The Cost of All Things

The Cost of All Things by Maggie Lehrman

Book: The Cost of All Things by Maggie Lehrman Read Free Book Online
Authors: Maggie Lehrman
Whatever. I don’t care about the memories. I want my body to work right. Can you fix that?”
    Her mood had shifted. Instead of looking out at the street, she glanced back into her house and shrank away from me. Afraid. “A hekamist could fix you. Add another spell to counteract the side effect. You’d be as graceful as a gazelle. But then that spell comes with its own set of side effects, and then you’re up to three permanent spells—very bad. Very risky. Side effects cascading.”
    I bit my lip. The other girls had talked about spells at theSummer Institute last year. Rumor had it that one of the prima ballerinas at the Manhattan Ballet had gotten a spell to make her a star, and that was why she was so dull to talk to. Or there was the girl who couldn’t nail a double pirouette—kept losing her balance right at the end—and then one day she came in and did fourteen in a row flawlessly. She cried every morning when she woke up because she couldn’t remember where she was, but she could dance. Last I heard she was an apprentice at the San Francisco Ballet.
    I’d always thought those were selfish spells—shortcuts to greatness. The prima ballerina and the pirouette girl could’ve practiced and maybe they would’ve gotten where they needed to go anyway. I couldn’t even practice. I looked like a fool. The side effects bent and twisted me. I needed a spell to get me back to normal, to be me again.
    But would I really be myself if I couldn’t remember my own name?
    “Not me,” the hekamist said, interrupting my thoughts.
    “Not this hekamist. Silly me, silly me. No no no. I can’t. I can’t.”
    “Why not?”
    She started to close the door, and I put a hand out to stop her.
    She took a deep breath and seemed to gather herself together. “You are a sweet girl. I can tell. And you seemed sad the other day about your dead boyfriend. I think you made the right decision.”
    No one who knew me would have ever described me as sweet. And I knew I didn’t make the right decision.
    “No, there’s no way. . . . Please. I love dance more than anything.”
    “ Now you do.” She pushed the door hard against my hand. “Yesterday you loved your boyfriend more. Try to think that you’ve done yourself a favor.”
    With a final shove, the door closed. I knocked on it a couple more times, but she didn’t come out again.
    Even if I decided to risk the compound side effects, she wouldn’t do the spell, and she was the only hekamist in town. Plus there was the question of payment—no way another five thousand dollars would show up in the back of my closet. Especially since Echo told me Win had put it there.
    So I had to keep practicing.
    The morning after the bonfire, July fourth, I bent at the waist and reached for the floor. I used to be able to flatten my whole torso against my legs and wrap my arms around them so that my hands touched the sides of my face. Now, the tips of my fingers barely grazed the carpet. I squeezed my eyes closed and willed myself not to start crying. I had another hour to get through.
    I was stuck in this uncooperative body. And Echo was going to tell the truth about Win to everyone I knew unless I figured out a way to stop her.

    The day after the bonfire I woke up with a hangover beating at my head and an urge in the pit of my stomach to burn down the world. At a certain point during the bonfire, after Diana had hurt herself and then gone off with Ari to recuperate, I’d gotten drunk enough that I’d forgotten Win was gone. I remembered that feeling of security, knowing—but not dwelling on—the fact that my best friend was out there somewhere and any moment he would emerge from the crowd, dump my drink in the sand, and drive me home. But of course he didn’t, so I kept drinking. More than the alcohol hangover there was the hangover from forgetting. I was paying for my lobotomized night.
    I could hear my brothers gathering in the kitchen before I got out of bed.

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