Thank you for your patience as I worked on commissions and through my writer’s block. Let the story continue.
27 of March 2021 – MIDNIGHT
The bell rang just as Val rushed into the classroom with her laptop bag in one hand and her AOA coffee tumbler in the other. “Made it! That’ll show Cromwell–I’m not always late.”
Several of my classmates ogled at my sister. “Whoa! You look awesome, professor!” exclaimed Omar in wonder.
Val set her belongings down on her desk and twirled for the class, eliciting oohs as well as showing off her high-low maxi skirt. It was a high-waisted piece shaded a sage green, boasting an admiral blue and peanut brown floral pattern. Her top was actually a sleeveless one-piece tank that was as white as the cotton of which it was comprised. Her off-white sandals were open-toe high heels with a four-inch lift. The top half of her short, black hair was divided in half and pulled back, fastened to her head by small golden clips shaped like butterflies. Small golden hoops hung from her ears, her usual rose quartz necklace was swapped out for a blue labradorite wand wrapped in gold wire, and her right wrist was wrapped in black and tan braided leather bands, each one containing various plastic beads with repeating symbols and runes. Val wore her sterling silver charm bracelet on her left wrist again, despite the fact that it did not match her ensemble.
“What can I say? I was really feeling myself,” she concluded with a half-shrug. Then her sable-black eyes passed over her students, and she beamed from ear to ear. “I’m not the only one–you all look fantastic!”
Our class was a chorus of whoops and “thank yous.” At AOA, we attend every night–but, as you’ve probably realized, we only attend each class for one hour a week, with the exception of physical education and mental health therapy. Since we can’t stay in the dark dimension beyond the six-hour limit each night, we don’t have time for our extracurriculars, which is why sporty clubs use phys-ed to practice. In order to give us more time with our clubs, however, the powers that be insisted that we spend our weekends juggling our extracurriculars. It gives everyone a chance to interact in casual dress with minimal supervision, while also encouraging students with multiple club obligations to manage their time wisely.
I know what you’re thinking: this school lets a bunch of teenagers with magick capabilities run around unsupervised on the weekends–with outfits that they choose?! That’s a recipe for disaster!
It’s really not, so calm down. It’s all about personal responsibility; you can’t treat teenagers as if they’re all hormonal, mischievous assholes just because some of them could potentially be hormonal, mischievous assholes. That’s something that humans just don’t get–you can’t tell your kids to act like adults and then treat them like children. It’s demeaning, and shows them that you only want them to “act like adults” when it means taking on responsibilities that you don’t want to deal with… But then when it’s time to treat them like the adults they act like, you refuse. You don’t respect them, therefore you don’t see them as equals–and that is the real recipe for disaster.
Back to AOA’s relaxed weekend dress code: it’s really nowhere near as lenient as you think. I mean, sure, it’s called “smart casual,” and relies on us to decide for ourselves whether our outfits are appropriate or not, but it’s not like we can get away with mini-skirts and low-cut tops. That’s why we meet with our homeroom professors at the start of the night–it gives them a chance to judge our outfits accordingly, to figure out if they need to send anyone back through the portals to change. We’re encouraged to only use the portals at the beginning and end of each night, though, so everyone brings a change of clothes with them–especially the athletic students in sports clubs.
Since it was the first weekend of the school year, Lilly, Hel, and I hadn’t enrolled in any clubs yet, so we didn’t bother with gym clothes. I had on a white mock neck tee with long sleeves, worn under black corduroy overalls that cut off ten centimeters above my knees, and I paired the outfit with monotone sneakers and baby pink laces. My hair was divided into two low ponytails, spilling onyx curls over my shoulders. I had also tucked my hair behind my ears, showing off my rose quartz stud earrings. I was never one for makeup; all I had on was some clear mascara and vanilla lip balm.
Lilly had a plain white t-shirt tucked into baggy high-waisted denim jeans, which she had previously cut the legs off in order to turn into shorts. The ends were very frayed, and that coupled with black eyeliner, black matte lipstick, and an oversized white and slate blue plaid shirt with long-sleeves aided in her grunge aesthetic–all of which was off-set by her sky blue work boots with steel grey and canary yellow accents. Her golden hair was pulled up in a messy bun; black cat studs adorned her earlobes; a silver necklace with a moon pendant hung loosely from her neck; each of her fingers carried silver and black rings in assorted sizes.
Helena’s outfit seemed to be a sportier version of Lilly’s: her heather grey Nirvana band tee pooled around her waist, where a black and grey plaid shirt was tied by its sleeves. Her jeggings had rips and were as pitch black as her long hair, which was pulled back in a high ponytail. Her white sneakers were a little worn along the bottom but otherwise cared for. Unlike us, her wrists were free of bracelets; she wore a black cord necklace with a black and ruby red pendant shaped like a raven, and her silver stud earrings depicted tiny feathers. Helena also incorporated a light dusting of nude eyeshadow and blush to her look, complete with clear lip gloss with a pink tint.
All three of us had emerged from the portal with Axel not ten minutes before midnight, and it wasn’t until Val dismissed the class ten minutes after that we hit our first hurdle.
“Have fun!” Val wished all of us, and was about to resume working on her laptop before rushing to add: “Oh–responsibly!”
My friends and I remained seated, allowing the class to empty. Almost the entire first row had left, allowing Sage to lean on Yolette’s desk as Gal took Elyse’s seat. The Bloodworth witch was decked out in a slim-fit, high-low black top with a scoop neckline and three-quarter sleeves, black skinny jeans tucked into chunky-heeled boots the same shade, and their silver hair was pulled up in a bun. Ruby studs on their ears, a loose silver chain around their neck, and a homemade beaded bracelet was tied to their left wrist that matched the one worn by Galiana.
Her outfit was quite the contrast to her friend’s dark ensemble: her white tee depicted a bunch of anime characters and was a couple of sizes too big with wide sleeves. She had it tucked into high-waisted cut-off jeans, their light wash interrupted here and there by the occasional faded grass stain. Her sneakers were a deep brown, matching the canvas tote that hung from her shoulder, and the top half of her cinnamon brown hair was pulled back in a ponytail, with the rest falling over her shoulders and behind her back in a wavy curtain. Cherry blossom studs hung from her ears, which almost perfectly mirrored her pink nail polish.
“So? Interested in any clubs?” asked my original guide, aiming her question at the three of us.
Helena, Lilly, and I swapped apprehensive looks. “I-I guess I’m interested in the baseball team,” admitted Helena. “But they won’t have tryouts until the Beltane Festival, so I guess I have to look into something else in the meantime…”
“I’m going for STEM,” revealed Lilly with a huff. “And maybe drama.”
I chewed on my bottom lip. “I guess I can check out the astronomy club after I find all the witch heads.”
Sage cocked an eyebrow. “Why do you need to meet with the witch heads?”
I could feel Lilly and Helena’s eyes on me as they waited for me to announce my intentions. Even Val was peeking over her laptop, intrigued.
Might as well–they’ll all find out sooner or later, anyway. “I invoked the Duel of Ardor.”
Sage and Gal’s eyes were wide with surprise. Val jumped out of her seat, one of her hands on her chest in shock. “The Duel of Ardor?! Cari, you can’t be serious–”
“It’s only the first week of school–”
“I know,” I grumbled. I already regret this.
“And you know you have to fight Helena too, right–?”
“I know!” I snapped, unintentionally raising my voice. “But this isn’t like when you were enrolled, Val–the coven refuses to recognize me as AOA’s witch head.”
Val looked as if I had slapped her in the face. “I-I didn’t know that…”
She reclaimed her seat, letting out a groan. “Goddess, so that’s why I haven’t seen any of them around you. Why won’t Wihn step down?”
“I’m not the first heir, so…” I shrugged. “Other than that, the only thing I can think of is that she doesn’t like me. Which is fine–I don’t need her to like me. I need her to respect me.”
My sister looked as if she wanted to say something; she opened her mouth, hesitated, and then pursed her lips, choosing her words carefully. It was a tense moment before she sighed.
“I’m guessing you don’t want me talking to the coven myself, do you?” When I shook my head, Val nodded with a grimace. “Right, thought so… Fine, you do what you need to do. But make sure you prepare yourself–and come to me if you have any questions.”
I let out a breath I hadn’t realized I was holding, my lips turning up in a relaxed smile. “Thanks. I will.”
“What’s your duel have to do with the witch heads, though?” asked Gal, but it was her friend who answered:
“You want us to teach you about our affinities so you can beat Wihn.”
I nodded. “I’d appreciate it if you could, Sage. I need every advantage I can get.”
My heart beat in my chest as I studied the nonbinary witch’s expression, trying to discern their answer before they gave it. Likewise, they were taking in mine, most likely judging whether or not I was worth the effort.
Finally, they let out a chuckle, cutting through the tension. “ ‘Course I’ll help you. I’m interested in seeing how this’ll all play out.”
“Yes!” I jumped up with my best friends, the three of us cheering. “Thank you so much!”
Gal stood as well, giggling at our excitement. “If you want, I can go ask Gerardo if I can teach you. He’s not exactly pleasant to be around.”
I gasped and clapped my hands together, interlocking my fingers in a begging gesture. “Pretty please?”
“Oh, I see,” pouted Sage as they led us out of our aisle and past Val’s desk. “Gal gets ‘pretty please’ and I get fuck all. Lovely.”
A lightbulb went off in my mind. “We can sneak into Axel’s room while he’s sleeping and surprise him.”
Sage smirked, already headed for the door in an attempt to hide their blushed features. “All’s forgiven.”