Suddenly, Sarah

by Black Orchid

Part One

Nancy sat across the white circular lunch table from Sarah, instructing her in the finer points of altar-making in earnest. Though she was a nasty little wise-ass most of the time, an intellectual seriousness took ahold of the girl when it came to magick. She considered it a sacred duty to transmit the ancient wisdom...she also held on to her knowledge a bit greedily. She just didn't want the competition. So why was she teaching this mousy goody-goody rich girl the Secrets?

"So...you just leave the candles burning like that all night? Wouldn't that be a fire-hazard? What if a spark shot out and..."

Nancy ran her fingers through her short black hair in exasperation. She's so pathetic! What a cry-baby!

"Nothing is going to happen, Sarah! You just let them burn, people have been doing this for centuries!"

Sarah looked down at the white table-top, the tips of her light brown hair skimming the surface.

"You know, you don't have to yell, Nancy. I'm not a total idiot, ok? You don't need to raise your voice."

Nancy blanched at Sarah's words. Her first feeling was that she didn't do anything wrong...but deep-down, she knew. She knew she could be harsh. But normally, she just didn't care. If Bonnie or Rochelle was offended, she'd just give them the option of getting out of her face. She didn't need them. She didn't need anybody. So why was she so concerned about what Sarah thought? Why was she so afraid she'd leave the circle?

The petite dark-haired girl tried to soften her expression; it made her look like she stubbed her toe.

"I'm...sorry, Sarah," she said in her rough-hewn smoker's voice. "It's just that I want to teach you this right. I need you to listen to me, that's all...and to trust me. You're not a total idiot."

Sarah looked up into Nancy's ice-blue eyes & wrinkled her brow.

"Oh, thanks..."

"Really, the candle thing is perfectly safe...the way the altar is set up, there's nothing to worry about. If you saw the one I had at home...I should take some pictures for you..."

Sarah's expression suddenly brightened in interest.

"Why don't you just show me?"

"Huh?"

"You know, I could come over your house and..."

Nancy shook her head emphatically.

"Nooo way. I just don't do the whole visiting thing."

"But you've gone over all our houses...hasn't Bonnie & Roch..."

Nancy fiddled nervously in her black leather bag for a cigarette.

"No!"

She became conscious of her voice raising, and deliberately tried to soften it.

"No...they haven't, and it's cool with them. It's not much of a house, anyway."

"I don't care about that...I mean, who cares? I just thought..."

"Look, why do you care so much anyway? You can see me all you want here at school...why do you need to come over my house?"

Sarah began closing the binder & textbooks she had scattered over the table.

"Fine...fine, no problem."

Oh, crap, Nancy thought, rolling her eyes. Little miss cry-baby is offended again...

She finally produced a cigarette from her bag but it was bent in the middle. What was the big deal, anyway? Yeah, her mom & step-dad would probably embarrass the heck out of her but...this was just Sarah. If Sarah didn't like it or said some snide comment, she'd just cut her off, cut her out of the circle. Big deal, right?

"All right, Sarah," Nancy said impatiently, taking a big draw of breath. "How about after school today? You wait for me by the Mary mural and then we'll go."

Sarah smiled at her.

"Great! It'll be fun..."

Yeah, a regular riot, Nancy muttered to herself, picturing the trailer slum that was her shelter.

Part Two

Sarah didn't complain during the harrowing bus trip through the "bad side of town," nor did she make a peep of discontent as they walked the 5 blocks to Nancy's house. This really surprised the raven-haired witch. Most of the rich girls at school would have been horrified at stooping so low.

Well, that's Sarah for you–a goody-goody.

The girls walked past a rusty chain-link fence down a path that led to the trailer. It was permanently fixed to the property, and a make-shift "porch" greeted them as they approached the door. Nancy made a motion to Sarah to stand back a bit as she opened the door.

"Let me handle this. If it's not the Chinese food delivery or Stan's pot connection, they don't know how to deal."

Nancy opened the door with a bang and yelled out into the dark space:

"Mom!! I have company! Ok? I have someone coming over!"

A tipsy bottle-blond wearing nothing but a kitty T-shirt stumbled into Sarah's view.

"What? Who you having over? Is it a boy?"

Nancy put on a stone face and tried to ignore the humiliation she felt. Her mother was a total wasteoid.

"It's a friend. I'm just having a girl from school visit. Briefly."

Nancy noticed that Sarah still stood right outside the front door. Instinctually she grabbed her hand to pull her inside. Nancy felt something strange inside her as she touched the taller girl's palm, like a flush of heat.

"Sarah, Mom. Mom, Sarah."

Nancy's mom's face broadened in a drunken congeniality.

"Well, that's great...we could all hang out, I could make some popcorn...Stan's out today & I was just so bor..."

Nancy literally dragged Sarah into her room & slammed the door.

Sarah took in the sights of Nancy's room with curiosity. It was a small room–there was a bathroom in her house that was almost bigger–but it was packed to the gills with...Nancyness.

A purple tapestry with a Celtic pattern was pinned above Nancy's bed, which was covered with several bunched-up layers of mismatched sheets & quilts. On the ceiling was pinned a mobile of stars made out of shiny mylar. Nancy's Goth accouterments--black rosaries, silver jewelry, and sheer black clothing–were spread all over a small glass tabletop & the floor. But what most caught Sarah's eye was the altar.

It was like the set-ups the 4 girls did when they practiced magick...only this was a lot more personal. A bit darker. Totally Nancy.

A small desk was covered in crystals, jewelry, leaves, shells, ribbons, a clay pentacle, an athame, an incense holder, and several candles. The two candles that especially caught her eye were the ones shaped as little people...a red one and a green one. They never used candles like that before.

Above the altar was a mural, containing images of powerful women–snake-handlers, sorceresses, valkyries. There was some darker things too...pictures of Marilyn Manson, skulls, vampires. But Sarah didn't think too much about it...Nancy was always a bit wilder than the rest of the girls. Yeah, I guess it was a little scary, but...

Nancy took off her black PVC jacket and tossed it on a chair carelessly.

"So this is Buckingham Palace. Like it?"

Sarah nodded her head, at first tentatively, then much more assured.

"Yeah...I like it. I do..."

"Stop your lying; I'm a big girl, Sarah..."

"No, Nancy–I like it. It's full of energy & creativity...and your altar! It's really powerful, Nancy..."

Nancy softened her features, this time for real.

"Really? Can you feel the power?"

"Definitely. It's a power magnet."

Nancy looked at the altar with pride and walked over to it. She took a lighter out of a drawer in the desk & lighted the two human-candles.

"See? It'll just burn like this. Just let it burn out. Nothing will happen."

"You sure you want to ruin those candles? Aren't they more expensive than regular ones?"

Nancy let out a deep chuckle.

"Yeah, like I actually PAID for these.."

The two girls sat at the edge of the bed and watched the candles burn, the flames casting a weirdly beautiful light on the crystals. They must have sat that way for almost a half-an-hour.

Sarah spoke.

"This is...kinda weird, isn't it?"

"Huh?"

"This."

Sarah put her hand atop Nancy's. A shudder of heat & electricity flexed through the two hands.

Nancy cleared her throat.

"Well, you know...they say that Sisters...when they form the circle...they form a bond...it's like magick...."

"Really?"

"Yeah...we're connected...through the magick. What we just felt: it's magick, Sarah. That's what it is. Pure magick."

Part Three

Sarah woke up to the acrid smell of smoke. She shoved Nancy hard against the shoulder.

"Nancy!"

"Wha–why're you hitting me?"

"The altar–it's on fire!"