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Authors: Cate Tiernan

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BOOK: Book of Shadows
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Behind me I felt Cal’s hand on my shoulder. “Okay?” he asked.
I nodded. “Uh-huh.”
A cut-stone patio, pale in the moonlight, met the edge of the staircase. Outdoor furniture, covered with waterproof covers, looked like blocky ghosts. On the far side a bank of tall shrubs pruned into neat rectangular shapes separated the patio from the yard beyond. A doorway was cut into the shrubs, and Cal pointed to it.
I looked up at the sky, shivering without my jacket or shoes. The waxing moon looked like a bitten sugar cookie in the sky. Its light shone down, illuminating our path.
Through the hedge doorway was a pristine lawn of smooth, soft grass, not yet brown. It felt like velvet moss beneath my bare feet.
Beyond the lawn was the pool. It was classical in design, almost Greek looking. It was a simple rectangular shape, with no diving board, no metal handrail anywhere. At each end was a series of tall stone columns, grown over with vines that were starting to lose their summer leaves. To one side was a cabana with several doors, and I began to hope that maybe his family kept all kinds of bathing suits there for people to borrow.
Then I saw that Jenna and Matt were already shimmying out of their clothes, and my eyes opened wide. Oh, no, I thought. No way. I whirled to find Bree, only to see that she was behind me, in her bra and underwear, dropping her clothes neatly onto a chaise longue.
“Bree!” I hissed as she undid her bra. She pushed off her undies, looking like a beautiful, moonlit marble statue. Raven and Beth were undoing hooks and buttons for each other, laughing, their teeth white in the moonlight. Naked, they ran to the pool and jumped in, their jewelry jangling cheerfully.
Next Jenna and Matt slipped into the water, Matt following Jenna as she moved across the dark expanse. Jenna laughed and went under, then surfaced, sleeking back her hair. She looked timeless, almost pagan. Sweat broke out on my forehead. Please don’t let this turn into an orgy or anything, I begged whoever was listening to my thoughts. I am
so
not ready for this.
“Relax,” Cal said behind me. I heard the rustling of his clothes and willed myself not to faint. In another minute I would see him naked. Cal, naked. All of him. Oh my God. I wanted to see him but was also writhing inside with uncertainty. He put his hand on my shoulder, and I jumped about a foot in the air.
“Relax,” he said again, turning me to face him. He had taken off his shirt but was still wearing his jeans. “It’s not going to turn into an orgy.”
I was startled by how accurately he had read my thoughts.
“I wasn’t worried about that,” I said, appalled to hear a faint tremble in my voice. “It’s just . . . I catch cold easily.”
He laughed and started undoing his jeans. My breath got stuck in my throat. “You won’t catch cold,” he said.
He pushed down his jeans, and I spun to face the swimming pool. I was rewarded by the sight of a naked Robbie walking down the broad steps into the water. What next?
Ethan was sitting on a chaise, peeling off his socks. His shirt was off, a lit cigarette dangled from his mouth, and his fatigue pants were unbuttoned and partially unzipped. He took a last drag on his cigarette and stubbed it out on the ground. Then he stood and dropped his pants as Bree and Sharon walked past him to the pool. His eyes narrowed and locked on their bodies, then he kicked off his pants and followed them. At the deep end he jumped in cleanly, and I prayed he knew how to swim and wasn’t so stoned he would drown.
Raven and Beth were splashing each other, then Beth squealed and jumped, her dark body sleek and sparkling with water drops. Ethan surfaced close by, grinning like a fox. With his hair wet and off his face and out of his sloppy clothes, he was cuter than usual, and Sharon looked at him in surprise, as if wondering who he was.
Cal walked past me. “Come on, Morgan,” he said, holding out his hand. He was completely starkers, and my cheeks turned to fire as I tried not to look down.
“I can’t,” I whispered, hoping no one else could hear me. I felt like such a sissy. I glanced over to the pool and saw Bree watching us. I gave her a weak smile, and she smiled back, her eyes on Cal.
He waited. If he and I had been alone, I might have gotten over myself. Maybe I could have taken off my clothes and prayed he wasn’t a boob man. But every girl here was prettier than I was and had a better body. Every one of them had bigger breasts than me. Sharon’s were humongous.
I needed an out. I was overwhelmed to begin with, and this was just too much.
“Please come swimming,” Cal said. “No one will attack you. I promise.”
“It isn’t that,” I muttered. I wanted to look at him, but I couldn’t look at him with him looking at me. A storm of self-consciousness raged inside me.
“There are a lot of special aspects to water,” Cal said patiently. “Being surrounded by water, especially under the moon, can be very magickal, a very special kind of energy. I want you to feel that. Just wear your bra and underwear.”
“I don’t wear a bra,” I said, then instantly wanted to kick myself.
He grinned. “Really.”
“I don’t exactly need to,” I mumbled unhappily.
He cocked his head, still grinning. “Really,” he said.
I panicked, my breaking point reached.
“I have to get home. Thanks for the circle,” I said, turning to go. I had come here in Bree’s car, so I figured I had a long, chilly walk ahead of me. To go from the wonder and amazement of the circle to this painful humiliation seemed too much to bear. I couldn’t wait till I was home, in my own bed.
Then Cal’s hand snaked out and gripped the back of my shirt. With a gentle tug he drew me toward him. I wasn’t breathing or thinking anymore. He bent over, put an arm under my knees, and picked me up. Strangely, I remember not feeling heavy or clumsy, but light and small in his arms. I stopped processing sensations in any normal way. I stopped being aware of the other people nearby.
He walked steadily down the pool steps into the shallow end. I didn’t protest; I didn’t say anything at all. I don’t know if I could have.Then we were surrounded by water the exact temperature of my blood, and we were in the water, pressed together under the moon.
It was terrifying, strange, mysterious, thrilling, crushing.
And it was magickal.
12
What Goes Around
> < “Should you be caught amidst two warring clans, lie belly to earth and say your prayers.”
—Old Scottish saying > <
 
When I got home from church the next day, Bree was sitting on our front steps, looking chilly and pissed.
I’d caught a ride home with Beth the night before because I had a curfew and Bree didn’t. But I knew from the stony looks Bree gave me as I hurried from Cal’s house that this was coming.
We went inside and up to my room.
“I thought you were my friend,” she hissed as soon as the door was shut.
I didn’t pretend not to know what she was talking about. “Of course I’m your friend,” I said, unbuttoning the dress I had worn to church.
“Then explain last night to me,” she said, her dark eyes narrowed. She crossed her arms over her chest and dropped onto the edge of my bed. “You and Cal, in the swimming pool.”
I pulled a shirt over my head, then grabbed some socks out of my drawer. “I don’t know
how
to explain it,” I said. “I mean, I know you like Cal. I know I’m not competition for you. I didn’t do anything. I mean, God, as soon as I could stand up in the water, he put me down.” I tugged on my socks and slithered into my oldest, most comfortable jeans, automatically turning them up an inch on the bottoms.
“Well, what was the big coy act about before that? Were you playing hard to get? Were you hoping he would just rip your clothes off?” There was a sneer in her voice that stung, and I felt the first threads of anger rising in me.
“Of course not!” I snapped. “If he had ripped my clothes off, I would have run home screaming and called the cops. Don’t be an idiot.”
Bree stood up and jabbed her finger at me. “Don’t
you
be an idiot!” she said. I had never seen her like this. “You know I’m in love with him!” Bree said, her face furious. “I don’t just
like
him! I
love
him. And I want him. And I want
you
to leave him alone!”
“Fine!” I practically yelled. I stood and spread my arms wide. “But I wasn’t doing anything, and I can’t control what
he
does! Maybe he’s just paying attention to me because he wants me to be a witch.” As soon as I said that, Bree and I stared at each other. In my heart, I suddenly felt it was true. Bree’s brow wrinkled as she thought back through the night before.
“Look,” I said more calmly. “I don’t know what he’s doing. For all I know, he has another girlfriend somewhere, or maybe Raven has already gotten to him. But I do know that
I
am not coming on to
him
. That’s all I can tell you. And that’ll have to be good enough.” I pulled my hair over my shoulder and started to braid it with quick, practiced motions.
Bree glared at me for another moment, and then her face crumpled and she sank down on my bed. “Okay,” she said, sounding like she was trying not to cry. “You’re right. I’m sorry.You weren’t doing anything. I was just jealous, that’s all.” She put her hands over her face and leaned down against my pillows. “When I saw him holding you, I just went crazy. I’ve never wanted anyone this bad before, and I’ve been working on him all week, and he doesn’t seem to notice me.”
I was still angry, but perversely, I also felt sorry for her. “Bree,” I said, sitting down in my desk chair.“Cal left his coven behind when he moved, and he’s hoping some of us will help him start a new coven. He knows I’m interested in Wicca, and I guess he thinks it’s, I don’t know, interesting or something that I have such a strong reaction to circles. Maybe he thinks I could be a good witch, and that’s what he wants.”
Bree looked up, her eyes filled with tears. “Do you really have a strong reaction to circles, or are you just pretending to?” she asked, her voice wobbly.
My eyes almost popped out of my head. “Bree! For God’s sake! Why would I pretend that? It’s embarrassing and uncomfortable.” I shook my head. “It’s like you don’t even
know
me or something. But to answer your question,” I said tersely, “no, I’m not
pretending
to have a strong reaction.”
Bree covered her face with her hands and started crying. “I’m sorry,” she sobbed. “I didn’t mean that. I know you aren’t pretending. I don’t know what I’m doing.” She stood up and grabbed a tissue from the box, then came over and hugged me. It was hard for me to hug her back, but in the end of course I did. “I’m sorry,” she said again, crying against me. “I’m sorry, Morgan.”
We stood there with her crying for a few minutes, and I felt like crying myself. Have you ever been afraid to start crying because you weren’t sure if you’d be able to stop? That’s how I felt. To fight with Bree about anything was horrible. To want Cal and not ever be able to have him made me feel desperate. For my best friend to want the same guy I did was a nightmare. To discover the complicated world of Wicca and feel drawn to it was confusing and almost scary.
Finally Bree’s crying quieted, and she disentangled herself from me, wiping her nose and eyes. “I’m so sorry,” she whispered. “Do you forgive me?”
I hesitated only a moment, then nodded. I mean, I love Bree. After my family, I love her the best in the world. I sighed, and we moved over to sit on my narrow bed.
“Look,” I said. “Last night I didn’t want to take off my clothes because—I’m shy. I admit it, okay? I’m a total wuss. You couldn’t pay me enough money to stand naked next to you and those other girls.”
Bree sniffled and turned to look at me. “What are you talking about?”
“Bree, please,” I said. “I know what I look like. I have a mirror. I’m not a total woofer, but I’m not you. I’m not Jenna. I’m not even Mary K.”
“You look fine,” Bree said, frowning.
I rolled my eyes. “Bree. I’m pretty plain. And surely you’ve noticed that somehow nature has forgotten to give me any kind of bazongas.”
Bree’s dark eyes glanced quickly to my chest, and I crossed my arms.
“No, you’re just, you know,” Bree said lamely.
“I just am completely and totally flat chested,” I said. “So if you think I’m going to go prancing around naked with you, Miss 36C, Jenna, Raven, Beth, and Miss January Sharon Goodfine, you are out of your mind. And in front of guys, people we go to school with! Give me a break! Like I really want Ethan Sharp to know what I look like naked. Jesus! No way!”
“Don’t take the Lord’s name in vain,” Mary K. said, poking her head through the bathroom door. “Who were you prancing around naked with?”
“Oh, crap, Mary K.!” I said. “I didn’t know you were there!”
She smirked at me. “Obviously. Now, who were you prancing around naked with? Can I go next time? I like my body.”
I started laughing and threw a pillow at her. Bree was laughing, too, and I was relieved to see that our fight appeared to be over.
“You are not getting naked anywhere,” I said, trying to sound stern. “You’re fourteen years old, no matter what Bakker Blackburn thinks.”
“Are you dating Bakker?” Bree asked. “I went out with him.”
“Really?” said Mary K.
“Oh, that’s right,” I said. “I forgot.”
“We went out a couple of times freshman year,” Bree said. She sat up and stretched, arching her back.
“What happened?” Mary K. asked.
“I dumped him,” said Bree without remorse. “Ranjit asked me out, and I said yes. Ranjit has the most beautiful eyes.”
“Then Ranjit dumped you to go out with Leslie Raines,” I said, the whole story coming back to me. “They’re still going out.”
Bree shrugged. “What goes around comes around.”
Which, of course, is one of the most basic Wiccan tenets.
BOOK: Book of Shadows
9.25Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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