Chapter 9: Friday (part 2/2)

Eva pulled her bike into the garage at quarter to one, then wiped the rain off her bike with the first rag her hand found — a little oil wouldn't harm her bike, but rust would — before picking up the grocery bag from her basket.

"I told you to take your coat," Mom scolded as Eva walked through the kitchen. "Change before you catch your death of a cold."

Eva was caught between I was going to anyway and It's not even cold out and No one actually dies of a cold. "OK," she said, to sidestep getting lectured about ignoring Mom.

Raindrop was asleep, so Eva changed quietly, setting her jeans and shirt on the laundry hamper rather than bang it open and closed. With a sweater and dry jeans on, she thought better of leaving them out - presented with such an unreasonable temptation, it would be more surprising if Raindrop didn't drag them down and shred them - and picked the hamper up to stash in the bathroom.

It was heavier than she'd expected, even for having wet clothes on top. When's the last time I did laundry? Other than one outfit to hide that I fell in the Bay, Eva wondered, then decided, too long ago if I can't remember. She wrapped her fingers around the handles and carried it out into the hall, then set it down and popped the lid open and shut to put what she'd been wearing into it after all, before shuffling back to the kitchen.

"Oh, Eva...your sister's stuff is already in the machines." Mom sounded disappointed.

"I'll just put mine in after, then."

"I just started hers a minute ago." Disappointment shaded off toward irritation.

It couldn't have been a literal minute ago, or Eva would've heard the beep as the machines started. "Work's cancelled for the afternoon so I'll be home anyway."

"What did you do this time to get sent home?"

"Nothing," Eva said, opening the cabinet carefully to not fling it open and bang it on the next one over, and trying to keep her voice from tightening in irritation of her own. "Mr. Pierce just didn't want people walking on fresh seed in the rain." And most parents probably like it when their teenager spontaneously does a chore but don't say it don't say it don't say it...

"Don't get an attitude at me for doing your sister's laundry but not yours."

Eva blinked. "I don't care about that. I just want to do mine next." If Eva'd ever thought about BethAnne not having to do laundry, she would've reasoned that the younger sister did more cooking, so less of something else made sense. Though now that I think of it she should at least learn how...

"Fine, just while you're being a high and mighty Fixer, make one of the things you fix your attitude," Mom said on her way through the door to the garage.

What attitude? Eva shook her head, opening a can of soup.


Whenever Eva brought her chem lab kit — Noah's kit, that would be Mindy's next year — home from Bay High for homework, she'd kept it in the kitchen, to have the sink and stove close by. For this kit, she wasn't sure that was a good idea: in the assignment lists, she'd noticed "Magic in Science" projects for each unit, and while she didn't mind getting better at spellcasting and getting school credit for it, she had to consider the possibility that some of the materials would be not quite usual chem lab stuff - and the possibility that Mom would get out of sorts if Eva stored anything as weird as eye of newt, fish breath, or stone tears in the kitchen.

What she wasn't sure about was whether anyone would notice that she was changing off of keeping it in the kitchen. She'd thought better of moving it to her desk shelves, not wanting to make a fuss, when she had to buy more pH test strips because BethAnne had used most of them on testing different ingredients in the kitchen.

I'll figure that out later, she decided, picking up the box to take it to her room.

Chirp?

"Hey Raindrop, you hungry?"

Chirp.

The chirp wasn't urgent-sounding, so Eva decided the hatchling could wait. Still better feed her after this. She set the box down on her desk, then pulled her pocketknife from her [check continuity - bag or desk drawer?].

Then, she hesitated.

Orientation hadn't been that big a deal, for all they tried to make a rite of passage out of it by setting up a chat room for everyone to use while they watched the video about how to get their assignments, and how to turn them in, and how to get something added to their class lists, and other administrivialities.

She'd not been in such a hurry to chat with people who were changing schools so late in the semester, wondering whether they also had to, but with less of an excuse.

Downloading files and videos and uploading essays and taking quizzes - that was all virtual stuff, things that would be easy enough to pretend had never happened. But the lab kit, that obviously existed, and opening it up felt like taking delivery on her new school in a way pushing buttons hadn't matched.

She sliced the tape.

Nothing happened, except that she felt moderately foolish for having half-expected something.

She sliced through the other side's tape, then across the top, and folded back the flaps. Foam bits stuck to the flaps, then drifted down to the desk and floor.

Raindrop jumped down from the foot of Eva's bed. Chirp?

"Whoa there, little one."

Chirp?! Raindrop bounced forward even faster.

Eva knelt and snatched up the foam bits. "I said no."

Chiiiirp...

"I mean it. You lay back down for a bit and I'll bring your lunch in."

Raindrop settled to the ground right where she stood.

Eva sighed. Well, I didn't tell her to go back to the bed. Then Raindrop looked up, wide-eyed, and Eva felt guilty about scolding Raindrop so hard: she'd worried that the hatchling would choke on a foam bit, but what if the foam bits were the starch kind that dissolve in water? Spork had gotten into Dad's stash of those once with no worse consequences than an upset stomach. And how a little starch upset his stomach when one of his breeds is known for eating couches, I still don't know.

Eva licked her finger, then rubbed it into one of the foam bits. Nothing seemed to dissolve, but maybe her finger hadn't been wet enough; she spat on it, then rubbed hard.

Rather than so much as permanently compressing, the foam squeaked. Definitely the plastic kind, Eva decided, and felt a little vindicated: that could have hurt Raindrop much worse than a scolding.

She wiped her hand dry on her jeans, then pulled the plastic grocery bag she'd brought the granola bars home in from her desk drawer - she usually wouldn't have bothered, but the cardboard would have gone weak if it got too soggy - and scooped out enough of the foam bits to see what else was in the box, marvelling that, even with all the magic that had been figured out in the past several years, the best packing method the Institute could come up with was still dumping Mundane packing peanuts in around everything.


The normality of the contents of the science lab kit was unsettling, Eva thought, as Raindrop ate. Whatever she'd been expecting, it hadn't been a perfectly Mundane assortment of things like beakers, test tubes, tweezers, a scale, pipettes, natural specimens, and vials with labels like calcium chloride and potassium iodide.

She supposed she should have expected the glassware - they couldn't expect her to use their normal dishes for chem lab type stuff - but it was still a letdown.

Mom ought to be happy, Eva mentally grumbled, about how normal it was. I should've let her open it after all; maybe she would've been in a better mood and not flipped out on my about laundry.

Since it existed, even if she'd expected more magic, she supposed she should use it. Eva flipped open the instructions for the Magic-in-Science project that went with the unit on [chemistry topic]. [Step 1: assemble the following materials and your spell from the project from the Atoms and Molecules unit.] She'd hoped to finish up the current unit and go on, and mop up the projects from previous units if she needed the points at the end of the semester, but it looked like that wasn't going to happen. She could get a C without the projects, but if she took the C in chem and then didn't finish one of the other classes, she'd have a GPA problem...

How do Mundane students handle that? Eva wondered. Talented young researchers and kids of Institute staff couldn't be expected to accept low grades, not when this was supposed to launch them into good colleges so they could go on to do...whatever Mundanes did after studying about magic. Is there a Mundane version of Chemistry that doesn't have all these projects? That thought was almost as unsettling: if there was a Mundane version, that took the same amount of time since it was for the same credit, what had been cut from her version to make time for the magic projects? These spells better be worth knowing.

Fine, back to the beginning. She flipped back in the chemistry courseware to the first unit, on "Physical and Chemical Properties of Materials," and found its project. Her task was to use physical properties of a material as part of the effect of a spell. Specifically, tree sap was sticky, and that property of stickiness could be used to make "smart glue."

She poured the packet of dehydrated powdered tree sap into the bottom of a test tube, then pipetted the required amount of water to reconstitute it and swirled it around until it mixed together. Then she pulled the spell diagram up in the chemistry courseware and took a screenshot in case she needed to do the spell again after finishing chemistry. From the screenshot, she copied the spell diagram onto a piece of paper, then rolled the paper into a scroll and pushed it into the test tube until it dipped down into the sap. As she read off the spell from the screenshot, the sap turned blue.

She pipetted up a sample of the sap, about a cubic centimeter, noticed that it had become stickier, then dropped it into a hundred milliliter (why one of them was in cubic centimeters but the other was in milliliters was beyond Eva) sample cup of water. With her right index finger, she dipped into the water - not just water, of course, but it looked and felt like water - then tapped that finger repeatedly against her thumb. Still tapping, she ran her left index finger around the cup's rim clockwise, feeling the sap solution on her fingers become stickier as the contents of the sample cup became more blue.

"It's that easy," Eva whispered. Years of stumbling in the dark, guessing what kind of spell might Fix each problem before even trying to look up how to do it, when someone could've just —

But who, and how were they supposed to know about me? Eva's sense of fair play pointed out. If it weren't for what Mundanes might do with it, someone using it to contact people like her about lessons would persuade her to not hate a Magicals' registry.

With that cheerful thought, she stuck the sticker with varying intensities of blue on the side of the sample cup for the next step: collect different objects, weigh them to the nearest gram on the scale, and record which shade of blue it takes to stick objects of different weights to a vertical surface. Anyway, she thought, it's bound to get harder eventually. They're easing me in.


Eva finished typing her results and turned them in. This stuff really works, she thought, grinning. Glue she could unstick or restick at will was more useful than anything she'd done in chem lab at Bay High. I wonder if it works on doors?

She ran out to the garage for one of Dad's paintbrushes, then took what was left of the glue to her room. She used the paintbrush to spread the glue along the edge of her doors, both into the bathroom and the hallway, then turned the glue up and tried the doors. Eva grinned: the knob still turned, but the doors wouldn't open. That'll stop BethAnne from walking in like she owns the place. Eva'd wanted locks on her doors for so long, but Mom had said no, calling it unnecessary. Eva laughed: can't say no to this, can you?

Whatever she was missing out on, that the Mundane kids got, she decided she was OK with her chemistry class.


A/N: Hello again! As I mentioned last time — and nothing's changed between — this is the best stopping point that's within reach, so at this time we're going on hiatus for the remainder of Preptober and through NaNoWriMo. If you're feeling a bit impatient, however, I'm uploading past this point into the Read section at 4theWords to work on there (I'm a NaNo rebel). If you're not already a member at 4theWords, you can sign up using the referral code RTQXI27262 to get us both some free in-game stuff. Otherwise, see you in December!