I snuggle deeper into my oversized hoodie, trying to crawl further into desolation as I wait at the end of the bar for my coffee. I adjust my dark hair so that it helps to hide my face and then stuff my pale hands into my pockets. I stifle a yawn, wanting nothing more than to go home and crawl into bed. I could sleep an eternity. If I could just close my eyes and escape this world for just a few moments...
“Salem!” A perky, blonde barista with bright red lipstick and victory rolls calls, sliding my large cup with a skill set I could never possess.
I reach for the cup of warm liquid, eager for a jolt of caffeine on this dreary, rainy day. “Cool name!” The barista smiles at me, and I draw back from the attention.
“Thanks,” I mumble, turning away and heading for the exit. I’d very much like to remain as invisible and uninteresting as possible.
The dark, ominous clouds are churning, making it seem as though the light misting is about to turn into a downpour. Luckily for me, this campus is fairly small, made up of a string of old cottages which make up the classrooms, all connected by cobblestone streets. It’s almost as if it’s a town from a fairytale. Until you see the modern cafeteria, made of steel framing and glass walls, and the rustic farmhouse-chic library, which almost looks like a large cabin used for luxury rentals. The main office and professors’ offices are housed in a massive cathedral-esque building with a pitched roof, huge stained glass windows, and where you’d normally see gargoyle statues, instead you see sprites with luminescent wings.
It’s a very eclectic ‘college’ campus. As well as very prestigious, and acceptance is very limited.
The only people who can gain entrance to the tiny college town of Hallewell are those of the... non-human race.
I slip into one of the cottages right as the rain begins to fall, sliding into a chair at the back of my first class of the day: The descent into magic I for beginners.
The bell rings as soon as I sit and Professor Hawkes glides to the podium.
“Class,” he addresses us dully. “We’re going to start today with some individual reading. Chapter 12, the basics of fire, and at the end of class I will ask for volunteers to demonstrate lighting a candle.”
Books are flipped open wordlessly as we all begin our reading. As this is no normal school, there are no antics, no backtalk. There is no passing of notes. The class-clowns, though we definitely have them, know when to keep quiet.
Most of the students here are over one hundred years old.
I skim through the chapters, bored. I’ve learned this all before, and honestly have no use for the information. My actual age is twenty-seven, though I probably noticed that I stopped aging some time after my twenty-first birthday.
Most witches are very youthful looking, as the aging process allows tremendously at a different stage of every witches life. Some just happen to be middle-aged before it slows, some are just barely past puberty.
A witch my age would need a lot of training, as they would barely know how to control their powers.
This much is true for me. I can’t control it. But I also don’t use them.
I already know how to use my magic. I can light a candle. I can control someone, I can lurk around in their mind, I can affect their moods, change their desires. I can start a snowstorm in the middle of summer, or douse a fire dancing it’s way through a building. I can do anything I want.
I choose not to.
With power comes responsibility... and consequences. I’ve accepted mine.
I don’t realize how much time has passed until Professor Hawkes calls my name.
“You’re new. Been here a few weeks now, but we haven’t heard much from you. How would you like to demonstrate lighting a candle.”
Heart racing and cheeks burning, I clear my throat, embarrassed. “I, uh, I don’t practice magic,” I admit.
I can feel the other students turning to gawk at me.
“Interesting,” he muses, adjusting his glasses on top of his pointy noise. “Any particular reason for that?”
“It’s personal,” I say quietly, looking at my hands. I can feel the anxiety creeping in, as well as the power, the urge to prove to him that I can, in fact, light a candle. He calls on someone else, my thoughts still churning, my mind racing and power tingling at my fingertips.
I look up when I hear resounding gasps from my classmates. Every candle in the room, probably about fifty in total, are lit, the flames a bright blue, and tall, stretching dangerously close to the ceiling.
“Bagnare,” the professor mutters under his breath and the candles extinguishe one by one. “Who did that?” He demands, his eyes wandering from student to student as no one confesses.
Everyone in this class, young and inexperienced, are all murmuring to each other, wondering who could have lit every candle in the room without uttering so much as a word.
“Very well, it appears as though someone in here is harnessing unforeseen powers. Whoever you are,” he says slowly, his eyes scanning until the meet mine, not looking away, “you should consider switching out of this class. You’re far too advanced for beginners.”
His hard stare holds me in my seat until the sound of students shuffling past me breaks the trance. I grab my bag and sling it over my shoulder, falling in line with the crowd. I pull my hood over my head, reading to get to my next class and get this day over with.
“So, you don’t practice magic, huh?” Someone asks, falling into step with me. “That’s pretty unheard of around here.”
I glance up to find a guy looking down at me, a smirk on his face. He’s tall and muscular with auburn hair and some red stubble on his face. His blue eyes are breathtaking, framed by thick, brown brows, a decent sized scar streaking through the right one. He has wide-rimmed, black glasses perched on his freckled nose. He’s pretty skinny, with long legs. He’s got on khaki shorts despite the cold, paired with a dark blue pullover, a black bookbag slung over his shoulders. I’ve never met someone so nerdy, yet so obviously handsome in my life.
I find myself confused though, as he isn’t in my beginners class. His confidence and the way he exudes power makes me think he’s a bit older than me, experienced in more than just candle lighting.
He notices my confusion, smiling apologetically.
“I’m Leopold,” he says as he holds out his hand. “Professor Hawkes’ TA.”
I shake his hand. “Salem.”
“Nice to meet you, Salem,” he tells me.
“You too,” I mumble, silently wishing I was anywhere but here, walking with this quirky stranger.
It’s not that I don’t want friends, necessarily... I’m just better off without them.
Ha! That’s a joke.
They are better off without me.
I prefer to stay to myself. I don’t feel a need to hang out with people anymore, no desire left in me to get close to anyone. Not after what happened last time.
“Is not practicing magic a choice? Or do you not have access too it?” He asks, seeming unaffected by my awkwardness.
Not practicing magic is a choice. One that I continue to make, even when the pull is stronger than anything I’ve ever felt in my life. It’s not something to be taken lightly.
“I only ask because if you don’t have access to it, there are ways to fix that,” he tells me, seeming to use the explanation as a way to apologize for prying.
“It’s a choice,” I tell him softly. “I can use magic... I just don’t... want to.”
He looks at me as though I’m a puzzle he’s trying to piece together. “Salem... full of mysteries...” he says, sighing. “Well, I’ve reached my destination,” he tells me, nodding before heading towards his class. “See you later.”
I continue the trudge to my next class, dissecting the strange interaction. Most people avoid me... or just simply don’t notice me. That’s what I want, what I aim for. I try to blend in, keep quiet, and avoid conversation. I don’t need anyone trying to get to know me.
My phone vibrates in my pocket as I take my seat at the back of the room.
Hi honey! I’m working late tonight, lasagna is in the fridge. Love you!
I frown and shove my phone back into my pocket. My mother moved me here, hoping a fresh start would pull me out of the darkness that had enveloped me after the incident. She tries to pretend like nothing happened... like nothing changed... but we can’t hide from it. It’s still there, in the back of her mind, tormenting her. She won’t admit it, but I know that she’s afraid of me. As much as she tries to hide it, I can see it in her eyes sometimes when she looks at me. The way her forehead creases with worry when we argue. The way she backs away from me if I’m angry with her. I can’t stand to see it, so I spend most of my time in my bedroom, locked away from the rest of the unsuspecting world.
Locked away so that I can’t hurt anyone else.
I won’t hurt anyone else.