Beatrice was lost in concentration as she looked up to think about what to write next. She wasn’t happy with the story she had been working on for homework.
Suddenly Beatrice noticed a shadow moving behind one of the bookcases. Her eyes focused on somebody standing on the other side of the bookshelf. Beatrice was sure the girl with dark hair had been watching her.
Emily had been looking for more books that mentioned witchcraft when she noticed the new girl writing in a notebook. She watched her secretly, peering through a gap in the books. Beatrice stopped writing and looked directly at where Emily was standing. Emily froze and could feel her heart thumping to think she was being watched. But Beatrice seemed to be deep in thought and soon went back to her writing. Emily let out her breath in a slow hiss and began to relax again. The red-haired girl was kind of cute with the way she moved her lips as she was writing, almost like she was casting a spell of her own.
Beatrice looked up again and the girl stopped moving. She could see the top of her black hair with the purple streak through a gap in the books. It was that girl from her English class—Emma or Emily or something. She didn’t seem like the other girls who were only interested in clothing, parties, makeup and boys—in that order. Beatrice didn’t know what Emma or Emily was interested in because they had never spoken. She kept to herself like Beatrice did. She had smiled at her once but the girl just stared back at her blankly.
Beatrice looked back down at her notebook and started writing again. Emily watched her for a moment longer. She was sure she hadn’t been seen. Maybe that cloaking spell really worked.
The bell rang for the end of lunch. Emily quickly packed her bag and hurried back to the English classroom. Mr Garcia followed her into the room and the noisy chatter quickly died down.
Maths was boring and chemistry made no sense, but Emily enjoyed English. Mr Garcia stood at the front of the room and explained irony to the class.
‘Now, class, this semester we are going to study Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.’ He leaned against a box full of books on his desk and everyone groaned. More irony, thought Emily, because it wouldn’t matter which book they were to study they would all hate it. ‘Has anybody read Jane Eyre before?’ Mr Garcia looked hopefully around the room.
Suddenly Emily put her hand up. There was a murmur as everyone turned around to stare at her.
‘I… I have read it.’ Her voice was soft.
‘Excellent, would you like to give the class a quick summary of it?’
‘Oh… ummm,’ her voice quivered. ‘It’s about a girl and she has no family and she’s sent away to boarding school where they treat her badly and eventually she becomes a governess and moves to this grand house where she falls in love with Mr Rochester but the guy is already married and then she runs away.’
Beatrice studied Emily’s face closely while she was speaking. She found herself drawn to this strange girl. She was so full of surprises. Beatrice decided she needed to find an excuse to talk to Emily.
‘Thank you, Emily. That is a good summary of the plot. What we will be exploring as we work our way through the novel is how Charlotte Bronte uses the plot as a frame to discuss the issues of concern to her.’ Mr Garcia spoke as he walked around the room handing out books. ‘As well as irony, we will be talking a lot on the theme of the truth in words. This is something that concerns Jane Eyre quite a bit. When she was young she believed if a thing was spoken then it was the truth. As she grows up she begins to see that not everybody speaks the truth. And yet the novel was written as though she was telling us the truth.’
Emily listened intently. She felt this was what she was trying to do. Write down her truth.
‘All right, ladies and gentlemen. It is time for you to present your creative writing homework pieces. Do I have any volunteers?’
Mr Garcia looked around the room but everybody was looking down at their desks. Looking anywhere else was preferable to catching Mr Garcia’s eye. Slowly Beatrice raised her hand. Mr Garcia smiled. ‘Of course, Beatrice, the floor is yours.’
He moved over to the window and leant against the windowsill. Beatrice walked to the front of the room and cleared her throat.
‘My short story,’ Beatrice began, ‘is called The Wind Witch.’ Emily sat up and began paying attention. Beatrice cleared her throat again.
A wind witch can control the wind. It seemed obvious, really. Gwenllian didn’t always know she was a wind witch. She had begun to think she wasn’t going to develop any special powers. Not all witches get a special power. Many witches perform some of the more mundane tasks for the coven—making potions, gathering herbs or making protective spells. But a witch with special powers could really be somebody. She was important. Gwenllian’s mother was a moon witch. That made her the most important witch at so many celebrations in the circle of a witch’s life. A moon witch was intune with the cycles of life. Gwenllian had hoped she would be a moon witch. She was meant to be. She should be following in her mother’s footsteps. But Gwenllian was nobody. She didn’t think there was anything special about her at all. She couldn’t even make light. That was one of the most basic witch skills. Her eyes burned whenever she remembered how the other girls had laughed when she couldn’t get the candle to light. All she ended up doing was blowing out all the candles. Their laughter still rang in her ears. And now, worst of all, she was in disgrace. A week before her 16th birthday and she had failed all of the coven’s tests. She knew she had completely let her mother down, not to mention all of the aunts. They had always said Gwenllian would be the next moon witch. But here she was, unable to even perform the most simple spells. Nobody would ever trust her again. Maybe she should just run away and join the travelling circus.
‘There’s no miracles, Gwenllian,’ her mother had said. ‘You have to work at your craft.’
But Gwenllian had worked hard. She kicked the ground. It’s just that nothing ever seemed to work.
‘Gwenllian—Gwenllian, are you out there, love?’
It was Aunt Margreet, the water witch. She had always been nice to Gwenllian.
‘There you are. They’re waiting for you. It’s time for the wind trial.’
‘I can’t do it, Aunt Margreet. I can’t face them again. I should just run away and become a jester.’
‘Oh, Gwenllian. It’s not as bad as it seems. You just need to be patient with yourself and you’ll discover your special magic.’
‘But I don’t have a special talent. I have let everyone down. I’ll just become a common herb collector.’
‘You haven’t let anyone down, honey. Besides, there’s nothing wrong with being a herb collector. It’s very important to keep the coven stocked with the right herbs. Besides, think of all those lovely days you would have wandering the forest.’
Gwenllian looked up at her aunt’s face.
‘Now you’re mocking me.’
‘Only a little bit. Come on, Gwenllian, everyone is waiting for you.’
Aunt Margreet stood and held out her hand.
Gwenllian reluctantly took it and let her aunt lead her back to the circle.
‘Just close your eyes and feel,’ Aunt Margreet whispered as she pushed Gwenllian gently into the centre of the circle.
The entire coven was silent as they watched Gwenllian. They all knew how important it was to find your special talent. The night was still except for the wind hushing through the pine trees. The other young witches had all successfully passed their trials. Now it was only Gwenllian.
‘Get on with it.’
‘Hush, Erica. Give the girl a chance.’
Gwenllian looked uncertainly around the circle of faces. Her eyes met Aunt Margreet’s smiling back at her.
‘Just relax,’ she mouthed.
Gwenllian closed her eyes and tried to steady her breathing. She felt the breeze touch her cheek. She remembered Aunt Margreet’s words and tried to concentrate on the breeze. She felt it tickle her hair, brushing her long tresses against her shoulders. The wind whirled Gwenllian’s skirt and she began to feel the magic tingling in her fingers. This is where it usually all went wrong. Gwenllian tried to focus on her breathing—each breath, slowly in and out. Gradually she realised the breeze was brushing her cheek in time with her breathing, pulsating. She felt the wind now. She imagined herself riding the gusts high into the air, far above the trees. She felt light, as light as a leaf. Gwenllian turned and circled around the clearing.
‘By the Goddess, she’s doing it!’
‘She’s a wind witch.’
‘I’m Gwenllian the Wind Witch,’ she said to herself. She began to feel the trees, swaying in the wind—her wind. It was exhilarating. After all the humiliation she was finally triumphant. She brought herself back to the circle and gently let herself float to the ground. The frill of her skirt lifted as she hovered three feet above the ground.
‘I am Gwenllian the Wind Witch,’ she said boldly. ‘I am ready to take the oath.’ She was no longer a child. She was a witch.