Sapphire. Did she always walk into places like a breath of cool, no-nonsense fresh air? Or more like a tornado? Or, would she some days bring a bit of laughter and cheer with herself?
Staring at the work on my laptop, I thought about these very important (not) questions. What sort of things did Sapphire like? What was her service dog called? What were her core beliefs, the things that fueled her life forward?
“Jesus!” I yelled, jumping up in my chair and nearly toppling the whole thing over.
Sapphire stepped up to my side, corgi in tow. Her arms were crossed over her chest and a smirk was on her lips. “The irony of that, in this place,” she said.
I shook my head, trying not to feel like an idiot. “I’m sorry, I was – focused.”
“At least you weren’t masturbating,” she said flatly. “Your door was open so I just came in. I’ll be sure to knock next time.”
I nodded some more, like a bobblehead. “Sure.” And then I couldn’t stop myself from adding. “And walk loudly too, just for safety.”
She smiled. Oh my gods, she actually smiled. It was a beautiful thing. And then it vanished.
“So,” she took a look at my computer screen, then back at me. “How goes the work? Are your course plans ready?”
“Yes, I uh- getting ready.”
She leveled me a serious look. “Getting?”
I held up a hand. “Very much nearly there. Don’t worry. I’ll be ready in a day.”
“Good. That’s what I want to hear. Have you gone over the students? Their names and faces?”
“Uh, yes.” Just a little, and it showed in my voice. Another ‘serious look’ from her.
“I’ll have a good grasp by the time they arrive,” I said. “I usually learn their names better in person.”
She nodded curtly. “Everyone does. Do you have any concerns or things you wanted to talk to me about?”
Her eyebrows rose. “Really?”
I paused, looking from her to my computer. “Physics is pretty straight-forward. I’ve been teaching it for a while. I mean,” I held up my hands. “I’ve gone over the sample meditations for the beginning of classes. I can do that. Everything else seems pretty under control. So,”
“Oh,” she looked at the window. “Alright. Good.” Then, looking down at her corgi, she said “You’re the first one without questions today.”
“Oh,” was I supposed to have questions?
“Which is fine,” she added sharply to me. “As long as you’re sure? No worries? Some are particularly worried about the state of this building.”
I pressed my lips together. “Well, I uh, haven’t, uh,” I shrugged limply. “No. I,”
Sapphire smiled at me. My brain drew a complete blank.
“Well, don’t hesitate to let me know if there are any pressing issues.” She straightened even more and the smile vanished. “Have a good day. Lunch is soon, by the way.”
“Oh, yeah, thanks,” I said, sounding every bit absent-minded and weird. I watched her reflection in the window leave. Within a few seconds, she knocked on Crystal’s door.
“Shoes!” was heard, predictably.
I chuckled to myself. Then, with a sigh, I returned to my classwork. Yep, it was going to go well.
I remember, very distinctly, wondering what could possibly go wrong.
Lunch was a grueling affair. Amethyst raved on about how we needed more time! More time!
“I spent all morning writing this ritual- and I just feel so compelled to, like, cleanse this place inside and outside and-”
I speared my fried eggs, and raised my eyebrows at Bjorn. He smiled back cheekily. I silently wondered how many times Amethyst would say the word ‘feel’ in a conversation.
As it turned out, a lot. A frickin’ lot. Even Crystal’s eyes seemed to be getting glazed over by the time that Amethyst dabbed her eyes with a corner of her shawl and announced “I’m getting emotional.”
I couldn’t be the only one who wanted to roll my eyes at that.
“Must be the energy,” said Crystal gently.
“This place is SO unstable!” sobbed Amethyst, tears running down her cheeks.
“It has been cleansed, you know,” said the principal under her breath from the other end of the table.
“By who?” wailed Amethyst. “I still feel so much residual -”
“A shaman,” said Sapphire tartly to her plate. “A Mohawk.”
There was a silence. Bjorn nodded wisely, leaning back in his chair to say to her around Crystal. “That sounds like good.”
“Very good,” said Sapphire stiffly. “They did a nice job.” she leaned forward conspiratorially, eyes flashing above a smirk. “You should have felt the place before they came by.”
“Why did you ever take this place?” wailed Amethyst. “It’s going to cause us nothing but trouble!”
Sapphire set her utensils down with her napkin on her plate. “It was a decision with the investors.”
Well, yep. True. I nodded. Investors were a thing. She probably didn’t have all that much say in everything some times-
“But this place, can’t you just feel -”
“Well, it’s what we have,” said Sapphire as she rose, collecting her tray. “I expect you to still perform your best, and to keep the theatrics away from the students.” She leveled a glare around the table. “We don’t need them to start making up ghost stories as excuses.”
“But what if- oh no no No!” Amethyst threw her napkin down like it was the proverbial medieval glove. “We have to do this ritual before the children arrive! We can’t have them here like this!”
“Suit yourself,” said the principal in a calm tone. She turned to walk away, and I faintly wished I was doing the same.
“We’ll do it tonight!” Amethyst called out to her. Sapphire nodded, dumping her tray in its allocated spot. She was walking away when Amethyst jumped up and shouted out “You’ll have to be there!”
Sapphire froze, even her back looking unhappy. She turned around, face neutral.
“Pardon?” she asked as if this was a bad joke.
“We need to be thirteen!” pleaded Amethyst. “You can’t not be there! Or the whole energy will be off!”
Sapphire paused. “We are thirteen?”
“Yes!” Amethyst burst. The table nodded.
Sapphire paused. Then, with a shrug she said “If you insist on doing it tonight. But the second security guard will be arriving tomorrow in the evening, as will our social worker and psychologist. So,” she held up her hands. “You could wait until then.”
“Oh no!” Amethyst looked around the table desperately. “Then we won’t be thirteen!”
If telepathy was a thing, we all heard the ‘so what?’ and a few curse words that went through the principal’s mind.
But Sapphire was collected, she was cool, and she was a professional. She would not swear in front of us, I was sure of it. Instead she folded her hands before herself and tilted her head to the side in an understanding sort of way. “Is it that important to you?”
Amethyst looked ready to choke. I half expected her to start seizing or something. “We need to be thirteen! Haven’t you -”
“There are many covens that aren’t specifically thirteen members,” interrupted Aurora.
“Exactly,” said Sapphire calmly. “But if it will put your mind at rest, I will participate.”
“Oh, thank you!” crowed Amethyst. Holding out her arms, she rushed towards Sapphire for a hug. Sapphire turned to walk away – and got hugged from behind. Amethyst squeezed the very stiff figure, sniffling through tears. “We’ll all get through this together!”
That afternoon, Amethyst supposedly went to the nearest supply shop to get all the necessaries for the ritual.
“I think she’s a bit high strung,” said Crystal, standing on one foot by my desk.
“A little,” I said testily. Crystal smiled at me.
“She runs her own coven,” said Crystal. “She’s very qualified.”
I had already guessed the coven part. High priestesses were – just a breed of their own I supposed. Not that high priests were any better (hah!).
“I just hope the ritual will go well,” I said flatly. I didn’t want to have a headache argument over who was more ‘spiritually qualified’ than who. I didn’t want to hear about why one ritual might work better than another. For all I cared, this place ought to be plenty clean enough. I mean, my nightmares were probably just normal teaching anxiety.
Crystal hummed, fidgeting with a dreadlock. Then, looking intently at a bead in her haid, she asked too casually “You’ve got weird vibes about this place, don’t you?”
I nodded half heartedly. “Yeah. But-”
“Oh, me too!” she gasped as if this was such a relief. “Aurora thinks I’m exaggerating and I know that it’s already been cleansed but-” she plopped down onto the edge of my bed. “Don’t you think it feels weird around here?”
I nodded, wondering how I was going to get her out of my room now, without being rude.
As it turned out, I wasn’t able to. Crystal talked and talked about these ‘just weird’ nightmares she’d had last night, and about how the principal was ‘way too strict’ and how ‘the children are going to pick up on this’ and how the sun didn’t even seem to shine around here.
“It’s just always so cloudy!” she was saying as someone knocked on my rooms’ doorframe.
“Hey,” said Aurora.
“Hey!” we said in unison. Crystal schooched over on the bed and patted it, inviting Aurora over in all her gothic glory.
Great, another person in here. Now how was I going to get my stuff done?
“So, does anyone else have a bad feeling about this ritual tonight?” Aurora asked as she sat down on the bed.
I wanted to slam my head on the desk. Crystal, however, lit into it like feelings were the new drug.
“I really don’t know!” she said.
And bam. Another hour or so gone. My eyes were dry and I was downright grouchy when the time came for supper.
I made the mistake of not outrunning anyone on the walk over there. Had I done that, I wouldn’t have been just picking up a bowl when Amethyst burst into the eating hall.
“Nobody eat!” she shrieked, running in with papers in one hand and a giant eco-friendly shopping bag under her other arm, bursting full of stuff.
The chef raised her eyebrows, just about to ladle chow mein into my bowl. I almost reached across the counter to pour it in. But Amethyst rushed up to us, panting.
“What are you all thinking?” She looked around the hall, but we were all in the one line at the counter. “We need to do the ritual! Have you forgotten?” And she shoved the papers at me, all crinkled and sweaty from her grip.
Sapphire’s cool voice rang out. “Yes, but it’s supper time. We can do ritual after-”
“Oh no! A beginner’s mistake! You see, the cakes and ale is for after the ritual -”
“I think she knows that,” I muttered, but Amethyst wasn’t listening, preaching as if our principal was an uneducated Baptist or something.
“You see, fasting is very potent,” said Amethyst, beaming at everyone. “Our magic will be pure and-”
“Your food’ll be cold,” said the chef, nonplussed with this whole idea.
Amethyst smiled in a way that said ‘elementary, dear Watson’. “There’s a microwave, I’m sure.”
We all looked around. There was, indeed, a lonely black microwave in the corner of the kitchen.
“I have all the essentials,” Amethyst was babbling, rifling in her eco-friendly shopping bag. I took a look at the papers in my hand. Namely, I noticed the thickness and the quantity of the print on the page.
Hopefully, I split the stack in two and tried to hand her half. “You’ll want your half,” I mumbled.
“Oh, no, that is your half!” she said cheerfully, waving a hand at me.
Aw, fuck. How long was this ritual going to be?
“So! I will go set up! Everyone, in ritual robes and makeup and-”
“Robes?” echoed Sapphire in a disbelieving tone.
Amethyst ignored her. “And bring your wands and whatever you want charged with protective energy!” Then she beamed again at everyone.
Cheryl took off her apron and fairly threw it onto the counter. Sapphire looked like she wanted to hit herself over the head with something brick-like. Aurora looked tense. Crystal, however, looked so thrilled.
“Okay,” I muttered. “I’ll uh, get my stuff.”
We walked like a very unhappy troupe to the staff’s quarters. No one said much on the way there, and less as we all split off into our own rooms.
I’ll admit, a bunch of silly thoughts went through my head as I began grabbing my stuff. It’s always exciting, preparing for a ritual. You get to see an aspect of people you don’t normally see. It’s an intimate glimpse into them. So, naturally, hormones raging, I wondered what Sapphire would be wearing. A flowing skirt? Horus eyes?
I was being an idiot, obviously. It didn’t matter what she wore, because it was none of my business. She was my boss.
So I grabbed my wand, drew out a crystal from my stash to have it charged with protective energy, and took a moment to leaf through the ritual. Holy fucks. It was full of long poetry, so much so that I wouldn’t be surprised if we were drawing down the moon and the sun and stars, just for the fucks of it all. What, did she copy out the full Wiccan Rede into here? The Charge of the Goddess as well? For fuck’s sake.
I left my room and was nearly attacked by Bjorn. In fact, the guy did pretend to attack me, bearing a sword and all.
“JESUS!” I yelled, shielding myself with the ritual papers from this viking that had just burst out of nowhere. Because, uh, yeah. Bjorn was wearing leather cuffs, a rugged one hundred percent natural fibers shirt that was beige, pants and a leather belt, and the giant sword. There was even a drinking horn at his belt.
Bjorn laughed, swinging his sword up onto his shoulder. Then, laughter done with, he chuckled at me. “You’re not getting dressed?” As if it was a capital crime.
“I don’t,” I shrugged and looked down at myself. “No robes.”
“Oh,” said Crystal, appearing behind me. She was dressed much the same, but had a shawl on, and was bearing even more necklaces and had a wand in hand.
One by one, everyone else appeared. It was a shocking revelation for each. The chef, Cheryl, came out in full viking gear, with a small spear with runes on it. Aurora looked like she’d taken a bath in her gothic makeup palette, and was wearing ripped stockings and a lolita skirt. The math teacher, Paulette, was wearing boho chic with a modern witch’s hat on. Maria, the phys ed teacher, was wearing a medieval dress that just so happened to look extremely witchy.
And then Sapphire stepped out of her room.
She may as well have come out with a cloud of smoke, bats flying and stars sparkling in her hair, for what it was worth. Everyone had obviously been waiting for her by the stares she received. And, just to set the record straight, she was wearing the exact same suit as before. Her hair hadn’t changed. Her makeup hadn’t changed. But what had changed –
“Aww!” crooned Crystal, crouching down. “She’s in ritual gear!”
Indeed, the little corgi, grinning in that way corgis do, had on a little costume cape and witch’s hat tied onto its head. It was so adorable and hilarious, I wanted to crack up laughing.
“Alright,” said the principal primly. Then, eyeing Crystal she said “Don’t pet her.” Crystal ‘awwed’ and straightened. Sapphire straightened her shoulders and looked around. “Let’s do this.”