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ALMOST TO DIE FOR
by Tate Hallaway

Genre: Contemporary Young Adult, Paranormal

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Guess what? Today was my sixteenth birthday. Pretty cool, huh? Sure, if by cool you mean worst day ever... and it was only noon. 

I began the day under-caffeinated for starters. By some twist of fate this morning, my usually quiet, locally-owned coffee shop was crowded with Shriners or Knights Templar or Goddess-knows what. I waited in line as long as humanly possible, but I had to bail when I saw my school bus coming around the corner. I almost missed the bus, too. I caught it, but I got all sweaty and gross and lost my lunch, but not THAT way. What I mean was I misplaced the brown paper sack containing a lovely turkey and mayo sandwich somewhere on the route from home to the coffee shop and the bus. Now I sat in the school cafeteria staring at “tuna surprise.” Let me tell you, it was a surprise all right. I was surprised it passed the health code. It was gray for crying out loud. Food should not be gray.

I pushed the glutinous mush around its little container. At least the potatoes looked edible. My stomach growled so I poked a forkful into my mouth. I sighed. What I really wanted was my turkey sandwich, or at least someone I could joke around with about the whole stupid situation. 

But, no. I was sitting alone. 

Bea was supposed to be here. Sometime in middle school we made a solemn blood vow. We’d always sit together at lunch so neither of us would ever have to look like that sad, lonely weirdo. 

Hello, yes, that’d be me! Weirdo in corner number one.

On my birthday, no less. 

Bea, Beatrice Theodora Braithwaite to her mother, was usually my best friend. She was the only person in school with a more arcane name than me. Get a load of this: Anastasjia Ramses Parker. Yeah. You can see why most people just call me Ana.

Anyway, Bea and I, we’ve known each other since second grade. That’s a lot of history. Though, honestly, I don’t always like her. We’re pretty different, but we’ve been kind of thrown together by fate because she’s the only other True Witch at school. There were plenty of Wiccans, of course. It’s all the rage to be a teen witch, but Bea and I could do real magic.

Or at least Bea could.

I was supposed to be able to. I’ve got the pedigree, but, well, something’s off. Maybe it was the same off something that made one of my eyes ice blue and the other a deep, mahogany brown.

When a chair scraped the linoleum floor, I looked up expectantly. Perhaps Queen Bea had finally deigned to put in an appearance. Well, better late than never.

Instead of Bea, it was Ron Thompson, hockey jock extraordinaire, and two of his cronies, Thing One and Thing Two, who sat down at my table. Between you and me, I had this secret crush on Thompson. He was pretty in that classic square-jaw, he-man way, okay? I appreciated the way his ultra-short, nut-brown hair curled at the tips, and the boy did have a way of fitting into a t-shirt and jeans that was pretty... noticeable.

Too bad he was such an asshole.

“If it isn’t Ana Parker, Witch Girl,” he made it sound like some kind of superhero moniker. His buddies chortled.

I retorted with: “What do you want, Thompson? Did you get lost on your way to ‘Caveman 101’?”

His friends looked at each other with a perfect Neanderthal, heavy eyebrow frown and shrugged like they didn’t get the joke. Thompson, meanwhile, didn’t let it faze him. “How come you’re all on your lonesome, anyway? Couldn’t conjure up some friends?”

Oh, touché, you maestro of wit and repartee. 

Thing One and Thing Two, however, found his little pun absolutely hilarious.