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The Legacy of Androva Series

New Book, New Series, Sixth Chapter 📖

This weekend's blog post is Chapter Six! Luca has a temporary crisis of confidence before trying to figure out what's really going on between Devin, Gabe, and Mina. You can catch up on any of the previous chapters via the New Series label at the top of this post. Thank you very much for reading .

(Update: October 2019. Spell Tracker is now available in full via the New series label. Just scroll down to the bottom of the page to start 📙)

6 A Snapping Point

By the time we returned to perform in front of the rest of the class I was a wreck. I could only hope the chaos inside my head didn’t show on my face. I delivered my lines, holding on to Benedick’s self-righteous indignation and sarcasm just long enough for us to earn a round of applause.
“I didn’t want to make a casting decision so early in the semester, but you two have incredible chemistry,” said Miss Randall. “I’m going to give you a couple more scenes to try, and if you can perform them equally well, the parts are yours.”
After we sat down, I attempted to shield myself. I turned my face into my shoulder, whispering, “Contego,” and gradually, my awareness of her energy and the history between us retreated behind the spell. When Mina stood up to perform I had calmed down enough to pay attention. She was good, presenting herself as the villain, Don John, with a sinister intensity that was very compelling. Miss Randall offered her the part there and then.
When the bell rang for lunch, I didn’t get up straight away. The prospect of reading lines with Cass, playing out the story of two proud characters who started as enemies and ended up as lovers, was like some hideous nightmare where our shared past would replay over and over. How could I deal with that while I was trying to—
My phone chimed with a text. Slowly, I removed it from my pocket, knowing what I would find when I turned it over.
Hello, Luca. How do you like my third restriction? Yes, I chose the play. Yes, I paired you together. Let’s see if your oh-so-serene Light Mage objectivity can withstand an emotional onslaught of this magnitude. Can’t wait to find out :)
This message didn’t make me angry. Still reeling from what had just happened, all I felt was despair. I wondered if I should just give up. I only had the smallest chance of success anyway. No matter what I did, he would never stop presenting me with obstacles. For a few seconds I wallowed in self-pity.
What’s the matter with me? I never give up. I’m not going to start now. Besides, I wanted more time with Cass and now I have it. This is a good thing.
A shadow fell over the screen. “Avi. We should swap details.”
It was Cass. She was holding her phone and looking down at mine expectantly.
“You want my number?”
“No. I want this part. Being able to contact you is unfortunately a necessity if that is to happen.”
 “I… er… it’s new. The phone. I haven’t… I’m not set up yet.”
“I suppose you’ll have to text me, then.” She reeled off a series of numbers and I rather laboriously typed them in. I hesitated before deciding on, “Hey,” and pressing Send.
“Thanks,” she said, before putting her phone away. “I’ll send you an invitation later. Miss Randall will set up a messaging group for the play as well, just so you know.” She walked off, not saying another word to me or anyone else. We’d still only made eye contact that one time.
With her departure I felt better. I promised myself I would devise a different coping strategy before we met up again. A couple of students spoke to me on their way out, praising my performance. It was getting easier each time: the introductions, the casual banter. Avitus Sequani was becoming more like a real person.
“Well, well, well.” Mina, the last to leave, took a seat next to me. I noticed that her caramel skin had a dusting of freckles, visible even through her makeup under the harsh overhead light. “She doesn’t date, y’know. So don’t get your hopes up.”
“You were great,” I said, ignoring her insinuation.
“Thanks.” She looked me up and down. “You’re not turning out like I expected.”
I looked her up and down too. “You never met me before Friday. How would you know what to expect?”
“I always prejudge. I can’t help it.”
“Oh, yeah? It’s entirely beyond your control?”
She smiled. “Maybe not. I guess it’s a habit.”
“I suppose I prejudged you too, a little,” I admitted. “Anyone with half a brain can see you have a… position at this school.”
“Yeah. I’ve earned it, too. And I’ll do whatever it takes to keep it. It’s all I…” She stopped talking and frowned. “I don’t know why I said that.”
Because no one can hide their true nature from a guardian. I stood up. “Why don’t we get some lunch and you can tell me how to get along better with Gabe,” I suggested.
Mina looked up at me. “Why would I do that?”
“Because it would make things easier for Devin. Your friend.”
She sighed. “Even if I wanted to help you… you have no idea how complicated things are right now.”
“Afraid you’ll fail?”
At that, Mina laughed. “You’ve got some nerve for a new guy.”
“Maybe I’m just stupid. You should probably take pity on me.”
She shook her head. “More like too smart for your own good.”
When we arrived at the cafeteria I hardly recognized it from the Friday before. It was like walking into a living wall of noise and smells that overloaded my senses. Since I’d crossed over, everything was in high definition. I was grateful I didn’t need to eat. Appetizing, it wasn’t.
Devin and Gabe were sitting together, not talking. There was an extra tray alongside Gabe, and Mina sat down in front of it. She told the person next to Devin to get out of the way, and I took their chair with a muttered apology.
“Hey, Avi,” said Devin. “How’s it going?”
I returned his smile, glad to see he was more relaxed than he’d been earlier.
Mina leaned into Gabe. His blond hair was wet at the back and she curled a strand around her finger. “Your shampoo is so amazing,” she said, breathing in. “I love the smell of coconut.”
Gabe stiffened. “Since when?” he said.
“Since always. Don’t look so worried. I’m not going to proposition you right in the middle of the cafeteria.” She dropped her hand.
“I’m not worried,” he protested.
“Of course you’re not,” she replied, pulling the tray closer. “Thanks to whoever got my lunch, by the way. How was basketball?”
“Good,” Devin replied. “I think I might make the first team this year. Gabe’s going to help me with some one-on-one practice after school.”
There was a beat of silence. “I bet he is,” Mina said in a low voice, and Gabe’s face turned red. He shifted in his chair.
“Do you play any sports, Avi?” said Devin. His gaze shifted down my torso. “You look like you… do you?” He cleared his throat and rubbed the back of his neck. It was very cute. Not that I cared one way or the other, of course.
I didn’t know how to answer. I don’t think fighting to the death is a recognized spectator sport in this school.
“I used to do a bit of track and field. I’m not all that good, though.”
“Tell us something about Avitus Sequani,” said Mina. “Ordinary, from Europe, isn’t really much to go on.”
“What do you want to know?”
“Are you being deliberately evasive?” she said, raising her eyebrows.
“That’s what you want to know?” I said, deadpan, and Devin laughed. “I’m not that interesting,” I lied. “I moved here very recently, so I’m kind of clueless about the local area and the school and everything. I’ll be eighteen in October. I’m good at Math and History and terrible at anything IT-related.”
“Favorite color?” said Mina.
“Yes. Two.” Avi’s parents were a slave and a Roman citizen who should have kept his ego under his tunic where it belonged.
“Have you ever been in love?” Mina traced the top of her soda can with her fingers, round and round.
“I’m not sure that’s any of your business, considering we only just met.”
“So that’s a yes. Are you in a relationship now?”
“Still none of your business.” I folded my arms. Gods, she’s persistent. Who the hell does she think she is?
She gave me a thoughtful look, completely unintimidated by my irritation. A couple of girls came up to the table, asking Mina about a party she was apparently planning for her birthday in a couple of weeks’ time. It was like watching senators pay court to the Roman emperor. On a much smaller scale, of course, but the basic principle was the same.
It helped me to calm down. I suppressed a smile. Imagine Lucius Verus as a high school teenager reduced to planning parties and debating wardrobe and makeup choices.
One of the girls turned to me. “Are you going?”
As I can’t leave the school grounds, it’s unlikely.
“I haven’t been invited,” I said.
“You can go with me,” said Devin. No one said anything. “Can’t he?”
Mina nodded. “If he’s that important to you,” she said. The girls giggled and one of them whispered something to Mina before they left.
“I’ll have to check,” I said to Devin. “Thanks, though.”
Gabe watched us exchange smiles and his face darkened. He gave the empty table in front of me a pointed look. “Aren’t you going to eat anything?”
I scanned the room, pretending to consider the food on offer. “I guess I’ll eat later. First day nerves, you know…”
“Nerves? You? Yeah, right.” He picked up his fork and moved the pasta on his tray back and forth.
“Oh, Gabe, grow up,” said Mina.
He threw down the fork. “So now you’re a fully paid-up member of the freak fan club too?”
“For God’s sake,” said Devin, pushing his chair back. “Let it go, will you?”
“Eat something,” said Gabe. “Prove that you’re human.”
Mina laughed. “Seriously? Gabe, I think you might be taking this a little far.”
“You didn’t see what he did.”
“No one saw it because he didn’t do anything!” said Devin, his voice rising. “I don’t know what your problem is, but you need to get over it. So he’s not hungry. No big deal.”
“If it’s no big deal, then why doesn’t he just eat something?” said Gabe stubbornly.
I reached forward and grabbed a handful of chips from Gabe’s tray. After I stuffed them in my mouth, I held up my hand as if to hide my chewing. The background noise was enough to cover my “Dispareo,” and the chips melted away.
“Satisfied?” I asked him.
He didn’t answer.
“Sure you don’t want to see if he sparkles in the sunlight? Or maybe check his pockets for the key to an alien spaceship?” said Mina.
“Shut up,” Gabe muttered.
Mina changed the subject, and I sighed with relief. She talked about Drama class and Miss Randall’s unexpected choice of play. Devin congratulated her on her casting. “It must not be denied, but I am a plain-dealing villain,” she said, delivering one of Don John’s lines with a wicked grin. “Oh, and Cavi is now a thing. I’ve decided.”
We all stared at her. My relief vanished. “Cass and Avi,” she added, coating one of her fries in mayonnaise and eating it slowly. “Yum.”
“They’re not… That’s not funny,” said Devin.
“It’s not supposed to be. They’re getting the lead parts. The chance of life imitating art at some point has got to be high, don’t you think?”
“I don’t know why I’m friends with you. You’re such a bitch lately,” said Devin.
“I know. You love me, really.” She ate another fry.
“Cass will go postal when she finds out,” said Gabe.
“No, she won’t. She’s on a final warning, and she wants this part.”
“Why would you do that?” I asked. My anger was rising. I couldn’t help it.
“If I don’t, someone else will. The angry loner and the gorgeous, enigmatic new guy… practicing their lines together… the gossip’s inevitable.”
“Lots of things are inevitable. But who are you to decide when they happen?”
“Oh, I’m sorry, Avi.” She gave me an innocent smile. “I thought you wanted me to help you get along better with Gabe. He’ll be happy if you and Cass are an item, won’t you Gabe? Rather you and Cass than you and D—”
“Stop! Just stop!” Devin half rose out of his chair and students at the surrounding tables turned to look at us.
After a few more seconds, Devin grabbed his backpack and all but ran out of the cafeteria. Gabe looked like someone had punched him in the stomach. Mina took a slow, careful sip from her soda can. I would have believed her unconcerned by Devin’s reaction, if the can hadn’t wobbled as she set it back down on the table.
What is going on?

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