"Did you have fun?" I ask Jestine as we leave, and she shoots me a dreamy look. I know someone did. Her hair's messier then when we left, and she's got a sort of goofy smile on her face. "J, hello, earth to Jestine!"

"What? Oh, yeah, loads of fun." This is very untalkative of Jestine; I'd been expecting a play-by-play rundown of her time at the ball.

"Are you sure? Nothing's wrong, or you feel okay, right?"

"Yeah, why wouldn't I?"

"You're acting really weird."

Jestine gives me an odd look. "No I'm not."

Ooookay. Whatev. I look out the window, the dark sky reminds me of something. A mocking pair of dark eyes. My face is getting hot again, and I try to wave it away again. Jestine is the one who has a problem, and I am not thinking about a certain unknown someone. Am not.

"So, Grandam, did you have any good dances?"

"Actually, only a few. Some of those zombies tend to fall apart after the first couple of rumbas."

"Oh." Really, what else is there to say?

"But I do have news for you!"

"Really?" This should be fascinating. Yeah, probably another man grabbing tip. "Go on, Grandam."

"You're betrothed!"

I fell my jaw open. What! Maybe I have hearing issues.

"Could you repeat that please?"

"You're marrying the Sierepont boy. Their family has the best reputation in all the witching circles, and a very impressive ancestry. That is very important for young witches today, you know, and now I only have to worry about Jestine."

I'm thinking this is a dream, because when I look over at Jestine she's still staring dreamily into space, without sharing my horror, or worrying over Grandam's pronouncement.

"Grandam, have you lost your mind! I'm sixteen! People don't get married at sixteen!"

"You're not married yet, the betrothal is until you're eighteen, of course. Besides, your birthday's in two weeks."

"There's no way. No way!"

Okay, so there was a way. I'm packing. Quite a lot, too. I just can't let Aunt Murgatroyd down. I had no idea that it was so important to Aunt. Last night I heard her talking to her lizard, she was the one who planted the idea of lineage in Grandam's head in the first place, and it's because she was supposed to marry some prominent warlock, when from what I heard, he dumped her for some titled girl, and that's when Grandam married a Roaveanoke and got this ridiculous reputation for pixy magic. I just can't refuse now. Aunt was actually crying. I didn't even know she knew what was going on! But there's no way I'm actually going to get married. I'm going to give her peace of mind, and then I'll find some other plan to fix the family name without marrying some creep. It shouldn't be too hard, right?

Grandam isn't helping though, giving me absurd outfits to take, and advice on flirting. It's making me sick. Seriously, I am a little mad at her for agreeing to this, even if Aunt thinks it's important, if Grandam hadn't announced the deal, or made it in the first place, then Aunt would never have known and I could have tried something else to help our reputation, without going to spend time with some weird family. Ugh!

Jestine isn't really helping either, since the ball she's been acting totally weird. I found out she broke up with Tim, and she doesn't seem upset at all. She must have met someone at the ball, but it beats me who. I didn't even see her with anyone, unless it was during the dancing spell.

I've been trying to wipe the ball from my mind because of that spell, and my partner. (Whom I've had disturbing dreams about.) But it's not like I even know who he is. Or I'll ever see him again. Or like I even care. Those dreams are just…stress over this whole situation.

"Tasia, are you almost done?" Grandam has been anxious to leave since, like, last night, and I'm not supposed to get there until tomorrow afternoon. Maybe I won't have to spend so much time with him, Zacharius, according to Grandam, and will get this whole thing figured out for Aunt by next week. Please, please, please let that be the case.

"Tasia!" Ugh, back to packing. Maybe I should just pretend I'm a nudist. They'll send me back and I won't even need to drag luggage. Yeah. That's the plan.

). 0. (

Zacharius seriously considered simply disappearing for a while, but he couldn't do that do his sister. She wasn't a witch, and had no way to stand against their grandmother. He would have to stay and endure the horrors. His grandmother really was insane; betrothing him to someone he didn't even know. She just wasn't living in the present day, it wasn't unheard of for magical lines to employ arranged marriages to keep a certain talent within the family, but that practice had basically died out at least sixty or seventy years before.

He'd simply have to endure whatever-and whomever-his grandmother had picked out for the "continuation of the most famous line in the magical community." At least until he could figure out a plan to worm his way out of this mess.

Zacharius stood for a moment, unsure of where to head. He could go back to the house, or…he could hide out at the neighbor's until the last moment.

He chose the latter.

They always welcomed him, even when they were in the middle of potion making or whatever else they'd decided to do. They are decidedly odd, but I'd take them over the hag any day. He walked up, past their collection of oddly shaped fuchsia flamingos and the assortment of lawn figurines, mostly toads and gnomes, and knocked on their green door. The younger sister greeted him.

"Mary-Agnes, how are you?" Zacharius smiled broadly, and followed her into the kitchen.

"Yes, so I've heard…things," Mary-Agnes giggled, and shook her sausage curls over her slim shoulders. Zacharius didn't understand how there could be such an age difference between the sisters, unless of course, Mary-Agnes used magical aid. But he would never ask. He'd been brought up too politely.

"Is that you, Mary-Agnes?" He heard the older sister croak from her usual post by a bubbling saucepan, and look up with her beady eyes. She broke out into a smile, just emphasizing all her wrinkles. But Zacharius was happy to see her anyway. Better a smile than a beauty any day. I get enough cold beauty and frowns at home.

"Hello, Muriel. How are you?" He expected to have to repeat the question at least fifteen times, as Muriel was a tad hard of hearing, but to his surprise, she put on a sly little grin and said,

"Fine. Just peachy. Just so peachy. And you?" He'd never heard her use such language, and he'd never had her understand him the first time.

"Muriel's got a hearing aid!" Mary-Agnes said proudly. "Weren't you at the ball?" Yeah, but I was hiding most of it. "And as for her state, well, she got a little high of my fumes. I made a kind of potion. It was a happy potion. It was meant to be a love potion but I got a little confused."

Zacharius nodded. Yes, Mary-Agnes and confusion were no strangers.

"So, ladies, what do you need today?"

). 0. (

I sit in the car, dreading this moment. I can't believe I actually semi agreed to this. I want out. Now. And Jestine isn't even speaking to me. She thinks this is…romantic.

What planet does she live on?

"Grandam? Can we go home? I feel extremely ill. Very ill. I'm going to puke in the car."

"Tasia, stop being silly. I know you and your little jokes. We're just there."

Ohmygod. Smother me, choke me, strangle me, boil me in oil…just don't make me marry some evil nerdwad! I picture glasses, evil goatee, maniacal laughter, and bad teeth. Ew, ew, ew! I look over at Jestine and she's still looking out the window trying to catch a glimpse of my new "home." Yeah, well, we shall see how long this lasts.

I just don't get it. I mean, I never knew that this whole family-being-the-laughingstock-of- the-entire-magical-community would have bothered Auntie. But then again, I haven't really talked in…well, ever, with her. She tends to drift off in the middle of the conversation, or get up and wander off. You never know.

So, I think that maybe I can make up a plan in the next three minutes. But my brain gets tangled up. I have some issues. One of which being I'm being married off to an evil freak.

But that's not supposed to bother me, right?