When you're ready to activate it, add the gypsum, and the amulet comes to life. It makes it nearly impossible for someone to see you. You can leave a room or area in safety, undetected, before the magic wears off."
The wording wasn't lost on me, and in spite of my inner resistance, I couldn't help but ask:
"It won't work if they actually know you're there," she explained. "You can't just cast it and become invisible - though there are more advanced spells for that. But if someone isn't actively expecting to see you... well, they won't."
She showed me others, many of which were basic and amulet based, requiring a similar means of activation. One that she dubbed intermediate had kind of a reverse activation process.
The caster wore an amulet that protected her when she cast the rest of the spell - one that made all people within a certain radius go temporarily blind. Only the caster retained sight. Listening, I still squirmed at the thought of using magic to directly affect someone else.
Concealing yourself was one thing. But blinding someone? Making them dizzy? Forcing them to sleep? It crossed that line, using wrong and unnatural means to do things humans had no business doing.
And yet... deep inside, some part of me could see the usefulness. The attack had made me reconsider all sorts of things. As much as it pained me to admit it, I could even see how giving blood to Sonya might not be so bad. Might. I wasn't ready to do it yet by any means.
I listened patiently as she went through the pages, all the while wondering what her game was here. Finally, when we had five minutes left of class, she told me, "For next Monday, I'd like you to re-create one of these, just as you did with the fire amulet and write a paper on it."
"Ms. Terwilliger - " I began.
"Yes, yes," she said, closing the book and standing up. "I'm well aware of your arguments and objections, how humans aren't meant to wield such power and all of that nonsense. I respect your right to feel that way. No one's making you use any of this. I just want you to continue getting a feel for the construction."
"I can't," I said adamantly. "I won't."
"It's no different than dissecting a frog in biology," she argued. "Hands-on work to understand the material."
"I guess..." I relented, glumly. "Which one do you want me to do, ma'am?"
"Whichever you like."
Something about that bothered me even more. "I'd rather you choose."
"Don't be silly," she said. "You have freedom in your larger term paper and freedom in this.
I don't care what you do, so long as the assignment's complete. Go with what interests you." And that was the problem. In having me choose, she was making me get invested in the magic. It was easy for me to claim no part in it and point out that everything I did for her was under duress. Even if this assignment was technically dictated by her, that one small choice she'd given me forced me to become proactive.
So, I put the decision off - which was almost unheard of for me when it came to homework.
Some part of me thought that maybe if I ignored the assignment, it would go away or she'd change her mind. Besides, I had a week. No point in stressing about it yet.
Although I knew we had no obligation to Lia for giving us the costumes, I still felt the appropriate thing to do was return them to her - just so there was no doubt of my intentions.
Once Ms. Terwilliger released me, I packed up my and Jill's costumes into their garment bags and headed into downtown. Jill was sad to let hers go but conceded that it was the right thing to do.
Lia, however, felt otherwise.
"What am I going to do with these?" she asked when I showed up at her shop. Large rhinestone hoop earrings made her dazzling to look at. "They were custom made for you."
"I'm sure you can alter them. And I'm sure they're not far off from your sample sizes anyway." I held the hangers out, and she obstinately crossed her arms. "Look, they were great.
We really appreciate what you did. But we can't keep them."
"You will keep them," she stated.
"If you don't take them, I'll just leave them on your counter," I warned.
"And I'll have them shipped back to your dorm."
I groaned. "Why is this so important to you? Why can't you take no for an answer? There are plenty of pretty girls in Palm Springs. You don't need Jill."
"That's exactly it," said Lia. "Plenty of pretty girls that all blend into each other. Jill is special.
She's a natural and doesn't even know it. She could be great someday."
"Someday," I repeated. "But not right now."
Lia attempted another approach. "The campaign is for scarves and hats. I can't do masks again, but I can put her in sunglasses - especially if we shoot outside. Tell me if you'd agree to this plan - "
"Lia, please. Don't bother."
"Just listen," she urged. "We'll go do a photo shoot. Afterward, you can go through all the pictures and throw out any that don't meet your weird religious criteria."
"No exceptions," I insisted. "And I'm leaving the dresses." I set them on a counter and headed out, ignoring Lia's protests about all the amazing things she could do for Jill. Maybe someday, I thought. Someday when all of Jill's problems are gone. Something told me that day was far away, however.
Although my loyalty to Spencer's was steadfast, a small French cafe caught my attention as I walked back to my car. Or rather, the scent of their coffee caught my attention. I had no obligations at school and stopped into the cafe for a cup. I had a book for English class on me and decided to do some reading at one of the cafe's small tables. Half of that time was spent texting back and forth with Brayden. He'd wanted to know what I was reading, and we were swapping our favorite Tennessee Williams quotes.
I'd barely been there for ten minutes when shadows fell over me, blocking the late afternoon sun. Two guys stood there, neither of whom I knew. They were a little older than me, one blond haired and blue eyed while the other was dark haired and deeply tanned. Their expressions weren't hostile, but they weren't friendly either. Both were well built, like those who trained regularly. And then, after a double-take, I realized I did recognize one of them. The dark-haired guy was the one who'd approached Sonya and me a while ago, claiming to know her from Kentucky.
Immediately, all the panic I'd been trying to suppress this last week came back to me, that sense of being trapped and helpless. It was only the realization that I was in a public place, surrounded by people, which allowed me to regard these two with astonishing calm.