The Secret Circle: The Divide Chapter 4
As she walked home from school that afternoon, Cassie finally had a moment to herself to think. Diana and some of the others were going into town to shop for spring festival outfits. You need a spring dress for the spring festival, Suzan had insisted when Cassie said she was feeling too tired to shop. But Diana interjected on Cassie’s behalf, saying if she was tired it was best to rest.
Did that mean Diana didn’t really want her there? Cassie wished she was feeling more confident about her friendship with Diana, but it seemed out of sorts, just like everything right now.
Cassie decided to walk the longer, more scenic route home along Cherry Hill Road, where rows of Kwanzan and dwarf bing cherry trees would be on the brink of blooming. It was a blustery March day, and the sound of the wind in the trees was her favorite. She stopped walking for a moment to look up at their leaves, to watch them shake and dance overhead until she was dizzy.
“This is my turf,” a voice behind her said.
She glanced around and saw a black leather jacket and black jeans.
“Nick,” she said. “I walked this way to be alone, so maybe you’re on my turf.” She was trying to sound playfully sarcastic. Then she immediately ruined it by adding, “But it’s really nice to run into you.”
She noticed him shift uncomfortably at the sappy comment, but more of the same started sputtering from her mouth. “It’s just . . . we’ve hardly gotten to talk lately,” she said. “And we never hang out anymore.”
Nick’s face appeared cold. No smile, not even a hint of one. He obviously didn’t feel the same way. He looked away and patted his jacket pocket for his cigarettes. Then he remembered he’d quit, so he stopped patting and stood still.
“I miss you, Nick,” Cassie heard herself say. And she immediately wished it hadn’t come out sounding so needy and pathetic.
Nick had been this way – aloof and closed off – since Cassie and Adam got together. The rational part of her brain knew he was only shutting her out because he’d been hurt, but the other part of her brain, the irrational part, didn’t care at all about that and just wanted him back in her life.
She touched the soft leather of his jacket and asked, as innocently as she could, “Don’t you miss me at all?” A pang of agony shot across his face, like she’d stabbed him in the stomach with a sharp knife.
“Cassie,” he said.
He was about to say something important. She could tell by the gentle tone of his voice and the way he was struggling to find the right words. It was so difficult for him to express his emotions that to watch him working so hard at it now made Cassie’s heart melt a little. This was the tender side of Nick not many people had access to.
“Cassie, listen,” he said.
But just then Adam drove up, honking his horn. “Hey, you two,” he called out. “Want a ride?”
Shoot. What terrible timing. She and Nick were finally getting somewhere.
But the moment was lost. Nick’s face, which had opened itself up briefly, closed again, tighter and more secure than a vault.
“Do you want a ride home?” Cassie feebly asked him.
The sight of her with Adam was the last thing Nick needed, and Cassie knew it. “I’ll pass,” he said, with the coldest voice he could muster. “But you’d better go,” he added, when he noticed Cassie’s hesitation. “Your chariot awaits.”
Cassie was torn. For a split second she imagined their alternate future, the one where Adam didn’t pull up, where she and Nick talked the whole long walk home beneath a canopy of trees. She didn’t want to let this possibility go.
But she knew not to push Nick too far. After all, her loyalties were to Adam, and they always would be.
Nick started shuffling away in the opposite direction of home. Cassie rushed to catch up with him and whispered into his ear. “You may have earned the right to wall ow a bit,” she said. “But I’m not going to let you go that easily.” Then she jogged back to Adam’s car, opened the door, and climbed inside.
The interior of Adam’s car always smelled the same. It was the sweet musk of autumn leaves and gasoline, oiled leather and rubber, and it never failed to make Cassie feel a charge.
Adam looked her over, analyzing every inch of her face with his piercing blue eyes. “I thought you were going out dress shopping with the girls.”
“I didn’t feel like it.”
He rested his warm hand on her knee. “Cassie, are you sure everything’s okay?”
She gazed out the window and didn’t answer.
“Was Nick giving you a hard time back there?”
“What? No, of course not. If anything, I was giving him a hard time, trying to get him to be my friend again.” Adam returned his hand to the steering wheel and gripped it so tightly, his knuckles whitened. “He needs time.”
Cassie watched the more ordinary streets of New Salem give way to Crowhaven Road and decided to change the subject.
“Did you get a weird feeling from the new principal today?” she asked.
“No, why? Did you?”
“Kind of, but I’m not sure,” Cassie said honestly. “I think I want to ask Constance about it. Maybe she knows a spell or something that can show us his true nature.” Adam tried to suppress a smile. “I think you’re being a little paranoid, Cassie. Rightfully so, after all we’ve been through. But honestly, the only thing I found freaky about the principal is that Faye is into his son.”
“I know, you’re probably right.” Cassie returned her gaze out the window. She noticed a black sedan behind theirs and strained to see if it was one of their friends. Not too many cars had a reason to turn onto Crowhaven Road.
“Cassie,” Adam said. “Listen to me. Black John isn’t haunting us anymore. He’s gone. We won.” In spite of all of Adam’s sensitivity, it bothered Cassie that he still glossed over the fact that Black John, though evil, was her father. Whenever Adam mentioned him, it was always, He’s gone, gone forever – which of course was a good thing, but Adam could at least acknowledge that his death was confusing for her.
“I think I’d still like to go see Constance,” she said. “Will you drop me off there, please?”
Adam got quiet then, which meant he had the sense to know he’d said something to upset Cassie.
They were just about at Constance’s house now, so he let up on the accelerator and slowed to a stop. Cassie noticed the black car behind them also stopped. It then made a sharp U-turn and headed back to the main road.
Weird, she thought.
At first no one answered her knock, but then Cassie saw Constance’s gray head of hair appear in the front window.
She waved her birdlike hand at Cassie and then opened the door.
“Are you here to see Melanie?” she asked. “She’s not home from school yet.”
“Actually, Aunt Constance, I came to talk to you.”
“Uh-oh. What’s wrong?” She led Cassie across the spotless hardwood floor to the parlor, where she’d been having tea.
Cassie had grown quite comfortable in this house since her mother had stayed there when she was ill. It was similar to Cassie’s own home, but in much better shape. The walls were freshly painted, the silver was polished to a shine, and there wasn’t a speck of dust anywhere. The parlor smelled like the oill soap used to clean wood.
Constance refilled her will ow-patterned teacup and poured a cup for Cassie. Then she sat back in her large rocking chair. “What’s on your mind?” she asked.
“Nothing, really,” Cassie said. “I guess I just came to ask your advice.”
“About what?” Constance was thin and regal, but she looked almost childlike, rocking back and forth in her chair.
“I’ve been feeling kind of uneasy lately,” Cassie said.
Constance stopped the rocking and rested her feet flat on the floor. “You’ll have to be more specific if advice is what you want, dear.”
“Believe it or not, I’m really trying.” Cassie set her teacup down. “I guess part of it is that I know I should be happy.
The Circle defeated Black John, and my mother is well again. And I have Adam, who loves me very much.”
“But I can’t seem to relax.” Cassie leaned in close to Constance and began speaking more softly. “Like today, when our new principal was introduced. I started to feel all shaky, right there at the assembly. I know it wasn’t about him, but how do I know, or how can I tell. . . . Oh, I don’t know.”
“How can you tell the difference between instinct and anxiety?” Constance smiled.
“There’s only one way,” Constance said. “Years of practice. That’s one of the biggest challenges of having the sight.”
She leaned back in her chair and appeared lost in her own thoughts for a moment. Then her thin red lips formed a smile.
“Your grandmother was the same way,” she said. “What you call nervous. If you only knew how many times she woke me up from a sound sleep, crying about a bad omen that turned out to be indigestion.”
Constance started laughing so hard, tears formed in the corners of her eyes. She reached for a tissue and patted them away before she went on. “I’m sorry, I don’t mean to make light of it. But it’ll get easier with time, Cassie, you can be sure of that.”
“So what you’re saying is there’s no magic way to know for sure who’s good and who’s evil, no spell to test the principal’s true nature?”
Constance resisted the urge to start laughing again.
“Honey, if only that spell did exist, it would have been the first one I showed you.” She looked at Cassie lovingly.
“Unfortunately, there’s no shortcut to peace of mind.” When Cassie made no reply, wrinkled lines appeared between Constance’s eyebrows. “Practice your daily meditations and your invocations,” she said. “Cultivate tranquility as best you can.”
It was simple advice, but Cassie left Constance’s house feeling just a little bit lighter.