Friday, July 10, 2015

The First Five Pages of Witch Winter

The creature stared at me with his unblinking yellow eyes, watching my every move, as if he knew what I had in mind. I turned my back to him, grateful for the bars that separated us.
“I don’t think it has eyelids,” I said.
“Mmm,” Bree muttered, keeping her gaze on the computer monitor. “Any luck?”
“No. You?”
Moonlight streamed through the windows, illuminating the piles of papers on Uncle Mitch’s desk. I didn’t dare turn on any lights, knowing that Uncle Mitch was across the street at Janette’s house and that he wouldn’t like me poking around his lab. A few weeks ago, he’d made it perfectly clear that his latest experiment would be dangerous to teenagers, even though I had thought then, and still do, that it would make a great feature article for the high school newspaper. And Mrs. Price, the paper’s advisor, had told me I could transfer out of sophomore English and onto the paper if I wrote a killer article.
“I think it would be dangerous for a bunch of teenagers to fall in love,” he had said.
When I had responded with, “News flash! They do it all the time.”
Uncle Mitch had shaken his head. “No, they just think they do. This was a powerful experiment. It would be highly irresponsible for you to introduce it to impressionable youths in the throes of puberty.”
As if teenagers didn’t fall in love everyday, if not every second.
“Maybe we should just look online to see if we can find the experiment ourselves,” Bree said, sending me a quick glance over her shoulder. “Didn’t he say that he based it off of some university’s study?”
I set down a pile of papers. “Yeah, but we know his worked.”
Bree grinned. “No, we don’t. Remember the love potion.” The light from the computer screen cast a green shadow on the angles and planes of her face.
I turned away, shivering, my attention landing back at the creature staring at us.
Bree followed my gaze. “It’s a guinea pig. It can’t hurt you.”
“It’s creepy.”
“No, the fact that your uncle used a recipe to make Janette fall for him is creepy.” Bree scrolled down a page. “I mean, I love your uncle, but it’s just so not like him.”
“I know. That’s what makes it interesting, right? Usually, he’d say it’s all hokum.” I turned my back on the guinea pig. “That’s why it would make such a killer article for the Despaign Detailer.”
“Even though he specifically told you not to use it.”
“No, what he said was ‘it would be dangerous and irresponsible.’”
“Like fireworks.”
“Exactly. And who doesn’t love fireworks?”
But since fireworks was exactly why I’d been expelled from Hartly, the school I had attended since kindergarten until the science lab fire a few months ago, an itchy feeling crept up my neck. I didn’t want to be expelled from Faith Despaign Academy as well.
But I did want to make the newspaper and the only way to do that was to write a great article. And I had written a fantastic article. I sighed as a wave of discouragement washed over me. “I’ll never find another story like that again.”
“I know. There’s been one murder in Woodinville in about a hundred years and you discovered it.” Bree paused. “It’s lame your advisor won’t let you use it.”
I swallowed hard. “That’s why I need a story that will create buzz.” I paused and used my fingers to make air quotes. “And doesn’t even hint at witch craft.”
“But what did Lauren’s murder have to do with the witch’s coven?”
“She was a witch.”
“Huh,” Bree leaned back in her chair, clearly surprised. “Well, she wasn’t a very good one.”
“Why do you say that?”
“If she could use magic, why didn’t she try to make her life better? I mean, why wear an orange parka every day and live in a hovel if you don’t have to?”
“Maybe she was happy with her life. Maybe she was okay with the orange parka and her house on Old Barn Road.”
“Maybe…” Bree sounded skeptical. “If I was a witch, I’d at least get a nice coat.”
I didn’t tell Bree that there was a lot more to being a witch than choosing what to wear. Not that I really had any idea. I only had a tickling brewing in the back of my head, and I pretty much tried to ignore it. I disliked being tickled, even by ideas.
“Hey,” Bree said, leaning closer to the monitor. “This is pretty good.”
I peeked over her shoulder at the screen. How to Make Anyone Fall in Love With You, the banner read.
Bree squinted as she read. “It’s not all sciency like your uncle’s experiment probably would be, but it’s not too Cosmo Girl either.” She quoted the article. “Dr. Harnette at the The University of @ has compiled the step by step recipe on how to make anyone fall in love with you.”
“I like it,” I said, settling down beside her to read. “Do you think Court and Ryan will go for it?”
Bree had no problem sharing the chair with me. “They said they would. And I will, too.”
I pulled out my phone and copied the URL onto my browser. I tucked my phone back into my pocket after I got the link pulled up. “But you won’t try it on Dylan, right?” I asked. Bree had been my best friend since my dad and I had moved next-door after my parent’s divorce eight years ago, but last month Dylan had interfered with that. Mostly because Dylan liked me and Bree liked Dylan. We were past that now. Sisters before misters…mostly.
“Yes…” Bree puffed out an exaggerated sigh of denial, as if I’d asked her to give up shopping for Lent. “Even though I think it’s dumb.” Bree flipped off the computer and pulled herself out of Uncle Mitch’s office chair. “I mean, if you don’t like him, why shouldn’t he fall for me?” She squinted at me through suspicious eyes and pushed her red curls off her forehead. “You don’t like him, right?”
Josh, Bree’s older brother, flashed in my head, with his dark hair, even darker eyes, and football-hard muscles. He looked nothing like his wispy fair-skinned, red-headed sister. With my pale hair and complexion, I looked more Henderson than Josh. I told myself that we were talking about Dylan, not Josh, and I shook his image away. Bree would make my life hell if she knew I thought of her brother like that.
Like what? I couldn’t answer that question. Besides being Bree’s brother, Josh was also Dylan’s best friend, and that just made everything complicated and weird. I fussed over the papers on Uncle Mitch’s desk, hiding my face from Bree, and trying to make it look as if we’d never snuck into the lab.

Which would have been easier if it hadn’t been for Clarence, the guinea pig.

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