At home, I’m not surprised to see both my parents’ cars in the driveway. As excited as they were this morning that I’d finally mogged, I’m sure they declared it a family holiday and took the day off from their real-estate office.
Or they wanted to be available in case I blew up the school with magic.
I walk through the garage and enter the house into the kitchen. It’s empty. Throwing my bag on the table, I glance out the sliding doors into the back yard. Mom and Dad sit on the patio, plates of grilled steak on the table in front of them. The smoky scent teases my nose even through the closed door. Dad sees me first, smiles, and waves for me to join them.
I guide the door open and step out into the muggy, early evening air. The yard looks peaceful. The light breeze rustles the leaves of our huge oak tree, still green from the summer. Mom’s knockout rose bushes overflow with dark pink blossoms, surrounding the pool as it sparkles in the sunlight, a deeper blue than the cloudless sky and smooth as glass—the total opposite from when I took a twenty-foot dive from my bedroom window in the dark.
“How was school?” Dad raises his eyebrows, slicing off a piece of meat and stabbing it with his fork.
Mom stands to hug me. “Did you have a good first day?”
I return her hug and sit in the chair next to Dad. “Yeah. It was… eventful.”
Gym class, the meeting, it’s mostly a blur, but the little piece of paper in my pocket almost sends me floating through the air again.
“Your steak’s on the grill. Help yourself.” Dad points over his shoulder to the outdoor kitchen area. Heat still rises from the grill, the refraction making the gray bricks of the backsplash dance like a mirage in the desert.
My mouth waters at the smell of the meat. I grab a plate from the counter and pick up my steak with the tongs. Returning to the glass-topped table, I place a heaping spoonful of Dad’s homemade potato salad next to my steak and sink into the puffy cushioned chair. Dad hands me a coke from the cooler resting on the stamped concrete next to the table.
“Did you enjoy your first meeting?” Mom asks.
I think about describing my fight with Ky, but I know it would upset her. Still, it’s not until now that I realize I’m frustrated with them. They could have given me more than just a lame some people may seem different to you today warning.
“Why didn’t you tell me about Ms. A? Or Iggy? Or any of them? Hell, I almost got eaten by a skin-changer impersonating a tiger because I didn’t know how to act.”
(Note to self: My parents should probably react to news of my near-death with something other than amused smiles.)
“We know. Ms. A called us and told us about the meeting.” Dad takes a sip from his soda. “Ky’s parents are always complaining he’s a hot-head.”
“A hot-head? More like a psychopath. Who tries to eat people? You should have warned me. What I was in for and that my magic might slip out.”
Mom nods. “We did warn you. We just didn’t think anything would happen today.”
“She’s right,” Dad says. “We never dreamed you’d be able to work your magic today.”
He has a point. They did tell me that, too. I guess it isn’t their fault Ky is an asshole.
Dad hands me a fork and knife and I take them from his outstretched hand. “How did I do magic today?”
Dad shrugs. “Honestly, we have no idea. Maybe it has to do with you mogging so late. Pent up magic and all that.”
Biting my lip, I consider this. Makes sense. “Did Ms. A tell you what happened to me in gym?” I cut into my steak, imagining Ky’s tiger teeth.
“She did,” Dad answers with a laugh. “Again, we don’t understand it. I’m glad she was able to help though. You were definitely initiated into the community today.”
“Iggy was surprised Ms. A showed herself to me so soon. Why does she try to hide from new people like me?”
Mom takes a sip of her water then responds. “Sometimes they’re hesitant to share their identity. Unicorns are rare and extremely private.”
“Hmph.” Dad rolls his eyes. “They’re extremely pompous and think they have more power than the rest of us.”
“They do, dear.” Sarcasm drips from Mom’s voice. “That’s why they make all the rules.”
“Wait,” I hold a bite of steak halfway to my mouth. “Unicorns control the fantasy world? Like…the government or something?” I pop the bite in and almost groan, wondering if Dad uses magic in the outdoor kitchen. The tender meat almost melts in my mouth.
“Yes.” Mom sighs. “There are only a few hundred of them but they’re powerful. Most are distant and analytical, like to keep their magic to their kind. Ms. A is more open than most unicorns. That’s why she agreed to instruct the students at your school.”
I swallow my steak and take a sip of my soda, wincing as the ice-cold liquid hits my teeth. “How many magical families are there?”
“More than you’d think but still not many. There are several towns around the world where magic families are allowed to live, depending on their needs and wishes,” Mom says. “Dad and I grew up here in the Midwest and wanted to stay here to raise you.”
“Allowed by the unicorns? Why do they get to decide?”
“They make the rules, we follow them,” Dad says as he hands me the steak sauce. “Every society needs to have someone to keep it organized. Ours is no different, in that respect.”
“How do the unicorns keep track of everyone?” I chew a bite of creamy potato salad. “I mean, what if a wizard marries someone who isn’t magical? How can the unicorns tell a human what to do?”
Mom and Dad chew quietly, neither one meeting my gaze.
“What are you not telling me?”
Mom places her fork on her napkin and meets my gaze. “Remember the rules we told you about?”
She knows I’m a smart geek. Did she really think I’d forget something that simple? I put up three fingers like a boy scout salute.
“Don’t get caught.”
“Yes, but there’s one more.” She and Dad exchange a look then she finishes. “Stick to our kind.”
“Meaning?” My throat tightens. I don’t like where this rule is going.
Mom’s lips tremble and Dad takes over the conversation. “It means wizards can only marry wizards. By eliminating cross-breeding, the unicorns claim they are preserving the purity of magical blood and the power of the magical community. It also severely cuts down on the magical population.”
I look between them and wait for the punchline. They know I love Harry Potter so talking about purebloods has to be a joke.
But they don’t laugh. And neither do I.
“That’s bullshit,” I say.
“That’s unicorn law.” Dad stands from his chair at the end of the table and puts the lid on the bowl of potato salad.
Mom stares at her plate for a moment then stands alongside Dad, picking up the salt and pepper shakers.
“But what about me?” They freeze and meet my gaze. Piper’s face enters my mind. “I mean, what if I don’t want to marry a witch? What if I, I fall in love with someone who isn’t a witch?”
(Note to self: You offered to tutor Piper, you didn’t propose.)
Mom clears her throat. “That’s not something we need to worry about right now.”
“Your mom’s right.” Dad gives me a grin. “You can date anyone you want. Play the field while you’re young.”
“Nice, Dad.” I stuff my mouth with more steak to avoid this conversation.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish