Authors: Abigail Boyd
by Abigail Boyd
Copyright ©2014 Abigail Boyd
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are a product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
The old year’s death is on the wind. Change is coming, I can feel it like an ache in my bones. Colorful fireworks explode above my head in a shower of sparks as I watch from the hood of my beater car. It’s New Year’s Eve, and my friend Kate is having a casual party at her parents’ house. The lawn is covered with other cars and people watching the private show.
The desert chill has taken over, but my anxiety is keeping me warm. I shift on the hood and sit up. Where is Braden? He was supposed to be here a while ago. I slide my phone out and check the screen in case I somehow managed to miss a text alert. Nothing. Another firework blasts above me with a sizzle of golden glitter.
Before winter break started, I found out that I’m being put on academic probation. My boyfriend doesn’t know yet and I don’t know how to tell him. We’ve been dating for nearly a year, but the last few months we’ve fought more than we’ve got along.
Every day that passes, the idea of confessing this to him gets harder. I know he’ll be full of criticism. To make matters worse, last night my employer at the grocery store where I work cut my hours down to only 10 a week. I have no idea how I’ll pay my bills.
I’ve been trying to compose a script and figure out a perfect time to tell Braden—but I’m only getting more and more anxious.
I can’t take waiting anymore. I hop off of the car hood and cross the lawn up to the sprawling house, weaving around the other parked cars as the fireworks continue to pop and sizzle.
A group of our casual acquaintances from school are clustered in the kitchen, talking and sharing drinks.
“Hey, has anyone seen Braden?” I ask them, and a few people shake their heads.
Come to think of it, I haven’t seen Kate tonight, either.
An anxious feeling snakes through my stomach—nausea mixed with nerves. I head up the stairs and toward Kate’s old room at the end of the hall. Maybe she’ll have an idea. I reach to knock, but my fist hovers in the air when I hear loud moans and squeaking bedsprings. My heart flutters unevenly, and I listen. A muttered curse escapes through the door. It sounds like Braden’s voice.
I push the door open, feeling like my head is floating in space. My eyes must be lying, because I can’t be seeing what they’re telling me I’m seeing. Braden is on top of Kate, pounding his naked pelvis into hers, his toned buttocks clenching and unclenching as he pistons in and out of her. Kate is breathing huskily, digging her feet into the back of his thighs. My skin flames hot and a fire burns inside me, spiraling up into my chest.
This can’t be real. It can’t be.
Braden pulls back, gazes down at Kate, then leans in for a kiss. It’s the kiss that unravels me. I crash back to reality in a blaze of rage.
My hands shake and the pressure squeezes inside my chest. “How could you?” I shout.
Braden whips his head around, then jumps off of Kate, tugging the sheet with him to wrap around his naked waist. Kate yelps in protest as he almost yanks her off the bed.
“This isn’t—this isn’t what it looks like, Iris!” he protests. His face is bright red.
I laugh darkly. “Really? It looks like you were fucking my friend. I don’t really know how you can fake that.”
He runs one shaking hand through his hair, then almost drops the sheet, but catches it and wraps it around himself again. I don’t know why he’s worried about his modesty now.
Kate finds her shirt from the floor and tugs it over her head. “I thought the door was locked,” she says mournfully to Braden.
No apologies. Only regrets that they got caught.
The fire morphs into a powerful sensation of pressure and shoots out of my chest and down to my fingertips. I lose control over my hands as my arms shoot up. Scalding heat twists through the tissues and tendons. My fingers splay and I flex muscles I didn’t know existed. The pressure releases out of my hands and a tornado erupts in the room, knocking Kate’s pictures off the wall, tearing the sheets from the bed. Bottles of nail polish fly off the dresser and shoot colorful splats on the wall. Kate screams and dives down beside the bed for cover. Braden jumps beneath the desk, knocking over Kate’s laptop which hits him square in the thigh.
Then suddenly the wind forces out of me with a final burst and is gone. I’m shaky and woozy, the palms of my hands itching as I stare at them in shock. Feathers from Kate’s pillow float down silently.
“What the hell was that?” Braden shouts in a scared falsetto as he bolts to his feet.
I have no idea
. I look down at my hands, flexing my fingers and then back up at him. I feel strong and alive, my heart beating too fast to be human.
He shimmies into his pants, stumbles over broken glass on the floor, and reaches out for me. I back away. “Iris, how did you do that?” he whispers, fear and awe coating his voice. Kate stands up, staying far away from me, surveying her destroyed possessions.
“Get away from me,” I say through gritted teeth. The thought of him touching me makes my skin crawl. I’m getting out of here, so you should clean up your mess.”
I rush out without stopping, past the confused, intrigued partygoers, and out of the house. The fireworks are over and everyone is standing around. I try not to be noticed as I run to my car and slide into the seat.
I twist the keys in the ignition, and the dashboard lights briefly flare. The engine gives a wheezy cough as it tries to turn over, then dies. I turn the key again, but it’s no use. I slam the steering wheel with my fists and let out an exasperated huff. I knew this was going to happen, considering I bought this piece of shit Honda for $300, but why now? Why here?
I glance back up at the house through the passenger window. Braden is on the lawn, barefoot, his shirt stuck in the top of his jeans as he scans the lawn for me. I open the door and dash down the driveway as fast as I can, abandoning my car. My lungs burn as I jog onto the street.
I don’t know what happened to me back there—but I don’t want him coming after me.
I jog steadily down the sidewalk without a destination or direction. I’ve been staying with Kate during winter break, but the apartment Braden and I share is back by our university. That’s hours away, and I have no cash on me. I have no family and no real friends.
I have nowhere to go.
I don’t watch where I’m headed, mesmerized by the gray squares of the sidewalk and the blurred motion of my shoes. The phantom power that I felt back there is still humming faintly below my skin. I feel my phone start to vibrate over and over against my thigh—I know it’s Braden, but I don’t check it.
A stitch stabs into my side below my ribs and I finally have to stop, bending over at the waist to catch my breath. When I look up, I realize I’m in a part of town that I don’t recognize. It’s late and all of the businesses are shuttered, the few intact streetlights cutting through heavy shadows. There’s no traffic in this dead block as uneasiness creeps over me.
A luxurious Rolls Royce pulls down the road as I start to walk slowly. It glides toward me and I wonder what it’s doing in this part of town, comprised of dive bars and pawn shops. The limo stops in the middle of the road next to me, and I glance over in surprise.
A beautiful woman exits the driver’s side door and steps onto the sidewalk. She’s tall and gamine, her crimson hair swept into an up-do beneath a tilted chauffeur’s cap. She’s gorgeous in an ageless way, wearing a pinstripe designer suit dress, and stilettos that make my feet cramp just looking at them.
“Iris Archer?” she asks, tilting her eyebrow. A faint British accent tinges her deep voice.
“How do you know my name?” I demand.
She smirks in a cat-like way, the corners of her red lips curving upward. “I know a great deal about you, because I’m here for you.”
“I am not that special,” I assure the strange woman, but my curiosity keeps me rooted to the spot.
“Once you hear what I have to say, you might disagree.” She strips off her leather gloves and extends one long-fingered hand. “I am Paige Drake, the headmistress of a college for unique people, much like you. It’s called Juniper Hall. After your experience tonight, I believe that you belong there. Don’t worry, you’ve nothing to be afraid of.”
This lady is frickin’ nuts.
I take a step backward, searching for an escape out of the corner of my eye. I’m not becoming anyone’s sex slave or getting kidnapped tonight.
“I’ve had a long night, so I’m going to be going now,” I say, then turn around and start walking with my head down. Suddenly, she appears right in front of me and I almost smash into her. I frown in surprise.
“How did you—”
“Don’t play coy with me,” she interrupts. “We’re on a tight schedule and I’ve no patience for long explanations. That moment back there, when it felt like a storm was erupting from inside of you?”
My heart skips a beat. “How did you know about that?”
She tips her head down and hollows her cheeks. “That was the moment that changes your life. You had your Awakening tonight, Iris,” she says softly, her expression mesmerizing. “You’re a witch.”
My mouth drops open in surprise. “You have got to be kidding me.”
“One thing you’ll soon learn is that I don’t kid. You’re a little late coming into maturity, but your Awakening let off a strong Spark of magic—I felt it from far away.”
Magic? I look down and flex my fingers. It’s a crazy explanation. But what if…
“Magic isn’t real.” I stand my ground, forcing my shoulders back. She’s not going to intimidate me.
She cocks one thin eyebrow. “Do you need a demonstration?”
She flicks her wrist and suddenly I’m airborne, flying backward. I shout, trying to grab something where there’s nothing to grab, propelling my arms. She twists her hand again and I stop moving, but stay suspended several feet off the ground. I look down and see my shoes floating above the sidewalk.
“Put me down!” I shout.
I squeeze my eyes shut as I brace myself to tumble, but instead my body glides down and my feet touch the ground.
“Proof enough for you?” Paige asks, sounding bored.
“I…I guess so. You’re a witch, too?” I ask softly. I can’t believe the words coming out of my mouth.
She nods. “Each of us comes into our powers at around this time. Usually earlier than twenty, as I said, but you only recently had your birthday. There are many schools all around the world, that take in young witches and teach you how to harness your powers. Otherwise, there would be chaos. You can’t stay here on your own.”