“How? Do you honestly think someone managed to drag a guy Derek’s size off the bus?”

His scowl deepened. “Of course not. But have you forgotten that bounty on Chloe’s head?”

“If she got off the bus to use the bathroom, Derek would have followed. They both could have been stopped. Sent back to Buffalo.” He gazed down the road. “I’m catching the bus back. It’ll be here in five minutes. You can come with me or go to Andrew’s.”

“But I don’t know Andrew or how to get—”

I realized that sounded like whining and stopped. I knew everyone was tired of looking after me. I was even more tired of needing it. I’d love to say, “Sure, I’ll do that.” Not like I couldn’t ride a bus and find a house.

What would I do when I got there, though? This Andrew guy didn’t even know we were coming. Was I going to ring his bell and say, “Hey, remember Kit Bae? That friend you had a big fight with a few years ago? Well, I don’t know him, but I do know his sons and I’m hoping you’ll let me stay at your place until they get here.”

He might slam the door in my face. Still, I coulddo it. I wasn’t afraid to do it. Not really.

“Fine,” I said. “Just give me the address and directions from the bus station.”

Simon took out his notepad. As he flipped past a sketch, I saw it was a picture of Chloe with a zombie. Remembering that scene, I can say with certainty that she wasn’t nearly as calm and determined as she looked in Simon’s drawing. Not at first, anyway. Was that how he saw her? I guess so.

What was it like to have guys draw your picture like that? Do I sound envious? I don’t mean to. I don’t have any trouble getting boyfriends—present company excepted. Keeping them away is usually the problem. Yet, I’m never the girl who inspires bad poetry and crappy love songs.

On second thought, the way I worded that might explain why I don’t get poetry and love songs. I’d like to think I’d appreciate the effort but . . . Yeah, guys are better off saving the artsy, sentimental stuff for other girls.

I took the address. The directions were half-assed. Not Simon’s fault. He’d never gone there by bus. I’d have to get directions to Andrew’s street, and follow Simon’s notes from there.

“If you don’t find Derek and Chloe, will you come to Andrew’s later?” I asked.

“Of course. I’m not abandoning you, Tori.”

“That’s not—” I meant that I wanted to be sure he wasn’t wandering around for days, maybe not looking after his diabetes and passing out behind a truck stop or something. But I couldn’t say that without sounding like I was still crushing on him.

We sat in silence until the bus pulled in.

Simon got on the bus, ticket money in hand. He chatted to the driver for so long that I wanted to give him a shove and say, “If you’re getting on, get on already.” Typical Simon. He’s one of those kids who talk to adults like there’s no difference between us and them, like he doesn’t expect to be treated any differently either.

Then his voice rose, just enough for me to notice. He sounded pissed off. I got up from the bench and walked to the bus.

“I amfifteen,” he was saying. “I’m in tenth grade. I’ll be sixteen in a few months. I was born in—”

“So you gotta prove it,” said the woman behind the wheel. “Either a parent has to accompany you or you need ID that says you’re fifteen. You don’t look fifteen.”

She tilted her head and studied him. “Thirteen. Fourteen, tops.”

Simon spun to see me at the bottom of the steps. “So how old does shelook?” he asked as he waved at me.

He started to protest, then stifled it and took a moment. When he spoke again, his tone was calm and reasonable. “Okay, but teenage girls look older than boys, right? So that probably means that we’re the same age.”

“So I guess you’re both fourteen. So neither of you is getting on my bus.”

She shooed Simon off. He kept arguing until she threatened to call the police.

I’d backed up to resume my seat on the bench. As Simon stalked over, he glowered at me.

“You did that, didn’t you?” he said.

“Did what? Cast a spell to make her refuse to sell you a ticket? Um, I don’t know any spells, remember? That’s the problem. Magic just happens with me. If there is such a spell, you’d be the one who knows it.”

“Not if it’s witch magic. Sorcerer magic is different. But no, I don’t think you cast a spell. I think you signaled or mouthed to her that I was underage. You were right behind me.”

“Not until I heard you fighting. Then I tried to help. You can always catch the next bus.”

“Sure, the one going the direction youwant.”

I didn’t bother to answer. He was pissed off and nothing I could say would help.

“So witches cast a different kind of magic?” I ventured after a few minutes.

Simon had been raised a sorcerer, like Derek had been raised a werewolf. They grew up knowing they had supernatural powers. Chloe and I didn’t. She’d apparently been clued in by the guys, who’d figured out she was a necromancer because she was at Lyle House for seeing ghosts.

I’d worked hard at hiding my magical outbursts. If I hadn’t, maybe they’d have realized what I was, too. Maybe things would have been different. But that wasn’t how I handled stuff. If weird things were happening—things my mother insisted were signs of mental illness—I would cope in private, take therapy, swallow pills, do whatever it took to get better. Only I couldn’t get better. This was me. Victoria Enright, teenage witch.

My mother was a witch, too. Was Lara? Didn’t know. Didn’t care. Okay, that’s not true. In spite of everything, she was still my sister and I worried that maybe she was a science experiment, too. I hoped she was okay.

I wondered how it had been with Chloe, when she’d confronted her aunt Lauren about knowing she was a necromancer. She musthave confronted her—I’d seen at the lab how mad she’d been with her aunt. So we were in the same situation, betrayed by someone we loved. Only it wasn’t the same situation, because I’d also seen how bad Chloe’s aunt felt. She’d helped us escape. She might have even been killed helping us.

And my mother? When I’d confronted her, she’d told me to grow up. Deal with it. Then she’d tried to befriend Chloe. Told Chloe shewas the strong one. The daughter she wished she’d had. Even when I’d beaten my mother with magic, she didn’t look at me any other way. She hadn’t helped our escape, either. If Chloe’s aunt was dead, it was because my mother killed her, trying to foil our escape.

So I knew nothing about what I was. Nothing about my power except what I’d experienced. Nothing about what it meant to be a witch.

“Yes, witches and sorcerers are different,” Simon said, after nearly twenty minutes of silence. “They have different kinds of magic. Apparently, sorcerers can use witch magic and vice-versa. I haven’t learned any of yours yet.”

“Because you aren’t good enough to learn it? Or because you think you’re too good for witch magic?”

“Yeah, clearly, either I suck or I’m a chauvinistic—” He stopped, and took a deep breath. “Our powers, like with most supernaturals, hit at puberty. I’m still learning sorcerer magic, so it doesn’t make sense to try something harder yet.”

“Yes, I’m sure you would. But I want to master my own magic first and that takes practice.”

“Because the experiment went wrong. That’s why you were in Lyle House.”

“What’s so wrong about not needing to practice and learn spells? If the point of the experiment was to improve supernaturals, then it sounds like it worked just fine. At least for me.”

He seemed to be biting his tongue. Hard. After a moment, he said, carefully, “Well, they thought it was a problem. Probably because it makes your magic harder to control. Chloe says— ”

“She said you have outbursts of magic. That could be dangerous.” When I opened my mouth, he lifted a hand to stop me. “I’m not trying to argue with you, Tori. I’m just saying you need to be careful.”

“No. You guys can be careful. I’ll be powerful.”

“You do that,” he muttered and got up to recheck the schedule.

When the next bus came, Simon got on with me. He hadn’t said he would. He just did. He showed the driver our tickets and told him some sob story about us getting off to stretch our legs and being left stranded. The driver let us on for free. I was grudgingly impressed. Still, I’m sure I could have gotten the same result myself, by threatening to report the company for leaving underage kids stranded in the first place.

We didn’t sit together. Not my choice. There were plenty of double seats available. Simon plunked down next to an old man. Taking the hint, I retreated to the rear of the bus and claimed a double seat for myself.

There’s nothing to say about the bus ride, except that I wished I had something to do. A book to read. A laptop to play with. And by “play” I don’t mean games. My future career is in software design. I’m not keen on the programming part, but I need some knowledge of it for my college application package.

College. Future career. Some might say I was naïve to believe my life could continue as I imagined it would. I was living on the street. I couldn’t go home to my parents, keepers of my college fund. Couldn’t go back to high school to finish that. I will, though. How? I try not to think about that part. If I can’t go home, where will I go? I don’t know. Can’t think about it now. Just concentrate on getting through each day. The future will come, and when it does, I’ll be ready. I always am.