The End of the Recriminations

In the last three days–well, two nights and two mornings, actually–I’ve written just short of four thousand words for this first scene of Chapter Thirty-Nine.  And let me tell you, it was hard.  Every moment of writing was difficult.  I only managed a little over three hundred words last night, one because I was tied, and two before it was just hard pulling up the strength I needed to get those words down.

There were a lot of emotions on my end about writing this scene.  I may not seem like it, but it’s a hard thing to point out that even though you’ve created this nice, seemingly perfect society which is trying to make the world a better place for everyone, it’s disconcerting to know that your society is still littered with shitbirds pushing their own agendas.  But The Foundation ain’t Utopia, and the Guardians deal with problems not only in this world, but . . . well, in time you’ll find out.  If I ever get to those novels.

So, yes:  this scene and the last chapter show there’s just a bit of cynicism circulating about the halls of power that run this world.  Everything is flawed, because even super-powerful world-controlling witches are, deep down, nothing but people.

But they do want to help you.  Really.

It’s just that Maddie did something bad.  And in doing so she pissed off the wrong sorceress.  Oopsie!

 

All excerpts, this page, from The Foundation Chronicles, Book One: A For Advanced, copyright 2013, 2014, by Cassidy Frazee)

Maddie took a step back from the angry sorceress, unsure of what the woman would do next. “I’m sorry, Helena, but I had my reasons—”

“I give zero shits about your reasons.” Despite knowing that she shouldn’t get angry, Helena felt her anger starting to slip loose from where she kept it hidden. “Kerry saved your life, you ungrateful bitch—”

Maddie’s temper came on strong in that moment. “That was an accident.”

It doesn’t matter. He saved you.” Helena regained control and returned to her smoldering, cool demeanor. “You’d be dead right now were it not for him. And you repay that by being a spy. By telling the Guardians—”

“What they needed to know.” Maddie spit the words at Helena. “Both of them, they’re the sort of students the Guardians are looking for, and you know it’s the truth.” She slashed her arm downward in a dismissive manner. “If you were doing your job—”

“I am doing my job: I’m the Head Sorceress of Salem.” Helena’s face twisted into a near snarl. “I train students, not spy on them. That’s what I do.” She jabbed a finger in Maddie’s direction. “It’s what you should do, too.”

 

Yeah, you gotta admit, that’s a pretty crappy thing to do–have your life saved by some scared kid and then continue to justify your actions because what he did was an accident.  Maybe she included that in her rat

 

“Someone in San Francisco evidently doesn’t think that’s true.” Maddie smirked. “Maybe they wanted a different point of view from someone who’s suffered because of the Deconstructors.”

Helena paused for about five seconds in the wake of Maddie’s declaration of loss. When she spoke, her response came in a low, tight tone. “David blew himself up taking out four maniacs in powered armor. That was your husband’s choice, and he did it to save the school, save the students, and save you. It hurt that you lost him, I get it . . .”

 

In the prequel novel to this, you meet David, Maddie’s husband, who is also an instructor at the school.  You learn they were coven and level mates, and they married after completing their Life Experience Travels.  David encountered an instructor working for the Deconstructors and three students getting ready to start their powered armor that they’d built in class–now you know a little of what goes on down in the super science areas–and were going to tear up the school when David decided the only way to take them out was to blow up a suit of bio-armor he was working on and take out the bad guys.  Unfortunately for him, he was wearing said bio-armor, and died along with the bad guys.

So, yeah, Maddie is still hurting from that, and she doesn’t want to see anyone else go through that pain.  The problem with that explanation is that you have to give it to someone to someone who can’t imagine what you’ve gone through and hope they sympathize.

Who does she tell, though?  Helena.

Bad move . . .

 

Her voice tightened as she once more drew to within half a arm’s length of the coven leader. “But you justifying you actions because of loss isn’t going to work. ‘Cause The Scouring didn’t just end here, it kept going for about two years after that shit parade started on these grounds. You wanna talk loss, Maddie? You wanna talk about Tower One, hum? You wanna talk about what I lost? I lost coven and levelmates; I lost colleagues; I lost friendsI lost my fucking legs.” She grabbed the lapel of Maddie’s jacket and yanked the woman towards her. “Do not ever justify your shitty actions on the death of your husband, because even with all I’ve lost, I’ve never went running to the Guardians and told them confidential things about our students because I thought it just might help The Foundation Cause. I will protect these students; I will never sell them out.”

Harsh reality is Helena has tried her best to protect people, and even when it seems like she’s playing people, there’s keeping certain students in mind.  She let Annie into the Black Vault because she wanted to know what she was trying to learn.  And by knowing that, she has a good idea of what she’s showing Kerry.  One might question her letting Annie do that last, but there’s a reason for that, too, and she’ll let on more about that in time.  That seems to be a theme with me:  in time.  Everything gets resolved eventually.  It’s just I’m the only one who knows when.

Helena throws out a final warning to Maddie–one of which is along the lines of, “If I catch you doing this again I’m coming to your house and we’ll . . . talk,” and she jaunts off to The Pentagram with Erywin.  as they’re walking in there’s this conversation:

 

They teleported to a point near Founder’s Tree and began walking, hand-in-hand up to Founder’s Gate. Erywin said nothing right away, but as they passed through the huge, vaulted archway, she found she couldn’t maintain her silence any longer. “Are you going to say anything to the other coven leaders or Mathilde?”

“No. It’s not my place to go to Mathilde and tell her what I found. If Maddie wants to resign that’s up to her, but I’m not going to pressure her to do so.” Helena sighed. “What she did was shitty, but that doesn’t mean she’s a terrible instructor.”

“But do you think she’ll stop sending things to the Guardians?”

“Yes.” She turned to her right and nodded. “She knows I’m watching her now, and knows if I catch her passing along anything again, I’ll come after her.”

Erywin didn’t really want to know the answer to the next question, but she had to ask. “And do what?”

Helena didn’t blink as she answered. “Kill her.”

“At her farm?”

“Yes.”

Erywin squeezed her companion’s hand. “You would really do that, love?”

Helena cast a sideways glance back. “Honey . . .” Her face broke into a smile. “You know me better than to ask that.”

 

Hey, Helena’s smiling!  Now you know what makes her happy:  the idea of coming after you and putting you down.  And while people may question why Helena wouldn’t try and get Maddie kicked out–Helena’s still a Guardian, and just like all her brethren, she’s playing angles.  And who’s to say Helena won’t use this leverage on Maddie later to get something she wants?  Well, I’m the one to say that, that’s who.  Really, it’s a bitch getting burned in this sort of business, because then you sort of become a chum line for other sharks to feed upon.  Maybe Maddie won’t resign, but all the while she remains at school she’s gotta wonder if today is the day she looked up from her desk and discovers Helena standing in the doorway with a big smile on her face . . .

Nope.  Not something I’d want.

"Why is Helena having me look up all this Sailor Moon porn?  Maybe death would be better . . ."

“Why is Helena having me look up all this Sailor Moon porn? Maybe death would be better . . .”

Sometime today I start in on the Mile High Club scene, and the return of a certain wingmate that I know some people would like to see die as well.  Where is that scene going?

Into Thin Air.  Really.

The Pavilion Proclamation

Well, so much for writing short scenes.  I know I mentioned at some point that I wasn’t certain if scenes were going to be big from here on out, but as of this morning I’ve added a little over fourteen hundred words to the scene I started yesterday, and I only stopped because I need to get this post out, return home, and get ready to head south into Maryland to see someone about makeup.  Yeah, this girl has her priorities.

But it’s been fun writing, even if I didn’t finish the scene, because I got to set up a confrontation–one that, so far, hasn’t involved magic flying about.  Though if there were, it would be an even shorter battle than the one Erywin, Annie, and Kerry had–pretty much along the lines of a “Bored now!” flip of the hand and done.

When we last left off the bonfires were burning, Beltane was starting, and it appears there are some pissed off witches wanting answers . . .

 

All excerpts, this page, from The Foundation Chronicles, Book One: A For Advanced, copyright 2013, 2014, 2015 by Cassidy Frazee)

Wednesday was confronted a few moments latter by the two women she expected to meet first: Jessica Kishna and Madeline Palmescoff, the leaders of Ceridwen and Boldeuwedd Covens. Maddie was particularly incensed by what she’d just witnessed. “What the hell was that?”

“That?” Wednesday chuckled. “That was two students lighting our bonfires—and probably being congratulated by Holoč right now for bringing more honor to Cernunnos.”

Jessica looked over her shoulder and found the Cernunnos coven leader speaking with this students, then turned back to the small Spellmistress. “I thought Morgado was a lock for tonight.”

“The same with Shamsi—” Maddie shook her head. “She was certain she would light.”

“If there’s one thing your student should remember, ladies—” Erywin walked up behind her fellow coven leaders, with Deana close behind. “—It’s that no one should sit back and assume they’re a lock for anything around here.” She, too, glanced over her shoulder to witness the happiness Holoč was expressing, then turned back. “Particularly when it comes to those two.”

 

Erywin:  being a downer since just about always.  Though she is right:  these meddlesome A Levels can be a pain it the butt when it come to magic for other kids, ’cause they just seem to . . . get it.

Which brings up the matter of how they did get it:

 

“I’m impressed by the skill they showed this evening.” Deanna pulled her jacket around her, feeling the chill creeping in from the ocean. She addressed Wednesday. “Do you know how long they’ve worked on that spell?”

Wednesday nodded slowly, though she seemed almost embarrassed to say. “Since this last weekend.”

Holoč had joined the group just in time to hear this latest news, and he was rendered nearly as dumbfounded as the other four women. “That’s what they say.”

“You mean the weekend before?” From her own experience of having them in transformation class, Jessica knew they were outstanding witches, but this revelation was nothing short of mind boggling. “You don’t normally teach that spell until near the end of their B Levels, and it usually takes until the middle of their C Levels to control it as they did tonight.”

Maddie nodded. “You must have taught it to them weeks ago in Advanced Spells—”

“I did no such thing, Maddie. I didn’t show them the Fireball spell at all.” She grinned. “They picked it up on their own.”

 

And, it turns out, they started on a Friday afternoon–down in Spell Cell #2, where they did things that got them into Advanced Spells, then off to the Firing Range–a place you haven’t seen yet, but the name says it all–on Saturday to work on range and accuracy, and on Sunday morning Wednesday certified them as legit.  This brings out another comment from a coven leader:

 

“Sunday we went back to the Firing Range, I set up a test, and they passed it with flying colors.” Wednesday made the tablet she’d been carrying in her hand up to that point vanish to whatever hammerspace she’d originally kept it stored. “And, as they were they only A Levels I personally certified on that spell, it fell to them to light the fires.”

Maddie scoffed. “Leave it to the Wonder Twins to steal the other student’s thunder.”

“I wasn’t aware it was considering stealing someone else’s thunder if you were damn good at spell crafting.” Helena strolled up to the group and looked around. “I though it meant they were damn good at what they did, and that was what we pushed on these kids every day.” She gave Maddie a lop-sided grin. “Or are you just pissed that someone from your coven didn’t get the chance to bask in the glory of Rhiannon Fettle’s memory?”

Maddie bristled at the mention of her coven’s and school’s founder, and the implication that she was upset about one of her own coven members not being selected to light the fires. “That’s not what I meant, Helena—”

“It’s okay, Maddie.” She grinned. “I’m just screwing with you.”

Erywin tapped Helena’s arm. “Which you do so well.” She turned to Maddie. “I need to speak with you; non-coven business.”

 

Now, to say that none of the coven leaders never get upset with gifted students in other covens would be a bit of a lie because, while there aren’t any Coven Cups or anything like that, the coven leaders do love those bragging rights that come from having the best of the best in their towers.  And getting to light the Beltane bonfires is one of those rights, because the pictures of the students who did the lighting gets put up in the Great Hall and in the respective student towers.  In a way it’s kind of a big deal, and Cernunnos bagged all the honors this night.

But what does Erywin want to speak about with Maddie?  Well . . .

 

The walk to the small pavilion was made in silence; once under the cover Erywin threw up a blocking spell to keep out the light breeze and chilly air. “There, much better.”

“I agree.” Maddie stuffed her hands into the pockets of her jacket. “What’s on your mind?”

“On hers? Not a great deal.” Helena stepped out of the shadow pocket she made for herself after januting away from where they’d spoken last. “Me, however—I’ve a few things I need to say.”

If there was one thing that Maddie didn’t enjoy, it was any discussion held with the Head Sorceress. She’d always considered Helena a spooky and somewhat gruesome individual, and surprising someone by stepping out of a next of shadows to start a conversation didn’t set her mind to ease.

However, as it was apparent she wasn’t going to just walk away from this talk easily, so she felt it was better to let Helena have her say and move on. “Well, then, what is it you want to say?”

Helena didn’t waste time getting to the point. “You’re to stop sending information to the Guardians. No more. As of right now.”

Maddie turned her head slightly to the right. “What? What are you saying?”

“You’re sending information to the Guardians about the students.” She took a step towards the coven leader. “You sent Gabriel information on Annie and Kerry.”

“I don’t know—”

Helena moved until she was only centimeters from Maddie. “You need to stop bullshitting me right this instance before I lose my temper and do something that will require an extended convalescence on your part.” She squinted at Maddie in the darkness. “I don’t make accusations unless I know what I’m talking about—and I know what I’m talking about.”

 

There you have it:  Helena is calling out the Guardian mole.  And when she tells you that you best stop lying to her or she’s going to put you in hospital, she’s doing that only as a professional courtesy to another instructor, because you can bet there are a lot of people who never got that same courtesy.  And if she’d zap a student hard enough on the first day of class to put them in the hospital because she was trying to get a reaction, imaging what she’d do when she’s pissed off?

And pissed off she is . . .

 

Helena backed away and began speaking without giving Maddie an opportunity to respond. “Gabriel visited at Imbolc, wanting information on Annie and Kerry. I got him alone and he came right out and admitted he was getting information fed to him from someone inside the school. Now, I know a little about setting up moles . . .” She pointed to Erywin. “I had her feeding information to me right before The Scouring because there were a few of us in the Guardians who suspected something wasn’t right, both inside our organization and here at the school. And we were right: in the aftermath of what happened here, we managed to find seven Deconstructors inside the Guardians.

“But she was feeling me information about the administration and instructors, and once things we back to normal here, she stopped.” Helena turned on Maddie. “You, on the other hand, decided to spy on students. You decided to spy on children.”

For the first time Maddie appeared uncomfortable. “Helena, I—”

“You gave the Guardians confidential information on children. You told them things about Annie and Kerry that should have remained inside these walls.”

 

Helena runs it all down in that she doesn’t think any of the top admins would stooge out info because they’re too used to keeping secrets, and when it comes to Coven Leaders, Erywin is out because of Helena, Holoč is too much of a daddy to his coven kids, and really likes Annie and Kerry, Jessica is concerned about making the school a good place and wouldn’t talk about the students, and Deanna’s a Seer and you learn that Guardians really don’t like Seers.

Which leaves . . .

 

“Which brings us to you—” She stopped pacing and focused on Maddie. “Fought and injured in The Scouring, and hates Deconstructors with a passion because of what happened to her husband . . .” Helena shook her head as Maddie cast her gaze downward. “You make it too easy.”

“Still means nothing.” Maddie looked up and hardened her face. “Everything you’ve said is conjecture and speculation. Not a single bit of hard evidence—”

Helena smiled at Maddie. “Wonder Twins.”

Maddie’s head shook as if she’d been slapped. “What?”

“You’ve been using that expression since about a week or so after the Day of the Dead Attack. And you only use it when you’re referring to them in an amusing or, like tonight, condescending manner.” Helena began moving towards Maddie slowly. “Funny thing is, I’ve been out in San Francisco a bit the last few months, and one or two people use the same phrase when speaking about them.” She stopped about half an arm’s length from the coven leader. “First rule of being a good confidential informant: never give away your tells, ‘cause someone on the other end will pick up on them eventually and run them back to you.”

 

Maybe Helena’s just pulling that last one out of her ass–or maybe she’s falling back on years of experience having her own CIs in the field, and knows a thing or two about what keeps you save and what screws you up.

And it appears Maddie just fell into the later category . . .

 

Maddie quickly looked away for a moment, then turned back to Helena with a worried look across her face. “I—”

“You informed on eleven and twelve year old witches.” Helena’s jaw clenched as she hissed out her words. “You got those kids dragged out on an operation, Maddie. You put them on the line; you put them in danger.” Helena slammed a knuckle into Maddie’s chest. “You could have gotten them killed.” She jabbed Maddie once more. “And trust me, dear, if one of both of those kids had died, I’d be taking a significant chuck out of your arse right now.” She thrust a finger in Erywin’s direction. “Erywin was on that same line, and if she’d have gotten killed, this conversation would have ended five minutes ago.” Helena twisted her head to one side as she went nose-to-nose with Maddie. “Have I made it clear that I’m not happy with your shite, or is there a need for further elaboration?”

 

Getting Helena angry with a couple of these going in the background is never a good idea.

Getting Helena angry with a couple of these going in the background is never a good idea.

Is there a need for further elaboration?  Well, I’m not finished with the scene, so the answer there is yes.  But names have been called, and my Mistress of All Things Dark won’t let up until she’s satisfied that she’s gotten her way.

Or else.

There’s not much more to write on this–yeah, I’ve said that before–and then it’s on to Annie and Kerry doing the Mile High Club–

Get your minds out of the gutter.  Mine is a different kind of club.

Team Salem on the Job

First off, happy Winter Solstice to you all.  This is the shortest day of the year, and as I told some friends, it’s all uphill from here until June.  So while I would suggest going out and dancing naked around a tree, if you are of a mind, go out and do something to enjoy the day.  Me . . . I’ll probably stay home and write.

And speaking of writing, I finished up a scene I started last night.  I wanted to get that done before writing this post, and when I was done I checked my word count to see what I’d done this early, chilly morning, and discovered . . .

I don't read anything into this, but I do find it funny I've done this three or four other times.

I never read anything into this, but I do find it funny I’ve done this three or four other times.

So there:  finishing scenes and doing research–did I mention the research?

Yeah, that was last night, and one of the reasons I was a little choppy in my writing last night, because–well, you’ll see in a moment.

The actually moves over to the Crown Center mall now, but in order to get there, Annie has to do something she’s never done before . . .

 

All excerpts, this page, from The Foundation Chronicles, Book One: A For Advanced, copyright 2013, 2014, by Cassidy Frazee)

Annie was glad to be out of the cold, but in doing so she’d stepped into a world that was far different from what she’d experienced before.

For one, she’d ridden a bus for the first time . . .

Their instructions had been to wait for school to get out, then follow Tanith to the Crown Center mall. Her normal routine was take the public buses to the Center, spend a few hours eating and working on homework if necessary, then taking the bus home. Since Tanith would ride the bus, they would have to ride the bus just so they could keep an eye on her.

Annie had never ridden in a bus in her life. She’d taken the subway in a few cities in here lifetime—she’d loved riding those in Paris and Hong Kong—but busses were something completely foreign to her. She had a pass and had been given instruction about how it was used. Still, it was a new Normal thing, and when it came to trying something new that everyone around was comfortable using . . .

There were no problems, however: Kerry went first, which allowed her to watch him closely. He entered and used his pass as if he’d done this forever, and Annie did exactly as Kerry. They took seats tow rows behind Tanith—Kerry let her sit by the window, which she enjoyed—and they were off to the Center.

They were fortunate that the bus route they were on, the 123, went directly from the school to the Crown Center. They didn’t say much during the trip, just kept their eyes on Tanith and tried to appear as if they fit in with the other riders.

 

Annie’s never ridden a bus.  She’s been on subways, and has probably taken cabs and hired cars–read that as limos–now and then, but this is her first time doing the public transportation thing.  It’s not a big deal for Kerry–he’s probably ridden a bus or two–but whole new thing for our Girl From Pamporovo.

And the bus thing is what held me up last night.  See, everyone thinks I’ve got all my research down pat, but not always.  I’d intended for them to take the bus from Tanith’s school to the mall because that’s what she does, but what bus?  So I had to run out to the website that handles the Kansas City bus schedules, and hunt down the one they’d take from the school and that Tanith would take home.  And what I discovered is Route #123:

Get on this bus, kids.

Get on this bus, kids.

But in finding this route, I discovered that it doesn’t run on the weekends, which sort of threw a curve at my story, because something coming up real soon involves Tanith taking the bus to the mall on the weekends, and if the one that runs by her house doesn’t do the Saturday thing, well, then, I had to find a route–or routes–that did.

I know what some of you are saying:  “Just make it up, Cassie!”  And I could, save I’m dealing with the real world here, and sure as the sun comes up tomorrow–unless it goes supernova tonight, which it can’t, so I’m certain it’ll be up tomorrow–someone would read my made up stuff and go, “That’s not right; in Kansas City–”  Yeah, yeah, I know:  that route doesn’t exist.  I’ll probably get a few like that anyway, but who cares?  I’m in the ball park, and that counts more to me.

So they’re at the mall and things are getting set up . . .

 

Tanith made their operation easy by headed for the Z-teca Restaurant, which offered quick Mexican food, mostly burritos, but tacos and salads were also available. The nicest feature for the place was the majority of the seating was outside the store in the mall concourse. Neither of them wanted too eat much as they were going to dinner after Tanish was back home, so Kerry ordered a couple of tacos for himself, and a salad for Annie, while Annie found a seat where they could watch the concourse and their target.

The phone Annie carried was enchanted so that she could eavesdrop on a person from any distance as long as they were in light of sight. Helena had told them they didn’t expect Tanith to have much to say, but she might receive a call. Annie could also pick up any text message the girl received or sent, as the enchantment could protect on to Annie’s phone whatever Tanith saw on hers.

Kerry’s tablet would allow him to work on Tanith’s aura; he needed nearly twenty seconds with the individual in the tablet camera foci to get an interactive view of their aura. They couldn’t do it while they were invisible, and there were only a few times at school where they could have had a clear view of here as it was. This would be their first chance to get her in the clear, while they were visible, today.

 

Equipment is at the ready, the kids are all set to go.  What happens next?

 

He returned to their table about a minute after Tanith sat at her table and began picking at her quesadilla. “Here ya go, Sis.” He set the salad in front of Annie, giving a wink only she could see.

“Blagodarya vi, moya lyubov.” She figured no one in the mall would know she was saying “Thank you, my love” since she didn’t expect anyone else to understand Bulgarian. She slipped in an earbud as Kerry took his seat across from her so they could mentally speak in private. Did she check her phone when she was ordering?

He almost shook his head out of habit. No. She ordered her food and headed out here. I was right behind her the whole time. He nodded towards the girl sitting a few tables away. She’s checking it now.

Great. Annie held up her phone as if she were trying to get a signal and turned towards Tanith. She was half-turned towards her when Annie launched the enchantment and received a shiver in her right arm as way of letting her know it had taken. Done. Now we can catch her conversations.

Let’s just hope she says something interesting. He reached into his backpack—which he’d brought with him from Salem—and removed the tablet that had been on standby since they’d boarded the bus. No time like now to give her an aura check.

I agree.

 

So the spying begins.  All pretty simple at this point, but do they find anything?

 

Kerry lifted the tablet and pointed it at Annie. “Here, let me get your good side.” He positioned himself so that Tanith was behind Annie and he had a clear line of sight on her. He activated the enchantment and then pretended to so something else on the display. “Just a minute; the app is being difficult.”

“Okay.” Annie knew there wasn’t anything wrong with the app, and that Kerry was simply stalling so he could give the enchantment time to work.

A few seconds later he set the tablet on the table and removed the kickstand from his backpack. I should have done this . . . He attached it to the back of the tablet and kept it turned towards Tanith. He waved Annie over. “Here you go; take a look.”

Annie scooted around the table so she was on Kerry’s left. She scanned the display. “Looks good.” She offered another opinion to him silently. You’re going to scan her constantly?

I don’t see why not; this way we can get the best reading yet. He pointed at the display. Is that reading right, you think?

I think it’s reading perfectly. Tanith’s area, seen in real time, was a yellow wavering back and forth before Normal dullness and Awareness bright. She’s on the cusp; she’s becoming Aware.

 

There you have it:  All in All, Just Another Witch in the Mall–sorry, I had to do that.  Now that they’re watching her, time to get the other player in on the show . . .

 

Yeah, that’s what it looks like. Kerry tapped his right earbud twice to bring in the other two witches on watch. Yo, Mom.

Erwin’s thought came across loud and clear. Is that a proper way to address your loving mother, young man?

Sorry, I thought you were my real mom for a second. He flashed a smile at Annie then continued. We have a positive aura here.

You’re certain?

Annie chimed in. I’m looking at the display, too . . . Moma Phoebe. She grinned knowing how much Erywin hated her code name. Tanith is definitely on the cusp.

 

You gotta love the banter between everyone, and wonder if Erywin’s gonna get called “Phoebe” now and then back at the school.  Probably not, ’cause that would blow whatever cover they have going back at Salem and make other students wonder why they’re referring to the Magical Formula instructor by the name of a spacey blond from the show Friends.

Now they know this is happening, and everyone wants to talk . . .

 

Helena joined the conversation. How are you observing her?

I’ve got the tablet on a kickstand. Kerry touched the tablet and turned it slightly as another girl about Tanith’s age sat at her table. I’m doing a constant scan.

Annie removed her phone from her jacket. I’m monitoring her conversations, too. We should start getting something because someone just sat with her.

Who?

Girl about her age. She just sat and . . . Annie caught Kerry’s sharp intake of breath and turned to him. What is it?

He nodded at the display. Look.

Annie did and swallowed hard when she saw what he’d seen. Mom?

Helena’s tone of concern carried through her thoughts. What?

We have something here we weren’t expecting . . .

 

What?  Not expecting what?  Lizard people?  A transdimensional portal?  A thirty percent off sale at Forever 21?

You guys can make your own guesses . . . and I’m certain you will.

Champagne Dreams

Yes, the post is getting out a little late this morning, but only because I just finished writing fourteen hundred words to finish up a scene I started last night.  And seeing how I said yesterday that it’s one with Annie and Kerry, some of you are probably wondering about the title of the post.  Trust me, they’re not getting hammered on Korbel when they should be spying on Tanith.  The title refers to something else.  But of course it does.

We jump ahead a few hours and we’re outside Tanith’s school.  Someone else is there, too . . .

 

All excerpts, this page, from The Foundation Chronicles, Book One: A For Advanced, copyright 2013, 2014, by Cassidy Frazee)

Kerry sat with his back against the tree truck, keeping it between him and the steady wind coming out of the north. He’d pulled up his hood and keep his hands in his pockets trying to remain comfortable, and found he was succeeding marvelously. Once more he was happy he’d packed the microfleece hoodie his grandparent gave him for Christmas, because not only was it warm, but it had enough internal pockets to hold some of the devices he was using for this operation.

He was sitting on the front lawn of Lincoln Preparatory Academy waiting for his partner in crime to join him outside. While he’d waited for a delivery from Erywin, Annie was busy following Tanith and waiting for the right moment to secure another tag on her so she’d be easier to track with his tablet. She’d said she’d likely have an easier time of placing a tag on her, and he didn’t disagree: after all, if Tanith noticed a boy following her—tagging her with an enchantment wasn’t something they could do while bending light around them, not yet—she’d probably think it a little strange.

So he went outside to wait for his phony mother while also waiting for his real girlfriend . . .

 

The thing that comes from this is there’s a lot of waiting going on.  That’s the spy business for you:  a day’s worth of boredom sometimes punctuated by a few seconds of terror.  But the terror part’s the one that everyone likes, right?  Well, only if you’re the reader . . .

And what about that real girlfriend?

 

“Miss me?”

He turned to his left and watched Annie fade into view as her light bending field merged with his. “I was counting the seconds.” He patted the ground to his left and waited for her to get comfortable. “You have any problem tagging her?”

“No.” Annie partially unzipped her jacket and removed the light scarf around her neck. “I followed her into the bathroom and put it on her there.”

“The girl’s bathroom.” He chuckled. “The one place I can’t go.”

“It’s not that great.” She stretched out her legs. “Most girl’s bathrooms aren’t nice.”

“It’s not much better with the boy’s bathrooms, trust me. The only nice one I’ve seen is back at our school.”

Annie nodded. “I agree.” She nodded at the bag on Kerry’s right. “Lunch?”

“Yeah.” He set it in his lap. “Mom brought it about ten minutes ago.” Kerry stayed with the code names and pronouns assigned as they’d been told. He reached in the bag and removed a wrapped sandwich. “Lean roast beef with lettuce and onion—and a touch of horseradish—on rye.” He handed it to Annie. “Oh—” He removed another item. “And a dill pickle. Just as you ordered.”

“Thank you.” She partially unwrapped the sandwich and breathed in the aroma. “Lovely. What did you get?”

“Turkey with lettuce and onion—and a touch of mayo—on sourdough.” He removed a smaller bag from the larger one. “With a side of potato chips.”

“Not regular chips?”

“I will admit they do chips up better in Cardiff than they do in the States, so I passed.” He pealed open the wrapping and took a quick bite of his lunch. “Not bad.”

“Mine’s good, too.” She removed her pickle from the plastic wrap it came in and nibbled. “Though the school makes them better.”

“They do have an advantage other places don’t.”

 

In case you were wondering, lunch is served right under that tree.

In case you were wondering, lunch is served right under that tree.

The one thing to take away is if your girlfriend likes onions, you better have them, too, otherwise you’re gonna smell it on her all day.  And Kerry loves that turkey, it seems.  So, once more, they are enjoying a nice lunch together on a chilly day, only this time they’re invisible under a tree in Kansas City instead of sitting out in the open on a bench in a park in Salem.  They love their lunches together, and the discussions that come with them . . .

And their discussion this time was a bit about romance.  Annie talks about the things she’s seen her parents do–little touches, kisses, terms of endearment–and she tells Kerry that romance in a relationship is important.  It’s also noted that Kerry’s seen none of that behavior in his parents, and why am I not surprised?  Annie attributes part of his wanting affection to having spent a little of his life growing up around her, and there is probably some truth in that:  he felt her love early on, and his soul cried out for whatever she radiated.  Annie comes right out and tells Kerry the truth:

 

Annie stopped him abruptly. “You’re not your parents; not in any way. You want affection—maybe that’s because you grew up, in a way, around me and you felt what I felt.” She lay her head against his shoulder for a few seconds. “I couldn’t be with you if you were like your parents. It would kill me.”

“I know. I think that’s what the girl in my rune dream was telling me.” He rested his head against hers for a moment before sitting up straight. They both finished their lunches in silence after a few minutes.

 

Pretty harsh, soul mate, but a whole lot of truth there.  And as Kerry says, it’s what the girl in his dream was trying to tell him:  he couldn’t be cold to Annie, she would hate it, and he had to open his heart to her in order to make her happy.  Smart girl, whomever she was.

They discuss a bit of the dream from the night before, and it’s obvious that Kerry is done California Dreamin’.  They both come to the conclusion that it wasn’t so much the home that Kerry was attached to as it was the personal items he left behind.  There was love in the memories those things brought, and when he left them behind, he left behind those memories.  But the home–screw that.  He knows it wasn’t a home, not based upon the definition that Annie gave him.

And that’s when Annie begins the reminiscing . . .

 

Annie took Kerry’s hand in hers and held it tight. “About a month before my eighth birthday my mother and I went away to a house her parents own just outside Pocancy, France. That’s in the Champagne region—do you know it?”

“I know of it. It’s like north-east France, right?”

“Yes. Beautiful country: lots of low rolling hills and fields and wooded areas. My grandparents have had that house there since the 1950s, I believe.”

“Why did you go there?”

“My mother had spent the summer on a project and she wanted to get away and rest.” She cuddled up against Kerry. “We spent three weeks there, with my father popping in every so often when he wasn’t testing or racing.” She smiled as the memories came back to her. “Every other day my mother and I went bicycling.”

“You did?”

“Yes. We’d ride maybe ten, twelve kilometers, stay out all day. That was how I got to see so much of the surrounding area.”

Kerry squeezed Annie’s hand. “Sounds wonderful, Sweetie.”

“It was.” She paused just a moment before telling him the rest. “I’d love to live there one day.”

“Really?”

“Yes. I have it written in my wedding book. A little château, walled off, with a garden in the back where I can grow vegetables and herbs. Maybe a small house in the back where I can have a lab like my mother’s.”

Kerry turned to Annie, a huge smile upon his face. “You have it all thought out.”

“Yes, I do.”

 

Leave it to Annie:  she knows what she wants, and she writes it down so she doesn’t forget.  And once it’s down in her wedding book, well, hell, it may as well be set in stone.  And since this was right before she turned eight, she was already in love with her Ginger Hair Boy, so you can imagine she was probably imagining him as the Master of the House.

Maybe right close to where the grandparents live.

Maybe it’ll be right close to where the grandparents live.

She adds something else in, which Kerry catches right away:

 

“What about your lake house?”

“Oh, I’ll always have my lake house; it’s not going anywhere.” She turned and gazed into Kerry’s eyes. “That will always be there for me to us, and once we learn how to jaunt, it won’t matter where we live, we can go there for a night or a weekend and get away from everything, just rest and relax and . . .” She pressed her cheek into Kerry’s arm. “Do whatever we like.”

He didn’t need to have “whatever we like” spelled out for him; Kerry’s suspicion was that it had something to do with what they’d already seen in their wedding vision. “You just said something telling—”

“What’s that?”

“You said ‘we’. When ‘we’ learn to jaunt ‘we’ can go there no matter where ‘we’ live.”

She lowered her head slightly and looked up at him. “Does that bother you?”

He shook his head once. “No.”

“Good. Because given what we’ve seen—given the possibility that it’s going to be true—my lake house will be your lake house one day.” She gave him a quick kiss. “And my house, wherever I live, will be yours as well.”

“A little château in France?”

“That’s one possibility.”

 

What’s mine is yours, Kerry, and she isn’t hiding it.  She knows their future together is possible, and she’s going with that.  There’s also the “whatever we like” line which Kerry gloams upon right away.  It’s an unfortunate fact that they both saw something that should have remained imagined for some time, and that will have an effect on them as time moves forward.  Annie could be talking about getting the Monopoly game out and spending the evening trying to force Kerry into declaring bankruptcy, but I’m gonna say she’s got something else in mind.

Kerry’s imagining something as well–

 

Kerry slipped his hand out of Annie’s and wrapped his arm around her. “I’m thinking . . .”

“Yes?”

“One day I’d like to wake up early and get the bikes out, and ride into the nearest town. Find a small cafe and sit and have breakfast—”

“Alone?”

“No.” He pulled Annie against him. “I’d do this with the person I love.”

She chuckled. “Anyone I know?”

“You do: she’s right next to me.”

Annie closed her eyes so she could visualize Kerry’s words. “What happens after that?”

“Well, we spend a couple of hours eating and talking before getting on our bikes and heading off—maybe riding to the next town, or two towns over, or maybe even another beyond that. Then we buy some things for lunch—bread, meat, cheese—”

“And a little wine.”

“Have to do that if we’re in France . . . We take that and find a nice, shady place on the side of the road, and have a picnic. Eat, relax, enjoy the weather.”

“Sounds wonderful.”

“It would be. And when we’re done, we bike home, take a nap—’cause we’re gonna be tired—and then clean up and get ready for dinner. And if we are in France, and we can jaunt, there are so many places where we could dine.”

Annie saw all this in her mind’s eye: the riding, the picnic, resting at home, getting dressed and going out . . . “And is there anything after that?”

“Sure we go home, or . . . we go to our lake house where we rest, relax . . .” He kissed her on the cheek. “Do whatever we like.”

 

He’s going with the idea that perhaps their future together is in somewhere in Europe–maybe a walled château in France–and that they’ll have access to their lake house whenever they need to get away.  And Kerry’s words have an affect upon Annie–

 

Annie heart raced as Kerry’s ideas for their day together came together in her head and the images became real. She so wanted to speak his name right now, but knew she couldn’t, that even though the odds they were being watched were small, she didn’t want to go against the instructions that Helena gave them this morning.

She half-unzipped her jacket, then took his hand and held it against her chest. “Do you feel that?”

Kerry sighed. “Yeah, I do.”

She pressed their hands into her shirt. “That will happen one day. I promise.”

He said nothing for a few seconds. “No, you won’t.”

Annie turned her hand and gave him a shocked look. “What do you mean?”

“It’s not yours to promise.” He smiled. “It’s mine.” He quickly kissed her on the lips. “And one day that will happen. I promise.”

She had agreed last night they wouldn’t think about a future wedding, that they wouldn’t discuss the mater out of fear they would destroy the possibility of it occurring. But after hearing this, Annie could do nothing but hope and wish that their visions come true. “I’m going to hold you to that promise, my love.”

Kerry did his best to ignore his own racing heart, if only to keep the emotions running through is mind out of his voice. “I’d expect nothing less, Sweetie.”

 

Racing hearts and emotions.  I think the next novel will end up titled B for Because Hormones Are Out of Control, as that’s going to be a problem by next year.  Or will it?  Because there are probably more than a few magical ways to keep these kids from getting too carried away.

Then again, I know things about that story, and . . . I can’t say.  I’m a stinker, I know.  And until I write it down in a story anything I say makes me an unreliable narrator, because I don’t want to tell you too much of their future.

But we know now:  Annie wants a future in France.  And Kerry can see them sharing it.

Pretty nice deal coming out of a spy operation, wouldn’t you say?

I Spy From the Park Side

Here I am, back to the writing, and a little upset because I broke a nail last night while writing.  I guess that’s one of the hazards I’m going to have to deal with now, snapping off nails every now and then because I’m pounding away on the keyboard.  Or I’m going to have to toughen them up a lot more than they already are.

I’ve waited all this time to grow them out and . . . sigh.  It’ll grow back.

Operation Spying On Maybe Aware Girl has begun, and believe it or not, it’s boring.  No, really:  they’re standing in a park across the street from the house where Tanith lives, and it’s cold, it’s windy–just generally not a pleasant time.  I know the weather because I looked it up, and I know the place because I’ve even got a picture of where Helena is standing when all this goes down–

You'd be able to see her if she wasn't invisible.

You’d be able to see her standing by that tree if she wasn’t invisible.

I have something similar set up for the next scene, which is Annie and Kerry, who are elsewhere at this time.  Where?  You’ll find out.

In fact, let’s get to that right now . . .

 

All excerpts, this page, from The Foundation Chronicles, Book One: A For Advanced, copyright 2013, 2014, by Cassidy Frazee)

Helena turned up the color of here long, leather jacket against the strong gusts coming out of the north. During the night the mild weather that greeted them when they arrived in Kansas City departed and turned chilly and windy. She didn’t mind the sudden change, though: she grew up on the north island of New Zealand, and the weather went from one extreme to another all the time. And this is a normal spring day for Erywin

She turned sideways so she didn’t take the gust straight in the face. It doesn’t help that we’re more or less standing out in the open with only a since tree to break the wind. And speaking of Erywin . . .

Her partner walked up the sidewalk from the corner and turned into the park, joining her under the lone tree situated in a perfect location that allowed them to observe while affording them some shelter from the elements. She placed her hand in the pockets of her jacket and rocked back and forth on her flat boot heels. “Nothing unusual going on in the back.”

“You watched for twenty minutes?”

Erywin nodded. The house they were observing was on a street corner lot, so observing the rear area wasn’t difficult. “Started the timer on my mobile the moment you told me she was out the front door.” She patted the device out of habit. “No one sneaking in or out.”

Helena nodded. “Were you able to get a scan of the inside from back there?”

Erywin shook her head. “No. The shielding was as strong back there as anywhere else. Maybe if we jaunted up onto the roof—”

“I’m not that eager—yet.” Upon arriving outside the house after their early breakfast, Helena attempted a scan on the Granstrom Home and discovered there was a heavy shield preventing any internal scans of the domicile. Helena wasn’t disturbed by shielding being there; most members of The Foundation had shielding of one form or another around their homes, but this was well beyond what she’d seen around most places.

Not to mention that she didn’t know Kaden could throw up shielding that powerful.

 

Right off the bad Helena’s Black Magic Senses are tingling, and that’s never a good sign.  She’s a suspicious person, and they are aroused.  Also, there’s another detail . . .

 

Erywin felt the anger radiating off the person who meant the most to her. “What’s bothering you, my pretty girl?”

Helena turned away from the house and began walking past the playground equipment towards the shelter in the distance. “The amount of shielding around the house concerns me.”

“Not normal?”

“It just seems excessive. It’s not as if we have that much around our house—”

“Yes, we do.” She took hold of Helena’s right arm. “But then, you have a reason for that. I’m certain he does as well.”

Helena slowly dropped the light bending spell, allowing them to turn visible slowly. “True; he is a paranoid Sideliner.” She shook her head. “The reports the Guardians supplied didn’t mention it was that extensive.”

Erywin was the first to admit that this operation spooked her, but based upon everything she’d read about Kaden, he was worried about being observed, so she didn’t find his measures all that unusual. “Perhaps we don’t need to see inside the house.”

“It would be nice to know what he’s up to in there.” The approached the open, modern shelter—somewhat like the pavilions back at Salem—and walked inside. Helena threw up a spell to help block out the north wind and sat. “I’d like to know if Tanith is in there doing . . . things.”

Erywin sat as well. “Or if he is.”

“Of if they both are.” She shrugged. “Let’s hope the kids are having a better time of things.”

 

Things, huh?  Like . . . stuff?  Magical stuff?  Which is possible:  maybe the Guardians suspect he’s starting to show his little girl how to do magic, but, again, he doesn’t want people snooping around–like Helena and Erywin are doing.  Oh, and where are the kids?  You’ll find out next scene.

In the mean time:

 

“It’s all right.” Erywin gave Helena’s hand a gentle squeeze. “What’s next?”

“Stick to the plan: you’ll go back to the hotel for now and take what we have and transfer it to our off-site storage, and I’ll head up to where Kaden’s works and observe him for a bit. When I’m done I’ll come back to the hotel.”

Erywin nodded. “And the kids stay on site all day?”

“Yes: that doesn’t change.”

“Understood.” Erywin looked about the park and took in the chilly, blustery day. “Not how I would have expected things to start. But . . .” She patted Helena’s hand. “Could be snowing.”

“I’ve had that happen.” Helena stared across the park at the Granstrom house. Though she knew Erywin was correct—that he was probably doing what he could to keep out unwanted observation from The Foundation—she was still bothered that she couldn’t get a look inside. What are you doing in there, Kaden? What are you hiding? Do you know what’s happening to your daughter, and you’re afraid some nice Foundation people are going to find out as well?  Well, too late for that—

She shook her head. “Let’s move on.” She stood and wrapped her coat around her. “We’re done here for the day.”

 

They’re done here for the day, and so am I.  And what the kids will talk about tomorrow–

It’s not really operation related.

What a surprise, huh?

Dining in the Park with Sam

On to the final scene of this chapter, and this thing has went through about a dozen revisions in my head yesterday.  I do that, particularly when I’ve not much to do at work, and I’m still working out the bugs of putting a scene together.  I even went so far as to change the title of the scene from Dry Run to Salem Secrets, because by the time this is all over–the scene, that is–it’ll all be about the secrets.

For the first time during school the kids are on the loose.  There’s a test going on and . . . how about I let Annie tell you about it?

 

All excerpts, this page, from The Foundation Chronicles, Book One: A For Advanced, copyright 2013, 2014, by Cassidy Frazee)

Annie turned left as she walked out onto Essex Street and tugged her scarf tight around her neck. The weather had take a chilly turn in the last couple of days, and after the unseasonal weather of a couple of week before it had turned blustery once more. Given that she’d known she was going to spend several hours walking the streets of the real Salem, Massachusetts, she’d dressed for the weather and wore her winter parka, wrap-around ear muff, and gloves to the rest of her ensemble. She’s also brought her large purse, the one large enough to hold the small tablet she’d been given for today’s dry run.

The exercise was simple: Helena and Erywin were wandering different parts of the tourist section of the city, where they were placing light tag spells on different people. Then they’d contact either Kerry or her, tell them who to look for and where they were located, and it was up to them to locate the person, hit them with a stronger tag spell that they’d been taught over the last week, and follow them around the town until they’d settled down somewhere or left the vicinity.

They’d been wandering the streets of Salem since ten-thirty, arriving here before they could have lunch at the school. Helena told them that not sticking to a normal eating schedule was an occupational hazard of a field operation, and warned them it might be a few hours before they had the opportunity to eat—and even then it likely wouldn’t be a sit-down meal. Annie took this to mean they would likely be eating on the run—

She was surprised to discover Erywin waiting for her after she’d followed her last target to their destination. She handed Annie a bank card and told her to get lunch for Kerry and herself, and then told her where she could find her field operation partner. Annie was headed for Kerry now, lunch sack in hand, and a bounce in here step that hadn’t been there thirty minutes before.

 

So out and about doing the secret spying following you around thing, and it’s cold, it’s windy, and they’re hungry.  Really, not a good time to be out.  Like that bothers Helena.

And right about then she contacts her partner in crime . . .

 

She turned her focus down Essex Street and sent out her thoughts. Are you at the park?

His answer came right back. Yep. I’ve been here about fifteen minutes.

I’m not that far away. She picked up her pace as she passed Derby Square. You should see me in another minute. As she approached Washington Street she saw Kerry standing across the street. There you are

I see you. He waved as if to make certain she really did see him. I’ve got our bench all picked out.

Annie hurried across the street to Lappin Park and fell into Kerry’s arms. She accepted the warm kiss he offered, and she wasn’t hesitant to return it in kind. She finally broke the embrace and looked around. “Not a lot of people here.” She popped the ear buds out and stuffed them in her purse, as they could now speak normally.

Kerry stripped off his gloves and stuffed them in his coat pocket. He’d dressed for the occasion as well, though instead of ear muffs he wore a navy blue ski cap pulled down over his ginger hair. “Given the weather I’m surprised there’s anyone around town for us to follow.” He nodded at a bench on the Essex Street side of the park as he began removing his backpack. “Our table awaits, m’lady.”

She sat next to Kerry, happy that with him sitting to her right he was helping block the wind coming from the southwest. “Where did your last target go?”

He pointed to his left, up north Washington Street. “Restaurant called Melita Fiore. She was meeting someone for a late lunch, I think. What about yours?”

“They went into the Front Street Coffeehouse, about a block and a half south of here. Fortunately it was close to the sandwich shop—” She reached into the sack and pulled out a wrapped cylinder “Turkey Rollup, as you requested.”

“Thank you.” He slowly unwrapped it and slowly took a bite. “What did you get?”

“Chicken Salad Rollup.” She unrolled hers and took a smaller bite, almost nibbling at her lunch. “Erywin gave me a bank card for lunch. She said they won’t need us until close to fifteen hours.”

Kerry checked his phone. “It’s almost fourteen now—” He leaned forward, his elbows on his knees and his backpack between his legs. “Nice of them to give us a break.”

 

So how do I know these things like locations and weather?  I went to a site and got the historical information for that day, then I went into Google Maps and found these places that they speak off, and to figure out what to eat, I located the online menu of one of the eateries in Salem and found something the kids might enjoy for lunch.

I keep everything important in my notes.  Even stuff I don't want you to see.

I keep everything important in my notes. Particularly the stuff I don’t want you to see.

This way I be writin’, and the other be lookin’.  It also cuts down on getting back to the old nasty Internet and getting distracted.

I also did a few other things, namely went into street view and looked at the location around where Annie and Kerry are seated because I just wanted to see what they are seeing, and also get a good idea about where they are sitting.  It might sound like a level of detail that isn’t necessary, and you’re right:  it isn’t.  But it’s cool to be able to do this . . .

Not just writing about Salem, but seeing it as well.

Not just writing about Salem, but seeing it as well.

Don’t worry, I saved the pictures for you as well.  First we have the view of Lappin Park, just as you see it above . . .

Bench they're sitting at is the one without the guy in the white.

Bench they’re sitting at is the one without the guy in the white.

And here’s the view across the street of the Essex Street Mall, from whence Annie emerged with lunch, and what they can see if they turn their heads.

They're really sort of looking up the street to the left, but that's boring.

They’re really sort of looking up the street going to the left, but that’s boring.

And while they’re at it, Annie realizes they’ve company–sort of . . .

 

She chuckled and lightly tapped his arm. “Silly.” Annie ate in silence for a few minutes as she watched the cars moving along the streets and the few people out on this raw day. Every so often her attention was drawn to the statue maybe five meters away on their right: a large bronze of a woman ridding a broom passing before a crescent moon. She had to admit it was a beautiful statue . . .

Kerry was watching Annie out of the corner of his eyes. “You’re eying Samantha.”

Annie turned her attention to him. “The statue has a name?”

“Not the statue itself, but the character does. I looked it up while waiting for you—” He twisted around to face the statue while he gave Annie an explanation. “It’s Samantha Stephens; she was a character from a TV show in the 1960’s. She was also a witch—”

“That must be why she’s riding a broom.”

“Yeah.” He turned back to Annie laughing the whole time. “The show was about this witch who marries—well, we’d say he was a Normal guy. However, the dude she married didn’t want her to do any Crafting, so she didn’t.”

Annie’s brow furrowed into deep lines of confusion. “That’s stupid. Why would he do that?  Or she, for that matter?”

“I don’t know—it’s was the 1960’s, so it’s a little before my time.” He chuckled again. “That was the whole premise of the show. She was married to a non-witch, she didn’t do magic, her family were all witches—” Kerry gave an exaggerated shrug. “Hilarity, right?”

“I don’t believe I’d have found it funny at all.” Annie looked over Kerry’s shoulder at the statue again. “Why is it here?”

“I looked that up, too. They filmed some episodes here, ‘cause, you know, Salem—”

“Home of the Witches in America—”

“And the people who put it up thought it would be good publicity. It was put up like seven years ago.” He shrugged. “I want to get your picture in front of it before we leave.”

“A witch with a witch.” She laced her arms over his shoulders. “If you insist.”

“I do.”

“And I want a picture, too.”

“You’ll get it. Maybe we can get Erywin to snap a picture of us together.”

Annie nodded. “We can ask.”

 

That Annie:  she has no feel for the American classics!  And Kerry wanting to do a little sightseeing, because why not?  They’re out, they’re alone–or are they?–and they can see a few of the sights while they’re not working.  However, talking about witches and Normals gets Kerry to doing something that’s known to get him in trouble.

 

He rested his head against hers for a few moments. “Does that happen a lot?”

“What?” She pulled back because she recognized the tone in his voice: something was on his mind.

“Witches marring Normals—” Kerry scratched the back of his neck. “How often does it happen?”

Annie didn’t know exact numbers, but she was aware of a few facts. “Not very often. It’s not like there aren’t Normals who know about us—like your family will once you’re allowed to come out to them. Once they know the truth about you, they’ll likely become Allies—”

Kerry slowly rolled his eyes. “We can only hope.”

Annie ignored his answer. “Normals and the Aware do marry and even have children: look at this couple we’re going to observe. It’s just that . . .” She shrugged. “It is difficult unless they marry an Ally. Otherwise they usually end up like this Kaden we’re going to see: they don’t do any magic, they just stay hidden all the time.” Annie shook her head. “I wouldn’t want to live that way.”

 

There’s where I ended, a few words short of fourteen hundred total, getting ready to talk about . . . what?  Witches and Normals living together?  Marriage?  Kids?

You’ll be surprised.