Home > The Luminaries (The Luminaries #1)(8)

The Luminaries (The Luminaries #1)(8)
Author: Susan Dennard

Right as Dante is going in for a third round of song, this time with Peter Sunday on harmony, Ms. Morgan arrives. She isn’t a Luminary, but a rare non folded into the Hemlock Falls mix because she has been dating Mason Thursday for a bazillion years. With alabaster skin and round, glowing cheeks that she expertly streaks with shimmery highlighter, she has the look of a hippie art teacher. Her long mousy-brown hair is always pulled into a single braid, her clothes always billowy and free.

Aunt Rachel was actually the one who vetted Leona Morgan to ensure she had no shady past or Diana connections before she was allowed into Hemlock Falls. That was when Rachel had worked in the bureaucratic Wednesday offices before taking over as Lead Hunter.

Winnie has always wondered who vetted Dad; she has always wondered if Dad had been a Diana before he came and the Wednesdays just missed the signs … or if he joined the witches after moving here.

The entire room goes quiet at Ms. Morgan’s arrival, and she flings out a knowing glance from behind her thin, metal-framed glasses. The exact sort of glasses that Winnie was hoping to get.

“Good morning.” Ms. Morgan waves a loosed-sleeved arm at the room. “Is everyone finished being a childish asshole yet? Because if so, I’d like to take attendance.”

Dante chokes. The rest of the room goes silent—and Winnie wishes very much that she could curl under her desk and die. Having Ms. Morgan defend her is even worse than enduring the childish assholes.

Twelve more hours. Twelve more hours.

Ms. Morgan bares a brittle smile before spouting off names. Everyone is there except Jay Friday, which isn’t surprising because he’s never there. And if Winnie hadn’t already seen him that morning, she would have assumed he was out getting high.

Actually, she supposes he could still be doing that. He’ll probably shamble in during second or third period, eyes bloodshot and hair extra mussed. His signature buffalo flannel will stink of stale cigarettes, even though she knows he doesn’t smoke—just the older jerks he hangs out with do at the abandoned Luminaries museum on the south side—and he’ll coast through the rest of the day without taking notes or paying much attention to anything.

Against her better judgment, Winnie wishes Jay were here instead of out getting high. Like Fatima, he doesn’t laugh with the other assholes. But unlike Fatima, something about his not-laughing often gets the rest of the class to shut up. It’s weird because he’s not popular. He’s a Friday. As the smallest, least powerful clan, Fridays are automatically off-limits for popular.

But Jay also became the first hunter in his grade, and rumor has it he might make Lead Hunter before he’s even eighteen. In other words, people low-key fear or are high-key enamored with Jay, and as far as Winnie is concerned, that’s way better than being actually popular.

“Hey,” Fatima says, pausing at Winnie’s desk on the way toward the door after homeroom ends. She wears a silky cobalt hijab that brings out the blue in her eyes. “Sorry about Dante.”

“Don’t be.” Winnie musters up a smile.

Fatima smiles back, wide and open, revealing braces on her bottom teeth. “Well, happy birthday.” She wanders into the hallway. Winnie stays put.

It’s only once everyone else has left that she finally stuffs her math homework, now adorned with a sylphid’s torso, into her backpack and heads for the door. Unfortunately, she doesn’t quite make it before Ms. Morgan hurries into her path. She grabs Winnie’s sleeve; her pointer finger has a Band-Aid on it.

Please don’t mention the application, please don’t mention the application.

Ms. Morgan, of course, mentions the application: “Have you given any thought to that summer program at Heritage, Winnie?”

Winnie’s organs wince. Her face winces too. Three weeks ago, Ms. Morgan had approached her about this summer art program for high schoolers at Heritage University four hours away. I know one of the professors who teaches it, Winnie, and I think you would just love it there. Here, take this application and give it a read. I can really see you flourishing at a place like Heritage after you graduate. So many subjects to explore, so many new people!

All Winnie had heard in Ms. Morgan’s speech, though, was: You should really give up on being a Luminary again and find a solid backup plan. When you graduate, there won’t be a place for you here.

“The applications are due soon,” Ms. Morgan continues, oblivious to Winnie’s misery, “and I can email it directly to my friend Philip. He’ll approve you, I’m sure of it. You have too much talent for him not to.”

“Um.”

“And if money is a concern, there’s a financial aid option. It was on the second page of the application. Or…” Ms. Morgan’s hazel eyes narrow. “Maybe it was the third page?”

Winnie doesn’t know. She took the application, stuffed it at the bottom of her locker, and hasn’t looked at it since. Drawing is something she enjoys doing, but only if she’s drawing nightmares. Only if she’s drawing for the Luminaries.

She shakes off Ms. Morgan’s hand and murmurs, “I’ll get on it, Ms. Morgan. Thank you.” Then she beats a hasty retreat from the classroom, head ducked low into the sudden onslaught of traffic.

Bodies clot the arteries of Hemlock Falls High, hiding its nondescript walls built forty years ago and its floors carpeted only slightly sooner. There are no mascots at HFHS, no sports teams, no gym facilities, and no guidance counselors. All but three of the teachers are Sundays, and so, when the half day ends, they leave along with 99 percent of the students, who go to the sprawling Sunday grounds. There, you can find sports teams, several gyms, even more guidance counselors, and nary a sagging locker in sight.

Winnie misses it so badly sometimes that her chest hurts. She should be accustomed to the ache by now, yet somehow she isn’t. And today, as all the students stream around her—some of them discussing tonight’s trial because they’ll be there and welcomed—a new sensation hammers atop the usual tightness. It’s like she’s been drugged with a phoenix feather and now her heart is going to explode.

Happy birthday, witch traitor, happy birthday to you!

She has tried, for four years, to approximate what they do at the Sunday estate. Jogging, sprinting, an obstacle course that is really just the inside of her house when no one is home. But there’s only so much she can mimic on her own. She hasn’t trained with actual gear in four years—she hasn’t held a bow or thrown a flash grenade in four years. Hell, she couldn’t even ID that halfer correctly this morning, so really, what chance does she have against the forest tonight?

Winnie drags her feet. Her heart is hammering harder now. The world is spinning too, and when she reaches her locker, she rests her forehead against the neon-yellow slats. Twelve hours seems impossibly far away. And also terrifyingly soon.

What if she fails? She has tried—with great success—to avoid even considering that possibility, but what if she fails? What if she can’t find a nightmare, she can’t track it, and she can’t kill it? You can only attempt the hunter trials once. There are no do-overs. If she fails, then she will be back here tomorrow, still an outcast. Still pretending she doesn’t hear everyone whispering about her as they pass.

Don’t take my finger bones as a source, sì?

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