Welcome to Circlet School ~Chapter Seven, Part One

The next day, I awoke to a riot of alarms going off. Obviously everyone had set their alarms for six am sharp, and hadn’t the previous days. Well, now they were all ringing like it was the apocalypse and we were a day late.

Sticking with that metaphor, I told myself to get on the horse and ride forth! Wield the scythe and … I lost my metaphor. But I was awake, the alarms were one by one being turned off, and nothing bad had happened yet, had it?

Congratulating myself on a good night’s sleep (my witch’s ladder seemed to be working!), I got up to take my shower and get ready.

That went smoothly. Fast forward to breakfast, and I was met with a wave of suits and ties. Uh. I was the only one wearing just a shirt – and one bearing cartoon dinosaur bones printed on it, by the way.

“What are you wearing?” asked Amanda, who was wearing a crisp suit worthy of Sapphire.

“Evolution?” I asked hopefully, thinking that, yeah, maybe the jeans were sinking me too.

“Uh, hhhhuh,” she said, looking me up and down.

“Lose the shirt,” said Sapphire, appearing out of nowhere to march past me.

“I’m the science teacher!” I protested. I get to wear funky shirts! I can be the button-down teacher, right? Science needs a makeover –

“Put on a jacket,” said Sapphire flatly, turning around with her breakfast tray in hand. She took a coffee from Cheryl without even looking, like a ninja.

I held an awful silence, stomach opening up into a pit of doom. Sapphire eyed me. “You own a suit jacket, don’t you?”

“No?” I said carefully. I was a public school teacher! I’d never even walking into a private school! We had just been told to ‘dress suitably’ in our contract. I thought that meant no medieval clothing.

Sapphire downed half her coffee in a go. Then, pressing her lips together, she looked at me with a fresh caffeinated glint to her eyes. “Put on a shirt without prints. You’re forbidden from prints for the rest of the school year.”

I felt half my wardrobe wave a solemn good bye. I’d even bought ones with molecules on them, for crying out loud. “Okay,” I muttered.

But first breakfast. Then, stuffed full of cereal, I was ordered with a glare from Sapphire to go ‘lose the shirt’.

When I returned, Sapphire was handing out pamphlets and had stacks of papers and fold-outs at the ready. “So we are doing a very small greeting this year,” she said as soon as I slipped into the hall.

I slithered over and was handed a pamphlet by a smiling Paulette. I thanked her with a smile and sat down with everyone else.

Sapphire glared us all down. “I want you all on your best behavior. Professional. No stories of ghosts, possession, or crystal healing. We want to seem reasonable and grounded in reality.”

Then, in a grueling rush, we were given a run-down on everything that had been in the emails. We were to greet the parents in waves throughout the days. The lowest level students arrived first, the higher levels later on. There was to be a break for lunch, which was offered to the parents for a price. Aurora, Crystal, Amethyst and Kayla the detention teacher, were to supervise the students as they settled into their dorms. Bjorn, Ivy, and Maria were to give guided tours. Paulette, Amanda, Sapphire and I were greeting at the gates, so to speak. The nurse was to be in her office, in case anyone got hurt or dehydrated.

“Oh, I’m sure no one will get sick,” said Amethyst with a beaming smile. “It’s such a lovely day.”

Sapphire glared Amethyst down. “It’s not a matter of ‘if’ something will go wrong. It’s a matter of ‘when’ and ‘who’. Be prepared for everything.” Under her breath she added “these are parents.”

Well that… just made me feel completely unprepared.

Once more, Sapphire told us what to say, pointed to what to point to on the pamphlets, then with a deep breath, looked us over again. She did not seem particularly pleased with what she saw.

“Next year, you all have to have suits that fit better than this,” she said sharply. “I expect more from you. All of you.”

I felt like a weed withering before her no-weed spray. Or maybe boiling hot water. That’d kill any plant. But, as if to add fire to her weed-killer, she glared at just me. “I expect you to have a suit jacket after your first paycheck. Is that clear?”

“Oh, uh, hnh,” I said most verbosely, nodding. “Yeah.”

“Good,” and she gestured to the way out of here. “Let’s go.”

Or, in parent language, she might as well have said ‘ready, set, arrive!’. Because, yeah, the minute we got out there, near the driveway and ready to point to cars where to park, a car eeked up the road.

I put on a broad grin. “Parents are here!” I said, looking around.

Amanda checked her watch. “A full hour early. They are probably overachievers who expect their kids to be on the honor roll, but don’t know how to cook a casserole so to speak.”

“Hmm,” Sapphire said, neutral expression firmly in place. “Enough of that.”

To which Amanda hmphed and crossed her arms, sure of her superiority to these common folk who… couldn’t cook a casserole? Was I the only one excited to meet the parents? Yeah? Or was that a sign of being a new teacher? Or maybe, as I later realized, they had a better grip on the ‘pagan’ part of ‘pagan parents’.

“Hey!” a beer-bellied man stepped out of the driveway, pale like a computer tech and dressed in a t-shirt and shorts. He had long, thin, brown hair that was pulled back into a long ponytail. His beard was too long for the care he obviously didn’t put into it. “We made it!”

“Oh, this place is lovely!” the wife squealed, stepping out of her side of the car. She was twice as wide as he, had a bob of frazzled hair, swishing purple skirts, and bulging eyes.

Then, there was the kid. She stepped out of the back of the car like she was being dragged to her own funeral. Humiliated. Dejected. I felt for her.

She was a scrawny thing with her mother’s large eyes, her father’s ponytail, and what I took to be the school’s uniform. It was a navy blue jacket, white shirt, and navy blue pants. Pretty plain, but as the family came closer the insigna on the jacket became visible. It was a white logo of a pentacle with a dragon around it. Funky, I thought, wondering what the dragon represented

“Heya!” said the father, holding out a hand to… Sapphire stepped forward to accept it with a tight smile and a firm handshake.

“Welcome,” she said “So glad you could make it.”

“Well, we were afraid of getting lost!” chuckled the dad, and the wife beamed and nodded. The daughter looked dejected and looked away.

One by one, Sapphire introduced the lot of us and what we taught. Of course, it was Aurora who got all the attention once it came out that she was the religion teacher.

“Oh, so you’re the priestess!” squealed the wife. “You know, I’m so glad that you will be overseeing this project!”

“Actually,” Aurora said, glancing to Sapphire for permission.

“She has a doctorate in new religious movements, specifically in Wicca and neopaganism,” said Sapphire curtly.

The parents’ eyes widened, and the dad nodded like ‘yeah, well done’. The mom, however, said “But you are a priestess, right?”

“No,” said Aurora firmly. “I am not. However, I am experienced in-”

“I’m a high priestess!” squeaked Amethyst, shimmying over through the group of teachers and bolstering me out of the way. Breathless and beaming (and also starting to sweat in this sun), she declared “And I can tell you that this place is going to be amazing for your child!”

“Oh, good!” said the mother, obviously relieved. Sapphire’s eyes narrowed, making her smile turn menacing. The mother, however, had eyes only for Amethyst now “I was so worried. You don’t want a bunch of muggles running this place, so to speak!”

“Oh, no!” Amethyst laughed, tilting her whole body to the side as she did so. “No muggles here!”

The family laughed. Except not the daughter. She clearly was not a harry potter fan, or a fan of this situation at all.

Amethyst, however, was about to bust out of her teacher role and promote herself straight up the channel. She was rattling on about how we were going to be having daily prayers, meditations before every class, how she was going to incorporate feminist theory into the readings (cool!) and – another car pulled into the driveway.

“More witches!” cheered the mother.

Indeed. More witches. These ones parked crooked, their expensive car shining waxily in the sunlight. When they got out of the car, they were bedecked in sandals, crisp pale clothing (skirts in the mothers’ case) that probably cost nearly as much as the car, and they were pointedly tanned. The dad lifted his sunglasses off his face, squinting around as if to say ‘that’s it?’. The daughter swung out of the back seat, lanky and graceful, her blonde hair sweeping around her like she was a videogame character or something. I sensed trouble in her. She looked way too popular for her own good.

The mother ambled over, a tight smile on her face, husband and daughter in tow. They were greeted with a “howdy!” by the previous dad and his wife. The first kid (who had still not been introduced) looked like she wanted to hide.

“Hi,” said the wife starchily, as if the words had a hard time coming out. She had a wealthy person’s accent, which I couldn’t describe. She looked down her nose at everyone, frowning. Probably the place had seemed bigger in the brochures.

“Greetings,” said Sapphire, stepping forward with a tight smile. As if recognizing her, the parents went ‘ah’ and shook her hands.

“So glad you could make it,” said Sapphire politely.

“Ah, yes, we are too,” said the father, looking around again.

Again, the teachers were introduced, but this time Sapphire mentioned the parents by name. Mr and Mrs Engeldorf. I took a wild guess that they were investors, and wealthy ones at that.

If people gave off a vibe, which I’m sure they do, these ones gave off icky vibes. I just did not like them. They also did not seem to like me, either, barely shaking my hand. Was it the pink shirt? Maybe.

They also seemed keen on ignoring the other parents, who were equally keen on not being ignored.

“So, witches eh?” said the first dad, prodding at the second dad.

“No,” said Mrs Engeldorf tartly, like, lemon tart kind of tart, with no sugar added.

“Oh?” the first mom said peppily, poking over. “What are you?”

The parents smiled acidly. “We are atheists,” the father said haughtily. “But our daughter,”

The perfect daughter looked wholly embarrassed and not so perfect anymore beside her parents.

“Has taken a shine for Wicca. She insisted on coming here, of all the places.”

“Well, what a good choice,” I said to the kid. She smiled at me. The parents scowled.

Mr Engeldorf put his sunglasses back on. “She’s allergic to gluten, by the way. We trust you’ll be taking good care of her,” he said, wholly expecting the opposite for sure.

Then, they unloaded their daughters’ luggage and left, tires crunching in the gravel. I hoped a bird pooped on them.

The daughter stood miserably there with her pile of luggage, looking every bit the abandoned teen she was.

“So what’s your name?” asked Amethyst happily, breaking the silence.

The teen lifted her chin proudly. “Raven,” she declared.

“Good choice,” said Sapphire. As a group, we teachers nodded. The remaining parents beamed. Their daughter finally spoke.

“I’m Greta,” she announced.

And that, really, was how the day began.

Welcome to Circlet School ~ Chapter Five, Part One

“She’s here!” squealed Amethyst, stating the obvious.

The car looked like someone had taken a hammer to it, and a sledgehammer to other parts of it. It rattled as it drove up the gravel driveway, and seemed to just give up the ghost as it turned off before us.

Us, that is, being most of the teachers, the security guard, and Sapphire. Sapphire stood at the front, arms crossed and a pleasant look on her face that might have been trademarked by some makeup company, it was so neutral. She was poised, collected, and looked professional.

So, obviously, Amethyst had to run forward, squealing and shaking her hands with shawls flying. “Hello!” she squealed as she ran around the car.

Whatever might have been happy in Sapphire’s face turned grim. Her chest rose and lowered in a sigh, but she kept her poise.

On the other side of the car, I heard a weird accent. I saw a large shape and bright colors. There was a brief hug wherein Amethyst’s shawl draped around the figure – and then they both stepped from around the car.

The woman was large, round about the middle. Very round. Her hair was dark and frizzed out at the sides with whatever would cooperate being pulled back into a ponytail. She was wearing bright colors in strange shapes zig-zagged across her shirt on a black background. Her skirts swished and swished in a horrid shade that looked like a washed out grass stain. Or maybe vomit. She was wearing sandals.

“Ah! Hello! Bonjour!” she said, with a parisian accent as she walked over.

“Bonjour, comment allez vous?” said Sapphire in fluent french, greeting her and asking how she was. She offered a hand, which the madame clasped in both of hers.

“Ah! You have such strong hands!” declared the madame. She looked Sapphire up and down. “You try too hard. And you-” she waved expressively, bangles jangling around her wrists. “Need to get in tune with your inner goddess. Maybe you should masturbate a bit more.”

“I am so glad you came here for this banishing,” said Sapphire in sickly sweet tones as she tried to draw back her hand.

“Mmm,” the woman closed her eyes. “I sense a love affair. A -”

Sapphire yanked her hand free. “I thought you had been explained that we wanted a banishing from you-”

“Oh! Madam! I am intuitive!” she declared, hands butterflying about herself. “I do and say as the spirit calls!”

“Well, the staff have been very anxious about the state of our property, spiritually speaking,” said Sapphire sweetly. “They, especially,” and here she designated Amethyst with a hand “are very eager for you to do what needs to be done with this place.”

“Ah! But! I say and do what the spirit demands! And you!” she gestured up and down to Sapphire. “You are a woman who does not accept herself! You need to embrace your inner-”

“That is not what you are being paid for,” said Sapphire tartly.

The woman rolled her eyes wildly, shaking a hand to the sky. “But the spirits are speaking! And you need to accept yourself! Embrace your feminine side!”

“Alright, I’ll keep that in mind. What about the land?” and Sapphire gestured to the building. “Do you want a tour?”

“Oh no, I will go where the spirit tells me to go!” She flicked out her hands, taking in a deep breath with her eyes closed. She then exhaled loudly. Inhaled loudly. Exhaled loudly. Then, like she was trying to waft incense closer, she waved a hand up to her face. “I’m sensing a disturbance. A tension, a sort of-”

Sapphire’s face could be described as → unimpressed. Strangely enough, that’s exactly how I felt as well.

“Some dramatic pain, maybe a death, a -”

Sapphire heaved a sigh.

“Lo-ots of pain, a history that is long and-”

“It’s an old building, yes,” said Sapphire icily.

The woman inhaled loudly again. “I am seeing a young woman, maybe lovers,”

I looked around. Amethyst was watching with rapturous attention. Crystal was starry-eyed. Aurora was perplexed.

“I sense-” another big inhale that could have sucked in a bee. Then her eyes popped open and she zeroed in on something past us. “That pond!”

“It’s a pond, yes,” said Sapphire softly.

The woman rushed forward, circling around us and making a beeline for the pond. Sapphire drew a sharp breath and followed, clearly irritated. We all followed, a little herd that was fascinated with these ongoings.

The woman drew to a standstill beside the pond. “Right here!” again, more hand waving and inhaling with eyes closed. “Someone was murdered!”

“How interesting,” said Sapphire dryly, but we barely heard it.

“Oh my!” declared Amethyst, waving her arms as she reached between Sapphire and the madame. “Could that be the bad vibes?”

“Quite sure it was the decades of children being tortured here that did it,” said Sapphire in a dark snap. Then, too late, you could see it in her face that she realized what she’d said.

The madame gawked. “What happened here?”

“I didn’t tell her!” stage whispered Amethyst with bulging eyes.

Sapphire smiled and shrugged, folding her arms behind her back. “A residential school is all.”

“What’s that?” asked the madame, suddenly losing her accent and waving demeanor.

“A native school,” said Amethyst.

“That’s not what a residential school was,” snapped Sapphire. “It was run by nuns, and the children were prisoners.” then, to the madame, she said “Look it up later. It’s not important now. Now we just need you to feel.

That placated the woman somewhat. With a nod, she did the whole inhaling thing again. This time, she exhaled loudly through her mouth. Her eyes popped open. “Where did the ritual take place? The one you spoke to me about?” she said to Amethyst.

“Oh! This way!” and Amethyst began rushing away, the madame in tow. With their backs to her, Sapphire paused as if wondering if she really wanted to follow. Then, determined, she did.

Once we had reached the other side of the building where the firepit was, the madame gasped. “I feel so much aggression! Anger! Fire!”

“Well, we are by the fire pit,” said Sapphire tartly.

“Oh yes but, ahhh,” another inhale and hand waving. “This is-” a quick exhale then another inhale. “I sense a fiery spirit. Maybe a dragon.”

“One of the statues that burned was a dragon statue!” squeaked Amethyst.

“Mmmm,” said the madame most wisely. Now she swam her hands around above the fire pit, closing her eyes as if it took all her focus. Another inhale.

Mentally, I made a note that if any of my students wanted to breathe like that, they were getting detention. No matter their excuses or ‘feelings’.

As if reading my mind, the madame said “I feel,” another giant inhale. She wafted air up to herself – then sneezed. “Oh, you can still smell the plastic,” she said, grossed out and now waving the air in the other direction.

I wanted to smack my forehead with a palm. This was just too much.

“How about that banishing ritual?” Sapphire asks pointedly, crossing her arms over her chest. “We,” she checked her phone “don’t have that much time.”

“Oh, my dear, you can’t rush the spirit,” the woman gushed, still waving her arms as if swishing them in water.

“I’m only paying you for an hour,” said Sapphire tartly.

“It does not matter, I don’t do it for the money,” said the madame, closing her eyes again.

Sapphire looked quite angry at this, and I sympathized. How else would she get this person to leave?

“But, I can sense your impatience,” the madame said. Lowering her arms, she drew herself up and sniffed one final time. “We shall begin the ritual.”

Oh good goddess! I breathed a sigh of relief. But then I paused, realizing that it was this woman who was leading a ritual… did I really want to see that?

Yes, yes I did, said that part of me who loved binge-watching dramas. I really did.

We trailed along after the madame as she marched past to her car. “I didn’t know what would be required, so I brought whatever the spirit moved me for,” she declared as she approached her beat-up car.

Then, like an old school peddler from some poor village, she began drawing out stuff. And stuff. And stuff.

There was > a shaman’s drum, three different bundles of white sage, a wand covered in polymer clay decorations and crystals and feathers, a hooded cloak, a handful of candles, chakra stones, rune stones, and sticks.

And that was trip one.

Then there was a cauldron full of crystals, statues of the goddess and god, more candles (this time chakra colored), cone incense, a jug of water, pink salt in a salt shaker, and a silver circlet which she quickly popped onto her own head, as if afraid someone would steal it away.

Back around the fire pit, I simply stared as she began sorting through her miniature mountain of stuff. Then she turned around and faced us. “Alright!” she called out. “I’m going to need twelve volunteers! We need to be thirteen!”

Oh, good goddess. Now I was torn. I wanted in, but I also wanted to not be involved. I wanted the knowledge, but not to be stained by this ink. Crap.

Sapphire, for her part, was obviously not curious. She had backed away a good three steps from the madame. Amethyst was waving a hand ecstatically. By my side, Crystal was humming and nodding, slowly stretching an arm up.

I decided to hold back. You know what? I could be curious but I didn’t want to be injured. I could watch from outside and get a view, and that should be enough for me. That should be enough for me.

Except, dummy me, I hadn’t realized that we were already thirteen, including Sapphire. So if Sapphire backed out, everyone else had to go in.

“Come, come!” called out the madame. “We need to be thirteen!”

And I, the only one who had stood back (besides Sapphire, who was now almost a dozen feet away somehow) grudgingly walked over to the circle.

Welcome to Circlet School ~ Chapter Four Part One

I slept awfully that night. An oppressive force soaked through my troubled dreams, and I woke in the middle of the night with the feeling of a weight on my chest.

‘Sleep!’ an angry voice in my head order. ‘Go to sleep you little rat!’

‘Yeah, I’m trying!’ I thought back angrily before flipping over and pressing a pillow over my head.

After that, I slept like a rock, but a rock that was at the bottom of a river, covered in turbulence and being crawled over by bottom feeders and creepy crawlies like that. It was deep, but unpleasant.

I couldn’t remember what had made it so unpleasant when I woke up to the sound of someone else’s alarm going off. No pleasant chimes and chirping of birds from my phone. No, Bjorn’s beep-beep was a full five minutes of sleep ahead of mine.

I wanted to throw a pillow across the room. Five minutes of sleep stolen from me! Five! Whole! Minutes!

Deteremined to get my night’s worth of shut-eye, I put the pillow over my head and rolled over. Blissful rest sifted over me for maybe, oh, a minute? Just enough for me to feel rested and charmingly happy. Then, a woman’s wail belted out, complete with crystals and chimes and healing twang-twangs in the background. I couldn’t recognize any words, but I was sure it was from some chakra awakening disc or something.

I bolted up, smacking my pillow over my legs. No sleep! No sleep for me!

Grumpy beyond reasoning, I rolled out of bed. Grabbing up my stuff, I made my way to the communal men’s bathroom where I had an aggressive shower. About halfway into it, I realized I was throwing a tantrum over five minutes of sleep. A bit ridiculous, if you asked me on a normal day.

So I tried to calm down. I figured this was leftover bad vibes from last night, both from the ritual and my strange sleep. Why would a spirit try and wake me up, only to tell me to go back to sleep? Weird.

I visualized white light coming down from the water spout, hosing me with cleansing properties and washing all my nastiness away. Relaxing, I just stood there and rested, feeling blissful and spiritually happy.

It worked for about five minutes. After that, for whatever fucking reason, the water turned ice cold in a snap. Maybe it was on some sort of timer that was meant to save hot water or something like that. Well, it worked. I got out of there, cursing and swearing under my breath like a very unhappy christian.

Once more in a bad mood, but doing my best to control it, I slapped my clothes on over my damp body and left my hair to its thing and marched out of there.

I got out of there, head down and scowling to myself. There was the math teacher and Sapphire milling around while Crystal and Aurora were lazily making their way to the showers.

“Shoes,” was called after me, and I half smiled to myself before shutting myself into my room. There, I passed a hand in my hair – my very gooey hair. My very, very, conditioned hair.

“Fuck!” I exclaimed, realizing that while I had let the water bathe me from the face down, I’d wholly forgotten to rinse out my hair. Which, by the way, had some very manly conditioner in it. It was supposed to make my hair flex and do push-ups on its own or something.

But I was hell-bent on not going back into the shower, sulking it like a child and feeling like my very adult patience was already running thin. So I toweled off my hair, hoping that that would be enough.

Hint: it was not. But I wasn’t in the habit of checking my reflection before leaving my rooms or apartments. Usually, my hair was fine from the bathroom reflection → where I had obviously not done a check-up, now had I?

Deciding that I was going to be patient and kind today whether I wanted to or not, I left my room, locking it as I went.

“Hey,” said Crystal, walking up to me. She was also freshly showered and just leaving her room, smelling like palo santo and had a big grin on to boot it. But over her shoulder, I saw Amethyst approaching, solemn and dressed in black with no silver.

“Hmm,” I said, deciding that this was going to be an interesting day.

It was. Amethyst walked with me and Crystal and Bjorn, emanating an air of solemn drama. Crystal tried to smile and comment on the beauty of the day (which was beautiful. All sunny and stuff.), but Amethyst gave her a cold stare. Crystal muttered that it was a beautiful day anyways, and that was that. We made our way to the eating hall, where the other teachers and staff were trickling in.

Breakfast was a muted affair. At least it was for me – until someone commented on my hair. I lifted my head at that.

“Done something to your hair?” asked – what was her name again? The math teacher. Paulette! She was sitting across from me in boho styled clothes, her mousy hair in a shoulder-length frizz.

Frowning, I reached up to my hair. It was still slick, but should have dried by now. I made a face. “I forgot to rinse out my conditioner,” I muttered under my breath. Then, with another face, I asked “Does it look that bad?”

She began to giggle hysterically. I couldn’t help but grin at myself.

“Just don’t do that when the students are here,” she said, half-laughing. It made me grin more. Life was fine, I decided. There was stuff to laugh about- and then a loud voice clearing made our faces drop.

Amethyst was standing imperiously, looking around the table as if we were all about to be judged by herself.

Sapphire set down her spoon with a severe expression. “This can wait until after breakfast! Can’t it?”

Amethyst trembled in outrage. “Food is the time to discuss openly-”

“It is a time to rest,” said Sapphire tartly. “And we want everyone’s attention on the issue, not on their food. People might want to take notes.”

“Cakes and ale is always a time for discussion-”

“This is not cakes and ale, this is,” Sapphire looked down the table. “Soy milk and fruit loops. So sit down.”

Amethyst thumped down, eyes teary. She sniffled in a miffed way. I was grateful for the reprieve. I did want to eat in peace.

“This is going to be fun,” muttered Paulette to me as some small chit-chat rose around the table. I raised my eyebrows and nodded.

All too quickly, my bowl of cereal and toasts were gone. Trays were taken away. We were all sitting back down at the table, and Sapphire had taken out a notebook and pen, bearing a painstakingly patient expression.

“Very well,” she said, with the air of a long-patient military commander about to hear about all their troops’ shenanigans. “The floor is open. We will-” Amethyst shot up to her feet. Sapphire’s eyes narrowed but she continued, lifting her right hand “Go around the table starting from my right-”

“Counter-clockwise?!” demanded Amethyst as if this was an outrage.

Sapphire lowered her right hand to lift her left. “Starting from my left. But that means you’re almost last to speak,” she said pointedly at Amethyst.

Amethyst sat back down, nodding like a martyr. Sapphire looked down at her notebook. “So. Here’s how we will proceed. First we are going to discuss our thoughts on last night’s episode. Then, once we’ve all voiced our worries and impressions, we are going to try and brainstorm some ideas. Resolutions.”

Everyone nodded. “Sounds good,” chirped Cheryl.

“So, you have the floor.” Sapphire turned to Aurora, who was directly to her left. I realized with a dismal twist in my stomach that there was only Aurora and Cheryl, then it was my turn to speak.

Aurora took in a breath. Her makeup was on a savage point, all hued in red and purple, her corset laced tightly and her hair in a dramatic updo. But for all that explosion of personality, she was quiet for a moment.

“I think, theoretically, that last night was a disaster, in many senses,” she said. “We definitely started off from a space of impurity, hence the chaos happening, but by allowing such destruction to happen, we’ve made the situation worse. I think. And,” she took a pause, starign down at the table before herself. “I think that there definitely needs to be some action taken. Last night was an improbable coincidence, but I do think it was a sign that something is wrong. Personally, I do not have a big ‘radar’. I don’t sense much. But I do know that such things are often signs from the beyond. So,” and then she shrugged in dismissal. “That’s that.”

Sapphire nodded, scribbling away at her notebook. “Any particular fears? We will get to how to fix this later, for now we’re just focusing on expressing ourselves.”

“Well, I think I speak for everyone when I say,” she looked at Amethyst “that we are all terribly sorry for your loss. Those were cherished pieces for you, and it’s a huge loss to lose a statue, never mind several.”

The table nodded all around (even Sapphire) and Amethyst bowed her head tearily.

“Thank you,” said Sapphire. Then she gestured to Cheryl with a hand. “Cheryl?”

Cheryl inhaled like she was dragging on a cigarette, fingers pressing over her lips. Then she shook her head and let it all out. “It was a bloody frickin’ disaster. I don’t know what went wrong, but that’s bad vibes right there. If there wasn’t any to start out with, there certainly is now. How do fix it, I don’t know,”

“We’ll be getting to that later,” murmured Sapphire.

“Yeah, well,” Cheryl made a face. “We’ve got work to do. That’s where I stand.”

Sapphire nodded and jotted down some more stuff. Then she pointed at me with a palm.

I wanted to hide under the table.

“Uhm,” I fidgeted, then clasped my hands before me on the table. Staring at them, I tried to make sense of everything I felt. “From the perspective of someone who was helping to run the ritual last night,” I paused again, hoping this wouldn’t go over too badly. “I think that perhaps the ritual didn’t go over well.”

There was a pause. Eyebrows raised as if to say ‘you think?’ and I realized I’d probably missed the point.

“What I mean, is, uh, I think something about the ritual made it all go down in flames.”

There was a loud gasp from Amethyst. Everyone else cringed or remained neutral as best they could. Amethyst gawked and looked up and down the table. I cringed so badly.

“I’m sorry, but it didn’t,” oh gulp “feel? Quite right. I uh-”

“How can you say that?” squeaked Amethyst.

Sapphire held up a hand. “Keep on, Thunder.”

I cleared my throat and stared down at my hands. Focus, focus. “I think, and this is maybe just my opinion,” but I doubted it, but I also doubted anyone else would speak up on it. “that the ritual was poorly executed in some way, and that this discord of energy-”

Another outraged gasp.

I barrelled on. “This may have been what caused the fire to get going. It was definitely a sign, but a sign of what? We’ve got to think beyond black and white, bad and good. So, I think we should really, critically, think about ‘why’ the altar went up in flames.”

There was a dramatic pause. I looked around, watching the stiffly poised faces around me, and the shell-shocked look on Amethyst’s face. “I’m done,” I muttered.

“What are you saying?” shrieked Amethyst. “That it’s my fault?”

“Not directly,” I muttered, but the damage was done.

“How can you say that?!” Amethyst shrieked, up on her feet now and trembling with indignation. “I worked so hard on that ritual! I asked you to officiate! I tried so hard, even placing people correctly-”

“Please sit down, it’s not your turn to talk,” said Sapphire dryly.

“Am I not allowed to defend myself?” Amethyst railed.

“You haven’t been attacked. Sit down,” was the command.

Amethyst plunked down, breath heaving and tears barely restrained.