The first night of mage school Kailey went to bed early, feeling exhausted. But she couldn’t sleep. Instead, she lay in her bunk, brooding. Some luminescent mage had painted graffiti on the ceiling.
Go home, Supershock leered down at her, daring her to think thoughts she’d been avoiding all day, that things would be different underwater, that she’d somehow fit into this amazing world.
She thought of Finn, away in Simple School. He’d always helped her cope back home, even if he annoyed her half the time. But she wouldn’t see him till Saturday, when the TIDES barriers came down, allowing visitors in and students out. Billows of heat pooled on her face and she realized she was crying. In a fit of fury, she threw back her blanket and jumped out of bed, glowing erratically.
“Watch out!” shrieked a pale, dark-haired girl. Kailey flared in her direction, but the girl raised a brilliant white barrier that dissipated the shock.
“It wasn’t even gonna touch you,” Kailey snarled, reluctantly impressed with the girl’s rapid reactions. Other sprites scurried out of her way as she stormed down the hall, loose strands of power galloping ahead of her. When she reached the bathroom, it mysteriously cleared.
An older, third year shocker named Jasmina gave her sardonic parting advice, “Better control your temper, new girl, or you’ll end up in isolation. And you might not snap at every sprite who crosses your path. Mariana’s actually pretty nice.”
Kailey could barely process Jasmina’s words. At this point, she thought isolation might be preferable to endless taunts and stares. But as the bathroom door swung shut, she realized she was wrong. She craved company and Jasmina’s attempt at kindness, if that’s what it was, only made her feel more alone.
Warmth streaked down her cheeks and she wiped it angrily away, moving toward the mirror above the sea shell washbasin. She liked to torture herself when she felt miserable, to pick away at her imperfections as if they somehow justified her black mood.
But when Kailey raised her head, she was stunned. Her eyes sparkled in the living light of the biolume lamps. Sea green, with flecks of bronze. And her hair, when had it become lustrous, full of color? Strands of gold glinted alongside warm sheaths of brown and exquisite green. And her skin, its sickly tinge disappeared in the color of the sea. Instead she looked warm, even sunny.
Maybe she was in her element. Mildly comforted by this idea, Kailey navigated the deserted hallway back to her dorm, barely noticing the hum of voices and strum of magework still drifting up from the Commons.