“You’re doing great! Now draw the magic from your core and direct its flow towards the tip of your wand. Good, good. I can feel it radiating with your energy. Try the spell.”
The wand tip began to glow and so did the edges of the food-stained plate. In an instant, the plate vanished and a stack of greasy dishes stood in its place.
“Aw, man!” Athena whined.
“Wonderful! You’ve made so much improvement!” her mom cheered. Athena face-palmed, then gave her mom a stony look. “You mean I’ve gone backwards. I made one dirty plate become a tower of filth! Imagine if I was trying to clean up after one of your meet-and-greets!”
Avery laughed. “It is an improvement. You’re no longer breaking plates.” She gave a wave and the plates vanished. A soft ‘chink’ came from the dish rack where they reappeared. “Destroying is easy to do, even a toddler can do that, but you’ve surpassed that stage. You’ve mastered the proportioning of magic around your body and into objects without breaking them! Everything else will come quickly.” Athena rolled her eyes. So what? She can’t clean stains off her breakfast platter.
“No wonder there’s a magic school,” Athena muttered, rubbing a squeaky clean plate with her fingers as Avery made coffee. “Three days just to shift my energy around… I’d probably get teased for being so slow if I was in magic school.”
“Actually, I’d say you’re pretty talented. For our first week of school, my classmates and I broke all our plates and only managed to control our magic in week two.” Athena gave her mom a disbelieving look.
“Believe me, balancing magic is no easy feat. Many in the past have died not being able to control their powers. Seems insignificant now, but all advanced spells require this basic skill.” she went on. “That’s why we have forbidden spells – banned for their effects and for the protection of the caster.”
She thought about her dad. Her mom must have used one of those forbidden spells all those years ago. If it’s forbidden, how’d her mom even know about it? Her thoughts were interrupted with a little present.
“Open it,” Avery said.
Athena shook the box before unwrapping it. It turned out to be a brand new cellphone!
“Since you have a habit of running off on your own, and twice now you’ve met some shifty people, you can notify me if something happens.”
“Wicked! Thanks mom!” she said as she flipped the manual that came with it. “Woah! This tiny thing can store ninety-nine phone numbers? I won’t need that many, but its still cool!” Athena didn’t mean anything by those words, but her mom saw it as an expression of loneliness.
“Let’s have a girl’s day out today!” Avery said jubilantly. “We’ll do our nails, shop and go for beauty treatments!” Athena protested, but her mom was determined.
“I’ll put on a celebrity disguise.” she said enthusiastically. “If nothing else, I want to pamper and spend time with my daughter. Can’t I do that?”
“Of course you can…” Athena sighed. How could she say no to that?
“You look amazing! Oh, we are definitely buying this!” Avery squealed while the shop attendant nodded ecstatically, folding the huge pile of clothing they’d amassed. He was in for a hefty commission.
“It’s too short!” Athena stared awkwardly at her thighs in the mirror.
“Nonsense! Trust your mom’s fashion style! I know what’s trending with youths these days. I’d wear this if I was your age!”
“Of course you would. This looks like it came straight from your wardrobe.”
A familiar voice came from behind them. “Athena looks great! You’ll need a butler to chase off the boys from your doorstep, Avery.”
They turned to see Kirino by the stairs. Surprised, Athena eyed her suspiciously, wondering for a moment if they were followed this whole time.
“Macie!” A quick hug and kiss were exchanged. “I asked Macie to join us. I didn’t think you would mind.” said Avery.
That explained things, but when did her mom adopt a first-name basis with the con-woman?
“I think pastel colors will suit you. They bring out the unique purple of your eyes.” As she spoke, Kirino pointed to a floral pink dress from the clothe-stand. Her mom murmured in approval.
“Eek! No..! I don’t need another dress. And our deal was five outfits of my choosing to one of yours. You’ve snuck in three dresses and five blouses now!” Athena exclaimed.
Avery chuckled. “Some variety is needed. And you don’t need to remove the outfit you’re wearing now, we’ll take it!”
The teen could’ve stood her ground, but she hadn’t seen her mom this happy in a long time. She sat with Kirino instead and watched the attendant round up their purchases, then offer to bring their bags to the car.
“This is actually a good idea,” Kirino whispered to Athena. “If you kept your former appearance, you’ll be too easily recognised on the streets.”
Athena thought for a moment. “Is Steve looking for me?”
Kirino nodded. “For all three of you. Two got arrested that night, but Roge and Steve managed to get away. He’ll be out for blood now, not that he wasn’t before.”
Before Athena could dwell on it, the woman unexpectedly shifted the topic. “We’re having Curtis change his appearance too. Looks like you’re in sync with each other.”
She didn’t think he needed a makeover. Even in his street garb and loosely-tied hair, he looked nice.. she blushed and suppressed the memory. There’s no time to daydream about it. Steve’s coming for us, she thought. I need to be ready whenever, that means mastering this dumb cleaning spell before I can move on to advanced magic!
“Let’s go to the next store!” her mom had returned from the car trip. Somehow, knowing Curtis is out there in a similar ‘makeover’ situation made her less resistant towards changing her own appearance.
By mid-afternoon, Athena was completely drained – a large contrast to her mom’s energized state. Unlike her, Avery had so much fun indulging Athena in her favorite luxuries at each variant of a beauty spa or salon. The abundant selection and incessant promotion of each parlor’s treatments, however, overwhelmed the teen, who finally settled for the bare minimum of each service. Her eyes drooped as the the women exchanged information about the latest development in Newcrest until her mom addressed her.
“We’ve decided that the adults need to go shopping too!”
Athena groaned. “Can I just sleep here until you guys are done?”
“I have a better idea.” Kirino pipped. “There’s an arcade on the east wing of this mall. Go check it out for an hour. Let me give you a quick sketch on how to get there.” She put her muffin aside and readied a paper from her handbag.
“That’s a good idea! Here’s some money for tokens and snacks,” Avery offered helpfully. Athena thanked them – and her lucky stars – before taking the paper from Kirino’s outstretched hand. “Right, I’m off.”
“Let’s meet back here in an hour!” Her mom called out.
But Athena wasn’t listening. All the paper had was scribbles, until she realised it was tightly folded in two. She revealed Kirino’s hidden message inside:
Newcrest General Hospital
Walk north for 10 minutes
Thank me later! xoxo
Trust Kirino to pull this off so effortlessly in front of others, Athena thought. But maybe she’s not such a bad person after all.
– I chose the phone because its the 90s. But in other shots they’ll use the in-game phone because it’s too tiring to photoshop each one. 😐