Grocery shopping was not, in theory, a novel sort of thing. Lina did it every second week for the family back home.
But when she was doing so with three rich boys who had never had to do that sort of thing – “Why not just have a grocery service?” – it turned into an adventure.
It helped, or possibly made things worse, that it being late at night, they were nearly the only people in the store. It helped that they were actually buying things, although Lina’s mental list appeared to confuse everyone but Jackson, who actually knew how to cook.
“So why are we shopping again?” Dylan asked, when the cart was half-full. “I mean – there’s already food up there.”
“But is it good food? Also, I want to make pizza.”
“Make? Make pizza?”
“You are really helpless, aren’t you?” She rolled her eyes at them and headed for the dairy case.
“Hey, just ‘cause we can’t do magic—” Ethan protested.
“Baking isn’t magic. It’s just baking,” she intentionally misunderstood him. “Okay, I think that’s everything. I don’t really want to get back, but if they notice we’re gone—”
“It’ll be harder to sneak back in,” Dylan agreed. He seemed quiet and solemn. “You know you got enough food to feed like, a jillion people?”
“Ten or so. Not nearly a jillion, have you ever fed people?”
“Parties, yeah. You could feed a jillion-person party with that. Just need beer.”
“Except none of us are remotely over 21.” She had to admit beer sounded like a good idea. “More’s the pity.”
“I’m stocked up.” Ethan looked at her sidelong. “You make the magic, I’ll bring the booze. I’m good at the booze — what?”
Dylan and Jackson had started chuckling. “Sounds like you’re hitting on her,” Dylan snorted. “‘You bring the magic,’ wooh.”
“Yeah, well?” Ethan shifted from foot to foot. “What if I am? I mean—”
“Your aunts would kill you,” Jackson put in, far too flatly. Lina wasn’t sure what was going on between the guys, but she was clear it was something. “They would string you up and nobody would ever find the body.”
“They’re already going to kill me,” Ethan retorted. He tapped his forehead, where Lina’s mark had finally faded. “They’re already going to bury me. My only hope is that she here thinks I’m worth keeping alive.”
“Standing right here — wait.” She stared at them. “You’re not exaggerating.”
“You’re — your mother is — your mother and my aunts do not like each other. And you being, uh,” he rubbed his forehead, “that’s like uh. Romeo and Juliet already.”
“I’m not drinking poison.” She glared at him.
“What? No, I mean— Wait, did you just make yourself Romeo?”
Lina leaned against the rack of butters and giggled. “Shit, I hate Shakespeare. Yeah, I did. I’m not stabbing myself to death either.”
“Then I guess you’ll just have to keep our families from killing us.” Ethan looked far too cheerful; she found it hard to believe that he was remotely serious.
“You know, it’s one thing to save you from an angry mob.” She wrinkled her nose at him. “It’s another thing to try to save you from the magically-powered leaders of a cul — the Organization. That’s going to be something of a challenge.”
“The trick,” Jackson informed her, far too solemnly despite the twinkle in his eye, “is to just save a bunch of other lives first.”
“First let’s check out. We can save their stomachs, maybe I can get someone to give me some of their power for that.”
Saving more lives. Saving lives to go against the head of a cult. The head of a magical cult.
This was way too much. Two days ago, her biggest problem was balancing school work, babysitting, and trying to have a social life.
Now she was trying to make sure she still had a life.
She checked them out – she noticed Dylan watching her to see if she flinched at the price – and loaded everything up in brand-new reusable bags – clearly she hadn’t thought through this trip. She wondered if her mother had a single bag which could hold everything if folded right. She should ask.
Once she got up the nerves to ask her mother how she’d had magic and never told her about about.
Or to tell her mother she had magic now.
Or to ask her mother about this whole “rebelling against the cult” thing.
Or— well, that was about it, except that B on her math test that suddenly seemed far less important, all things considered.
She shook her head and then realized she was getting a couple weird looks. Oh, someone had just asked her a question. “Sorry,” she muttered. “I was just thinking about – uh. Well. Everything.”
Everything really seemed to encompass it all. Magic, cult – yeah.
“It can be a lot,” Jackson agreed. “I mean, I still don’t know why your parents chose to keep it all away from you, unless they were trying to insulate you, or they thought they’d have managed some sort of coup by-“
He was cut off by an alarm ripping across the air and sirens following close after. In the parking lot, a police officer looked out of her car and shouted at them.
“Kids! You’ve got to get to safety! Something just happened at the power plant. Something just-” She flailed with both hands.
“Shit, shit shit.” Lina looked at her cart, at Jackson, at Dylan and Ethan. They all looked up the hill.
“We’re not going to make it in time.” Ethan’s voice was flat, no humor left. “We’re just – we’re not.”Want more?