The Secret Circle: The Divide Chapter 2
Cassie and Adam barely said a word the whole drive back to Cassie’s house. She was still shaken up by Faye’s words, and Adam, sensing that, just quietly held her hand while he drove.
She clicked on the radio for a pleasant distraction and fiddled with its dial till she found a song she liked. She couldn’t remember the song’s title, but it triggered a feeling of nostalgia in her heart, a memory of a time when her life was much simpler than it was now. She had been in New Salem less than a year, but it felt like forever and a day.
Instead of watching the spring night drift by her window, Cassie closed her eyes. She let the music wash over her and tried to remember what it felt like to be not a witch but just a girl.
Then she opened her eyes for a little peek at Adam. He was beautiful. In the pale moonlight, his hair appeared auburn and his eyes darkened to a deep navy that matched the night sky. How was it possible that this boy was in love with her, and only her? The Cassie from last year would never have believed it.
She glanced at her own reflection in the car’s side-view mirror. She didn’t even look like the self she knew in California. Back then, she’d always felt so average.
Average height, average build, ordinary brown hair. But now Cassie noticed her own multicolored highlights, and how big and round her grayish blue eyes were. And most importantly, she recognized how she’d matured into her power. She was confident now in a way she never could have imagined.
When they pulled up to Number Twelve, the last house on the bluff, Cassie remembered the first time she’d seen it, how frightening and old it appeared to her with its sloping roof and weathered gray clapboard siding. Was it a good thing that she’d grown so used to it, and to all the old houses on Crowhaven Road? Everything that had struck her as odd and a little creepy before had become normal to her – it had become her life.
Adam cut the engine and turned to Cassie with eager eyes.
“Just ignore her,” he said.
“Faye. What she said about you winning the battle but her winning the war – you can’t let that get to you. She’s always saying that about everything. If there were a Faye doll, when you pulled its string that’s what it would say . . .” He made his voice husky like Faye’s. “Win the battle, lose the war.” Cassie had to laugh at this.
Adam took her hands into his, obviously pleased he’d gotten her to smile. “You came up with a great solution for the Master Tools,” he said. “How did you think of it?”
“I don’t know. It was weird,” Cassie said. “It just came to me out of nowhere.”
“Not out of nowhere,” Adam said. “From here.” He pointed to her heart. “And here,” he said, pointing to her head. “That’s why we voted you leader. When are you going to get used to it, Cassie? You’re special.” At that moment, Cassie was so grateful to have Adam at her side. Sure, he’d voted with Diana earlier, but when Cassie spoke up, he supported her, and that’s what mattered. She leaned in for a kiss from his full red lips.
Kissing him never got old. But he interpreted this one sweet kiss good-bye as an invitation for another make-out session. He hurriedly undid his seat belt and tossed it aside.
“No,” Cassie said. “Not again.”
Adam raised his eyebrows like a sad puppy.
“The light’s on in the dining room.” Cassie tousled his hair and then pushed him away. “Which means my mom is probably watching us right now.”
Adam grabbed for her playfully with a look of mischief in his eyes. “One day, my love, you will care less about what people think.”
She gave him one last kiss on his smooth cheek and ran for the house before she changed her mind.
Once inside, Cassie found her mother seated at the large mahogany dining room table. There was a soothing warmth to the dimly lit room. For once, Cassie appreciated her grandfather’s ancient electrical work, shoddy as it was. The golden maize-colored walls would have appeared yellow under the unforgiving brightness of modern lighting.
Her mother’s dark head of hair shot up, and she smiled wide with surprise. Apparently she hadn’t been watching them in the car at all, thank goodness.
“Cassie, I didn’t expect you home so early,” her mom said. “Care to help?”
Cassie surveyed the scattered piles of colored tissue paper strewn across the vast table. “What is all this?” Her mother raised up both hands like she was in over her head. “Daffodils and cranes. Decorations for the spring festival. I volunteered, but I have no idea why. Now I’m drowning in tissue paper.”
After seeing her mother sick in bed for so long, night after night, watching Melanie’s great-aunt Constance feed her healing herbs and rub her down with medicinal poultices, it was a pleasure to find her mother so worked up over such an inconsequential task. And it was good to see her getting involved in a community event, too. Cassie wanted her mom to feel at home here in New Salem and to have friends, especially now that Grandma wasn’t around.
“Where do I begin?” Cassie asked as she joined her mother at the regal table. She gathered stacks of yellow and green tissue paper, figuring the daffodils were easier to make than the cranes. As she began folding and fluffing the fine paper into petals, she thought to herself: There’s probably a magic way to get this done much faster. But she was so happy and relieved to have her mom back to her old self that she didn’t mind if it took all night.
“So,” her mother said, focusing her eyes fully on Cassie at last. “How’s Adam?”
Cassie felt her cheeks get warm. “He’s good.”
“And your friends?”
“They’re good, too.”
Her mom dropped the silver crane she’d been struggling with and studied Cassie’s face.
“You know, I’m really proud of you,” she said. “You recovered so quickly from . . .” She paused.
“From all the drama?”
“The drama, yes, I guess you could call it that.” Her mother tried to smile.
Cassie hesitated for only a moment, but it was enough to catch her mother’s attention. “Something’s wrong,” she said. “What is it?”
Anxiety flooded Cassie’s stomach. She was enjoying this bonding time and didn’t want to ruin it. But her mother seemed genuinely open to talking tonight. For the first time in Cassie’s life, it seemed like all the secrets between them were finally out in the open, and their relationship had a clean slate. A new beginning, Cassie thought. That’s what they were celebrating, right? That’s what all these dumb paper cranes and daffodils were for, after all.
Cassie took a deep breath and looked carefully into her mother’s eyes. “I’ve been wondering about my dad,” she said.
Her mother immediately stiffened. Cassie noticed her jaw tighten, and then she took a long sip of her tea. The cup shook almost imperceptibly in her hand. Cassie was instantly sorry she’d said it. But when her mother set her cup of tea back down, she seemed to have recovered from the shock of the question. Or at least, she was trying to the shock of the question. Or at least, she was trying to appear as though she’d recovered from it.
When she finally spoke, the words came out stilted, but patient and kind. “I’m happy to tell you anything you want to know,” she said. “All you have to do is ask.” Relief settled into Cassie’s shoulders. It occurred to her how long she’d been keeping her worries and questions tightly wound up within her body. She pushed herself to continue talking.
“I know he – I mean, Black John – was evil,” Cassie said.
“But he’s a part of me. And it’s a part I feel I need to understand. Is there anything you can tell me about him?” There. She said it. It was out in the open.
Her mother focused hard on the paper crane in her hands. “You’re absolutely right,” she said, but she didn’t answer the question, and she didn’t look at Cassie when she said it.
Cassie watched her mother in careful silence. She honed in much too closely on the silver crane she was holding, folding and refolding it several times.
“The problem is that they make this paper much too thin and flimsy,” she said. “It falls apart the second you touch it.” Right before Cassie’s eyes, her mother had completely checked out of their conversation. But Cassie was determined to not give up that easily, and after a few minutes of heavy staring on Cassie’s part, her mother stopped ignoring her and briefly looked up.
“Is there something you want to ask me right now?” she asked, with a feigned nonchalance.
The look in her mother’s eyes revealed a fear Cassie The look in her mother’s eyes revealed a fear Cassie hadn’t seen in her since she’d fall en ill. Her face turned pale and ghostlike, like she’d aged twenty years in those five seconds of silence. And, Cassie noticed, the silver tissue paper she held in her hand wrinkled and cracked beneath the crushing tension of her fingers, like she was squeezing it for dear life.
It was all too much for Cassie to handle. Her mother had just started feeling better. She’d just started to participate in life again. Cassie couldn’t afford to wreck all that with her selfish questions. Her mother was fragile, far more fragile than Cassie ever would be.
“Never mind,” Cassie said. “We can talk about all that another time. We have a lot to get done here.” It had always been this way. Cassie was always the one who had to be the adult in their relationship, the one to keep her questions to herself because her mother couldn’t bear the answers – or the truth. She was a fool to think it could be any different.