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Authors: Charla Layne

Year of the Witch

BOOK: Year of the Witch
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Year of the Witch

by Charla Layne

 

Cover photo by Clara Patt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright 2011 Charla Layne

All rights reserved

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dedication

To my mother

who tolerates our spells

 

 

Chapter One

            I was born in the year of the witch.  My family anxiously awaited the next sixteen years to see if I would truly submit to my calling or just be another disappoint to the Sayter family name.  My mother and my sister had resisted this calling, or so it seemed to the rest of the family.  While my grandmother always insisted that my mother lacked the focus needed to call the arts as a teenager, I truly believe my sister just ignored the calling out of embarrassment.  It was hard enough to be a teenager and go to high school.  Who needed the additional transitions of managing that with learning to cast spells and control powers?

            I will turn sixteen in three months.  My mother’s side of the family watches me like some sort of science project, hopeful that I will display the family traits they all value so much.  My father’s side of the family has religiously attended church four times a week since the announcement of my mother’s pregnancy, asking the heavens above to spare me from the wicked sentence.  I feel like no matter what happens at this point, I will sorely disappoint half of my family.

            In traditional fashion, I am marked as a fledgling with the Sayter family crest on a medallion that I am to wear at all times.  It had annoyed my grandmother to no end when I had turned the ancient necklace into an updated and modern bracelet.  What difference did it make, I had argued.  I still wore the darn thing at all times, as mandated by the Council.  My mother had merely chuckled and reminded her mother that I was just expressing my individuality.  She’d said the same thing when I’d dyed my hair maroon just last year.  Since, I had let it return to it’s original dark blonde shade that I despised.  What witch didn’t have some dark, foreboding shade of black hair?  It almost seemed a joke that as a fledgling, I was cursed with blonde hair and sky blue eyes.  We won’t even discuss the sprinkle of freckles that covered the bridge of my nose and my cheeks.

            I only know two other girls at my high school that wear medallions similar to mine.  At least they both have been blessed with dark hair and dark eyes instead of toting these baby doll looks like mine.  It strikes my family as odd that the three of us choose to avoid each other instead of uniting in an attempt to try to understand our budding gifts in the arts.  Well, my family will certainly be thrilled to learn that last Friday when I checked the sign-up sheet for my driver’s education class, fate had placed the three of us together in a car with the instructor.  I’d had to scan the list twice, but there it was—Rachel McAlister, Devon Black, and Trina Sayter.  I was destined to spend the remainder of the school year in a car with the only other two witch fledglings I knew.      

            I remember when I met Devon Black in the second grade.  I’d been strangely impressed that even back then she had never strayed from her consistent wardrobe of black from head to toe.  I think she just liked the shock effect it had on everyone.  When I’d seen her medallion, I’d asked my grandmother to take me to the Council’s hall of family records.  I couldn’t believe that her last name was actually Black, but there it was in the records.  I’d thought surely she’d changed it simply because what cooler name than Black could there possibly be for a witch’s family?

            Rachel McAlister sat behind me in English class.  And, as everyone else at Canter High did, the only reason to befriend Rachel was to get closer to her brother Jake.  Jake McAlister was the bad boy personified.  I’d almost give up every chance of being a witch just to ride on the back of his motorcycle snuggled up to him.  Hey, I said almost.  I’m pretty excited at the prospect of being the newest witch in the Sayter family.

Chapter Two

           
With my sixteenth birthday quickly coming to pass, my grandmother had insisted that I attend all of the study sessions the council offered.  While I had enjoyed Spells 101, I certainly was not looking forward to having to juggle my time between my driver’s education classes, my social life, and these study sessions.  My social life—there was a laugh.  If I ever said those words out loud and in my sister’s presence, she might actually hurt herself getting a good laugh out of that one.  See, where my sister had ignored her gift and opted instead to fill her life with shopping, girlfriends, parties and dating, I typically could be found locked in my room with my nose in a book. 

             It’s not that I wasn’t interested in dating.  It’s just that I was only kind of interested in dating someone that hardly knew I existed.  I have had exactly two conversations with Jake McAlister in my whole life.  Once was over the phone six weeks ago when I called to borrow a spell book from Rachel.  The only other time was two weeks ago when we were all crammed in the back of Mrs. McAlister’s van when she’d graciously given me a ride home from school.  She’d refused to let me walk home in the rain and had insisted that I climb in the back with Jake and Rachel.  I had been only slightly mortified, knowing that my hair was unflatteringly plastered down to my head and my drenched clothes only emphasized the point that I was far too skinny and had no curves whatsoever that an ordinary almost sixteen year old girl should.  I’d slid in to the back seat by Jake, mumbling something that might have resembled a “hey” to both him and Rachel.  And that constituted the entire second conversation I had ever had with Jake.

            I was really going to have to get a move on things if I wanted Jake to realize I was alive and even more so if I expected him to become so enthralled with me that he would invite me to the spring dance.  I’d have to consult my handbook from Spells 101 to see if there was something that could help me along with that.  I remember my grandmother saying I needed to be careful with any spells I conjured up at this early point in my gift.  She’d reminded me that there were a multitude of things that could wrong.  Things that could go wrong and not have a way to get undone, according to her.  She swears up and down that Mr. Ulmyer from down the street still holds the same crush on her since she spelled him in the sixth grade.  And she’s convinced that his undying feelings for her lead to the jealousy that drove her second husband Walt away.  Either way, I had to find some way to get Jake to look at me like Mr. Ulmyer did at Grams.

            In an effort to reach this goal, I’d reluctantly signed up for the spring dance committee—mainly because Rachel had asked me to.  I thought I could just casually suggest that the next committee meeting be held at her house, where the likelihood of a glance at Jake would be far more possible.  I was trying to figure how to slide this suggestion into conversation as I headed down the dark hallway to the school cafeteria where the meeting was to be held.  I had never given much thought to how creepy the dark hallway actually was until I heard a scratching sound followed by what I can only describe as a sort of heavy panting sound.  It was similar to what my basset hound, Rex, sounds like after chasing squirrels around our yard.  I stopped and listened hard into the darkness, trying to figure out which direction the sound was coming from.  Then something or someone—I’m not sure exactly what or who, bounded around the corner of the lockers, ran smack into me knocking me down, and took off out the side door I’d just come in through.  I sat on the tile floor, stunned and staring at the tufts of what appeared to be light brown fur on the floor all around me.

Chapter Three

 

            “Well, I have no idea who or what it was,” I hissed to Rachel in her ear as I pulled her into the hallway off of the cafeteria.  “But here is what it was covered in!” I threw handfuls of the fur at her for dramatic effect.           

            “Eeewww, ok, that is absolutely disgusting,” she said, as she brushed at her clothes and at the tufts of hair floating in the air around her.  “Maybe it was a stray dog.”               “Right.  Just roaming in the school hallways?  Doubtful.  Try again.”

            “Ok, um…perhaps a werewolf?”  Rachel glanced at me, waiting for my response on that one.  “I mean seriously, if there are witches here, there could be werewolves.”

            “I’ll accept your default logic; however, there is no record of werewolves existing any where near this portion of the United States for about the last two hundred years, “ I confidently informed her.  “Got anything else?”                                                                                  I hadn’t heard anyone walk up behind us in the dark hallway, but I certainly heard her comment right then.

            “Shape shifter,” said Devon Black.  “That’s my guess.  It about knocked me down, too, in the parking lot.  Looked like an overgrown dog.”

            I was surprised to see Devon here.  School festivities really weren’t her thing, and I couldn’t imagine why she would be here to help decorate for the spring dance. 

            “What are you doing here?” I asked her point blank.  We had decided long ago that we would tolerate each other, but we didn’t have to take it so far as to pretend to actually like each other.                                                                                                                         “I could ask you the same thing, Sayter.”  Devon stared at me hard enough that I had to turn away from her or continue being really uncomfortable.

            “Girls,” said Rachel in her annoyingly upbeat and sweet voice, “none of that.”  Rachel hated being left to referee any incidents between the two of us.  “I invited Devon here, Trina.  She’s going to help us with the dance.”                                                                                    “Whatever,” I mumbled, as I grabbed another handful of the fur and slid it into the side pocket of my purse.  I wanted my grandmother to get a look at it to tell me her thoughts on the creature-dog-thing. 

            “Hey, what do you think that furry thing was doing in the school building anyway?” asked Rachel.  “I mean you think it would go outside to shift or whatever.”

            “Maybe it’s still learning,” said Devon thoughtfully.  “You know, like us.  We’re still learning our spells and fine tuning our craft and powers.  Maybe whatever it was is new at this whole shifting thing and can’t control it yet.”

            “You know, Devon,” I said to her and sighed, “I might have to actually agree with you on this one.  My guess is that our new furry friend is probably a student here like us and just learning how to control what happens and when.”

            “Cool,” said Devon.  “A real shape shifter in our school.  I can’t wait to figure out who he is and start dating him.  I mean, it had to be a guy with the kind of strength it had to knock you down, right?”

            “Um, sure,” I agreed. “But why would you want to date the furry thing?”

            “Just think,” said Devon. “I’d always have the perfect excuse that the dog ate my homework.”                                                                                                                                         Rachel and I groaned in unison as we followed Devon towards the cafeteria.  Right now we had to focus on decorations—later we could focus on research and find out what else exactly lived in our town and came to our school.

Chapter Four

            “Sweet, sweet thoughts of me, you will think constantly.  Sweet, sweet thoughts of me, you will think constantly…”  I continued the chant as I shook the jar of water made sweet with sugar and honey.  I watched the popsicle stick I’d written our names on swirl around in the sugary sweet liquid.  On one side—Trina May Sayter; on the other—Jake Ryan McAlister.  This was THE spell my grandmother had used on poor Mr. Ulmyer after all, so I was confident that it would work.  After my seventh and final verse, there was a tap at my door.  I had just enough time to slide the jar into a dresser drawer before Grams walked in.

            “Well, don’t you look guilty of spell casting, my dear.”  I never knew how Grams  was always so perceptive, but she claimed I would become more like that as I grew into my gift.  She glanced around the room for any signs or clues I might have left.  I was finally getting smarter in my older age and mixed the contents of the jar in the kitchen where a little sugar and honey out on the counter wouldn’t be looked at quite as suspiciously if she found it in my room. 

            I merely smiled an ultrasweet smile at her and asked, “So, you examined the fur.  What are your thoughts?”  I was anxious to hear what she had to say and patted the edge of my bed so she would sit and join me.  But she did not. 

            “Well,” she said, as she sort of anxiously paced the small distance of my room from my bedroom door to my closet door, “I’m not exactly sure.  So I showed it to my friend Ben that’s on the Council.”  She paused and saw me start to stir, but I said nothing.  “I knew that wouldn’t thrill you, Trina, but I trust him.  It’s the texture of the fur that makes it different than that of a werewolf.  He’s akin to agree with your friend, Devon, on her shape shifter theory.”

            “She’s not my friend,” I blurted out, followed quickly by an apology.  “Sorry, I know, not the point.  Have there historically been shape shifters in our region, Grams?  I’ve never heard you speak of them.”

            “Well, darling, I guess up until now, no.”  My grandmother paused.  “What worried me was Ben’s reaction.  He seemed extremely concerned but wouldn’t really share why with me.  I guess that part of the research will be left up to us.  Maybe when this whole dance thing is over, you and the other girls can invest some time at the Council’s library.  I would but every time I step out of this house, friggin Mr. Ulmyer practically jumps out of the hedges to escort me wherever I need to go around town.  I can’t lead him to the Council’s library very well now, can I?”

            I laughed because despite my grandmother’s protests, I knew that she was still sort of sweet on Mr. Ulmyer and probably also proud that her spell had held so well over the years. 

            “Trust me, Grams, I’d rather do research than make anymore of these stupid crepe paper flowers that Rachel insists we don’t have enough of!  I keep telling her that there won’t even be any room left to dance on the floor at this rate.”

            “Speaking of the dance, do you have a date for it?”  My grandmother knew darn well how I felt about Jake.

            “Not yet, Grams, but I’m working on it,” I said with a grin.

            “That’s my girl, Trina,” she said and patted my leg as she walked out of my room.  “Oh, and don’t forget to shake your jar every day,” she said and winked as she left.

Chapter Five

            “Aaaaaaaaaa!  Trina!!!  How come you’re so good at spells and so horrible at driving!?”  Rachel shrieked and gripped the back of the driver’s seat as she held on tight as I turned a corner. 

            “Girls, no screaming.  It distracts the driver even further.” Mr. Dundee, our poor driver’s ed teacher was trying to keep some peace in the car, despite Rachel’s shrieking and Devon’s insults towards me.

            “Sayter, my dead grandmother drives better than you, and she’s been dead for the past twenty years,” she snickered.  I noticed in the rear view mirror that she was buckled in firmly and was gripping the armrest on her door for dear life.

            “Girls, no distractions for the driver please.”  I was amazed that Mr. Dundee had been doing this job in addition to being our health teacher for so long without going completely insane.  Of course, he’d almost decided to retire after teaching my sister and her friends to drive.  I’m guessing he was regretting the decision now to remain teaching.

            I took the next corner sharply, and I heard Devon hiss from the backseat. 

            “Seriously, Sayter, my sunglasses just slid under the seat.  Take it easy, witch.”
            Now it was my turn to snicker.  If this was my only chance to torment Devon without hearing all kinds of crap from Rachel, then I would take it.  Besides, Rachel was looking a little green around the edges and not quite up to mediating our bicker-fest.  So when Mr. Dundee suggested I take the next right, I did so with a little extra zeal just for Devon.  I was again rewarded with the telltale hiss that indicated Devon’s irritation. 

            “Time to return to the school parking lot, girls,” Mr. Dundee said.  I’m sure he was relieved, just as my other passengers were.  “Same time tomorrow afternoon with Rachel driving,” he said.  I swear I could almost hear the silent “thank God” from him as he sauntered back towards the school building.  “Make sure not to leave anything in the school vehicle and lock all the doors.”

            We agreed, and I gave Rachel a bottle of water from my bag.  I did feel a little bad, after all, that she had to suffer just so I could torment Devon.  She took a swig and made a face, almost spitting it out. 

            “Ugh, what is in that?” she wiped at her mouth with the back of her hand, trying to get the weird aftertaste out of her mouth. 

            “Oops, sorry, I forgot about that.  I added some root of Jasmine so I’d smell sweet all day.”  I giggled at the look of her face.  “What, it’s not so bad after you get used to it.”

            “Why would you do that?” Rachel asked.  She was sweet, but not the brightest of my friends.  After all, I’d been swooning over her brother for years; and she seemed oblivious to it all.

            “Because she wants a certain boy to think she smells as sweet as she pretends to be, duh,” I glared in Devon’s direction at this muffled comment that came out of the backseat where she was still trying to fish out her sunglasses.

            “Aw, that’s so sweet,” said Rachel as she hugged me.  “Who’s this special guy?  Do I know him?”

            I kicked the car door shut as I heard the beginning of Devon’s response.  Whatever it was, I was pretty sure I didn’t want to hear it.

            “Truce,” Devon said, as she pushed the car door open.  “I found my sunglasses, but that’s not all.”  Rachel and I leaned over and looked in.  In Devon’s hand was a tuft of the same fur we’d seen before.  “Looks like our fur-ball takes driver’s ed, too.”

Chapter Six

            “Well, that certainly helps narrow it down,” I said as we walked back towards the school building.  “Instead of picking him out of 600 students, we can pick him out of forty-eight.”    

            “Right,” said Devon, surprised to find herself agreeing with me it seemed. “Let’s find that driver’s ed roster.” 

            “You girls go ahead.  I’ll have to catch up with you later,” said Rachel.  “I promised to tutor some of the football players in math today at the library.  Maybe I’ll get lucky and one will invite me to the dance.”  She giggled to herself as she hurried down the hallway towards the library. 

            Devon and I looked at each other, both apparently less than thrilled to be spending the remainder of the afternoon together. 

            “Mr. Dundee should have a log or something with who was in the car most recently.  I know he cleans it religiously on Saturday mornings so our mutt had to have driven in it this week,” Devon deduced.

            I agreed.  Mr. Dundee was well known at our school for not only his patience but also his OCD tendencies.  I’m sure the principal knew that trusting him with the school vehicle was a smart move, as it was always spic and span.  Mr. Dundee’s head would probably explode if he had seen the fur himself.

            The roster on the bulletin board not only had the names of the student’s paired together for driving classes, but Mr. Dundee had dutifully updated it with the schedule for days of the week and times each group would drive.

            “Bingo,” I told Devon.  We scanned the list and came up with a total of seven guys that had ridden in the car this week.  Six of the seven were football players. 

            “Hmm,” said Devon.  “Looks like maybe we need math tutoring, too.”

            “Sounds like a plan.”  I smiled to myself.  I guess we could work together when we had to.  We made our way to the library to find Rachel surrounded by some of Canter High’s hottest guys.  At the moment, Rachel had her head down, staring intently at whatever Jerod LaReux at worked out on his paper; while Jerod stared intently at her. 

I nudged Devon who took a look and snickered.  Maybe she’d get a date out of this tutoring thing after all, I thought.

            “Ladies…” Jerod greeted us even though he seemed less than thrilled when we plunked down our backpacks on the table near him and Rachel and took a seat. 

            “Boys…” said Devon in return, acknowledging him and the rest of the football players.  “Driver’s ed sure was eventful today, what with the grim reaper herself driving our car.”  Devon nodded in my direction then continued.  “Who else had the pleasure of spending the afternoon with Mr. Dundee?”

            Smooth, I thought.  But no one even glanced up at her. 

            “Not us,” said David Burns, the wide receiver.  “Our group starts off the week on Mondays.  Hey, Trina, Rick here is a crappy driver, too,” he chuckled.  “Maybe it’d be a match made in heaven.”  Rick grinned at me.

            “We drove right before you ladies,” said Jerod.  “Why?  Did we leave Mr. Dundee in a bad mood?”  The boys that had been in the car with Jerod all snickered.

            “Nah,” said Devon.  “But you guys did leave something behind in the car.  Something that we found pretty interesting.”

Chapter Seven

            “That was your brilliant plan to get one of them to confess to being a paranormal being?  Seriously?”  I shook my head at Devon.  The only thing those guys had confessed to leaving behind in the car was an empty soda bottle and a condom. 

            “I dunno.  I just confront people head on and be direct,” said Devon.  “It usually works well for me.”

            “I’m surprised you didn’t just hold out a handful of fur and ask: Okay, whose is this?!”  I shrieked at Devon.  Rachel merely looked back and forth from one of us to the other.  “What?” I said to Rachel who obviously had something to say.

            “Well, while the two of you were botching that up, I had another plan that I think worked really well.  I got them all to work on a math problem.  Then I wandered around the table and compared the fur color to their hair color while they had their heads down and their attention focused.  I believe there are two possibilities.”

            Devon and I stared at Rachel, dumbfounded.  We often did not give her enough credit for being as smart as she was.  At our muted silence, she continued.

            “Both Jerod and Rick have the same color of hair as the fur.  So I’ve got this all figured out.  Trina and I can double date with them to the spring dance to spend more time with them.  If this shape shifter is one of them and he can’t control when he shifts, we might just get lucky enough for it to happen on our date!”

            I could plainly tell that Rachel was proud of her plan.  And while I’ll admit it was a credible plan, how could I betray my devotion to Jake and agree to go to the dance with someone else.  Devon must have heard the wheels in my head turning. 

            She leaned towards me and quietly muttered, “Jake hardly knows you exist.  Give it up, Trina.”  Then she nodded in Rachel’s direction and added, “Great plan, Rach.  I’m in.”

            “Of course you’re in,” I scowled at Devon.  “You’re not being paired up with a potential furry freak!” 

            “So you’ll go on one date with a hot football player that really seems to be crushing on you,” said Rachel.  “He must have asked me twenty questions about you at least.  Besides, he’s kind of cute.”

            “So I’m just supposed to overlook the fact that at any point in the evening, he could potentially shift into another being because he’s cute?”

            “Look,” said Rachel, “I’m making the sacrifice as well.”  She sighed dramatically.

            It was hard not to giggle.  “Fine,” I said.  “But until we know more, neither one of us should be alone with either one of them. Agreed?”  Rachel nodded.  “It may be a good plan, Rachel, but how exactly are we going to get them to invite us to the dance?”

            “Oh,” giggled Rachel who ducked away from me.  “They already did, and I already agreed for the both of us.”  Smart girl for ducking because she missed the playful punch I threw in her direction.  Oh, well, I guess I could make this sacrifice to find out what is going on in our school.  But I’d have to be careful what I said around my grandmother.  After her talk with Ben on the Council, it sounded like she might have concerns, too, about any of us being alone with a shape shifter. 

            “Shut it, Black,” I said to Devon.  She hadn’t said a word but I could feel her amused smirk about the whole situation.  I wondered to myself, what did one wear on a date out with a potential shape shifter?

Chapter Eight

            “Rachel, staring out that window for the tenth time is not going to make those boys get here any sooner!”  I yelled at Rachel as she dropped the blinds back in place.

            “I know that, Trina, but I’m nervous.  I can’t help it.”  She fidgeted with the pearl clips in her hair nervously.

            “If you knock those curls down again, Grams is not going to fix them.  It took her thirty minutes to get it just so the first two times you pulled them out,” I reminded her.

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