Chapter 3

I swerved into the driveway. Tisha's cute little bug was right behind me. Luckily, I had gotten the spot closer to the door. I turned off the ignition, getting geared up to dash into the house. I searched for my purse quickly. Darn, it was stuck under the seat. Somehow, the handle had been wedged between the rollers. I grasped my purse and yanked hard. I didn't have time for this. The purse came free and I didn't bother to inspect it for damage. I hoped it was in good shape. It was my favorite purse. I loved the blue bead design.

I had a race to think about just then. I glanced up at Tisha. Competition flashed in our eyes. It was a tradition with us. Lena had been in on it two--when we'd all been friends back in grade six. But no more. Lena wasn't part of our group any more, and she never would be again. I had to admit I'd never liked her--even when we were friends. Going to sleepovers at her house had been torture. Lena and her mother would fight like cats and dogs with insults flying at each other. And when she wasn't yelling at her mom, she was yelling at Tisha and I because her mother had put her in a sore mood.

I dove from the vehicle at a start. Tisha's door slammed shut before mine did. Dang, she had a head start. Plus, Tisha was super fast for such a short girl. I dove to catch up. We were neck and neck all the way up the porch steps toward the screen door. She reached it a split second before I did, swinging it open dangerously. I had to jump back a foot and the door still nearly slammed me in the face. It whistled by, and inch from my nose.

I grabbed Tisha's arm before she could dive through the door. An instant later, the door slammed against the wall and I couldn't help but cringe. Tisha jumped nervously. She obviously hadn't noticed that she'd pushed the door so hard. Using her surprise against her and the leverage of the door jam, I jumped through and took off for the kitchen. She was right behind me. I could hear her footsteps pounding seriously close.

I swung the cupboard door open and pulled out the Oreos, holding them high overhead. Luckily, she was short or this never would have worked. She tried to snatch for them and promptly gave up, grabbing two glasses and a jug of milk from the fridge. We were both breathing pretty heavily. Looking at each other, we both started laughing.

"Not fair!" Tish announced mid-breathe. "You grabbed my arm!"
I grinned, not bothering to deny it. "Yep," I announced. Then added, "All's fair."

She looked as though she was about to mock-punch me, but she was holding too many objects. She gave up promptly.

We moved to the living room and fell back into the couches, still panting.

"I'm so glad my mom isn't here," I said. If she had been here, she likely would have called to us the moment we came barging through the door. That meant she was still at the college. It came as a bit of a relief. I didn't think I could stomach anymore censure right now--even if I rightly deserved it.

"Are you sure you haven't been skipping school today, young lady?" Tish answered in a perfect imitation of my mother's voice. So like my mom's voice that I felt an uncanny shiver run down my spine.

"Scout's honor," I replied. "Although I would have liked to skip sixth. Lena was my lab partner."

Tish nodded sympathetically. She was the only one who seemed to know Lena the way I did. The three of us went way back. To be honest, I really don't think I liked Lena even when we were friends. She treated us just the same way she treated her mother. It was like a compulsion with her. She had to find some way to offend or pick at others or else she didn't feel good about herself.

Tish pushed the Moroccan book of Legends to my side of the table to make room for the goodies. She placed the cups and milk on the table as she did so. I plopped the container of Oreos down with it. I rooted through the bag, pulling out a cookie. Then I gripped the Moroccan book of Legends and pulled it onto my lap, spine down. The pages splayed open across my knees and I got a distinct whiff of mildew. I rifled through the pages as I bit into my cookie.

Tish leaned over, rooting the bag for a cookie of her own and asked, "What's that?"

I shrugged. I don't know what had drawn me to it. It was unremarkable, not to mention smelly. "Moroccan Legends. It's Nabil's."

"Yummy," Tish replied.

I sent her an upraised eyebrow and exclaimed. "Eww! Are you crushing on my mother's boyfriend?"

Tish elbowed me, her hair swishing back and forth as she shook her head. For a moment she couldn't answer because her mouth was full of chewed up Oreos. Finally, she swallowed and said. "I'm crushing on Dave. But it doesn't hurt to look, does it? Come on, it's not as if you haven't noticed his rock hard abs. The circus has done him good."

I shook my head, refusing to admit it.

"Oh!" Tisha's eyes suddenly brightened. "Speaking of Dave. He and his friends invited us to go to a picnic at Henderson Lake tomorrow. By the skate park. You coming?"

"Course," I replied, sending her a mischievous glance. "Maybe you can hook me up with one of Dave's hot friends."

"What about Jay?" Tish joked.

I felt the color rise to my cheeks. "He thinks my name is Britney. Britney! Enough said."

"Well, you have to admit; Britney is pretty close to Bri." A smile was playing across Tisha's lips. I knew she was baiting me, but I fell for it anyway.

I folded my arms across my chest. "You know you're not making me feel any better, right?"

"Okay." She rolled her eyes and pulled the Moroccan book of Legends from my lap. She named a few titles. "This Nabils? Is this what your mom and he do with their time together? Your family is whacked."

Coming from anybody else, that comment would have received a well-deserved punch. But this was Tish we were talking about. "Tell me about it," I agreed. "Do you know that my mom actually tried to summon Cupid for me? How wacko is that?"

Tish giggled. "Okay. Now that is wacko. Talking about superstitions, how can anybody actually believe in that stuff?"

I shrugged. "Even if this stuff did work, I stopped them before they got the chance to finish."

Tish raised her eyebrow. "Why? It's just a joke."

I shrugged again. This time, feeling a little abashed. "I thought they were trying to curse me."

Tish laughed. "Now you know your mom wouldn't do that. If you thought she would, then I know her better than you do."

I shrugged, feeling uncomfortable.

"Where is the Cupid spell?" Tish asked me, changing the subject.

For some reason, I didn't want her to look at that page. It's as if I was scared that Tish would actually try it on me. It was a silly thought. Who gave a crap whether Tish tried it on me. It was just a silly little superstition. Nothing would come of it. Certainly not Cupid himself.

Letting out a sigh that was nearly inaudible, I flipped the book to the page she was looking for.

"Aha!" She responded, placing a perfectly manicured nail onto the page. Her nail sat just below a little excerpt. She read through it, her eyes flashing from one sentence to the next. One she was finished, she read aloud.

"This summoning spell is said to call Cupid from Olympus. When these words are read aloud, Cupid's bow quivers with the energy of the words. Cupid is able to trace this energy back to the person for whom the summoning was created for. The legend states that Cupid is not bound to answer a call, but will answer if the fancy strikes him."

I snorted, pretending that my interest hadn't piqued. "Sounds like bull."

Tish nodded in acquiescence. "Yes. But it is intriguing." She darted a sideways glance in my direction. "Want to try it?"

"Not really," I replied.

"I want to try it anyway," she replied, so I shrugged.

She began to speak in garbled Moroccan. She sounded terrible. From the little bit of Moroccan I had heard from Nabil, I knew that her pronunciation was way off the mark. The words poured out of her mouth, sounding disjointed and choppy. The only word she actually pronounced correctly was my own name. I felt laughter bubbling up inside of me. Nervous, relieved laughter. For some reason, I didn't want her to pronounce it correctly. If it wasn't, then the words would be void. They would have no meaning whatsoever.

Even as I was thinking this, the words seemed to take on a life of their own. A shiver ran down my spine and spread through the rest of my body. My chest was beginning to balloon. It was something like heartburn, except that it didn't hurt. The laughter that had been bubbling up inside of me died at my lips, but the energy didn't leave me. Instead, it bubbled through my body. I could feel the effervescence in my veins. My chest began to balloon even further.

The air around us was buzzing with electricity. It was building slowly. With each word Tish spoke, it built even higher. I felt as though it was a wave about to crash...and when it did, I didn't know what would happen.

Tisha's words were no longer muddled and disjointed. She spoke like a true native Moroccan. The words flowed with expertise. The pronunciation was impeccable. The words seemed to flow into a long and smooth dance.

I wanted to stop her from making that wave hang over us. I wanted to shut her mouth to keep the words from pouring forth, but I couldn't. I was transfixed. Paralyzed, even. I couldn't move a single muscle.

As Tish began to utter the last word, I felt as though I were on the edge of a precipice, just waiting to fall to my doom. The last word escaped her lips and there was a loud and sizzling pop. The ballooning feeling in my chest, exploded in a rush of energy. The energy flew from my body to reach the overhanging wave. Upon meeting, they exploded outward, filtering through every nook and cranny in the house. Then it seeped through the walls and was gone.

It was as though it had never been there at all. I breathed hard, glancing at Tish with wide eyes. I didn't feel so good about this.

I expected to see the speaker of the words inhabiting her body. But it was only Tish.

"What?" She asked, giving me a disconcerted glance. "Is something wrong?"

"You mean you didn't feel..." I began.

She kicked at me playfully. "Not funny. Jokes up."

I shook my head, trying to clear my thoughts. I must have imagined it all. There was no other logical explanation.

Tish was looking at me as though I'd gone crazy. I smiled and began to laugh. I pretended that I had made it all up and hoped for all I was worth that I wasn't going wacko.