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Authors: Caitlen Rubino-Bradway

Ordinary Magic

BOOK: Ordinary Magic
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ORDINARY
MAGIC

Caitlen Rubino-Bradway

Contents

Cover

Title Page

Dedication

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Acknowledgments

Copyright

For Diana Lampe Siwek
for being there from the start

CHAPTER
1

The day of my Judging dawned bright and clear and hot. It was searing; the air pressed against my chest with each breath. It was Olivia’s turn to look after me (to make sure my dresser cast up the right clothes, that food appeared on the table, and that the hundreds of everyday things that needed doing when you were underage got done) and with all the craziness going on, no one noticed her smuggling me up to the upstairs bathroom. Then she attacked me.

“Ow!”

“Hold still.”

“It hurts.”

“It hurts because you’re not holding
still
. You know, we’d be done by now if I could do this
normally.
” The tiles scritched together as Olivia called in magic, and the bathroom took on a funny sort of double vision, a blurry knife’s edge between reality and what Olivia wanted it to be. I could see it, but I couldn’t
feel it—you can’t when you’re a kid, not until you’re ready, not until after you have been Judged.

“Are you going to explain it to Mom?” I asked.

Olivia hesitated (because she has to be dramatic), then waved her hand to open a window and let the spell drift out. We both knew there was no way Mom would let magic touch her kid three seconds before Judging. Nasty stuff could happen if a kid wasn’t prepared, or mature enough to handle it. Olivia shrugged it off with an exaggerated sigh. She sighed gorgeously; I’d seen one of her sighs knock a man stupid at forty paces. “Fine,” she said, dragging it out. “I’m an artist. I can work with anything.”

Olivia tilted my head up until I was staring directly into the light. “Now stop the drama. You know you missed this.”

Which was true. I had. Olivia only just moved back home a few weeks ago after graduating, and promptly picked up her Big Sister Duties with a vengeance. I was three the last time I had a full-time big sis in the house, and it turns out it’s awesome. When she doesn’t lock me in the bathroom.

Speaking of big sisters … “Do you think Alexa’s here yet?” I asked, shifting.

“Of course she is, sweets. Now stop moving.”

“But she has a meeting. Another meeting,” I said, my stomach slowly twisting into knots. My eldest big sister, Alexa, worked for the Department of Education, running some private school for rich kids or something in Rothermere. The way she treated it you might think she worked for National Security. She wasn’t allowed to talk about what she did, and there were always Important Things popping up at the last minute.

“Oh my goodness, you listen to me—she is not going to miss the most important day of your life.” Olivia swapped out blush for eye shadow. “Mom would
kill
her.”

Someone pounded on the door. “Who’s in there? Is that you, Abby?” Mom demanded.

Olivia held a finger to her lips, like if we stayed quiet Mom might give up and go away. She should have known better.

“I know you’re in there.”

“No, she’s not,” Olivia called.

“Girls.” Mom used her “this is a warning” voice.

“Abby’s totally not in here. Did you check the kitchen? You know she likes … food,” Olivia said.

“I’m counting to three.”

Olivia waved her hand at the door and it swung open. “Surprise! Wow, Mom, you’re a total phoenix.”

“Hi, Mom!” I echoed, peeking around Olivia. She was right. Olivia might be the knockout of the family, but our mom can really put it together when she wants to.

Olivia nudged me back into place. “If I have to tell you to hold still
one more time
, I’m
tying
you down.”

Mom took in my face, then cast a long, wry look at my big sister. “What have you done to Abby?”

“I’m making her beautiful.
More
beautiful,” Olivia corrected. “We’re not done, you can’t judge it yet.”

Mom waved on the water and cast up some soap, then took Olivia by the shoulder. “You, out. Abby, wash off your face.”

“She’s an
adult
,” Olivia protested as she squeezed by Mom and out the door.

“In name only,” Mom said, pinning her with a look. “She is still twelve, and she is going to wash all of that off.” When I stood up she said, “Oh, for heaven’s sake—she’s not even
dressed
!” She grabbed my hand and pulled me out of the room. “You are going to drive me out of my mind. We don’t have time for this. We have to leave in
twenty-five
minutes!”

With Olivia tagging after us, Mom dragged me down the stairs, across the shop, up the back stairs, down the hall, and around the corner to my room, muttering to herself the whole way. I jogged beside her, the soft material of my slip plastered to my back and legs with sweat. “Not even dressed yet! What do you think you’re doing? We’re late already—do you think they wait forever? Do you want to miss your own
Judgment
?”

“Gil almost slept through his,” I said.

“Gil is a very special boy,” Mom said. “And possibly narcoleptic.”

“What about me? Aren’t I a special boy?”

“Very cute, young lady.” But Mom was smiling as she deposited me in my room. Well, it’s sorta mine. As of three weeks ago I’m sharing it with Olivia, because Mom says she and Dad have more important things to worry about than maintaining stretching spells to give us all our own rooms. To be honest, I don’t really mind sharing. “Olivia, call everyone in here, then get the jewelry box from my dresser.”

“I can get it,” I said.

Mom plunked me into a chair in front of the mirror. “Not for another twenty-two minutes. When you’re done with
that,” she told Olivia as she cast up a warm, damp washcloth to rub over my face, “you can change your dress.”

“Why? What’s wrong with this dress?” Olivia protested innocently, smoothing her skirt. To give her credit, she
was
dressed for the Guild. Her outfit wasn’t quite as tight or as low cut as she usually went for.

Mom didn’t answer. She didn’t need to. There comes a point when you’re arguing with Mom that she stops talking, and that’s when you just give up and do what she wants because seriously, discussion over.

So Olivia sent out a call, then went off to get the box and change her dress. The summons whispered along the walls, and moments later they came trickling in. Aunts and cousins (I have a
lot
of both) and Grandma (just one of those) appeared, until the room was packed. No Alexa, though. They piled on the bed, smoothed out the wrinkles in the Judging dress, and started laughing and talking until the air buzzed like a nest of pixies. The room was full—full of people, full of noise, full of the scent of perfume and the clatter of jewelry, and the
shuzz
of silk skirts brushing against each other as people squeezed by. And Grandma quietly combed out my hair with wrinkled hands that were still as skilled as a Guild mage’s, as soft as… You know, there really isn’t anything in the world as soft as Gran’s hands.

I glanced at the Judging dress through the mirror. The Hale Family Traditional Ceremonial Judging Dress usually hangs in a special wardrobe up in the attic, next to Mom’s wedding dress and all the graduation robes we acquired over the years. It’s a
beautiful dress—silky and rich and deep purple and so ornate that without magic it took at least four hands and fifteen very focused minutes to put it on. I hadn’t been around for Alexa’s Judging, and I was only three when Olivia walked up the Guild steps, barely old enough to have memories—just a sense of something soft and purple, loud voices, and being passed from person to person. But the pictures were enough; I’d been waiting to wear that dress forever. So I wasn’t really sure why nerves were starting to boil in my stomach.

Olivia returned in a rose silk dress with a very modest neckline—and absolutely no back. She was holding the jewelry box up in triumph, and wincing as protection spells crackled around her fingertips. Mom took it; I saw the magic seal fall away like petals to the ground, and there was a slight
click
as the lock opened.

Mom lifted out the amethyst necklace. It was the necklace she wore on her wedding day and each of my siblings wore when they were Judged. (Even the boys had worn it; apparently Gil had claimed, half seriously, it would be bad luck if they didn’t. Jeremy said that was stupid, but when his turn came he tucked it under the high collar of his shirt just the same.) The necklace would be Alexa’s, as soon as she decided to marry. Grandma held my hair up as Mom fastened it around my neck. It was light and cool, and I shivered as it touched my skin. The stones felt strange for a minute, then felt like nothing at all.

Most of the family was here, except for a couple of distant cousins who sent flowers and savings bonds. Even Jeremy, who’d
been going on and on about how he’d been picked as teacher’s assistant this year with all that “responsibility.” (“There are meetings. I can’t just skip them!”) He’d just finished his sixth year at Thorten, where he was a double major and getting distinguished honors and generally making life difficult for everyone who was not that great in school. But he was too busy to come home. He’d complained, “You let Alexa skip things all the time!” Then he had a quiet talk with Dad, the kind where Dad talks and you’re quiet, and he ended up arriving three days early.

BOOK: Ordinary Magic
2.52Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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