Angeline had been completely silent so far. I glanced over at her, expecting her to have something funny to say about her boyfriend being encouraged to model. But to my surprise, she wasn't paying attention to the conversation at all. She had a geometry book open and was furiously trying to draw some circles freehand. It killed me to watch, but after Kristin's comment about Angeline stabbing someone with a compass, freehand might be best.
"What do you think, Angeline?" I asked, just to see how engrossed she was. "Do you think Eddie would make a good model?"
"Hmm?" She didn't look up. "Oh, yeah. You should let Jill try some clothes on you."
Now Jill blushed. Eddie's deepened.
Just when I thought this meal couldn't get any more surreal, Trey stopped by. He nudged Angeline's chair with his toe. "Hey, McCormick." He nodded toward her graph paper. "Time to check out your curves."
Rather than answering with some biting response, she looked up instantly, a big smile on her face. "I've been working on them all morning," she said. "I think they're pretty good."
"They look good from where I'm standing," said Trey.
They were actually the worst circles I'd ever seen, but I guessed Trey wanted to encourage her. I was amazed at how seriously she was treating this math grade. It seemed to me that she was putting it above everything else, even her personal life. She gathered up all her things so that she and Trey could go to the library. Eddie looked disappointed but couldn't protest, lest it give away the truth about Angeline and him. Trey knew we weren't all actually related, but Eddie and Angeline's relationship was still kept secret.
I realized then that it was almost time to meet Ms. Terwilliger. I hurriedly finished a banana and told Eddie and Jill I'd see them later. Whether they would talk about male modeling or Jill's dating life, I couldn't guess.
I showed up right on the dot for my meeting but found Ms. Terwilliger's room locked and dark. Even in crisis mode, I supposed she was entitled to run a little late now and then, so I settled down on the hallway floor and read ahead for my English class.
I grew so absorbed that I didn't realize how much time had passed until I heard the warning bell ring and realized students were starting to fill the halls. I glanced up just as the same harried substitute teacher from before came scurrying up to the door with a set of keys. I scrambled to my feet.
"Ms. Terwilliger's out today?" I asked. "Is she okay?"
"They don't tell me the reasons," the sub said brusquely. "They just ask me to be here. I hope she left an assignment this time."
Knowing Ms. Terwilliger, I had a feeling it was going to be another "homework" day. I shuffled into the classroom after the sub, feeling a knot of anxiety in my stomach.
The next hour was agonizing. I barely heard as the sub told us to work on homework. Instead, I kept sneaking glances at my cell phone, hoping a text would come from Ms. Terwilliger. No such luck.
I went from class to class but was too distracted to give anything my full attention. I even shocked myself in English when I nearly mixed up Henry IV with Henry VI while answering an essay question. Thankfully, I caught myself before committing that embarrassing mistake to paper.
When I returned to Ms. Terwilliger's classroom for my independent study at the day's end, I was expecting the sub to tell me I could leave early again. Instead, I found Ms. Terwilliger herself, rifling through papers on her desk.
"You're back!" I exclaimed. "I thought something had happened to you."
"Not me," she said. Her face was pale and drawn. "But someone else wasn't so lucky."
"No. Not again." I sank into a chair, and all the fears I'd been carrying around today came crashing down on me. "I'd hoped we'd protected those girls."
Ms. Terwilliger sat down opposite me. "It wasn't one of them. Last night, Veronica targeted one of my coven members. Alana."
It took me several moments to truly process that. "Your coven . . . you mean, like a full-fledged witch?"
"Someone like you?"
Her face gave me the answer before she spoke. "Yes."
I was reeling. "But you said she only went after young girls."
"Normally she does. That way she can capture youth and beauty along with power." Ms. Terwilliger didn't look like she had to worry about someone stealing her youth anytime soon. Fatigue and stress were taking their toll on her, making her look older than she was. "Now, some magic users who perform this spell are only concerned about power, not getting younger. That's never been Veronica's style, though. She's vain. She always wanted the superficial benefits - not to mention easier victims. Someone like my coven sister would be more difficult to take, so this is surprising behavior."
"It means you could be a target," I said. "You've been saying all this time that you're safe, but now everything's different."
Ms. Terwilliger shook her head, and a bit of steely resolve flashed in her eyes. "No. Maybe she did this to throw me off, to make me think it's someone else behind the spells. Or maybe to make me think she's not interested in you. Whatever the reason, she won't target me."
I admired Ms. Terwilliger for thinking so well of her sister, but I couldn't share her confidence that sisterly affection would overcome an evil quest for youth and power. "No offense, ma'am, but isn't there a slight chance you could be wrong about her coming for you? You said she'd only go after young novices, but obviously, that's not the case. She's already doing things you didn't expect."
Ms. Terwilliger refused to back down. "Veronica may do any number of terrible things, but she won't face me unless she's absolutely forced to." She handed over a new spell book and a small drawstring bag. "Just because she went after an older witch, it doesn't mean you're out of danger. I've marked some pages I want you to go over. There's a spell there I think will prove particularly useful. I've gathered some components for you, and you should be able to cast the rest yourself - just make sure you do it somewhere remote. Meanwhile, I still need to make you that secondary charm. There's just so much to do lately."
A mix of emotions swirled within me. Once again, I was amazed that Ms. Terwilliger would go to such lengths for me. Yet I couldn't shake my fear for her. "Maybe you should make one for yourself, just in case."
She gave me a wan smile. "Still pushing that, hmm? Well, once I've secured yours, I'll see about another. It may take a while, however. What I have in mind for you is particularly complex."