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"Julie, I thought we were going to a movie for your birthday," Becka said. She plopped down on a chair. "I really don't want to be around her; it's pretty hard to forget what she did to me last year. Remember? That little episode with the knife? In the park? Can't you see why I don't want to hang out with her?"
Julie Mitchell, Becka's best friend and cocaptain of the track team, cut her off. "But, Becka, Laura really isn't that bad."
"Yeah? What makes you say that?"
"Well, for one thing, she admits that she followed Brooke too much."
"You can say that again," Becka said under her breath.
Brooke headed up The Society, a group of kids from school who were deep into the occult. They held séances in the back room of the Ascension Bookshop, a New Age bookstore. Becka and Scott had been the target of their wrath on more than one occasion. As their leader, Brooke had a personality about as commanding as a freight train. In a way, Becka knew Laura was just acting on orders from Brooke. Still, it wasn't easy to just ignore that bit of history for the sake of Julie's party.
Julie added, "And don't forget what Susan Murdoch said about reaching out to her."
"You've got a point there," Becka conceded, reflecting on what Susan, their youth pastor's wife, had said. According to Susan, Laura was a good kid from a somewhat troubled home.
"Trust me," Julie said. "It'll be all right. She'll be with us just for a little while at the bookstore."
That was news to Becka. "You mean she's not sleeping over at your house with the rest of us?"
"Nope. And, Becka, think about it-it's a chance to meet Sarina Fox! Laura's dad knows Sarina's agent, and Laura said we can all meet Sarina after the book signing, where she'll be signing copies of her new book."
"Whatever." Becka batted a strand of hair away from her face with the grace of swatting at a gnat. Becka didn't spend a lot of time watching television. While meeting someone famous was cool, it wasn't that much of a thrill. At least not to Becka.
"So," Julie said, softening her tone, "what's the deal? Are you coming to my birthday party tonight?"
Becka's stomach churned as if she had eaten something off the bottom of her shoe. She wasn't exactly in the mood to be around Laura Henderson. "I don't know, Julie. I mean, I want to be there because it's your party. Let's just say it's a definite maybe."
Neither spoke for a long moment.
Becka checked her watch and then started pacing again.
"Look, I gotta run," Julie said. "I hope you can make it. Let me know so we don't wait up for you, okay?"
Becka hooked her thin, mousy brown hair over her right ear. "Sure thing. See ya." She clicked off the phone and, with a whack, set it down on the kitchen table a little too forcefully.
"What was that about?" Becka's mom asked as she walked into the kitchen.
Becka spun around. "Mom, sometimes Julie makes me so-" she started to say, then froze. "Wow, Mom, what happened?" Becka couldn't take her eyes off the woman staring back at her. She sure sounded like Becka's mother, but that's where the similarity ended.
Claire Williams crossed the room to Becka's side. With a turn, she said, "So, do you like it?"
Becka blinked. "What happened to your hair?" she blurted. As far back as she could remember, her mother's hair had been getting more and more gray. Now it was a rich chestnut brown with auburn highlights.
Mrs. Williams' eyes narrowed. "You don't like it, do you?"
"I-I never said that ...," Becka stammered. She sat down. "I mean, it looks ... um ... great. Really."
"You think so?" Mrs. Williams said. A playful smile danced across her face. She sat down, placing her new purse on the table.
"Gee, like, you look so much younger," Becka said, then thought that sounded rude. "What I mean-"
Her mom waved her off. "I know exactly what you mean. Premature gray hair will do that. Guess you could say I was tired of looking like a grandma. I am, after all, only forty-one."
Becka's brother, Scott, breezed into the kitchen and headed straight for the refrigerator. "Hey, Becka," Scott said as he pulled open the fridge door. Even though he had just finished lunch, he rummaged around for something to eat. He frequently raided the refrigerator, perhaps in an effort to continue his growth spurt, having recently passed Becka in height. He fetched a Mountain Dew from the bottom shelf. As he twisted off the top, he asked, "So, who's your friend?"
Becka laughed and then gave her mom, whose back was to Scott, a wink.
Before she could answer, Scott approached the table and said, "You guys see Mom around? I thought she'd be home by now." He started to guzzle the soda.
Mrs. Williams looked at her son. "Hi, sweetie."
Scott snorted a stream of soda bubbles through his nose. He wiped his face with the back of his hand. "Mom?"
Mrs. Williams primped her hair. "You like?"
"Somebody pinch me," Scott said, smiling so wide it looked to Becka like he had pulled a muscle in his face. "Mom, you look ... well, you look ... unreal ... as in great!"
She blushed. "I'll take that as a compliment."
"What gives?" Scott said, touching her hair in disbelief.
"It's the new me," she said. "Dad may be in heaven now, but I've come to see that God's got me here for a reason. I figured I had better start discovering what that special purpose is."
At the mention of their dad, Becka and Scott fell silent. It had been over a year since their father had disappeared and was presumed dead on the mission field in South America, where their family had been stationed. They had moved to Crescent Bay, California, for a fresh start. And while Becka and Scott were distracted with new friends at school, their mom seemed to have aged with each passing day.
Mrs. Williams broke the silence. She opened her purse and pulled out a pocket date book. "Actually, this is just the beginning of my personal transformation," she said with a smile. She consulted her calendar. "This weekend I've decided to go to that Free to Be women's retreat. The speaker is supposed to help us develop our mind, body, and spirit. The kickoff is tonight. I'll be home sometime on Sunday afternoon."
Becka nodded. "I read about that in the church bulletin. Sounds very cool."
"I figured what better way to get started with the new me than with a new do," Mrs. Williams said.
"A what?" Scott said.
"As in hairdo, you harebrain," Becka said.
"Well, excu-u-use me for not being up on the latest hairstyle lingo."
Mrs. Williams pointed to the calendar in front of her. "I hope you guys are ready for the start of school next week."
They nodded in unison.
"Good deal. Now, since I'll be gone all weekend," Mrs. Williams said, "I've made arrangements for you to stay with friends. Becka, I talked to Julie's mom, and she said it's fine for you to stay over tomorrow night too since you'll already be there tonight for Julie's party."
"Actually, Mom, I wasn't totally sure I was going-"
"Then this makes your decision easier," Mrs. Williams said with a wink. She turned to Scott. "Darryl's mom gave her okay for you to stay there. So if that sounds good with both of you, it's all set."
Becka groaned. "Mom, I'm seventeen. I don't need a baby-sitter."
"Ditto for me," Scott said. "In case you forgot, I'm fifteen. What could go wrong? Can't we just stay here? I'll even be in charge of meals. I'll just order pizza-"
Mrs. Williams shook her head. "Out of the question. I don't want to be worrying about you guys home alone without a car while I'm out of town. Besides," she said, looking at Becka, "it's only for one extra night. I'm sure you and Julie will find something fun to do after the others leave, right?"
Becka's face flushed. "Yeah, but still ... maybe I don't want to go."
"Maybe you don't have a choice this time," her mom said.
Becka looked away. Three seconds later, she felt her mother squeezing her forearm. "She is your best friend, Becka. Is there something going on between you two?"
Becka shifted in her chair, avoiding the question. "Couldn't I stay with Susan?" she asked. Susan Murdock, Becka's youth pastor who shared the role with her husband, Todd, always made Becka feel welcome.
"Actually, she was my first choice," Mrs. Williams said. "But she's going to the retreat, too. I just need you to make it work with Julie, okay?"
She studied her mother's face. For the first time in months Becka saw a sparkle in her eyes. And she couldn't miss the touch of hopefulness in her voice. Becka knew her mom had been struggling with her self-confidence, especially since she had difficulty finding a job. Becka figured this conference might be a turning point and didn't want to say anything that might put a damper on things.
"We're cool," Becka said, knowing full well that there were a few major issues she and Julie would have to work out.
"Good," Mrs. Williams said. "Now, I've got a surprise for you."
"Me?" Scott said between guzzles.
"Actually, no," Mrs. Williams said. She pulled something from her purse and then handed it to Becka.
"A cell phone?" Becka's eyes widened. "Wow."
Her mom nodded. "Yup. I figured it was about time you left the Stone Age and joined the human race."
"H-e-l-l-oooo," Scott said. "That's so not fair. What am I, chopped liver over here?"
Becka powered up the phone. "Relax, Scott. Since when were you appointed the Fairness Police?"
"It's just that-," Scott began, but was cut off by his mom.
"Maybe there's something in here for you, Scott," she said. She opened a cabinet door behind her, withdrew an oversized padded package, and handed it to Scott. "It's from Z."
Becka put the cell phone down. She watched with interest as Scott tore into the package from Z, their Internet friend whom they'd never met in person or been able to find out anything about. Sure, they tried to discover his true identity, but Z always managed to stay three steps ahead of them. Not to mention that Z kept coming up with important missions for them to undertake-like last week's trip to New Mexico, which they took with their mother.
There were two things they knew for sure about Z: he was a definite expert when it came to the supernatural. And he knew the Bible inside and out.
"I completely forgot about this," Scott said. The package had arrived several days ago right after Becka, Scott, and their mother had returned from New Mexico. There, they had a supernatural battle with an Indian shaman named Dark Bear, who had the ability to call down lightning whenever he wanted to torch something-or someone. In their case, they had been the target of Dark Bear's fireworks.
Becka shuddered as she remembered the showdown. It had been a case of all-out spiritual warfare battling Dark Bear's black magic, which had held an entire Indian tribe hostage for years. But through their faith in Jesus, their courage, and tons of prayer-along with the help of a new friend, Swift Arrow-they overcame the power of Dark Bear.
"Whatcha got?" Becka said, leaning forward.
Scott pulled out a set of earplugs with Becka's name printed on what looked like a plastic sandwich bag. A note card was stapled to the bag. "Looks like these are for you," he said. He handed Becka the items.
"Earplugs?" Becka's forehead wrinkled. "What's Z up to?"
"Read the note, pea brain," Scott said.
"Scott-," his mother started to say with that tone of voice that parents use when they're about to ground you for life.
He offered a cheesy smile. "Sorry."
Becka opened the card and read: "'For Becka. Be careful, little ears, what you hear.'" She looked at Scott and then her mom. "Okay, so call me clueless."
Scott noticed another envelope with Becka's name in the package. "Hey, maybe this will help."
She opened the envelope and withdrew a picture. "I don't even know who this is ... do you?"
"No, but she's cute," Scott said, peering over her shoulder. "Maybe she snores, huh?"
Becka ignored the comment as she continued to study the photo. "Actually, there's something familiar about her, but I can't seem to place her face." The girl in the photo was about seventeen or eighteen-at least that was Becka's guess. She stood on a mountain, with an expansive valley in the background. She wore a backpack and hiking clothes. Her safari hat covered the top of her long, dark blonde hair. A gentle smile lit her simple but attractive face.
Scott looked at the image more closely, too. "Yeah, I know what you mean. She does look like someone I've met or seen before. I just can't say for sure."
Becka turned the photograph over. "And look. On the back it says, 'Iron sharpens iron. Stay sharp ... and keep a sharp eye on this misguided spirit.'" Becka glanced up at Scott and then back at the photo. "What does Z mean by that?"
Scott shrugged. "I can't figure out how he knows half the stuff he knows. Hey, check this out. I got three free Domino's Pizza coupons. Now you're talking my language, Z."
"That's it?" Becka asked. "I get earplugs ... and you get pizza?"
"Now who's acting like the Fairness Police?" Scott said, elbowing his sister in the ribs.
"Hold on," Mrs. Williams said. "Isn't that a note on the back of one of your coupons?"
Scott flipped it over. "Um, it says 'Remember to pray for Becka. Z.'" He looked up. "Too bad. Nothing in there about sharing my pizza with you, sis."
Becka's eyes met Scott's. Since moving to Crescent Bay, both Becka and Scott had learned to expect the unexpected, especially when it came to spiritual warfare. And when it came to Z, there was always some deeper significance to the things he sent their way. Only this time, neither could make out where Z was headed.
Mrs. Williams stood to leave. "I'm sure this will all make sense in due time. It always does, doesn't it?"
Becka nodded, but for some reason she felt a growing uneasiness about spending the weekend with Julie. It was the same sensation she seemed to get in her stomach whenever she was about to face some form of spiritual counterfeit.
"So, Mom," Becka said, clearing her throat, "how can I get in touch with you ... you know, like if I needed you for something?"
Mrs. Williams raised an eyebrow. "Actually, I got a free cell phone too, my dear. You know me. I couldn't pass up one of those family plan deals where we share the minutes."
Excerpted from The Wiccan by Bill Myers Copyright © 2003 by Bill Myers. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted July 1, 2003
I have read all the other Forbidden Doors Books but The Wiccan and The Cards. I cant wait till they come out!!!
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