I pulled down a perfectly round plate about twelve inches across. It was smooth, with no ornamentation, and had been polished to such brilliance that it reflected almost as well as a mirror. I probably could've done without that part, though, seeing as my hair and makeup were showing the wear and tear of the day. Around anyone else, I would have felt selfconscious.
I set the plate on the worktable and poured one cup of water from the cauldron onto the silvery surface. All non-liquid ingredients had been removed, and the water was perfectly clear. Once it stopped rippling, the mirror effect returned. Ms. Terwilliger handed me a tiny bowl of galbanum incense, which the book said should be burning during this last stage. I lit the resin with a candle, and a bitter, green smell wafted up, contrasting with the sweetness of the liquid.
"You still have the hair?" Ms. Terwilliger asked.
"Of course." I laid it across the water's smooth surface. Part of me wanted something to happen - sparks or smoke - but I'd read the directions and knew better. I pulled a stool up to the table and sat on it, allowing me to gaze down into the water. "Now I look?"
"Now you look," she confirmed. "Your mind needs to be both focused and spread out. You need to think about the components of the spell and the magic they hold, as well as your desire to find the spell's subject. At the same time, you need to maintain a perfect clarity of mind and stay fixed on your task with razor sharp focus."
I looked down at my reflection and tried to do all those things she'd just described. Nothing happened. "I don't see anything."
"Of course not," she said. "It's only been a minute. I told you this was an advanced spell. It may take a while for you to fully muster the strength and power you need. Stay on task. We'll be waiting."
The two of them left. I stared bleakly at the water, wondering how long "a while" was. I'd been excited when the spell seemed so simple originally. Now, I wished there were more ingredients to mix, more incantations to recite. This high-level magic, relying on will and mental energy, was much more difficult - mainly because it was intangible. I liked the concrete. I liked to know exactly what was needed to make something happen. Cause and effect.
But this? This was just me staring and staring, hoping I was "staying fixed" and using
"razor sharp focus." How would I know if I was? Even if I achieved that state, it might still take a while to manifest what I needed. I tried not to think of that yet. Sonya. Sonya was all that mattered right now. All of my will and energy had to go into saving her.
I kept telling myself that as the minutes ticked by. Each time I was certain I should stop and ask Ms. Terwilliger what to do, I would force myself to keep looking into the water. Sonya, Sonya. Think about Sonya. And still, nothing happened. Finally, when an ache in my back made sitting unbearable, I stood up to stretch. The rest of my muscles were starting to cramp up too. I walked back to the living room; almost an hour and a half had passed since I'd last been out here.
"Anything?" asked Ms. Terwilliger.
"No," I said. "I must be doing something wrong."
"You're focusing your mind? Thinking about her? About finding her?" I was really tired of hearing the word focus. Frustration was replacing my earlier anxiety about magic. "Yes, yes, and yes," I said. "But it's still not working." She shrugged. "And that's why we have a curfew extension. Try again." Adrian flashed me a sympathetic look and started to say something - but then thought better of it. I nearly left but paused as a troublesome thought nagged at me.
"What if she's not alive?" I asked. "Could that be why it's not working?" Ms. Terwilliger shook her head. "No. You'd still see something if she wasn't. And... well, you'd know."
I returned to the workroom and tried again - with similar results. The next time I went to talk to Ms. Terwilliger, I saw that it hadn't been quite an hour. "I'm doing something wrong," I insisted. "Either that, or I messed up the initial spell. Or this really is beyond me."
"If I know you, the spell was flawless," she said. "And no, this isn't beyond you, but only you have the power to make it happen."
I was too tired to parse her esoteric philosophy nonsense. I turned without a word and trudged back to the workroom. When I reached it, I discovered I'd been followed. I looked up at Adrian and sighed.
"No distractions, remember?" I said.
"I won't stay," he said. "I just wanted to make sure you're okay."
"Yeah... I mean, I don't know. In as much as anyone can be with all of this." I nodded toward the silver plate. "Maybe I do need you to get me out of here." He considered for a moment and then shook his head. "I don't think that's a good idea." I stared up at him in disbelief. "What happened to me not having to do anything I didn't want to do? And you nobly defending me?"
One of his knowing little smiles played over his lips. "Well. That was back when you didn't want to do this because it challenged all your beliefs. Now that the line is crossed, your problem seems to be a little pessimism and not believing you can do this. And honestly, that's bullshit."
"A little pessimism?" I exclaimed. "Adrian, I've been staring at a bowl of water for over two hours! It's nearly one thirty. I'm exhausted, I want coffee, and every muscle in my body hurts.
Oh, and I'm about ready to throw up from that incense."
"Those things all suck," he agreed. "But I seem to recall you giving all of us lectures recently about enduring hardships to do what's right. Are you saying you can't do that to help Sonya?"
"I would do anything to help her! Anything within my power, that is. And I don't think this is."
"I don't know," he speculated. "I've had a lot of time to talk to Jackie - she lets me call her that, you know - and I've learned all about this human magic stuff. There's a lot you can do with it."
"It's wrong," I grumbled.
"And yet here you are, with the ability to find Sonya." Adrian hesitated and then, reaching some decision, stepped toward me and rested his hands on my shoulders. "Jackie told me that you're one of the most naturally gifted people she's ever encountered for this kind of stuff.
She said that with a little practice, a spell like this'll be cake for you, and she's certain you can pull it off now. And I believe her. Not because I have proof you're magically talented but because I've seen how you approach everything else. You won't fail at this. You don't fail at anything." I was so exhausted I thought I might cry. I wanted to fall forward and have him carry me out of here, like he'd promised earlier. "That's the problem. I don't fail, but I'm afraid I will now.