Ahir, Ahir Shaheen, Alicia Finger, Angelica, Ann Ash, Arnulf, Ash House, Beep, Chicago, Cloud, Cloudius, Daphne, Eva, ghost cat, Jen Chang, Lyceum, Lyceum of the Lake Winds, MacMorris, magic, Rachel, Rats Laguna, segments, Tom Hexane, wizard
XV. St Valentine’s Day Massacre
Rachel Rabat effectively moved into Ash House that night; by the end of February, she and Olympia Month had officially switched rooms, and until then Ange had a roommate.
The campus acted very normal for a few days. The MacMorris people seemed to have all been retrieved without harm, although Josh and Emma seemed to be wearing less jewelry than before. The glances at class and in the lunch room were very, very surreptitious.
Valentine’s Day came four days later. Everyone had a date, of some sort.
Cloudius and Jen Chang went out for Chinese—“I never get this at home, you know,” said Jen—and then ice cream afterward, and then they walked back to Ash House and spent the rest of the evening playing dungeons and dragons with Tom and his date, Alicia “Beep” Finger. Tom and Beep had snagged a table at the diner and had hamburgers, onion rings, root beers and ice cream sundaes, giggling about the little candy hearts on top.
“Valentine’s Day isn’t that bad,” said Cloudius, later, back at the House. The four were all sitting on Tom’s floor rolling dice and squinting at maps and charts, while Eva kept a ghostly eye on them and the spiritual surroundings.
“I know,” said Jen. “My parents are always complaining about it. How expensive it is and how everything’s crowded. I didn’t think it was expensive—it didn’t cost me a thing!”
“Mr Moneybags over there,” said Beep. “I had to pay for the ice cream, but I think I’m still ahead on the deal.”
“Girls,” said Tom. “Okay. So. No, Cloud, you can’t have two crossbows.”
“There isn’t a rule against it,” said Cloudius.
“There is now,” Beep and Jen said together.
Meanwhile Angelica was out with Rocky Shore, who bought the pizza and the ice cream, but who also burped proudly every few minutes, smiling each time as if it were a real bon mot, and who paid a lot of attention to a television with a Blackhawks game on. His twin sister Erin, who was not a Maroon and not a MacMorris follower but who just didn’t like Angelica very much, interrupted them once during pizza and once during ice cream just to say hi to Rocky, whom she evidently missed a lot because she didn’t have a date herself. About eight, when Tom and company had made it to Level Three and only lost one Cloudius archer, Angelica burst into Tom’s room and said, “Deal me in.”
“Aaaand we open the door, and inside there’s this elf maid,” said Tom.
“That better be me,” said Angelica. “And no more of this nonsense with the two crossbows. What are we searching for, anyway? Segments?”
Jen and Beep looked at each other. “You hear nothing,” said Jen.
“Nope,” said Beep, “just the wind.”
“We’ll be lucky,” said Angelica, “if no one else is searching for one of those.” Cloud and Tom just raised their eyebrows.
Daphne went out too—with the Amazon chicks, Spiny Norman and Keisha Case and a second-year named Clothilde and a third-year named Gallia Zara. They ate pizza and swilled root beer and then they danced the evening away—on the lakefront. Gallia had a secret spell, and that was why, even as thousands of lovers walked the walk in the evening, pleasant enough for February, no one noticed five tall girls dancing naked in the spray.
Elsewhere, Rats Laguna was happily on a “date” with Jen Greenbelt—he followed her and Bob Flammifer from flower shop to restaurant to movie theater, sitting a couple of rows away, tossing a little spell of distaste on their food. The spaghetti tasted like eel, the soda tasted like old coffee, the ice cream tasted just a little like phlegm, and the popcorn had just exactly the right hint of doggy doo smell. They noticed, but they never noticed who was doing it. They just thought they were getting bad food from evil Normals, and they bickered with waitress, ice cream scooper and popcorn dealer, and with each other when no one else was within range.
Rats was practicing his partial invisibility, which, as he used it, was tantamount to actual invisibility. Once he let slip his plans for the evening, he was given specific instructions not to be seen by anyone, friend or foe.
“I told him,” Arnulf was saying to Ahir as they sat at a tiny table in the packed house at Giordano’s, “if I see his face tonight, I’m going to practice some of my new spells on him.”
“Everything’s perfect,” said Ahir. She smiled and sighed. Arnulf did the same thing, to his own surprise. Ahir looked at the third chair at the tiny table. There was no plate there, no table setting, but they could just see a spirit sitting in the chair. It looked exactly like Ahir’s mom. Ahir leaned toward Arn and whispered, “Almost everything.”
By ten, they were back at the Lyceum. They spent a few minutes strolling, stopping now and then to smooch. Mom’s spirit servant was somewhere around, but not obvious. “It’s okay, sweetheart,” said Ahir, “we have many years.”
“Hey, Arn,” said a voice behind them. Here came five Amazon girls, arm in arm, no longer nude but with their down jackets open in the mild moist air, their hats in their pockets so their long hair could hang free. “Curfew, you two honeys.”
“Same to you, Dapher,” said Arnulf.
The other Amazons split off to go to their own Houses, and Daphne, Spiny, Arnulf and Ahir went on to Ash House together. They were inside at 10:15. (Ash and the ghost both shook their heads, then both raised their eyebrows, then both shook their heads again, smiling, and then both went back to bed.) By midnight, everyone was sound asleep, except for one ghostly cat in Tom Hexane’s window.