Charlie the New Student


She snatched the hat off the stand as she passed. The seller had his back turned, talking to an actual customer. Ripping the tag off with a quick jerk, she jammed it on her head and ghosted away, hooking her thumbs through the straps of her bag. It was only after she was past the second row of stalls and she was starting to relax - that was when she was caught.

The tingle of magic danced across her skin like a cold wind, and she found that she couldn't lift her foot to take another step forward. She rocked a little, straining against the magic, but it held fast.

"Slick, but not slick enough," growled a voice at her back. That voice was authoritative and rough - almost certainly a cop. Charlie's heart leapt into her throat. No. She couldn't let them catch her. Not here.

Shifting all her weight to one foot, she twisted hard at the hip, like she would to break someone's grip if they were holding her legs. The magic gave way with a snap that stung like a broken rubber band, and she bolted, her whole body throbbing in time with her pounding heart.

Behind her, there was a second of shock, then a shout of protest. Another wash of magic tingled across her skin, but it didn't stick this time, or at least she hadn't thought it did until it lifted her into the air. Charlie twisted and thrashed, fighting against the unseen force that held her aloft. But without any leverage, she couldn't get free, and panic was a rolling wave surging through her mind, threatening to swamp her entirely.

Teeth bared in a silent snarl, she continued to fight, though neither her feet nor her fists found any mark, and her backpack slapped against her body and rattled as she spun slowly in the air. Afraid it might come open and drop her precious load, Charlie whipped it off her back and hugged it tight to her chest.

"It's been quite a while since I saw anyone break a charm like that." This voice was female, and smoother than the first. Calmer, too. That didn't make this any less uncomfortable.

"Watch out," said the gruff first voice, and Charlie tried to twist around to see who was speaking, but couldn't move herself even an inch while she hung in the air. "She's dangerous."

"I can see that, sir." The woman's voice sounded amused, and Charlie didn't appreciate that at all.

"Let me down!" she yelled, angry and frightened. "I didn't do nothing!"

"Perhaps not," agreed the woman. "But you will. Where did you learn magic, girl?"

"I didn't do nothing!" Charlie repeated, as a thrill of terror spiked through her core.

"You're not going to tell me? Well then, how about this? I'm going to take you to my school, and you're going to learn magic there. And if you try to leave, you'll be locked up for stealing the first time you poke your nose out of doors. Am I understood?"

The girl was silent now, her heart pounding in her ears.

"I said, am I understood?"

She'd finally drifted around so she could see the woman speaking, who was pointing one long finger at her and holding her in the air with the power of her mind alone. Charlie could see she was dressed well, and that it would be stupid to try to take her purse - it was probably magicked to scream when someone opened it or something.

But when she saw the look on the woman's face, stern and disciplined, but faintly smiling, she had the distinct feeling that "I don't want to go" wasn't even remotely an option. So she nodded slightly, hanging upside-down in the air.

"Yes, ma'am. I understand."

#Thief #Anxiety

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©2020 by Eleanor Taylor.

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