Teagan shifts from foot to foot, a gigantic grin on her face. "Kendyll, can you believe we actually got in?" she asks excitedly. Her pale brown eyes twinkle with outright joy, and she keeps messing with her curly brown hair. "This is freaking awesome!"
"LANGUAGE!" Mom shouts from the kitchen, where she's making celebratory fried chicken. It smells so incredible that it’s hard to hate her in this moment. Why can't it be ready yet? I'd love to eat it right now so I can go back to hating her.
Oh. That's probably why I'm banned from cooking. Well, excuse me for wanting food right now. Or don’t. That works, too.
"Sorry!" Teagan yells, not so subtly rolling her eyes. Then she turns back to me and continues, "I mean, Kim and EV are insanely strict about who they let in for the first wave, remember? They have to closely examine all of your experience with magic, your attitude toward magic, your skill level, your skill set, et cetera. The Thirteen want to make sure that High Priestess Fiona Alden approves, you know. We're really lucky to have both gotten in." She pauses when she hears the thud of footsteps sprinting through the hallway and gestures for me to listen.
Okay, yeah, that is definitely the sound of Kimberly's charm bracelet jangling as she runs, no doubt about it.
The door flies open and I see a green blur flip onto my bed. Once she stops moving and gets her balance, Kimberly says, "Hey, ladies! How's it going?" Her turquoise hair smacks me in the face as she whips her head around, staring at my All Time Low poster. "Also, Ken, you're gonna need to get a new poster. That one's really faded."
"Good to see you, too, Kim," I say, rolling my lilac-purple eyes. "So, anyway, is anybody else we know gonna be at the school?"
Kimberly's own golden eyes glitter at me with confidence. How had I ever not expected her to be the one leading Card Academy? She's always so confident and in control. Heck, she's the leader of the Thirteen. But I'm getting off track. "Yes, actually," she answers, "y'know EV's little brother, Ezra? He'll be there, too. Oh, and guess who else got in?"
"Who?" Teagan and I demand in unison.
Kim bounces a little with excitement, her silver charm bracelet jangling again. She sticks a hand in her green Lincoln High School hoodie and pulls out an acceptance letter for... oh my Hecate, am I dreaming?
I gasp involuntarily. "Does that say what I think it does? Does it? Does it really say Kamryn Nurse on there? Is our sister coming back?" If this is some sort of prank... no, Kimberly wouldn't lie about Kam coming back. Our little sister is not somebody we joke about.
Five years ago, when Kam was six, she’d taken a blame she didn't deserve and had been exiled to somewhere in Norway. Kim and I are forbidden from visiting her. But now... now, she’s coming back.
I can't keep the grin off of my face. "When does she arrive? Soon?"
Teagan is bouncing from foot to foot again. She'd known Kam, too, and no doubt was excited about her return.
Kimberly's grin grows even wider. "Actually, yes, really soon. She'll be here in a few hours. We're gonna need to pick her up at the airport. Also, she's gonna need time to get over jet lag, because Norway’s on a way different timezone than Tally is. Let's go to Momo's and get pizza, 'cause I bet she'll also be hungry, and who doesn't like pizza?"
"Kimberly, you need to eat healthy food!" Mom scolds from the kitchen. Well, of course she would think so. She's a dentist, after all. A really annoying dentist.
"Oh, yeah? Then why are you making fried chicken? Last I knew, fried food wasn't all that healthy!" Kimberly shouts back.
Teagan snorts and tries to cover it up by turning it into a "sneeze." She's absolutely terrible at fake sneezing, by the way.
"I told you, it's a special occasion!" Mom yells. Her voice is rising, and she’s definitely getting more defensive.
"That's what they all say," Kimberly mutters under her breath. She jumps up and dusts off her jean shorts, then points to me and says, “Momo’s. Meet me at my car in five minutes, both of you. And Kendyll, change your shirt. There’s a ketchup stain on it.” Then she walks out the door and below my room to grab her wallet.
Teagan grabs her gray hoodie and pulls it on over her maroon tank top. Yeah, she’ll definitely want a hoodie in this weather. It’s nearly seventy-five degrees Fahrenheit. Why is it so cold? Can’t we just stick to weather in the nineties?
But, no, of course not. Of course we have to go down into the seventies.
I dash over to my closet and pull out a vintage yellow alligator T-shirt, one of my few shirts without ketchup or barbeque sauce stains, and switch my pink alligator shirt with it.
“What is with you and alligator shirts?” Teagan asks, smirking. Neither of us mind changing in front of each other due to locker rooms. No, she just finds it funny that I have a ton of vintage alligator T-shirts.
“Save it,” I say with a laugh. “You’re the one with a bunch of flamingo socks.” I switch out my Under Armour running shorts for jean pants, since it’s so cold, and quickly cuff them before Teagan can tell me that I’m not a proper bi.
“Okay, but they’re flamingo socks. Think about that,” she says defensively. “Who doesn’t like flamingo socks?”
“Will you two stop arguing and hurry up?” Kim asks, poking her head in the door. “We need to leave soon so we can get pizza and make it to the airport to pick up Kam, remember? This is time-sensitive, y’all!” She sprints back out, and I hear the garage door opening.
“You heard the captain,” Teagan tells me, her eyes twinkling with laughter as she finishes lacing up her combat boots. “Hurry up.”
I nod, pulling my dirty blond hair into my signature braid bun, then zip up a black hoodie and tug on my high tops. “Okay, let’s go.”
We sprint to the door of my room (the attic), open it, climb down the rusted ladder, and descend into the garage.
That’s right, my room is right up above the garage. Imagine trying to sleep when Dad returns from a conference, always late at night. Yeah, not fun. But at least I have easy access to one of the controls for the garage door. Pranking my family by opening and closing the garage at random in the middle of the night is a lot of fun. I strongly recommend it.
Kimberly waves from the driver’s seat in her car, a green KIA from 2005. It’s a hand-me-down from Dad, since she just got her license and doesn’t have enough money to buy her own car.
Teagan and I run over to the car and get in. I ride shotgun, and Teagan sits right behind me. Kim nods, punches the radio, and backs out of the garage. “It’s your turn to pick the music, Ken,” she tells me as she leaves the driveway and turns onto Sandler Ridge Road.
“You’re gonna regret saying that,” I warn as I begin to scan for All Time Low or Fall Out Boy music. Nothing on the radio after five minutes, and I’m losing patience. Oh, wait, the glove compartment has a bunch of CDs, including All Time Low’s Don’t Panic: It’s Longer Now!, the only ATL music she’s willing to listen to, and even then, only two of the songs. Well, she’d be willing to listen to their album Dirty Work, but she doesn’t know about that one yet. Too bad, since my favorite song’s on that one. Whatever, this album is good enough. I put in the disc and smirk at Kimberly.
“I guess I asked for this, huh?” she sighs.
“Yup,” I say, my grin widening as “The Reckless and the Brave” begins to play. Will she kill me later? Maybe, but not for real. Do I care? Nope.
Kimberly nods. “Teagan, it’s your turn on the way to the airport. Please choose something better than this."
"We'll see," Teagan says with a smirk.
Kimberly groans. "This is going to be a long trip."
Exchanging a look with Teagan, we nod and begin to sing along to the lyrics just to further irritate her. Yeah, we're probably not going to have a fun time at dinner, but whatever.
We walk into the airport and begin to look for Kam. She has to be nearby, somewhere. I mean, she is, but it'll probably take a while to find her, although I hope it doesn't.
"There!" Kim exclaims, pointing to an eleven-year-old girl with a black backpack.
The girl looks up and grins, making her whole face light up. She wears her dirty blond hair in double Dutch braids, and they nearly reach her waist. Her heterochromia stands out more than ever, her left eye golden, her right one lilac-purple. She wears black-and-white checkered Vans with black jean shorts and a white tank top. She's Kam, all right.
Kam scrambles up, grabs her backpack, and starts jogging over to us. A girl with wild red hair and bright amber eyes follows her. Who's that? I wonder.
Kim pulls Kam into a quick hug, then releases her and says, "Kam! How are you? How was Norway?"
"It was nice. Cold, but nice. Lots of cross country and mountain biking," she replies. She's spent so long in Norway that she has a Scandinavian accent, and I can tell she's trying not to use slang so that we know what she's saying. Then she gestures to the redhead, saying, "Oh, right. This is Astrid."
Teagan and I give Astrid little waves in unison.
"Astrid Alfson, right?" asks Kimberly, checking the list of students on her phone. When Astrid nods, she continues, "I'm Kimberly Nurse, and these are Kendyll Nurse and Teagan Wildes."
"And we can speak for ourselves," Teagan butts in, arching an eyebrow at Kimberly. She gestures at Kam's black backpack and Astrid's amber Fjallraven Kanken bag, asking, "Can I help y'all carry anything?"
Astrid hikes her bag higher up on her shoulder. "I've got it, but thanks," she replies in a thick Scandinavian accent. She quickly checks her navy blue Garmin watch and smirks. "Kam, I won the bet!" she announces.
"I knew you could do it!" Kam tells her with a grin.
"Wait, what bet?" I ask, confusion written all over my face.
Her smirk widening, Astrid explains, "My mom told me nobody could make it fifteen minutes in America with so little stuff packed, and then we made a bet on it. I just went past fifteen minutes, so I won."
"Does she owe you anything, or do you just get the satisfaction of winning?" asks Teagan.
Astrid's smirking from ear to ear now. "Oh, she has to do something, all right. Once I tell her I won, she has to videotape herself chugging clam juice and send it to me."
"That's... evil. And inspiring. Kendyll, we're gonna have to do this to PC sometime," Teagan tells me, smirking as well. Her pale brown eyes are twinkling with mischief, and I bet my eyes are doing the same thing. After all, who wouldn't want to do this to an annoying straight cis white man who's spent three school years oppressing people at school?
I nod in agreement. "Also to my mom."
Kim, Teagan, and Kam start nodding vigorously. Then Kim gets us back on track. "Okay, so, now that that's settled, let's get to the house. We got pizza, so once we get there, we can eat some. Also, Astrid, do you mind sleeping in the office-slash-spare bedroom until Card Academy starts and you get your dorm?"
"Yeah, I can do that," Astrid says.
"Great," says Kim. "Now let's get going before Mom starts yelling." She whips around and starts speed walking to her car, and we have to jog to keep up with her long legs.
Nobody wants to be on the receiving end of Mom's temper tantrums.