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Something Wicked - Another Brick in the Wall


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Something Wicked: Another Brick in the Wall

 

I

 

Summer was over just like that. The Kids had spent a good portion of their time together as they always had but, this year it had been tinged with magic. 

 

Their together time had been spent mostly either at the lake house or the secret forgotten house in the woods near the cave.

That house had become their clubhouse so to speak the place they went to practice, where Evelyn showed them secrets, where the magic lived.

 

They never went to the cave.

 

At the lake house it was just fun time. Kids being kids. But somethings started to take on new shapes. They were getting older and there was a new order to their relationships. Things that could only grow more complicated as the new school year dawned.

 

They had not seen Ms. Solart again during the summer. All of them had had a bit of fear when it came time to register for school that they would be in her home room which would be terrible, but fortune smiled on them, this year, all of them were assigned home room with Mrs. Blum, one of the most well-liked English teachers in the school. However not all was roses it seemed that all of The Kids would have at least one class with the new teacher and not all of them together.

 

And now it was the first day of school and the Kids were in their seats waiting for Mrs. Bloom to arrive. At precisely 7:50 Am the homeroom bell rang and Mrs. Bloom came into the classroom smiling pleasantly at all of the young students.

 

“Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, I am Mrs. Bloom and welcome to your homeroom for this school year, I hope that we can have a good a productive time even if its in a short homeroom class. Now,” she gave Quinn and company a direct look, “ I see that all of you have chosen your own seats instead of waiting to be assigned and I’m not going to change that but I know how you kids are, after all I was one myself a long long time ago.” She smiles even more pleasantly. “As long as you keep your talking at a reasonable level and don’t disrupt everything will be fine.

 

Now I know almost all of you, but I do see a few new faces that I am not acquainted with and I am sure some of your classmates are curious as well. Let’s start with you, young man.” She indicates Dylan with a wave.

 

Dylan caught off guard looks at Evelyn and then Silas. Evelyn mouths ‘stand up’ and he does, “Umm,” he looks around at the other kids in the room then at the teacher, “umm, my name is Dylan… Coventry, I’m Evelyn Clairburn’s cousin and I live with her and my uncle out at Clairburn house, I moved here this summer from Richmond Hill , outside of Savannah.” As he finished, he shrugged and sat back down.

“Well welcome to Blairsville Dylan.” Mrs. Bloom set her gaze upon Evelyn, “And you must be Evelyn Clairburn. My condolences for your loss and I hope we can make you welcome and comfortable here in our little corner of Georgia.” Bloom’s smile turned sympathetic as the other young boys and girls who didn’t know Evelyn’s story, craned their necks to get a better look at the new girl.

 

After Darryl introduced himself and he was subjected to the rest of the classes scrutiny Mrs. Bloom once again took center stage.

“As most of you know Homeroom is from 7:50 to 8:30 Monday thru Friday. While most of the teachers let it be a free period, I am a little different, no you won’t have assignments But I hate not having anything to do so I, being an English literature teacher, will be do a little teaching while we spend our time together. But we will not be doing that today. I know some of you have a lot of catching up with one another so I will leave you to it until the bell. Just don’t get too noisy.”

 

Mrs. Bloom Actress-Helen-Mirren.jpg.a2b529c00ca7f6eb3e7981ab08a02b2d.jpg

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Silas gave Dylan a smile from his seat and mouthed 'good job'. When Mrs. Bloom declared that their homeroom would still be a class, he did his best not to groan. Everyone else got a free homework cram session, why was theirs going to be taken up with extra English lit? That was nearly as bad as everyone having to make it through Ms. Solart's classes each week. He shivered at that and tried not to think too hard on when his turn in that particular crucible would be up. At least it was at school - with witnesses
 

"Well," he said quietly to the Circle, "at least we're all together each morning. That's nice."

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Quinn winced at the mention of this turning into an extra English class. She didn't remove her chin from her hand, though, as she stared at Ms. Bloom all through her greeting. It wasn't that she was being anti-social; when your day started at five am because of school, you tended to loose all enthuasism for learning pretty quickly. Her teachers were all used to his attitude, and though it was a frequent topic of conversation at parent-teacher conferences, Quinn maintained her baseline of "here to get my assignments so I can blow through them."

 

At Silas's words, Quinn turned to nod to him, only to catch sight of Jo on the other side. As happened whenever she saw her big friend or Darryl, Quinn blushed and stammered, "Um, yeah, that is nice. We'll all drown in extra homework together."

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Hank to some surprise from the others, was actually sitting by Evelyn.  They weren't a couple, not like Darryl and Jo, but the two had grown closer.  He shrugged.   "So long as it isn't poetry we have to get up and read.   We are gonna get enough of that in regular English."

He looked at Quinn.   "We all got Mrs. Bloom for homeroom.  That's a pretty big win in my book too.  Even the school knows it's best to keep us mostly together."   He smiled brightly, and shared a look with Evelyn, then Dylan and Darryl. "They even put our newest friends with us.   Did anyone do anything to make that happen?"  it was fairly rare for Hank to tease like that.  "Just so I can say thanks." he added happily.

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Home room zoomed by then it was time for school to really start. The first couple of classes the Kids had spread them out and they met up with friends they hadn't talked to since the end of school the year before but then it was time for third period.

 

Fate had been busy, third period found Quinn, Jo, Darryl, and Roach in 10th grade American Government, their teacher was  new to Blairsville, a Ms. Dorothy Solart.

 

After the bell rang Ms. Solart stood up in front of her desk and addressed the class. "Good morning class, as you can see i am new to this fine institution and so we will all be getting to know one another this year.

 

American Gov is a unique subject and for a lot of you its is going to be a boring subject. Hopefully I can make it exciting for you. One of the ways I will do that is by not sticking to the textbook. Books are often compromises about the subject they teach sticking to closely to them often means missing the point." She had started a slow pacing in front of her desk and while addressing the class as a whole she seemed to look at one of the Kids whenever she made a point. ' I'm a history major with first rate love of American history so I am going to weave as much history into our lessons to make sense of the class subject matter."

 

She stops in front of Quinn, "So Miss Hollins, would you and Darryl here be so kind as to pass out the text books over there to everyone?" She smiled and it looked just like a sharks smile.

 

The rest of that first class with their new teacher passed quickly and the Kids didn't have a chance to do much talking and they weren't sure if talking in that class would be safe. Then the bell rang and it was time for lunch.

 

The Kids of the Circle of course gravitated to one table and and began to eat and share their days activities so far.

 

 

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Mortification bloomed over Quinn's face; she glanced at Darryl and once again saw The Scene. Dropping her eyes, Quinn made her way to the front of the class and started to pass out the books. Ms. Solart watched her closely, smiling as if she knew why Quinn was blushing. It didn't help that sometimes, when she was huddled under her covers trying to sleep, Quinn imagined a boy doing those things to her. Ms. Solart seemed to know that, too, and Quinn was apple-red by the time she sat down in her seat.

 

"Soooooo," Quinn started the group's conversation with a simple question. "Which teacher will be revealed to be an evil hellspawn bent on destroying the world with Black Magic by the end of this semester? I'm starting a betting pool."

 

"What are we betting on?" Keith asked as he sat down next to Quinn. The Kids stared at him for a moment. He paused in poking the vaguely meat-suggested object and asked, "What?"

 

"I thought you were going to sit with your friends," Quinn said, her voice a little pointed.

 

He grinned at her. "Table's full." As Quinn twitched, he said, "Whatever we're betting on, I'm in."

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Silas glanced around at the rest of the Kids, not entirely sure what to do with Keith pushing in on their social bubble. With him around they couldn't talk even semi-openly. "I think Quinn's just already found her least favorite teacher of the new year," he said blandly. He glanced between Quinn and Keith as if Quinn could somehow fold up the older boy and pocket him safely out of the way. 

He made quick work of his lunch, tucking it away like only a teenage boy could. "I still think it's unfair that Mrs. Bloom is going to make us do extra English Lit. in homeroom. At least she said no extra homework from it. Half the class looked like they were still asleep this morning." He joined Quinn for morning chores most of the time, so even earlier mornings weren't anything new to him, but it just seemed cruel to add extra teaching on to what was usually just a social and catch-up-on-homework hour for the rest of the school. 

His eyes flicked between Quinn, Jo, Darryl, and Roach. "How bad was the new teacher?" he asked. It was the best he could come up with that would still look normal to Keith but would let them talk about Solart some. 

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Hank waited for the answer, but when none came immediately, he turned back to Evelyn.   Perhaps it was strange, but after she helped him he wanted to help her in some way.   With things as they were, new relationships forming and all, the group still hung out, but they weren't together quite like they were growing up.   There was still alot about the area Evelyn didn't know, and Hank decided that'd be how he'd thank her.  He'd first offered to give her a tour as it were of the city and the area around it.  Not all at once, mind, they did this on his days off, and were soon making a picnic of it.  Hank took her on a hike through the woods,  and fishing down at the lake.   He showed her all the great things in town, at least in his mind, things as a local, he was proud of.   He introduced her to the owners of some of the family owned stores, they'd been there for generations.
 

It was a series of history lessons, and to many watching,  a young man's awkward attempts at dating.   It hadn't all been about him, he'd asked her about herself, what she liked, if therewas something she wanted to do, or go, or see, and did the best he could to make that happen.   It involved a fair amount of bike riding, often with her riding on the back of his.  Still, Hank wasn't the sort to move quickly, but it was obvious he was fond of her, and the way she smiled at him, clearly she had grown fond of him.
 

Hank smiled at her, "You have any plans this weekend?"   
 

"Not really, no."
 

"Well if you want, We're having a barbecue, and you're welcome to come over."   
 

"Having me meet your parents already, Hank?" Evelyn teased him, and the silence almost seemed sorta deafening.  
 

"Well if you want to look at it that way, yeah, sure.   Though you'll have to put up with my younger sisters too."    It was certainly the "Hank" response.  
 

"That sounds like fun, and I'm sure the food will be great.  Of course I'll come."  Evelyn replied with a genuine grin.       

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On 3/2/2021 at 1:26 PM, Silas Walsh said:

"How bad was the new teacher?"

 

"She's an immortal witch," replied Roach, with a malicious grin as she also glanced quickly at Keith, then back to Silas. "Like, literally from the 1600s. Cackling, pointy-hatted, broomstick riding witch. And she's come here to wreak eternal, undying vengeance on us all, probably because our ancestors wronged her or something."

 

Roach sat back then comfortably and put her feet out so she could stretch. "Don't worry though. Keith took her ring of power and since he's too naive to be corruptible, he'll take it back to her Crack of Doom and throw it in."

 

"Right Keith?"

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There was an extra bounce in Jo's steps, and a brighter gleam in her blue eyes as she moved through school in the morning on the first day back. After a summer of hard training and preparation for the Crossfit Games, and in the company of a new boy two inches shorter than her last boyfriend - unabashedly holding his hand - the huge blond teen girl looked even bigger and more imposing than at the end of the last school year. Jo had dominated the 16-17 year old division, earning the title of Fittest Teen on Earth, and she looked it to the very inch in her tight shirt and shorts.

 

Jo felt great! She had destroyed the competition at the Crossfit Games her first year, and it might have been quick, but having Darryl as a boyfriend was a million times better than Dex. She couldn't believe the difference - now that she could see it - between someone who admired and was attracted to her size and strength and athleticism and someone who wanted to... to claim her because of those qualities as some sort of trophy.

 

She caught the whispers of her chowing down on steroids and HGH like candy, but those rumours always followed her, and she was tested all the time, and knew it wasn't true. Then there were the whispers about her having a new boyfriend after Dex and how many other guys she might have been with during the summer and at the Crossfit games. She didn't care about that either, she knew the truth, and Darryl did too, and that's all that mattered... even if a small part of her worried the rumours might bother Darryl. No, she wouldn't let them drag down her good mood.
 

Even the witch Ms. Solart didn't seem that bad. And really, what could she do to them in school? Give them a bad grade? Having Mrs. Bloom for Homeroom bother Jo more - she'd probably have them read and stuff. Jo had normally used Homeroom to get help with homework she was having trouble with. She frowned, recalling Hannah had moved away.

At lunch, Jo gave Roach a frown when the spritely girl just told her brother all about Ms. Solart - sort of - then her frown turned deeper and fiercer when Keith tried to filch a piece of chicken from his oversized little sister's equally oversized meal, his hand flinching back from a threatening folk, even as he flashed her an insouciant grin. In a house with four boys and a huge, aggressively athletic girl, leftovers never lasted and there had been brawls, and blood drawn over who got the last of something, or someone trying to steal something off a plate.

Jo didn't know why Quinn kept looking at her funny and blushing whenever she saw her and Darryl together - it wasn't like Jo had caught her naked and doing things with a boy. Much as she tried to brush it off, Jo could feel her cheeks redden some. It wasn't like they had done it on purpose. With her mom working from home, and with three brothers still living there, it wasn't like she and Darryl could fool around at her place. Sneaking off to the cabin or getting there early seemed like a good idea... until Quinn had shown up early too. Still, long as she didn't tell anyone....

 

"Get yer own," Jo growled at her brother. She'd been before the sun for her morning workout and run, and this was only one of the meals she'd have throughout the day. Mom made her make her own meals, and while it was nothing fancy, she needed the fuel. "Shoulda made something at home like Ah did. Better yet, go 'way."

Keith eyed the fruit and veggie smoothie/protein shake dubiously. It was a nauseous shade of green, and he had smelled the concoction before. He didn't know how his sister could bring herself to drink it, and even seem to enjoy it. "Don't know nothing 'bout the Ring of Power, but that's a witch's brew if I ever smelled one. But don't worry Roach, if the ring will let her turn you into your namesake, I'll make sure she gets it back."

 

Jo rolled her eyes as she ate her nut-encrusted chicken with mechanical motions, dismissing the most irritating of her brothers. She leaned forward to glance at Silas, offering a shrug. "Ms. Solart can look at yah like she knows somethin' yah don't want her knowin'. Dunno if it's anythin' more 'n that though."

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The lunchroom was very noisy a thing Evelyn was not used to. At her old school everything had been orderly, dignified. This school as mostly seething chaos.

 

Keith, Jo’s brother, had sat at the table with the rest of them and there was an immediate aura of stress which became almost palpable around the table. It was obvious that he had a thing for Quinn and just as obvious that Quinn hadn't shut him down. Was there something there? Evelyn looked across at Hank, she smile he was so sweet and kind of bashful, she looked at Dylan and Silas then at Keith and Quinn.

 

“Hank, why don’t we go to the movies Friday night?”

 

Everyone’s head popped up and stared at her then at Hank who almost choked on his drink.  She glanced down at Silas, “You and Dylan can come too and we can make it a double date.”

 

Keith glanced at Quinn and said a little silent prayer, “Hey Quinn, we could join em and make it a triple?”

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Hank looked at Evelyn, and nodded.  "Sure.   That sounds like fun."   He looked at the two other "Couples" and nodded  "I'd be game for that."   Roach was the only one at the table it seemed who wasn't seeing anyone, but then as far as Hank knew, she'd never really seemed interested in dating.   He was thinking ahead, he could probably get the van to bring everyone, but if not, someone's parent would have to drive, which would certainly put a damper on things.

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Roach was quiet for just a second or two too long, then laughed and leaned back in her seat affecting a nonchalant look.

 

"Sorry Keith, maybe you didn't get the memo. You're two legs and a mane short of what you need for Quinn want to take a ride on you. As for the rest of you..."

 

She took a drink of water and shook her head. "I get it. You're desperate to get away from me. It's cool, all you have to do is ask. Have fun on your 'date.'" She made air quotes around the word. "I'm sure it'll be adorable. But...hey, Quinn?" Roach turned to look at Quinn, putting herself in a position so that doing so meant turning away from the others.

 

"I was thinking maybe you'd want to do something useful, like...I could show you how I did that trick with my computer? I bet we could have you doing stuff like that yourself in no time."

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Quinn froze at Keith’s proposal, looking a little like a horse about to spook. Roach’s acerbic offer didn’t help, leaving the young woman appearing on the verge of flight from the table. “I, um,” she looked at Silas for help, to find him giving her pleading puppy dog eyes. She looked to Roach, who gave her a conspiratorial nod and mouthed, [i]I’ll hook you up[/i].

 

“Quinn.” Keith’s quiet call turned her attention back to him, and he took advantage of the moment. Slipping both his hands onto her cheeks, he leaned in and gave her a soft kiss. Quinn froze in shock -- they were in the middle of the cafeteria! When he pulled back, smiling sweetly at her. That smile was a promise: if she liked that, then there was more available.

 

Silas stared wide-eyed at the pair. Keith had either just made his point - if Quinn and him were at that stage of their relationship - or was about to get soundly trounced by an irate maybe-girlfriend? Silas was now tensed for the possible explosion, ready to intercede to keep it from getting to the point of the principal’s office and Saturday morning detentions. 

 

Quinn’s mind turned to mush and her knees dissolved into jelly. But there was a fire in her belly that left ache in its wake, a deep drowning need for more. She’d held hands with Keith some, walking together during their rides. He hadn’t kissed her until now, and she really liked it. 

 

The problem was, he’d used it as persuasion instead of affection, and Quinn’s mom had told her horror stories about men who used sex as a weapon. In some ways, she wished she were a horse -- sex and mating and all of that stuff that her mother had gone into horrifying, embarrassing detail about were so much simpler. 

 

“I can’t go Friday night,” she said, shifting slightly away from Keith on the bench, despite her body’s desire to find out if every kiss were like that. “I have plans with Roach. But,” she said as Silas’s expression fell, “I can go Saturday.”

 

“I could do Saturday,” Keith said quickly, reaching for Quinn’s hand under the table. 

 

She firmly put it back on his leg, even as she said, “I’d like to go with all of you on Saturday, if you can.”

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Silas watched the exchange with Keith, wincing when he went in for the 'don't you want kisses' argument. He let out a little sigh of relief when Quinn didn't just smack him for that. It was surprising that she hadn't, but then her agreeing to date Keith had been a shock. 

"I have some work I need to do for Mr. Clairburn during the day, but I should be free Saturday evening," Silas said. He gave Quinn a quick smile and squeezed Dylan's hand, looking to the other boy. "I'm sure we can work it out so both of us can come. What about everyone else?"

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Hank nodded. "Saturday's good.   They just said this weekend, I can call and I'm sure we can do the barbecue on Sunday."   He looked to Evelyn who nodded. This would accommodate everyone.   He'd call his Mom and make sure.  Since it was early in the week and he knew she had the weekend off, that wouldn't be a big deal.   

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Finishing up her lunch and packing away the Tupperware, Jo shifted awkwardly, her nose scrunching up. There were all the other girls in Blairsville, why did her brother have to set his sights on one of her friends? She and Darryl had gone on several dates, when they weren't sneaking around for other stuff or just hanging out, it would be fun to go on a date with her friends who were beginning to hook up too. And hopefully, it would help Darryl feel more part of the group.

 

But Keith was going to make it weird, the massive girl just knew it. Plus, they'd have to watch what they were saying. Sure, it was supposed to be just a date night, but they wouldn't be able to mention any witchy stuff. And Roach was being weird too. Like, was she trying to date Quinn too? Keith? Both of them? For all Jo knew, Craig was going to show up and ask Roach out too. The towering blonde didn't understand.

 

Still, a night out sounded fun. She'd quit her job at the garden center when school started up. Dropping all the team sports this year to focus on Crossfit and Heptathlon events, so she could make time for her friends and witch stuff and Darryl, Jo was busier than most of her friends, but Sunday was her cheat day, also.

 

"Ah can do Saturday too," Jo said, giving Keith a warning look he didn't see, so focused on Quinn. She nudged Darryl with a shoulder, smiling down at him with encouraging appeal as under the table, she gave his thigh a squeeze. "If yah can, Darryl?"

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Evelyn had been listening to the other Kids and picking at her lunch, this was her first experience with public school food and public school life, she much more enjoyed one over the other at the moment. She pushed her tray away and decided that she would be brining her lunch from now on. 

 

"Honesty is always the preferred method of communication. For instance, this food is terrible." She looks at those at her table eating it, "if i were to lie and say that it was good or even okay, I would be giving a false impression. And that could lead others who didn't like it as well, to not speak up themselves, thus perpetuating everyone's misery.

 

It is always best to be honest, to not keep secrets from those we care about, our friends, our loved ones. We sometime feel that with holding things will keep them safe, this is never true. Secrets lead to distrust and one lie leads to another, until you have built a web of lies that you cannot extract yourself from." She reaches out and rests her hand on Hank's.

 

"I'm not going to be eating this cafeteria food, I am going to be using real food, including fresh produce from Dylan and Silas's garden to make lunches. That's all I'm saying. So if anyone wants me to make them lunches from now on, let me know."

 

Evelyn smiles at her Circle.

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"Gee, thanks mom," Roach said with a roll of her eyes. She was smiling though; it was less sharp than it might have been.

 

"Will you cut the crusts off my PBJs and everything? Oh and make sure you get the kind of yogurt that has the fruit at the bottom. And no graham crackers...last year Stacy crumbled them up and put them in my hair."

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"Should she make sure you have training wheels on your car, too?" Silas quipped with a goofy grin for the less-acerbic Roach. 

He glanced over at Evelyn, having caught the point of her words but still a little uncomfortable with the idea of bringing someone into the fold, so to speak, that wasn't already involved one way or another. He gave Quinn an inquisitive look about the whole thing - after all, Keith was her boyfriend. She should get first say in if they trusted him with this or not. Jo was probably not going to want to, but tiptoeing around him all the time was going to get old and complicated. Evelyn was right about how lies piled on as you tried to keep them going. 

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On 3/25/2021 at 11:44 AM, Evelyn Wise said:

"I'm not going to be eating this cafeteria food, I am going to be using real food, including fresh produce from Dylan and Silas's garden to make lunches. That's all I'm saying. So if anyone wants me to make them lunches from now on, let me know."

 

"Ah don't blame yah, Ah hardly eat anythin' from the cafeteria too," Jo said, giving Evelyn a grin. If there was anything more to Evelyn's offer, the giant girl didn't seem to notice.

It wasn't so much that the cafeteria food was bad and tasted bad, though it was, most times. But she was big and very active and needed a lot of calories each day - it was cheaper to make stuff at home and bring it to school. And as a dedicated athlete ever since she was little, she was used to a more structured diet, though of course, she allowed herself liberal cheat days, long as she made up for it.

"It wouldn't be fair like, if yah made me a lunch, 'specially since Ah bring my own. But if yah make me a snack, Eve, Ah wouldn't say no."

 

The hulking blonde poked Roach in the ribs with a pair of stiffened fingers, lips twitching in playful smirk. "Yah shouldn't say no, neither, Roach. You're too skinny, need some meat on them bones. Maybe get out of yer garage and come to the gym sometime or on a run with me."

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Hank chuckled at the comment about the food.  He brought his own lunch every day, as it was.   Still Evelyn's offer was unexpected.  "I wouldn't turn down anything you make either." He smiled.  "The Cafeteria food isn't great, but it does at least beat MRE's.  That's what they gave us on the scout trip one year, I will never forget how bad they were."

He wasn't exactly keen on bringing Keith into the circle, but he wasn't going to voice that dissent without first hearing Quinn's take on it.   

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Later that week, on Friday evening...

 

Quinn stepped up on Roach's step and knocked on her door. It'd been a short time since they'd all piled in here after the Fourth, but it'd been years since she'd been here alone. That felt weird -- being at Roach's without backup. The thought that she might need backup was even weirder.

 

There was a pause, and just when Quinn was starting to think she should knock again, one of the slats on the blinds of the kitchen window that looked out onto the porch was pried up by a finger. Then there were thudding footfalls to the front door and it opened. Rochelle stood there, looking like she'd spent more than the usual 5 minutes combing her hair, picking out a shirt and pants that sort of went together, and so on.

 

"Hey, Quinn," she said, then stepped aside. "C'mon in. Keep it down, dad's asleep."

 

"Hey," Quinn said softly with a smile, fidgeting with one of her long braids. "Yeah, I'll be quiet. So, are we heading to your bedroom?"

 

"Well, that is where the magic happens," Roach replied with a grin and a finger-gun. "Why, did you want a tour?"

 

"Only if you want," Quinn replied with a shrug. She probably shouldn't but she couldn't help grinning at Roach's antics. "Honestly, I'm good to go to your bedroom and start the magic."

 

"Right, well, okay then," said Roach. For a second she seemed almost a little lost, then gestured for Quinn to follow. "This way." The living room was poorly lit, with boxes stacked off to one side of and slightly behind an old sofa that faced an actual ray-tube style television set. There was a desk further in by the dining room, covered in bits of paper and pens and various other 'desk stuff' without apparent rhyme or reason. There were still plates on the dining room table too, glimpsed as Roach ushered Quinn through her house with all the pleasant-but-firm urgency of a North Korean tour guide not wanting to give visitors a good glimpse of a slum district.

 

Roach's room was messy, but in an orderly sort of way. What looked at first like computers and screens bunched up randomly resolved itself as sort of 'clusters' of related equipment. The PC over there; a Mac over there, and a couple of game consoles over there with their own screen. There was a beanbag and a little two-seater couchlet type thing, and a small table between them that had a fork on it for some reason.

 

Cables snaked across the floor, all gathered into bundles and taped down. And what looked like two, maybe three, desks had been shoved together to make a kind of horseshoe shape to hold all this stuff up. The blinds on her window were closed, but there were lamps all over to make it light enough, and a cool breeze flitered between the slats, so it wasn't too stuffy.

 

"Okay. I guess...before we get started...any questions you wanna ask up front?" Roach asked.

 

"Yeah. What was it like for you?" Quinn's eager gaze bored into Roach as she interrogated her. "It was just energy, wasn't. How was it different on a computer?"

 

"I've only ever done it on a computer so far, so...I can't really compare, but it was kind of like..." Roach drifted off for a second, eyes at middle distance, trying to think of how to put it. "I dunno. Have you ever just gotten into a real groove doing something? Where you're just doing it and not thinking about what you're doing, or how you're doing it...you're just totally in the moment, totally focused on getting this thing done. All the mental bullshit that gets between you and what you want just melts away; and you just do it." She shrugged. "That's what it was like. It didn't even feel like 'magic' really. No special effects or weird noises or anything. Just this long rush. It felt like there wasn't anything I couldn't do."

 

"Oh, yeah!" Quinn perked up at Roach's description, her smile widening. "So like in the middle of a long ride, when you've got miles behind you and miles ahead, and you can just hit this point where you don't think, you just are riding with the horse perfectly. But for me, it was all pushing and effort until the rush." Quinn frowned thoughtfully. "And there wasn't a tool I was using like a computer. It was just me touching Bey-bey's leg."

 

"Yeah, well, it didn't start out that way for me," Roach says, a little defensively. "I'd already spent hours looking around online the normal way for info. Then I just thought...she's a witch, so maybe that's what we need here."

 

"That makes sense." Quinn tilted her head. "So do you think you could do magic without the computer now? Have you tried since? Or should you show me your way and I'll show you mine?"

 

"I'm pretty sure I could," said Rochelle, giving her computer a frown. "I haven't had a chance to try, but...I think I get it? Kind of? Like, lemme put it this way. No matter what I use to do a spell, it'll always feel like a computer to me. In my head, it's code. A flowchart, a bunch of definitions, conditionals, all that... It could be in a computer, or written in elven runes on sheets of hammered silver, it's still the same. You know? Kind of? But yeah, lets go over the basics, then we'll see what you do with it, then I'll try."

 

And with that, Roach launched into her explanation. Several things became clear as she went on. First, while magic was free-form in many ways, there was a structure that underlaid it that stopped it from being just 'anything you want.' Rochelle stressed the importance of having a clear and reasonable goal or intended effect; that had been something she struggled with at first. "Tell me about the new girl in town" wasn't good enough for magic. When she had refined the ask to "Tell me Dorothy Solart's secrets," then things had to started working better.

 

Second, magic needed fuel. Call it a 'price' or a 'sacrifice' or whatever you wanted, but results from outside physics needed fuel from outside physics. In particular, Roach mused, gain as a concept required loss as a concept. The specifics of the loss weren't terribly important, it seemed, but you couldn't escape the loss or it wasn't loss anymore. In the case of her spell, the loss had been the pain of a self inflicted wound, and the blood resulting from that pain as a material symbol. She could have done it other ways; that had simply been the most expedient.

 

Third...although Roach wasn't the best teacher, the excitement and passion she showed during this explanation was something new for her, or more accurately, something old. Quinn had been there when Rochelle had 'discovered' cars, for example, and remembered how she'd obsessed on the mystery of pistons and gear ratios, picking them apart until she could do it with her eyes closed. She was animated and excited, and her usual projected cynicism and world-weariness all but evaporated, limited to a few quirks of phrasing or asides. She was clearly having fun doing this; something it was easy to forget she knew how to do unless it was at someone else's expense.

 

For once, Quinn was focused on something other than horses. Sure, she mentioned horses, mostly how magic could help her horses, or making analogies to share understanding, but the focus of the conversation was the arcane arts. For the first time in a long time in their fractured relationship, the two young women were focused completely on the same thing.


While Roach was a poor teacher, Quinn was a good student, willing to listen and seeking to understand what Roach was saying. She was actually pretty annoying in how much she drilled down into each of the points, but she resisted moving on to another concept until she fully comprehended it.

 

There was not only learning; there was laughter and both of them seemed to be having fun. Hours passed without notice; quickly hushed giggles and intense conversations filled Roach's bedroom as they worked.

 

As the evening wore on, and it was clear both of them were getting a bit tired out for witchery, Roach asked Quinn something that's been on her mind for a little while now. "So," she said, pushing her chair back from a desk and spinning it lazily around. "Keith. Quinn. Keith? Why Keith?"

 

"Because..." Quinn smiled a little. "Don't you think he's cute?"

 

Roach opened her mouth to answer, then narrowed her eyes a little. "No," she replied pointedly. "I think he's safe. He's exactly the kind of boy the Quinn everyone thinks they see would go with." She starts ticking off fingers. "He's eager to please but not too eager...he's the brother of one of your friends, so he's already part of your social circle...and he's painfully vanilla; he'll never challenge anyone's sensibilities. And going out with him, neither will you." Rochelle folded her arms then, challenging Quinn to deny the charges. "Is that what you really want?"

 

"Actually, everyone had me paired with Silas," Quinn deflected, correcting one of Roach's points pedantically. "And what if I don't want challenges? What if I want vanilla? You're projecting what you want onto me."

 

"Jesus fuck," groaned Roach. She rocked back as if hit in the face, then shook her head. "Okay, fine. One last thing though, before you run off to your fucking...boy toy or whatever the fuck he is." Roach was back in form, snarling like a tiny tiger. "You can dick around like this with me, or anyone else, but if you want to be a witch then there's one fucking rule you'd better take to heart. 'To yourself be true.' Because magic will always give you what you want, whether you want it or not. So if you're not honest with yourself, or you're afraid of yourself or any of that teenage bullshit, then every wish will turn sour, and every blessing will be a curse, and...and..." Roach finally broke off and looked away. "And it'll be partly my fault because I showed you how, so..." Her voice got smaller, as if it was coming from farther away. "...just please be careful. Okay?"

 

Then she cleared her throat and waved a hand at Quinn as she swiveled her chair back to face her computer. "Anyway, yeah, that's it. Magic For Dummies by fucking...Roach McKendrick. Leave a review on Amazon. Like, subscribe and ring the fucking bell."

 

Quinn stared at Roach for a moment, her expression slowly losing her glower of irritation as the rant continued. "I'll be careful." Standing, she headed toward the door, glancing back to add, "Thanks for the lesson.  I had fun." And with that, she was gone.

 

A minute or two later, Rochelle said, "Me too," under her breath, and dropped her forehead onto her desktop.

 

Spoiler

The above was written by SalmonMax and Dawn

 

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II

Movie night…

 

They had gone to the six o’clock feature, early for a date maybe, but this was Blairsville, and it was for most of them a first date plus they could still hit up Wendy’s for a late dinner.

 

The cinema was located outside of town on the Young Harris Hwy about halfway between Blairsville and Young Harris which was a small city in neighboring Towns County. Young Harris, or YH as everyone called the town, was a sort of rival of Blairsville, their respective high schools shared the full range of sports related rivalries, with neither dominating the other. Blairsville had numbers, but YH and Towns county had money.

 

The cinema’s location meant that it was patronized by both cities and kids from both schools often encountered each other and this day was not different.

Bothe Keith and Jo had been recognized due to their sports activities and some verbal insults traded but in the end nothing much came of it.

 

The movie was the newest Wonder Woman feature, and while it was watchable for those invested in the franchise it had been a bit lackluster. Roach, who had surprised everyone, especially Quinn, by joining them, had kept up a snickering commentary drawing everyone’s attention to each and every flaw in the movie. Despite this Evelyn had found the movie enchanting and as they left the theater after waiting for any surprise end-credit scenes, admitted that this had been the first movie she had ever gone to. First stop was the restrooms which took about twenty minutes as so by the time they had finally exited the cinema the parking lot was empty except for an older model Camaro that was parked all the way across the lot from the Johansson’s 1979 Ford 250 Crew Cab that Keith had borrowed from his dad to take everyone to the movies in.

 

The Kids were all animated, talking and laughing, as they made their way across the lot and into the truck. Jo, and Darryl sat in the bed while everyone else squeezed into the large cab. Keith started the truck…

 

Nothing happened.

 

He turned the key again and still nothing the kids fell silent. The truck did not even turn over. Again, Keith turned the key and all it did was click.

 

“What the hell, it was running fine before.”

 

Keith hopped out of the truck and went around to the front and opened the hood.

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