The Secret Circle: The Divide Chapter 11
Cassie was in town running errands when the rich aroma of the Witch’s Brew Coffee Shop filled her lungs. Coffee, she thought. What a good idea. The Witch’s Brew was a gimmick, plain and simple, capitalizing on the town’s Salem witch trial – related history. At night it featured strobe lights and white cotton cobwebs, and was a favorite place for anyone from out of town looking for an overpriced drink with a gothic name. The locals, and Cassie’s friends especially, avoided the place for obvious reasons. But in the light of day, the Brew could almost pass as an ordinary coffee shop, and they’d just set up their outdoor tables.
Cassie figured it wouldn’t be so bad if she could sit outside sipping her drink in the sun, so she looked for an empty seat.
That was when she noticed that familiar dyed red hair she knew belonged to Scarlett. She was bent over a book, reading and mindlessly chewing on a pencil. Cassie’s first instinct was to go sit with her, but then she remembered the new rule. Outsiders were off limits for now.
It wasn’t fair. The Circle shouldn’t be able to dictate whom Cassie had coffee with. But even Faye was willing to relinquish some of her personal freedom for the good of the group. And Cassie had to get to the lighthouse anyway. In lieu of being able to do magic, Melanie and Laurel were resorting to herbology to pass the time. They’d asked resorting to herbology to pass the time. They’d asked Cassie to bring over the flowers from a rare herb in her garden – the Plymouth gentian. Cassie felt for the paper bag containing the flowers in her tote, as if to remind herself of the errand’s importance. She turned to go just as Scarlett noticed her.
“Cassie?” Scarlett’s face instantly lit up. “It’s so good to see you,” she said. “Come sit with me.”
“I can’t,” Cassie said, scanning the surrounding area. “I only have a minute.”
“Sit for only a minute then.” Scarlett closed her book and pushed it aside.
Scarlett looked so lonely sitting there by herself. It would have been cruel to decline.
“What are your plans for today?” Cassie asked casually.
Scarlett raised her hands and looked left and right.
“This,” she said. “It ain’t much.”
Cassie offered her a polite chuckle. “Thanks again for coming to Melanie’s the other day. I’m sorry I kind of lost track of you and didn’t get to say good-bye.” Scarlett’s dark eyes radiated affection. “No problem,” she said. Then she took a long sip of her iced coffee and seemed to be weighing something in her mind or trying to figure something out.
Cassie felt like she was being examined so deeply that Scarlett could have been counting each of her pores or every one of her eyelashes, but Cassie just let her. For some reason, it didn’t make her feel self-conscious. She didn’t know why, but she wanted Scarlett to know her, and to really see her. to really see her.
After another moment passed, Scarlett said, “I really like your friends. And since I don’t know anyone on the island, I was hoping to make a good impression.”
Cassie knew this was the moment where, if she were a regular girl without a Circle to answer to, she would ask Scarlett to hang out. Instead, she offered her a pathetic-sounding conciliation. “I was the new kid not long ago,” Cassie said. “And I know how brutal making friends in this town can be.”
Scarlett’s full red lips broke into a wide smile. “That’s why I’m going to guilt you into being friends with me.” Cassie
She enjoyed Scarlett’s unpretentiousness. She was just the kind of no-nonsense girl Cassie would have been friends with back in California.
“For example,” Scarlett said, “I’m going to remind you that I moved here with a single pathetic suitcase to convince you to go shopping with me.”
Cassie remembered Diana’s snarky comment about Scarlett’s suitcase and was embarrassed by it all over again. She glanced at her watch. She had another two hours before she had to be at the lighthouse. What could be the harm in going around to a few stores for an hour?
“Lucky for you, shopping is one of my favorite leisure-time activities,” Cassie said.
“Does that mean you’re in?” Scarlett asked.
“Why not?” Cassie stood up. “My errands can wait.” Scarlett shot out of her seat. “That worked even better than I thought it would.”
Shopping with Scarlett was the perfect diversion from all of Cassie’s troubles. Since she couldn’t talk about any of the Circle’s issues, she had to put them out of her mind entirely.
It was like getting to be somebody else for a few hours, somebody with normal concerns. Concerns like, Is forty dollars too much to pay for a tank top even if it’s really really soft? And Scarlett was a master shopper; she could pluck out the best item on a sale rack with the speedy foresight even a witch could admire. She somehow talked Cassie into buying turquoise-blue feathered earrings.
“These are more your style than mine,” Cassie said, just after the impulse buy.
“We can share them.” Scarlett smiled brightly. “In fact, we can share most of this stuff. That’s the beauty of being the same size.”
Cassie agreed and then suggested they unload their shopping bags into the trunk of her car before searching out the perfect summer shoes. She and Scarlett slipped so easily into friendship that Cassie forgot she was supposed to be keeping her distance from her. So the sight of Diana stepping out of her Volvo across the parking lot didn’t strike Cassie as an immediate cause for alarm. Her panic didn’t set in until Diana’s eyes met hers – first with the delight of a surprise encounter, followed by a narrowing, painful displeasure. Cassie had been caught blatantly defying a promise she had made to the Circle.
Diana approached them gradually. Her “hello” sounded more like a snub than a greeting. “I see you two have been having a good time,” she said, gesturing to their shopping bags.
Scarlett, sensing the coldness in Diana’s voice, smiled politely but said nothing.
“I ran into Scarlett unexpectedly,” Cassie said.
Diana derided Cassie with her eyes. “I guess there’s a lot of that happening today.”
Cassie bit her lip but said nothing.
Scarlett shifted uncomfortably and said, “Maybe I should get going.”
“No,” Diana said. “I should.” She stepped past them toward the mall ‘s entrance. “I’ll talk to you later, Cassie.”
“That girl really does not like me,” Scarlett said, once Diana was out of earshot.
Cassie wasn’t sure how to begin defending Diana’s behavior. It’s not like Scarlett could possibly understand. “It has nothing to do with you,” Cassie said. “Believe me. But I’m still sorry.”
Scarlett shrugged it off. “I’ll let you make it up to me by joining me for dinner.”
Cassie was torn. She knew the right thing to do was to separate from Scarlett and immediately go do damage control with Diana, but she’d been having such a good time, and breaking off from Scarlett now would only hurt her feelings.
“How about burgers from Buffalo House?” Scarlett asked. “I’m buying.”
“I really shouldn’t.” Cassie felt for the bag of herbs in her tote and looked at her watch. But a bacon cheeseburger sounded like bliss right now. A girl had to eat, right?
“Okay,” Cassie said at last. “If you come with me to run this errand first. It’s just a quick favor for a friend. Then we can go for burgers.”
Scarlett beamed. “Perfect,” she said.
Of course, the Circle would not approve of Cassie bringing Scarlett along, but she was careful. And Scarlett didn’t ask any questions, even when Cassie insisted she stay in the car while she ran into the abandoned lighthouse with a paper sack under her arm. And since Melanie and Laurel hadn’t arrived yet, all she had to do was drop the bag onto the table and go. It took less than a minute to get in and out. And then she and Scarlett were free to race over to Buffalo House for burgers.
Later that night, Adam came over to Cassie’s for a cozy night of popcorn and a movie. Her mom was upstairs, allowing them their privacy in the den, where they lounged on the soft-backed couch. Cassie sunk down into the cushion with her head resting on Adam’s shoulder, breathing him in. She could get drunk off the smell of him.
They weren’t really watching the movie, or at least Cassie wasn’t. She had her eyes closed and was focused on Adam’s gentle caresses, how he slid his soft fingers up the inside of her arm, starting at the wrist, moving to the elbow, and back down again. She could have done that all night; the movie was just noise in the background. But then Adam looked down to see if she was awake.
“You’re sleeping,” he said.
Cassie opened her eyes. “I’m not sleeping, just enjoying.” Adam got a serious look in his eye, and Cassie was sure he was about to lean in to kiss her. This was how their movie watching usually turned out. But this time, instead of kissing her, he clicked the movie off and sat upright.
“There’s something I’ve been meaning to talk to you about,” he said.
Cassie also sat up straight and pulled her knees into her chest. She couldn’t imagine what was about to come out of his mouth. A million possibilities, one worse than the next, raced through her mind.
“Diana said she saw you out shopping this afternoon,” Adam said. “With Scarlett.”
Cassie stiffened. “Oh.”
“She thinks your friendship with Scarlett is getting too close.”
“Well, thank you for telling me what Diana thinks,” Cassie said.
The remark made Adam raise his voice, which was something he never did in Cassie’s presence. “I don’t think I should have to tell you that you’re putting yourself at risk by spending so much time with an Outsider,” he said. “You’re putting all of us at risk.”
“Is that even how you really feel, or is that how Diana feels?”
Adam jerked back as if Cassie had taken a swing at him. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Why are you siding with Diana on this? You’ve always been the one to jump to the defense of Outsiders.”
“Cassie, what’s going on with you? Come here.” Adam tried to reach for her, but she pulled away.
Cassie knew she was overreacting – this was Adam, the guy who stayed up all night on her front porch just to protect her. And Adam and Diana had been friends their whole lives; of course Diana went to him for advice. But she still didn’t want him to touch her.
“I’m not siding with anyone,” Adam said. “These aren’t normal circumstances. You know that.”
But all Cassie could hear right now was Diana in Adam’s words, and she couldn’t help but be a little hurt.
“I feel with my entire being that Scarlett is safe,” Cassie said.
Adam looked like he was about to reach for Cassie again, but then he thought better of it. “I just want you to be careful,” he said. “I’m always on your side. You know that.” He carefully moved in closer to her. “I’m sorry I raised my voice. But I feel strongly about this. We have no way of knowing that Scarlett isn’t a witch hunter. She arrived in town the same night Constance died.”
“You’re being ridiculous,” Cassie said.
“No, you’re being ridiculous. And stubborn.” Cassie took a deep breath and tried to settle down.
“Let’s just drop it, okay?”
But Adam refused. “I know you really like Scarlett,” he said. “And I get it, I do. She seems nice and funny and pretty. We all like her, but it’s not a good time to let your guard down.”
“It never is when you’re one of us.”
“You say that like you don’t want to be one of us, like it’s some kind of curse.”
“Let’s just finish the movie,” Cassie said.
“Cassie, look at me.”
“I’ll stop hanging out with her, okay?” Cassie shouted. “I ran into her by accident, but I’m sure Diana didn’t mention that part.”
Cassie clicked the TV back on. She stared straight ahead and sat as far away from Adam as the couch would allow. She was done talking for the night.