THE WITCHING HOUR

"Come on, Stacy, it'll be okay," Janice put her arm around her best friend and hugged her.

"It's not okay," Stacy said through her tears. "How could he do this to me?"

"He's a jerk, Stacy. They all are." Stacy and Janice were sitting on one of the benches outside the High School building talking about the horrible thing that had happened to Stacy an hour ago. Her boyfriend of three years, the most popular, hottest guy in all of Glenford Falls High, Sean Simpson, had confessed his cheating ways with Stacy's good friend Mia Sturm and had broken up with Stacy. If that wasn't bad enough Sean went on to tell that he had cheated on Stacy with two other girls and that he cheated on her because he never loved her in the first place. When asked why he had dated her for three years if he didn't love her his answer was, quote: "Chicks dig guys they think they can't have," unquote.

"I don't feel good," Stacy said and it looked to be quite true. Her face was ghost white and she looked as if she could hurl at any moment. "I just want to go home."

"Do you want me to take you home?" Janice asked. "I'll tell the teachers you got sick."

"Would you please?" Janice got up and helped Stacy to her feet and put her arm around Stacy's waist for fear that Stacy would collapse at any moment.

"I can help you." Stacy and Jan looked back to see who had offered their assistance. It was a girl dressed all in black with short black hair, black fingernails, black eye shadow, and black lipstick. "I couldn't help but hear of your predicament."

"It's okay, Angela, we don't need any help right now," Jan said.

"You might not need it, but you might want it. You should get back at Sean, Stacy."

"Thank, but no thanks," Jan said and continued on to her car to take Stacy home.

2

After being dropped off at home Stacy went to her bed and cried herself to sleep for a couple hours. It had made her feel a little better, good enough, anyway, to draw herself a hot bath. She looked at the bathroom clock: 2:30. School would be out soon and Janice would be there to comfort Stacy again. The comforting didn't really help a lot right at the moment. People who have just gone through a horrible break-up or loss of someone close to them sometimes just want to be left completely alone for about a day. A little time to think things out and get a little peace of mind, but friends and family try to help the person cope and in doing so ruin that person's alone time and end up not helping at all. This is how Stacy felt now. She wanted to be left alone. That wasn't going to happen though. When school let out Janice would be coming right over and probably others would too. By now the story was probably flying around the school along with a dozen variations of it. Stacy sighed and pulled herself out of the tub to savor her last moments of alone time in her room.

Three-thirty rolled around and Stacy braced herself for onslaught of "help" about to arrive, but when the doorbell rang it wasn't Janice standing on the doorstep. It was Angela. "Hi Angela," Stacy said.

"Mind if I come in?" Angela asked and slipped her way in before getting an answer. "I'm going to cut right to the chase, Stacy. My help I offered earlier is still available and I think you should take it."

"What kind of help?"

"Getting back at Sean."

"I'm not going to pull some stupid prank on him, okay."

"Oh, but it's not a prank Stacy. It's revenge. Revenge for what he did to you, what he's done to other girls, and what he will do to even more girls."

"This isn't really what I want to hear right now so can I please just be left alone."

Angela sighed. "Fine. But when you change your mind here's my number," she pulled a pen and slip of paper from her book bag and wrote down her number. "And I think you may change your mind when you hear the story that's being told at school."

"What?" this got Stacy's attention. What was being said about her at school?

"I'm sure Jan will tell you all about it," Angela said. "And when she does, call me." Angela slipped back out the door.

Stacy didn't have time to think when Jan came in. "What was Angela doing here?"

"Nothing," Stacy said.

"How are you?" Jan asked in a low tone, afraid Stacy might crumble and fall apart right in front of her.

"What was being said at school?"

"What do you mean?"

"Angela said there was a story going around that I wouldn't like. What is it?"

"Stacy, I-"

"What was being said, Jan?"

Jan bit her lip then went ahead and told the rumors. "Sean said that you were the one cheating on him."

"WHAT! What did he say?"

"He said that you got drunk at a party cheated on him with four guys..."

"WHAT!" Stacy was furious. Her hands shook with anger and her legs threatened to give out under her.

"...at once," Jan said, adding insult to injury.

That did it. Stacy let out a scream of anger, "WHAT! THAT-I'LL-HE'LL" her mind was too blurred with fury that she couldn't form a sentence. She turned to Janice. "And what did you tell them? What did you say when you heard that?"

"I told people the truth, but the story got around so fast and I don't know if everyone believed me."

Stacy collapsed onto a chair and started crying. "What am I going to do?"

"Look, the story will stop and we'll tell people the truth."

"It's too late for that. He is already spreading lies about me. I can't go back to school with people thinking I'm some slut."

"Stacy, nobody believes Sean."

"You just said they did!"

Janice was caught now and couldn't think quick enough to say anything.

"See! Everyone already thinks I'm a whore."

"Stacy, no they don't."

"Jan…I just want to be left alone please."

"But-"

"Please."

Jan wanted to stay and help, but she knew it would be no good and gave in. "Call me if you need anything."

"I will," Stacy muttered unconvincingly.

"Promise?"

"I'll call," Stacy said, this time the note of annoyance could be noticed.

"Okay…bye." Janice walked out the door leaving Stacy alone. Now that she was alone Stacy let out all of her emotion through a rant of curses and by punching the couch. After about ten minutes she collapsed back on the couch and just wept.

"I'll call," she muttered to herself. A thought struck her. She would call alright, but it wouldn't be her best friend that would be picking up on the other line.

"You in?" Angela asked after the third ring, before Stacy could even say 'hello'.

"I don't know," Stacy said. "What are you going to do?"

"I'm not going to do anything. We are. I know the true story about what happened even if the rest of the school doesn't. If you're in come over to my house at nine o'clock." Angela gave Stacy her address and ended the conversation. Stacy would be there at nine o'clock. She just wished she wouldn't have to wait so long.

3

Nine o'clock had come and Stacy was standing outside the house at the address Angela gave her. It was a nice looking house. She took a deep breath. She could turn around now and drive back home or go in and get her revenge. She decided on the latter.

"Welcome," Angela answered the doorbell with a low haunting voice and a maniacal smile. "Come on in."

The house was just as nice on the inside as it was on the outside. Angela led Stacy to the second floor to her room. This was more what Stacy was picturing; dark blue walls, velvet carpet, paintings of mythical worlds on the walls, and candles lit all about the room. The furniture had been moved aside to clear a space on the floor where a think, leather-bound book sat inside a painted red circle. "What are you planning to do, Angela?"

"Look at me and tell me what you see," Angela answered. "Honestly."

"A girl who likes black?"

"I hate it when people lie to make others feel better," Angela said. "When you look at me you see a witch, correct?"

"No-I…yes."

"Well your eyes do not deceive you. I am a witch. I practice witchcraft, anyway."

"Are you wanting to put a spell on Sean or something?" Stacy said incredulously. "I don't really believe in magic."

"Just because you don't believe in it doesn't make it true."

Stacy sighed. She should've stayed home. "Look Angela, thanks for trying to help, but I think I'll just cope with this myself."

"No!" Angela looked hurt or scared. "Please Stacy. Do this."

Stacy looked at her. "Why do you want to help me so much? Why is this so important to you?"

Angela paused, trying to make up her mind. "Remember freshman year? When you started dating Sean."

"Yeah."

"Well Sean was dating me then."

Stacy looked shocked. "You and Sean? He never said anything about you."

"If you knew he was dating someone already would you have gone out with him?"

"No."

"Exactly. I hated you. I thought you had stolen Sean away from me. I finally realized, though, that losing Sean was a good thing. When he started cheating on you."

"You knew about that?"

"Everyone did. Everyone but you. I would laugh to myself every time I saw you two acting all lovey-dovey to each other."

"Then why are you wanting my help now?"

"Because hating you was stupid. I knew what it felt like to be cheated on," Angela said. "So will you help me?"

"Why do you need me?"

"To complete the circle. There must be at least two people who have the same feelings towards the target."

"The target?"

"Will you help me?"

Stacy thought it over. She thought of all the times she'd had with Sean; the holidays, the dances, the parties, the quiet time alone, giving Sean her innocence. "Okay," she said. "What do we do?"

Angela told Stacy to sit cross-legged on one edge of the circle while she sat on the other edge. She took something from her pocket and placed it in the middle of the circle. "What's that?" Stacy asked.

"Sean's pen. He was chewing on it today and I stole it from him," Angela answered. Stacy raised her eyebrow in confusion. "To complete the spell you need an item of the target's being. This pen's got his spit on it, I hope it'll do." Angela opened the book and she and Stacy took hands. She began to read from the pages in a language Stacy didn't know.

The wind outside the window began to pick up, rustling a tree in the yard. Angela read on. A few sprinkles of rain began to tap the window. Angela read more. The wind quickly grew to a howl and the rain became a downpour. Angela kept reading. Lightning flashed and thunder roar in the distance. Stacy was scared, but she kept hold of Angela's hands. Angela read more. The storm outside was even worse. And then Angela stopped reading and the storm dissipated as quickly as it had come and the night was clear again. Stacy's hands were shaking inside Angela's. "What was that?"

"I think it worked," Angela breathed. She got up and went to the window. "Look," she said and pointed. Stacy saw a bright glow on the other side of town.

"What is it?"

"It's Sean's house," Angela said. Sirens could be heard in the distance heading to the raging fire that had engulfed the Simpson household.

"What's happened, Angela? What did we do?"

"We got him back."

"No…no, this can't be what it looks like."

"Oh, but it is Stacy."

"But-but-" Stacy felt like she was going to puke.

"It's for the best Stacy. Sean Simpson was trash. The world is better off without him, can't you see that?"

Stacy couldn't talk.

"Can't you see what we've done, Stacy? We did the world a favor. And we can do more favors."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean the spell worked and it can keep on working. We can do whatever we want to whoever we want."

"No, I-I don't want to," Stacy was backing to the door.

"Stacy, think about it. Think of the power. Think of the wealth. We can do and have whatever we want!"

It was all too much for Stacy. She couldn't do this. She was a good girl. A good girl who had…who had…what did she have? She had given up everything for Sean and now he was gone. Gone with her dreams, and hopes, and future and now all that was left was…nothing. And when faced with the choice of nothing or power one wouldn't have to think too hard to come to a decision. "Power," she muttered.

"Yes, power," Angela said. Stacy smiled and bolted out of the room to her car. She returned moments later with something in her hand. "What's that?" Angela asked.

Stacy had the same maniacal smile Angela had had earlier. "Mia Sturm's hairbrush."