The Secret Circle: The Divide Chapter 5

The Secret Circle: The Divide Chapter 5

When Cassie arrived at Old Town Hall, the sun was shining down on the carnival as booths and tables were being set up for the evening’s festivities. She searched for her mom among the volunteers so she could help her put up the decorations they’d finally finished making late last night.

Old Town Hall was one of the earliest municipal buildings in New Salem. When it had been in use, it housed all the town’s federal offices. The surrounding area was designed to be an outdoor market, but these days it was mostly used as a public art space and, of course, to host yearly spring and fall festivals.

“Hey, Cassie.” Laurel appeared carrying a tray of tulip bulbs that was nearly twice her size. She dropped it onto a nearby table and waved a few sweaty strands of hair away from her pixielike face. “Are you psyched for tonight’s festival?”

“Sure,” Cassie said unconvincingly.

“Well, you should be,” Laurel said. “The spring equinox is important to us as witches.” She looked to her left and then to her right to be sure nobody had heard her. And then, as Cassie expected, she launched into a history lesson.

History and botany lessons were pretty much mandatory when talking to Laurel. You either loved her for it or you had the urge to tape her mouth shut, but for now Cassie humored her.

humored her.

“Like many traditions in New Salem, the origin of the spring festival has roots in paganism,” Laurel said. “This festival used to be called Ostara’s Festival, and it was a holiday to celebrate the Goddess waking from her winter slumber. It was a time when our ancestors honored the balance of all things, the physical with the spiritual. The old books said it was a time to plant seeds in the garden, as well as a time to plant the seeds of desired manifestation.”

“But what does that mean?” Cassie asked.

“It means it’s a time to start new projects and put new plans into action.” Laurel picked up her tray with a grunt and began to walk away. “It’s something to get excited about,” she said over her shoulder.

Cassie let her eyes wander around the square. In every booth was a local merchant offering samples of food or drink, or the chance to bid on some item up for auction.

Local bands were setting up their equipment on a ramshackle stage. The whole event had simply become a backdrop for the kickoff of the tourist season. But still, Cassie thought she should embrace it. It was a celebration of sorts, like Laurel said.

Cassie found her mother on the far side of the square, stapling paper daffodils along a wooden baseboard.

Across from her, Cassie saw Melanie and Constance setting up their jewelry booth. Melanie’s smooth cap of chestnut hair was pulled neatly back, while Constance’s gray mane feathered madly in the wind. They were quite a pair; Melanie was tall and beautiful and prepossessing, and Constance was shrunken and slumped over, bossily calling Constance was shrunken and slumped over, bossily calling out commands with her wrinkled pointer finger. But the love and compassion between them was palpable, and the jewelry they designed was a physical product of that love.

Melanie had told Cassie that the local townspeople didn’t have a real understanding of crystals, but that didn’t matter.

Their jewelry made for pretty conversation pieces, and Aunt Constance really appreciated the extra cash.

Cassie waved to Melanie from afar and then spotted Diana. She was wearing all white, and the way the sun was striking her blonde hair, it appeared almost white, too. My God, Cassie thought, Diana is literally shimmering like an angel. And appropriately, she was helping with the charity raffle this year. In fact, she’d organized it. Sometimes Cassie wondered if there was anything Diana couldn’t do.

Cassie gave her mom a signal to let her know she’d be right there and then headed over to the raffle table to say hello to Diana. She’d felt so distant from Diana lately, she thought stopping by would be a nice gesture. Maybe even a first step in clearing the air between them.

Cassie understood the distance was because she spent most of her free time with Adam these days. How could that not make things weird, when not so long ago it used to be Diana who spent all her time with Adam?

But in spite of all that, when Diana noticed Cassie coming her way now, she couldn’t have offered her a more heartfelt greeting. She dropped her clipboard onto the table and jogged across the square to meet Cassie halfway.

“I’m so glad you’re here,” she said. “Your mother’s decorations look fantastic.”

“Thanks,” Cassie said, and then hesitated. She hadn’t known she was going to do this, but in the moment it felt right. “Can we talk?” she asked.

Without waiting for an answer, she took Diana’s hand tightly in her own and led her to the side of the square, where there was a long stone bench they could sit on without the risk of anyone overhearing their conversation.

“There’s something I have to tell you,” Cassie said.

Diana’s green eyes narrowed with concern, but she sat down, as instructed. Cassie sat across from her, anxiously rubbing her fingers along the bench’s stone surface.

“I’ve been feeling so bad,” she said. “For all the awkwardness.”

Diana smiled wide. “Kind of like right now?”

“Yeah.” Cassie felt herself blush. “I guess I am being kind of awkward right now. It’s just that I know how close you and Adam were, and the sacrifice you made, and – ” Diana cut Cassie off mid-sentence. “Cassie, I know. I really do. And it has been hard at times, but I think we’ve all grown used to it a lot faster than you have.” She put her hands on Cassie’s shoulders and gave her a little shake. “There are no hard feelings. Honestly. It’s you who’s making it hard, for yourself.”

Cassie’s eyes filled with tears, and she realized Diana was right. She had been making things unnecessarily difficult. This was supposed to be a new beginning.

Everywhere around her, people were embracing change while she clung on to old hurts and past fears.

“Does this mean we can hang out more?” she asked.

“I sure hope so!” Diana brought her in for a hug, and when Cassie closed her eyes, everything felt just right. A new beginning, she thought to herself again. Now she really would be able to enjoy the festival.

Together she and Diana walked through the square, arm in arm, back to the raffle table. Cassie didn’t want their renewed closeness to end, but she had work to do.

“I’d better go help my mom,” she said, and was about to walk away when a girl approached her. The girl had long waves of bright red hair and wore high black boots that caught on the hem of her slip dress.

“Excuse me,” she said. “I’m looking for the bed-and-breakfast that’s supposed to be right around here.” She was about the same height and build as Cassie, and her eyes were a very dark brown, almost black.

Diana pointed west. “It’s about a two-minute walk that way.”

The girl gripped the handle of her overstuffed suitcase and stood gawking at them, as if she were hoping for more.

“I’m Scarlett,” she said, offering her free hand to Diana.

Diana introduced herself and Cassie, and then asked,

“Are you visiting from out of town?”

“Not visiting. I just moved here.” Scarlett bit at her fingernail, which was covered in chipped black nail polish.

“I’m only staying at the B and B for now, if I ever find it.” Diana raised her eyebrows. “Moving to a new town with only one suitcase, that’s very impressive.” Scarlett laughed uncomfortably like she wasn’t sure if Diana was playfully teasing or rudely making fun of her.

Cassie wasn’t entirely sure either. She knew Diana well enough to sense that she had her guard up around this stranger.

“Will you be going to New Salem High?” Diana asked.

Scarlett shook her head. “I graduated early. I’m working on the docks for the summer.”

“I see,” Diana said, in a tone dripping with judgment.

Diana got like this around Outsiders sometimes. Cassie knew she didn’t mean to be impolite; in fact, she probably wasn’t even aware of it. It was an unconscious self-righteousness that came from always knowing she was special. But Cassie knew what growing up average was like, and she’d once been the new girl in town. She sympathized with how awful and alienated Scarlett probably felt right now.

“Well, thank you for the directions,” Scarlett said. “It was nice meeting you.”

“Wait.” Cassie had the sudden urge to remedy Diana’s inhospitable welcome. “You should come to the festival tonight. It’s right here; you can’t miss it.” Scarlett giggled in a way that made her sound like a little girl, and Cassie couldn’t help but join in. There was something refreshing about her. “We just met, and already you’re taking a shot at my poor sense of direction?” Then her face warmed. “I’d love to come, thank you.”

“Great,” Cassie said. “Then we’ll see you later.” Cassie watched Scarlett walk away, and Diana picked up her clipboard from the table. “That was neighborly of you,” she said.

“What do you mean?”

“You know.” Diana scrutinized her list of things to do, flipping through its many pages. “Considerate, gregarious.”

“I know what neighborly means, but what do you mean?” Diana set the clipboard down and rolled her pen back and forth in her fingers while analyzing Cassie’s expression. “You saw something in her, didn’t you? What was it?”

Cassie should have known there was never getting anything past Diana. It was true, she had seen something in Scarlett, but she wasn’t sure what.

Cassie felt a tingle travel up her spine and down her arms, all the way to her fingers. It was an excitement she couldn’t place. “I’m really not sure. But I think it was something good.”

“Well, that’s pleasant news for a change,” Diana said.

“Tell me about it.”

“Maybe it was her hair dye drawing you in.”

“Be nice,” Cassie said.

“I’m not being mean,” Diana said naughtily. “It made me want to drink a glass of wild cherry Kool-Aid. I love that stuff.” Then the two of them broke into loud, uninhibited laughter, the way they used to.