“Do you think maybe you've had enough of those?” Jane asked Cooper.

“No,” Cooper said defensively. “I don't.”

“Well, at least slow down,” her friend told her. “If you keep downing them at that rate you're going to be sick, and that would not be pretty.”

“Don't worry,” replied Cooper. “I can hold my Oreos.”

She took another cookie from the box and dunked it into the glass of milk she was holding. She let the cookie get good and wet, then popped it into her mouth and chewed. Jane watched her, a look of concern on her face.

“Do you really think eating Oreos is the answer to this?” she asked Cooper.

“Probably not,” Cooper responded, her mouth full. “But it can't hurt.”

“I don't know about that,” remarked Jane. “I think you're on a sugar high. When you crash,it's going to be nasty.”

“Who says I'm going to crash?” Cooper said. “I'm just going to keep eating these things one after the other. That way I'll never come down.”

“And you'll gain thirty-five pounds,” said Jane, giving Cooper a stern look.

“I refuse to give in to ridiculous standards of female beauty,” Cooper said. “Big is beautiful.”

She picked up another cookie, started to put it in her mouth, and then put it down. She set the glass of milk on the table and sighed.

“Fine,” she said. “So maybe stuffing myself with crispy chocolate and creamy white filling goodness isn't exactly the most productive way to deal with this.”

“That's better,” Jane said, pushing the box of Oreos out of Cooper's reach. “Now, do you want to talk or not?”

Cooper slumped in her chair. “I just hate thinking about Kate and Annie being at initiation class while I'm here,” she said unhappily.

Jane was quiet for a minute. “Can you maybe talk to Sophia?” she asked.

“I did that,” answered Cooper. “All she said was that they didn't think I was quite ready.” She paused a moment. “I don't get it,” she continued. “I completed my challenge. I faced my greatest fear. So why don't they think I'm ready? I mean, of everyone there I probably have the most experience with Wicca in the first place. Plus, I've done a lot during the past year. I helped a dead girl find her murderer. I was hazed by faeries. I made Beecher Falls High School safe for pentacle-wearing pagans everywhere. Oh, and I helped stop a totally insane ghost from turning us all into icicles.”

She looked at Jane as if she expected a response, but before the other girl could say anything Cooper started ranting again. “That doesn't even include the fact that I got a boyfriend, quit one band and started another one, survived my parents' getting divorced and my mother's temporary drinking issues, had my name all over the papers not once but twice, and started jogging.”

“Are you done now?” asked Jane when Cooper stopped talking.

Cooper nodded.

“All those things are great,” Jane said. “If you were applying to witch college, I'm sure they'd be very impressed by your extracurricular activities and give you a full scholarship.”

“Hey!” Cooper said, sounding hurt.

“Let me finish,” Jane told her. “What I was going to say is that maybe you can't look at this that way. Being invited to be initiated wasn't a competition. It was an individual thing. Just because you started out ahead of most people doesn't necessarily mean you learned as much as they did. Maybe they just felt that you hadn't quite done everything you were supposed to.”

“Thank you,” Cooper said when Jane was done speaking. “I feel so much better now I can't tell you. Not only do I feel like a loser for not making it to initiation, I also feel like a self-absorbed jerk who thinks she's better than her friends. Give me back those cookies.”

Jane swatted Cooper's hand away as she reached for the Oreos. Then she took the cookies and dumped them into the garbage can beside the sink. When Cooper glared at her, Jane said, “I'm saving you from yourself. You'll thank me later.”

“Who says I won't just fish them out of there?” Cooper replied angrily.

“Go right ahead,” Jane told her. “I hope you like your Oreos mixed with old coffee grinds and potato peelings, because that's what they're covered in now.”

“I don't know why I asked you to come over,” said Cooper huffily.

“Because you knew no one else would put up with you when you're in this kind of mood,” Jane replied, leaning against the counter and folding her arms across her chest. “T.J. is probably hiding in his room, afraid to answer the phone. Plus, you knew that I still owed you one for the time you came to see me in the hospital after my little mock suicide attempt.” She gave Cooper a sad face, blinking her eyes and pouting her lips.

“You are so tragically gay,” Cooper told Jane, and the two of them erupted in laughter. When they stopped, Cooper stood up. “Let's go play some music,” she said.

The two girls went upstairs to Cooper's room, where they got out their guitars. Jane settled into Cooper's desk chair, while Cooper sat on the edge of the bed. Jane began to play something, and Cooper joined in. It was a song they'd been fooling around with for a couple of weeks, something that had emerged from one of their writing sessions. But it hadn't quite come together yet.

“This might not be the best time to bring this up,” Jane said as they played. “But how would you feel about doing a gig?”

“What kind of gig?” Cooper asked tentatively...

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