Chapter Eighteen

Monday morning came far too soon. Natalie had stayed in for the remainder of the weekend, her head filled with a million questions and no answers. Her emotions raced from denial about everything that had happened – it had to have been a dream – to sadness – she had lost track of how many times she had cried in the last few days – to anger – at the unfairness of Ava’s death – and finally a strand of happiness, that Cecily was no longer dying. No one knew quite how but Natalie could not help but believe that whatever else the burst of light had been, it had at least been part healing magic.

As she walked to school on Monday morning, Natalie barely kept from crying. Richard had asked her if she really wanted to go to school today – he had seen the shadows beneath her eyes and worried still – and she had said yes. She needed to get back, to start up her routines again.

Without Ava.

The last time she had been here, Ava had been with her. She had been alive. And with that simple thought, the walls burst once more and tears fell down Natalie’s cheeks. She felt as though the tears would never end.

“I hear Simonsen ran away. Good riddance, I say.”

Natalie stopped dead in her tracks at the sound of his voice. She looked up slowly.

Chase Eadan stood before her with his group, a smirk on his lips and Lindsay Weaver on his arm. Lindsay and Chase both smiled cruelly at Natalie while the rest of the gang was sniggering though Natalie distantly thought that they probably did not have a clue as to what they were laughing at.

Chase Eadan did not have a clue what he was talking about either. Natalie knew, on some level, that even he would likely not have been so cruel if he’d known what had really happened, but it did not matter.

“What did you say?” asked Natalie slowly, red-rimmed eyes staring at him.

Chase looked down his nose at her. “I said, good riddance.”

“She’s a low life. No money, no class – no nothing,” said Lindsay with the air of someone who believed herself to be of importance. “I understand that she ran away.”

Natalie stood perfectly still. She had held back before when Chase had spoke degradingly about Cecily, Ava and herself – but this was taking it too far, much, much too far. Even if Ava had run away instead of died, it would still not have given them any kind of right to say the things they were saying. Natalie’s hands shook with anger. Power began to build up inside of her. The human-shaped stone on her mother’s necklace which hung around her neck gleamed in the sunlight. Anyone who knew about Wielders and magic would have run away long ago.

Chase Eadan and Lindsay Weaver knew of neither.

“Ava Simonsen is a better person than either you could ever hope to be,” Natalie hissed at them. She had to remind herself forcefully to say ‘is’ rather than ‘was’, though the lie nearly made her tear up again.

“Simonsen is dirt that should have been polished off from this school long ago,” sneered Chase.

Those words did it for Natalie. She knew how to control her magic now and she was good at it. She allowed the power flowing inside her boiling blood to gather in her mother’s necklace and then, with in a shock of green light, it passed through her fingers. The flash of magic surrounded Chase and Lindsay and bursts of it continued on to enclose the rest of their worthless gang.

When the light faded, all the people stood before Natalie still. She had fought the urge to vanquish them from the face of the earth – she suspected she could not have even if she wanted to. She did not have that kind of power nor did she want it – and she had fought her first idea, which had been to turn the whole party into pigs or some other fitting species, like rats.

No, she had allowed them to keep their human forms. But where the prettiest of Lake Sunflower High School’s students had stood before, now people with faces full of pimples, their hairs discolored and their noses running from a sudden cold stood instead. Natalie knew she had used enough power for a long-drawn cold and pimples that would stay for weeks or even months. She allowed herself a half smile, though her mind was still on Ava. She remembered how they had talked about this moment, though they had both expected to be there to witness it.

That was for you, Natalie thought, and pushed past Chase and Lindsay. The two were still in shock but as Natalie reached the top of the stairs, she heard their horrified screams as they caught sight of each other.

“What did you do to us?” they screamed at Natalie, their words laced with fright.

“Magic,” Natalie said simply and entered the school building. She could not bring herself to smile.

Natalie passed through the noisy hallways. Students were everywhere, talking and laughing and going on with life as though nothing had changed. Nothing had, for them. For Natalie, it was different. Everything was different.

She had watched a friend die.

She was supposed to go to class but could not make herself. The bell rang and the other students disappeared until the halls had emptied and her foot steps echoed through the corridors. She did not give any thought as to where she headed, but she unwittingly made her way towards the second floor bathroom, where she had first met Ava.

The bathroom was empty when she got there. The bad lighting in the room made her look as pale as vampire when she looked at herself in the mirror. Dark circles were obvious beneath her eyes and her eyes appeared dull. Natalie leaned against the sink and started crying again. She could not possibly do this. Her heart ached too badly.

“I wish you were here, Ava,” she said. “I miss you so much.”

She bent down and splashed her face with water. The coolness mixed with her hot tears and washed them away, but her eyes were still puffy and red. She dried her face on a paper towel and threw it in the trashcan.

Then she stood. With a sigh, she turned to leave.

She froze in mid-step, her heart stopping in her chest. Her mouth fell open – shock did not even begin to cover what she felt. She could not get a word out. It was impossible. Completely impossible. Yet before her stood—


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