Chapter 2: The Silver-Haired Stranger

2119 Words
The tardy bell shrilled, and I jumped in my skin in the now-empty art room. This would be my fourth tardy and I so didn't need detention, much less another magic user tattling on me. Oh God, Mom would freak. I had to figure out a way to fix the fact I'd used magic against a human. I didn't want to have to move again...we'd only been here six months. Stay calm, I told myself as I chewed on my thumbnail and hustled out the door. The hallways were empty, everyone already in their classrooms, and I picked up my pace. Still, I kept glancing over my shoulder, expecting the magical police to pounce on me. Humans weren't supposed to know witches existed. It was one of the main rules of magic that my parents had taught me. So, it was unfortunate that I struggled so much with keeping my magic hidden. I'd already moved more times than I could count since the accident - since Dad died. I swallowed the sharp lump pressing in my throat and rushed down the hallway. When Mom found out about what happened today, we'd be packed and moved by tomorrow morning. A heaviness pressed down on my shoulders. This was the longest I had been in a place. Two and half months. I didn't want to move, even if I was still trying to fit in. The door to my Spanish class squeaked when I entered and I gulped, panting from running all the way here. Everyone including the teacher turned and stared at me. "Señorita Dane, you are late to my class again." Three girls nearest to the door giggled. Other students gave me looks of pity. "Take your seat, por favor." Mrs. Sanchez walked to her desk and pulled out a pad and pen. "Don't forget to stop by after class and pick up your detention form." Damn it. I nodded, my face burning as I shuffled to my seat. A spitwad hit me in the shoulder. "Gross," I murmured. The guy to my left clicked his tongue. "Loser." Anger flared hot and high in my chest, but I took out my textbook and notebook from my backpack instead of using my magic again. Didn't need to get in trouble on top of everything else. If only I could redo today. I needed to keep my head down, stop sticking my nose into bad situations, but I hated bullies and people who couldn't defend themselves. "Pay attention, class." Mrs. Sanchez glared out from the chalkboard. "Everyone will conjugate these sentences in first, second, and third person and prepare to read your translations aloud to the class." Sweat dribbled down the back of my neck. How long did I have before that warlock - or whatever he was returned? I scribbled across my notepad and finished before everyone else. Didn't hurt that I spent a summer in Mexico after I accidentally caused a bug infestation at my school in California. Once I had tried to conjure one roach to scare a girl who definitely had it coming, but ended up flooding the hallway with them instead. Ever since then, I'd given myself a phobia of the six-legged critters because of that stunt. I shuddered from the memory, grossing myself out. My thoughts swung back to the warlock. Too bad he was going to turn me in because he had been super gorgeous. But he'd just vanished. I'd thought teleporting was dark magic and not allowed. Then again, if he were with the magical police, he could do whatever was necessary. Maybe they'd let me off with a warning and a fine. Then Mom and I wouldn't have to move again. Two girls in front of me exchanged a note and sadness punched me in the chest. Last time I had a friend was my neighbor, Alissa, who I'd lost touch with years ago. After that I tried making friends everywhere I went only to have to leave the city or state because of my magic wigging out for one reason or another. I cringed. Like it had done with Darren. My motto since eighth grade had been don't get too close to anyone. Don't get too attached. Don't trust. But looking at the other students here in front of me who whispered when the teacher wasn't paying attention or passed notes made me long for the same. I wanted to be normal, to fit in, to have friends to hang out with, laugh with. Hell, to even have a boyfriend and a date to Prom. Yeah, right. My dating life had been pretty non-existent. Barry was my first kiss in elementary. Before Dad... tears pricked my eyes as I pushed away the memories. Now I'll be lucky if we're not packed and moved by the end of the week once Mom found out about what happened with Darrin. The bell shrilled overhead, and I scrubbed a hand over my face. Gym class was next. Yay, I thought sarcastically. Of all the times I had to be careful not to use my power, it was now. Just once, I'd like to not have to deal with bullies or cliques or stand out so much. After grabbing my detention demerit from my teacher, I hurried to the locker room, changing into my gym shirt and shorts in record time so I didn't have to inhale the aroma of sweaty socks and dusty concrete floors. Everyone was outside, but instead of playing dodgeball or baseball, it was relay time. Wonderful. "Okay," Coach Addkins shouted. "Jenna and Tyler are the team captains and will pick their teams." I shuffled from foot to foot, wishing I could use my magic to make the day go by faster. Slowly the crowd of students was divided between the two captains until only myself and a scrawny guy named Mike remained. I hated feeling so ostracized just because I was new. I wished I could disappear. "Dibs on Mike." Jenna flashed a smile at Tyler. "Fine." Tyler huffed, giving me a disgruntled look. He didn't even call my name, but whatever, I was used to this. After the coach described the relay race, which was a bunch of random pieces like sprinting to a long jump, shooting a basket, then racing back to do it all again, we lined up. Everyone treated this like our lives depended on winning. I just wanted to get through the day. One of the girls, Susan, who never ran fast enough, was getting booed by both teams. Part of me wanted to ignore the bullying that was going on, but hey, I'd already gotten caught once doing magic in a human school. What was one more mark against me? The fastest runner, who yelled the loudest at the girl was next. She had long legs and a short temper. I muttered a spell under my breath, "let her stride be short and she misses the mark." Immediately, the girl tripped over air, face-plowing into the dirt. Ouch! I'd just meant to slow her down, not humiliate her. I clenched my fists. Maybe the wizard police should just take me now. Several kids laughed, a few gasped, running over to check on her. I gawked, feeling bad that my magic had lashed out, as the coach helped the student up. I heaved a sigh of relief that she didn't appear like anything was broken or bruised except maybe her pride. Susan beamed from the attention of her beating another player and I sidled up to her. "Hi. Great race," I said. She made a face and turned away with her friend. The coach blew his whistle, and I jumped. "Clean up, class is over." I shuffled toward the locker room with the rest of the students. After taking a shower, I dressed back in my jeans and T-shirt. Only thing worse than having P.E. in the morning and having wet hair the rest of the day, was having it during the boiling hot part of the day. Of course, that had been my luck at my last three schools. Maybe I was cursed. I sailed through my English and Science classes by keeping my head down and my thoughts to myself. When the bell rang for first lunch, I gathered up my backpack. I made my way to the cafeteria and grabbed a tray lunch. No magic users had shown up to arrest me. Hope sprang in my chest that I might actually get through this day without any more trouble. Walking past the tables, I smiled, looking for an empty spot. My foot caught on something and I went tumbling down. My mashed potatoes and white gravy stuck to my shirt. The whole cafeteria burst into laughter. Heat flushed my whole face. I jerked upright and scooped off what I could from my shirt, while everyone laughed. I tossed my tray in the cleaning bin and marched toward the doors back to the gym locker room. "Where are you going?" a teacher asked. Was he blind? I pointed to my shirt. "I have to get changed." He waved a hand and a smile tugged at the corners of his mouth. Jerk. Tears stinging the back of my eyes, I jogged to the girl's locker room. Thankfully it was empty. I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. Mashed potatoes clung to my hair along with chunks of mystery meat. Wonderful. My freaking karma for the day coming to bite me in the ass. I flipped on the shower, tossing my T-shirt into the trash. Mom would ask too many questions and I didn't want to burden her that I wasn't fitting in this human school... like so many of the others. Twenty minutes later, I was showered and dressed back in my P.E. uniform. So gross. I hadn't planned on having to wear the sweaty thing again. As I exited the gym, not looking forward to the other half of the day, and I stumbled to a stop when I bumped into a cluster of students gathered in the hallway and some drifted outside like it was time to go. "What's everyone doing?" I asked a girl who broke from one of the clusters to retrieve the scarf tied in her hair that had fallen off. She pursed her lips, like she didn't want to be seen talking to me, then sighed. "Guess you haven't heard. Darren's been in some kind of chemical accident, but no one knows how it could have happened. They're shutting down the school for the rest of the day. Awesome, right?" "Yeah," I choked out. Damn it. How was I going to explain to my mom why I was coming home early? And I still had to figure out what I was going to do about my detention. Maybe for once I'd get a free pass because of school closing early. So I dashed back to Mrs. Sanchez's class, holding my arms loose at my sides. My magic flared down my palms, and I ground the back of my teeth to keep it in check. "Um... Mrs. Sanchez?" I rapped on her door. "Come in." I pushed open the door and froze. Across from my teacher was the guy - the warlock. He sat on the edge of her desk, his arms crossed. What was he doing here? "Wha - " I stumbled over my words. "I-I'm here to talk about my detention? With what happened to Darren and the school closing for the day..." God, I should just shut up before I blabbed that I was responsible for what happened. "Today's your lucky day, Zoey." The warlock gave me a crooked smile that should not have made my heart skip. "It is?" I asked, my insides twisting as I glanced back and forth between them. My teacher hadn't even moved or acknowledged me. "Sure." He ran a hand through his silver hair, flashing me a smile and my pulse jacked. "Your detention has been waived." "That's great." I let out a breath, my shoulders relaxing. "So, I'll be heading out now." Something felt off, though. Why wasn't my teacher saying anything? "Um... Goodbye, Mrs. Sanchez." My teacher turned dazed-looking brown eyes on me. "A-are you okay, Mrs. Sanchez?" Her facial expression didn't change, nor did her eyes, which were still glazed over. Not believing what I was seeing, I stumbled back a step. No. He'd entranced her. This was worse than I thought. He wasn't just a warlock - he practiced dark magic - just like the warlocks who killed my father. I bolted out of the classroom, my throat closing so tightly I couldn't breathe. 
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