School had been out for almost an hour now. Morgan was supposed to be at cheerleading practice, but she'd claimed she needed to use the bathroom. As she estimated it, she'd have about five minutes before people started to wonder what was taking so long. If it took her a full minute to walk down the hallway to the chemistry room, and another full minute to get back, that would leave her three minutes to do the task without arousing any suspicion. If she could get in and out any quicker than that, all the better.
Normally, Morgan didn't mind helping out the Griffins when she could. Only a rare, chosen few were selected to be part of the group and bear its secrets, and Morgan had always counted herself lucky to be part of it. At other times, though, when she needed to sneak around places she didn't belong and sacrifice things she really cared about, like cheerleading, well. . . . Morgan still didn't understand why Darren couldn't have done it. He didn't have anything going on tonight.
Oh, well. Wishing other people would hold their own would get Morgan nowhere. All she knew was what she had to do, and she was going to do it. Thus, she pushed the chemistry lab's door open in the hopes that nobody would be inside to question what she was doing in there.
Ironically enough, the easiest ingredients to get were those that weren't supposed to exist in this reality. Like, once Greg had found this recipe for a spell that would make a torch burn forever, without ever going out or burning up. The spell had required gasoline, phoenix feathers, a sterling silver bowl, and some smaller ingredients.
Morgan had bought a gallon of gasoline from a gas station (there were three dollars she'd never get back,) and Elana had discovered that trace amounts of phoenix feathers commonly occurred in her favorite brand of bubble gum. Apparently, the way the bubbles lasted so long was because the gum was constantly being reborn through the magical effects of the feathers. Doubtless, the company had no idea why their gum lasted so long, but continued to cash in on whichever location had the best turn-out.
In the end, the hardest article to find had been a sterling silver bowl. Greg had given up on his spell for want of an ordinary world object, rather than something magical or rare.
This latest spell was supposed to keep werewolves away. While the werewolf problem in Morgan's hometown hadn't yet reached crisis level, Griffin had decided to take preemptive action before anyone could get seriously hurt. Elana had found silver, this time in the form of antique silverware rather than a bowl. Darren had procured a lock of hero's hair; he'd donated it from his own head after a football game. That left Morgan to obtain fetal pigs from the lab.
She wasn't even a science person! Morgan had seen the fetal pigs, preserved for years on the shelves of the lab without any apparent use. When she'd been a freshman, the seniors had told her that students with detention had to clean out the jars on weekends. Every year, the seniors told that to the freshmen, and every year, the freshmen behaved extra well in chemistry labs, or at least until a few months had passed and they realized there was no truth to the stories.
Morgan had been relived, as a freshman, to discover that she'd never have to crack the jar open and smell the stench of the long-dead baby animal inside. A few weeks ago, however, Elana had revealed that Morgan would not only have to touch and steal the jar, but they'd have to open it, take out the fetal pig, and cut out its heart for their spell. It called for the heart of an unborn animal, and Elana was fairly certain the preservation effect would have no ill effects.
If the spell didn't work after all this, Morgan might be tempted to cut out Elana's heart.
Thinking about everything that could go wrong never got anybody anywhere, though. Instead, Morgan reminded herself of all the lives that could be saved with this spell. The reminder helped cut back on the grossness.
She pushed a desk up to the high cupboards, and climbed atop it to reach for the jars. Even though she couldn't smell anything, she imagined how it might smell, and had to fight the gag reflex. Just as she'd balanced the jar against her hip in a position where she wouldn't have to see it, Morgan heard the door swing open. She froze.
A too-painfully long moment passed as the intruder walked in. Morgan held her breath, trying to figure out which ridiculous excuse would work on whatever teacher had caught her. When she'd first been given her assignment, Morgan had mentally prepared a list of excuses to use should she be caught at her task. Now, however, as she found herself in need of one of those excuses, they all seemed flimsy.
Finally, the door swung open, and Morgan saw who had caught her. She recognized the oversized frumpy brown sweater that the intruder wore every day, and the stick-straight brown hair. Morgan had always thought that Gwen Johnson had the potential to look beautiful, but Gwen had never been the sort to worry about that sort of thing.
In all reality, Morgan shouldn't have been surprised that it would be Gwen who would interrupt her. The other girl was only a freshman, but she'd already won some sort of major award from the state for her science project last year. The project had been so advanced, Morgan hadn't even understood what it was supposed to be about. She did know, however, that Gwen was a huge science geek, and spent too much of her free time in the school's labs.
That particular hobby had led to Morgan's current unfortunate situation.
"Hey," Morgan called, freezing with one leg on top of the desk and one half-way to the floor. She still kept the pig fetus jar cradled to her side. "What are you doing here? Do the teachers know you're here this late after school?"
Gwen seemed startled to be addressed so. She and Morgan weren't friends, and she was probably intimidated by the older and more popular girl. She stood her ground, however, and replied, "What are you doing?"
Inspiration struck, and Morgan knew exactly how to escape her situation. "I have detention," she complained. "I even had to miss cheerleading practice in order to clean out these disgusting jars. So, if you'll excuse me, I've got to get this to the bathroom to wash it out."
Gwen didn't protest. Apparently, she still believed the old rumors. Morgan could hardly believe her good luck at Gwen's gullibility as she stepped past the girl and made for the door. "Next time, knock first," Morgan called over her shoulder as she left. "I almost dropped the jar."
Morgan caught the nod out of the corner of her eye, and heard Gwen answer, "I'm sorry." Morgan debated the merits of making a snarky remark in response, and decided against it. Morgan didn't like to act like a spoiled brat, but since joining the Griffins, she'd discovered that by keeping people at a distance, she prevented them from wondering about her secrets. Thus, Morgan had spent her entire high school career cultivating a typical stuck-up cheerleader persona. In the processes, she'd alienated many of her closest friends, but she'd saved many lives, and had made new friends through the Griffins.
As Morgan stepped out into the hallway, she noted her good luck in finding it empty. No more need to lie or make up excuses. Pleased with her success, Morgan hurried to her locker, and deposited the stolen object underneath her book bag.
As she swung the door closed, Morgan checked her watch, and saw that she'd been even quicker than she'd thought. Morgan had two minutes until her self-allotted five-minute span was up. She wouldn't even need to find an excuse for why she'd missed so much of cheerleading practice.
Despite her bothers, Morgan couldn't help but determine that today had been a good day. She grinned and continued down the hallway.