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Chapter 1 Blake

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Trigger Warning: This chapter contains instances of self-harm and violence.

When we got back to the Institute, before I could spend any time with Hunter, the Smith who had accompanied us to the airport dragged him into the Heka building. Naturally, I was pissed. It wasn't like the head scientists'experiments brought us any closer to understanding anything. About magic. About us. 

While Hunter was inside the Heka building, we waited outside. I paced around while Blake stood nearby, arms folded over his chest, and Alison sat cross-legged on the ground.

"Calm down, Ry," Alison said, "they aren't going to keep him."

I lowered the ridge of my brow at Alison. "Seriously, Ali?"

"I don't blame you," Blake said, "The way Melchior tried to sacrifice Hunter was messed up."

"You used to be the institute's biggest fanboy when we first came, what happened?" Alison said.

"I've never thought the institute was perfect; I just thought that it was necessary."

"Why?"

Blake sighed and looked at the ground, like he didn't want to say anything else. "It's kind of a screwed up story."

"What's up?"

"It's just--well, let me just tell you how I got extracted..."

~4 years ago~

Blake and Gerald were thirteen and fourteen, respectively, leaders of their own little enclave in a double-wide trailer full of foster kids north of Chico, California. There were six of them, not including Blake and Gerald: Fisher, Ronda, Tess, Nicki, Hale, and Mikey. Fisher solved math equations in his sleep, Ronda swooned over romance novels, Tess kept to herself, Nicki dreamed of being a cheerleader, Mikey had white hair, and Hale flirted with Blake all the time; in fact, Hale had been Blake's first kiss. Blake, however, only had eyes for Gerald, who insisted he liked "girls with big tits," criteria Blake knew he didn't fit.

Linda, their half-drunk but kindly middle-aged foster parent, collected kids for the middling state checks she used to maintain her drinking habit. Blake said she'd gone through a brutal divorce that left her filling the holes in her life with foster kids. Most people would've just gotten cats.

Linda's trailer had a weather-worn wooden porch out front, and a sizable backyard with an old elm tree that had a tire swing hanging from one of the branches. There was also a forest behind her house she told the kids to stay away from. She said it was haunted. The kids shared two bedrooms, divided into a boy's room and a girl's room. Each room had bunk beds and huge dressers filled with clothes.

Although he didn't know it yet, Blake's wizard senses had already kicked in--long before his other powers--so he had no words to describe the eerie feelings he'd been having for weeks. To take his mind off things, he had wandered into the backyard, grabbed a stick, and was using it to whale away at the tire swing. 

A few whacks in, and Blake still couldn't shake the eerie feelings bothering him, like the ones he got around Tess. Tess was a strange, 12-year-old girl. Most of the other kids avoided her because they thought she was weird. When Blake was around her, he could feel her loneliness, but something beneath the surface told him she was more than just lonely. Something told him she was afraid. Of what he didn't know. 

Gerald had ventured into the backyard with Blake and leaned against the old oak tree. He watched Blake take a few swings before he said, "The other kids say you and Hale kissed." Blake stopped attacking the dangling piece of rubber and lowered the stick. Gerald's question had been the only thing to take Blake's mind off Tess. "Is it true?" Gerald asked, "Are you gay?" 

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