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The Discovery of Magic

“Take a closer look.”

Theresa leaned her head across the slim space between the austere oak tables in the library that separated her from her long-suffering boyfriend, Emerson. She knew from years of practice just how close she could come to the boys’ table without attracting the attention of the guard standing by the front door. It wasn’t easy being the daughter of the notoriously prudish principal of the exclusive Crane Academy. She was never allowed to speak to the boys under any circumstances, at least any circumstances that the school guards could notice. Theresa and Emerson resorted to muttering quickly to one another without making eye contact. This made it difficult for Theresa and Emerson to really get to know one another, but at least there was mystery in their relationship.

“What am I supposed to be seeing? I don’t see anything,” hissed Theresa.

“You don’t see the wound? Aah, it stings. I will be marked for life, and all for you!”

Silly Emerson. Lovable, charming, handsome, silly Emerson. He was so possessive of Theresa that he would challenge any student who dared say an unkind word about her. He would demand a duel in the square, and then he would be thrashed. Why didn’t he dare them to compete against him in the Empire Management Challenge? Everyone knew that Emerson was smarter than he was strong, and in last year’s simulation Emerson had won first place in the foreign policy simulation, earning the best bunk in the dormitories and probably a plum job in the diplomatic corps when he graduated. This year, though, Theresa swore she would win. This year, the competition was on her turf. She knew the people and geography of Costa Rica like the back of her hand. Like the back of Emerson’s hand. Like the curve of Emerson’s lips. Like…

“Changing of the Guard!”

The alert came from Nanette, Theresa’s best friend and partner in the Empire Management Challenge. During the twice-daily Changing of the Guard ceremony, all attention in the school library would focus on the guards’ elaborate official handoff. Caps would be doffed. Batons would be swung. Papers would be signed. Schoolgirls in the lower grades would swoon.

Not Theresa. She had other priorities. Theresa knew she had one minute in which the center guards doffed and swung and signed, plus one more minute in which the wing guards would repeat the useless ceremonial gestures. That was two minutes for serious snogging in the stacks. This was her favorite part of the long afternoon.

Just as Theresa grabbed Emerson’s hand and started to pull him to their usual spot between “MedPo” (Medieval Poetry) and “RomLa” (Romance Languages), she felt a finger tapping her shoulder. “Psst,” whispered Nanette. “Wing guard! Wing guard!”

“Wing guard?” Theresa repeated quizzically, whipping her head around to see Officer Samuels glaring at her only a few inches away.

“Eeeee,” Theresa squealed. Dropping Emerson’s hand like a hot potatoe and turning to her Empire Management partner, she did her best to regain her composure and continue the foreign policy simulation. Swishing and flicking her pencil with theatrical flair, she blurted: “Um, levy Osa!”

Officer Samuels’ helmet flew off his head.

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