“It’s like he’s fucking trying to mold you to fit HIM."
Ivan’s words kept echoing in my mind.
He was wrong.
So wrong. Daniel wasn’t doing anything of the sort. Sure, he might have suggested a few things, but I agreed after considering them! Why shouldn’t I wear something he wants to see me in?! Was it a crime to change my hair color to my natural one because my boyfriend pointed out it goes better with my bronze skin and light eyes?! NO! Right?
Then why was I so fucking pissed and bothered?!
“He doesn’t like you for who you are.”
Not true. Daniel liked me. I saw it in the way he looked at me. The way he touched me, kissed me. The intensity of it all… but sometimes it all felt too much. A bit too… stuffy.
That’s because you don’t share the same sentiment. You hold back, a voice chided, I frowned at the thought. My eyes slid to the bruise on my forearm. The worrisome thing being that the purple splotch didn’t invoke memories of the argument from which it arose. Instead, the traitorous skin embedded the glide of gentle fingers tracing over it. The realization jarred me and I tried to temper down the annoying buzz of a swarm in my belly, the rattle of that hidden part of my heart I thought I had under total control.
Gods damn it.
The small things. It was always the small things that undid any progress I made. He still had a hold on me, and I hated myself for it.
I was so in love with Ivan four years ago. Constantly raving about him to T over the phone as if I talked about two different people. Why I didn’t tell her it was him I was in love with... I honestly didn’t know. No. That was a lie. I was embarrassed. I couldn’t have been like, “Hey, I made this really hunky guy friend. He’s very sweet, charming and we get each other and just because he is so fucking nice to me, the new pudgy witch in town (I couldn’t tell her that either, freaking code), and my stupid heart went, yep I’m falling for him, sue me bitch!”
Ridiculous. Sharing my daydreams about him to Tara even under false pretenses, fed the gluttonous beast that thumped in my chest until it grew too big that it wanted to blurt about its affections to the person in question. And I almost did.
On the day of the party at Clara’s house, four years ago, someone snuck alcohol in and we all eagerly drunk. For me getting that liquid courage seemed like a blessing, considering I was about to blab to my best friend in whole of Blackwood that I was in love with him. It was a welcome buzz, but being dizzy as all hell wasn’t. I excused myself to the bathroom to freshen up, and Ivan stayed in the hallway to wait for me. When I opened the door to step out, squealing voices and giggles drifted to me. I haven’t been gone but a few minutes and the brood of preening hens already descended, surrounding Ivan. Girls always flocked to him, always following him around, smiling, tossing or twirling their hair, shooting hearts out of their eyes at him. Ugh...so fucking annoying.
Ivan, mostly, indulged them, being polite in turning them down or being just friendly, bantering.
“Hey, come on let’s dance!” one girl said to him smiling, holding the wrist of his hand in what to me looked like a constrictor grip, pulling him. Ivan looked troubled as he gave her a tight-lipped smile, scratching the back of his neck, “Sorry, can’t. I’m waiting for Mina. I made a promise. I dance with one girl and one girl only tonight.” Liar. He made no such promise. I smiled, secretly glad I had him to myself. The girl pouted, like a petulant child and in a whiniest voice said, “Ah, come on! Why does she get to hog you all night?! She isn’t even your girlfriend!” She stopped, unsure of her statement, looking at her friends for confirmation. The four other girls shrugged, and she turned to Ivan, adding, “You are not dating the witch, right?” I could have sworn his eyes darkened at the question, but his tone remained gentle, even as he answered, “No, not my girlfriend, but she is my closest friend.”
That word crumpled something in my chest. It tore down any resolve and determination I had to confess my feelings to the point that I didn’t know where I got them in the first place…
I looked down at my new purple sequin dress that stretched over my body, accentuating my too wide hips, straining to flatten my stomach, then looked at the slim brunette in a mini black dress pouting at Ivan. Her long shiny hair in a high ponytail, small waist, long legs… She was gorgeous. All five of them were. The confidence I had got wiped away like a sand painting after completion.
Ivan turned away from her, and our eyes met. His features immediately brightened as he shot me that sweetest, brightest crooked smile. The one that made my insides into a mush, but now twisted them painfully. I braved a smile of my own, fingers crossed It looked natural, but he saw right through me.
He pushed through the discontented ruffle-feathered flock and stepped in front of me.
“You look sick. What’s wrong? Are you okay?” he cupped my cheeks, a deep frown forming between his brows as his blue eyes analyzed me. Completely unaware of the way his touch wrecked my heart. Unaware of the pull and tug he had on it. On me.
I shook my head, backing away from him, “I’m fine. Nothing a bit more of alcohol can’t fix.”
Narrowing his eyes at me, “Nope, you’re done.” He took my hand, pushing us through the dancing crowd.
“What?! No, I’m not!!! We just started!” I protested, trying to wring my wrist from his grip, but stopped squirming as we passed the table in the corner of the room full of plastic cups with beer and I took a chance to grab one and gulp it, before the party pooper had a chance to wrangle the cup from my hand.
Ivan chuckled, shaking his head as he looked at me downing the beer like I spent days in Sahara desert, “You are impossible, you know that? Slow down, you’ll get drunk, you idiot!” He reached to take the cup, but I already finished the drink and smacked my lips.
I shrugged, leaving the cup and wiping my mouth with the back of my hand. Classy I know. “Sue me. It’s a party! And I love the buzzies!”
Smiling, he pulled on the wrist he still held, moving us to the dance floor. Raising our joined hands, he twirled me around before he brought me flush against him, his free hand resting on my hip, his warmth searing through the thin material of my dress. I looked up at him through my lashes. Fuck me, he was handsome. Sharp jawline, full plush lips, high cheekbones, eyes icy blue pools, to drown your soul in, framed by long lashes. His hair was longer and I distinctly remember my fingers itching to run through the silky blond strands.
My heart stuttered before picking up pace. Our eyes met, blue on green as we swayed to a slow song playing over the speaker, and everything else seemed to fall away. The music sounded distant, voices muffled, bodies moving on the dance floor blurred into the background and it was just… us. Cliche, but that’s how it seemed. Like the universe took a deep breath for us, holding it. Leaving us bare. Exposed. Two hearts beating the same rhythm at least for a moment.
And I moved, pulled by whatever wicked threads Ishaba tied around me that drove me to him, climbing on the tips of my toes, reaching for him as he leaned over, our lips connecting in the softest, sweetest of kisses.
My lips still remembered it.
The first one I ever had. No one else could replicate the feel of it. Ever. Not even Daniel.
But the spell broke all too soon, as snickering and whooping pushed through my haze. “Look, the fatty is kissing Belinski! I told you they are dating. Pay up!” a group of guys from my class jeered. Ivan tensed next to me, a muscle in his jaw jumping, his hold on me tightening.
The mocking voices brought about an ugly memory and the humiliation it dragged with it, so I pulled away from him. Ivan readied himself to snap back, but I didn’t want to hear his retort. Or witness the look on his face.
I couldn’t do that. Not with him.
Never enough. You’ll never be enough for him.
So I did what I do best. I laughed. Loudly. “Like hell we are dating! Right? Do you hear these bozos!” I smacked Ivan on the arm playfully, but on the inside, I screamed. Ivan looked at me bewildered… hurt. But I powered through with my bullshit, “Nah, we are best friends! You red head bozo give the other what’s his face the money. He won!” With that I took Ivan’s hand and pulled him out of the house into the chill spring night. Ivan said nothing as we walked home. His expression pensive, drawn into a mild frown, he tried a few times to utter something, opening and closing his mouth, but no words left him as the fists at his sides tightened, bleaching the skin on his knuckles.
“That was awkward. Let’s not do that again…” I huffed a weak-ass laugh, trying to cover up the nerves in my voice, not daring to glance over at Ivan, who stiffened next to me. “I mean, we were both buzzed and got lost in the moment. So... we should forget about it, okay? I like you, you are my best friend. I don’t wanna mess with that.”
Lies. Lies. Lies.
I like you. I like you. I...love you.
I wanted to love myself more. I had to protect myself. And him being a wolf also didn’t spell happily ever after for us. Not that the bonding doesn’t happen between witches and werewolves. It does. But rarely in the elite circles of the Big five.
I decided then I would rather have him for a lifetime as a friend than a limited amount of time as a lover. Not him.
And Daniel… I liked him. Comfortable. Easy. It was like that being with him. He was sweet, though we argued, but who doesn’t. We both had a temper… normal, right? But the way he looked at me… like nobody else existed in his warm amber eyes. I found I liked that… Being the center of someone’s universe. Though at moments the fire in his eyes made me feel…. cold. Hmm…
“It’s like he’s fucking trying to mold you to fit him.”
“Wilhelmina Dotik!” I startled at the use of my full name, blinking rapidly as I took in my surroundings, thirteen girls seated in a circle, their eyes all peering in my direction. Clara and Lila both sent me sympathetic looks.
I was in my apprentice class. Fuck me. My mind ran from me.
Miss Pavlov, a petite, short-haired woman, narrowed her dark eyes, looking down her button nose at me, her hands on her hips. “Welcome back Miss Dotik. How did communing with the spirit world go? Seeing as how I barely pulled you back to us. So nice of you to grace us with your presence again.” She cocked a reproachful brow, tapping her foot in irritation.
I gave her a tight smile, bowing my head slightly. “I apologize, Miss Pavlov. It won’t happen again.”
“Doubtful. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree I see.” she clipped.
The woman hated my guts. To be exact, she hated my mom’s guts and mine by proxy. I didn’t know what their beef was. Mom told me they were together in the apprentice group as teens and that Pelagia ‘Peggy’ Pavlov always had a stick up her bum hole, so I shouldn’t mind her. And I didn’t. But she minded me. A lot.
Even though it was me who spaced out, the vengeful pixie never missed the opportunity to find fault with me. Today seemed like her lucky day.
“Were you trying to cast the spell on your limb, Miss Dotik?” Peggy asked, jutting her pointy chin in my direction. I followed her gaze and found I was holding my forearm instead of the crystal in front of me. I could hear some girls in the room snickering. Oops.
Giving Peggy an apologetic smile, I grabbed the crystal.
“Let’s see you cast the spell on the intended target this time, hmm?” she said, crossing her arms, waiting.
I hated it when she put me on a spot like that. But the joke was on her. As a passive power witch, the one who does support based magic, I was great with casting spells. Granted, if I didn’t fuck up my focus. Our passive powers as apprentice witches who haven’t yet passed The Resonance to determine the best conduit for our magic had a bit of an issue focusing it through a conduit that didn’t resonate with us personally. So I prayed to Ishaba, our goddess of love, knowledge and magic, to grant me the serenity to pull off this shit without the hitch, because I knew Peggy would be on my case for the rest of the week if I fucked up.
She nudged the cage with a live rat -which, in my mind, I immediately named Rattigan- in front of me, “Put a protection charm around the rat only, skip the cage.” Ooh, the bitch! That was so much harder to do! The amount of mana I needed to pull wasn’t much, but to concentrate it on a subject within an object... that was tricky. Especially with a conduit not responding to me properly.
An almost imperceptible smirk twitched her lips as she noted the slight tremble of nerves as I clutched the crystal in my palm. Oh, how I wanted to wipe it off her face!
I took a deep breath, centering myself as I reached out with my free hand, my fingers hovering a few centimeters away from the cage. The energy pulsed in time with my heartbeats. It expanded, streaming, wild, like untamed waves bashing the stone shore.
Too much. Too strong. So, deepening my breathing I imagined it flowing steady, slowly and with that image in mind I pushed it through the crystal, letting the waves turn into soft trickling stream, forming a thin blanket over Rattigan.
The hand hovering over the cage glowed a dim bluish light, the same appearing over the surface of the rats’ body, pulsing a bit, then disappearing.
I heard gasps around me. I fucking did it!!! Eat that, Peggy! Grinning, mentally I patted myself on the head. Truthfully, I did experiment with a similar spell on my own. T’s necklace. I enchanted it with a similar spell, after she got hurt last week. It took me a few days to do it, though.
While my classmates had been most impressed, Peggy, on the other hand looked like she sucked on a lemon. Taking a pointer from her desk, she walked back to me and jabbed the damn thing in Rattigan’s face. The energy surrounding him crackled, throwing the stick from her grip, sending it flying to the floor. I didn’t think it possible for her face to turn more sour, but it did. Her onyx gaze glided over to me, her jaw tight, “Good job Miss Dotik.” she uttered, her voice strained to seem even, but the pain it caused her to push the words out still rang clear. I smiled wide, my spirit soaring with the victory over the stuck up shrew as she turned, walking back to her desk, rustling the papers on it.
She frowned, picking up one of them, then with a raised brow turned to me, “Seems like you have quite the affinity towards abjuration* magic, Miss Dotik.” Fuck me! Here we go again.
“Also, it’s noted here that you have yet to pick a desired coven to join. You are aware that the pledge is next year and you need to do the appropriate training to get in? Or are you going solo like your mother?” And there it was. Reason numero uno that the lady disliked my mother. It was frowned upon for a witch to be on her own without her coven sisters. Together, we are stronger and more potent protectors of our world, yada yada. Mom, a free spirit not to be tamed by the constricting rules of a coven as alchemy/potion making being her forte, was eager to detach herself. She loved to experiment and the sisters in the coven’s weren’t too keen on that, too rigid and set in their ways.
“I haven’t decided yet, Miss. It’s a very important decision. I need to make sure I choose a coven that benefits me the most.” It was a well-practiced answer. The pledge, a source of stress I didn’t want to tackle. I haven’t talked with mom about it either. And if I get chosen, the commitment was for life. They would train me in a specialized field and dispatch me to some Pack to serve and protect.
Peggy nodded, and I swear she mumbled something along the lines of ‘like mother, like daughter’ before returning the paper onto the pile.
After the class, which was always held as an extracurricular activity in the attic of our school, Clara and Lila flanked me as we descended the stairs. “Hey girl, you were awesome in there! Did you catch the bitch’s face when you cast the spell?! Priceless!” Lila smiled, fist bumping me. It stroked my ego just right, if I was being honest.
“She was about to pop a vein!” I chuckled.
“Hey, Mina, isn’t that Tara?” Clara said, pointing through the hallway window overlooking the school’s parking lot. She was right, it was definitively T flailing her hands around talking animatedly to a… boy. And not just any boy, but Philip freaking Constantinov! I frowned. They seemed pretty cozy with each other. I knew T spoke with him since he frequently visited Ana at the bookstore and he apparently apologized to her for being a dick, but I didn’t like him hovering over my best friend.
My, for all intense and purpose “human”, friend from whom I had to hide the fact that shifters, witches and magic were real. The guilt I dealt with daily because of all the lies slithered and coiled in the pit of my stomach as my heart panged in deprecation. But that was all for the best. She didn’t belong in this world. Natalia made sure of that. Her greatest wish for T was to have a normal human life. In a year she’ll leave, going off to travel, maybe even study abroad.
The sight in the parking lot bothered me, though.
T was laughing as T always did, wide, carefree, talking about something highly amusing, but that wasn’t the part that bothered me. No. Philip… the smile that split Constantinov’s face brought out an unpleasant crawl over my skin. Huh? I... I never saw him smile before. His entire face transformed. I barely recognized him. T said something, making him laugh and he flicked her forehead before inclining his head towards his jeep. T climbed in and the two peeled off the parking lot. Huh?
“Huh? So the rumor is true. They are dating.” Lila stated, and my eyes snapped to her. WHAT?! She was what?!! She never told me that! Why didn’t she tell me?!!!
Well, maybe she couldn’t. You keep things from her too, that annoying inner voice whispered.
I clenched my jaw tight, the corner of my eye twitching in annoyance.
“I don’t think so. She’s probably just hitching the ride to Ana’s. She works there, and he hangs out at the bookstore.” I said, rationalizing. No way, right? She said they were on friendly terms, that was all. I had to talk to her about it. Why him T? Of all the others, why did you have to go for him?
Clara, who was being quiet, pensive, turned her caramel colored eyes to me. “Your friend is weird, Mina.” I almost laughed at her statement before I realized she was being serious.
“What do you mean? T is always weird.”
Clara’s face was an expressionless mask, but there was a hint of intrigue and something else in her voice as she said, “Remember when we met at the cafeteria?” I nodded. How could I have forgotten? Clara acted so freaking weird. I thought T was going to figure out we were all freaks here. Thankfully T is equal part quirky and dense.
“Well... I couldn’t read her at all. I drew a blank and got pushed back.” Clara said, her eyes roaming my face, expectant. Like I had any idea how her gift worked. I didn’t know if it had anything to do with what Natalia did. I would have to ask mom.
“That never happened before?” She shook her head, grabbing my hand abruptly, her caramel eyes turning black for a second. I hated it when she did that. So freaky.
She let go of my hand and whatever she foresaw made her smirk as she said cryptically, “Oh… what a wonderful turn of events. Finally.”
That annoyed the bejesus out of me. She never ever divulged what she glimpsed. I mean, what was the fucking use of the divination witch as your friend if she never shared with you your future!
“I hate you, you know that.” I deadpanned.
The cryptic asshole smiled, twining her arm with mine. “Nah, bitch, you love me.” True.
“Guy’s wanna go grab something to eat?” Lila asked.
“Sorry, I promised Daniel I’d go meet with him...”
“Ah come on! You’ve stuck to his hip for a whole month now! We only ever see you in class or at lunch. His suspended ass can wait a bit,” Lila whined, attaching herself like a leech on my other arm and tugging me like a tantrumy toddler.
I laughed, “Okay, okay. I’ll text him that I’ll meet him later.”
I fished out my phone from my pocket, opening my texts. My eyes snagged on Ivan’s name in my messages. I hadn’t spoken to him since yesterday. Was he ok? I knew his father can be very harsh towards him, and Andrey pushed him too hard.
A heaviness settled over my chest as my finger hovered over his name, and before I thought it through, I had already sent the text. My heart hammered so fast I felt dizzy.
Me: Hey... How are you?
“Sorry, girls, can we get a rain-check? He isn’t feeling well, so I should go check on him.” I gave them both an apologetic smile as I pocketed my phone.
Lila threw her hands exasperatingly, rolling her eyes while Clara raised her brow and shook her head.
I waved at them, throwing another apology their way as I sped down the hall.
I needed to meet Daniel.
I needed him to hold me, to kiss me.
To make me forget, to make me feel… anything other than the inexplicable desire to go storm the Belinski manor to seek him.
The clicking of my heels over the tiles never sounded more urgent or as in sync with my rapidly beating pulse.
I was running away again.
I fucking hated myself.
* Abjuration magic-protective spells and the suppression of others’ magic.
Hyeloo lovely Inkines! Thanks for reading :)
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