Friday, September 20, 2019

Leadership and Management in Banks | Case Study

Leadership and Management in Banks | Case Study Introduction Soneri Bank was incorporated on September 28, 1991 the first Branch of Soneri Bank Limited formally opened doors for operations in Lahore on April 16, 1992 followed by Karachi Branch on May 09, 1992. The bank now operates with 145 branches spread all over Pakistan including the Northern Areas of the country where no other private bank has ventured so far. Expansion of branches is based on a policy of maintaining a balance between the urban and rural areas with a view to offering services even in the remote areas of Pakistan. Pleasant and sophisticated atmosphere has been provided in the branches which are all fully air-conditioned and computerized. The essence Soneri Bank business philosophy is to cater to the banking requirements of small medium sized entrepreneurs, providing them qualitative competitive services with emphasis on encouraging exports. Nearly forty percent of our credit portfolio is related to export financing and credit decisions are taken within 48 hours Mission Statement: To develop Soneri Bank Ltd into an aggressive and dynamics financial institution having the capabilities to provide personalized service to customer with cutting edge technology and a wide range of products and during the process to ensure maximum return on assets with the ultimate goal of serving the Economy and society. Slogan: We have more time for you Progress to Date: Soneri Bank Ltd was incorporated in 1991 as a public ltd company with paid up capital of Rs: 300 M. Over the last 16 years it has achieved a sustained growth with a network of 90 branches across country. The equity stand at PKR 7.6bn and total asset stand at PKR 88bn at the first quarter of year 2009. Top level management and their Names Boards of Directors: Chairman Legal Advisor Mr. Alauddin Feerasta Manan Associates, Advocates Chief Executive Officer Mr. Safarali K. Lakhani Directors Registered Office Mr. Nooruddin Feerasta Rupali House Mr. Inam Elahi Upper Mall Scheme Mr. S. Ali Zafar Anand Road, Lahore 54000 Mr. Abdul Hayee Registrar and Share Mr. Shahid Anwar (NIT Nominee) Transfer Agent Mr. Manzoor Ahmad (NIT Nominee) THK Associates (Private) Ltd. Company Secretary Ground Floor Mr. Abdul Hayee State Life Building No. 3 Audit Committee Dr. Ziauddin Ahmed Road, Mr. Nooruddin Feerasta (Chairman) Karachi 75530 Mr. S. Ali Zafar (Member) UAN: +9221-111-000-322 Mr. Shahid Anwar (Member) Fax: +9221-5655595 Mr. Abdul Hayee (Member Secretary) Auditors: KPMG Taseer Hadi Co.Chartered Accountants PLANNING Definition Planning defines organization goals and objectives establishing overall strategies for achieving those goals. Developing a comprehensive set of plan to integrate coordinate organization work. Type of plan Soneri bank use both formal and informal type of planning Informal In informal planning, their planning is not written down, short term focus and specific to an organization unit Formal In formal planning their planning is not written down, specific long term focus involves shared goals for an organization. Goal/objectives: Financial strength and profitability by making profitable advances Customer satisfaction by providing higher quality of service at an affordable cost. Growth by expanding branch network deposit base Short term objective Profitability Long term objective Profitability MISSION To develop and deliver the most innovative products, manage customers experience, deliver quality service that contributes to brand strength, establishes a competitive advantage and enhances profitability, thus providing value to the stakeholders of the bank. STRATGY Strategy of Soneri Bank are giving loans and accepting deposit. PLAN Plan of Soneri Bank are short term advance and deposit. PROGRAMME Program of Soneri Bank are up to one year or more then one year advance, fixed account, current account, etc POLICIES Policies of Soneri Bank are profitability by making profitability advance and customer satisfaction by providing best services at on affordable cost. RULES Their rules are depending upon by upper level of management according situation. BUDGET Soneri Bank allocates its budget for the following area 1. Diversify products services Anticipating customer needs, Soneri is increasing its focus on new products and services through leveraging its extensive branch network. The Bank is introducing various types of financing structures tailored to the capital investment requirements of its corporate clients as well as small medium sized enterprises. 2. Focus on consumer banking Making use of its computerized network of branches, the Bank plans to enhance its market share and profitability via focusing on consumer banking products and services as well as integrating e-banking into its delivery channels. 3. Increase employee productivity though training new techniques The Bank seeks to increase employee productivity through a combination of training and implementation of modern human resource techniques. Frequent in-house and external training programs are expected to help the Bank in maintaining and developing an efficient work force. 4. Improve credit assessment, loan monitoring debt recovery The management intends to improve asset quality by implementing strategies for identification, measurement and mitigation of risk, which will result in reducing the quantum of non-performing loans. ORGANIZING Manage work in organization but while is an organization? An organization is a deliberate arrangement of people to accomplish some specific purpose. Your banks, Universities is an organization, college, Govt. department all organization because they have three common characteristic. First Each organization has a distinct purpose this purpose is typically expressed in term of goal or set of goals that the organization hopes to accomplish. Second Each organization composed of people. One person working alone is not an organization and it takes people to perform the work thats necessary for the organization to achieve its goals. Third All organization develops some deliberate structure so that their member can do their work. Purpose of organization Work to be done into specific jobs and department in Soneri Bank Co-ordinate diverse organization task in Soneri Bank. Establishes former line of authority in Soneri Bank. Allocates and deploys organization resources in Soneri Bank. Organizational Deign: It means developing or changing an organization structure. A process that involves six elements: Work Specialization, departmentalization, Span of Control, Chain Of Command, Centralization and Decentralization, and Formulization. Work Specialization: The degree to which tasks in an organization are divided into separate jobs, also known as division of labor. Work Specialization in Soneri Bank: At Soneri Bank high work specialization exists. The whole is divided into number of repetitive task. There is division of labor according to the task specification. They perceive that work specialization is an unending tool to do work efficiently and effectively. Secondly they assume that work specialization is helpful in maintaining effective internal control, because if there is fraudulent move by any person regarding particular task, manager can counter that person on the spot. Work specialization is also helpful to maintain organization mechanism. For Example: In case of credit issuance if one person is responsible for checking Security Documents of pledged property and he recommend incorrect document manger of credit issuance can spot him out. Departmentalization: The basis by which jobs are grouped together is called departmentalization. It means the extent to which we need to divide jobs into different department. Departmentalization at Soneri Bank: Departments at Soneri Bank are minimal. Only few departments exist which are listed below IT department Credit Department International Banking Department Domestic Banking Department Accounts and Audit Department IT department facilitate all other department regarding IT services and fixing out problems of IT. Credit department is one which provide loan to businessmen, general public and for agriculture development as well. This department provides a full range of Corporate and retail banking services with special emphasis to provide qualitative and competitive services to small and medium entrepreneurs. The department scrutinizes the whole process of issuing loan and in case of borrower default this very department is responsible to take legal action against defaulter party. A complete range of products for trade finance, is one of core banking activities of Soneri Bank International banking department deals in import, export, foreign exchange and issue Letter of Credit. Domestic Banking department serves in cash, government bonds and securities, deposits, and provide locker facility .A wide range of attractive saving scheme to suit all segments of investors, consumer finance scheme, and Islamic banking products catering to the needs of variety of customers. Accounts and Audit department maintain the books of all discussed department. Marketing activities: There is no separate department for marketing activities rather these are presided by Executive Vice President (EVP). HR Activities: All affairs relating to HR are controlled by Inam Qazi. There is no separate department of Human Resource Management. Financing Activities Financing activities are handled at Central office Karachi. Span of Control: The number of employees a manager can manage efficiently and effectively. Span of control is important to a large degree because it determine the number of levels/layers and managers in an organization. All things being equal the wider the span of control is more efficient the organization is. Span of Control at Soneri Bank: The span of control at Soneri Bank is usually kept short. Bank has vertical and tall span of control. According to bank correspondent sometime span of control is also dependent upon workload in the bank. More work load may lead to wide span of control. Chain of Command: It means the line of authority extending from upper organizational level to the lowest level which clarifies who reports to whom. Chain of Command at Soneri Bank: Chain of command at Soneri Bank is tall or vertical. Flow of information from top to bottom or from bottom to top is slow because information is supposed to pass from each channel. There is no direct interaction between top level managers and front line managers neither through E-mail nor through telephone regarding the exchange of information. For Example if a branch manger wants to communicate information to BODs then 1st he will interact with Controller of Branches (COB), then COB will contact with Divisional General Manager of concerned division, then divisional GM will report to Central office and central office will send information to the Head Office or BODs. In the same way if BODs want to contact branch manager the whole above discussed process will be followed in reverse order. Centralization and Decentralization: Centralization means the degree to which decision making authority lies in the hands of upper level of organizations individuals or managers. It also means decision making with no/low input from lower employees. Decentralization means to what extent the decisions making authority is delegated to lower level employee. Centralization and decentralization at soneri bank: The decision making authority is delegated to employee up to some extent. They can make their decision by using that delegated authority For example If a credit manager of branch has authority to sanction loan up to Rs 4 million when borrower demand is more than Rs 4 million than credit manager of that branch contact COB (controller of branch) who has authority to sanction loan above Rs 4 million, if COB recommend then credit manager will issue loan and so forth. Formalization: Formalization means to what extent organization jobs are standardized and the extent to which behaviors of employees are guided by the rules and procedures. Formalization at Soneri Bank: Formalization at Soneri Bank is high. All the rules and procedures are clearly defined covering work processes which employees are supposed to follow, And employees have less discretion over what is to be done when it is to be done and how it is to be done. Employees are expected to handle the same input in exactly the same way resulting and uniform output. Types of Organization Design: There are two types of organization design Mechanistic design: Mechanistic is a machine like structure, it is rigid and human involvement is minimums. Organic design: Organic structure is highly flexible, humanistic activity is maximum. Elements of Organizational design Mechanistic Structure Organic Structure Work Specialization High Low Departmentalization High Low Span of control Short Wide Chain of command Long Short Centralization High Low Formulization High Low LEADING Leadership The process of influencing a group of people toward achievement of preselected goals is called leadership. Leader The person who makes this purpose is who can influence other / groups of people and who has managerial authority is called leader. The Soneri Bank has formal way of leadership style Traits of leader The leader of Soneri Bank has the following Traits Skills in themselves. Decision making Risk taking Risk bearing Stress taking Stress bearing Communication Power Honesty Strong vision Inter personal skill Step forward Discipline Believe of on equality Type of Leader Democratic leader The leaders, Soneri Bank have, are the types of Democratic. Because the major portion of bank is De-centralized thats why the each leader have the complete power of decision making, but the are working Collaboratively in whole organization with each other. All leaders of bank are involved in decision making, delighting their authority to their higher qualified employees, encouraged the participation of their employees in work and gives them opportunities coaching in well manner. Task Structure Every leader is giving the formal/ formalizes job or task to his employees, for getting the best result. Thats why the task structure also strong in the Soneri Bank. CONTROLING Controlling is the process of monitoring activities to ensure that they are being accomplished as planned and of correcting and significant deviation. Importance of control: Control is very much important because it is the final link in the management function. It is the only way manager know whether organizational goals are being met or not and the reason why? In Soneri Bank the importance of control can not be neglected because its a services base organization and deals with finance. Every employee in this organization has direct and indirect interaction with financial activities and finance playing the key role in the progress of the bank. Types of Control: Following are two main types of control. Feed forward control: In feed forward control problem is identified and resolved before accruing. Concurrent control: In contemporaneous control problem is identified and resolved while that is accruing. Division in Soneri Bank for Controlling: Following are two divisions in Soneri Bank for controlling purpose. Credit Monitoring Division: Credit monitoring division monitor all the activities related to following areas Credit card Debit card Auto loans Homes Loans RTC Money Gram Audit and Inspection Division; this division in Soneri Bank conduct the internal audit at the inspections of all the activities in the Soneri Bank to insure the accuracy of work and the performance of the bank. Control at Supervisor and Managerial Level: At lower level in the Bank supervisor and manager ensure the proper handling of the activities and they assign the targets to their subordinates to achieves in a given time and at those bases, they asses the performance of the employee. PROCESS OF CONTROL Measuring actual performance There are two ways to measuring performance in the Soneri Bank. Qualitative Quantities In measurement of performance employees of the organization are being measure qualitatively 40% and quantities 60%. Comparing actual performance with standards The comparing performance of the degree of variation between actual and standards performance Standards In Soneri Bank following standards are set to compare actual performance. General standards Compliance with law Reasonable assurance and safeguards Integrity, competence, and positive attitude SPECIFIC STANDARDS: TEAM LEADER In the Soneri Bank mostly every executive is working together with employer under him/her, and every manager is also working together with employer under him/her and they all are working collaboratively with each other in all the department of whole organization. TRANSFORMATIONAL and TRANSACTIONAL LEADER The leader of Soneri Bank is giving guide line and direction of established goals of these followers by clarifying the rate and task requirements for the best possible unit. Thats why these leaders of bank are TRANSACTIONAL LEADERS but not TRANSFORMATIONAL leader. GOALS OBJECTIVES Goals and objectives are factors through which the companys devotion and commitment to the job can be seen. If the goals are realistic and achievable, than surely that organization is doing its job. Soneri Bank also has certain goals and objectives which it is trying to achieve, through its various strategies and operations. The goals and objectives are mentioned below: To create a sound base, and through efficient systems achieve modern banking through out Pakistan. By the end of every accounting year there is an increase in deposits. As the deposit rate of during 2008 was approximately 72 Million and the same has been increased in 2009 by 97 Million. To create unit banking network in all the branches of Soneri Bank, the end of the year. This means that all the operations of the bank, i.e. deposits to advances, imports, exports, L/C Opening, foreign currency and many more aspects under one roof, so that the customer can be facilitate in one visit. Islamic Banking is one of the goals of Soneri Bank though it has been initiated in the last fiscal year and it is very acceptable for general public. However, there is a lot of work to do for successful implementation of the Islamic Banking Plan. In this regard the Bank is opening specific Islamic Banking Branch under the supervision of its Islamic Banking Division. STRATEGIES Soneri Bank has formulated certain sets of strategies to enable it to achieve its goals and objectives. These strategies are mentioned below: In order to achieve its goals of creating a sound base and presence of efficient modern banking system, Soneri Bank has started operation of Automated Teller Machines (ATM) in all the major areas like Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad and other cities of Pakistan. Soneri Bank is committed to building long-lasting relationships through an assertion to service excellence and providing innovative products to meet the changing needs of our valued customers. Although still in its infancy, compared to the exalted banking standards, Soneri Bank inspired by the vision of its Board and Management, has built up a strong customer base. The Bank provides a full range of banking services to corporate clients, while applying leading technologies. Today the Bank is well-positioned to provide appropriate banking services to customers. The main focus is building relationships and being known by the way they do business. Management recognizes that a banking relationship requires compatibility, communication, and cooperation and that each customer deserves nothing less than full attention and available resources to meet their financial objectives. Core value and corporate culture is based on the belief that superior personalized service is the most important product. Bank is in the process of getting to know customers by name and understand their business and personal financial needs. This one-on-one, personalized service quality has served as Soneri Bank unique signature since inception and continues to separate it from other financial institutions. The Soneri Bank team comprises of some of the most highly skilled and professional financial experts in banking industry. Managers, lenders and trust advisors offer the unique perspective of knowing and understanding in the local economy. The Management focuses its attention on making informed and feasible economic decisions, bringing better returns and more profitability for investors and customers. To acquire the reputation and status of bank which operates on international standard, Soneri Bank was to get the credit rating of Pakistan Credit Rating Agency, which gave it the AA- and A1+ in the long term and short term respectively. SWOT Analysis of Soneri bank (S)trengths Strengths are the core competencies of any organization as far as SONERI is concerned the core competencies of this organization are: Target Achievement Policies Procedures Controlling Standards Priorities Rewards Benefits Job Security for the Employees Favorable, friendly Healthy Working Environment Documentation System is so much accurate Accounting Banking System is Accurate Reliable One (W)eaknesses Weaknesses are the lacking points which every organization must avoid in order to make its operational effectiveness. Hectic Working Environment Work load Lack of Self Marketing Department Low Training Coaching Low incentives like bonuses overtime pay etc. Human Resource Department is not so much effective Appraisal is not done frequently Low salary packages as compared to other banks (O)pportunities In fact, when we study all our weaknesses critically deeply than we come to know that we can convert our weaknesses into strengths. So basically these are our opportunities. The opportunities for SONERI bank are: On the job training coaching sessions can be conducted. Work sharing activities should be started so that a person who is working continuously for 9 hours can get relax. Marketing department should be started in order to promote the name of SONERI. Appraisal should be conducted frequently so that employees get motivated do their work as a loyal employee. Attractive salary packages should be awarded. (T)hreats Though Soneri bank has a strong footing and maintain a good number of loyal customer, still bank has threats in various sectors. The threats are prevailing such as: The conventional banks those having high growth rate and high market share are always being a threat. There is an average not low turnover rate, mainly because of low incentives as compared to the other banks. Absenteeism: Definitions and Categories Absenteeism: Definitions and Categories The purpose of the literature review is to justify absences in order to determine its fundamental causes. The amount of research which exists on school absenteeism witnesses both the existence and consequences of the problem. This issue is without doubt a very critical problem whose consequences is not restricted to students only but extends to the progress of the entire community and stands as a threat to the national economic growth. As a result, not only is the identification of the factors important but the proposed strategies for the improvement and gradual elimination of the problem are equally vital. The first part of this section shall reveal a representative discussion on some of the various categories of definitions on students absenteeism published during the last few years from a variety of perspectives. The second part discusses on previous research on students absenteeism and the causal factors that are considered as sources of such issues. DEFINITIONS AND CATEGORIES OF ABSENCES Absenteeism is the continual interruption of attendance (Gove: 6). It can be simply defined as a failure to appear, especially for work or any other duty. Therefore, based on my research the term student absenteeism refers as a situation where a learner is not at school for an entire day. But this definition is certainly too unclear to give a complete view of the problem. In order to avoid confusion regarding definitional issues the present study has categorized it into specific terms. Excused absences are justified absences from school for any reason recognized as legitimate, for example, attendance at religious ceremonies, illness of the pupil or a member of the pupils family, or death in the home (Good:3). On the other hand, unexcused absences refer to absences from school for reasons that are not recognized as legitimate, for example, absence because of play, truancy, illegal work, etc. (Good:3). However, one of the most common forms of unexcused absences is truancy (Brandibas, 2005; Broadwin, 1932; Johnson et al., 1941; Phelps et al., 1992; Warren, 1948) which is a vague term. Gabb (1994) argues that a child is said to play truant who is absent from school without leave. Truancy refers to the persistent, habitual and unexplained absence from school of a child of compulsory school age that occurs without parental knowledge or consent. Also, unauthorized absences may include truancy, occasional absenteeism, school refusal, school withdrawal and dropping out. Suspensions and expulsions may also be accounted as unauthorized absences. On the other hand, the term fractional truancy has been used to refer to unauthorized absences from school due to lateness, leave early or skip of specific lesson or groups of lessons which seems to be uncontrollable. Researchers like Stickney and Miltenberger (1998) and Malcolm et al (2003) have also used the term school refusal synonymously with a bsenteeism. School refusal refers to absence by children who refuse to attend school in the face of persuasion and punishment by parents, and possible school discipline. This form of absenteeism is widely recognized as a disorder involving persistent non attendance at school, excessive anxiety and physical complaints. Thus, the review of the various categories of definitions of absenteeism is not enough, as the main focus of this study is on the different factors that contribute to this problem. Consequently, not only is the identification of the causal factors significant but the plan of strategies for the improvement and eventual eradication of the issue are equally important. With the abundance of academic literature on the causes and solutions of the phenomenon, this will surely help to clarify my study with a better guidance and proper use of energies and resources in the right direction. This is so, as different researchers have taken different possibilities in investigating the problem from the psychological, social, economical and management perspectives. Hence, the subsequent sections that will follow shall demonstrate various literatures on these perspectives. CAUSAL FACTORS THE PSYCHOLOGICAL PERCEPTION From past research, it has been noted that psychologists have taken a great interest in the causes of, and solutions to, absenteeism. Accordingly, this has led to a deeper understanding of the phenomenon. Within the context of this particular perception, a number of causal factors have been identified. A considerable part of the literature on the psychological dimensions of absenteeism has argued that the problem comes from different aspects. Corville et al. (1998); Lotz Lee (1999) find that students that are frequently absent from school have low self-esteem, are less competent in their social relations, perceive less cohesion in their families, less parental acceptance and inconsistent discipline, and indicate less satisfaction regarding school characteristics and personnel. Within the school system, it may be the result of labeling and tracking that create this low self-esteem and negative self-image and hence this becomes a cause for absenteeism for the students. While students with low self-esteem have an ability to feel part of the school culture, they may become frustrated and bored with school, and dislike the teachers, and any form of authority (Bell et al, 1994; Scott Dinham, 2005). Skues, Cunningham, and Pokharel (2005) note that students bullied by peers tend to exhib it less self-esteem and are less motivated to perform well at school. Low motivation, expressed as lack of interest and lack of engagement is linked with the notion of self-esteem and the intrinsic sense of belonging and self-worth. Thompson and Perry (2005) suggested that students who experience low motivation often perform poorly in academic situations. Further, Johnson (1941) and Daleiden Chorpita (1999) believe that school phobia is also an important factor that contributes to absenteeism. The term school phobia is termed as a separation anxiety: that is, intense distress following anticipated or actual separation from others, especially the mother. The child develops a feeling of acute anxiety and begins to feel guilty about leaving the mother to attend school. Moreover, Lauchlan (2003), Egger, Costello, and Angold (2003) examined the association between anxious school refusal, truancy and psychiatric disorders in middle school students and found that the majority of the sample had a psychiatric disorder. Also, some physical factors including physical health and psychological well-being may contribute to the phenomenon. Closs (2000) contends that the major cause of absence, namely, health reasons may be addressed both to support the education of students whose absence is inevitable and to improve the school attendance of students whose health may not otherwise permit it. As it can be noticed from the above declaration, psychological variables are key determinants of absenteeism. Within the context of this finding, one of the solutions to absenteeism appears to lie in the reinforcement of students sense of belonging both through the enhancement of teachers levels of professional commitment and the design of school cultures which will bring about a sense of attachment and reliability among the students. THE SOCIAL PERCEPTION The literature on psychological factors influencing absenteeism is hardly restricted to an analysis. Thus, an investigation of the sociological variables is of great importance. This is so as not only the students themselves contribute to the problem but their school as well as their family backgrounds plays an important role. Nowadays, with the process of rapid development that is taking place, we have more and more working parents. As a result, students receive less supervision at home than in the past (Lotz Lee, 1999). Not only absence of parental supervision but also parents condoning absences by ignoring or supplying excuses when no valid reason is apparent, explains high rates of absenteeism (Kilpatrick, 1996). Reid (1999) found that families are becoming increasingly ill-equipped to provide a home environment that is conducive to academic achievement. Stability at home is one of the major factors that affect absenteeism. He further suggests that parents should be educated to understand the value of their role in reinforcing practices which includes providing incentives for students who attend school regularly, while providing disincentives for non-attendance. Parenting style may therefore have an impact on a childs school behavior and motivation to attend school. It is found that the authoritative parenting style is the most conducive to academic success and high motivation levels. Fragmented and reconstituted family structures and family size are also considered variables in the discussion on absenteeism (Wheatly Spillane, 2001). Research conducted by Butler (2003) found that adolescents experiencing absenteeism revealed a tendency to have single, separated, divorced or remarried families. Statistics also indicate that the greater majority of school children either come from single parent or two-parent-working homes, with the implication in either case being that the primary caregiver is often absent from the house and therefore, not in a position to supervise education and attendance. Of greater significance is the fact that the absence of the adult primary caregiver generally means that the children in question have to perform a number of chores around the home, including, in the case of older siblings, the responsibility of the younger children in the house. In such instances, the children in question are often left too stressed out or tired to wake up in the morning and attend school on time (Pope, 2003). The sociological interpretation of absenteeism tends towards the identification of class and familial conditions as the root causes of the phenomenon. Thus, to gain a fuller picture of the problem, it is imperative to review the literature on the economic factors influencing absenteeism among school children. THE ECONOMIC PERCEPTION The literature on the economic causes of absenteeism compliments the literature on both its psychological and sociological causes. As Mcewan (2000) suggests, the economic causes rarely operate in isolation but tend to give rise to already existent sociological or psychological factors. Zierold, Garman and Anderson (2005) admit that familial and communal culture influence absenteeism but suggest that economic factors are at the roots of the stated. There is the predominant belief that students would benefit more from employment than they would from education. The implication here is that economic circumstances often force school students to seek part-time employment and as a result they have to shoulder other responsibilities other than their school work. Parcel and Dufur (2001) maintain that students who come from lower socio-economic class than the majority of their classmates are generally subjected to verbal taunts which, besides undermining their self-esteem and affecting their academic performance, influence them towards deliberate absences. Further, DeKalb (1999) suggests that this phenomenon is also due to the socio economic reasons such as the traditional marginalization of the poor and minority students. Thus, there is a lack of effort to attach these students to school as well as a lack of communication with the parents. In this case, the students develop no sense of belonging for their school and tend to be absent for long periods of time. THE ENVIRONMENTAL PERCEPTION According to Osterman (2000), if students do not feel at home in their school environment, they take it upon themselves to reduce the number of hours they spend in that environment per week, either by being tardy or absent. In line with that, Kirkpatrick, Crosnoe and Elder (2001), arrived at the same conclusion. They suggest that school attendance is significantly impacted by the extent to which students sense of belonging. Usually, students who feel comfortable and at ease in their school environment tend to have relatively lower rates of absenteeism compared to those who do not. Also, Crosnoe (2000) reported that lack of sense of belonging at school is also partly dependent on peer influence. Those with high attendance reported that they had many friends at school and felt a sense of social belonging there and those with low attendance reported the opposite. As we are aware for proper motivation of students, there is a need for professional commitment. Hung and Liu (1999) argue a correlation between student engagement with learning and teachers professional commitment. Teachers who exhibit a strong sense of professional commitment usually influence their students towards higher levels of engagement in their learning process and, more significantly, tend to have much higher classroom on-time attendance rates. Also, the punctuality of the teacher, his teaching style, his degree of verbal admiration and warning are all factors associated with pupils finding class interesting (DeKalb, 1999). Moreover, school factors often relate to students experiences of the school environment, and the body of literature consistently identifies several common experiences, including boredom with schoolwork, inadequate student-teacher relationships, being bullied, under threats or involved in fights (Wheatley and Spillane, 2001). Further, Wheatley and Spillane (2001) make the important point that the same characteristics, as outlined in various sources and linked to non-attendance, are similarly linked in a range of research reports as factors contributing to underage school leaving. Furthermore, with the new era of rapid development and competition, there has been a drastic innovation regarding the acquisition of knowledge. Various ways and means are available nowadays for fulfilling the demand for education. Besides, with such alternatives available this has created a downfall significance regarding school and its environment especially regarding regular attendance of students. According to Petroski (2008),ÂÂ  this independent approach to learning has become increasingly viable and accessible for all students through distance learning initiatives such as video conferencing, web casts, pod casts, blogs, Wikis, Twitter and privatized online learning programs such as Nova Net and Plato. These innovations allow students the freedom to access and respond to the information within a flexible timeframe and without the necessity for face-to-face synchronous experiences. Petroski (2008) also states that there are existing colleges whose students never attend a cour se on a physical campus. However, some have serious concerns about the pedagogical implications of introducing or casting audio or visual files of classroom content. Most of the concerns center on the potential drop in classroom attendance or in-class participation (Meng, 2005; OConnor, 2005). Another overarching fear is that educators overprotect immature learners to become ever more passive in their learning and thus retard their development as self-learners. Regarding other typical aspect of acquiring knowledge nowadays is through private tuitions commonly used in almost every country of the global world. According to Hai-Anh Dang and F. Halsey Rogers (2008), private tutoring is now a major component of the education sector in many developing countries, yet education policy too, rarely admits or makes use of it. Also, Hai-Anh Dang and F. Halsey Rogers asked themselves whether private tuitions increase parental choice and improve student achievement, or does it worsen social inequalities and impose heavy costs on households, possibly without improving student outcomes. This survey of the literature examines the extent of private tutoring, identifies the factors that explain its growth, and analyzes its cost-effectiveness in improving student academic performance. In the same direction regarding academic performance, Trevor Cobbold (2009) states that many other factors outside the control of schools also influence a schools results. These include student absenteeism and mobility between schools, the extent of parent involvement in learning at home, and the extent to which students are engaged in after hours tutoring. For example, if a higher proportion of families are engaged in private tutoring in any one year a school will receive a boost to its measured performance. However, private tutoring unfortunately has been institutionalized and has become a threatening feature. It is the source of lack of interest for class work, uncontrollable conduct at school, outright truancy and induced absenteeism because of frustrations and tiredness (Ministry of Education, Mauritius, 1997). In line with this, Sylvain E. Dessyy, Pascal St-Amour and Desire Vencatachellum (1999) carried out a research about the reasons behind private tuitions and the various measures that will effectively reduce private tuitions. The result shows that private tutoring arises mainly because of the expected rewards obtained by skilled workers, and the use of human capital as a selection device for these positions. Also, pupils use private tutoring to complement the education they receive in public schools, and to increase the likelihood of winning the best-paid position in future. The proposed solutions of the research was finally about raising public teachers wages and changing their selection mechanism to limit private tutoring. FINDINGS From the above, even though in brief, the review of this literature has tried to establish useful inquiries about how researchers have, with near-unanimity, defined absences as one of the most severe problem currently confronting the nations schools and its children, the demand of designing and implementing corrective strategies for the reduction and elimination of absences are indisputable and widely accepted. Prior to that, however, it is important to acquire a complete understanding of the causes of absences and the factors which affect it. Thus, the above mentioned literature reviews have not only analysed the theoretical and definitional issues but have also provided a sound theoretical support. With this for the present research, it will be possible to build further knowledge and understanding about the phenomenon. Academic literature and studies on absences have established a huge number of causal factors, divisible into three broad categories: (1) psychological (2) social and economical, (3) environmental. The causal influence of each of these factors, not to mention how they may be struggled or eradicated , shall be explored within the context of this dissertation using both primary and secondary data sources. In the next section, the researchers strategy for the collection and analysis of this data will be outlined. Effect of Age on Friendships and Family Patterns | Proposal Effect of Age on Friendships and Family Patterns | Proposal 1) The Title of the Project Family and Friendship: an investigation of the relationship between age and patterns of friendship within and outside the family: a discourse analysis. 2) Rationale, Aims and Objectives Friends and family are clearly important components of everyones lives. They can increase self-esteem, well-being and provide opportunities for socialising. Evidence from the psychological literature suggests that friendships are beneficial, if they are of the right type (Hartup Stevens, 1997). This study will examine the attitudes that two different age-groups have towards friendships and their families. There has been increasing discussion in the sociological literature by some authors (Weeks, Heaphy Donovan, 2001) that friendships are taking over the traditional place of the family in peoples social networks. This study aims to examine this idea in two age-groups, one 18-28 years old and the second, 50-60 years old. It will also aim to look at an aspect of the detraditionalization hypothesis and judge whether the evidence supports it. The objectives in order to reach this aim are to carry out a series of interviews with people in those two age-groups and then carry out a discourse analysis of that data. This will pinpoint the different ways in which people think about their families and friends in two different age-groups. 3) Research Questions The research question will be to examine whether there is a clear difference between the types of friendships formed at different ages. Do younger people rely more on their friends for support in times of crisis than older people? Do older people include more of their kin as their closest friends? How do both groups view their families generally in terms of who they rely on? Alternatively, is there little evidence for a difference in the way people separate and view their friends and their families? 4) Literature Review Individualization is a sweeping social change that has been seen to affect many societies around the world. Beck Beck Gernsheim (2001) point to two different meanings of individualization. The first refers to the weakening of traditional social forms used in the analysis of societies; these include class, gender and the family. Beck Beck Gernsheim (2001) identify this change as occurring as a result of the weakening of tradition, religion and state. The second aspect of individualization is the way in which modern societies are placing new demands on their citizens. This can be seen in the huge numbers of regulations that attempt to control every aspect of our lives. Levels of mobility, argue Beck Beck Gernsheim (2001), are higher than ever in many societies and, as a result, people move freely for economic reasons as there is greater emphasis on individual fulfilment. A natural corollary of this movement is that family ties are frequently left behind in the search for economic opportunity. And so, in the struggle for individual human relatedness, if the family is left behind, to where does the modern member of society turn? Weeks, Heaphy Donovan (2001) point to so-called families of choice, which are essentially groups of friends. Weeks et al. (2001) see society as being at a transition point, from more traditional ideas of family to this notion of the family that has been chosen from a group of friends. People are specifically choosing their family of friends to fit in with their own personal beliefs and attitudes and sometimes choosing to get away from their biological families who do not represent their attitudes and beliefs. This process of choosing friends is seen by Weeks at al. (2001) as a process by which people are shaping their own identities. While Weeks et al.s (2001) research concentrates on non-heterosexuals, they argue that these families of choice are in fact taking over from families of fate throughout society in the UK and elsewhere. This has been similarly understood by Giddens (1992) in terms of transformations in the interpersonal domain. In particular, Giddens (1991) sees these kinds of changes arising from what he terms the emergence of pure relationships (Giddens 1991:58). A pure relationship occurs where the more traditional connections through obligation that are present in family relationships are replaced with relationships based on what each can get out of the other. These changes have been referred to by Giddens (1992) as democratising in nature such that these changes are also affecting the family. Pahl Spencer (2004) explain that this detraditionalization thesis normally draws upon a range of social statistics that appear to demonstrate widespread societal changes. These include higher levels of education, higher rates of divorce, greater mobility both socially and geographically and a larger participation by women in the workforce. These conclusions are, however, disputed by Pahl Spencer (2004) who argue that the use of other research sources can lead in a different direction. They quote research carried out by Park Roberts (2002) which found that the family appeared to be in good health. Their respondents tended to suggest the family represented the first port of call in an emergency for people. Indeed, Pahl Spencer (2004) carried out their own research into friendships which avoids a standard quantitative analysis, asking about length of time known and other such variables, and concentrating more on content. Pahl Spencer (2004), then, look at peoples personal communities. Personal communities, for Pahl Spencer (2004), relate specifically to two main aspects of the relationship: communication and belonging. Pahl Spencer (2004) carried out 60 interviews in different parts of the UK and, in order to access these concepts, they used a map of concentric circles on which people indicated where their friends lay. These friendships were then examined through interviews. As a result, Pahl Spencer (2004) found that it was actually very difficult to separate the notions of friendship from that of family and that one easily flowed into the other. From their detailed findings, Pahl Spencer (2004) assert that there is little evidence for the idea that people are moving away from their family group and towards their chosen friendship groups. There is also little evidence, in Pahl Spencers (2004) view, for the idea that people place more importance on their friendships than their family. Taking a more wide-angle quantitative viewpoint, Pahl Pevalin (2005) use data gathered from the British Household Panel Survey over ten years to analyse potential changes in family and friends. Here, instead of finding a shift to friends away from family, they find that the family still provides a large number of peoples friends. There is a change seen across age-groups, however, with older respondents more likely to nominate family as close friends than those in younger age-groups. The question is, does this represent a change that people go through as they age, or is this a social change that can be seen emerging? Pahl Pevalin (2005) suggest the longitudinal data shows that it is actually a change happening with age, therefore suggesting that this does not support a social change of increasing friendship choices outside kin-groupings. Gross (2005) argues, like Pahl Pevalin (2005) that the extent to which the detraditionalization hypothesis is true has been exaggerated. Its important to note that throughout the literature on families and friendships it is clear that there are certain overlaps in meanings. One clear example is that of partners. For those over the age of 30, Pahl Pevalin (2005) argue that a partner provides the most important relationship. Does this person count as their friend or a family member? Pahl Pevalin (2005) argue that partners form a kind of hybrid category. Partners sit on the cusp of the debate because if they count as members of the family then they add weight to the importance of the family. But, if they count as friends, then they add weight to the idea that people are moving towards greater reliance on friends. There is probably a good argument for each view but certainly excluding partners from the analysis is a mistaken approach. Pahl Pevalin (2005) also criticise Weeks et al.s (2001) findings because they focus on non-heterosexual respondents. It is hypothesised that non-heterosexual respondents will tend to have a greater degree of reliance on friends rather than family as, perhaps, the family will not have been accepting of their sexual orientation thus necessitating an appeal to a group outside their confines. This study should, therefore, take this into account in balancing up the sexual orientations of the respondents. 5) Methodology Carry out a series of semi-structured interviews with participants to ask them about their family and their friendships. This would be carried out with a small group of younger people who are 18-28, as well as with a small group of older people who are 50-60 years old. Interviews will be semi-structured and so will start with questions asking specifically about participants close social ties, who they tend to confide in, who they share attitudes and beliefs with. This will be achieved through the use of maps of personal networks on which people indicate where their friends and family lie. Also, questions will be asked about attitudes and feelings towards the family and how family members fit into this picture. Latter questions will be more open-ended, so that participants are able to speak more freely about their friendships and families. Participants interviews will be transcribed and then analysed using discourse analysis to extract meanings and relationships. 6) Ethical Considerations Ethical approval for carrying out this study will be obtained from the relevant authority. All respondents in the study will be told that taking part is optional and that they may withdraw at any time. Further, they will be assured that they will remain anonymous in the reporting of the results. Personal information relating to individual friendships will, of course, remain completely confidential. Respondents will be reminded that they are entitled to see any of the data that is held by the researcher which specifically relates to them. 7) Costings The project will require a voice recorder and the researchers time involved in carrying out the interviews, transcribing, analysing and writing up. It may also require the cost of travelling to respondents in order to carry out the interviews. Some stationery costs will also be incurred. 8) Communication plans Respondents for the research will be solicited through standard university notice boards. For the older age-group, if suitable respondents cannot be identified in the university, it may be necessary to call on the researchers personal networks of friends and family members. 9) Users and Beneficiaries The ways in which friendships and families operate is of perennial interest to the government. Examining the ways in which personal communities coalesce provides insight into important notions of social support and social capital. For those who work in professions with direct contact with younger age-groups, it would be useful for them to know who young people rely on in times of stress. Is it members of their family, or is there a shift towards relying on friends in hard times? For those who work in professions who care for the elderly it would be extremely useful to know how patterns of friendships change with advancing age (Pahl Pevalin, 2005). For example, do older people rely more on siblings as a result of their partners passing away or do they develop other networks of friends outside their kin relations? References Beck, U., Beck Gernsheim, E. (2001) Individualization. London: Sage Publications. Giddens, A. (1991) Modernity and Self-identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age. Cambridge, Polity Press. Giddens, A. (1992) The Transformation of Intimacy: Sexuality, Love and Eroticism in Modern Societies. Cambridge, Polity Press. Gross, N. (2005) The Detraditionalization of Intimacy Reconsidered. Sociological Theory 23(3), 286-311. Hartup, W., Stevens, N. (1997) Friendship and Adaptation in the Life Course. Psychological Bulletin, 121(3), 335–370. Pahl, R., Pevalin, D. J. (2005) Between family and friends: a longitudinal study of friendship choice. The British Journal of Sociology, 56(3), 433-450. Pahl, R., Spencer, L. (2004) Personal Communities: Not Simply Families of ‘Fate or ‘Choice’. Current Sociology 52(2), 199–221. Park, A., Roberts, C. (2002) The Ties that Bind. British Social Attitudes: The 19th Report. Aldershot: Ashgate. Weeks, J., Heaphy, B., Donovan, C. (2001) Same Sex Intimacies: Families of Choice and Other Life Experiments. London: Routledge.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

bridal shower :: essays research papers

Schedule A shower usually lasts about 2 hours. Here is a "typical" schedule: †¢ Greet guests - serve light appetizers †¢ Have each guest introduce themselves and identify how they know the bride †¢ Play 2-4 shower games. It is good to play games at the beginning as icebreakers. †¢ Serve food or have guests help themselves to a buffet. †¢ Give party favors to guests as they leave. Ultimate Memory Game!! contributed by Alyssa This one is a sure-fire hit! Tell your guests you're now having a memory game. Do NOT say "memorize what's on the tray". Have the bride or mother of the bride come out with a tray or platter of kitchen untensils and other related items. Have her walk fairly slow around the room to show all the guests what is one the tray, then walk out & stay in another room. Then ask the party guests to grab a notepad and start to write down....what the bride or mother of the bride was wearing! This one will bring a few moans, but it's fun & the ultimate test of memory! It works best as the first game. The one with the most correct answers (types of clothing, colors, etc..), is the winner. Bridal Pictionary contributed by Loida Write down as many names of things associated with weddings and brides on slips of paper. Put the slips into a bag. Divide all of the guests into two teams. One person from each team gets a chance to draw the word on a slip of paper pulled out of the bag, and the team must guess what is being drawn in one minute. If the team drawing doesn't guess the word, the other team gets one minute to guess it. As they guess correctly, each team gets a point. The winning team with the most correct guesses wins the prizes. I want to see you... contributed by Salina B. Have everyone write down on a piece of paper something they'd like the bride to do (ie. sing a song, bark like a dog, etc) and put their name on the paper. Then have everyone give their papers to the bride. Once they are all received, as the bride reads the name of the first person and what their request is, inform everyone that the brides request is to have everyone else perform what they have written. Watch everyones faces as they think of what they wrote. It's a blast!

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Does the movie THE PASSION bring about anti semitism Essay -- essays r

The Passion of the Christ, by Mel Gibson has taken America by storm. In the US alone, it made $83,848,082 its first weekend. As of April 25, 2004 it has grossed worldwide over $364 billion. Not bad for a movie with a budget of $30 million.   Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚     Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  The movie is subject to a lot of criticism. People are worried about many things. Are the images depicted correct? Is it too gory? What will people’s reaction be? Will any demographic of people get hurt from the movie? A Catholic teacher from California was fired for offering students extra credit to see the Passion. (It is a rated â€Å"R† movie) There are many other problems too. Does The Passion bring about acts of anti-semitism? This will be the purpose of this paper.   Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  To answer this question, I conducted a simple experiment with different variable. The first variable is age. The second is location. I interviewed sixteen people, (eight women and eight men) and asked them the same questions. Four males and females are from the Binghamton area, and four males and females are from the Long Island area.   Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  I grouped the ages from 18-25, 25-35, 35-55, and 55 and on. I asked each person their faith/religion. I originally asked more than 16 people, but people who refused to answer the question or people of no faith were thrown out. I conducted the experiments at Loews Town Square 9, located at 2425 Vestal Parkway, Binghamton, and Loews Roosevelt Raceway, located at 1025 Corporate Drive in Westbury, Long Island.   Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚     Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  I asked each person six question. The results follow: Sex:  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚   Male Age Group:  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚   18-25  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚   Location:  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚   Binghamton  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚   Religion/Faith: Christian  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚     Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚   Extra Pertinent Information: Very religious. Attends services regularly. Thoughts before movie: Excited to see a religious movie. Would you consider yourself an aggressive or easily agitated person? â€Å"Not really. Pretty laid back.† Do you consider yourself a religious person? Yes. Definitely. Do you think the movie will make people angry at th... ...s of the experiment are clear. One hundred percent of people showed aggression towards the Jews, after all but two claimed to not have an aggressive personality. Just look at message boards posted throughout the internet, or just talk to people. The aggression is there. And unfortunately, Mel Gibson’s movie is causing hostile acts.   Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  I did not see the movie until the experiment was complete, in order to keep this experiment unbiased. I think that the anti-semitism in the movie was extraordinarily clear. I actually think it is totally contrary to the Catholic doctrine. Another thing is the history of the Gibson family. Mel’s father, Hutton, is an open anti-semite, holocaust denier, and accuses the current pope of being Jewish. When a person grows up in a household learning that, it stays with the person. I can prove this with another experiment. Kids who grow up getting physically abused, are usually abusive parents themselves.   Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  In conclusion, the movie does cause anti-semitism and anti-semitic acts. The evidence is clear from the experiment. Hopefully, the world can get through this without any incidents.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Foundation Certificate in Human Resource Practice Essay

1. Collecting and recording HR data is vitally important to an organisation. The collecting of the data could be to monitor that laws and regulations are being adhered to for example the Health and Safety at work act 1974, ensuring that all staff are maintaining high health and safety awareness and complying to the law. The data would need to be collected to enable the organisation to prove that it is adhering to current law and legislation. Another example could also be to monitor employee absence levels across the organisation and looking for any pattern or trend relating to individual absences. This data could be used in Absence review meetings and having all the correct and accurate data could be vital in a dispute with an employee. It could highlight issues with employee welfare and enable the company to offer support in order to support the employee back to work. 2. Storing Records There are many methods of storing records, an example is: Electronic which includes hard disks drive – PC, CD – recorder, DVD, databases and spreadsheets, internet or intranet, USB devices, emails and virtual learning environments. Electronic storage can have pros and cons. Advantages can be the speed and accuracy that it provides, spellcheckers etc can all help the documents to be stored accurately. Vast amounts of data can be stored on a computer software system and therefore not take up and physical office space. The electronic way of storing data can also be protected by a password meaning that it is secure and accurate at the same time and protected from anyone outside the HR function, and it means that a variety of colleagues can have access to update and amend the records at the same time, even updating at the same time as colleagues. Manual Storage. Manual storage can be personnel files, absence forms, reports, filing cabinets etc There are lots of benefits to manual storage including having documents which need a physical signature and provide proof of identity like bank details etc. Also should a computer system crash or wipe the documents the paper copy is always accessible. Manual storage is easy to move around and is easy to keep protected and confidential via a lock/key etc although staff with access must ensure it is securely locked away. 3. UK Legislation The Data Protection Act 1998 is about respecting individual rights when processing/collecting and storing their personal information. This is achievable for the company by being honest with employees about the use of their information and by following good data handling procedures. The act is compulsory and all organisations that hold or process personal data must adhere to this. Personal data should be processed fairly and lawfully, the data should be adequate, relevant and not excessive, it should be accurate and where necessary kept up to date, any data should not be kept for longer than necessary, data should be kept secure. All staff has responsibilities under the Act to ensure that their activities comply with the Data Protection Principles Employees do have a right legally to access information that an organisation may hold on them. This could include information regarding any grievances or disciplinary action, or information obtained through performance monitoring processes. Processes should be in place to deal with a data request from an employee as a 40 day time limit is compulsory. The health and safety at work at 1974 is legislation relating to protecting employees from injury or illness as a direct result of their job. All data relating to health and safety must be recorded and stored securely, including accident books. This data may be called upon many years after an employee has left the organisation so staff should ensure documents and information are kept in a secure adequate accessible place. The Freedom of Information Act which came into force in 2000 gives you the right to ask any public sector organisation for all the recorded information they have on any subject. Anyone can make a request for information – there are no restrictions on your age, nationality or where you live. If you ask for information about yourself, then your request will be handled under the Data Protection Act 1998. Recording, Analysing and using Human Resources information is highly important and ensuring it is accurate and efficient will support the organisation strategy in many ways. The Analysis can change the way the organisation moves forward and affect future plans/decisions.

Monday, September 16, 2019

The Golden Lily Chapter 19

â€Å"SHE WAS LEAVING TOWN,† I reminded him. â€Å"Not until tomorrow.† He was right, I realized. When we'd spoken to Sonya last night, she'd said two days. â€Å"Are you sure she's really disappeared?† I asked. â€Å"Maybe she's just†¦ out.† â€Å"Belikov's here, and he's freaked out. He says she never came home last night.† I nearly dropped the phone. Last night? Sonya had been gone that long? That was nearly twenty-four hours ago. â€Å"How did no one notice until now?† I demanded. â€Å"I don't know,† said Adrian. â€Å"Can you just come over? Please, Sydney?† I was powerless when he used my first name. It always took everything to an extra level of seriousness – not that this situation needed any particular help. Sonya. Gone for twenty-four hours. For all we knew, she wasn't even alive if those sword-wielding freaks had caught her. Brayden's face was a mix of incredulity and disappointment when I told him I had to leave. â€Å"But you just†¦ I mean†¦Ã¢â‚¬  It was a rare moment of speechlessness for him. â€Å"I'm sorry,† I said earnestly. â€Å"Especially after being late and ruining the museum. But it's a family emergency.† â€Å"Your family has an awful lot of emergencies.† You have no idea, I thought. Instead of saying that, I simply apologized again. â€Å"I really am sorry. I†¦Ã¢â‚¬  I nearly said I'd make it up to him, but that was what I'd said when I left the Halloween dance early. Tonight was supposed to have been the makeup date. â€Å"I'm just sorry.† ADRIAN'S PLACE WAS CLOSE ENOUGH that I could've reasonably walked, but Brayden insisted on driving me, since dusk was falling. I had no problem accepting. â€Å"Whoa,† said Brayden, when we pulled up to the building. â€Å"Nice Mustang.† â€Å"Yeah. It's a 1967 C-code,† I said automatically. â€Å"Great engine. My brother's. He's moved it again! I hope he wasn't out driving anywhere he wasn't supposed to – whoa. What's that?† Brayden looked at where I was staring. â€Å"A Jaguar?† â€Å"Obviously.† The sleek, black car was parked just in front of Adrian's Mustang. â€Å"Where'd it come from?† Brayden had no answer, of course. After more apologies and a promise to get in touch, I left him. There was no pretense of a kiss, not when he was so disappointed in the evening's outcome and I was too anxious about Sonya. In fact, I forgot all about Brayden as I walked up to the building. I had bigger concerns. â€Å"It's Clarence's,† said Adrian, as soon as he answered the door. â€Å"Huh?† I asked. â€Å"The Jag. I figured you'd want to know. He let Belikov drive it over since Sonya left with the rental.† He stepped aside as I entered and shook his head in dismay. â€Å"Can you believe it was locked away in his garage the whole time I lived with him? He said he forgot he owned it! And there I was, stuck with the bus.† I would've laughed under almost any other circumstances. But when I saw Dimitri's face, all humor left me. He was pacing the living room like a trapped animal, radiating frustration and concern. â€Å"I'm an idiot,† he muttered. It was unclear if he was talking to himself or us. â€Å"I didn't realize she was gone last night, and then I spent half the day thinking she was out gardening!† â€Å"Did you try calling her cell?† I knew it was a foolish question, but I had to begin logically. â€Å"Yes,† Dimitri said. â€Å"No answer. Then I double-checked to make sure her flight hadn't changed, and then I talked to Mikhail to see if he knew anything. He didn't. All I succeeded at doing there was making him worry.† â€Å"He should,† I murmured, sitting on the edge of the couch. Nothing good could come of this. We knew the Warriors were obsessed with Sonya, and now she'd disappeared after going out alone. â€Å"I only just found out she came to see you two,† added Dimitri. He stopped pacing and glanced between us. â€Å"Did she say anything at all about where she was going?† â€Å"No,† I said. â€Å"Things didn't exactly†¦ end well between us.† Dimitri nodded. â€Å"Adrian implied the same thing.† I looked up at Adrian and could tell he didn't want to get into it any more than I did. â€Å"We had an argument,† he admitted. â€Å"She was trying to push Sydney into some experiments, and Sydney refused. I jumped in when Sonya kept pushing, and finally she just took off. Never said anything about where she was going.† Dimitri's face grew darker. â€Å"So, anything could've happened. She could've been taken right outside on the street. Or she could have gone somewhere and been abducted there.† Or she could be dead. Dimitri was speaking in terms of her still being alive, but I wasn't so sure. The hunters who had jumped us in the alley had seemed pretty intent on killing her then and there. If she hadn't come home last night, the odds seemed good they'd found her then. Twenty-four hours was an awfully long time to keep a â€Å"creature of darkness† alive. Studying Dimitri's face again, I knew he was well aware of all of this. He was simply operating on the hope that we had a chance to do something, that we weren't powerless. Resolved, Dimitri strode for the door. â€Å"I have to go talk to the police.† â€Å"Missing person report?† asked Adrian. â€Å"That, and more importantly, to get a search out on that car. If she was taken†¦Ã¢â‚¬  He hesitated, driving home the fear that lurked in all of us. â€Å"Well. If she's hidden away somewhere, she's going to be very difficult to locate. But it's a lot harder to hide a car than one woman. If the police can get its description out there, we might get a clue if it turns up.† He started to open the door and then glanced back at us. â€Å"You're sure you don't remember anything else she said that could help?† Adrian and I reiterated that we didn't. Dimitri left, giving us unnecessary instructions to alert him immediately if we thought of anything or – if by a miracle – Sonya showed up. I groaned once he was gone. â€Å"This is my fault,† I said. Adrian looked at me in surprise. â€Å"Why on earth would you say that?† â€Å"Sonya came here – left when she wasn't supposed to – because of me. Because of my blood. Who knows what would've happened if I hadn't refused? Maybe a few minutes difference, and the hunters wouldn't have been around. Or maybe if she hadn't been so upset, she would've been able to defend herself more.† A million memories tumbled through my head. Sonya making the lily grow for me. Sonya talking to the queen on Adrian's behalf. Sonya showing me pictures of bridesmaid dresses. Sonya working diligently to stop Strigoi and redeem herself. All of that could be lost now. â€Å"Maybe, maybe, maybe.† Adrian sat down near me on the couch. â€Å"You can't think like that, and you sure as hell can't blame yourself for the actions of some crazy paranoid fringe group.† I knew he was right, but it didn't make me feel any better. â€Å"I should call the Alchemists. We've got ties to law enforcement too.† â€Å"Probably a good idea,† he said, though his words were a little halfhearted. â€Å"I've just got a bad feeling about those guys. Even if†¦ well, even if she's alive, I really don't know how we're going to find her. Short of some miraculous, magical solution.† I froze. â€Å"Oh my God.† â€Å"What is it?† he asked, looking at me in concern. â€Å"Did you remember something?† â€Å"Yes†¦ but not what you're thinking.† I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. No, no, no. The thought in my head was crazy. I had no business even considering it. Dimitri had the right idea. We needed to focus on normal, concrete methods of locating Sonya. â€Å"Sage?† Adrian lightly touched my arm, and I jumped at the feel of his fingertips against my skin. â€Å"You okay?† â€Å"I don't know,† I said softly. â€Å"I just thought of something crazy.† â€Å"Welcome to my world.† I looked away, conflicted about the decision before me. What I was contemplating†¦ well, some might argue it wasn't so different than what I'd done before. And yet, it all came down to the fine line between doing something by choice and doing something because I had to. There was no question here. This would be a choice. An exercising of free will. â€Å"Adrian†¦ what if I had a way to find Sonya, but it went against everything I believe in?† He took several moments to answer. â€Å"Do you believe in getting Sonya back? If so, you wouldn't be going against everything you believe in.† It was odd logic, but it gave me the nudge I needed. I took out my cell phone and dialed a number I almost never called – though I certainly received texts and calls from it all the time. An answer came after two rings. â€Å"Ms. Terwilliger? This is Sydney.† â€Å"Miss Melbourne. What I can do for you?† â€Å"I need to see you. It's kind of urg – no, no ‘kind of' about it. It's urgent. Are you at the school?† â€Å"No. As shocking as it is, I do go home on occasion.† She paused for a moment. â€Å"However†¦ you are certainly welcome to come to my house.† I don't know why that made me uneasy. After all, I spent plenty of time at Clarence's. Surely a vampire's sprawling estate was much worse than a high school teacher's home. Of course, said teacher was also a witch, so I wasn't certain if I could expect a boring suburban flat or a house made of candy. I swallowed. â€Å"Do you keep a lot of the same spell books at home that you do at school?† Adrian arched an eyebrow at the word spell. Ms. Terwilliger hesitated for much longer this time. â€Å"Yes,† she said. â€Å"And more.† She gave me her address, and before I could even hang up, Adrian said, â€Å"I'm coming with you.† â€Å"You don't even know where I'm going.† â€Å"True,† he said. â€Å"But lack of information's never stopped me before. Besides, I know it has something to do with Sonya, which is good enough for me. That, and you looked scared to death. There's no way I can let you go alone.† I crossed my arms. â€Å"I've faced scarier things, and last I checked, it's not your place to ‘let' me do anything.† There was such concern in his face, however, that I knew I wouldn't be able to refuse†¦ especially since I was kind of scared. â€Å"You have to promise not to tell anyone what we're going to do. Or talk about what you see.† â€Å"Damn. What's going on, Sage?† he asked. â€Å"Are we talking animal sacrifice or something?† â€Å"Adrian,† I said quietly. He grew serious again. â€Å"I promise. Not a word, unless you say otherwise.† I didn't have to study him to know I could trust him. â€Å"Okay, then. But before we go, I need your hairbrush†¦Ã¢â‚¬  Ms. Terwilliger lived in Vista Azul, the same suburb Amberwood was in. To my surprise, the house really did look quite ordinary. It was small but otherwise blended in well to its older neighborhood. The sun had long since set when we arrived, and I was conscious of the school's approaching curfew. When she let us into her house, I found the interior a bit more in line with what I'd been expecting. Sure, there was a TV and modern furniture, but the decor also featured a lot of candles and statuary of various gods and goddesses. The scent of Nag Champa hung in the air. I counted at least three cats in the first five minutes and didn't doubt there were more. â€Å"Miss Melbourne, welcome.† Ms. Terwilliger took in Adrian with interest. â€Å"And welcome to your friend.† â€Å"My brother,† I said pointedly. â€Å"Adrian.† Ms. Terwilliger – fully aware of the Moroi world – smiled. â€Å"Yes. Of course. You attend Carlton, correct?† â€Å"Yeah,† said Adrian. â€Å"You're the one who helped get me in, right? Thanks for that.† â€Å"Well,† said Ms. Terwilliger, with a shrug, â€Å"I'm always happy to help star pupils – especially those who are so diligent about keeping me in coffee. Now then, what's this urgent matter that brings you out at night?† My eyes were already on a large bookcase in her living room. The shelves were filled with old, leather-bound books – exactly the kind she always made me work on. â€Å"Do you†¦ do you have a spell that would help locate someone?† I asked. Each word caused me pain. â€Å"I mean, I know they're out there. I've come across them in my work a couple of times. But I was wondering if there was maybe one that you'd recommend over another.† Ms. Terwilliger laughed softly, and I looked away. â€Å"Well, well. This is definitely worth a late-night visit.† We were in her dining room, and she pulled out an ornate wooden chair to sit down. One of the cats brushed against her leg. â€Å"There are a number of location spells, certainly – though none are quite at your level. And by your level, I mean your constant refusal to practice or better yourself.† I scowled. â€Å"Is there one that you could do?† She shook her head. â€Å"No. This is your problem. You're going to do it. You need to.† â€Å"Well, not if it's beyond me!† I protested. â€Å"Please. This is a matter of life and death.† That, and I didn't want to taint myself with her magic. Bad enough I was encouraging her at all. â€Å"Rest easy. I wouldn't make you do it if you couldn't handle it,† she said. â€Å"To make it work, however, it's imperative we have something that can connect us to the person we're looking for. There are spells where that's not necessary – but those are definitely out of your league.† I produced Adrian's brush from my purse. â€Å"Something like a strand of hair?† â€Å"Something exactly like that,† she said, clearly impressed. I'd remembered Adrian's complaint about Sonya using some of his personal items. Although he apparently cleaned the brush regularly (and really, I'd expect nothing less from someone who spent so much time on his hair), there were still a few lingering red strands. Carefully, I plucked the longest one from the bristles and held it up. â€Å"What do I need to do?† I asked. I was trying to be strong, but my hands shook. â€Å"Let's find out.† She rose and walked into the living room, studying the shelves. Adrian turned to me. â€Å"Is she for real?† He paused and reconsidered. â€Å"Are you for real? Spells? Magic? I mean, don't get me wrong. I drink blood and control people's minds. But I've never heard of anything like this.† â€Å"Neither had I until a month ago.† I sighed. â€Å"And unfortunately, it is real. Worse, she thinks I have a knack for it. Do you remember at all when one of the Strigoi in your apartment caught on fire?† â€Å"Vaguely, but yeah. It kind of all got brushed aside, and I never thought much about it.† He frowned, troubled by the memory. â€Å"I was out of it from the bite.† â€Å"Well, it wasn't some freak accident. It was†¦ magic.† I gestured toward Ms. Terwilliger. â€Å"And I made it happen.† His eyes widened. â€Å"Are you some kind of mutant human? Like a fire user? And I use mutant as a compliment, you know. I wouldn't think less of you.† â€Å"It's not like vampire magic,† I said. Some part of me supposed I should be pleased that Adrian would still be friendly with a â€Å"mutant.† â€Å"It's not some internal connection to the elements. According to her, some humans can work magic by pulling it from the world. It sounds crazy, but†¦ well. I did set a Strigoi on fire.† I could see Adrian taking all of this in as Ms. Terwilliger returned to us. She set down a book with a red leather cover and flipped through the pages before finding what she wanted. We all peered at it. â€Å"That's not English,† said Adrian helpfully. â€Å"It's just Greek,† I said, skimming the ingredient list. â€Å"It doesn't seem to require much.† â€Å"That's because a huge part of it is mental focus,† explained Ms. Terwilliger. â€Å"It's more complicated than it looks. It'll take you a few hours at least.† I took in the time on an ornate grandfather clock. â€Å"I don't have a few hours. Too close to curfew.† â€Å"Easily remedied,† said Ms. Terwilliger. She picked up her cell phone from the table and dialed a number from memory. â€Å"Hello, Desiree? This is Jaclyn. Yes, fine. Thank you. I have Sydney Melrose out here right now, helping me on a very crucial project.† I nearly rolled my eyes. She was perfectly aware of my last name when she needed to be, apparently. â€Å"I'm afraid she might be out past the dorm curfew, and I was wondering if you'd be kind enough to allow an extension. Yes†¦ yes, I know. But it's very important for my work, and I think we can all agree that with her exemplary record, she's hardly the type we need to worry about abusing such privileges. She's certainly one of the most trustworthy students I know.† That got a small smirk from Adrian. Thirty more seconds, and I was free of curfew. â€Å"Who's Desiree?† I asked, once Ms. Terwilliger hung up. â€Å"Your dorm matron. Weathers.† â€Å"Really?† I thought of stout, motherly Mrs. Weathers. I never would've guessed her first name was Desiree. It was the kind of name I would associate with someone sultry and seductive. Maybe she had some scandalous life outside of school we didn't know about. â€Å"So, do I have an all-night pass?† â€Å"Not sure I'd push it that far,† said Ms. Terwilliger. â€Å"But we certainly have enough time for this spell. I can't make it for you, but I can help you with the ingredients and supplies.† I tapped the book, forgetting about my fear as I scanned the lengthy list. Details like this put me back in my comfort zone. â€Å"You have all of these?† â€Å"Of course.† Ms. Terwilliger led us down a hall that branched off from the kitchen, where I'd expect to find bedrooms. One room did indeed give us a glimpse of a bed as we walked by, but our eventual destination was something else altogether: a workshop. It was kind of what you'd get if you crossed a wizard's lair with a mad scientist's lab. Part of the room had very modern equipment: beakers, a sink, burners, etc. The rest was from a different era, vials of oils and dried herbs, along with scrolls and honest-to-goodness cauldrons. Plants and herbs lined the sill of a dark window. There were two more cats in here, and I was pretty sure they weren't the same ones I'd seen in the living room. â€Å"It looks chaotic,† said Ms. Terwilliger. â€Å"But I daresay it's organized enough, even for you.† Upon closer inspection, I saw she was right. All of the plants and little vials were labeled and in alphabetical order. All of the various tools were equally identified, enumerated by size and material. The room's center was a large, smooth stone table, and I set the book down on it, careful to stay on the page I needed. â€Å"What now?† I asked. â€Å"Now, you construct it,† she said. â€Å"The more of it you do on your own, the stronger your connection will be to the spell. Certainly come and get me if you have trouble with the ingredients or the directions. Otherwise, the more of your focus and concentration that goes into this, the better.† â€Å"Where are you going to be?† I asked, startled. As much as I disliked the thought of working with her in a creepy, arcane lab, I disliked the thought of being alone here even more. She gestured toward where we'd come from. â€Å"Oh, just out there. I'll entertain your ‘brother' too since you really do need to do this alone.† My anxiety increased. I'd protested Adrian's original request to come here, but now I wanted him around. â€Å"Can I at least get some coffee?† She chuckled. â€Å"Normally, I'd say yes – particularly if you were just doing grunt work to build an amulet or potion. Because you'll be using your mind, the magic will work much better if your thoughts are free and clear of any substances that affect your mental state.† â€Å"Boy, that sounds familiar,† muttered Adrian. â€Å"Okay, then,† I said, resolving to be strong. â€Å"I need to get started. Sonya's waiting.† Provided she was still alive to wait. Ms. Terwilliger left, telling me to get her when I was on the spell's last stage. Adrian delayed a moment to speak with me. â€Å"You sure you're okay with all of this? I mean, from what I know about you and the Alchemists†¦ well, it seems like you'd actually be pretty not-okay with this.† â€Å"I'm not,† I agreed. â€Å"Like I said, this goes against everything I believe – against everything they've taught me. Which is why you can't tell anyone. You heard her passive aggressive remark about me not practicing? She's been on me for a while now to develop my so-called magical skills, and I keep refusing – because it's wrong. So, she has me research spell books for my independent study with her, in the hopes of me learning by osmosis.† â€Å"That's messed up,† he said, shaking his head. â€Å"You don't have to do this. You don't have to do anything you don't want to.† I gave him a small smile. â€Å"Well, I want to find Sonya. So I do have to do this.† He gave me no smile in return. â€Å"Okay. But I'm just going to be out there – having a tea party with her cats or whatever it is she has in mind. You need me? You yell. You want to leave? We go. I'll get you out of here, no matter what.† Something clenched in my chest, and for a moment, the whole world narrowed down to the green of his eyes. â€Å"Thank you.† Adrian left, and I was alone. Well, almost. One of the cats had stuck around, a sleek black one with yellow eyes. It was lying on a high shelf, watching me curiously, like it wondered if I could really pull this off. That made two of us. For a moment, I couldn't move. I was about to willingly work magic. All the protests and arguments I'd given Ms. Terwilliger were like ash in the wind now. I started trembling and felt short of breath. Then, I thought about Sonya. Kind, brave Sonya. She'd devoted so much energy and time to doing the right thing. How could I do any less? As I'd noted to Ms. Terwilliger, the spell was deceptively simple. It didn't require half as many steps as the fire amulet. I had to keep water simmering in a copper cauldron and add different ingredients to it, most of which were clear oils that had to be measured with exacting care. The air soon grew heavy with the scent of bergamot, vanilla, and heliotrope. Some of the steps had the same ritual redundancy I'd done before. For example, I had to pluck thirteen fresh mint leaves off one of her plants, dropping each leaf in one at a time while counting them off in Greek. Then, when they had simmered for thirteen minutes, I had to remove each one with a rosewood spoon. Before leaving, Ms. Terwilliger had told me to stay focused and think about both the steps of the spell and what I was ultimately hoping to accomplish. So, I turned my thoughts toward Sonya and finding her, praying that she was okay. When I finally finished these initial steps, I saw that almost an hour had gone by. I'd barely noticed it passing. I wiped a hand over my forehead, surprised at how much the steamy room had made me sweat. I went out to find Ms. Terwilliger and Adrian, uncertain what weird activity I'd find going on. Instead, things were pretty ordinary: they were watching TV. Both glanced up at my approach. â€Å"Ready?† she asked. I nodded. â€Å"Smells like tea in here,† said Adrian, as they followed me to the workroom. Ms. Terwilliger examined the small cauldron and nodded her head in approval. â€Å"It looks excellent.† I didn't know how she could tell at a glance but figured I'd take her word for it. â€Å"Now. The actual scrying involves a silver plate, correct?† She scanned her shelves of dishes and pointed at something. â€Å"There. Use that.† I pulled down a perfectly round plate about twelve inches across. It was smooth, with no ornamentation, and had been polished to such brilliance that it reflected almost as well as a mirror. I probably could've done without that part, though, seeing as my hair and makeup were showing the wear and tear of the day. Around anyone else, I would have felt selfconscious. I set the plate on the worktable and poured one cup of water from the cauldron onto the silvery surface. All non-liquid ingredients had been removed, and the water was perfectly clear. Once it stopped rippling, the mirror effect returned. Ms. Terwilliger handed me a tiny bowl of galbanum incense, which the book said should be burning during this last stage. I lit the resin with a candle, and a bitter, green smell wafted up, contrasting with the sweetness of the liquid. â€Å"You still have the hair?† Ms. Terwilliger asked. â€Å"Of course.† I laid it across the water's smooth surface. Part of me wanted something to happen – sparks or smoke – but I'd read the directions and knew better. I pulled a stool up to the table and sat on it, allowing me to gaze down into the water. â€Å"Now I look?† â€Å"Now you look,† she confirmed. â€Å"Your mind needs to be both focused and spread out. You need to think about the components of the spell and the magic they hold, as well as your desire to find the spell's subject. At the same time, you need to maintain a perfect clarity of mind and stay fixed on your task with razor sharp focus.† I looked down at my reflection and tried to do all those things she'd just described. Nothing happened. â€Å"I don't see anything.† â€Å"Of course not,† she said. â€Å"It's only been a minute. I told you this was an advanced spell. It may take a while for you to fully muster the strength and power you need. Stay on task. We'll be waiting.† The two of them left. I stared bleakly at the water, wondering how long â€Å"a while† was. I'd been excited when the spell seemed so simple originally. Now, I wished there were more ingredients to mix, more incantations to recite. This high-level magic, relying on will and mental energy, was much more difficult – mainly because it was intangible. I liked the concrete. I liked to know exactly what was needed to make something happen. Cause and effect. But this? This was just me staring and staring, hoping I was â€Å"staying fixed† and using â€Å"razor sharp focus.† How would I know if I was? Even if I achieved that state, it might still take a while to manifest what I needed. I tried not to think of that yet. Sonya. Sonya was all that mattered right now. All of my will and energy had to go into saving her. I kept telling myself that as the minutes ticked by. Each time I was certain I should stop and ask Ms. Terwilliger what to do, I would force myself to keep looking into the water. Sonya, Sonya. Think about Sonya. And still, nothing happened. Finally, when an ache in my back made sitting unbearable, I stood up to stretch. The rest of my muscles were starting to cramp up too. I walked back to the living room; almost an hour and a half had passed since I'd last been out here. â€Å"Anything?† asked Ms. Terwilliger. â€Å"No,† I said. â€Å"I must be doing something wrong.† â€Å"You're focusing your mind? Thinking about her? About finding her?† I was really tired of hearing the word focus. Frustration was replacing my earlier anxiety about magic. â€Å"Yes, yes, and yes,† I said. â€Å"But it's still not working.† She shrugged. â€Å"And that's why we have a curfew extension. Try again.† Adrian flashed me a sympathetic look and started to say something – but then thought better of it. I nearly left but paused as a troublesome thought nagged at me. â€Å"What if she's not alive?† I asked. â€Å"Could that be why it's not working?† Ms. Terwilliger shook her head. â€Å"No. You'd still see something if she wasn't. And†¦ well, you'd know.† I returned to the workroom and tried again – with similar results. The next time I went to talk to Ms. Terwilliger, I saw that it hadn't been quite an hour. â€Å"I'm doing something wrong,† I insisted. â€Å"Either that, or I messed up the initial spell. Or this really is beyond me.† â€Å"If I know you, the spell was flawless,† she said. â€Å"And no, this isn't beyond you, but only you have the power to make it happen.† I was too tired to parse her esoteric philosophy nonsense. I turned without a word and trudged back to the workroom. When I reached it, I discovered I'd been followed. I looked up at Adrian and sighed. â€Å"No distractions, remember?† I said. â€Å"I won't stay,† he said. â€Å"I just wanted to make sure you're okay.† â€Å"Yeah†¦ I mean, I don't know. In as much as anyone can be with all of this.† I nodded toward the silver plate. â€Å"Maybe I do need you to get me out of here.† He considered for a moment and then shook his head. â€Å"I don't think that's a good idea.† I stared up at him in disbelief. â€Å"What happened to me not having to do anything I didn't want to do? And you nobly defending me?† One of his knowing little smiles played over his lips. â€Å"Well. That was back when you didn't want to do this because it challenged all your beliefs. Now that the line is crossed, your problem seems to be a little pessimism and not believing you can do this. And honestly, that's bullshit.† â€Å"A little pessimism?† I exclaimed. â€Å"Adrian, I've been staring at a bowl of water for over two hours! It's nearly one thirty. I'm exhausted, I want coffee, and every muscle in my body hurts. Oh, and I'm about ready to throw up from that incense.† â€Å"Those things all suck,† he agreed. â€Å"But I seem to recall you giving all of us lectures recently about enduring hardships to do what's right. Are you saying you can't do that to help Sonya?† â€Å"I would do anything to help her! Anything within my power, that is. And I don't think this is.† â€Å"I don't know,† he speculated. â€Å"I've had a lot of time to talk to Jackie – she lets me call her that, you know – and I've learned all about this human magic stuff. There's a lot you can do with it.† â€Å"It's wrong,† I grumbled. â€Å"And yet here you are, with the ability to find Sonya.† Adrian hesitated and then, reaching some decision, stepped toward me and rested his hands on my shoulders. â€Å"Jackie told me that you're one of the most naturally gifted people she's ever encountered for this kind of stuff. She said that with a little practice, a spell like this'll be cake for you, and she's certain you can pull it off now. And I believe her. Not because I have proof you're magically talented but because I've seen how you approach everything else. You won't fail at this. You don't fail at anything.† I was so exhausted I thought I might cry. I wanted to fall forward and have him carry me out of here, like he'd promised earlier. â€Å"That's the problem. I don't fail, but I'm afraid I will now. I don't know what it's like. And it terrifies me.† Especially because Sonya's life depends on me. Adrian reached out and traced the lily on my cheek. â€Å"You won't have to find out what it's like tonight because you aren't going to fail. You can do this. And I'll be here with you as long as it takes, okay?† I took a deep breath and tried to calm myself. â€Å"Okay.† I returned to my stool after he left and tried to ignore the fatigue in my body and mind. I thought about what he'd said, about how I wouldn't fail. I thought about his faith in me. And most importantly, I thought about Sonya. I thought about how desperately I wanted to help her. All these things churned within me as I stared at the water, crystal clear except for the hair floating in it. One red line against all that silver. It was like a spark of fire, a spark that grew brighter and brighter in my eyes until it took on a more definite shape, a circle with stylized lines radiating from it. A sun, I realized. Someone had painted an orange sun onto a piece of plywood and hung it on a chain-link fence. Even with the shoddy canvas, the artist had gone to a lot of care in painting the sun, stylizing the rays and making sure the lengths were consistent with each other. The fence itself was ugly and industrial, and I caught sight of what looked like an electrifying box hanging on it. The landscape was brown and barren, but mountains in the distance told me it was still the greater Palm Springs area. This was kind of like the area Wolfe lived in, outside of town and away from the pretty greenery. Through the fence, beyond the sign, I caught sight of a large, sprawli ng building – â€Å"Ow!† The vision vanished as my head hit the floor. I had fallen off the stool. I managed to sit up, but that was all I could do. The world was spinning, and my stomach felt queasy and empty. After what could have been three seconds or three hours, I heard voices and footsteps. Strong arms caught hold of me, and Adrian helped me to my feet. I clung to the table while he picked the stool up and helped me sit back down. Ms. Terwilliger pushed the silver plate aside and replaced it with an ordinary kitchen plate filled with cheese and crackers. A glass of orange juice soon joined it. â€Å"Here,† she said. â€Å"Eat these. You'll feel better.† I was so disoriented and weak that I didn't even hesitate. I ate and drank as though I hadn't eaten in a week while Adrian and Ms. Terwilliger waited patiently. It was only when I'd practically licked the plate clean that I realized what I'd just consumed. â€Å"Havarti and orange juice?† I groaned. â€Å"That's too much fat and sugar for this time of night.† Adrian scoffed. â€Å"Glad to see there's no lasting damage.† â€Å"Get used to it if you're going to be using magic a lot,† said Ms. Terwilliger. â€Å"Spells can deplete you. Not unusual at all to have your blood sugar drop afterward. Orange juice will become your best friend.† â€Å"I'll never get used to it, seeing as I'm not going to – † I gasped, as the images I'd seen in the silver plate came tumbling back to me. â€Å"Sonya! I think I saw where she's at.† I described what I'd seen, though none of us had any clue about where or what this place might be. â€Å"You're sure it was like a regular sun? With rays?† asked Adrian. â€Å"Because I thought the hunters used that old Alchemist one – the circle and dot.† â€Å"They do, but this was definitely – oh God.† I looked up at Adrian. â€Å"We have to get back to Amberwood. Right now.† â€Å"Not after that,† said Ms. Terwilliger. She was using her stern teacher voice. â€Å"That took more from you than I expected. Sleep here, and I'll make sure everything's cleared up with Desiree and the school tomorrow.† â€Å"No.† I stood up and felt my legs start to buckle, but in the end, they held. Adrian put a supportive arm around me, clearly not believing in my body's recovery. â€Å"I have to get back there. I think I know how we can find out where this place is.† Adrian was right that the sun I'd just described wasn't the design that had been on the sword or brochure. Both of those had used the ancient symbol. The one in my vision was a more modern adaptation – and this wasn't the first time I'd seen it. The sun in my vision was an exact match for Trey's tattoo.