That supper, after the madame left, everyone waxed on about how the ritual had been so ground-shaking. Everyone meaning Amethyst, Paulette, and Crystal, that is. Paulette, who had never attended a ritual before, was blown out of her waters.
Eyes wide, Paulette gasped for the umpteenth time that “There was just so much energy!”
“I told you she was good,” gloated Amethyst, digging happily into her shepherd’s pie.
“I felt so much!” continued Paulette, eyes about to pop out of her head.
“It was such an experience,” gloated Amethyst, obviously so pleased with herself.
Sapphire cleared her throat. “So are we all pleased? No more worries?”
“Oh, the air feels so much better! Everything is fresher! It’s just – cleansed!” said Amethyst, gesturing grandiosely and almost whacking Cheryl on the back of the head.
“Oh yes,” nodded Crystal around a mouthful. “I think the place is cleansed.”
Sapphire nodded, smiling patiently as Crystal and Paulette raved on some more. Then, Bjorn popped up a word.
“I think we can get started on moving along,” he said with a nod. “Nothin’ bad should be coming down the pipes now.”
I knocked firmly on the wooden table. “Knock on wood,” I muttered savagely as everyone stared at me.
“Well! That’s good,” said Sapphire with a dry edge to her words. “Tomorrow the last of our staff arrives. Then the next day, our students. I trust you will all be ready.”
Crystal looked like she was facing down an angry boar. Amethyst looked like she’d just pooped herself.
Paulette was nodding along happily. Trust the math teacher to have everything organized already.
“I think with tomorrow, we should be able to get everything in order,” I said with a nod.
“Yeah,” said Amethyst with a waver in her voice.
Sapphire nodded like a snake staring down a very squeaky mouse. The mouse was Amethyst in this case, and she was busily not looking at Sapphire in favor of her plate.
“Well,” said Bjorn, clapping his massive hands together. “I am so glad not to be a teacher!” and then he belly laughed. Ivy high-fived with him and then with the security guard.
Yeah, well. Us teachers all looked like we’d been kicked in the teeth. Just – ugh. I was sure that if tomorrow was a good work day, I could tie up all my loose ends and get my laundry done and do a private ritual for success. Provided no more shenanigans occur, of course.
Of course, right? What could go wrong? Now that the place was ‘cleansed’ there was nothing for us to worry about, right?
I didn’t believe that for one hoot, as my grandma would say. I was going to do my own protection ritual tonight, and wear an amulet or something. We’d see where the spirit moved me, but I was definitely doing something.
So it was that after supper, I locked myself in my room and took a deep breath. I opted against doing my rituals in the nude, seeing as there was still no curtain over that glaring window, and I didn’t want to flash the security guard.
I cast my circle, did my invocations, and was sitting cross-legged on the floor before my altar, braiding a witch’s ladder for protection when the fire alarm went off.
My head popped up, and I realized that this was either a drill, or… something had caught fire. Again with the fire element?
Tucking my half braided ladder into my pocket, I thanked my lucky stars that I wasn’t in the nude for this.
In the hallway, the staff were poking their heads out of their rooms. A twinge of white sage smell wove through the air, and I had a good idea what was going on. Someone was burning sage, and it set off the fire alarm. Typical.
Sapphire marched down the hallway, fire glinting in her eyes. “Everyone out,” she ordered coolly as she strode down the hallway. She shooed everyone and marched towards the only door that was still closed. “Get out-” she was saying as she pulled the door open.
A giant cloud of black smoke erupted over her as she pulled it open.
“Help!” came Amethyst’s cry. “It’s on fire!”
Sapphire yanked a fire extinguisher off the wall that just so happened to be there. Then she pulled the pin and hosed down the room. From inside the room there was a sound of Amethyst coughing and spluttering. Sapphire marched into the room, still hosing away.
Without thinking, I found myself by the doorway and poking my head into the smoke-filled room.
The bed was completely covered in white mousse. Sapphire was pulling it away from the wall and checking the wall for fire, hosing down tiny flames that were on the floor. Amethyst stood to the side, coughing and waving her hands before herself.
“I was just trying to sage the room!” she wailed to us, the cluster of onlookers who had certainly not evacuated.
Sapphire turned. “Didn’t I say to get out?”
I snapped back like I’d whacked. Bjorn began to usher us all out, Amethyst tearfully joining us.
And that was how we spent that evening out on the grass, sitting around while the firemen (who were alerted by the fire alarm) poked around the building.
“I was just sageing my room,” sobbed Amethyst for the umpteenth time. We were all sitting on the grass, whacking at mosquitoes, and the mood was generally low.
“It’s against the rules to sage inside,” I muttered under my breath as I pulled out my witch’s ladder and began to finish braiding it.
“How did you know?” wailed Amethyst at me while Crystal rubbed her shoulders.
“It was written in one of those emails about all the rules,” I said tartly, trying not to be bitter but, really, I was pissed. “Burning incense indoors was specifically prohibited. Wax melts were suggested as a solution.”
Amethyst’s mouth flapped, and she burst into tears. “It’s okay,” soothed Crystal. “You didn’t know.”
I raised my eyebrows. Aurora raised her eyebrows. Paulette raised her eyebrows, sucking in a breath. Cheryl sucked on a cigarette and huffed out smoke. “She’s gonna eat you alive, kiddo,” she said to Amethyst.
I nodded, flinching at the same time. Yeah. Sapphire must be downright pissed.
Except when the firemen were leaving, Sapphire marched over to us. “Everyone back inside,” she said, sounding exhausted and frustrated. “It’s safe. It only touched the surface of the walls, didn’t get inside.”
Everyone nodded and began to rise up. My knees popped and I was up. Amethyst had her head down and looked like a kid trying to sneak past the adult. I was expecting Sapphire to bark at her, to take her aside and lecture her angrily. Except that wasn’t the case.
“Amethyst, a word please,” said Sapphire with a sigh.
Amethyst nodded tearily. The rest of us slunk away. While we walked, I caught snippets of sounds on the wind, and none of it sounded harsh. In fact, Sapphire just sounded tired.