NOTE: This chapter is written from Cassie's POV (it felt more fruitful through an outsider's eyes). It changes to Faye's POV in the following chapters.
I'll be really happy if you review and let me know what you think about it so far.
I don't own The Secret Circle.
"Your grandma was one horny witch."
"Shut up, Faye." Melissa's voice is irritated and amused at the same time. You watch her as she reaches for the book in Faye's hand, failing to grab it before the girl lifts it out of her reach.
"Uh, I hate you, " she growls, turning away from Faye and her face brightens up as she spots you at the doorstep of the abandoned house.
"Oh, hey, Cassie."
"Hey," you smile back at her.
"Where's Adam? Thought you were driving here together."
"He's right behind me," you say as you walk towards them. "He just forgot something in the car. So... What's the emergency?"
But it doesn't really look like there is one: the room quite literally breathes freedom, your friends' faces relaxed, untroubled, filled with laughter.
"Melissa found an old print of Kama Sutra and thinks it's her family's Book of Shadows," Faye answers in a theatrical whisper. She and Jake are sitting on the old couch, not quite cuddled up but close in a way that makes it a bit embarrassing to watch. You're actually glad to see them fully dressed for a change: since they've been back on the maybe-we're-dating train, the view from your bedroom's window has been kind of racy.
"What?" you ask, suspiciously eying the book in Faye's hands.
"It is a Book of Shadows," Melissa hurries to explain. "There's just this page that's a little weird and Faye can't stop obsessing about it."
You're still confused. "What page?"
"It says all about directing sexual energy and employing it in advanced healing practices," Jake explains.
"When did you become such a nerd?" Faye complains, playfully faking disgust. "You just completely took the fun out of sexy." She hands the open book to you. "Have a look."
You take it hesitantly and you eyebrows immediately fly up. "Wow." There's a picture of a young woman, beautiful and very much naked, seated cross-legged on the grass; a just-as-much-naked man embraces her from behind, kissing the skin of her arm, both their eyes closed in pleasure. You remember there's some nudity in your book too – mostly in connection to equinox celebrations - but this is definitely new. You cannot help grinning a little. "Interesting."
The front door screeches open and Adam slides in, his eyes flickering around the room restlessly. He hasn't quite been himself lately and now his face seems more tense than ever, irritated with some concealed worry, like he has somewhere other than here to be.
"What's up?" he asks.
Melissa smiles enthusiastically. "I found my family's Book of Shadows."
"You're sure about it?" he asks, his voice impatient, almost rude. "Last time you were saying that it turned out to be a suitcase full of demons."
"Adam," you whisper in shock, at the same time that Jake says: "Hey!" Faye just stares at Adam, her eyes dangerously narrowed.
"I'm pretty sure it's the Book," Melissa whispers, clearly hurt.
Adams sighs, his expression going from sullen to bored. "Sorry," he mutters finally, but it doesn't sound too convincing. Melissa says nothing.
"It's actully pretty amazing," you say quickly, desperate to break the sudden tension in the room. "There's this whole page about... er, sexual..." You trail off helplessly, glancing at Jake. "How did it go?"
He doesn't exactly answer that but his face relaxes a little and so does Faye's, though she's still kind of glaring. Melissa gently takes the book out of your hands and sits back on the couch, studying the page carefully.
"It looks quite complicated," she says, her voice quiet but even. "I mean, you really have to know the other person and there's a whole bunch of herbs you need to take to help focus the energy... but if it's done right it can heal pretty serious stuff...these look like burns and fractures...some really nasty cuts..."
Faye's face is all lit up, her eyes wide with excitement. "We should totally do this."
Jake gives her an amused look. "Right, and you're gonna slice yourself just to give it a try?"
"Really, Faye, what are you thinking?" There's something sickeningly wrong with the sound of Adam's laughter. "Please go back to cutting yourself over the almighty Jake Armstrong – that's clearly the only reason that counts."
It takes you a few heartbeats to realize what it is he just said.
Faye's eyes widen in horror and for a moment she seems to be completely speechless.
"Adam," Melissa says in a warning voice.
"Oh, come on, it's not like we don't know," he goes on, his smile a malicious grimace. He doesn't even look like Adam anymore. He certainly doesn't sound like himself. "Though I guess Jake was too busy hunting witches back then to find out."
Jake, on the other hand, couldn't look more like himself, an inpenetrable frown settling on his face. Absurdly, ridiculously, this makes you laugh. You swallow the giggle, quickly checking for everyone's reactions. No one seems to have noticed. Faye and Melissa both stare at Adam. Jake stares at Faye.
"What the hell is he taking about?"
"Nothing, he's just being an ass," Faye snaps. Her voice sounds casual enough but the words come out too quickly.
"Seriously though," Adams goes on, like he's getting some twisted sort of fun out of this. "Did you use magic or something to make those scars go away? Cause I gotta tell you, I saw such stuff on TV once and it was pretty scary. Not exactly Gottex material."
"What the hell's wrong with you?" Melissa hisses at him.
Faye says nothing and the silence is so unlike her it is disturbing. When Adam opens his mouth, clearly about to speak again, she stands up.
"Shut up," she says and her usual superior, slightly irritated tone is gone. Her voice is low and threatening, yet somehow vulnerable, like a trapped animal about to attack its captor in a desperate attempt at freedom.
Melissa grabs Adam's arm, clearly about to give him a piece of her mind, but he jerks away from her.
"You know what, screw you, people," he says, his voice still soaking with laughter. It sounds bizarre. "You want a ride?" he asks, already at the doorstep, and you realize he is talking to you. "I'm good, thanks," you mutter. He slides out the door without as much as another word.
Faye stares after him, her face a good few shades paler than usual; somehow it makes her look younger, nearly childlike. She clumsily picks up her jacket and when she speaks up, her voice is a throaty half-whisper. "We should go finish that report on blood cells." Melissa nods quickly. But they barely make two steps towards the door before Jake grabs Faye's arm. You suddenly wish you had left when you had your chance. You look at Melissa but her eyes are on Faye, worried as she watches her struggle against Jake's grasp.
"Jake," you caution quietly. His eyes flicker in your direction, though you can tell he is not really seeing you, and he lets go of Faye's arm. But there is no resignation in that gesture, nothing to suggest Faye is getting on with her blood cells report anytime soon. The sudden touch of Melissa's hand on yours feels almost liberating. "Come on," she whispers, "maybe we should let them talk."
And you don't question her decision as you follow her out of the room, grateful to be getting away from there, from the blend of pain and shame in Faye's eyes, from the anger and fear in Jake's. Still, you turn around at the doorstep, only to see that Faye's face has hardened, that her shoulders are squared, her posture defensive, as if prepared for a fight. "Go girl," you whisper, and another absurd giggle escapes your mouth. This time Melissa hears it but she merely gives you a weird look as the two of you walk out into the starting rain.