Chapter Nineteen


IF I'D HAD TROUBLE SLEEPING BEFORE, Adrian's dream only made things worse. Even though I was safely back in my own bed, I couldn't shake the

feeling of violation. I imagined that my skin was crawling with the taint of magic. I'd been so anxious to get out of the dream that I'd only half-realized what I'd been agreeing to. I respected Adrian's desire to go to college but now wondered if I should really be helping with that after my father's chastisement about "getting friendly" with vampires.

I wasn't in the greatest of moods when I finally got up a few hours later. The tension in our room was thick as Jill and I prepared for school. Jill's defiance from yesterday was gone, and she kept watching me nervously when she thought I didn't notice. At first, I figured my outburst from last night had made her uneasy. But as we walked out of the room for breakfast, I knew there was more to it.

"What?" I asked bluntly, breaking the silence at last. "What do you want to ask me?"

Jill gave me another wary glance as we joined the rush of other girls heading downstairs. "Um, something happened yesterday."

A lot of things happened yesterday, I thought. That was my overtired, bitter self talking, and I knew that wasn't what she was leading up to.

"Such as?" I asked.

"Well... I was starting to tell you about how Lee took me to that store. That clothing boutique where he knew the owner? Her name's Lia DiStefano. We talked, and she, uh, offered me a job. Kind of."

"The modeling job?" We reached the cafeteria's food line, though I had little appetite. I selected a yogurt, which looked sad and lonely in the middle of my otherwise empty tray. "We talked about that. It's not safe."

Still, it was ironic that a random visit could land Jill a job when three formal interviews had failed for Adrian.

"This isn't for posed pictures that would be in a magazine or anything, though. It's a runway show of local designers. We told her this story that we're part of a religion that has rules about photos and identity. Lia said she'd actually been thinking of having her models wear half masks. Like the kind you wear at a masquerade? Between that and the lighting and the movement... well, it'd be hard to identify me if any candid shots got out. It's just a onetime event, but I'd have to see her beforehand for fittings... and to practice. She'd pay me too, but I'd need rides to get there and parental permission."

We sat down, and I spent an unnecessary amount of time stirring my yogurt as I mulled over her words. I could feel her gaze on me as I thought.

"It's kind of silly, I guess," she continued when I didn't answer. "I mean, I don't have any experience. And I don't even know why she'd want me. Maybe it's some gimmick she's going for. Weird models or something."

I finally ate a bite of yogurt and then looked up at her. "You're not weird, Jill. You really do have the ideal body type for modeling. It's hard to find. For humans, at least." Once again, I tried not to think about how hard it was for us humans to live up to Moroi perfection. I tried not to think about how, years ago, my dad had criticized my figure and said, "If those monsters can do it, why not you?"

"But you still think it's a terrible idea," she said.

I didn't respond. I knew what Jill wanted, but she couldn't bring herself to directly ask me for it. And I couldn't easily give it to her yet. I was still too upset about yesterday and not feeling kindly toward any favors. On the other hand, I couldn't tell her no either. Not yet. Despite how irresponsibly she'd behaved, her words about how miserable her life was here had hit me hard. This was something positive and good that would fill her time. It was also a muchneeded ego boost. Laurel had thrived on using Jill's unusual features against her; it would do Jill good to see that others viewed them positively. She needed to realize she was special and wonderful. I didn't know whether to curse or thank Lee for this opportunity.

"I don't think we can decide anything until we go talk to Mrs. Weathers," I told her at last. I glanced at a nearby clock. "In fact, we need to meet with her now."

I took a few more bites of my yogurt before throwing it away. Jill took a donut to go. When we returned to our lobby, we found out a delivery had arrived for Jill: a bouquet of perfect red roses and an apologetic note from Lee. Jill melted, her face filling with adoration at the gesture. Even I admired the romance of it, though a snarky part of me said maybe Lee should've sent flowers to Eddie and me instead. We were the ones he needed to apologize to.

Regardless, the flowers were quickly forgotten when we sat down in Mrs. Weathers's office and learned the verdict on Jill.

"I spoke to the principal. You aren't being suspended," she told Jill. "But for the next month, you are restricted to your dorm when not in class. You are to report to me immediately after classes end so that I know you're here. You may go to the cafeteria for meals - but only your dorm's. Not the one on West Campus. The only exceptions to this policy are if an assignment or teacher requires you to go elsewhere outside of school hours, like the library."

We both nodded, and for a moment, I was simply relieved that Jill hadn't been expelled or anything like that. Then the real problem hit me like a slap in the face. I'd told Jill this meeting would impact any modeling decisions, but there was something much worse on the line.

"If she's grounded to the dorm, then she can't leave the school," I said.

Mrs. Weathers gave me a wry smile. "Yes, Miss Melrose. That is what 'grounded' generally means."

"She has to, ma'am," I argued. "We have family gatherings twice a week." Ideally, we had them more than that, but I was hoping a lowball number might buy us freedom. It was absolutely essential Jill get blood, and two days a week was about the minimum a vampire could survive on.

"I'm sorry. Rules are rules, and in breaking them, your sister has lost the privilege of functions like that."

"They're religious," I said. I hated to play the religion card, but that was something the school would have a hard time countering. And hey, it had apparently worked on the fashion designer. "We go to church as a family on those days - us and our brothers."

Mrs. Weathers's face showed me I had indeed gained ground. "We'd need a signed letter from your parents," she said finally.

Great. That had worked so well in PE.

"What about our brother? He's our legal guardian here." Surely even Keith couldn't drag his feet on this, not with blood on the line.

She considered this. "Yes. That might be acceptable."

"I'm sorry," I told Jill when we walked outside to catch the shuttle. "About the modeling. We're going to have a hard enough time getting you permission to leave for feedings."

Jill nodded, making no effort to hide her disappointment.

"When's the show?" I asked, thinking maybe she could do it when her punishment was over.

"In two weeks."

So much for that idea. "I'm sorry," I repeated.

To my surprise, Jill actually laughed. "You have no reason to be. Not after what I did. I'm the one who's sorry. And I'm sorry about Adrian too - about the interviews."

"That's something you have no reason to be sorry about." It struck me again how easily everyone made excuses for him. She proved this with her next comment.

"He can't help it. It's how he is."

He can help it, I thought. Instead, I said, "Just hang in there, okay? I'll get Keith to sign off on our religious experiences."

She smiled. "Thanks, Sydney."

We usually parted ways when the bus reached Central Campus, but she held back once we got off. I could see again that she wanted to tell me something but was having trouble getting the courage.

"Yes?" I asked.

"I... just wanted to tell you I really am sorry for giving you so much grief. You do a lot for us. Really. And you being upset, it's because... well, I know you care. Which is more than I can say for other people back at Court."

"That's not true," I said. "They care. They went to a lot of trouble to get you here and keep you safe."

"I still feel like it was more for Lissa than for me," she said sadly. "And my mom didn't put up much of a fight when they said they were going to send me away."

"They want you safe," I told her. "That means making hard choices - hard for them too."

Jill nodded, but I don't know if she believed me. I gave Eddie the morning report when I reached history. His face displayed a range of emotions with each new development in the story.

"You think Keith will write the note?" he asked in a low voice.

"He has to. The whole point of us being here is to keep her alive. Starving her to death kind of defeats the purpose."

I didn't bother telling Eddie that I was in trouble with my father and the Alchemists and that in two weeks, there was a good chance I might not even be around. Eddie was clearly upset over Jill's situation already, and I didn't want him to have one more thing to worry about.

When I met up with Ms. Terwilliger at the end of the day, I turned in the last of the notes I'd made for her on the old books. As I was settling myself at a desk, I noticed a folder of articles sitting on a table. Carlton College was printed on the folder in embossed gold letters. I remembered now why I'd thought the name was familiar when Adrian had mentioned it in the dream.

"Ms. Terwilliger... didn't you say you knew people at Carlton College?"

She glanced up from her computer. "Hmm? Oh yes. I should think so. I play poker with half of the history faculty. I even teach there in the summers. History, that is. Not poker."

"I don't suppose you know anybody in admissions, do you?" I asked.

"Not so much. I suppose I know people who know people there." She turned her attention back to the screen. I said nothing, and after several moments, she looked back at me. "Why do you ask?"

"No reason."

"Of course there's a reason. Are you interested in attending? Goodness knows you'd probably get more out of there than here. My class being the exception, of course."

"No, ma'am," I said. "But my brother wants to attend. He heard classes haven't started yet but isn't sure if he can get in on such short notice."

"It's very short notice," agreed Ms. Terwilliger. She scrutinized me carefully. "Would you like me to make some inquiries?"

"Oh. Oh no, ma'am. I was just hoping to get some names I could contact. I'd never ask you to do something like that."

Her eyebrows rose. "Why ever not?"

I was at a loss. She was so difficult to understand sometimes. "Because... you have no reason to."

"I'd do it as a favor to you."

I couldn't muster a response for that and simply stared. She smiled and pushed her glasses up her nose.

"That's impossible for you to believe, isn't it? That someone would do a favor for you."

"I... well, that is..." I trailed off, still unsure what to say. "You're my teacher. Your job is to, well, teach me. That's it."

"And your job," she said, "is to report to this room during last period for whatever mundane tasks I have for you and then turn in a paper at the end of the semester. You are not in any way required to fetch me coffee, show up after hours, organize my life, or completely rearrange your own to meet my ridiculous requests."

"I... I don't mind," I said. "And it all needs doing."

She chuckled. "Yes. And you insist on going above and beyond in your tasks, don't you? No matter how inconvenient for you."

I shrugged. "I like to do a good job, ma'am."

"You do an excellent job. Far better than you need to. And you do it without complaint. Therefore, the least I can do is make a few phone calls on your behalf." She laughed again. "That startles you most of all, doesn't it? Having someone praise you."

"Oh no," I said lamely. "I mean, it happens."

She took off her glasses to look at me more intently. The laughter was gone. "No, I'm thinking it doesn't. I don't know your particular situation, but I have known a lot of students like you - ones whose parents ship them off like this. While I appreciate the concern for higher education, I find that more often than not, a bigger piece of students coming here is that their parents simply don't have the time or inclination to be involved with - or even pay attention to  - their children's lives."

We were dealing with one of those interpersonal areas that made me uncomfortable, particularly because there was an unexpected element of truth in them. "It's more complicated than that, ma'am."

"I'm sure it is," she replied. Her expression turned fierce, making her look far different from the scattered teacher I knew. "But listen to me when I say this. You are an exceptional, talented, and brilliant young woman. Do not ever let anyone make you feel like you're less. Do not ever let anyone make you feel invisible. Do not let anyone - not even a teacher who constantly sends you for coffee - push you around." She put her glasses back on and began randomly lifting up pieces of papers. At last, she found a pen and grinned triumphantly. "Now, then. What is your brother's name?"

"Adrian, ma'am."

"Right, then." She took out a piece of paper and carefully wrote down the name. "Adrian Melbourne."

"Melrose, ma'am."

"Right. Of course." She scribbled out her mistake and muttered to herself, "I'm just glad his first name's not Hobart." When she was finished, she leaned back casually in her chair. "Now that you mention it, there is one thing I'd like you to do."

"Name it," I said.

"I want you to make one of the spells from that first book."

"I'm sorry. Did you say, make a spell?"

Ms. Terwilliger waved a hand. "Oh, don't worry. I'm not asking you to wave a wand or do an animal sacrifice. But I'm terribly intrigued by how complex some of the formulas and steps of the spells were. I have to wonder, did people actually follow them in such painstaking detail? Some of these are quite complicated."

"I know," I said dryly. "I typed them all out."

"Exactly. So, I want you to make one. Follow the steps. See how long it takes. See if half the measurements they ask for are even possible. Then write up the data in a report. That part, I know you excel at."

I didn't know what to say. Ms. Terwilliger wasn't actually asking me to use magic, certainly not in the same way vampires did. Such a thing wasn't even possible. Magic was not the province of humans. It was unnatural and went against the ways of the universe. What the Alchemists did was based on science and chemistry. The tattoos had magic, but it was us bending vampire magic to our wills - not using it ourselves. The closest we came to anything supernatural was the blessings we called down on our potions. She was only asking me to reenact a spell. It wasn't real. There was no harm. And yet... why did I feel so uneasy? I felt like I was being asked to lie or steal.

"What's the matter?" she asked.

For a moment, I considered using religion again but then dismissed it. That excuse had come up too often today, though this time, it was actually semilegitimate. "Nothing, ma'am. It just seems weird."

She picked up the first leather book and flipped to the middle. "Here. Do this one - an incineration amulet. It's complicated, but at least you'll have an arts and crafts project when you're done. Most of these ingredients should be easy to come by, too."

I took the book from her and scanned it. "Where am I going to get nettle?"

"Ask Mr. Carnes. He has a garden outside his classroom. I'm sure you can buy the rest. And you know, you can give me receipts. I'll pay you back whenever I send you out to get something. You must've spent a fortune on coffee."

I felt a little better when I saw how random the ingredients were. Nettle. Agate. A piece of silk. There wasn't really even anything flammable. This was nonsense. With a nod, I told her I'd start soon.

In the meantime, I typed up an official letter to Amberwood on Keith's behalf. It explained that our religious beliefs required family church attendance twice a week and that Jill needed to be excused from her punishment during those times. It also promised that Jill would check in with Mrs. Weathers both before and after the family trips. When I finished, I was rather pleased with my work and felt that I'd made Keith sound far more eloquent than he deserved. I called him up when school ended and gave a brief rundown on what had happened with Jill. Naturally, I got the blame.

"You're supposed to keep an eye on her, Sydney!" Keith exclaimed.

"I'm also supposed to be undercover as a student here, and I can't be with her every second of the day." It wasn't worth mentioning that I'd actually been out with Adrian when Jill had run away - not that Keith could do any more to me. He'd already done his damage.

"And so I have to suffer the consequences," he said in a world-weary voice. "I'm the one who gets put out for your incompetence."

"Put out? You don't have to do anything except sign the letter I wrote for you. Are you home right now? Or will you be? I'll drive it over to you." I figured he'd jump all over the offer, seeing how annoyed he seemed to be by the matter. So, it was a surprise when he said, "No, you don't have to do that. I'll come to you."

"It's not a problem. I can be at your place in less than ten minutes." I didn't want him to have any more reason than necessary to go on and on about how I was inconveniencing him - or complain to the Alchemists.

"No," said Keith, with surprising intensity. "I'll come to you. I'm leaving right now. Meet you at the main office?"

"Okay," I said, totally puzzled at this change of heart. Did he want to check up on me or something? Demand an inspection? "See you soon." I was already on Central Campus, so it took no time at all to reach the main office. I sat outside on an ornate stone bench with a good view of the visitors parking lot and waited. It was hot out, as usual, but being in the shade actually made it pretty pleasant. The bench was situated in a little clearing filled with flowering plants and a sign that read The Kelly Hayes Memorial Garden. It looked new.

"Hey, Sydney!"

Kristin and Julia were walking out of the building and waved at me. They came and sat down beside me to ask what I was doing.

"I'm waiting for my brother."

"Is he cute?" asked Kristin hopefully.

"No," I said. "Not at all."

"Yes, he is," countered Julia. "I saw him in your dorm last weekend. When you all went out for lunch."

It took me a second to realize she meant Adrian. "Oh. Different brother. They don't have a lot in common."

"Is it true your sister's in big trouble?" asked Julia.

I shrugged. "Only a little trouble. She can't leave campus, except for family stuff. It could be worse. Although... it did cost her a modeling job, so she's sad about that."

"Modeling for who?" asked Kristin.

I racked my brain. "Lia DiStefano. There's some show in two weeks, and she wanted Jill to walk in it. But Jill can't practice because she has to stay here."

Their eyes went wide.

"Lia's clothes are amazing!" said Julia. "Jill has to do it. She might get free stuff."

"I told you. She can't."

Kristin tilted her head thoughtfully. "But what if it was for school? Like some kind of career or vocational thing?" She turned to Julia. "Is there still a sewing club?"

"I think so," said Julia, nodding eagerly. "That's a good idea. Does Jill have an activity?" Along with a sport, Amberwood also required its well-rounded students to participate in hobbies and activities outside of class. "There's a sewing club she could join... and I bet she could get working with Lia counted as some kind of special research."

In attempting to fix a loose thread on her cardigan the other day, Jill had nearly unraveled the entire sweater. "I don't think that's really Jill's thing." "Doesn't matter," said Kristin. "Most of the people in it can't sew anyway. But every year, the club volunteers with local designers. Miss Yamani would totally let walking in the show count as volunteering. She loves Lia DiStefano."

"And they'd have to let her go," said Julia, face full of triumph. "Because it'd be for school."

"Interesting," I said, wondering if there was any chance of it working. "I'll tell Jill." A familiar blue car pulled into the driveway, and I stood up. "There he is." Keith parked and got out, scanning around for me. Kristin gave a small sound of approval. "He's not bad."

"Believe me," I said, walking forward. "You want nothing to do with him."

Keith gave the girls what was probably supposed to be a charming smile and even winked at them. The instant they were gone, his smile dropped.

Impatience radiated off of him, and it was a wonder he didn't tap his foot.

"Let's make this fast," he said.

"If you're in such a rush, you should have just let me come by when you had more time." I took out a binder containing the letter and handed it over with a pen. Keith signed without even looking at it and handed it back.

"Need anything else?" he asked.


"Don't mess up again," he said, opening the car door. "I don't have time to keep covering for you."

"Does it matter?" I challenged him. "You've already done your best to get rid of me."

He gave me a cold smile. "You shouldn't have crossed me. Not now, not back then." With a wink, he turned around and began to leave. I stared, unable to believe the audacity. It was the first time he'd directly referenced what went down years ago.

"Well, that's the thing," I shouted at his retreating figure. "I didn't cross you back then. You got off easy. It's not going to happen again. You think I'm worried about you? I'm the one you need to be scared of."

Keith came to a halt and then slowly turned around, his face awash with disbelief. I didn't blame him. I was kind of surprised myself. I couldn't ever remember a time I'd so openly countered someone in a higher position of authority, certainly not someone who had so much power to affect my situation. "Watch it," he said at last. "I can make your life miserable."

I gave him an icy smile. "You already have, and that's why I've got the advantage. You've done your worst - but you haven't seen what I can do yet."

It was a big bluff on my part, especially since I was pretty sure he could still do worse. For all I knew, he could get Zoe out here tomorrow. He could get me sent to a re-education center in a heartbeat.

But if I went down? So would he.

He stared at me for a few moments, at a loss. I don't know if I actually scared him or if he decided not to dignify me with an answer, but he finally turned and left for good. Furious, I went inside to deliver the letter to the office. The front desk secretary, Mrs. Dawson, stamped it and then made a copy for me to give to Mrs. Weathers. As she handed it to me, I asked, "Who's Kelly Hayes?"

Mrs. Dawson's usually dimpled face grew sad. "That poor girl. She was a student here a few years ago."

My memory clicked. "Is she the one Mrs. Weathers mentioned? Who went missing?"

Mrs. Dawson nodded. "It was terrible. She was such a sweet girl too. So young. She didn't deserve to die like that. She didn't deserve to die at all." I hated to ask but had to. "How did she die? I mean, I know she was murdered, but I never heard any details."

"Probably just as well. It's pretty gruesome." Mrs. Dawson peered around, as though afraid she'd get in trouble for gossiping with a student. She leaned over the counter toward me, face grave. "The poor thing bled to death. She had her throat cut."

P/S: Copyright -->www_novelfreereadonline_Com