The Secret Circle: The Divide Chapter 3

The Secret Circle: The Divide Chapter 3

“Spring is in the air,” Melanie said to Cassie and Laurel, closing her gray eyes momentarily and taking a deep breath in. “You can almost smell it, can’t you?” Cassie slammed her locker shut and inhaled, but all she could smell was the same school hallway scent of sweat, paper, and ammonia.

“It was a rough winter,” Laurel said. “I think that has something to do with it.” She had adorned herself appropriately this morning in a floral-print dress. “The spring equinox festival is going to be huge this year.” There was a bustling excitement to their surroundings –

voices seemed louder, footsteps quicker, everyone appeared more lively and animated – everyone had spring fever. Then Cassie remembered that the new principal was being announced at this morning’s assembly. Maybe that was the source of all the new energy in the air? She was eager to meet the man who would be in charge of their school, especially after their last principal turned out to be Black John in disguise. But Melanie and Laurel were probably right – it was this weekend’s spring festival that had everyone keyed up. Their schoolmates were all planning their outfits and debating over who’d be a worthy date. Nobody cared who the new principal was.

“It’s a good sign,” Melanie said. “A celebration of new beginnings is just what this town needs.” Cassie wanted to be as excited as everyone about the coming spring, but her heart felt heavy in her chest. Her disastrous attempt to talk to her mother the previous night was still weighing on her.

Just then Chris and Doug Henderson swept by on Roll erblades, laughing as they tore through the crowded hallway. Their forward momentum blew their disheveled blond hair back from their identical blue-green eyes. They slowed down only to hand out star-shaped flowers to whichever pretty girls they passed. Suzan, carrying a wicker basket full of the flowers, jogged behind them to keep them supplied.

“What the heck was that?” Cassie asked.

“Chionodoxa luciliae,” Laurel said.

Melanie gave Laurel a shove. “In English.”

“Sorry.” Laurel smiled. “Those blue flowers. They’re called glory-of-the-snow. They’re one of the first signs of spring.”

It occurred to Cassie then that even the Henderson twins, who’d lost their sister, Kori, just last fall, were embracing the new season. She could try a little harder to have a more positive outlook. “I think I’ve seen those flowers,” she said.

“They’re in the rock garden behind the gymnasium.”

“Not anymore they’re not,” Sean said, laughing loudly. He walked toward them with a bouquet of the blue flowers in his skinny outstretched hand and hesitantly offered them to Cassie.

“Thanks, Sean,” Cassie said, but before she could accept the bouquet, Faye stepped in and swiped it from accept the bouquet, Faye stepped in and swiped it from Sean’s hand. She sniffed at the buds and then shoved them back onto Sean’s chest. “Run along to the assembly and find some other pathetic girl to give those to,” she said.

Then she turned to Cassie. “I need a word with you.” Faye was wearing all black, as she often did, but her outfit today was tighter and more revealing than usual.

Cassie gave a nod to Melanie and Laurel. “It’s okay,” she said. “Go ahead to the auditorium. I’ll see you there.” She’d promised herself she would show no fear to Faye, no matter what. She couldn’t allow herself to be afraid to be alone with her, especially at school, where it was safe to assume she’d be protected from any abuse Faye could inflict upon her.

Faye, of course, wasted no time making her point. “I know you’re new to this whole leader thing,” she told Cassie. “But even you should recognize you won’t be able to play fair for long.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Faye scoffed, like it was beneath her to have to explain herself. “Don’t play innocent with me, Cassie. It doesn’t work.”

Cassie glanced up and down the empty hallway and put her hands on her hips. “If you actually have something to say to me, Faye, then say it. But if you’re just trying to intimidate me, you’re not succeeding.”

“Liar.” Faye reached out to lightly brush aside the few strands of hair that had fall en in front of Cassie’s eyes, and Cassie jumped back.

Faye smiled. “Here’s what I have to say. Power always Faye smiled. “Here’s what I have to say. Power always creates enemies. It divides people into two types, good and bad. If you really want to be a leader of this Circle, then you need to pick a side.”

Cassie remembered Diana once saying that power was only power – it wasn’t good or bad. Only the way we use it is good or bad, she’d said. But even Diana had changed her opinion about this.

“I’ve already chosen a side,” Cassie said.

The star ruby around Faye’s neck glistened. It was the same color as her lipstick. “No, you haven’t,” she said.

“There’s something in you that proves you’re daddy’s little girl. You can feel it inside you. A darkness. I know you can.” Cassie hugged her books tighter to her chest. “You don’t know anything.”

“Isn’t it exhausting trying so hard to emulate Diana when really you’re just like me?”

“No. Because I’m nothing like you.”

Faye let out a deep, throaty laugh and took a step back.

She’d accomplished what she’d intended. Cassie was significantly rattled.

“Better hurry up,” she said. “You don’t want to be late to the assembly.” She pulled a tube of lipstick from her bag and applied another slash of dark pigment to her lips.

“Want some?” She held the bloodred tube out to Cassie. “I think it’s your color.”

In a flash of anger Cassie thought to swat the lipstick right out of Faye’s hand. But that would be giving her exactly what she wanted. She was trying to push Cassie into giving in to her lowest impulses, to be as brash and reckless as she was.

But Cassie wouldn’t do it. She wouldn’t give Faye that satisfaction. Instead, she turned her back on her, and when she did, she caught sight of someone she hadn’t seen before. A boy. Faye noticed him, too.

Together, they watched him walk up the hallway. He was tall and muscular with light brown hair, and he must have just finished working out, because he was wearing warm-ups and sneakers. He carried a gym bag in one hand and a lacrosse stick in the other.

“That boy is gorgeous.” Faye capped her lipstick and stuffed it into her purse. “You know how I love those sweaty jocks.”

Cassie rolled her eyes.

Faye immediately approached the boy to stake her claim. “Are you lost?” she called out to him. “I can help you find your way.”

His head shot up when he realized he was being spoken to. Cassie saw that his eyes were green like emeralds, as beautiful as Diana’s.

“No, thank you,” he said, in a voice both rugged and cocky. “I know where I’m heading.”

“To that boring assembly?” Faye wasn’t about to give up that easy. “In that case, I can help you lose your way.” That got a smile out of him, but he directed it at Cassie.

“Hi,” he said. “I’m Max.”

“This is Faye,” Cassie said, returning Max’s grin. “She’s glad to meet you.”

Max dropped his gym bag onto the floor and shook Faye’s hand in a way that made it obvious he was used to girls fawning over him.

“Cassie,” Faye said, still holding Max’s thick hand in hers. “Won’t Adam be waiting for you at the assembly? You should probably get going.”

Cassie nodded. “She’s right. I should.”

As Cassie turned away, she heard Max call after her,

“See you in there.”

Cassie made it into the auditorium just in time for the welcoming ceremony. She was relieved to find Adam waving her over to where he was seated in the last row. The auditorium was more crowded than she had ever seen it.

Groups of students were crammed in the back and up each exit row. The humming excitement Cassie picked up on in the hallway had carried over here, where it heightened like rough water constrained by a dam. But once Mr. Humphries tapped on the microphone to quiet the crowd and make some announcements, that restless energy died down to a low-level boredom. Assemblies were always fun until the assembly part.

Cassie let her eyes roam over the crowd. She found Diana all the way up front, seated with her AP English class. Melanie and Laurel had joined Suzan, Sean, and the Henderson brothers in the center rows about midway from the stage. And Deborah and Nick were just a few rows behind them. Cassie noticed that none of them looked concerned. They appeared as bored and apathetic as the rest of the school. Was she the only one still reeling from the last assembly they had to welcome a principal? Were they all just faking it, trying to put their best faces forward?

Or was everyone really that much better at moving on than Cassie?

Sally Waltman and Portia Bainbridge were sitting in their cluster of cheerleaders. Sally’s rust-colored hair stood out from the rest of her mostly blonde friends, so she was easy to spot in their crowd. She was laughing at something Portia was saying, probably making fun of someone, like she always did. The Circle had come to an uneasy truce with Portia and her brothers, but Cassie still didn’t like her.

“You okay?” Adam asked when Cassie settled into her seat. “You’ve got that I-just-had-a-Faye-encounter look.”

“I’m fine. Faye was getting up in my face, but then a hot boy walked by, and she forgot all about me.”

“That’s our Faye.” Adam took Cassie’s hand in his and squeezed it. “Who was the boy?”

“I don’t know, someone new. His name was Max.” Cassie searched the auditorium for Faye and found her standing in the corner talking to Max – talking at him was more like it. He leaned with both hands on his lacrosse stick, like he might fall over from boredom if it weren’t holding him up.

Cassie shifted her attention to the man she assumed was the new principal waiting off to the side. He wore a finely cut dark suit and had salt-and-pepper hair. He was tall, with broad shoulders, and kept his hands clasped behind his back. He was handsome, the way Mr. Brunswick had been handsome.

Weak applause welcomed him to the stage. “Thank you,” he said, as he adjusted the microphone. “I’m Mr. Boylan, and it’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance.” His voice was deeper than Cassie had expected it to be.

His outer appearance was dapper and elegant, but he had the voice of a lumberjack – it had a toughness to it, a grit, and the slightest hint of an accent she couldn’t place.

A shiver ran down her spine.

No, Cassie thought to herself. You’re being paranoid.

Just because Mr. Brunswick turned out to be evil doesn’t mean Mr. Boylan will. She figured she must have been suffering from some kind of post-traumatic stress, the way soldiers returned from wars startled at every harmless loud sound they heard.

But as Mr. Boylan continued speaking, every muscle in Cassie’s body tightened in defense. She glanced at Adam to see if he sensed anything off about the principal, too, but he was calmly watching the stage with no expression of alarm.

“Thank you all for your gracious welcome,” Mr. Boylan said. “I hope you’ll do the same for my son, who will also be a student here.” He pointed to the far corner, where Max was still leaning on his lacrosse stick, staring straight ahead.

Adam and Cassie looked at each other simultaneously.

Neither of them had to say it.

Of course. Faye’s new crush was the principal’s son.

Faye was smirking behind him, watching the back of his head as if she could burn a hole through it with her desire.

When she caught Cassie watching, she puckered her lips into a kiss and blew it Cassie’s way. Then she stuck out her tongue, pretending she might lick the back of Max’s neck.

“This can’t be good,” Cassie said.