“We’re having a young witches party for the New Year,” Jeremy said over the telephone the next day. “Come meet a few of us.”
“I hope you aren’t like the selfish kids I met the other day,” she said.
“Not at all. You will like us.”
Heather agreed to take her and Matthew. They would spend the night at one of the witch’s homes, so they brought sleeping bags and pillows, so much easier than the wool blankets they had slept in for most of the lives.
To Laura’s surprise, Wendy begged to come along. “I’ll be a witch in under two years,” she said. “Here I am, leaving for nowhere in a few days. There won’t be anyone cool to hang with or talk to about what it’s like to be a witch.”
Laura didn’t want her there, but it wasn’t her decision. “Ask Jeremy,” she said.
Wendy texted back and forth with Jeremy, but he remained adamant: only witches between sixteen and twenty years old could attend. Laura wondered why Wendy wanted to come so badly. Was it because of Matthew? She seemed a little too curious about him for Laura’s comfort.
Matthew hardly said a word on the drive across town. After Heather dropped them off, Laura stopped him from ringing the doorbell. “Why so quiet?” she asked.
“What am I doing here?” he said, his voice bitter and sad. “I can’t cast any spells. Jeremy says it will come with practice, but I’m not sure I believe him. You can’t possibly understand. It’s so easy for you. You just think about something, and ‘boom.’”
His words surprised Laura. She’d known he was having a hard time getting magic to work, but hadn’t understood how frustrated it made him. For the first time, she wondered if their love could survive the dichotomy between their abilities.
“And then,” he said, continuing his train of thought, “I’ve learned enough to know the other witches won’t trust me because of my reptile blood. On top of that, they’ll make fun of me because I can’t do anything.”
Laura sighed. She’d worried about the same things, but Jeremy had talked to everyone about Matthew before inviting him and they’d all promised to be kind. “I won’t let them,” she said. “I know you, and I love you.”
She kissed his cheek and took his arm. “Anything else before I pull you inside?”
“Yes.” Words spilled out of him. He talked about the casual way everyone had with their worldly goods. The pile of clothing in his bedroom chest of drawers embarrassed him to no end. “One of those pairs of pants would take my mother weeks to make,” he said. Everything smelled of chemicals and death, instead of animals, plants, and the earth. Even the water stunk. He missed the familiar smells, but even more he missed his family. He wished that he could return home. Not that he didn’t love her and David, but he wanted more than anything to help his father in the forge or watch his youngest siblings while his mother cooked a meal. Even the cave had felt more like home than this city.
Her heart lurched. She hated seeing him so miserable. Maybe he should go home to their village. She’d have to take him since he didn’t have the time travel gene. Could she do that? It would be awfully dangerous to go back there, with her uncle on the loose. He might kill them both. Her face blanched at the thought. Half ready to promise Matthew on the spot, she stopped herself. Maybe someone else should do it. But who? She’d talk to Heather.
Even if he got home safely, what would she do without him? She kicked herself for not seeing his homesickness before this. Of course, he’d dropped hints, now that she recalled their conversations over the past month. But his ease with the clothing and language had fooled her. She’d wanted to believe that he was adapting more quickly than herself to their current situation. She’d been wrong. She might have difficulty with the culture, but she didn’t miss anyone from the past.
Beside her, Matthew took a deep breath. “I guess we’ve faced worse,” he said, and punched the doorbell.