The day of the fireworks started out fine and sunny after a week of rain. Late in the afternoon people began to gather on the lawns in front of the school. The ruins of Pemblebury Castle provided a medieval backdrop to the night’s entertainment. A stage was setup in front of the school steps and the band members were slowly arriving and unpacking their instruments.
Emily and Bea spent the afternoon wandering around the shopping centre before going back to Emily’s apartment to get ready. Neither bothered to dress up so it didn’t take long to have showers and then get back into their usual clothes.
The two girls walked the couple of blocks to the school and Bea could already hear the band warming up as they came through the school gate. It was a mixture of orchestral instruments and modern electric guitars and drums. The air was filled with the sound of excited chatter punctuated by instruments being tuned. The notes from a piano solo drifted on the breeze to where Bea stood with Emily looking for a spot to put a blanket. She wondered if Josh would be there with his cello. The sound was kind of cool and Bea found herself relaxing as Emily found a spot on the grass toward the back of the square.
Emily spread the blanket on the ground and then sat with her arms cradled around her knees. She turned and smiled as Bea sat next to her. ‘I’m really glad we came, Bea.’
‘Yeah, me too.’ Bea smiled back.
Emily rested her head on her knees and she hummed in time with the music. The band had launched into a rendition of ‘Running in the Shadows’ and the sounds of electric guitar and drums filled the air. Emily watched Bea’s curly red hair spilling over her shoulders and wondered about the reason Bea had asked her to come.
Emily touched the locket around her neck. She could feel it tingling and it gave her confidence. A small smile danced across her lips. She felt the chill in the air against her arms but the warmth radiating from the locket kept her from the cold.
She looked over the crowd. Anar and Heather were sitting amongst a group of boys. They were drinking from plastic bottles but Emily guessed what was really in there. Anar was wearing a short black dress. Her shoulders and arms were bare. ‘She must be freezing,’ Emily thought to herself.
Bea turned and saw Emily’s darkened face. She laughed, ‘What are you thinking?’
‘Nothing.’ Emily looked away. She couldn’t look at Bea anymore without feeling butterflies in her stomach. She wished she hadn’t come tonight after all.
Heather and Anar walked toward them, whispering together. Anar laughed as she stopped in front of Bea and Emily.
‘Shouldn’t you witches be home boiling your faces in a cauldron?’
‘Yours is the only face that will boil.’ Emily’s face glowered. Bea touched her arm.
‘They’re not worth it, Em.’
‘Come on, Heather. Let’s leave these lovebirds to themselves.’
Bea’s face went red and she quickly pulled her hand away from Emily’s arm. Emily blinked back her tears. This was becoming the worst night of her life. She hugged her knees tighter and rested her head on her forearm. It still tingled from where Bea’s hand had touched her.
‘Don’t worry about them. They’re just evil.’
Overhead the sky began to fill with darkening clouds. Bea was worried about her friend’s mood swings. She seemed to be getting gloomier than ever lately.
Bea closed her eyes and let the music wash over her. She lost track of time. Then she felt Bea’s fingertips accidently brush gently against hers. It was like an electric shock ran up her arm. Emily quickly opened her eyes but Bea was still in the same position, rocking in time to the music. She looked down at her hand on the blanket. Maybe she had just imagined it.
Emily glanced at her friend’s face again, trying to guess what she was thinking. Floodlights from the stage cast a shadow across half her face. She followed the direction of Bea’s eyes to the stage where Josh was sitting with a cello between his legs. The music slowed and the electric guitars were replaced by a slow and sensuous rhythm on the cello. Emily ground her teeth together. She felt depressed again. If only she could make that love spell work.
Josh was bent forward and long curls tumbled across his face, just the way he looked in the music room. The tune reached out to Bea and she felt each note punctuating her breathing. Suddenly she realised she was standing and swaying in time with the music. Emily watched her from the blanket for a moment and then stood and joined her.
Bea looked at Emily and smiled dreamily but she didn’t smile back. Her eyes looked sad, but Bea didn’t really give her another thought because she was so absorbed by the music coming from Josh’s cello. Suddenly she felt herself floating again. There was mist and she could see the mountaintop from her dream. The dark-haired woman was holding her hand out to Bea. ‘It’s time. We need you.’ And then she was falling, falling, falling.
‘Bea, are you okay?’ Emily’s voice sounded concerned. She was near tears.
‘I guess—I just fell. I think I need to get a drink of water.’
‘You stay here, Bea. I’ll go and get it for you.’
Before she could protest Emily had disappeared into the crowd. Nobody else seemed to have noticed her falling. She sat on the blanket and tried to control her breathing. Then she heard a cough.
‘Are you okay?’
Bea looked up to see Josh standing above her.
‘Oh, yeah. Sure. I’m fine.’
‘I saw you fall from the stage. You were just dancing and then suddenly you were on the ground. I thought you might have hurt yourself.’
‘I’m fine. I guess I just tripped.’
Josh knelt down on the grass beside the blanket. ‘Your ankle looks swollen. Do you mind if I have a look at it?’
Suddenly Josh’s fingers were gently lifting her foot. ‘Does this hurt?’
‘I don’t think it’s broken. You must have twisted it as you fell.’
Bea could still feel his fingers around her foot and she looked up into his eyes. She felt a sharp shock run through her body.
‘I got you a drink, Bea.’ Bea looked up to see Emily standing there with a bottle of water. She wasn’t smiling anymore.
‘Oh, thanks, Em. You remember Josh—from class?’
‘Yeah, sure. Hi, Josh.’
‘Why don’t you join us?’
‘Oh, thanks, but I have to get back. I’m on again soon.’
Emily sat back down on the blanket as Bea watched Josh disappear into the crowd. Emily handed her the bottle of water.
‘What was that all about?’
‘Oh, nothing, I guess. He said he saw me fall.’
‘So why were his hands all over you?’
‘I hurt my ankle. He was checking it out.’
‘Yeah, that’s what it looked like.’ Her voice was harsh.
‘What’s the matter, Em?’
‘Nothing. The fireworks should be starting soon.’
Emily brought her knees up to her chin and wrapped her arms around them. She wished they had never come tonight.