a loner again on the far side of the banquet hall, until Amandine prances up, of course. I avert my gaze.

The tension crawls over me, making me far more irritable than I already was. When no one speaks after a few minutes, I smack my hand on the table. Not loudly, just... emphatically. “So are we going to talk about this, or what?”

“Nope.” Tomorrow takes a large bite of food to occupy her mouth.

Sabbath gives a little half-hearted shrug, and Tu’s eyes dance between the three of us, waiting for someone else to breach the silence.

“Great,” I nod, “okay. So we don’t even want to talk about how we saw Paris on fire, how our dimension is on a ‘precipice’... none of that? Maybe the fact that we heard Cain talk about Andromeda in the Catacombs?”

After taking far longer to chew her food than necessary, Tomorrow slams her fork down, startling a fifth-year next to her. The fifth-year scoots farther away without subtly.

“I was all for breaking some rules, getting my hands a little bloody. But inter-dimensional wars? No thank you. And while I’m thrilled to be right—yet again—about the dickwartiness of another man in power, we’re all still stuck with the Claiming in a few months. You know the only one with an out? You, Mika. So why do you want to talk to us about all of our problems when you don’t have any?”

My brow crinkles. “An out?”

“For the Claiming. None of us can get out of it... except for you and Soren. The two liars of our group.”

“I lied, too,” Tuesday points out.

Tomorrow waves her hand at her sister. “You’re my sister. I’m obligated to forgive you. Her? Not so much.” She digs back into her dinner.

“I don’t have an out...” I say, looking between them like one of them might have an answer.

“Yes you do, Mika,” Sabbath sighs. “The Claiming is a type of soul claim. So is the soul-tie... remember? We read it in the Shadekey. And your soul can’t be claimed by more than one thing.”

Tuesday nods her enthusiastic agreement. “You and Soren can get around the Claiming.”

“And the rest of us” Sabbath says, “don’t have any option at all.”

“The rest of us are torched, she means.” Tomorrow huffs.

I shoot a look in Soren’s direction. “Somehow that doesn’t feel like much of a choice.”

Tomorrow shoots me a seething glare. “More of a choice than us!”

* * *

We finish an uncomfortable dinner, and I trail after Sabbath on our way back to the room. She’s walking faster than normal, and I wonder if she’s just trying to hint that she wants to get away from me.

As soon as the door to our room closes, I turn to her.

“Sab, why are you so angry with me?”

“I’m not angry,” she says, matter-of-fact.

My teeth grind together because Sabbath lying outright about her feelings makes me angry. I can deal with her anxiety, her self-doubt, her know-it-all attitude, but I draw the line at passive-aggressive. It’s not who she is, and I won’t let her become it.

“Is this really about the soul-tie? You didn’t seem upset when I told you about it. Why are you mad now?”

“It’s not about the soul-tie. I’m not mad.”

I cock my head, examining her. Her brow is twitching, a tell-tell sign. “Sabbath? I’ve known you since we were ten. I know when something’s wrong, and I would really appreciate it if you wouldn’t make it worse by lying to me. What’s bothering you?”

I’m the liar?” she dares.

“Well, you’re not being very honest right now.”

“And you haven’t been very honest for... wow, I don’t even know how long! When did Soren tell you what he was? What he was doing?”

So this is what it was about... my epic lie of omission. I swallow. “After the unicorn.”

“After the unicorn!” Her eyes find the ceiling. She blinks a few times, and I can’t tell if she’s about to cry out of rage or hurt feelings. “That was almost two months ago!”

I open my mouth to defend myself, but she throws up a hand to silence me. “Forget it.”

“Stop being a coward, Sab.”

She looks like I’ve slapped her, and I freeze after saying these words, almost like I have. “It’s me,” I say slowly. “Your best friend. You don’t get to run away from me. I know where you sleep!”

Normally, this would get me at least a sliver of a smile. Instead, Sabbath exhales sharply, pinching her eyes closed. When she finally opens them, her cheeks are rosy with embarrassment. I know she doesn’t like conflict, but how are we supposed to be friends if we aren’t willing to work through hard things?

It takes her a long time to get the words out of her mouth. When they finally come, they’re quiet, laced with repressed emotion. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Because Soren asked me not to. I made a promise to him.”

I don’t like admitting that I’ve promised Soren Cain anything, or—worse—that I’ve let it get in the way of my friendship with Sabbath.

Sab stares at her hands, still upset with me. I want to shake her and say, They’re just normal hands, Sabbath!

But of course, they’re not. They’re hands that raise the dead.

“Sabbath.” I say her name again, until she looks up at me. Her brown eyes are watery, her nose a blistery red.

She sniffs. “I guess I can’t be angry at you for keeping a promise you made.”

“Then why do you sound so angry?”

“Because you put us in danger. All of us. And—and—” her lip trembles, and I know it’s out of pure frustration that she’s cracking. “I just wish you had trusted me enough to tell me the truth.”

“Oh, Sab,” I say, curling up onto my bed as she sits on the edge of her own. “It wasn’t about that. Of course I trust you!”

She looks up, wiping her eyes. “I know you do. But it feels like you don’t.”

“Maybe I should have told you,” I admit. Soren and I hadn’t made a witch’s bargain. I could have told Sabbath without magical consequences.

“No,” she shakes her head. “I don’t want to make you break your promises to other people.”

“You mean, you don’t want to be me,” I grin, “making your best friend go against her morals?”

Finally, she cracks a smile. I breathe deep.

“My feelings were hurt. And I was angry, about the mouse. But I should have known that if you knew about him, and we were still doing it, it was important.”

“Soren...” I shake my head. “I never thought I’d get answers from him. Never thought I’d see him vulnerable. But he was for a minute. And it was enough, somehow.” I look up at her. “I don’t think that I like him—”

“You do,” she assures me.

“But I believe him. I trust him, I think. Which is really, really weird considering how we met him.”

“He’s changed,” she says thoughtfully. “A little. You, too.”

“I’m sorry, about the mouse.” My voice cracks, thinking about how Sab had looked when that mouse had to die. And poor vegan Nik had helped her. Ugh. “At least that mouse is living the high life now. He’s seen the other side and come out swinging, ready to party.”

“Maybe,” she frowns.

Something occurs to me. “Hey, do you think that’s what Pippa meant, about undermining the magic of the spell? Do you think she knew you were going to bring the mouse back?”

“Probably,” Sabbath considers. “That would make sense, actually. That I would mess it up by being moralistic somehow.”

I chuckle, and she gives a small smile, tucking herself under her covers.

“I’m sorry, though. That I didn’t tell you. And I’m sorry about this soul-tie thing. I know I’m probably being selfish somehow, not wanting to do it.”

“You’re the only one who can escape swearing loyalty to the High Council. And we know they’re up to no good, Mika.” She falls to silence, already knowing everything there is to know about me and my fears.

Good witch.

“So do you think I should do it?” I ask slowly. “Unbind my powers. Seal myself to Soren, like, forever?

“You’re pretty much his only hope now, huh?” Sab pauses, the concern in her voice so much more like her than the anger. “How is he?”

Shaking my head, I admit, “I honestly don’t know. I haven’t seen him.”

“Does he have any other options? If you don’t help him?”

“You’re the expert on miracles.”

After a contemplative beat, Sabbath says quietly, “You should go check on him.”

With her words, I realize I’ve been waiting for permission. I need to see Soren. The responsibility floods over me and, for the first time, guilt is carried in with the tide.

This choice is mine, but it’s no longer just about me.

I give a quick nod, avoiding her eye. “Speaking of miracles, I need to get started on this assignment.”

“I can’t believe you didn’t turn it in!” she laughs.

“Well,” I smirk, “between the two of us, you’re definitely the thaumaturge.”

Oh man, there's nothing I hate worse than someone being upset with me! It's the most cringe-y feeling in the whole world! What's the worst fight you've had with a friend?

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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