22 of March, 2021 – Class A-1
Val? She’s here–and she’s out? My eyes were wide as my fingers tightened their grip on my phone. Hollingsworth…
Fuming, I backed out of that group and into the other, only to find the same message copied and pasted there by Horace, a vampire from Jude’s coven. This has Lenora written all over it.
“What?” I barked the response over my shoulder. My cold eyes stared daggers into my friend, who flinched at the volume of my voice. I was immediately hit with regret, but they cut me off before I could apologize.
“Is there a chance Cari will see this?”
I shook my head. “No, Wihn wouldn’t have added her to any groups, and freshmen have to make their own. That’s not what I’m worried about.”
Dr. Shararah, my professor for History of Magick II, had dedicated the first ten minutes of class to introductions–and the next thirty for discussing our curriculum–before taking another few to explain our assignment for the week: an essay on a historical event that we believe to be most crucial.
“It can be something that affected a specific species or classification, but let’s try to stay away from events that only affected one or two groups within a species, okay?” Shararah instructed, her brilliant violet eyes shimmering as they swept over the semi-circle of students. “A big event that only affects your family doesn’t count in the grand scheme of things, but if the effects of that incident ripple out and alter the lives of several others, then it’s bound to have instigated some change.”
She then asked that we use the next ten minutes to research the topic before leaving class, and the headmistress retired to her desk as we pulled out our laptops and tablets. I connected my tablet to its slim blue keyboard and let my fingers type “famous historical moments” into Smancy, a search engine made for magick users.
I had only been scrolling through the results for thirty seconds when I had to suppress the urge to burst into tears. I forgot how much I frickin’ hate history… It’s my worst subject.
My eyes caught sight of a familiar word, and I paused in my scrolling to read the title of the article:
Creation of the Itzala Coven | Mordri.cov
Professor Penn’s coven? I clicked on the link and browsed the first couple of paragraphs. The article was lengthy, diving into each member’s lives prior to breaking away from their respective covens and founding the Sisters of the Shadows. I scrolled down a bit more, my eyes widening at statements given by a couple of the witches themselves. Wait, this reporter scored interviews? That’s crazy! I heard they keep to themselves–
I sucked in a sharp breath and bookmarked the page, exited the browser, and pulled up my email. My fingers slid across the touchpad, tapping away until I had brought up an email I had saved–the one containing my class schedule. I was right–I have Penn next period!
“Alright! I hope everyone was able to figure out a topic for their report,” Shararah’s melodious voice rang through the classroom. She had spoken so suddenly that I had jumped at the sound. “Go ahead and pack up, class. You only have a few minutes before the next bell.”
My eyes darted over to the black plastic watch strapped to my left wrist. Holy shit, she’s right. It felt like I was only reading for five minutes.
I slipped my tablet and its keyboard back into my backpack purse, mulling over potential questions to ask Professor Penn when Renette called out to me in a soft tone.
“Yes?” I slid my arms into the straps of my bag as I regarded her.
“Are you–” the witch head’s eyes flitted over to the other witches, meeting their anxious expressions head-on before turning back to me. I frowned at her hesitance. “Are you in any of the school chats?”
“Like on Enchat?” I knew the students used the messaging application to relay announcements and gossip, but I had figured it was something the professors set up for freshmen. I guess Wihn was supposed to add me. I shook my head. “No, not yet. Did I miss an announcement?”
“No!” insisted the witch seated to Renette’s left. I recognized her as Sofia de Paz of the Serafim Coven, and recalled reading an article on The Arcane Citizen about her relationship with an upperclassman. “Nothing about, like, school or assignments or anything.”
My eyes took in the rest of the class as I read the room. Every student was sneaking glances at me, including the fey.
I turned back to Renette with a sigh. “Okay, who said what?”
She swiped at her phone’s screen a couple times before leaning over and showing me the Enchanter group. I read the pinned announcement by Lenora Hollingsworth, and my heart dropped.
📌 (Sent at 1:10 AM) lenorahollingsworth: Stedelen’s replacement is Valoree de Ardo, Cari de Ardo’s older sister! 😱
I returned her smartphone with a small smile on my lips. She cocked an eyebrow and accepted the device. “You good?”
“Yeah. I was just wondering, can you add me to the Enchanter group?”
Renette smirked, a twinkle in her dark eyes as her thumbs began tapping away on the screen. “I can do ya one better, kid. One of my charges is a freshman–I’ll have him add you to the newbie chat, too.”
“Thank you!” I slipped out of my backpack straps and retrieved my phone; the device was already vibrating to alert me of my new friend requests and invitations. “Jean-Noël LaRue?”
“Yeah, that’s him.” I was accepting their requests and the invites to the appropriate groups when she added, “And here, I’m sending you my number. Let me know if these clowns try anything.”
My disingenuous excitement faltered. “Really?”
Renette let out a short laugh. “Yeah, really. And call me Nini, if you want.”
The smile that spread across my lips was bashful but sincere. “Cool. Thanks, Nini.”
The bell rang over the PA, and we stood as students made their way to the door. Dr. Shararah bid us goodbye until next week, and I was about to follow Renette out the door when Sofia approached me.
“Um, hey! I’m Sofia–I’m in the same coven as Gal,” she began. “I was gonna go visit her in the healing ward before my next class. You know, see how she’s doing and all that. Did you want to come with me?”
“Sure,” I beamed. “I planned on doing the same.”
We were already out in the hallway when Renette slowed. “You guys mind if I join you? I wanna check on her, too.”
Sofia and I agreed, and the three of us headed back up the corridor toward the main lobby. The girls showed me where the healing ward was, and we were about to enter when we all froze at the open door. We could see into the room; Galiana was seated at the foot of one of the beds, her arms crossed over her chest as she spoke to the witch standing before her. Both parties wore hardened expressions as they bickered in what sounded like Portuguese.
“Um–” Galiana jumped from the bed at the sound of Sofia’s voice, looking first surprised to see another member of her coven; then relieved as her hazel eyes found me; and finally, puzzled as she realized the girl standing to my right was a witch head. “S-Sorry, we didn’t mean to interrupt. We just wanted to see if Gal was okay.”
I threw Sofia a sideways glance; she was fidgeting on the spot with her eyes lowered. She’s nothing like I imagined, I admitted inwardly. Or, she’s only like this when he’s around–and that’s even more concerning.
“She’s fine,” relayed Gerardo Serafim. His short mahogany locks were unkempt, curling slightly at the ends. His eyes were the shade of soot as they fell on Renette and me. “In fact, she’s so fine that she decided she’s going to A-2 against the healer’s recommendation.”
“Recommendation doesn’t mean I have to follow it,” Galiana clucked as she snatched her backpack off a nearby table and stomped past Gerardo on her way out the door. “I’ll be fine, Gerardo. Go to your class.”
He gritted his teeth as she met us at the doorway. “Thanks for coming,” she said softly, her cheeks tinted red as she smiled sweetly at each of us. We nodded and led her out to the hall, eager to escape the senior witch’s line of sight.
The four of us had scurried out of B wing, across the main lobby, and were entering the long hall that would take us to the academic wings when Sofia glanced over her shoulder.
“I think we’re okay,” she said, prompting the rest of us to sigh in relief. “Gal, what the fuck were you thinking? How many times do I have to tell you not to argue with our witch head?”
“This is a regular occurrence?” Renette blurted out. “Not that I blame you–Gerardo can be a real ass sometimes. But he might have had a point, Gal. Getting compelled isn’t a joke.”
“Trust me, I know,” Galiana huffed. “Thanks for coming, Nini.”
“Don’t mention it,” she waved off my guide’s words and slowed at the foot of the grand staircase. “I gotta get upstairs, so maybe I’ll see you at Middy.”
“See ya, Gal,” Sofia squeezed her friend’s shoulder before stepping toward C wing. She nodded in my direction as she passed, a smirk on her pink lips. “Nice meeting you, Cari.”
“You too,” I nodded back, smiling.
Galiana was asking me where my next class was when Renette spun around and returned to where we stood.
“Hey, Cari–how do you plan on responding?” she asked, curious.
I didn’t need to ask for clarification; I was still rereading Lenora’s announcement in my mind and wondering what her intentions were. There was no stopping the devious grin that tore through my somber expression.
“I’m just gonna say hi.”
Renette barked out a laugh and resumed climbing the steps. “Ooh, girl! I like you already. ‘Just gonna say hi’…”
An arm linked with mine, and I was steered into E wing by my guide. I threw her a questioning glare, ready to yank my arm away when I caught the look she threw back.
“Are you okay?” she asked. She whispered her words and tugged at the cinnamon-brown braid pulled over her left shoulder. Her eyes bore into mine, searching frantically for any sign of distress.
She’s worried about me. I relaxed my arm and glanced around–the bell was about to ring, so the hallway was mostly vacant. “You’re compelled before school even starts, and you’re wondering if I’m okay?”
Galiana narrowed her eyes, released my arm, and began counting down on her fingers. “One: your coven is trying to oust you. Two: your estranged half-brother attends this school, and there’s a chance he might hate you. Three: you nearly got in trouble for breaking the rules on your first day. Four: you gave more than half the school a glimpse of your power before homeroom, so now all the other witches are either scared of you or trying to get close to you for their benefit. Five: our homeroom professor is your older sibling who just came out as trans–and based on what Sage and Ax told me, you didn’t find out until our class did. Six: the most popular witch at our school announced the news that your sister is a new professor, effectively drawing attention to your family and forcing you to stay in the spotlight.”
The bell rang overhead. The normally white faces of our watches had shifted to a bright red, urging us to get to class. I hooked my thumbs on the straps of my backpack and exhaled slowly. “Yeah, okay. That about sums it up.”
Galiana swung her backpack around and unzipped the front pocket, digging within for only a second or so before she found her smartphone. “I saw that you joined the Enchanter group, so I sent you a friend request. I’m going to send you my phone number, okay? The difference in our time zones is only two hours, so you can call or text me any time you feel like it.”
Once she gets over those initial nerves, she’s actually really headstrong. I nodded and watched as her thumbs danced across her phone’s screen. Warmth flooded my cheeks as I realized what she was doing. She’s acting like a mom.
“We’re both late, but it’s your first day, so our professors will understand,” she affirmed as she returned her phone to her bag. “We have Middy after this, so Sage and I will meet you here in E wing. Okay?”
I nodded again, no longer trusting my words. We parted ways quietly; Galiana entered the classroom before mine, and I continued a few doors down until I found room E113. The door was held wide open by a rubber wedge, and when I stepped inside I found myself in yet another class with seats arranged in a non-traditional manner. Desks were huddled together in groups of three, with a fourth arrangement in the furthest corner containing four desks total. That group had three seats already occupied, two by familiar faces.
“Cari!” Alicia waved me over, a huge grin on her face. Yolette was seated to her left, a wrinkle forming between her brows as she recognized me. I smiled at the duo and claimed the empty desk at their group, throwing a shy “hi” to the witch to my right. “That’s Michele Calixto from the Serafim Coven–you know, the same one as your guide.”
Michele granted me a smile that seemed more like a tight line than anything else and a curt nod. Not very talkative. We’ll get along great.
“You know this is a junior class, right?” implored Yolette.
I nodded. “I took extra classes in middle school to get a headstart.”
Yolette’s lips formed a wordless “oh” as she resumed scrolling on her phone.
“I can’t imagine taking classes meant for students two grades ahead of me,” admitted Alicia. “What’s your schedule? Maybe we have other classes together!”
“Let me double-check–” I had hung my backpack from a hook protruding from beneath my desk, so I leaned over to retrieve my phone from my bag. My eyes noticed some familiar features in my peripheral vision, and I fought the rising wave of panic as I shot a glance at the group on my left.
Our eyes met, and I watched his brown pools widen as he registered who I was, appearing nearly as shocked as I felt.