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Authors: Cate Tiernan

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BOOK: Book of Shadows
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>< “If you look, you will see the mark of a House on its progeny. These marks take many forms, but a trained witchfinder can always discover one.”
—NOTES OF A SERVANT OF GOD, Brother Paolo Frederico, 1693>< <
On Monday afternoon I skipped chess club and drove to Red Kill, to Practical Magick. As I drove, I soaked up my favorite signs of autumn: trees streaked with bright, vivid colors, protesting the little death of winter. Tall roadside grasses were feathery and tan. Small farmers’ stands sold pumpkins, late corn, squash, apples, apple pies.
In Red Kill, I found a parking spot right in front of the store. Inside, it was again dim and full of the rich smells of herbs, oils, and incense. I breathed deeply as my eyes adjusted to the light. This time there were more customers than the last time.
I worked my way down the rows of books, looking for a general history of Wicca. Last night I had finished my book on the Seven Great Clans, and I was hungry for more information.
The first person I ran into was Paula Steen, my aunt’s new girlfriend. She was crouched on the floor, examining books along the bottom shelf. Paula looked up, saw me, recognized me, and smiled. “Morgan!” she said, standing up. “Fancy meeting you here. How are you?”
“Oh, okay,” I said, making myself smile back. “How are you?”
I liked Paula a lot, but this was a weird place to run into her, and I felt slightly nervous about it. She would mention it to Aunt Eileen, and Aunt Eileen would tell my mom. I wasn’t keeping anything secret from my parents, exactly, but I hadn’t gone out of my way to tell them about the circles or Cal or Wicca, either.
“Fine,” she said. “Overworked, as usual. Today one of my surgery patients canceled, so I played hooky and came here.” She looked around the store. “I love this place. They have all kinds of neat stuff.”
“Yeah,” I said. “Are you . . . into Wicca?”
“No, not me.” Paula laughed. “I know lots of people who are, though. It’s so pro-woman, it’s sometimes popular with lesbians. But I’m still Jewish. I’m here looking at homeopathic books about animal medicine. I just went to a conference where they taught a course on pet massage, and I’m looking for more information.”
“Really?” I grinned. “You mean, like giving your German shepherd a rubdown?”
Paula laughed again. “Kind of,” she said. “Just like with people, there’s a lot to be said for the healing touch.”
“Cool,” I said.
“Anyway, how about you? Are you into Wicca?”
“Well . . . I’m curious about it,” I said in a measured tone, not wanting to blurt out all my messy feelings. “I’m Catholic and everything, like my parents,” I went on in a rush. “But I do think Wicca is . . . interesting.”
“Like anything else, it’s what you bring to it,” Paula said.
“Yes,” I agreed. “That’s true.”
“Okay, I better run, Morgan. Good seeing you again.”
“You too.Tell Aunt Eileen I said hi.”
Paula took her books and checked out, and I examined the shelves again. I found a book that offered a broad general history and also explained the differences between some of the different branches of Wicca: Pecti-Wita, Caledonii, Celtic, Teutonic, Strega, and others I had learned about on the Internet.Tucking it under my arm, I looked through the stuff on the other side: the incense, the mortars and pestles, the candles separated by color. I saw one candle that was in the shape of a man and a woman joined, and it made me think first of me and Cal. Then my mind jumped to Bree and Cal. If I burned that candle, would Cal be mine? What would Bree do?
It was stupid even thinking about it.
I got in line, the scents of cinnamon and nutmeg all around me.
“Why, Morgan, dear, is that you?”
I whirled to find myself looking into the face of Mrs. Petrie, a woman from my church. “Hi, Mrs. Petrie,” I said a bit stiffly. What a strange run of luck. Somehow I’d expected more privacy on my little adventure this afternoon.
Mrs. Petrie was shorter than me now but hadn’t changed in looks for as long as I could remember. She always wore tidy two-piece suits, stockings, and matching shoes. In church she wore matching hats.
Now she read my book’s title. “You must be doing research for a school project,” she said, smiling.
“Yes,” I said, nodding. “We’re studying different religions of the world.”
“How interesting.” She leaned closer to me and lowered her voice.“This is a very unique bookstore. Some of the things in here are awful, but the people who run it are very nice.”
“Oh,” I said. “Um, why are you here?”
Mrs. Petrie motioned over at the spices-and-herbs wall. “You know I’m famous for my herb garden,” she said proudly. “I’m one of their suppliers. I also grow herbs for some of the restaurants in town and for Nature’s Way, the health food store on Main.”
“Oh, really? I didn’t know that,” I said blankly.
“Yes,” she said. “I was just dropping off some dried thyme and some of last summer’s caraway seeds. Now I must run. Good seeing you, dear.Tell your parents hello.”
“Sure will,” I said. “See you Sunday.” Yes, indeed. I was relieved when she disappeared through the door.
I was so preoccupied with unexpected encounters that I had forgotten how oddly the clerk had behaved last time. But as I pushed my books across the counter, I felt his eyes on me again.
Wordlessly I took out my wallet and counted money.
“I thought you’d be back,” he said softly, ringing up my books.
I stood stone-faced, not looking at him.
“You have the mark of the Goddess on you,” he said. “Do you know your clan?”
My eyes flew to his, startled. “I’m not from any clan,” I said.
The clerk cocked his head thoughtfully. “Are you sure?”
He handed me my change, and I took it, then grabbed my book and got out of there. As I cranked Das Boot’s big, V-8 engine, I thought about the Seven Great Clans. Over the last few hundred years they had been disbanded and hardly existed anymore. I shook my head. The only clan I was a part of was the Rowlands clan, no matter what the clerk thought.
I took the small roads home and let the fiery leaves blur into the background as I sank into the daydream I was indulging in more and more often: the cherished moment, under the moon, when Cal carried me into the water. Fantasy and memory ran together, and I wasn’t even sure it had actually happened anymore.
That night Mary K. made dinner, and it was my turn to clean up. I stood at the sink, rinsing plates, daydreaming about Cal, wondering if Bree and Cal had gotten together today after school. Had they kissed yet? It made my chest feel tight, and I commanded my mind not to torture me anymore.
Why had Cal come into my life? I couldn’t help wondering. It felt like he was here for a purpose. I hoped it wasn’t some sort of cruel karmic payback.
I shook my head, squishing suds through my fingers. Get over yourself, I thought as I started to load plates into the dishwasher.
“What clan are you?” the clerk had asked. He might as well have asked me, “What planet are you from?” Obviously I wasn’t from one of the Seven Clans, though it was interesting to think about. It would be kind of like finding out your real father was a famous celebrity who wanted you back. The Seven Great Clans were the celebrities of Wicca, supposedly possessing supernatural powers and thousands of years of shared history.
I rearranged the glasses in the top tier of the dishwasher. My book had said the Seven Clans stayed apart from the rest of humanity for so long that they actually had a separate and distinct genetic makeup. My parents . . . my family. We were as normal as they came. The clerk was just messing with me.
All of a sudden I dropped the sponge I’d been holding and stood up straight. I frowned and glanced out the window. It was dark. I glanced around the room, feeling a strong sense of . . . I wasn’t sure what. A storm coming? Some vague feeling of danger was stirring the air.
I’d just snapped the dishwasher door shut when the kitchen door swung open. My parents stood there, my dad looking rattled and my mom tight-lipped and upset.
“What’s wrong?” I said, turning off the water, feeling my heart begin to thump.
My mom ran her hand through her straight russet hair, so like Mary K.’s. “Are these yours?” she asked. “These books about witches?” She held up the books I had bought at Practical Magick.
“Uh-huh,” I said. “So what?”
“Why do you have them?” my mom asked. She hadn’t changed out of her work clothes, and she looked rumpled and tired.
“It’s interesting,” I said, dumbfounded by her tone.
My parents looked at each other. The overhead light glinted off my dad’s balding spot.
“Are kids at school into this, or is it just you?” my mom asked.
“Mary Grace,” my dad said, but she ignored him.
I felt my brow furrow. “What do you mean? This isn’t a big deal or anything, is it?” I shook my head. “It’s just . . . interesting. I wanted to know more about it.”
“Morgan,” my mom began, and I couldn’t believe how upset she looked. She almost always kept her cool with me and Mary K., no matter how crazed her life got.
“What your mother’s trying to say,” my dad offered, “is that these books about witchcraft are not the kind of thing we want you to be reading.” He cleared his throat and tugged on the vee of his sweater vest, looking incredibly uncomfortable.
My mouth dropped open. “How come?” I asked.
“How come!” my mom snapped, and I almost jumped at the tone in her voice. “Because it’s witchcraft!”
I stared at her. “But it’s not like . . . black magic or anything,” I tried to explain. “I mean, there’s really nothing harmful or scary in it. It’s just people hanging out, getting in touch with nature. So what if they celebrate full moons?” I didn’t mention penis candles, bolts of energy, or naked swimming.
“It’s more than that,” my mom insisted. Her brown eyes were wide, and she looked as taut as a piano wire. She turned to my dad. “Sean, help me here.”
“Look, Morgan,” my dad said, more calmly. “We’re concerned about this. I think we’re pretty open-minded, but we’re Catholics. That’s our religion. We are part of the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church does not condone witchcraft or people who study witchcraft.”
“I don’t believe this,” I said, starting to get impatient. “You’re acting like this is a huge threat or something.” Memories of how sick I had felt after the two circles flashed through my mind. “I mean, this is Wicca. It’s like people deciding to protest animal testing or wanting to dance around a maypole.” Some of the facts about Wicca that I had read in my book came back to me. “You know, the Catholic Church has adopted a bunch of traditions that began with Wicca. Like using mistletoe at Christmas and eggs at Easter. Those were both ancient symbols from a religion that began long before Christianity or Judaism.”
My mom stared at me. “Look, miss,” she said, and I knew she was really angry. “I’m telling you that we will not have witchcraft in this house. I’m telling you that the Catholic Church does not condone this. I’m telling you that we believe in
God. Now, I want these books out of this house!”
It was like my mom had been replaced by an alien duplicate. This sounded so unlike her that I just gaped. My dad stood next to her, his hand on her shoulder, obviously trying to get her to calm down, but she just glared at me, the lines around her mouth deep, her eyes angry and cold and . . . worried?
I didn’t know what to say. My mom was usually incredibly reasonable.
“I thought we believed in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost,” I said. “That’s three.”
Mom looked almost apoplectic, the veins in her neck jumping out. I suddenly realized that I was taller than she was now. “Go to your room!” she shouted, and again I jumped.We’re not a raised-voice kind of family.
“Mary Grace,” my dad murmured.
“Go!” my mom yelled, throwing out her arm and pointing out the kitchen door. It almost looked like she wanted to hit me, and I was way shocked.
Dad reached out his hand and touched Mom’s shoulder in a tentative, ineffectual gesture. His face looked drawn and his eyes concerned behind their wire-rim glasses.
“I’m going,” I muttered, taking the long way around her. I stomped upstairs to my room and slammed the door. I even locked it, which I’m not supposed to do. I sat on my bed, spooked and trying not to cry.
Over and over, I had the same thought: What is Mom so scared of?
> < “The king and queen longed for a child for many years and finally adopted an infant girl. But to their misfortune, the child was destined to grow enormous and devour them with her steely teeth.”
—from a Russian fairy tale> <
“So how come you’re in the dollhouse?” Mary K. asked the next morning.
BOOK: Book of Shadows
11.53Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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