Authors: Michelle Madow
Every Thanksgiving up to this one, I’d woken up relaxed, knowing I didn’t have to worry about homework since our teachers never assigned it over break. The scent of pancakes would filter through my room—my mom cooked them every Thanksgiving morning—and I would have a bunch of texts from friends, mostly mass text messages wishing me a Happy Thanksgiving.
All of that was the same today, minus the feeling relaxed part.
This morning, I was so worried about what was going to happen at dinner that not even the delicious smell of pancakes was making me hungry.
I rolled over and clutched my comforter tighter around me, not wanting to wake up. Why was it that when you were looking forward to a specific day, it took forever to arrive, but when you were dreading a day, it was there immediately?
I wanted to close my eyes and sleep more, so I wouldn’t have to think about the upcoming task tonight. The idea of being in confined quarters with Chelsea was making me nauseated.
“Elizabeth!” my mom called from downstairs. “Time for breakfast!”
I managed to get out of bed, trudge to the bathroom, and freshen up before heading downstairs. I looked awful—the huge circles under my eyes were a giveaway to how long it had taken me to fall asleep last night.
“You look exhausted,” my mom said when I stepped into the kitchen. “Trouble sleeping?”
“I haven’t talked to Chelsea since trying to apologize on Saturday,” I said, setting the table in preparation for the Thanksgiving Breakfast Pancake Feast. “And that didn’t go well.”
“You’re worried about seeing her tonight,” my mom guessed. I doubted it was hard to figure out.
“Yeah.” I nodded. “She won’t talk to me at school anymore. Luckily I have Drew and Keelie and Hannah—even Jeremy and I are on good terms now—but I miss being friends with Chelsea.”
I’d actually talked with Keelie about the same thing Tuesday at lunch. She didn’t understand why I wanted to be friends with Chelsea in the first place. She said Chelsea was an awful friend, and that people at school thought she was snobby. I wondered if people thought I was snobby for hanging out with her, but I didn’t ask. It’s amazing how often people mistake shyness for snobbiness.
All it took to make Keelie understand was reminding her that she had been best friends with Shannon since elementary school. Shannon made Chelsea look tame. Sometimes the history you had with someone was more important than anything else. The sleepovers in middle school when we did each other’s makeup and watched made-for-TV movies all night, the time when Chelsea stood up for me when people made fun of me in French class last year, and all the time talking on the phone chatting about whatever was on our minds. You grew comfortable with that person. They knew everything about you, the good and the bad, and wanted to spend time with you anyway.
That sort of friendship isn’t something you can walk away from without caring at all.
“Are you sure you’re okay going over there?” my mom asked, placing a stack of pancakes in the center of the table and sitting down. “I could tell Tyler you weren’t feeling well.”
I wished that were possible. If I didn’t have to investigate Chelsea’s room, I probably would have agreed to it. And it wouldn’t have been a lie, since the idea of being around Chelsea was truly making me feel sick.
“No, it’s okay,” I told my mom, forcing a smile. “It might be a good thing to see Chelsea away from school.”
“Maybe she’ll get into the spirit of Thanksgiving and will want to forgive you and start fresh,” my mom said, putting two pancakes onto her plate.
I did the same, figuring I should try to eat. “That would be nice, but I don’t think so.”
“You never know,” she said. “It
the most magical time of the year.”
“That’s Christmas, Mom.” I rolled my eyes.
“And the spirit of Christmas starts on Thanksgiving!” she argued. “Speaking of which, I have to give the handyman a call this week so he can get our lights up.”
That was one big similarity between my mom and I—we were indoor girls. Neither of us climbed ladders in the freezing cold to wrestle with Christmas lights.
Hopefully I wouldn’t be stuck doing Christmas dinner with Chelsea and her dad, too. That would really be awful. I figured it was best not to say anything.
Who knew what could happen between now and then?
* * *
Once I started eating pancakes, they were so good that I’d had way more than I should have. I didn’t know how I would be hungry for dinner. My mom and I did our Thanksgiving tradition of watching the Macy’s Day Parade in the living room, followed by the dog show that was on afterward. The dogs were cute to watch, although I was more of a cat person. Not that I could get a cat while I lived at home, since my mom was allergic, but I planned on getting one after graduating college.
That was a long way off, though. And I shouldn’t be planning that far ahead, since my biggest concern right now was fixing whatever dark spell Chelsea did so I would make it through the next full moon.
My mom and I weren’t into sports, so we didn’t watch the football game, despite it being an American tradition. Instead, I took a long, hot shower, and spent a lot of time getting ready for dinner. I wanted to look my best. Yes, it was only Chelsea and her dad, but by looking good, I could give Chelsea the impression that her being mad at me wasn’t stressing me out as much as it was.
I wore a new dress, and blew out my hair and straightened it, which I hadn’t done for months. Mainly because straightening my hair reminded me of how Jeremy had pushed me to wear it straight because he liked it better that way. But I liked how my hair looked both curly and straight, and I was no longer the girl who wore my hair a certain way because my boyfriend told me to. I would do whatever I was in the mood for.
Drew would tell me I looked beautiful no matter how I wore my hair, even if I did something crazy like chop it all off. I would never do something like that, but knowing he wouldn’t judge me for it was important.
The day passed fast. When we arrived at Chelsea’s, I looked at the house I’d been to a million times—wooden panels, blue shutters, the two car garage, and the brick chimney.
I had so many good memories there, but right now, all I could feel was dread.
To say that dinner was awkward would be the understatement of the past two centuries. At least my mom and Chelsea’s dad were low-key about their relationship. I think they were trying to make Chelsea and me comfortable. I couldn’t speak for Chelsea, but I was grateful for that.
Chelsea one-upped me with outfits for the night, wearing a red dress that hugged her curves, and was short without being inappropriate for a family dinner. She’d also put on a lot of makeup—thick black eyeliner, and her lips were painted in the same dark red she’d been wearing to school for the past week.
If she had cast a curse on me, she was certainly getting into the part.
I would have busied myself by helping set the table and getting the food ready—anything to avoid Chelsea—but Mr. Givens had hired his housekeeper to help, so none of that was necessary. Instead, I was in the living room, drinking sparkling cider from a champagne flute while my mom and Mr. Givens had glasses of wine. Chelsea had a champagne flute of cider as well. I would have been fine with a normal glass, but I think Mr. Givens wanted us to feel grown up. It didn’t matter to me, but Chelsea kept toying with the stem, like she was at a fancy function instead of in the living room with the three of us. Every so often she would glance longingly at the bottle of wine, and I knew she would have preferred that to the cider.
I wasn’t into drinking, but at this point I imagined a glass or two of white wine would make me a lot less nervous for what I had to do tonight.
Every time my eyes met Chelsea’s, her gaze hardened, and her lips curled into a sneer. I wondered if my mom noticed. At least Mr. Givens had the foresight to have music playing in the background. It made the silences less awkward. There weren’t many silences, though—my mom and Mr. Givens kept up the chit-chat nicely.
After what felt like hours (but was really only thirty minutes), we headed to the table to eat dinner. I didn’t know how I was hungry after the Pancake Feast that morning, but the moment I inhaled the comforting smell of Thanksgiving food, my stomach rumbled. Neither Chelsea’s dad nor my mom cooked, so they ordered the food in from a local restaurant, and it smelled delicious.
But since the plan was set to start during dinner, the sight of the table worried me. Was I really about to do this? The plan wasn’t complicated, but it could still go wrong. I could get caught. And if I got caught … what could I possibly say?
Hopefully I wouldn’t get caught.
Luckily no one insisted we do that activity before dinner where each person says something they’re thankful for. Chelsea would have sneered or laughed at whatever I had to say. Plus, I was most thankful for Drew entering my life and changing everything; for being lucky enough to have met my soul mate.
If I said that aloud, Chelsea might rip my head off.
Mid-way through dinner, I excused myself, presumably to use the restroom. But that wasn’t my actual destination. I’d been over Chelsea’s house enough times to know that the powder room was near the stairs, which led up to Chelsea’s bedroom.
My stomach flipped at the thought of what I was about to do. Hopefully it wouldn’t be hard to find what I needed in Chelsea’s room. I didn’t want to be gone for too long and have everyone wonder if I was okay.
The worst that could happen was that they would assume I wasn’t feeling well. It would be embarrassing, but worth it if I found what I needed.
When I got to the powder room, I opened and closed the door in the pretense of going in. I was probably being paranoid—I doubted they could hear it from the dining room—but it made me feel better. Then I slipped off my shoes and held them as I hurried up the wooden steps. My heart was pounding, but I did my best to calm down by focusing on the task at hand. If I let my mind wander, I would only feel guilty about what I was doing. I couldn’t afford to be distracted.
Besides, Chelsea had a lot more to feel guilty about if she’d cursed me to die.
Once inside her room, I turned on the lights, set my shoes down on her vacuumed white carpet, and looked around. Chelsea was a neat freak, so nothing was out of place.
If only I knew where to start. Her four-poster bed was made without a crease on it, her makeup was organized in perfect lines on her vanity, and her desk was sectioned off so everything was in its proper place. The items on her desk looked the same as when I was over on Saturday—except for the candle next to her laptop. A round, squat red candle that judging from the small amount of wax burned away on the top, had only been used once.
In all the time I’d known Chelsea, she’d never had a candle in her room, let alone lit one. What were the chances that she had purchased one—and used it—within the time frame that someone close to me had cast a curse on me?
This couldn’t be a coincidence.
I also doubted that telling Chelsea I found her candle was going to be enough evidence to make her admit to what she did. I needed more proof if I wanted her cornered.
Which led to the next step of Drew’s plan—check out what websites Chelsea had been browsing recently. If I found something incriminating, something relating to magic and spells, it would point to Chelsea being responsible for casting the curse.
I opened her laptop, glad it wasn’t password protected, and went straight to her web browser. The majority of her recent history was Facebook. The worst part was that when I looked closer, she was obviously stalking Drew’s page. She especially loved looking at any photo of the two of them together. She also visited his Twitter multiple times, even though he barely updated it.
Knowing that my ex-best friend had feelings for my boyfriend? I didn’t like that, and I wished things didn’t have to be that way. Knowing she followed his every move online? I’m not going to be a hypocrite, because everyone’s done their share of Internet stalking, but it was different seeing it in front of me. And it definitely annoyed me. There was a part of me that wished Drew wasn’t Facebook friends with her, but de-friending someone was petty, and caused unnecessary drama. Anyway, Chelsea looking at his page wasn’t hurting anything.
But if my instincts were correct, she
done something to hurt me.
I had to figure out what that something was.
Reminded of the reason I was searching through her computer, I looked further back into her browser’s history. Nothing stuck out from yesterday or the day before that.
Then I reached Sunday night, and froze at the titles of the visited web pages:
Remembering past lives.
Past life regression—Wikipedia.
Spells to make him fall in love with you.
Free love spells guaranteed to work.
The list continued—pages and pages of research into past lives and love spells. I imagined most of them were tacky and way off from the truth, but perhaps she’d found something that worked. After all, when I first suspected I was remembering a past life, I’d done online research. Most of the websites were ridiculous, but a few of them weren’t terrible.
If the magic sites were the same way, Chelsea could have found a spell that worked.
Then I remembered what Alistair had said about her having to drink witch’s blood to cast such a dark curse. I couldn’t imagine Chelsea doing something so repulsive. So could she be a witch? I doubted it, but if the curse worked, then maybe she was.
I continued to look through the history of the browser, amazed by how many sites she’d visited. She must have gotten barely any sleep Sunday night.
Suddenly the door flew open.
I sat back in the chair, staring wide-eyed at Chelsea as she crossed her arms and leered at me from the doorway.
“What are you doing in my room?” she asked with so much malice that it sounded like she wanted to kill me on the spot.