Wrath of the Witch
It was the afternoon of an Asteroball match, where Crystal High were playing on their home turf. The sisters waited for it to begin. Verena would be queen cheerleader, and Tiggy would be staying to give her moral support.
Tiggy sat on the cast iron bench. Elliot came and sat down the bench beside her. Tiggy smiled down at him. How kind of him to keep her company!
Mr Taylor the school counsellor came up to their bench. "Asteroball!" he said. "I may not be much of a player, but I do have a few tricks when it comes to playing ball."
The afternoon was bright, clear and cold – an ideal day for Asteroball. Hal Fielding, the half-right, cut an impressive figure in his crystalline blue football uniform. He looked so fit and athletic, with wavy brown hair that Tiggy thought she would like to stroke.
"So, what pithy lyrics have you made for our match against Broad River High?" Hal asked Verena.
"Broad River High?" said Verena. "You're playing Cape Coral Conservatory. Look, there's their bus."
Sure enough, the Cape Coral bus was pulling into the parking lot at that moment.
"Oh no! I got the days mixed up!" said Hal. Verena smiled.
"Tut tut," said Atticus. "You really oughtta learn the days of the week."
"I didn't know we'd be playing them," said Hal. "I can't do it!"
"Hey, don't be afraid," said Verena. "You've played that team before."
"My boy, in life we have to man up and take the challenges life throws at us," said Atticus. "There's no sense being afraid of the other team."
"I'm not worried about the team," said Hal, crouching behind a dustbin near the spectator stands. "I've finally been tracked down… by my greatest enemy."
"Who is it?" demanded Verena.
"Yes, who?" asked Tiggy concerned. "We wanna help."
"There!" Hal pointed at the bus. At that moment, a cheerleader in a coral pink outfit, with long, curly black hair was dismounting.
"Behind the cheerleader?" asked Verena.
"It is the cheerleader!" said Hal.
The curly haired girl looked over at them. Her violet-blue eyes widened and then narrowed. She hurried away behind the spectator stands.
"I think she saw me!" said Hal. "She's after me."
"Well she just walked away," said Verena. "Are you worried because you can't hit a girl? I can smack her in the face for you if she starts trouble."
At that point, there was a sound like a thunderclap from behind the stands, and a dark shape came hurtling into view to hover above them. To Tiggy's astonishment, it was a girl who had bright green skin. Bright green like her own, although this girl was normal sized and she appeared to be straddling a broom! Super weird. Tiggy had never seen anything like it before. The girl glared down. She had curly black hair… could it be the cheerleader? But now she looked so different. She was wearing a pink silk dress that fit her tightly as a glove. And that change was nothing compared to her having green skin and riding a broom!
There was murmuring from the spectators as they looked up.
"Thought you could get rid of me, did you Hal?" cried the green girl, her voice clear and penetrating. "Well now you're mine!" She held up a green hand that glowed with a pink light. A rosy orb formed in the air around her clenched fist and she hurled it at the pitch. It struck the dustbin which Hal was hiding behind. There was a flash, and the bin was hurled aside. Tiggy felt her stomach lurch with anxiety for Hal, but fortunately the gallant Asteroballer proved he was unhurt by leaping up and fleeing.
High in the air, the green girl screamed and raised both her fists. She glowed with a pink light and began hurling her glowing spheres at the pitch. Where each one hit, it created a flash and the smell of singed turf.
"Definitely a witch," said Atticus. "I wonder if her classmates are smart enough to realise it's her? Clearly she uses some magical trickery to hide her green skin most of the time."
The spectators and players were yelling and fleeing.
The witch girl hovered above them screaming: "You belong to me, Hal! Show your face Hal!" She hurled more rosy bolts at the grass.
"Time to make ourselves scarce?" said Atticus. "Just like everyone else."
"Hal's in trouble," said Tiggy. "Where is he? I'm gonna help him."
"I knew you would," said Elliot, gazing up at her. "You're so brave."
"Aww." Tiggy felt her heart swell with affection for him. Elliot said the kindest things.
Verena narrowed her eyes. "Hal's over there. He's hiding behind that skip." She pointed at the skip on the other side of the pitch.
"Well spotted, Sis," said Tiggy. She ran for the skip and found Hal cowering behind it. "It's alright, Hal. I'll save you."
"Huh?" How looked up at her with wide eyes. He had blue green eyes, like opals.
Tiggy scooped him up in her arms and bolted towards the school building.
"You can't hide from my love, Hal!" screamed the witch from high above.
Tiggy heard the unmistakable zapping sound of her hurling her magic bolts at the turf. The witch had a very weird way of expressing love!
"She's so scary," said Hal, clinging to Tiggy.
"Worst letter ever!" screeched the witch.
Well Tiggy had no idea at all what that meant. She galloped towards the nearest large door in the building and kicked it open… Oh dear. This was the changing room and it was full of Crystal High boys getting ready for the Asteroball match. They were all in various states of undress, and were gazing at Tiggy in horror.
One of them pointed at Tiggy. "Girl!"
They all fled through the smaller doors at the other end of the room. Tiggy felt her face grow hot. So, so embarrassing. She placed Hal gently on the tiled floor and then picked up a chair and broke off the metal leg. She used this as a bar to wedge the main locker room doors shut and then knelt beside Hal. "Are you OK?" He did look a bit pale and chastened.
"Don't leave me!" Hal urged.
"I won't," said Tiggy. "That witch will have to go through me if she wants to hurt you." Tiggy was worried though. What could she really do against magic?
The sound of the witch's voice could be heard from outside. "You can't run from me! Love will always find a way!"
At that moment, Verena, Elliot and Atticus entered through one of the small side doors.
Atticus pointed at Hal. "Young man, how do you know a witch?"
"I didn't know she was a witch when we started dating," protested Hal. "I thought she was just Carly."
They could hear the voice of Carly the witch ringing out again. Her voice sounded magically magnified: "Come back to me, Hal! Your letter broke my heart! I cry myself to sleep every night!"
"You didn't break up with her by letter, did you?" asked Verena.
"Would you dare break up with her face to face?" asked Hal.
"My boy, when dealing with a witch, you have to use brains," said Atticus. "She's carrying on like this because she wants you back. We have to change her mind." Atticus tapped the side of his head.
"Good idea. How?" demanded Hal.
Atticus turned to Elliot. "Give me your jacket."
Elliot handed Atticus his anorak.
"We have to borrow your style for a bit, boy," Atticus told Elliot. He draped the anorak around Hal's shoulders. "Now Hal… slouch a little. Shorten your neck. Stick out your gut." Hal did so. "Now young lady…" he pointed at Verena. "Don't you have a cosmetic of some kind."
"I've only got my lip balm on me," said Verena.
"It'll do. Hand it over." Atticus took the lip balm and anointed some on Hal's eyes. "Perfect. Now, boy, you have to pretend you like something really dull. Like twentieth century telegraph poles."
"Got it," said Hal.
They all jumped at the sound of Carly the witch's voice outside the double doors that Tiggy had barred shut.
"Are you in there Hal? I hear voices."
"Hello there," called Atticus. "Hal is currently unwell. He has… contagious conjunctivitis. You can't see him. It's really contagious, see. It's in the name."
"What? My Hal is ill? Open the stupid door or I'll blast it down!"
"Contagious illnesses are very catching," said Atticus.
"I'll take my chances." The witch sounded sarcastic now. "Open the door!"
"Just give us a minute…" said Atticus. "Get ready boy," he muttered to Hal.
"I'm coming out!" said Hal out loud. Loud enough for the witch outside to hear.
"Um… is this a good idea?" asked Tiggy.
"Don't you go overthinking things," said Atticus. "Just unbar the door."
Reluctantly, Tiggy unjammed the double doors.
Hal pushed them open and stepped outside.
Carly hovered above, straddling her broom and glaring down as he stepped outside. "About time!"
Hal made a show of sticking out his gut. "Hullo Carly. Wanna hear about all my new ailments? I've got conjunctivitis… and eczema. Yeah, that too."
Carly clapped her hands to her mouth. She lowered her broom to the ground and dismounted. "What happened to you? My poor, sweet darling…"
"Want to see my album of twentieth century telegraph poles?" asked Hal. "This is the real me. A complete nerd."
Carly's eyes were wide. "No one could love you like this…" She paused. "No one except me." She grinned. "I'll love you forever. You're coming to live with me!"
Hal took a step backwards. "I-"
"Forget your old life. Your new home is in my magic house!" said Carly. "Unless…" she narrowed her eyes and peered past Hal into the locker room. She glared at Verena. "Some other girl's come between us? Does that little minx think she's better than those of us with cursed green skin? I'll make her break out in warts. She won't bewitch you with her cuteness then."
Carly raised her hands, yellow light crackling around her fingers. Verena gave a yell, but Tiggy knew she couldn't let that happen. She jumped in front of her sister just as the witch hurled yellow sparks at them. Tiggy swatted at the sparks with her arms and they bounced off her.
"Huh," said Carly. "The wart spell doesn't work on you. It'll be your ogre blood I expect."
"You're going to have to kick her!" screeched Verena. "Forget what you said about not wanting to hurt anyone. You have to use your iron boots."
The witch raised her hands again, but Tiggy jumped forward and seized her in her arms, pulling her into a hug so that her hands were pinned to her sides.
Carly struggled in Tiggy's grip. "Gerroff, you great big oaf!"
"Carly…" said Tiggy. "Hal doesn't love you. I know it hurts…"
"No!" said Carly, but her voice cracked and she began to whimper.
"You can't force anyone to love you," murmured Tiggy. "That's not love."
Carly sobbed and stopped struggling. Instead she clung to Tiggy and cried.
Tiggy couldn't possibly fear the witch now. She just felt sorry for her. She gently stroked her hair with one finger. "Sorry…" said Tiggy. "But you'll find someone who is right for you. But you must stop this. You're frightening Hal."
Carly sniffed. "Let me down. I promise I won't chuck any more spells about. I – I want to say I'm sorry for frightening him."
"Better not let her go!" cautioned Atticus, but Tiggy had already set the witch down on the floor, though she kept a tight hold of her arms so that she couldn't cast spells.
Tears shone in Carly's eyes as she gazed at Hal. "Is there really no chance…?"
"No… Sorry," said Hal.
"Did you want to say sorry, Carly?" asked Tiggy.
"I'm a counsellor," interjected Atticus. "Talk things through. We'll find out that you two have nothing in common. Carly, pray tell us… didn't you ever disagree with Hal here?"
Carly nodded. "I tried to get him to read Pride and Prejudice. But he said he preferred Wuthering Heights." She sniffed as though that idea was preposterous.
"I still do," said Hal. "Uh… Pride and Prejudice is sentimental rubbish. And -" Hal rubbed his nose. "I don't even like romance of any kind, I uh - I only like Asteroball."
"I did a full evaluation of him as counsellor, and he doesn't have a romantic bone in his body," said Atticus smoothly. "You can do so much better."
"Pretty pathetic," said Verena scowling at the witch. "With all your power, all you do is obsess over Hal."
Carly stuck out her tongue at Verena.
"Real mature," said Verena.
"Listen…" said Tiggy, thinking fast. "What do you really want in life, Carly? With all your power, you could be a magic teacher. I think I'd like to be a teacher, but I dunno if I'm good enough at anything yet."
"I don't want to be a teacher, dear," said Carly. "But I do want to be the court mage." She sniffed. "If you were the one for me, Hal, you could have ridden my coattails to greatness."
"To bad for me," said Hal with an apologetic smile.
"Let me go, big girl," said Carly to Tiggy. "I'm calm now, I promise."
Tiggy released Carly. Hal took a step back, but Carly merely turned to the mirror and took out a powder puff which she applied to her tearstained green face. When she touched the powderpuff to her features, they turned peach again. Clearly magic. They all watched her tensely. She turned to Atticus. Half of her face was peach, the other half still green. "Oi, counsellor… shouldn't you be getting everyone organised so the match can go ahead?"
"Ahem. It wasn't specifically in my contract, but I suppose I'm more switched on than most of my colleagues," said Atticus. "But you, Carly… why don't you give this match a miss and relax and read a book or something. I can see you're under too much stress."
"Yeah, I've been thinking that cheerleading's not my thing. It's too frivolous," said Carly.
"Frivolous?" said Verena indignantly.
"Yeah, frivolous," said Carly. "But I bet you're the type who gets edgy about Beauty Pageants."
Verena opened and closed her mouth in indignation.
Carly turned to the mirror again. "And the match probably won't be worth watching either, knowing how badly Cape Coral play…"
The match was over and Crystal Prep had beaten Cape Coral Conservatory. Hal scored the final goal. Tiggy felt a glow of pleasure at how happy he looked when he came striding off the pitch, hair dishevelled and cheeks flushed rosy pink.
"Great goal, Hal," she enthused.
"Come celebrate with us!" said Hal.
The players and those they liked were having a little celebration in Little Hall, on the west side of the pitch. So kind of Hal to invite Tiggy. Tiggy beamed around at the players. A few of them raised eyebrows and muttered when she came in.
The mood of the Coral players was somewhat subdued. Perfectly understandable.
The refreshments included cake, eggs, cold ham, chips, root beer, and an array of jam tarts, with purple, yellow and red jam. They did look pretty. Tiggy was sad she couldn't eat them. Hal held up a platter with a raw steak. "Here Tiggy."
She grinned at him. "Oh, thank you."
The Coral Captain glared at Tiggy. "What's this beast doing here? Tell her to get back in her cave."
Verena gave a hissing noise and leapt to her feet, but Hal had already taken a step forward. "This is a great girl," he said, pointing at Tiggy. "She's the bravest I know."
"Quite right," said Verena. "I always knew you were smart, Hal."
Hal pointed at the Cape Coral Captain. "You, Vavasor, are a slippery bugger, and a coward, and you're not going to insult her in front of me. Stand up. You'll have to fight."
"Wallop him, Hal!" urged Verena.
"Oh no, please don't fight because of me," said Tiggy uneasily. "Let's just forget it and enjoy the party."
Atticus entered at that moment. "No trouble, I hope, boys?"
"No…" said Hal. "Vav isn't going to make any trouble. Are you, Vav?"
Vav said nothing, only glowered.
"That's better," said Hal. "Anyway, I have something important to say… Tiggy, will you be my new girlfriend."
Vav let out a vehement exclamation. Atticus narrowed his eyes and glanced quickly from Tiggy to Hal.
Tiggy was very surprised. How should she answer?