Authors: Sarah Mlynowski
Table of Contents
For Laura Dail, my awesome agent.
Because she loves Rachel as much as I do.
Thanks to the power of a trillion to:
Wendy Loggia, my extraordinary editor, as well as the rest of the Delacorte Press Random House Children’s Books team: Beverly Horowitz, Chip Gibson, Isabel Warren-Lynch, Tamar Schwartz, Gayley Carillo, Kenny Holcomb, Adrienne Waintraub, and Jennifer Black. Special thanks to Christine Labov for her tireless (and always cheerful) publicity skills. The superb group on the other side of the pond: Ruth Alltimes, Sarah Davies, Lisa Grindon, Laura Burr, and everyone else at Macmillan. Artist extraordinaire Robin Zingone for creating the gorgeous cover art. The people working like mad to make the movie: Lisa Callamaro, Claire Lockhart, Helen Wan, and everyone at Fox 2000 and Store-front Pictures. Shannon Browne for her fabulous assistance. Gail Brussel, my superb publicist.
My trio of longtime readers, whom I would be helpless without: my mom, Elissa Ambrose (who always knows just what I’m
to say); Lynda Curnyn (my partner in crime); Jess Braun (who’s never afraid to tell me when something sucks). And my newest and youngest reader and test audience, Avery Carmichael. You guys rock.
Dad, Louisa, Robert, Vickie, John, Jen, Bonnie, Robin, Ronit, and Jess D., for their love and support. Aviva, my sister and inspiration for Miri. (No, Squirt, I promise you weren’t, um, that geeky.) Gary and Darren, the Swidler brothers, who were kind enough to teach me how to give a mooshie. Special thanks to Todd(ie), the littlest brother, my own personal superhero (and husband), who not only knows
but is kind enough to let me steal his best lines.
My Love Life Is Up in the Air (and So Am I)
I’m perched on a floating broom, my arms squeezing the life out of my little sister’s waist.
“You girls all right?” my mom calls down. She’s watching us from behind the second-story cottage window. “You’re not airsick? Maybe I shouldn’t have let you talk me into this.”
“I’m fine,” Miri chirps.
“Me too,” I lie as the two of us wobble up and down like we’re on a haunted seesaw. We’re straddling a plastic broom four feet above the dewy ground. In what deranged world would I be fine? My eyes are cemented closed, I’m biting my lip, and every one of my muscles is clenched in fear.
“I don’t want you girls gone for more than an hour,” my mom warns. “So be back here at eleven p.m. sharp. I’ll leave the window open so you can fly straight back in. If you think anyone has spotted you, return here immediately. And, Rachel, don’t you dare take off that helmet!”
How does she know my secret plan? “But it’s itchy!”
“She won’t.” Miri pats my knee. “You ready? Here we go!”
Nausea and dizziness wash over me. Maybe this isn’t such a brilliant idea. My legs are dangling like a rag doll’s, and the broom is starting to chafe.
“Don’t go too fast,” I plead in a super-high-pitched voice, like I just inhaled a balloon full of helium. “And don’t go too high. We don’t want to smash into an airplane. And don’t—”
The broom jerks forward, I swallow a scream, and suddenly we’re flying through upstate New York.
“Be careful!” my mom hollers in the background.
I’m flying. I’m flying! I’m flying!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I may be dreading going back to school, but at least I’m flying high during spring break. Literally.
I gingerly open my right eye as we shoot past the gate to our rented cottage and zoom over the dirt road. The wind caresses my cheeks, my arms, my hair. . . . I think the wind just blew a leaf up my nose. But who cares? How cool is this?
Don’t look down, don’t look down!
I look down.
My shoelaces are hanging over the sides of my new pink sneakers like floppy dog ears. I really should have double knotted. These are the new pink sneakers that my mom bought to cheer me up. To make a long, heartbreaking story short, I spent the first few days of vacation moping because Raf Kosravi, the love of my life, hates me because I (unintentionally) stood him up for Spring Fling to go to my father’s wedding.
Buying the shoes was really thoughtful of my mom. She’s definitely trying to be more understanding. On the same night she surprised me with the cheer-up present, she dropped her slice of pepperofu (vile, flavorless, pepperonishaped slabs of tofu) pizza and announced, “Miri, banning you from using witchcraft isn’t working. If you’re going to do it anyway, as you’ve been doing for the last two months, I want to teach you to use magic responsibly. The three of us are going on a trip. Start packing.”
My jaw fell open in midchew. Mom was finally seeing the light! See, I’ve only just recently discovered that my mom’s a witch. My sister, too. Everyone’s a witch except me. Well, not my dad or any of my friends. But everyone I live with. And my mom had a very strict rule: absolutely no magic until Miri finishes her training. My mom is antimagic herself, preferring to be a nonpracticing witch. So this change of heart was a major coup.
“Yes!” I cheered while debating what to pack. Going-out clothes or won’t-be-seeing-anyone-worth-impressing sweats? I didn’t mind leaving the city, mostly because my best and now only friend (since I embarrassed myself phenomenally at the school fashion show), Tammy, is spending spring break in the Gulf of Mexico with her mom and stepmom (yes, her mom is married to a woman). “Magic for everyone! Can we put a love spell on Raf?”
“Don’t push your luck” was my mom’s response. “Love spells are
what I consider responsible.”
What is the point of having a witch for a mom if she won’t perform one measly love spell on the boy of my dreams? If only she were more like a friend and less like a mother.
Anyway, the next morning we left extra food for Tigger, our cat, and Goldie, our goldfish, rented a car, and drove from our cozy downtown Manhattan apartment to a rented cottage in the middle of nowhere, where Mom claimed we’d have no nosy neighbors to witness our shenanigans.
We arrived on Wednesday night, two entire days ago. Forty-eight hours in a two-bedroom cottage that smells like a mixture of mothballs and apples. Forty-eight hours of no cable. No DVDs. No Internet. I’ve had nothing to do except watch while my mom trains Miri, which surprisingly isn’t that much fun. Fine, it’s semifun. At least my mom is finally letting Miri perform practical magic instead of just making her recite the history of witchcraft. But watching Miri attempt to levitate inanimate objects gets old
The peach-colored coffee mug’s hovering three inches above the kitchen table is unbelievable. Four inches is awesome. Five is funky. Six . . . yawn. After two days, rising kitchen dishware gets a wee bit repetitive. Actually, downright sleep inducing. It wasn’t until this afternoon, while my mom was showing Miri how to float a paper towel, that it occurred to me that if Miri could make a towel fly, why couldn’t she make
I found the broom in the hallway closet. It was old and scraggly, and some of the bristles were bent at odd ninety-degree angles, but it would do the trick. “Is there any truth to the witches-flying-on-brooms legend?” I asked, yanking it out, causing a dustbin to fall on my head.
“Well . . .” My mom hesitated. “No.”
I didn’t buy it. If a paper towel could levitate, why couldn’t a broom? I walked over to her and looked deep into her green eyes. “Do you swear?”
Instead of answering, she ran her bitten fingernails through her shoulder-length bottle-blond hair and shrugged.
“What?” Miri cried, jumping out of her chair and causing the paper towel to float back down to the table. Good thing she’d raised glasses the day before. “You told me flying brooms were a myth!”
“I know.” My mom took a moment to bite her thumbnail. She and my sister share this disgusting habit. “But I was worried about you. I didn’t want you flying around Manhattan, bumping into the Empire State Building.”
I clapped with gleeful excitement. From now on I’d travel in style. Sweaty overcrowded subways? Never again. Running late to school? I don’t think so. The only road I’m taking is Highway Broom. “Teach me how!” I shrieked.
“You mean teach
” Miri said snidely.
“If I’d known I was going to teach you to fly, I would have brought cigarettes,” my mom said.
“You promised to quit!” I muttered.
“I know, I know. I quit, all right? It’s just that letting you fly is going to be stressful.” She bit her thumbnail again. “I’ll teach you, but you have to promise—”
Be careful, go slow, stay low, whatever, yes, yes, yes!
“—to wear your bike helmets.”
Groan. Only my mom could make something as cool as flying look geeky.
The ferocious wind blows a lock of my shoulder-length brown hair into my mouth. But it’s worth it. I’m flying! Yes, the loser helmets are fastened and itching, but I’m still feeling pretty lucky. Come on, how many fourteen-year-olds get to fly outside the pressurized cabin of an airplane? No peanuts, no exit doors, no flight attendants. No crying babies. No stranger hogging the armrest. No fidgety traveler climbing over you every two seconds to go to the bathroom. This is far more civilized.
Plus my mom showed Miri how to add a cool night-vision visor to the front of each helmet, so Miri and I can see in the dark.
Whoosh! Whee! Cool! Cold.
Even though it’s already April, it feels like we’re smack in the middle of winter. Despite the tights I’m wearing under my jeans, as well as the sweater under my jacket, my body is covered in goose bumps. I’m convinced that if I let go of Miri with even one hand, I’ll be sent plummeting to an early death. Yet I really want to scratch under my helmet.
“Where do we want to go?” Miri shouts from the front.
“Who cares? Just fly!”
I’m a bird soaring through the night. A kite coasting along the beach. We pass over the tops of budding trees, and in spite of my head problems, I can’t stop smiling. “Higher!” I shout.
She lifts the nose of the broom, and though I have to cling tightly to her so I don’t slip off the rear as we sail upward, I want more. “Do a three-sixty!”
“I can barely go straight!” she says. “And quit talking; I’m trying to concentrate!” Even though she and Mom enchanted the broom, flying still requires Miri to manually (and magically) steer it.
We pass another dark road. The town is completely empty, which is why Mom is letting us fly. We won’t be spotted. It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s two girls on a broom!
“Look!” I squeal, pointing with the toe of my new shoe to a farm below. At least fifty cows are grazing and watching us as we pass overhead. I get a whiff of manure and wish I didn’t need my hands to cling to Miri, so that I could hold my nose. Ew. “What’s over there?” I shoe-point to a gleam of colored lights in the distance.
She redirects the broom and we head toward the flashing blues, reds, and yellows, which as we get closer start to look like a giant woman’s face.
“It’s a drive-in!” I cheer. Only one car is there, which can’t be good for business. But it does mean fewer potential spotters. Miri hovers behind a tall tree so that the driver and his date won’t see us. I have always wanted to go to a drive-in movie. I didn’t think they existed anymore. What a blast from the past. The ground is paved with cobblestones instead of concrete. Leading up to the massive screen are two rows of lanterns casting a tender glow through the night. How romantic. Sigh.
If I were a witch, my one wish would be for Raf to like me again. I don’t even care that I have just one friend left. Nope, my only request would be Raf.
Okay, and maybe that my head would stop itching. But it’s a far second on the list.
I close my eyes and swallow the lump in my throat. Mustn’t think about Raf. Mustn’t think about what could have been. Must keep moving. “Can we get out of here?” I ask. Miri kick-starts the broom and we reverse back onto the neighboring road. “Be careful,” I warn her. “There’s a car driving toward us.”
She jerks the front of the broom up so the small white Toyota Tercel won’t see us. “I think it’s parked,” she says.
Fantabulous. Probably two people making out, just to rub my face in it. Everyone has a boyfriend except for me. I’ve never even had a first kiss. Not a real one. And I probably never will. Unless Raf forgives me. . . . Three days till R-day. Raf day. Rekindled Romance day. At the moment, he’s in New Orleans for spring break. If I knew which hotel he was staying at, Miri and I could fly the broom down there and serenade him with songs of sorrow.
No way. Too stalkerish. (As if walking by his locker forty times a day wasn’t.)
Wait a sec. That’s not a couple in the car. It’s a woman. By herself. Banging her head against the steering wheel. And now she’s opening the car door. She’s walking around to the back and opening her trunk.
Omigod. Maybe there’s a dead body in there! Maybe we’re about to witness the tail end of a murder. But we won’t be able to tell the police how we know, so we’ll have to make an anonymous phone call from a random pay phone and use one of those voice modifiers that will make us sound like men—
She pulls out flares. Oh well.
Itch. Itch, itch. It’s not like my mom would know if I took it off for half a second.
Miri’s about to make a U-ie out of there when I tell her to hold on.
“What?” she asks, annoyed. “We can’t let her see us. What if she has a cell camera and e-mails a picture of us to the tabloids? And then we’re institutionalized in a top-secret government facility like Area Fifty-one?”
“Just stop!” I order. Besides, I’m not the one who’ll be put in the rubber room with electrical wires rammed into her head. I’d definitely visit her, though.
She grinds the broom to a halt, and we resume hovering, bobbing up and down over the road. “She can’t start her car,” I say.
“So?” Miri asks, turning her head to face me. “What are you, a mechanic?”
So dense, this little one. “Don’t you think we could help her with some of our other skills?” Hint, hint. Her forehead wrinkles in confusion. “You’re a witch!” I remind her. How are her powers not on the top of her mind? They’re
on the top of mine.
Still wrinkled. “You think I should start her engine?”
“No, I think you should make her car fly. We can drag race.” I kick the toe of my shoe into her calf. “Of course, start her engine!”
She elbows me in the arm and I almost go sailing off the broom. “Are you trying to kill me?” I yell.
She turns back toward the lone woman and rubs the spots on her helmet where her temples would be. “Shush. Let me concentrate.”
We drop two feet toward the ground. “Careful!” I scream through clenched teeth.
“Oops. Sorry.” The broom wobbles. “I’m trying to help her, but it’s not so easy to concentrate on two things at once.”