Chapter Seven: Delali Shoots, She Scores

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Delali stood in the narrow hallway outside her professor’s office, thinking about how the dim lighting from the gigantic bowl bulbs made the building look way uglier than it really was. Obviously, she understood the whole dark oak, yellow light academia aesthetic, but she wondered why a building dedicated to applied mathematics couldn’t have sleeker renovation. She glanced at her purple-faced Casio watch and groaned. Some loser from her Integral Transforms class had been in their professor’s office for at least fifteen minutes over his scheduled time, and she had to be at Adrien’s play downtown in a little under an hour. She wondered if there was something witchy she could do to get there faster, and then realized with a pang of dread that if there was, she was probably too shitty with her powers to manage it.

Delali pressed her ear to the door. Amazingly, whoever was hogging Dr. Portillo’s time wasn’t even talking about his thesis. From what Delali could hear, he was whining about how low his grade was despite going to every class and TA session, doing all the homework, and working with a private tutor. Delali began to cough conspicuously, her mouth as close to the seam of the door as she could get, until she heard Dr. Portillo and her annoying classmate heading towards the door. When the door opened, she wasn’t surprised to see Tanner standing on the other side.

“Oh, hey!” Tanner said.

Delali smiled at Tanner with as much sympathy as she could muster and turned to her professor. “Hi, Dr. Portillo,” she said.

“Delali,” he said. Dr. Portillo looked genuinely happy to see her, and also genuinely exhausted by Tanner. “Have a good afternoon, Mr. O’Reilly,” he said, his voice thick with dismissal. Tanner moved from where he was standing awkwardly beside them and walked away.

Inside the office, Delali settled into the creased leather chair—still warm from Tanner’s meeting, she noted with disgust—across from Dr. Portillo’s desk. She’d always hated these kinds of setups and mostly avoided them. She generally found teacher-student dynamics tedious, whether she was being praised or reprimanded, and even though Dr. Portillo was uninterested in anything that didn’t involve applied mathematics, it creeped her out to be in such a small, secluded space with an older man. She knew he liked her well enough, but that was probably because she and her grades were his only defense against accusations that his class was too hard.

“So, I looked at the newest draft of your thesis you sent over…”

“How’s it look?” Delali interrupted. She glanced at the clock hanging on the wall behind Dr. Portillo—she desperately needed to get to this play on time. Even though she had reserved seats and would enter through the back, she didn’t need any articles about how she was such a diva for arriving after everyone else circulating online. It was a concern that Adrien had annoyingly put on her radar by forcing his play into a tiny, arthouse theater despite having the clout to easily go Broadway. Besides that, Delali was pretty confident in her thesis. If there were any huge issues, she could probably iron them out over the weekend with the help of a few (brief) comments from Dr. Portillo.

“I have to say, it was riveting. I looked over it several times, and I didn’t find any of the usual undergraduate mistakes,” he said, speaking at the enraging, leisurely pace professors were partial to. Delali looked at the clock once more. “In fact, many of the problems I had were more like questions that would be suited to their very own thesis investigations.” He let out a pleased little chuckle.

Delali smiled. “I’m so glad to hear that, Dr. Portillo. I hate to do this, and I really wish I could stay and talk, but I actually have to make it to a show that’s kind of far away. I’m sorry; I just scheduled this really poorly.” She scooted her chair back to stand.

Dr. Portillo’s long, equine face drooped in disappointment. “Oh,” he said, standing. “Of course, I understand. I didn’t have much else to say anyway.”

“Great,” Delali said.

As she turned to leave, Dr. Portillo spoke in a low, somber voice that stopped her in her tracks. “Delali…,” he said, and she turned. “I just wanted to commend you again on the quality of your work. This is some of the best research I’ve seen in all my time in the academy, and it’s important to me that you know you could really have a future in this.” Dr. Portillo stopped himself before getting sentimental, and Delali inwardly sighed with relief. This was something she’d always liked about him—he never did too much. He waved his hand toward the door. “Ah—anyway…,” he said. “Go have fun at your show.”

Delali arrived at the theater at the perfect time: 6:45. She was early enough that she wouldn’t be conspicuous walking in, but late enough that she wouldn’t be amid the audience long enough for someone to recognize her and ask for pics or an autograph. Delali didn’t actually care how much of the play she caught, but she knew from the number of people outside the theater it hadn’t started yet. She’d tried to keep away from all of the reviews, half because she was still doing her Hollywood detox and half because she wasn’t yet immune to seeing pics of her ex splashed all over the internet. But from what little she had read, it didn’t seem like the play was her kind of thing anyway—something about a kid who led his high school football team to glory. She slid out of her Süper and gazed up at the sign outside the tiny theater. It read, in neatly arranged marquee letters: “The Colorline of Scrimmage”.

After entering, Delali settled in the front row and thumbed through the playbill. The inside cover listed “Adrien” in the starring role of Reggie Wallis, and Delali almost judged the theater for the mistake before remembering that Adrian had in fact dropped his last name, Carter, professionally, and changed the second “a” in his name to an “e.” The theater was exactly as cramped as it looked from the outside, and it was full of artsy-looking older people, mainly white, many of whom were wearing floor-length patterned shawls, glass-blown jewelry, and colorful glasses on beaded necklaces. They looked like the sort of people who might help the Met fundraise for an African art exhibit. When the curtains drew back, Adrien stood in the middle of the stage under a single spotlight, dressed in a ‘60s football uniform. In the middle of his chest, against the lime green fabric, was a white number zero outlined in yellow. The uniform was dirtied with mud and grass.

The Color line Of Scrimmage Playbill

The crowd roared and the lights dimmed. Over the course of the next hour or so, Reggie ran away from foster care, slept under the bleachers at a local high school, and was found and taken in by a white kid whose dad was the school’s football coach. He tasted pasta for the first time, learned of his supernatural football ability, and became the star player of the team (though Scotty, the coach’s son, stayed captain). Delali started to doze off at the beginning of Act 3, when the Gators were practicing for The Big Game against the Evil Rival Team, which had eleven white players to the Gators’ progressive ten. She finally fell asleep after Reggie’s birth parents showed up at practice to ask if he knew the whole town had been looking for him ever since he failed to show up for pickup at Interlochen last summer, which caused a huge scene with the coach on the sidelines.

But when the Gators won The Big Game by a single point, causing Mayor Gregory to repeal Jim Crow and then snatch Reggie from right under the nose of Coach Wilkins and adopt him, the applause and loud weeping from the crowd jolted Delali awake. She sat up and looked around her at the tear-stained faces of the audience, touching her hands together lightly —what the fuck? Had something seriously amazing happened in the half hour that she was knocked out, or had people actually enjoyed the play?

Backstage, Delali waited in Adrien’s dressing room while he did press in the hallway, answering the banal, endless questions with a diligence Delali had never been able to muster. She took full advantage of the incredible bare-bulb lamps that sat on the vanity dresser, reapplying her Nars lip stain carefully, and dabbing Koh Gen Do foundation on the spot where she’d rested her hand when she’d fallen asleep during the play. Out in the hallway, she could hear Adrien laughing in the fake-charming, totally self-obsessed way he always did when he got lavish praise for his acting, his intellect, his clothes, or pretty much anything.

“So, Adrien, it’s obvious that this play is really, really impactful. I was in the audience today and as they say, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.” Delali guessed hers didn’t count. “Can you tell me why it was so important for you to make this play? Not only to act in it, but to direct?”
“Well, for me I just think it’s paramount to be tackling subjects of this nature in this moment. Race in America, it’s complicated, and it’s still here. And I feel like these days people really let race tear us apart, you know, sunder us. This play is about lifting up. It’s about bringing together. It’s about unity. We wanted to highlight the fact that there are ways to overcome race. And so when Skyler Ferry approached me with this concept—with the incredible story of Reggie Wallis—I was blown away. I thought to myself, ‘This is the role of a lifetime.’ I’d never seen a work that so boldly explored the transformative power of sports and adoption in regards to the subject of Caucasian and African-American relations within this country. Parts like this don’t show up on my doorstep every day. So, I had to take it. The road to equality is long and labyrinthine, but this play is certainly going to move things along. And you know, that’s the whole point of this pursuit for me—the pursuit of acting and ultimately, of art.”

Delali snapped her head around and stared at Adrien through the doorway, wondering how the fuck she’d ever dated him. But he hadn’t always been this way. When he was introduced in the third season of Georgia on My Mind as Tony, the cute next-door neighbor, fourteen-year-old Delali had taken great pains to make it clear she was just acting in all their romantic scenes. Adrien hadn’t even been close to her first choice when she’d flipped through the headshots of potential love interests. When Georgia had to kiss Tony in episode 3x04, after she pushes him out of a tree and he lands so hard they think he’s going to die, Delali counted to three Mississippi then spit in the plastic-y turf where they’d filmed. She’d been suspicious that if she kissed him longer than that she might fall in love with him for real. Afterward, she’d been forced to apologize to Adrien, one of the few times on set she hadn’t gotten her way.

Over the years, Adrien had grown into an actually cute and funny person, and one of Delali’s only real friends. They dated for two years and made hundreds of paparazzi-documented memories together. Delali remembered with annoyance how much name-rec was wasted when the tabloids couldn’t decide between Deladrian and TamCart for their couple name— but that hadn’t stopped them from becoming the most talked about couple in Young Hollywood. They were pretty much each other’s first everything, but when Georgia wrapped and it was time to transition into their adult careers, Adrien abruptly changed everything that had once been cool about him. Almost overnight, he began spending days overanalyzing Tarantino movies, turning regular dinner conversations into rambling dissections of man’s relationship to nature, and not listening to rap. He let his contact prescription run out and started taking his coffee black. He no longer made jokes about his parents dragging him straight from his hospital crib to an audition, and instead started describing acting as his “calling.” The only good thing that had come out of his whole change was the arsenal of long-sleeved black shirts he'd started collecting—turtlenecks, henleys, thermal crewnecks—all of which, inexplicably, sort of made Delali weak. But the sex couldn’t keep them together, and they broke up just one month after Delali decided to go to college, a decision Adrien called pretentious.

“Alright, that’s the last question I’ll be able to take today. Thank you all so much.” Adrien clasped his hands together and bowed. Delali was momentarily surprised; she’d forgotten he’d fired all his handlers so he could be “closer to the people.”

Later, she entered Nobu through the back door, Isaac dropping her off a block away so she could avoid the frenzy. She’d expected Adrien to fight her on her restaurant choice and recommend some other more “authentic” place, but if there was one thing Adrien loved, it was a restaurant where paps practically guarded the door. She’d forgotten that during their whirlwind It Couple days he was the one who kept all the paparazzi calling cards, not her. She chose a secluded table in the back of the restaurant and waited while Adrien entered through the front, tailed by a cloud of paparazzi camera flashes. “These are the sacrifices we make for our art,” he’d muttered, as Isaac pulled the black SUV up to the curb.

“Hey,” Adrien said as he sat down. He flashed his million-dollar industry smile at Delali, the same way she’d seen him smile at his thirsty fans. They hadn’t spoken much in the car since Adrien had taken more press calls: he was trying to “vary” his media, doing interviews with small online publications and podcasts with indie cache. And since he only used his driver between the hours of 6 p.m. and 10 a.m. (he was frequently photographed riding around Manhattan on Citi bikes), the car ride was valuable work time for him.

“Anyway,” Delali said, rolling her eyes. “Split the crispy rice and tuna? Then the lamb miso and the yellowtail?”

“Always,” Adrien said with a grin. “And champagne to celebrate?”

“Your own performance?”

“No,” he said. “Two old friends getting together.”

Delali let the wording slide and ordered a bottle of Laurent-Perrier Brut Rosé when the waitress came around. It would be unreasonable to deny herself a glass of something bubbly when the pressure of a math thesis and being a witch were driving her fucking nuts.

“So, how’d you like the experience?” he asked, folding up the sleeves of his black denim button down. “Isn’t that theater an incredible find? Such an intimate space.”

“That’s a way to put it.” Delali was curious about Adrien’s lack of uncertainty about the insane play he’d just starred in, but he looked so sweetly proud of himself that she decided to drop it. “Let’s talk about something else.” She dipped her sushi roll into the little pot of yuzu soy sauce before flipping a mass of braids over her left shoulder. “I’m sure you’re so tired of talking about...” She couldn’t bring herself to say the title out loud. “The play all the time.”

“Yeah, you’re right.” Adrien leaned in and plucked the roll Delali was aiming for right from between her chopsticks with his own. “Hey!” she laughed, then caught herself. “Ugh, you’re so annoying.”

Adrien pulled one corner of his mouth into a sly smile then took a sip of water. “Have you seen Cha Cha Cha? Incredible film. Really, really, powerful stuff. Definitely didn’t see that in Celeste’s future.”

Delali tensed. She sat back, grabbed her champagne flute by the stem, and took an unrefined swig. She hadn’t told anyone except her mom and Lionel about turning down the role. The fact that Adrien brought up the film without this knowledge made it even more upsetting. “Cha-cha slide? That’s the name of a movie? Haven’t heard of it.”

Adrien raised his eyebrows. “Wow, I guess you’re taking this industry vacation pretty seriously.”

“Did you think I wasn’t?” Delali tried to keep the edge out of her voice.

“No, no—I did. I guess part of me just thought you were plotting to come back, you know, take the crown. At least, that’s the Dela I know.”

Delali took a bite of her sushi. “I told you I was actually interested in going to school—I don’t know why it’s so hard for everyone to understand that I have a range of talents and interests. Anyway, if I did want to take my crown back, it wouldn’t be with some limp, corny ‘auditory adventure’—aka a musical.”

“I thought you said you hadn’t heard of it?”

“I said I hadn’t seen it.”

Adrien laughed again. “Okay. Well, tell me what you’ve been up to. I know I gave you a lot of shit about going to school, but how’s it been? I haven’t seen you since…”

Delali swatted away the memory of the relationship-ending fight they’d had inside the photo booth at the Vanity Fair Oscar party four years ago now. She still shuddered to think of the pictures posted up on gossipy blogs all over the internet, since none of the real magazines had dared to buy them. After the breakup, they’d been cordial but distant. They liked each other’s Instagram posts, faved each other’s tweets, and texted each other when something important happened—birthdays, Christmases, press releases about what one of them was doing next—as if to prove to themselves (and Deladrian shippers) that there was no bad blood. Once Adrien had learned The Colorline of Scrimmage would be showing in New York for six months, he’d texted Delali suggesting they meet up, saying he couldn’t be in the city for that long without thinking of her. Delali had accepted: she was mostly over their fight and their relationship, and couldn’t see the harm in catching up with someone who had been such a huge part of her life.

“It’s been good. I’ve just been… working really hard, you know. Studying. I’ve made some new friends. I’m working on this thesis about the Poincaré Conjecture that’s going really, really well.”

“Cool, cool, that’s awesome.” Adrien responded, but he didn’t seem interested at all, and Delali couldn’t blame him. She couldn’t believe how lame her life had sounded just now, and the dread she felt when thinking of what to say made her wonder whether she’d really enjoyed the past three years or just done a really good job convincing herself she had. She must’ve pouted, because Adrien leaned over and touched her hand.

“Hey, hey,” he said, closing his fingers around hers. “I mean, do I loathe institutions like the one you’re attending and the kind of pseudo-intellectual cookie cutter rhetoric they use to indoctrinate their students instead of letting them develop into truly original freethinkers? Of course. But, honestly, Dela, you’re one of the smartest, most talented, most beautiful people I know, so you leaving Hollywood felt like the sky having one less star, you know? It’s corny but I mean it. But you’re also destined for greatness no matter what you do, even if that means becoming a superstar professor.”

Delali found this annoying and, truthfully, kind of condescending. But looking into Adrien’s lucid brown eyes while he delivered his meaningless speech had distracted Delali to a point she didn’t know she could return from. Even though he’d turned his fake pep talk into an opportunity to brag about how he’d won the post-Georgia career game, Adrien’s allure was undeniable. The way his eyes glinted in the mood-lighting of Nobu, the way his hair was neatly edged up from the scene where his adoptive mom learns about black culture, the way his collarbone peeked out from the unbuttoned top of his shirt —ugh. Delali moved to pull her hand back from his grasp, but a thought erupted in her head—not her own, but his. It was the first time her mind had been filled with images instead of words, all of them snapshots from Adrien’s mind. Some of the very moments she’d played back to herself over the past few years were running through Adrien’s head (though she was surprised by some of the hookups he chose to return to). Delali gave Adrien a long, searching look, and then thought fuck it, lifting her lavender-manicured hand and calling for the check.

The next morning Delali woke up in two parts: first, slowly, to the feel of hot white sunlight against her eyelids, and then with a sharp jolt at the realization that she wasn’t in her own bed. She sat up, wrapping herself in the crisp navy sheets that surrounded her and looking around the bedroom. It took her a little while, but between the stark monochromatic decor, Kehinde Wiley paintings, and Ayurvedic Purification Mala beads hanging above the headboard, she realized she was in Adrien’s apartment. That explained the sunlight—Delali remembered reading in some rag at her nail salon that Adrien had stopped sleeping with the blinds closed so he could “wake up with the universe” (People, April 2014). All at once, she remembered bits and pieces of the night before, from the charged car ride from the restaurant to Adrien’s apartment, which he’d spent recording his daily audio journal entry while he kneaded slow circles in Delali’s inner thigh with his thumb, to the familiar, uncomplicated way they’d moved against each other.

Delali was shimmying into her jeans when Adrien appeared in the doorway of the bedroom, leaning easily against the doorframe in his black Clarke Stein boxer briefs. She quickly turned away from him, pulling on her crewneck Champion sweatshirt over her Cosabella bralette. If she stayed too long, it would be too tempting to abandon all her plans for the day and spend it in Adrien’s bed instead, trying to forget the image of him as Reggie leading the Gators through a country rendition of Wade in the Water before they ran the game-winning play in Colorline’s final act.

“Want some?” Adrien asked, his mouth full. He was spooning a green smoothie from a scooped-out cantaloupe into his mouth. “It’s mint, matcha, spirulina, and some other life-giving greens.”

“Um.” Delali gathered her braids into a low ponytail. “I actually have kind of a full day ahead of me,” she said as she jammed her feet into her sneakers. “Could I maybe grab a granola bar or something?” She was starving, but not quite in the mood for life-giving greens.

Adrien pursued his lips before giving Delali a sympathetic smile. “I don’t keep grains in my home.”

“Right, yeah,” she said, throwing her bag over her shoulder as she prepared to leave. She moved toward the door, worried that things would be awkward in the way they’d never been with Adrien, not even when they were teenagers who could barely stand each other. As always, though, Adrien came through, smoothing over cracks before they even appeared.

“Hey,” he said. He crossed the threshold of the room and left the smoothie-filled cantaloupe on his bedside table. “Amazing seeing you, as always.” He wrapped his arm around Delali’s waist and pulled her close in something that definitely was not, but sort of resembled, a hug between friends. He gave her a long, lingering kiss before tucking a braid Delali had missed behind her ear, once again testing her resolve. “Maybe we can...see each other again?”

Adrien was playing it cool, but there was something hopeful underpinning his voice—and it didn’t hurt that when he’d kissed her, Delali had seen him revisiting flashes of the night before. Emboldened by this knowledge, Delali gave him a little grin and bumped him with her hip on her way out. “Maybe,” she called over her shoulder, and she smiled when Adrien’s thoughts went from his Sonic Attunement session that afternoon to the way her ass looked in her jeans.

Although Delali had told Adrien she had lots of plans for the day it actually stretched endlessly before her. As soon as she got home she immediately regretted leaving his apartment—without Adrien to distract her, Delali thought only of the upcoming meeting with MJ, fixating on it until her stomach became a frothy pit of nervous energy. It wasn't until late in the afternoon, so Delali distracted herself the way she normally did, by throwing herself into the mundane routine she’d cultivated these past few years in New York. She went on a short run along the Hudson River before putting in a session with TK Daniels, the trainer she'd met years before when she filmed the Georgia Goes to the Big Apple special just before her eighteenth birthday. She deep-cleaned her apartment while her “Saturday Oldies but Goldies” playlist blared from the speakers of her smart TV and finished up a problem set due on Wednesday. After reorganizing her closet and impulse buying several mini sweater dresses, Delali checked the time again. It was still way too early to get ready to leave, let alone actually head toward MJ’s apartment on the Upper West Side.

Stretching, Delali unfolded her legs from beneath her and headed to her kitchen. She opened her fridge and settled her weight into one hip as she scanned its contents, even though she wasn’t hungry at all after the omelet she’d had for breakfast.

“Ugh,” Delali groaned, closing the door again. The upcoming meeting with MJ had her so on edge—if she didn’t get out of her apartment soon, she’d scream.

Hey guys, she sent to her group chat with Abbie and Vic. Wanna meet somewhere on the uws before mj’s - coffee or something? She perused her closet for an outfit while she waited for the others to respond. After pulling on and taking off two dresses, she decided on a pair of dark straight leg jeans, a pale blue sweater with demure ruffles at the neck and shoulders, and a pair of booties left over from the H&M capsule collection she’d designed a few years ago (Lionel had put the deal together after Delali sent him a link to the press release announcing Celeste’s collection with Forever 21 with no comment). After winding her braids into a bun, Delali glanced at her phone to see if the girls had responded. I’m down! Abbie said, following the words with the coffee cup emoji. Delali wanted to roll her eyes despite the secret rush of affection she felt for Abbie—dependable Abbie, who spared no energy thinking about whether she should double-text, and who responded to every message as soon as she read it. She was agitated by Vic’s lack of response, although she’d anticipated it.

Vic’s surprise—disgust?—at MJ’s w-word drop was as predictable as everything else about her, from her Brazilian body wave to her amethyst and turquoise KBA pinky ring, but it was particularly irksome considering Vic’s carelessness with her phone was what had dragged these powers out from wherever they’d lain dormant all these years. Coupled with the fact that Vic used them the most, subtly lengthening her eyelashes when she didn't feel like fiddling with her falsies and using them to one up the budget Whitney Ports at her job, Vic’s sudden disappearance from the group chat was borderline infuriating.

Vic had confirmed that she was coming to MJ’s this afternoon—but only grudgingly, after Delali had pointedly thanked Abbie for responding so quickly. As Delali remembered the “ok” Vic had sent in response to her question, another thought crossed her mind. What if Vic just decided not to show up? She was a major flake, and Delali was positive Vic wouldn’t think to let her and Abbie know beforehand. That is, if Vic was even awake at all. At around 4 a.m., she’d sent both Delali and Abbie a drunk Snapchat from the bathroom of MF-A, one of those Chelsea clubs that was so old Delali could barely believe it was still open, with the caption “remind you of anywhere?????”. The mental image of Vic, asleep with her hair sloppily unwrapped and rubbing against a cotton pillowcase, spurred Delali to action.

Even though she never called anyone other than her parents, Delali found herself hitting Abbie’s name in her contacts as she pulled on a Clippers hoodie and closed the door of her apartment behind her.
“Hey,” Abbie said into the phone, surprise evident in her tone. “What’s up?”

“I have a feeling that Vic’s gonna flake,” Delali said, deciding it was best to cut straight to the chase.

“Oh,” Abbie said, which made Delali feel like maybe she’d been a little too mean. She continued.

“Or maybe she’s like, hungover or something and still asleep,” she equivocated as she headed down the stairs of her building. “Are you down to meet me at her apartment and make sure she’s good to go?” Delali bit her lower lip as she waited for Abbie’s reply. She knew she sounded extra and maybe even a little desperate, but she also knew, intuitively, that she needed MJ more than the others—and hated that Vic and Abbie probably knew it too. It couldn’t be a coincidence that MJ’s was the very first mind she’d read on purpose, just like it couldn’t be a coincidence that she, Abbie, and Vic all had the same birthday, or that they had all stumbled into the bathroom at The Bar at the same time that night.

“Um,” Abbie said, and Delali cut her off.

“I’ll get your Tripp,” she said. Even though Abbie loved to tell people she “supported the mission of public transportation,” it was clear she hated making the standard hour-plus subway ride required to get from Washington Heights to anywhere she wanted to go.

“Oh, that wouldn’t be too much, would it?” Abbie said, sounding a lot like a girl offering to pay on a date when she obviously planned not to.

“Yeah, it’s fine,” Delali said, and she hung up, stepping out of her building’s lobby and onto the street.

Abbie hadn’t even gotten out of her Tripp before Delali stood from where she was perched on the stoop of Vic’s building and pressed the buzzer. The long, low groan of the bell filled the air as Abbie got out of the car.

“Hey, thanks,” Abbie said as she joined Delali in front of the door, but Delali didn’t respond. Abbie hadn’t really expected her to. Ever since her conversation with MJ at the park, Delali had become obsessed with the meeting—she spoke literally of nothing else. It reminded Abbie of how she’d been when she discovered she could mix glitter into decoupage to get an even coat and make less of a mess. Abbie wasn’t as excited as Delali, but she saw no harm in the meeting, and hoped that maybe—finally—it would get all three of them on the same page. And, Abbie thought as her phone vibrated in the back pocket of her jeans, maybe it would distract her from the fact that she’d left Dan’s “good morning” text unanswered, choosing instead to film a DIY for C&C.

Inside, Vic burrowed further under her covers, closing her eyes against the bleating noise of the buzzer while she waited for one of roommates to open the door. Elise was most likely at the library studying for the GRE, but Diane was probably home. “Diane?” Vic called from her bed. “Are you gonna get that? DI?” she yelled. When no response came, Vic threw off her covers with a grumble and dragged her feet over to the buzzer, remembering the Great Value Odell Beckham Jr. Diane had left MF-A with last night.

“Who is it?” Vic demanded, getting ready to tear into the Amazon delivery guy.

“It’s Delali!” Vic heard next. A breezier “and Abbie!” followed.

Fuck. Vic ran her hand over the tangled braid she’d managed to loop her hair into before passing out last night. She’d totally forgotten about the meeting with that weird lady Delali was totally obsessed with. That wasn't exactly her goal when she culled together a group to hit MF-A with last night, but it happened to be a nice added benefit. Vic toyed with the idea of ignoring them and going back to sleep, but then Delali, Vic was sure of it, hit the buzzer again. “Ugh, fine, ” Vic said finally, letting them in.

“I can-not be-lieve that you actually came to my apartment,” Vic said, as she opened the door.

“And just on time,” Delali said, eyeing the bag of SunChips Vic had half drunk-eaten last night with disgust. “Take a shower, sis,” she said, settling on Vic’s couch. “There’s somewhere we need to be.”

When the girls didn’t show up to MJ’s apartment the Saturday immediately following their first meeting, MJ wondered if she’d miscalculated. Of course, she understood how last week’s dismissal could’ve frightened the girls, but her display shouldn’t deter any witch determined to master magic. She’d hoped to show them her mentorship was a legitimate agreement and not a selective engagement, but as 3 p.m. approached on the second Saturday, she worried the girls weren’t ready for such a commitment. Oddly, she hadn’t seen anything about them in the intervening two weeks, not even when she’d used her crystal ball to assist her. MJ glanced at the large carriage clock in the corner, watching as the minute hand ticked to 2:59. She wiped her damp palms on her slim harem pants ready to give up, but as she did, her eyes lost focus and she saw a flash of a manicured finger pressing the buzzer to her apartment. When she heard the low drone of the buzzer, MJ smiled.