The British witch, Charlotte, and I ended up just eating together. Arella said she wanted to hang out with our new roommates, but I couldn't handle another second of Cara, so I just told Arella I wanted to talk to Charlotte alone. Arella took the news well enough.
Before we went into town, I grabbed my grimoire. I wanted to see if Charlotte could help shed some light on my new… abilities, but I didn't know how to bring it up. I figured I'd just take it with me and somehow weave the book into the conversation.
Upon her seeing the spell book, Charlotte commented that mine was particularly ancient, though said nothing else.
"I thought all grimoires were old," I said.
"Not that old, mate."
She sounded puzzled, a bit upset as well, so I changed the subject.
On the walk to town I began to notice the changes in the people. I was used to seeing humanoid figures—shifters, like Benjamin had said, but apparently most of them had been taken away. Now these lizard-looking creatures remained. They were very large and slimy and I didn't dare go close, simply observed from afar.
"What place do you like the best?" Charlotte asked.
"To eat." She hesitated. "You all provide lunch, yes? At my old island, sometimes food shipments were delayed."
"That happens here, too, but a lot of food came with you all," I told her. "So we could go anywhere we want…" I gazed around. "The pizza shop is good." But that was where Indrid liked to eat.
"So we'll go there!" cried Charlotte happily, gripping my arm and racing over to the restaurant. "I'm bloody starving."
I let her drag me along, full-well knowing I'd regret it. And what did you know, as soon as we entered the pizza place, my eyes landed on Indrid, Charlie, Courtney, and Neil dining together.
My heart clenched.
Somehow they didn't notice me as I walked past; I counted my blessings. If someone had told me a year ago that today I'd be avoiding Indrid and Charlie, I would've laughed and then turned them into a frog.
"Let's eat outside," I whispered very quietly to Charlotte. Drakes could manipulate the air, and thusly the sounds that travelled through it. I didn't want Charlie to even know I was here.
Luckily, he seemed very caught up in whatever conversation he was having.
"Why are we whispering?" she asked, lowering her voice as we waited in line.
"Tell you later."
When it was our turn, we ordered an extra small (The only size offered; it was practically just one slice) pepperoni and went outside to wait for it to cook.
"So what's going on?" she asked as we sat down at a table
"That was my ex-boyfriend and… sort of ex-best friend in there." I sighed and set the grimoire down on the table. "I didn't want to talk to either of them."
Charlotte was quiet for a few seconds. "Is that… did you bring that with you?"
It took me a moment to realize she meant my grimoire; the change of subject was very abrupt. "Uh… yeah." I blushed. "I didn't know how to bring it up, but I wanted to ask you a few questions."
"Oh, I thought you were going to curse me." She smiled, shoulders falling. "What do you want to know?"
Even knowing Charlotte wanted to help, I was still reluctant. I didn't know how to explain the darkness I felt inside of me. "Well…" I started. "Something has been feeling… off lately, with my powers. I tried to look in my grimoire, but nothing explained it."
"Did you look in the familial clause?"
Charlotte explained, "Every witch has a different sense of their abilities, which always carries on to their descendants. So in every family grimoire, there's a clause that speaks of the families abilities."
This was my first time hearing of this. "I've never seen that before."
"That's because it's hidden," she said, in a duh voice. "A simple reveal spell should show you it."
I pushed my spell book towards her. "Knock yourself out."
She shook her head, pushing it back. "No. Sorry, mate, it has to be from someone in the bloodline. You have to cast it."
With a sigh, I asked, "What kind of reveal?"
"Manifesto is good."
"Manifesto it is." I opened my mouth to speak the Latin again, but the book suddenly turned hot, causing me to drop it. The cover slammed open, pages flipping rapidly, with precise chaos, causing a small wind to arise around Charlotte and me.
I blinked in surprise at all of this; normally it took effort to cast a spell. Charlotte seemed shocked as well.
When it finally stopped moving and settled down on a page, I sat forward to stare at it. "Uh…" It was written in Latin, but in a type of Latin that I just couldn't understand. It was like Shakespearean English; I knew the words separately, but the way they were being used made no sense. "Can you read this?"
Charlotte swirled the book towards her. "Okay, that's weird."
"It's in Archaic Latin. I've never seen something like that before." Her forehead wrinkled. "Hidden clauses are always either in English or Latin."
I groaned, slamming the book shut. "So basically I'll never know what's wrong with me?"
Charlotte turned sympathetic. "Maybe you could find someone that knows the language?"
"One extra small pepperoni pizza?" asked the owner, stepping out with a steaming, albeit miniscule, lunch.
"Us!" Charlotte claimed quickly, with a grin.
My stomach rumbled to remind me to be happy about the arrival as well, but I couldn't find it in myself to care all that much.
A week passed in quick succession, and a routine came into order. Cara would awake first in the morning, causing me to have a good mood for the rest of the day. In record time, Arella and I would change our clothes and afterwards attempt to rouse Julie, who was a surprisingly heavy sleeper. We were normally pretty terrible at this task. Arella was more patient than me, and usually stayed back to try to get her up, while I went to class on time. No—normally a few minutes early. I'd go sit with Sophie, Fate, Benjamin, and Charlotte, and we would speak mainly about our schoolwork. Questions we had. The bell would ring, and Arella would come in late; Ms. Hamilton would yell, Arella would wave it off. Soon after, we'd begin history. And then science. And then English. And then lunch. And then math. And then back to our rooms.
Cara would be back in the room by then. I hated her.
I'll move on.
After ignoring Cara for some time, I'd make her go on a long walk and during that long walk I tried to go to sleep. Normally this worked. Sometimes it did not.
And then I would wake up, and it would all start again.
Halfway into the second week, and so two days away from the big dance "celebration" the government was holding in our honor (Some men had been by to set up speakers and balloons and such), Charlotte asked why I didn't just heal my arms.
We were a quarter into the algebra problems in the textbook—all of us were completing them as a group—when she inquired. Instantly, pencils dropped. At that point, everyone but Benjamin was desperate for a distraction. Maybe that was why she'd asked.
"Um," I drawled, nervously tapping my pencil eraser against the desk. "Why?"
"Sorry…" She peered at everyone in our group shyly. "It's none of my business. I was just wondering."
"I was wondering, too," Arella voiced. "You healed that other girl… very well."
"Yeah, didn't you give Sue her arm back?" Sophie questioned.
Charlotte's eyes grew double in size. "What?"
I bit down hard on my lip. Now Charlotte would tell them that something was wrong with me. Before, a witch hadn't been around to let everyone know that restoring limbs was impossible. Now… now…
"Most of it was there already," I tried weakly.
"It was clean off," Arella retorted. "Come on, take the credit!"
Maybe Charlotte recognized the terror on my face, or maybe she felt like math was important, because she spoke, "That's cool. We should get back to work."
I stared at her for a moment.
"Uh, sure," mumbled Arella, a little surprised by the blatant change in subject. "What problem are we on?"
"Fourteen," said Benjamin. His eyes were on me, narrowed suspiciously, yet he recited, "X minus one squared equal to four x radical x minus four s—"
"Got it," Sophie cut him off.
Benjamin refocused on the problem, going into his Teacher Mode. "Okay. What do we do first, guys?"
"Distribute the square," guessed Fate.
"Shouldn't we foil?" Arella asked.
Fate frowned. "Yeah…"
"This is so dumb. You know, I heard that algebra doesn't exist in real life," said Sophie. "Like, people don't go up to you and ask you what x minus one squared is."
"Doesn't matter," Ben told her with a small sigh. "We need to do this."
"Yeah, whatever," she said.
We all refocused on the task; I tried to. My hands shook at my sides. My heart raced in my chest. I felt like I was hanging off the edge of a cliff. The mentioning of how I'd healed the girl before… the misfiring of my powers… It was a delicate subject for me. Every minute I worried that someone would come in here and accuse me of being an evil sorceress and lock me up in a tower, and it made it quite difficult to solve algebraic equations.
Apparently I wasn't the only one that couldn't focus; Charlotte stared out the window for most of class, and as soon as the bell rang, Charlotte gripped me desperately. She claimed that we needed to talk.
"What?" I asked as she led me down a hallway. She was acting kind of strange… Stranger than even me. "Talk about what?"
Charlotte looked over her shoulder, biting her lip and wrinkling her brow as she did so. Her body was tense, as if she expected someone to jump out at her at any given moment. I didn't understand why she was so upset—Had something happened? And as I wondered this, she looked over her shoulder again. She kept doing it.
"What are you doing?" I asked, following her gaze, trying to see what the fuss was about. Nothing was there.
"Looking to see if anyone followed us," she hurriedly explained.
"Yeah, I know," I said. "But why would anyone follow us?"
Charlotte took a breath, and then looked back over her shoulder. "I… I mean… It's just a story my parents used to tell me, but with your grimoire and what Arella said you did…"
Now, I was intrigued. "What is it?" I pressed.
She gulped. "I-it's a bad story, Twyla."
"What? What is?"
"The one my parents told," she quickly muttered. "I don't want it to be yours."
"Charlotte," I huffed, becoming quite exasperated, "what are you talking about?"
She looked over her shoulder again, then raised her hands to bury in her hair. "Oh, bloody hell…" Before I could even demand for another answer, she rushed out, her accent increasing with her hysteria, making the words difficult to comprehend, "Just find someone to translate your grimoire, all right? Maybe something will be there."
"Charl—" I began, confused at what my grimoire had to do with this story and what this story had to do with making her so frantic.
But before another word could escape my lips, she was already down the hallway, almost sprinting away from me.
My arm, which had reached out to grasp her, fell limply at my side. "What?" I said aloud, though no one was there. I was confused out of my mind by this entire bizarre exchange.
My brain went over Charlotte's words again and again and again, and I came up with nothing. What had she been talking about? Find someone to translate the grimoire? I knew why my grimoire was important to me, but why her? What interest, what appeal, was there for Charlotte? Curiosity?
No… Charlotte had looked terrified.
She'd appeared frightened since revealing the story to me. It made me wonder if I should be scared, too… and, if so, what I should be scared of.
I stared at the hallway that Charlotte had disappeared down, itching my arms. My face was contorted in absolute confusion and wonder and, maybe, a bit of fear. I worked as hard as I could to try to piece things together, but they weren't adding up. Nothing made sense.
What was I missing?