smoke poured in through the slight opening under Alyssa’s bedroom window.
Alyssa leaped back. She swore the window had been closed when she’d come in
here a few minutes ago.
The gas clouded into her room,
blocking her sight. It washed onto her, causing her to squint and lean back.
She coughed, rubbed her eyes, and opened them. The smoke faded. Someone must’ve
pulled a prank, and not just any kind—one that involved…wizardry.
Alyssa’s breathing sped up. She shut
the window and gazed at the huge yard and long driveway. No one was outside—not
even Alex, her godfather and legal guardian.
Perhaps the trespasser had escaped
or had hidden somewhere—maybe behind the tree on the lawn or somewhere else on
Alyssa hurried out, brushing ash
from her muted purple shirt. She entered the ground floor and opened the front
There was no answer.
“Whoever set that smoke off, it
The silence continued.
Despite the freezing air this autumn
evening, Alyssa stepped onto the front porch. A piece of paper appeared out of
nowhere, making her jump. She picked it up, anyway.
back to magic.
Her chest tightened. She hadn’t
encountered a single instance of wizardry in six months! Plus, she had two
objects that were supposed to protect her from such encounters.
She dashed back up to her room and
opened the closet door. Tape hung from a shoebox, and the items that she had
left in there…were missing.
Heart jackhammering, Alyssa moved
shoes and other boxes around. The two things might’ve fallen when she and Alex
had moved here from Ohio in the spring after Alex had lost his job there. No
one could have stolen them while Alex had taken her to Chicago this afternoon, right?
As Alyssa picked up the same
shoebox, her palms warmed up, and light beams shot out of both hands. She
screamed as the rays smashed into each other, and then faded, revealing a tiny,
rainbow-colored, bouncy ball.
Alyssa’s body stiffened, as if
paralyzed. Her jaw hung as she gaped at the bouncing ball.
could I have done magic? Alyssa asked herself. I’m not a wizard.
As the object jumped onto her knee,
she yelped and fell back. It had left a multi-colored stain on her leggings.
She sat up. The toy sprung onto her
narrow shoulders and then to the top of her head, where it cracked like an egg.
“Ow!” Alyssa covered that area and
then ran her fingers down her straight, pale-blonde hair, checking for any
unusual, hard textures. She lifted the ends up from the area a few inches past
her hips, where the length fell to. There were tiny plastic ball-bits stuck in
her tresses, so she pulled them out.
Alex knocked on the door. “Alyssa,
are you ready for the party?”
“It’s almost six o’clock, sweetie.
The tent in the backyard is already set up.”
“Something’s wrong with me!”
Alex opened the door, already
wearing his suit. “What’s the matter?”
Alex had tied his shoulder-length
light-brown hair into a ponytail. “What’s going on?”
Alyssa whimpered. “Ma…ma…”
“Are you all right?”
She shook her head.
Alex looked away and covered his
goatee. “Your closet’s a mess.”
“I did magic!” Alyssa’s
Alex opened his mouth. “No way. That
doesn’t make sense.”
“I did!” Alyssa sucked in inhalations.
“I’m not making this up!”
Alex tilted his head.
“I told you about magic back in
March! I was kidnapped and taken to Fiji by an evil wizard! And then one of the
mentors gave me a couple of little things to keep me safe!”
“The objects are gone! Somebody
must’ve stolen them!”
Alex clapped both hands over his
“I looked everywhere in my closet! I
can’t find them!”
Alex removed his hands from his
“How could you forget these
He remained mute.
“What the heck?!” She sat on her
bed, and her breathing still hurried.
“I’m sorry.” Alex closed the door
He’d wanted to hold this party over
the summer. But his agricultural-engineering and country-singing jobs had kept
him from setting a date.
Alyssa considered the ways in which
she might remove these powers. Maybe one of her previous mentors would know a
way. Like technology, magic became more advanced over time.
Alyssa picked up her phone, went
onto her email, and searched for Mathias, the wizard who’d provided her with
the magical objects. Nothing. The same happened when she searched for Isabelle
Her device rang and she answered.
Alyssa, I hope you’re all right,” Simon said in his English accent.
“Something’s wrong with me. I…I did
magic, even though—”
“I was calling about that.”
Alyssa raised her eyebrows. Then,
she recalled how marble figures, which resembled statues, could gather
information from others at the speed of sound, even if they were unconscious.
“Why didn’t you call earlier?”
“I wanted to get more information
about your new powers.”
“How can I get rid of them?”
“I’m not sure.”
Alyssa exhaled. “There’s got to be
“I’ll look into it. In the meantime,
try some gloves.”
“You sure that’ll work?”
“I believe so. That’s one of the
things I found out.”
“On the wizarding internet?”
“No. From someone who’s friends with
the guy who jinxed you.”
Alyssa gritted her teeth. “Someone
jinxed me? Who is he and why did he give me magic powers?”
“I’m going to have to find out more
Alex knocked again.
“Alyssa, you better get going,” said
But he’d hung up.
“Alyssa, who are you talking to?”
“One of my wizard mentors.”
Alex opened the door and stepped in.
“I can’t cancel the party tonight. The staff won’t let me.”
“Well, my mentor, Simon, told me to
“You think that’s going to work?”
“He said it should and to give it a
Alex pressed his lips together.
“He helped me defeat that sorcerer
“When’s the last time you talked to
Alyssa hesitated. “Not since April.
But he was the one who told me about the wizard hunting me down when I was
living with Uncle Bruce.”
“Can I talk to him?”
“Sure.” Alyssa gave him the phone.
“He was the last one who called.”
Alex pressed on the screen and held
the phone to his ear.
When Alyssa had lived with her
uncle, Bruce, in March, she’d informed Alex about wizardry. She’d even told him
around the time he’d been granted legal custody over her.
guess I forgot to tell him about who my mentors were, she thought.
Alex hung up. “He’s not answering.”
“He must be finding out more
information about these new…powers.”
“I’ll let you wear the gloves, but I
really don’t feel ready to trust Simon.”
“Well, I trust him. If it weren’t
for him, I might not have made it.”
Alex sharpened his eyes.
“Everyone back in New Jersey trusted
him, too.” That was where Alyssa had lived until the day after her thirteenth
birthday in April.
“Even Uncle Bruce?”
“At first, no. Then Simon sent him a
note and he trusted him… until that warlock wiped his memories with a storm.”
Alyssa looked down, thinking about Uncle Bruce, who resided in an assisted
living home. The memory-wiping spell had been blocked years ago, but some
powerful magicians could use other ways to get past it. Alyssa still didn’t
understand how the storm’s power had erased Uncle Bruce’s memories.
“After you’re done getting ready,
I’ll call Simon from your phone again,” said Alex.
“How about I just write down his
“Do what you need to do.” Alex
Alyssa sighed as she peeled her
clothes off. While Uncle Bruce had treated her and her cousin, Hailey, with
little respect and had placed unfair rules on them, Alex cared for her like his
Alyssa’s parents had named him not
only her godfather, but also guardian in the event that something might happen
to them. The loss of her mom and dad in that car crash when she was seven had
changed her life. Despite what the will had stated, Alyssa’s then-babysitter
had convinced the cops to let her stay at her aunt and uncle’s house nearby. The
state of New Jersey had made Aunt Laura and Uncle Bruce her new guardians.
However, when Alyssa was nine, Aunt
Laura had died from an allergic reaction to a chocolate filled with raspberry
cream that she had barely touched. She’d had a fatal allergy to berries. Then, Uncle
Bruce had toughened up his attitude, although he’d always had a stern way of
parenting, and had rarely smiled. It just hadn’t involved as much yelling and
restrictions before Aunt Laura’s death.
Because a sorcerer called Master
Beau had wanted to enslave Alyssa, he’d erased Uncle Bruce’s memories so that
he couldn’t protect her. Master Beau wanted her to find items and ways to help
strengthen him for ruling France after the French government had banished him
for committing a serious crime. Alyssa had never discovered what the offense
had been, though. She still deemed her life to overwhelming for a
She wore her wide-strapped
blue-and-black dress. Her fingers sweated as she tied a blue ribbon in her hair
and secured it back halfway. Her hands also shook as she put on her jewelry and
She opened her closet and put on her
dress shoes, a pair of leather gloves, and then went downstairs. Scooter, the
yellow lab, barked by the door.
Alyssa opened it. No one was
“Who’s there?!” called Alyssa.
played in the backyard.
not stupid!” Alyssa shouted.
“Alyssa, what are you doing?” asked
“I’m yelling at the man who cursed
“Yes! Simon told me!”
Alex gasped, covered his mouth, and
shook his head.
“I wish I didn’t have to go to the
Alex took his phone out of his pants
pocket and stared into it. “I got a text from your mentor, Simon. He says he’s
not a hundred percent sure if the gloves will help. But he’s almost certain.”
“Did he find out how I can get rid
of these powers?”
“He’s still working on it.”
Alyssa inhaled and exhaled.
“Sweetheart, just give the party a
try. If you feel uncomfortable, you can go back inside.”
“What about that speech we’re
supposed to give?”
“It won’t be long.”
“But I don’t like speaking in front
“You only have to say a few
sentences. I promise.”
“We should head outside.”
Alyssa followed him.
hope the gloves actually work, she thought.
She continued to look around for the
warlock who’d hexed her. He could be wearing an invisibility poncho, or he
could have disappeared in a snap.
the swimming pool and continued down the small hill into the tent. Orange,
yellow, and brown balloons covered each pole. A DJ played music near the
entrance. A white cloth covered each table, including the round ones for sitting
at and the rectangular ones for serving.
Alyssa shoved her way through the crowd, she saw her friend, Sydney Watson,
gaping at her phone, her elbow-length chestnut curls covering her freckled
tightening, Alyssa sat next to Sydney.
up?” asked Sydney.
want to be here.”
tilted her head.
forgot? I told you about it when we first met.”
inhaled. Her eyebrows lifted.
wrong with you?!”
didn’t tell me a lot about it.”
yeah, because I’m technically not supposed to.”
said in April that you defeated a magician. I thought it was the kind at magic
shook her head.
what was it really?”
is something serious, you need to tell me.”
something from a stranger.”
issue with my hands.”
pressed her lips together.
you’re hiding something.”
it would be better if you stayed out of it.”
I’m your friend. I don’t want anything to happen to you.”
want us to help you, then you shouldn’t hide things like this.”
said anything about help?”
guys,” said Lily Browne, another friend of Alyssa’s. Lily trotted to them, smiling.
Her dark brown hair bounced against her waist. She joined Alyssa and Sydney.
“This is going to be so awesome.” She giggled.
so.” Alyssa looked down.
the matter?” Lily asked. “Had a bad day?”
until right before the party,” she said.
Lily patted her shoulder. “It’ll be okay.”
don’t you tell Lily about what happened to you?” Sydney asked.
tell me,” said Lily. “I won’t judge you.”
later,” muttered Alyssa.
you really should tell us what happened to you,” said Sydney.
won’t tell anyone else,” Lily said. “We promise.”
tanned-skinned girl entered the tent. It was Krystal Gordillo, Alyssa’s
third-closest friend. Krystal ran her fingers through her dark brown hair. “Stupid
wind messed up my hair.” She tied her locks, which fell to the middle of her
back, into a ponytail. She sat with Alyssa and the other two. “Does anyone else
hate when the weather messes up your look?”
what you want to talk about?” Sydney asked. “Krystal, grow up.”
are all about fun.” Lily beamed. “You should enjoy yourself.” She sipped her
Sprite. “I’m hoping to get my science-of-happiness badge for Girl Scouts. We
get an extra treat if we help others become more confident.”
a mess,” said Krystal.
than what Alyssa’s dealing with,” Sydney said.
happened?” Krystal asked her.
last time, I don’t want to talk about it!”
not cool,” said Sydney.
just got here,” Krystal said.
just change the subject?” asked Alyssa.
you’re hungry,” Krystal told her.
Let’s go get some snacks.” Lily stood up.
gathered appetizers and beverages. Alyssa nibbled her veggie sticks and chips, and
are you going, Alyssa?” Krystal asked.
She put her coat on and ran back inside the house. But she didn’t need the
bathroom—she just wanted a break.
She returned to her room, where ink spelled out “Errol was here” on the floor. Her mouth opened and she panted.
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