The next day I woke early after thrashing unhappily all night. I’d had horribly vivid, realistic dreams, mostly featuring Cal—and Bree. I had kicked off my covers and was freezing now, so I grabbed them and burrowed under again, scared to go back to sleep.
Lying in bed, I watched my windows as they gradually grew lighter. I almost never saw this time of morning, and my parents were right:There was something magical about it. By six-thirty my parents were up. It was comforting to hear them moving in the kitchen, making coffee, shaking cereal into bowls. At seven Mary K. was in the shower.
I lay on my side and thought about things. Common sense told me Bree had much more of a chance with Cal than I did. I had no chance. I wasn’t in Cal’s league, and Bree was. Did I want Bree to be happy? Could I sort of live vicariously through Bree if she went out with Cal?
I groaned. How sick is
? I asked myself.
Was I okay with Bree and Cal going out? No. I would rather eat rats. But if I
okay with it and they
get together (and there was no reason to assume they wouldn’t), then it would mean losing Bree’s friendship. And probably looking pretty stupid.
By the time my alarm went off for school, I had decided to perform the supreme sacrifice and never let Bree know how I felt about Cal, no matter what happened.
“Some people are coming over to my house on Saturday night,” Cal said. “I thought we could do a circle again. It’s not a holiday or anything. But it’d be cool for us to get together.”
He was hunkered down in front of me, one tanned knee showing through the rip in his faded jeans. My butt was cold as I sat on the school’s concrete steps, waiting for the classroom to open up for the math club meeting. As if in recognition of Mabon, last week’s autumnal equinox, the air had suddenly acquired a deeper chill.
I let myself drift into his eyes. “Oh,” I said, mesmerized by the minute striations of gold and brown circling his pupils.
On Tuesday, Bree had broken up with Chris, and he hadn’t taken it well. By Wednesday, Bree was sitting next to Cal at lunch, showing up at school early to talk to him, hanging out with him as much as she could. According to her, they hadn’t kissed yet or anything, but she had hopes. It usually didn’t take her very long.
Now it was Thursday, and Cal was talking to me.
“Please come,” he said, and I felt like he was offering me something dangerous and forbidden. Other students walked past us in the thin afternoon light, glancing at us with curiosity.
“Um,” I said in that stunningly articulate way I have. The truth was, I was dying to do another circle, to explore Wicca in person instead of just reading about it. I felt thirsty for it in a way that was unfamiliar to me.
On the other hand, if I went, I would see Bree go after Cal, right in front of me. Which would be worse,
her do it or
her doing it?
“Um, I guess I could,” I said.
He smiled, and I literally,
felt my heart flutter. “Don’t sound so enthusiastic,” he said. I watched in complete amazement as he picked up a strand of my hair that fell near my elbow and gently tugged on it. I know there are no nerve endings in hair, but at that moment I felt some. A hot flush rose from my neck to my forehead. Oh, Jesus, what a dweeb I am, I thought helplessly.
“I’ve been reading about Wicca,” I blurted out to him. “I . . . really like it.”
“Yeah?” he said.
“Yeah. It just . . . feels right . . . in some way,” I said, hesitating.
“Really? I’m glad to hear you say that. I was worried you would be scared off after the last circle.” Cal settled next to me on the steps.
“No,” I said eagerly, not wanting the conversation to end. “I mean, I felt crappy afterward, but I felt . . . alive, too. It was . . . like a revelation for me.” I glanced up at him. “I can’t explain it.”
“You don’t have to,” he said softly. “I know what you mean.”
“Are you—are you in a coven?”
“Not anymore,” he said. “I left it behind when we moved. I’m hoping that if some people here are into it, we could form a new one.”
I drew in a breath. “You mean, we could just . . . do that?”
Have you ever seen a god laugh? It makes you catch your breath and feel hopeful and shivery and excited all at the same time.That’s how it was watching Cal.
“Well, not right away,” he clarified with a smile. “Typically you have to study for a year and a day before you can ask to actually join a coven.”
“A year and a day,” I repeated. “And then you’re . . . what? A witch? Or a warlock?” The names sounded overly dramatic, cartoony. I felt like we were conspirators, the way we were speaking softly, our heads bent toward each other. His silver pendant, which I now knew was a pentacle, a symbol of a witch’s belief, dangled in the open vee of his shirt against his skin. Behind Cal, I saw Robbie enter the classroom where the math club was meeting. I would have to go in a minute.
“A witch,” Cal said easily. “Even for men.”
“Have you done that yet?” I asked. “Been initiated?” The words seemed to have a double meaning, and I prayed I wouldn’t blush again.
He nodded. “When I was fourteen.”
“Yeah. My mom presided. She’s the high priestess of a coven, the Starlocket coven. So I had been studying and learning about it for years. Finally, when I was fourteen, I asked to do it. That was almost four years ago—I’ll be eighteen next month.”
“Your mom is a high priestess? Does she have a new coven here?” Outside, it was getting dark, and the temperature was dropping. Inside, the math club meeting had already started, and it would be warm and well lit. But Cal was out here.
“Yes,” Cal said. “She’s pretty famous among Wiccans, so she already knew a bunch of people here when we moved. I go to her circles sometimes, but they’re mostly older people. Besides, part of being a witch is teaching others what you know.”
“So you’re actually a—witch,” I said slowly, taking it in.
“Yep.” Cal smiled again and stood up, holding out his hand. Awkwardly I let him pull me to my feet. “And who knows?” he said. “Maybe this time next year, you will be, too. And Raven and Robbie and anyone else, if they want.”
Another smile and he was gone, and then it really was dark outside.
> <“If a woman lies with a witch of the Seven Houses, she will bear no child except he wills it. If a man lies with a witch of the Seven Houses, she will bear no child.”
—THE WAYS OF WITCHES, Gunnar Thorvildsen, 1740 > <
“The movie is supposed to be great. Don’t you want to see it? And Bakker’s going to be there,” Mary K. said. She came through the bathroom that connected our two rooms, pulling on her shirt. In front of my full-length mirror she turned, looking at herself from all angles. She gave her mirror image a big smile.
“I can’t,” I said, wondering why my fourteen-year-old sister had gotten not only her share of the family chest but my share, too, apparently. “I’m going to a party. Where are you all meeting?”
“At the theater,” she said. “Jaycee’s mom is driving us. Do you like Bakker? He’s in your class.”
“He’s okay,” I said. “He seems like a nice guy. Cute.” I had a thought. “I heard he’s been crushing on you. He’s not being too—pushy, is he?”
“Uh-uh,” Mary K. said confidently. “He’s been really sweet.” She turned to look at me as I stood in my underwear in front of my open closet. “Where’s the party? What are you going to wear?”
“At Cal Blaire’s house, and I don’t know,” I admitted.
“Ooh, that new senior,” said Mary K., coming over to shove clothes around. “He is so hot. Everyone I know wants to go out with him. God, Morgan, your clothes really need help.”
“Thank you,” I said, and she laughed.
“Here, this is good,” she said, pulling out a shirt. “You never wear this.”
It was a dark olive green, thin, stretchy top that my other aunt, Margaret, had given me. Aunt Margaret is my mom’s older sister. I love her, but she and Aunt Eileen haven’t talked in years, ever since Eileen came out. Since Aunt Margaret had given me the sweater, I felt disloyal to Aunt Eileen when I wore it. Call me oversensitive.
“I hate that color,” I said.
“No,” Mary K. said emphatically. “It would be perfect with your eyes. Put it on. And wear your black leggings with it.”
I scrambled into the shirt. Downstairs, the doorbell rang, and I heard Bree’s voice. “Oh, no way,” I protested. The shirt barely came down to my waist. “This isn’t long enough. My ass will be hanging out.”
“So let it,” Mary K. advised. “You have a great ass.”
“What?” Bree came in. “I heard that. That shirt looks great. Let’s go.”
Bree looked amazing, like a glowing topaz. Perfect, flyaway hair accentuated her eyes, making them striking. Her wide mouth was tinted a soft shade of brown, and she was almost quivering with energy and excitement. She wore a clingy brown velvet top that accentuated her boobs and low-slung drawstring pants. A good three inches of tight, flat stomach showed. Around her perfect belly button she had put a temporary tattoo of sun rays.
Next to her I felt like a two-by-four.
Mary K. shoved the leggings at me, and I put them on, no longer at all concerned about how I would look. A plaid flannel shirt of my dad’s completed my ensemble and covered my butt. I brushed my hair while Bree tapped her feet with impatience.
“We can take Breezy,” she said. “She’s working again.”
Minutes later I was sitting on a prewarmed leather seat as Bree stomped on the gas and flew down my street.
“What time do you have to be home?” she asked. “This may go till late.” It was barely nine o’clock.
“My curfew’s at one,” I said. “But my folks will probably be asleep and won’t know if I’m a little later. Or I could call them or something.” Bree never has to call home and check with her dad about anything. Sometimes they seem more like roommates than father and daughter.
“Cool.” Bree tapped her brown fingernails against the steering wheel, took a turn a bit too fast, and headed out Gallows Road to one of the older neighborhoods in Widow’s Vale. Cal’s neighborhood. She already knew the way.
Cal’s house was awesome, huge, and made of stone. The wide front porch supported an upstairs balcony, and evergreen vines climbed up the columns to the second floor. The front garden was lush and beautifully landscaped and just on the verge of wildness. I thought of my dad humming as he pruned his rhododendrons every autumn and felt almost sad.
The wide wooden door opened in answer to our knock, and a woman stood there, dressed in a long linen dress the dark purple-blue of the night sky. It was elegant and simple and had probably cost a fortune.
“Welcome, girls,” the woman said with a smile. “I’m Cal’s mother, Selene Belltower.”
Her voice was powerful and melodious, and I felt a tingling sense of expectation. When I got closer to her, I saw that Cal had inherited her coloring. Dark brown hair was swept carelessly back from her face. Wide, golden eyes slanted over high cheekbones. Her mouth was well shaped, her skin smooth and unlined. I wondered if she had been a model when she was younger.
“Let me guess—you must be Bree,” she said, shaking Bree’s hand. “And
must be Morgan.” Her clear eyes met mine, her gaze seeming to pierce the back of my skull. I blinked and rubbed my forehead. I was actually physically uncomfortable. Then she smiled again, the pain went away, and she ushered us inside. “I’m so glad he’s made new friends. It was hard for us to move, but my company offered me a promotion, and I couldn’t say no.”
I wanted to ask what her job was or find out what had happened to Cal’s dad, but there was no way to ask without being rude.
“Cal’s in his room. Third floor, at the top of the stairs,” said Ms. Belltower, gesturing to the impressive carved staircase. “Some of the others are here already.”