Chapter 28: Putting Up a Fight

At first nothing happened, and then Brandi looked across at Teresa, wondering if the girl had some sort of protection spell, because, somehow her ex-friend always seemed to know what to do. Where she was going. Brandi glanced down. Noticing for the first time, the open bottle of water beside Teresa’s desk, and the soil, strewn haphazardly across the floor.

No, it can’t be, she thought, holding her head. She gazed through the open window and felt breeze. A shiver ran down her spine as a flash of recognition flit across Teresa’s face. There was something in her eyes. Brandi peered closer, hearing a rugged breath. The girl was up to something, she was almost certain, as the overhead light fluttered briefly and then died. Brandi kicked her school bag, up, bringing it closer to her chest, as the hissing sound paused and then she saw a flash of light and then smelt smoke.

Her eyes travelled around the room, until she caught sight of the metal receptacle and made the connection with the flames. Near the door, she could think of no way out without first getting past Teresa. She extended an arm, reaching out to capture her, but there was nothing there. Only air, smoke and shadow. She grunted aloud, her fist connecting with the wall, before she took a few deep breaths and tried to think. She thought of Roger. Tried to focus.

Then she picked up the sound of the chant beginning again.

“Darkest of night and brightest of day, help me to see with sight beyond sight.” She stiffened, trying to get a reading on Teresa’s location when a hand clapped down over her mouth. She eased her elbow back with a sharp force and heard a deep grunt, forgetting the slightly musky fragrance of the sea and the overbearing force of the chant.

“Roger. Is that you?” she asked, the bent figure.

He straightened, holding his stomach. “No. It’s your evil twin.” He motioned towards the door, turning back to her seeming cross. “Remind me never to try any covert moves when we’re dating.”

Her face slackened into a smile, before he turned her to see Teresa. Once again, standing in front of the door, the girl had her arms stretched out like a martyr, as the flames lapped around them, seeming to engulf the room.

Their classmates screamed. The teacher barked inaudible orders. And Roger yanked her arm. “Follow me.”

And then, something exploded.

The windows shattered, and she yelled for them to get down. Already forgetting about the explosion when she brought her hands to her lips, wiped and saw blood. Beside her, Roger sat up dazedly, and pulled back her hair. “I’m going to get you out of this.” He promised, his lips brushing against her cheek as he pulled her closer.

Silently, she nodded, leaning into him, knowing that they would also have to tend to the others.  Little by little, as the smoke began to clear, she could make out some of the injured students who were lying on the floor. Looking into a few faces, she saw their confusion. Fright. Remembered what it had felt like when she had been trapped in the diner and was trying to escape. How Nicholas had been the one to tell her what to do. When to move.

Beside the door, she saw the height of the flames growing taller and somehow she knew that if they waited any longer her friend’s power would become too great. She squeezed Roger hand. Stood up. This time, she told herself, she would not cower. She would not run.

By her side, Roger got to his feet, as she pointed to the desks, that were barring them from going through the windows. Roger looked at her, following her gaze. Prepared to move towards the back. “Okay,” he said, nodding at her. “This time, we’ll do it your way.” Brandi smiled, watching him go as she turned towards the door to go after her old friend. Trying her best to figure out what was going on inside her head, when she looked up through the narrow opening and caught sight of another figure, who was only a few feet shy of the door.

The small fire had spread beyond the front desk and she gave Roger a thumbs up signal, indicating that she was ready to move. He motioned to a few boys, got them to help move the injured students off to the side before they tackled the windows.

Brandi touched the pendant for luck. Breathing life back into it, as the room began to spin. She swallowed down the doubt that was rising in her throat, as Teresa took one giant step towards her. Now or never, she thought, thinking about her mother. Now or never.

Teresa dropped the book of spells. Closing her fists, she went for Brandi, swinging furiously until she ducked. Teresa grunted, stooping forward and shoving her into one of the desks. Brandi screamed, feeling a sharp pain where the edge collide with her hip. Then she groaned, staggered backwards. Her eyes never leaving Teresa’s. There was an almost satisfied smile on her lips and for a few seconds Brandi tried to catch her breath as Teresa lunged forward.

Brandi stood there waiting for it. Dropping her head a few inches, so that she could deliver her own crushing blow, as she head butted Teresa into a wall. Blood ran down her chin and Brandi felt the heat in the room rising.

“Get them out of here now!” she shouted at Roger, no longer sure that she could contain the other girl’s fury.

A few heads turned their way and someone jeered.

As Teresa reached for the can of hairspray. Brandi kicked it away under the desk, trying to placate her with a joke. She touched her own hair playfully, holding her other hand up as if it were a mirror and shook her head. “Honestly if I had known that you needed to be hooked up, I would have taken you somewhere. I mean, my mother knows somebody, who knows somebody…”

Teresa growled, her eyes turning towards Roger before she dove under the desk. Brandi looked across at the almost empty room, and let out a sigh, wondering why she still felt afraid, when there was nothing for her to be afraid of.

She heard the sound of a chain. Or something being pulled and her eyes went to the door again. “Is there someone out there?” she asked, as Teresa’s head rose from beneath the desk. Brandi frowned, concerned about the girl’s somewhat ashen pallor, as the hiss of flames began again.

Brandi fell to her knees, coughing. Closing her eyes against the acrid scent as Roger turned back to get her. Instinctively, she brought a hand up. Told him to stop, but he only shook his head, waited as Teresa raised her palm and jingled the charms on her wrist.

Roger gave her friend a disdainful look, pointing towards the door. “You’re not supposed to be here.” Teresa straightened up as if somehow knowing what she was supposed to do, her hand reaching out for the canister as she spoke a few words. Aiming directly for his chest.

Unaware, Brandi turned back, confused. “What about Teresa?”

His eyes flared open as he shrieked, catapulting himself into the girl. Brandi watched the exchange, holding her breath. Clawing at the pendant, she wondered why she couldn’t see anything. As Roger shook his head, uttering his final words, “Some of us cannot be saved.”

Brandi staggered backward, her fingers cutting through the glass, as another image appeared. Her body aching to get back to Roger as he crumpled to the floor.

Teresa looked down elated, opening the door, where an old man with a stick, had appeared, dressed all in black. His image seemed to mock Brandi as he extended a hand for her to shake.

“They tell me you’re my daughter.”

Chapter 23: Text Me When You’re Ready

When the period was over, Teresa went into the bathroom and splashed water on her face. The morning had been tough. Seeing Brandi disappear from on the bus and then reappear in front of the school, some twenty minutes later, was almost daunting. But then Stephanie had prepared her for it. Told her to collect some soil samples because it meant that somehow her friend was only getting stronger. She rubbed moisturizer into her palms and then onto her face. The last thing she needed was to age rapidly on account of Brandi, who once again had refused to listen. She lifted her head closer to the mirror trying to spot blemishes. Finding none, she did a rinse and repeat, hoping that she was up for what came next.

She glared into the mirror, thinking about Stephanie, who was big into hexes and witches and their family’s traditional mumbo jumbo. Initially her older sister had told her that they were going to scare Brandi. Now it seemed, she was trying to make her summon her father. She closed her eyes, remembering the scene from Macbeth that Stephanie had shown her. How her mother and Brandi’s father had been made to take part. She didn’t really think that it was possible. But then again, what did she know? She held her head in her hands, trying not to think about how others saw her. A Junior Achiever. She sulked. Someone a few steps away from being considered a nerd. Her lip caught between her teeth as she remembered her mother.

Before her mother had disappeared, she had tried to show her daughter a few things. Reciting an incantation from the spellbook, where and how to find herbs. Remedies. How to collect and use different elements. She opened her fist, letting the image float away on a puff of smoke. Wondering why she had been so dumb. So rebellious. With her more important thinks like band, soccer and her movie dates with Brandi. Now though, it seemed like she was learning everything by force, something the music teacher had assured her was ideal for performers, especially since most of the greats had been discovered when they were still quite young. Although she didn’t consider herself, in the same frame as Mozart.

After washing out the moisturizer bottle, she filled it with water. Then she placed it into her bag, which also contained clumps of soil, she had taken from Brandi’s place that morning. Opening a chewing gum wrapper, she shoved the gum into her mouth. Brandi couldn’t stop her. Even if she tried. Leaning closer to the sink, she shook the can of aerosol. It would have to be enough to light the fire. She flickered her wrist and pointed. A small window opened. Hopefully the same incantation, which she had used during World Literature, would also come in handy during detention.

Teresa fingered the detention slip, glibly, knowing that it was something she would never have courted. Because before today, the only list she had wanted to be on was the school’s top ten academic achievers. The doors swished behind her and the charms flickered on her wrist. She could control the wind. The air, she told herself, trying unsuccessfully to contain a smile. She pulled her cellphone out of her side pocket almost ready to dial the now familiar number. But waited, picturing her sister.

Through the glass, she could almost see Stephanie’s stern features. The young woman seemed to have everything worked out. Not that Teresa needed to know all the details. She fiddled with a paper towel, dropping it into the trash. Dead Man Walking had been one of those movies that she had skipped, along with Thriller and the Shining. She grabbed hold of the sink. It was now or never.

Opening the phone, she wished that her mother had warned her against all of this. Warned her that helping out would make her feel more and more bleak. Like something was dying inside of her. And something else was taking its place. She coughed. Wiped blood from her lips. Then she tapped a few keys, until the message box appeared. “It’s all clear here,” she wrote. “Just text me when you need me.” No. She erased the words. Began again. “It’s all clear. Text me, when you’re ready.”