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Authors: Randi Reisfeld,H.B. Gilmour

T*Witches: Split Decision

BOOK: T*Witches: Split Decision
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T*Witches:
Split Decision

H.B. Gilmour
& Randi Reisfeld

 

 

 

© 2003, 2012 H.B. Gilmour and Randi Reisfeld

All rights reserved.

First published by Scholastic in 2003.

For our dear pal, Nance, and our fave fan, Martine — with love and thanks

— H.B.G. & R.R.

CHAPTER ONE

FIRESTARTER

Against a backdrop of a royal-blue sky, fireworks lit up the night. Bursting bouquets of orange, fiery red, blinding silver, and glittering gold rained down on the awestruck crowd. It was the Fourth of July in Marble Bay, Massachusetts, and nearly the entire town had turned out for the show. Neighbors for the night, they formed a united chorus of ooohhs and aaahhhs as crackling geysers of color erupted over the water. This night on the beach, the spirit of friendship was infectious.

And Camryn Barnes had never felt so alone.

Cue the cliché, the striking auburn-haired teen thought. You
can
feel loneliest in a crowd. Even when the crowd is your own. Cam sat on a blanket, scrunched
between her five best friends. Her intense charcoal-gray eyes were trained on the awesome fireworks, but her thoughts had elsewhere to be. They dragged her to places she didn’t want to go.

So he was gone. So what? Not that far, and not forever. Jason Weissman had left early for college. It wasn’t as if they’d ever been an official couple. This hollow feeling, then, couldn’t be about Jason.

A loud boom shook the sky. Interlocking rings of fireworks exploded. Shimmering blue sparklers lit the sky, followed by blasts of blinding white, then red rockets flashed dazzlingly. United in patriotism and excitement, the crowd roared its approval.

Where do fireworks go once they’ve landed? Cam wondered idly. They just scatter and disappear, she supposed.

Like her friends were about to do. Fireworks on the Fourth kicked off the official start of summer — this one marked the time between sophomore and junior years of high school for Cam’s crew. It also marked their first summer apart.

Amanda was going up north to work at a sleepaway camp. Beth was headed down to Florida, where her recently divorced dad had moved. Sukari was zooming east, where an archaeological dig in Europe awaited. Brianna and Kristen, west to some pricey tennis camp,
courtesy of Bree’s Hollywood producer dad. (The man who’d rather throw money Bree’s way than give her the time of his day.)

Cam wasn’t going anywhere.

This year’s summer vacation had been scuttled, a fallout of belt-tightening, her adoptive dad, Dave, explained. Her mom, Emily, made it even clearer. With a third college-bound child to care for — that would be Alex, who’d showed up on their doorstep a year ago — instead of just two (Cam and her brother, Dylan), blowing big bucks for a summer jaunt seemed irresponsible. So Cam was slated for a stay-at-home. Was the empty feeling in the pit of her stomach all about jealousy?

Nuh-uh. Cam had never been about the “poor little me” thing. Yet here she was down in Dumpsville, on the off-ramp to Pity City.

One good thing, none of her friends saw through her.

They never had.

Cam had always been the sunny-side-up girl on the outside, even though on the inside she’d thought something was wrong with her; all her life she’d known she was different.

She’d been right. When Alex — the identical twin she’d never met and hadn’t known about — came into her life at age fourteen, everything all of a sudden made
sense. A stranger from the other side of the country, a girl who’d experienced identical weirdness.
That
was what had been missing. Reunited, both had felt, if not exactly normal, at least whole, for the first time ever.

“Snacks! We need munchies!” Curly-haired Beth busted in on Cam’s reverie.


Agua
,” Kristen piped up. “We need drinks. We are parched.”

Sukari perched on one knee and peered around. “Check it out. The snack cart is as far from here as it could be. I calculate five hundred yards, and that doesn’t take into account the X factor —”

“The X factor? You actually just said that?” Brianna marveled. “Is that what they mean by ‘of course you’ll use algebra in real life’?”

Sukari ignored her. “The X factor is the maze of people separating us from our munchies. It’s gonna take guts and determination to negotiate this obstacle course.”

“I’ll go,” Cam quickly volunteered.

Brianna approved. “Excellent. Gutsy Camryn will fetch.”

When the girls had placed their orders, Beth noted, “That’s a lot to tote back. I’ll come with.”

Cam got to her feet and pretend-deepened her voice. “I am your leader. I accept my responsibility as the bringer of all things sweet and caloric.”

“Done deal,” Brianna cut to the chase. “So it’ll be five Pepsis and —”

“They’re out of Pepsi,” Cam said absentmindedly, eyeing the food cart.

“Then get — wait, rewind,” Bree challenged. “You can’t see that from here.”

Actually, Cam could. She could see not only the lack of Pepsi but everything on the cart, down to the change — two quarters and a dime — being given to a customer. Her telescopic, zoom-lens eyesight was a gift her friends could never know about. Thinking quickly, she said, “I just heard someone say they only had iced tea and those red-white-and-blue slushies left.”

Bree rolled her emerald eyes. “Whatever. So make it four slushies and —”

“One diet iced tea,” Cam anticipated Bree’s request. The girl least likely to need fewer calories continued to monitor them, her eating disorder under control, but not cured.

Nor was this unsettled ache. Cam was relieved to have an excuse to leave her friends for a bit. Threading her way through the crowd, she flipped through possibilities. Was it her friends leaving or was it Jason?

He’s here! Pinch me. He came back. For me!

Cam stopped short. For one microsecond, she’d imagined those excited thoughts were hers. But no. They
were owned and operated exclusively by her twin sister, Alex.

Alexandra Fielding. The name called up images of a decked-out debutante gracefully descending a staircase for her coming-out gala.

That would not be
this
Alexandra Fielding. Like Cam’s twin might ever be seen out of uniform — faded, torn jeans, frayed camo top, and scrungy mocs.

Her sister lived by her own set of standards and practices. Take tonight. Als had been invited to watch the fireworks with the gang but hadn’t even made a “just to be social” cameo.

Okay, so this time she had a good reason. Cam’s bio-twin was enveloped and enraptured by a boy she’d known only briefly before he bolted for Paris, a boy named Cade, who’d come back. For the summer, at least. For Alex, at most.

Cam hadn’t meant to tap into Alex’s joy, but she couldn’t help herself. Correction: Didn’t help herself.

She and Alex could read each other’s minds. Really, though, like regular identical twins, who can sometimes sense things. Alex and Cam were twin witches. T*Witches, they’d dubbed themselves when they’d found each other. Which was exactly one year ago today. July Fourth. For them, Independence Day had turned into
codependence day … linking them inescapably together. Well, happy anniversary to us.

Cam was taken aback by the bitterness of her thoughts and relieved that Alex was probably too preoccupied to have heard them.

Snap out of it, she scolded herself, determined to focus on balancing two flimsy cardboard trays filled with a half-dozen ’dogs, drinks, and Cheez Doodles. With a little bit of magick — in this case, focusing on and freezing the drinks so they wouldn’t splash — she could do this.

And she would have, except she didn’t.

On this muggy summer night, Camryn got the chills. An icy wind spiraled around her, as if she were in the eye of a tornado. She shivered. Goose bumps rippled along her arms, her brow grew fevered, and her eyes stung. The beach and everyone on it became one huge blur, and her head pounded.

Classic symptoms. A premonition was knocking at her door. She had no choice but to let it in.
It
, and the bad thing it would foretell.

Cam neither saw nor felt the trays of snacks slip out of her hands. What she saw instead was a trio of scrawny boys … about nine or ten years old … crouching in an empty field … two of them staring at the longhaired kid in the middle.

He was holding it too close. A firecracker. In a minute, he would light it. Cam could see the firecracker exploding … in the boy’s hands.

It was an injury so intense, Cam could feel it. Was feeling it. Radiating from her hand, gripping her bicep like a tourniquet pulled too tight. Her vision had played out like a silent horror film. Only now there was a sound track.

“What do you think you’re doing?” a guy growled at her. “You spill two trays of food on us, and you just stand there like a zombie?”

His friend shouted, “Whoa, stop, man. Maybe she’s sick. You sick?”

Cam was wrenched out of her dream state. Enough, at least, for her to realize that she should be apologetic, offer to clean up. She couldn’t. Her head pounded, her mind raced. As fast as she could, she sprinted away. Where were those boys? Could she stop the inevitable from happening? Could she do it on her own?

With her senses as her only compass, Cam ran along the seawall, kicking up sand, dodging people, blankets, food, and beach balls. Like a thoroughbred, she leaped over fences, carelessly repeating “sorry, sorry, sorry” as she ran. The fireworks show was gearing up for the big finale. No one tried to stop her. She raced toward the far
end of the wall, skidding to a halt when she heard the high-pitched voices of young boys, taunting, teasing, challenging.

“Come on, man, whatcha scared or something?”

“Light it! Dude, you da man. Do it!”

“Don’t rush me.…” the boy with the firecracker said.

Over the seawall, she saw them. Just as in her premonition, they were kneeling in an empty lot thick with weeds. But they were farther away than she’d pictured, too far for her to reach them in time.

Her eyes zeroed in on the trio.
Look up,
she willed.
Look at me.
But all three were concentrating on the explosives the middle boy was grasping. He was littler than his friends; his hands, small and brown, were shaking. The bigger kid on his left was holding a box of matches. The boy on the other side was reaching for them, ready to light the ill-fated firework.

If he’d looked up, caught her eye, Cam could have stunned him with a glare, immobilized him long enough for her to sprint over and grab the matchbox and the firecracker. But he didn’t. None of them even glanced at her.

She wished Alex were there to use her gift of telekinesis. Her sister could make things move just by concentrating on them. She could
will
an object into
action. Even at this distance, Als could probably have focused on the firecracker and sent it soaring toward the sea.

Where was she? Cam had heard her thoughts before; maybe her twin wasn’t too far away. Quickly, she sent out a mental SOS … and continued racing toward the boys, waving her arms and shouting, “Stop! Stop! Don’t do it! You’re gonna blast off your fingers!”

On the upside, they heard her and turned. On the downside, her warning only made them act more quickly. One kid nudged the other. “Hurry up, man, do it before she can stop us.”

“How’s she gonna do that?” the kid in the middle countered.

Their arguing bought Cam a few minutes. But for what? She was Cam without a plan. Half of a dream team. Useless without Alex. Panic seized her.

CHAPTER TWO

AN EXPLOSIVE SITUATION

The boys were huddled together, more determined than ever to light the firecrackers. Their backs to Cam, they were totally unaware that one of them was faulty and that it would not go shooting into the sky but would explode in the hand holding it.

Cam began to tremble. What could she do on her own?

The answer lay in the spot between her collarbones. There her sun charm hung on a thin gold chain. The charm — a powerful amulet forged before her birth by the father she and Alex had never known — had begun to vibrate. But Cam was shaking so hard she’d barely noticed it. Now she could feel it trembling, growing
warm against her fear-chilled skin. She gripped the delicate, hammered-gold charm and, as Alex would have, she squeezed her eyes shut and pictured the unlit firecracker, imagined it spiraling out of the boy’s hands and landing safely in the water.

An incantation came to her. It was not the polished sort of spell their guardian witch, Ileana, might have used. But surprisingly it
was
as good as anything Cam had ever composed with her songwriter sister. Accepting the words as a gift of her sun charm, she desperately recited:
To foolish children let no harm come … Innocent they are, though willful and dumb … Take the danger from their hand… Hurl it into the sea at my command.

Sudden panicked cries made her heart lurch, her stomach fall. She had failed. Why else would the boys be shrieking?

Terrified, Cam forced her eyes open and saw the trio tumbling backward as if they’d been propelled by a fierce wind. Scattered and screaming, they toppled end over end, crushing the tall grass as they rolled through it. She saw the streaking red trail above them … the tail of an unlit firecracker zooming seaward, soaring harmlessly against the darkening sky.

Safe, the shaken kids scrambled to their feet. Panting, crying, they fled across the field. The smallest
one stopped and turned to stare at Cam, his eyes wide with awe and alarm.

“Run!” one of his friends hollered back to him. “Look what she did! She’s a witch! Get away from her!”

She’s a witch!
The cry echoed in the sudden stillness.

You’d better believe it, Cam thought, collapsing as the air rushed out of her. She’d done it. She’d been needed and she’d succeeded! Maybe, she mused, gasping for breath, this was the universe’s way of saying, “You can do it on your own. All by yourself, girl. Without help. Without Alex.”

“Oh, please, David, we deserve a vacation, and this just fell into our laps. It’s serendipity.”

The voice, honeyed, cajoling, belonged to Emily Barnes, Cam’s adoptive mom. “We got these tickets for free. We can’t let them go to waste.”

Cam had opened the door but not yet stepped inside her house. She was just about to barge in and echo her support for that idea. There’d be a family vacay after all! Her night kept on getting better.

Or not. Her dad’s rejoinder stopped her. “But Cam and Alex will be alone,” David Barnes, good-guy lawyer, argued.

“Cam
and
Alex,” Emily pointed out. “They’ll have each other. They’re good kids and together they’re … fantastic, unstoppable.”

Unstoppable? Oh, yeah. Cam almost snorted. Out of the mouths of clueless moms, she thought.

Emily Barnes knew nothing of the twins’ real heritage, not even their birth names — Apolla, for the sun god, and Artemis, her moony sister, Alex. David, on the other hand, had been chosen as a protector for Cam and knew more about the girls than his wife.

More, but not much.

“They’re only fifteen, Em,” he protested.

“Closer to sixteen,” she reminded him gently. “Oh, David, how often does this kind of thing happen? Dylan’s away at camp and the girls — they’re smart and sensible. They’ll be fine and you know it. This is a golden opportunity —”

“What golden opportunity?” Cam decided to reveal herself.

Momentarily surprised, Emily peered at Cam through her light fringe of bangs, then smiled, as she almost always did at the sight of her daughter. “Your dad and I were offered free tickets for a Mediterranean cruise. We’d only be away for three weeks —”

“And?” Cam said, trying to ignore the hollow feeling yawning in her gut again.

She wouldn’t even have them around. They were both staring at her now, two pairs of questioning eyes, Emily’s sky blue and Dave’s deeper indigo. Did they want her approval? Her blessing?

“Sure, you should go,” she said, summoning as much enthusiasm as she could. “I’ll — we’ll be fine.”

Emily whirled to face Dave again, beaming.

Cam left them and, gripping the banister, pulled herself up the stairs. Self-pity threatened to engulf her. Alex and Cam would be together — only not. There was the Cade factor. He’d factor into every spare moment Alex had. Cam’s friends were about to scatter. Her brother, Dylan, was probably hang gliding or windsurfing or skateboarding right now at Camp Extreme. And soon, her parents would set sail on the
Love Boat.

Unless she scoured the nabe, hoping for premonitions, she’d be adrift for the summer. No one needed her here. That was for sure.

Upstairs in the room she now shared with Alex, Cam made a beeline for her laptop. Flipping on her e-mail, she bypassed the address everyone knew:
[email protected]
and hit “Switch Screen” to another address. It was her secret screen, the one she used to communicate with one person only. Someone who did need her.

*        *        *

Cam had met Shane Wright last year. Met
and
fallen for him. Who wouldn’t? He was buff, blond, bewitching … and bad.

She had to keep reminding herself of that. Bad as in a bad guy, selfish guy,
dangerous
guy. Warlock guy.

Shane was capable of using his witchy gifts in service of evil. Hadn’t Cam seen it happen? Hadn’t she and Alex been on the receiving end of his tricks and treachery?

Shane lived on Coventry Island, the mystical, windswept island where Cam and Alex had been born. And where they still had family. Including, they’d only recently found out, their biological mother, Miranda DuBaer.

The little island abounded with family, friends … and foes, Cam reminded herself.

Not so long ago, Shane was among them. An enemy.

He’d hooked up with a sketchy crowd. He’d followed the wrong leader. But he’d confessed, owned all his bad. He was ready; he wanted to reform. He needed Cam to help him do the 180.

Shane’s e-mails were as startling and irresistible as he was.
I never realized how close I was to the edge, to spending my life serving evil, the opposite of our purpose as witches,
he’d written.
And then I met you, and you showed me. I am here to help, to heal, to use my
knowledge of the craft for others, not for selfish reasons.

Cam hadn’t responded at first — but her silence didn’t deter him. It was understandable if she couldn’t forgive him, he acknowledged. He wasn’t sure he even deserved forgiveness. The enormity of the wrong he’d done perhaps was unforgivable. It would be okay if she never wrote back.

The wrong he’d done
had
been enormous. Shane had played her. He had won her trust and then betrayed her so recklessly it had almost cost her and Alex their lives.

But his e-mails were so apologetic, he seemed so miserable and hopeless that in a forgiving moment — remembering his smile, his twinkling eyes, how she didn’t have to hide who she really was, how her heart danced every time she saw him — she finally did reply.

She didn’t remember exactly when Shane had suggested she write back to him on a screen no one knew or could access. Nor when he’d first started urging her to return to Coventry. But a week ago, he’d written.

You are everything I want to be. Can be. I need you, Cam. Please come back to the island… to me. Even for a little while. Can you find it in your heart to believe me? To believe in me?

He wanted forgiveness, redemption.

Tonight, Cam thought, she was of a mind to give it to him.

In person.

Alex knew nothing of this clandestine correspondence. If she had, Cam’s spiky-haired twin would have gone ballistic. Cam could hear it now: “How could you? After what he did? Ever hear the expression, ‘Those who forget are doomed to repeat’?”

Cam hadn’t forgotten any of it. But Alex didn’t understand. In spite of everything that had gone down, she still had strong feelings for Shane. He wanted forgiveness.

“Who wants forgiveness?”

Startled, Cam jumped. “Wanna give me some warning when you’re eavesdropping?” she huffed at her sister, quickly shutting down her computer.

Alex shrugged and raked her dyed locks with black-painted fingernails. “I wasn’t eavesdropping,” she blithely announced. “Technically, I shouldn’t be able to. You should’ve sensed me coming up the stairs and closed your private e-mail down before I showed up.”

“Why are you home so early anyway?” Cam demanded defensively. “Don’t you and Cade have lots of catching up to do?”

Alex plopped down on her bed and kicked off her
scuffed mocs. “Take the sarcasm down a notch, okay? I thought I was being unselfish. I wanted to make sure you were all right.”

“Why wouldn’t I be?”

Alex tapped her forehead. “Post-premonition pounding? Major headache. Wanted to see if you were okay.”

“So you knew.” Cam smiled, trying not to gloat. “I saved a kid from getting his fingers blown off.” Arms crossed, she leaned back in her swivel chair.

“You da witch,” Alex said.

“Als … you know what? I think I’m getting some hyperhearing of my own. I heard those kids from way far off.”

“Mad props.” Her twin applauded lazily.

“And first time ever? I did it alone.” Cam snapped her fingers and drew an imaginary victory arc in the air.

“Not to take the ‘umph’ out of your triumph, but that’s not quite the way it went down.”

“Translation?” Cam asked.

Peeling off her hooded sweatshirt, Alex said, “We, you and me, T*Witches Unstoppable, Inc.
We
intervened and saved the kid.”

Cam’s face grew hot with barely contained annoyance. “How do you figure? I sent a message. You didn’t respond.”

“Didn’t I?” Alex arched her eyebrows — purple today, to match her hair. “Why do you think your sun charm started to buzz and vibrate?”

“You’re taking credit for that?” Cam was astounded.

“I heard your telepathic shout-out. Only I wasn’t close enough to get there in time. So … preserving my well-deserved rep as the quick-thinking twin, I tried something new. Hanging on to my amulet —” Alex demonstrated as if she were doing a show-and-tell project for a remedial class. Holding her gold half-moon charm in front of her sister’s reddening face, she zipped it back and forth on its chain. “I sent you an awesome incantation — if I do say so myself. And? It worked. Eureka!”

Cam had had it. “No,
you
reek-a,” she shot back. “Or your explanation does, anyway. I don’t believe you.”

“Whoa, petulant much?” Alex imitated Cam-slang.

Surprised at the acidy lump in her throat and its sudden companion, salty tears, Cam turned away, trying to hide her face.

When had she turned into a crybaby, a vulnerable, lonely loser? Where was Winner Cam, the stylish and social soccer star everyone looked up to? She so hated feeling helpless.

Clearly Alex had not expected the sob-fest. She crossed the room and began gently massaging Cam’s
shoulders. Which made Cam feel even worse. It took everything she had not to shrug off Alex’s sympathetic touch. Self-pity was bad;
being
pitied was off-the-charts worse.

“We worked together, but you really own this one. You sensed it first.” Alex was backpedaling. “It was your premonition, Cam. If I had been there instead of you, those kids would have been in big trouble. Remember, I don’t get premonitions.”

Much later, when Cam closed her eyes, it wasn’t visions of victory, or fireworks, or even Shane playing in her head. It was a verdant landscape, a calm place … a woman in a lavender cape, her hair twisted in a long auburn braid, whispering … what? Cam strained to hear.…

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