Chapter Six

Natalie sank down in her seat on Monday morning, her eyes already drooping. Since Saturday had been spent with Cecily, all of Sunday had consisted of catching up on school work and cleaning the house. The events of Friday and Saturday now felt rather dream like to her.

As she dozed off, Natalie suddenly saw her hand moving out of the corner of her eye. It was definitely not by her own accord.

In the insanity of her weekend, she had forgotten all about the strange words she had written. With the revelation of magic’s existence, the words no longer seemed as freaky. She smiled at the thought that they probably had a perfectly logical, magical explanation.

Now written on her otherwise empty paper were five words:

You now know of magic.

A statement, not a question. The writer knew. Natalie blinked – who made her do this? No one but Cecily and her grandmother knew what she had learned over the weekend – and surely, neither one of them could make her write things without her being aware of it, could they? And even if they could – because if Cecily had prophetic dreams and her grandmother had created a drop of water out of nothing, perhaps it could be possible after all – why would they? Neither one had mentioned anything about it.

Natalie flipped back through her notebook. ‘You are powerful’, ‘Don’t be scared’ – Natalie still nearly snorted at this because no, why would writing things without realizing it frighten her? – ‘Someone. I want to help you.’ in answer to the writer’s identity and then the comments on her potential.

It did not sound like her grandmother and it certainly did not sound as Cecily.

How do you know about that?

Up front, the teacher droned on about some war or other. Natalie looked up, trying her best to pretend to be interested for a moment. As she had expected, there was an answer when she looked down again.

I know a lot about you.

Natalie frowned. That did not bode too well. The thought struck her like lightning – could it be Ramon? She dropped the pen and it fell to the floor. Her breath came in quick bursts. What if he was the one doing this? Could he get into her head? Was that how he had known she would be going to her grandmother? It made a frightening kind of sense.

Natalie swallowed. She could guard her tongue and not talk about magic – but how could she not think about it? Perhaps Ramon followed her every step, just waiting for a new chance to grab her. Feeling silly even as she did it, Natalie glanced nervously around. Her fingers went to her necklace and she touched it gently. She recalled Cecily’s words about not taking it off. With these new suspicions, Natalie would certainly not.

She resolved to discuss it with Cecily the first chance she got and tried to put magic out of her mind for the rest of class. The dull voice of Mr. Hensley did not make things easier as her thoughts kept drifting off.

When Natalie arrived to math a bit later, Cecily sat waiting for her, smiling as always. Natalie noted with some sadness that the circles beneath Cecily’s eyes, the ones that had faded a bit with the magic Natalie had managed to perform on Saturday, had returned. As Cecily had thought, Natalie had not been able to cure her more than temporarily.

In a hushed but quick whisper, Natalie said, “I think Ramon can get into my head.”

Cecily looked fittingly horrified at the prospect, mirroring Natalie. “What do you mean? Why would you think that?”

“I—I’m not sure. But I think he might be able to read my thoughts. Can Wielders do that?”

Cecily nodded slowly. “Some Master Wielders can, although it is quite rare.” She hesitated a bit. “If he can get into your head, there will be nothing anyone can teach you that will be a surprise for him.”

Natalie shook her head and felt ready to cry.

“What is it that makes you think he can read your thoughts?”

Another student came in and sat down just behind Cecily. When Natalie looked around, she realized that students had filled the classroom, making it far from the perfect environment to discuss the possibility of Ramon magically controlling her body and reading her mind.

She bit her lip. “Not here. Are you doing anything after school?”

Cecily shook her head. “Sports and activities are not exactly for me.”

Natalie was about to answer but at that moment, the bell rang, signaling the start of class.

Two minutes after the bell rang, Ava strolled into the classroom. She did not look even the slightest bit concerned as she handed the teacher a note and then, with a slight grin to Natalie and Cecily as a way of saying hello, sat down in the desk behind Natalie.

For a few moments, Natalie pondered what to tell Ava. Ava appeared – as far as Natalie could discern – not the least bit magical. In fact, Natalie had a feeling that Ava would have a harder time than Natalie had had when it came to grasping the concept of magic’s existence.

“Miss Winters, would you care to solve the problem?”

Mrs. Miller’s reprimanding voice cut through Natalie’s thoughts. Natalie’s cheeks reddened; she had not heard a word of Mrs. Miller’s lecture. She shook her head. “No. Sorry.”

“Well then, perhaps you could spare your daydreams for later and pay attention now?”

Natalie mumbled into her desk and Mrs. Miller continued with her class.

Glancing back with a grimace, Natalie caught Ava’s sympathetic look. Cecily on the other hand was focused on the teacher’s writings on the board. Natalie noted that it looked as though Cecily understood every word. It did not surprise Natalie much – Cecily struck her as the very intelligent type. Then again, she did not seem to have much else to do, but to study.

The rest of the day’s classes passed in a blurred boredom for Natalie. When art finally finished, Natalie and Cecily walked outside into the warm weather. They had agreed to meet Ava by the parking lot.

“Do you think we should tell her?” Natalie asked.

Cecily looked thoughtful.

“I’m not sure she’ll— understand.” She hesitated on the last word. Then she sighed. “But if we want to have her as a friend, we can’t exactly keep her out of the loop. She’ll know we’re hiding something.”

A small sigh escaped Natalie as well. “Yeah, ‘cause I’m a terrible liar.”

They walked in silence and soon reached the student parking lot. Neither one of the girls had a driver’s license but as they were heading that way anyway, it was as good as any meeting spot. Once together, the three headed towards Cecily’s home.

“You wouldn’t want to go to my place anyway,” Ava said with a roll of her eyes. “I have four siblings and they wouldn’t give us a moment’s peace.”

Natalie and Cecily glanced at each other. They certainly needed both privacy and peace if they were to tell Ava everything. Natalie thought of the notebook she had in her backpack and the necklace she wore. It was all part of something very different, something very hard to believe. Once again, the thought of Ramon invading her brain hit her like a ton of bricks and she tried to think neutral thoughts instead. It did not go too well.

Cecily’s room was as well-organized and clean as it had been on Saturday. Natalie suspected two reasons for this: Cecily was a well-organized person and her father did not want any place where bacteria could grow and make his daughter sicker. Natalie had noted how sparkling the rest of their house was as well and Cecily had merely rolled her eyes and said that her dad was obsessed with cleaning.

“Nice place,” Ava commented, looking around. “Cozy.”

Cecily smiled. “Thanks. It’s my space – I want to have a bit of a personal touch.”

The room did, Natalie thought. Though Cecily and her father had only just moved to Lake Sunflower, Cecily’s room felt familiar and welcoming with pictures of herself and her father and other friends from her old home-town. Two pictures of a dark-haired child and a rather stunning woman stood on her desk. Natalie could only assume the woman to be Cecily’s mother.

There were several types of flowers on her windowsill and at the moment, the room was gently lit by the slowly sinking afternoon sun.

“So what do you want to do?” asked Ava, looking from Natalie to Cecily and back.

“We actually have something we want to talk to you about,” Natalie said, leaning against the closed door.

Ava sat back and crossed her arms across her chest but looked entertained. “That sounds serious.”

A frown crossed Natalie’s face. “It is, actually. And we’re not quite sure you’ll believe us.”

One of Ava’s eyebrows rose. With a chuckle, she said, “Okay, you’ve got me hooked.”

Cecily pulled out the chair by the desk and sat down. She seemed tired and Natalie worried, as she always seemed to do nowadays. Cecily was an easy person to worry about.

“Do you believe in magic, Ava?”

Natalie was struck by the way Cecily started out; it was the exact same words that her grandmother had used.

This time, both of Ava’s eyebrows rose. “Magic?” she echoed, disbelievingly. “Like fairytales and wands and stupid movie effects?” She laughed. “No, I don’t believe in magic.”

Cecily glanced at Natalie. Concerned, Natalie bit her lip.

Ava looked between the two. “What? Do you believe in magic?”

Natalie felt it was better that she was the one doing the talking; her calm voice might convince Ava that they were serious.

“Yes,” Cecily said. “We both do.”

Ava laughed. “Magic. Right. And little pretty unicorns perhaps?”

“They’re not magic,” said Cecily, surprising even Natalie greatly. Was Cecily saying that unicorns existed? “They’re magical creatures. We’re just talking about magic. From stones, if you’re interested in the how,” she added.

Ava began looking suspiciously around the room. “All right, what is this? You’re trying to pull something – why? Why are you trying to convince me of this stupid nonsense? What kind of fool do you take me for?” She got up from the bed. “Well? What is this?”

“We’re not trying to pull anything and we don’t think you’re a fool at all,” Cecily said. “We’re simply trying to tell me that magic exists. We thought you should know because—”

“Oh, simply that!” Ava spat sarcastically. “God, what kind of weirdoes are you? I actually thought you two could make good friends.”

“We’re not weirdoes!” Natalie said, breaking into the conversation.

Ava was certainly not taking this as well as Natalie had hoped she would. This was the way Natalie had feared the conversation would go. Why could she not simply conjure something and convince Ava that way, like Natalie’s grandmother had done with Natalie? Or stop a knife mid-air? She did not think she could – she had only done magic once and then it had come to her naturally. There was no such feeling now.

Ava’s voice dripped with sarcasm. “No, you’re not weird. Not at all.” A pause, then, “You’re idiots. What do you take me for?”

“We’re not idiots,” Natalie said heatedly. She could not keep her annoyance out of her voice. “And neither are you – we thought that you’d, perhaps, give us the benefit of the doubt until we could prove to you—”

“Prove what, exactly?” exclaimed Ava. “That I’m naïve enough to believe you? That you can make me believe anything? Magic is one of those things that people wish existed but it doesn’t. Just like little pretty unicorns don’t exist.” She looked first at Natalie, then at Cecily. “I actually thought you were cool to hang with. I’m such a fool.”

“Ava—” began Natalie but Ava shook her head.

“I’m leaving,” she said.


Without another word, Ava all but pushed Natalie out of the way, and before either one of Natalie or Cecily had time to utter another word, Ava was out of the room and had disappeared down the stairs. Natalie winced at the sound of the front door slamming shut.

For a whole minute, neither Natalie nor Cecily spoke. Natalie simply stared at the stairs down which Ava had disappeared, her heart rate slowing down. The annoyance slipped from her. How could she ever have imagined that the talk would end in any other way? Her own initial reaction had been disbelief, but she had had the evidence staring her in the face. With Cecily it had been even easier – she had already known. But initiating someone else? No, they should not have expected it to go any other way. Any sane person would think they were either psychos or trying to make a fool of the other, as Ava had.

Cecily sighed. “You had something to show me?”

Natalie stared dumbly at the stairs for another moment. Then looking back at Cecily’s dejected expression, she understood that Cecily did not want to deal with Ava’s reaction at the moment. Natalie grabbed her backpack and with a small sigh of her own, she pulled out her notebook.

“I’ve been writing things,” Natalie said. “Only I haven’t been aware of them.”

Cecily looked intrigued, with a small line of worry appearing between her eyebrows. Natalie opened up to the page where ‘You are powerful’ was written and pointed at it for Cecily to see.

“It appeared last week, just before you moved here,” Natalie said. “I was sitting in class and all of a sudden, I’d written that. It was not just—doodling or anything. I have absolutely no idea how it got there, it just was, all of a sudden. And then, twice, I’ve actually seen my arm move out of the corner of my eye. I just—it’s not me doing it.”

Cecily looked thoughtful but did not say anything. Natalie flipped forward to the next couple of ‘entries’. When she came to the last one, ‘I know a lot about you’, Cecily nodded.

“I see where you got the idea that it might be Ramon.”

“Yes – who else knows about my finding out about magic?” said Natalie, speaking quickly. “I mean, I don’t believe my grandmother would do this – why would she? And I don’t think it’s you either.”

Cecily chuckled. “Like I said, I’m no Wielder. I wouldn’t be able to.”

“No, you just dream prophetic dreams,” Natalie said with a pointed smirk, glad she was able to make Cecily smile. “But what do I do? It only happens when I zone out but really, I do that quite a lot.”

“So I’ve noticed,” Cecily teased. “Math class today was no exception.”

Natalie stuck her tongue out as a childish answer. “Just because I’m not a genius like you.”

Cecily sobered. “I don’t know what you should do. Don’t answer perhaps? If he is trying to contact you and make you write back, then there are probably things he doesn’t know and wants you to tell him about.”

“True,” said Natalie, who had not thought of it that way.

“I think it’s really the only thing you can do, if you can’t stop zoning out.”

Natalie paced. “It’s just—creepy. Someone else is actually controlling me, making me write things. I mean, if they can control my arm, shouldn’t they be able to control other parts of me as well?”

Cecily did not look convinced. “I think your arm is quite a bit easier to control than say your heart or some other vital organ, if that’s what you’re worried about.”

Natalie stayed silent. She could not quite decide what she worried about, but she had a strong feeling of having been violated. Someone had controlled her, most likely Ramon. She did not like the idea of that creep being even remotely close to her in any way.

“What do we do about Ava?” asked Cecily quietly, breaking Natalie’s thoughts.

Natalie shook her head. “I don’t know. I’m not particularly convinced she’ll ‘come around’ or anything. The concept of magic is not a likely one. I thought my grandmother was crazy when she first told me and I still wasn’t entirely sure what to think when she’d stopped a knife for me with it.”

“A knife?”

Natalie had not gone into detail about exactly what Ramon had tried to do to her. “Never mind.”

Cecily shot her a disbelieving look but she did not ask. She moved over to her bed, sitting down and leaning against the wall. She closed her eyes.

“Are you all right?”

Cecily smiled weakly. “A bit too much excitement after a long day of school, I suppose.”

“Yeah,” said Natalie. “Definitely.”

“I like Ava,” Cecily said, looking at Natalie. “She’s— different. Strong. Very unlike me.”

“You’re strong,” Natalie said.

“Not in that way. She’s the forceful kind of strong. I’m a wall flower. If someone made her angry, I imagine she would tell them off. If someone made me angry, I’d just stay quiet.”

“Good to know,” Natalie said, grinning. “Though you are very welcome to tell me what I’m doing wrong if I piss you off.”

Cecily smiled. “All right. I’ll try to be honest.”

Natalie stayed silent for a moment, then she said, “I like Ava too. She was the first person to actually talk to me when I came here. It was just after I’d written the first ‘You are powerful’. I fled to the bathroom all scared and there she was, skipping class and being cool. Not that skipping class is cool, but you know – she’s cool.”

“Sounds like her,” Cecily said quietly. Then she added, “She seems to skip class a lot.”

“Yeah,” Natalie said. A moment later, though not completely convinced herself, she said, “She’ll come around.”

Cecily did not answer. Her eyes were closed and Natalie noticed that her breathing seemed a bit heavy.


Cecily squinted at Natalie. “Natalie? I don’t feel so good.”

Natalie rushed to her side and helped Cecily lay down. A light sheen of sweat covered Cecily’s forehead and her breathing was becoming heavier.

“Cecily, stay awake!” Natalie said. Panic was rising in her – no one else was home and she had no idea what was wrong. She did not know what to do. “Cecily!”


She went limp in Natalie’s arms.

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