“We have to go on foot. It’s too dangerous up here. If we run into a tree and get knocked out and fall down...it’s too risky,” Stella warns.
Agreeing, I fly with her slowly downwards to the forest floor.
Our feet land with loud thuds, breaking the silence around us.
Stella sighs as we begin to walk what feels like downhill. “I wish I was still nineteen.”
“I’m not really sure you’d want that,” I laugh uneasily remembering being stuck in my awful coffin.
A somber look passes over her face. “I mean, you’re lucky you get a do-over. I’m old now, older than you. Doesn’t that make things weird?”
“No, I mean...look at me. I look older than both of us, just look at my hair. Do I look nineteen to you? So what if your ten years older? You’ll always be my friend.”
“Well, besides the hair, Val, you don’t look a day older than nineteen. I found my first gray hair yesterday and when I smile, I’m finding wrinkles where they weren’t before. You’re skin still looks amazingly smooth, if you ask me you’re still nineteen,” she tells me in a serious voice and I’m not sure if I agree or not. So I remain quiet while trying to avoid tripping over unearthed roots and rocks.
I think about the cold sensation that washed over me in my grave, mending my bones and skin. That process is what probably made my skin healthy-looking again. I can only imagine what I really looked like before I clawed my way out of that box...
The two of us walk in silence, lost in our own thoughts. However, when the sound of a branch snapping behind us breaks the peaceful, sleeping forest, we both go still.
“I see an aura,” Stella whispers, pointing behind us and to the right with a shaky hand. I guess I’m not going to be much help since I can’t see auras at all now. Neither can I hide Stella’s flame-orb from the view of the stranger.
I quietly point to the light.
“What color is it?”
“Blue,” she whispers.
I exhale, feeling a tiny bit relieved. Blue auras radiate from witches. If a witch doesn’t have a concealer on, which hides their amount of aura, they are giving away to everyone how strong they are. The more aura, the more powerful.
Since I’ve been hexed, no one can see my aura at all. Not only is my strength concealed, but my supernatural identity is too.
Most of the time witches who do not conceal their aura are the weaker ones, Stella and I never used to hide ours before I died. Since I can’t see anyone’s though, I have no idea if she is concealing her’s now or not.
“Is it concealed?” I ask.
“Nope and neither is mine. Get behind this tree, they are coming this way,” she tells me. I follow her blindly as she guides me by the elbow in the direction of the tree.
Suddenly, Stella makes a noise of surprise and I hug the tree tighter, hoping it’s not more bad news.
“Red aura!” she whisper-yells in panic and I widen my eyes with a racing heart.
A witch and now, a vampire? What are the odds out of all the places in Wixton, out of all the acres covering this mountain, a witch and vampire are walking through the woods right near us?
“Aaaah!” Stella screams and I jump, not knowing what’s happening to her.
A blinding light beams right into our faces, behind it two heads hover looking down at us as we clutch each other for dear life on the forest floor. We both shake in fear like the dead maple leaves rattling in the trees above us as a breeze passes by.
“What are y’all doin’ out here?” I hear a man ask in anger, recognizing the voice. The blinding light I realize is actually a phone flashlight.
Darren Silvet, and beside him, Crystal. I never really thought much about it before, but Darren may be more than a hundred years older than Crystal since he’s a vampire. I wonder if that bothers Crystal or if she just doesn’t care?
Stella and I both stand up, she hangs onto my arm still shivering in fear. Most witches would be afraid, seeing a vampire in the middle of the woods.
“He’s friendly, Stella,” I say uneasily, mostly sure my words are true.
“What are you two doing out here?” Crystal says looking bewildered, the fog has finally cleared up and the bright night sky gives us a little better sight of our surroundings. Stella whispers something and her fire-orb comes to life again, awfully close to Darren.
He makes an annoyed grunt, jumping out of its path when it comes to Stella’s side.
“Flying, you know them?” Stella answers shortly, her face still guarded. She let’s go of my arm, her eyes not leaving Darren.
“She’s one of the McCasters, their daughter, Crystal. That’s Darren Silvet, her boyfriend,” I say, introducing them.
I look between the two of them, my eyes settle on Crystal’s scarf that’s wrapped around her neck. The wind picks up and her scarf shifts, lowering slightly. Two puncture wounds are exposed and she must see me staring because she quickly adjusts her scarf covering the mark.
During the whole time, Darren has a serious face on. If looks could kill, we’d be dead easy enough. He wears a brown, unzipped leather jacket and a gray shirt. His dark hair hangs over his dark eyes. He holds Crystal’s hand and I just now notice how pink her cheeks are. I don’t think it’s because of the night air.
“Who are they?” Darren asks Crystal sharply.
“She’s the one I was telling you 'bout and that there is Patty’s daughter. Even you should know that. They look exactly alike,” Crystal chides.
Then she pulls out her own phone and types something into it rapidly, I think she’s texting someone.
“I told my parents y'all was walking out here. Where are ya phones?” she asks the two of us, almost with accusation.
“Ugh...” I mumble at a loss for words.
How stupid could we have been? We left them in my room. I don’t really like riding my broom and having to hold something else. I really don’t like putting my phone in my pant pocket either, it’s too uncomfortable. Stella’s wearing a dress and I’m pretty sure she left her phone in her purse-which is also in my room.
“You know, no texting and driving. Same thing for riding,” Stella cuts in.
“Ya girls shouldn’t have been flyin’ out here anyway. Y’all know it’s against the law around here right now. Witches like y'all don’t stand a fightin’ chance against my kind and there’re lots of us who aren't happy with ya coven folk,” Darren speaks up again.
I don’t like how he talks to us in a tone similar to that of an adult scolding a child.
Crystal elbows him with a giggle and Stella narrows her eyes at the two of them.
“Come on, let’s go,” Stella tells me as we watch them walk away from us. Now that we can see better, we get back on our brooms and head above the trees again. I catch sight of Darren and Crystal walking back up to the top of the mountain.
What were they doing out here anyway?
Sure, their relationship is frowned upon by the community, by why bother going all the way out here to avoid being seen?
They must be going back to his house, seeing as they are walking in the opposite direction of the ski resort that we can now spot in the distance.
When Stella and I make it to the bottom of the mountain, we find Mrs. and Mr. McCaster standing in the back of the house with their arms crossed, talking to some witch wearing a cloak with her hood up.
Please tell me that’s not who I think it is.
Sure enough, when we land in front of them I see the same old long orange ringlets of hair and when the witch pulls back her cloak, I confirm it to be Patricia.
Mrs. McCaster starts yelling and waving her arms in fury, “You girls had us scared! Y’all know there’s a necromancer on the loose and what do ya do? You go off ridin’ in the dead of night without tellin’ a soul!”
She reminds me of my mom and it makes me bitter. I never asked to be brought back. I don’t need a replacement family! How could Mrs. McCaster be scared for me when she doesn’t even know me? Does she really consider me her...family?
“And you, Stella. You’re coming with me,” Patty announces angrily, but Stella stands her ground.
“No. I’m an adult now, you can’t tell me what to do. You just want to use her as bait anyway. You don’t care about how any of this is affecting her! She isn’t a danger to us, you’re just scared of her because for once you can’t read another witch!” Stella retorts.
I think it’s safe to say she hit the nail on the head with that one.
“If that’s what she is,” Patty grits through clenched teeth. If that’s what I am? What else could I be?
Her mother really is crazy!
“Do not call me out here again. If they want to make themselves bait, I don’t mind. I have bigger issues to deal with like the growing number of humans disappearin'. Which is getting quite alarmin',” Patricia says slowly, turning her cold gaze on the McCasters. “Get those neighbors of yours under control or I’ll see to it myself,” Patty adds while storming into their house as if she owns the place.
Stella sticks out her tongue like a four-year-old behind her mother’s back and the sight is quite comical, I mimic her and we follow them inside, mocking the way her mother walks with a slight hunch and permanent glare.
“Headmistress, we promise we will,” Cathy and David say in unison. Patty walks straight through their living room and over to the front door. She turns around and Stella and I both quit our mocking of her to avoid getting in more trouble.
Patty’s gaze lands on the McCasters, completely ignoring her daughter and I.
“I will leave y'all to it then,” Patty snaps.
She grips the doorknob and turns it, slowly opening the door. As if being shocked, she straightens with a jolt stopping in her tracks.
Maybe she left something inside or out back.
She looks back into the room with a look of deep concentration, then her eyes shift back to the McCasters with a blank stare.
I don’t know how I’d survive if Patty was my mother, but I give Stella credit. What kind of mother calls their child weak? And I would not say Crystal ‘rescued’ us, ‘found’ would be a better word. Why bother warding the windows anyway when their whole house is already inside a ward to begin with?
After hearing a car door shut outside and a car drive away, Cathy and David walk over into the kitchen. They talk in hushed whispers. Stella spits out something, gum. She whispers into it and sticks it on the other side of the kitchen wall as we walk back up to my room.
We sit down on the floor of my room and she holds her palm out, the same hand she spat the gum in. When we were in middle school we would always to do this after getting in trouble to hear our parents discuss our punishments, eventually, they figured out how we were eavesdropping and knew to hide.
The McCasters have no idea about this though, most ‘weak’ witches like us wouldn’t know a spell like this anyway. Stella had stolen one of her mom’s books and learned the spell before her mom found her with it.
“She smelled it. I know she did,” Mrs. McCaster voice says as I stare into Stella’s hand, which pretty much works like the speaker of a phone.
“No...she would’ve said. I told you I didn’t smell anything either. You’re imagining things. Now you got those two girls all frightened again bringing up the necromancer. The girl has no family, we offered to take her in. Are you afraid of her now too?” Mr. McCaster chuckles and I raise my eyebrows.
“No, but why else do ya think she has no aura? She was hexed! Someone plans to use her. We just have to find the proof and take her into the coven. They can protect her better than us,” Mrs. McCaster replies with what sounds like genuine worry and I look up at Stella. The coven is part of the reason the rest of my family is dead and I don’t need protecting.
“Hexed? No one uses hex marks on other people anymore, only the elders,” Mr. McCaster barks with laughter.
“Maybe. No one has used necromancy in about a hundred years until a few days ago, on her. I suppose it could just be a side effect of black magic.”
“Is that what the headmistress told you?” Mr. McCaster asks.
“Then why are we wasting time arguing over it? As stuck up as she is, Patricia is headmistress for a reason. You need to have more faith in her and the girl too. If she left her in our care she is not as dangerous as you think,” Mr. McCaster says soothingly and Stella closes her fist, cutting off their conversation.
“They may truly care about you, but you can’t stay here much longer Val. If they see that mark before we figure out what it means, they won’t hesitate to try to exorcise you,” Stella warns me.
“I know, but we should at least let the coven try to find the person first. It’s only been two days. If I leave here, I won’t be as protected. It’s not so bad here...” I mumble, trying to sound reassuring.
After Stella headed out, Cathy and David went back upstairs for the night.
I don’t really feel tired at all, so I remain lounging on the couch wondering if the stupid mark will ever get off me. I try browsing the internet again to find images of the sign, but end up finding nothing.
Feeling defeated, I turn off my phone. Then I shut my eyes and fall back against the cushions of the couch.