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.