iii. i put a spell on you
Cat and Beck edged their way up the creaking stairs one step at a time. Cat was clinging to Beck's arm and Beck was shining the giant flash light in every which corner, trying to convince himself – and Cat – that there was nothing to be scared of, but deep down, he knew that wasn't true. Someone had murdered Sinjin and he had no idea where Trina, Tori or Jade was.
Maybe they were dead too. Maybe he'd just left Andre and Robbie out there, alone and defenceless, or maybe, he and Cat had just walked themselves into a big giant trap. The paranoia was festering from the walls of the house, spilling into their veins and coursing through each beat of their heart. There was something evil and cursed about this place and they had just walked right inside, like a lamb to a slaughter.
The only thing that was keeping Beck together was the notion that the murderer had to have killed Sinjin outside, rather than in. If he and Cat were in the house, and Andre and Robbie were in the van, then by default, did that mean that the murderer escaped through the woods? Was the murderer the same person who knocked out Andre? Did that mean he had hung around? If it was the murderer then why didn't he take Andre's van and flee? Nothing was making any sense!
"Beck," Cat whined, "I want this to be over."
"We just have to find Tori, Trina and Jade," Beck reassured her, "Once we find them, we can leave and go get help."
"I'm scared," tears began to pour down her cheeks, "Why aren't you scared?"
Beck glanced down at the trembling red head and felt his stomach knot with the kind of protectiveness he'd usually reserve for defenseless animals. "Cat," he grabbed her shoulders once they reached the first floor. "Cat, I swear on my life we'll get out of this, okay? I promise you."
"Really?" Cat's doe eyes widened. "What do you promise?"
Beck nodded back, "I promise that we'll both survive this and when we do, I'll take you on a date. A real date. And you can order as many red velvet cupcakes as you want."
Cat frowned, licking her lips, "A date? Beck, a date? What about Jade? I know it's been a while since you both broke up but you know how crazy she gets. She would cut up my lettuce dolls and fry them in her own spit."
"Jade doesn't care who I date," Beck reached out to cup Cat's cheek.
She allowed it for a moment but then pulled back, shaking her head, "No, sir! You're my friend!"
"Friends can date friends," Beck shrugged.
"Jade would hate me," Cat shook her head again, "I'll be breaking the friend's code list or something. She'll send me to the fiery depths of—"
Beck leaned in and captured Cat's lips with his own. He cupped her cheek again and pulled her closer, slipping his tongue inside. Cat felt her own knees weaken slightly at the feel of Beck above her. She wrapped her arms around his waist and felt the swoop in her stomach as his soft lips continued to caress hers. It amazed her that everything horrid could be forgotten with a simple kiss.
When they pulled back, their lips were swollen and her purple lipstick was smudged across her mouth – and his.
"Tell me you didn't feel something," Beck whispered against her lips.
Cat swallowed thickly. "We—we—we should not tell Jade, for a while."
"Agreed," Beck brushed his thumb across her lips in attempt to fix her smudge. She replicated the action with him, smiling sweetly for the first time in hours. Beck felt himself suddenly lost in her innocence, and the charm of her smile. There was so much more to discover with Cat, and he honestly couldn't wait to.
"Well," Tori repeated, "Why do you hate me, Jade?"
"Oh, lots of reasons really," Jade checked her nails boredly, "Too many to list. Use your imagination."
"Jade," Tori snapped, "Stop being sarcastic—"
"I'm not," Jade interrupted her, "I think the word 'hate' is a little strong but you're definitely on my list."
"Well you're on mine," Tori said, folding her arms.
"Good," Jade narrowed her eyes, "Maybe I want to be on your list."
"Well fine," Tori glared at her, "That's fine. Maybe I want to be on yours."
Jade suddenly dropped the candle between them and the flame went out. Both Tori and Jade reached down for it and their fingers caught each other. For some reason, neither moved, just staying still in the darkness of the wooden oak wardrobe and the warmth of each other's fingers. The second Jade pulled her hand away, Tori felt the atmosphere around them heat up with thick tension.
And then Tori took a risk she never thought she'd take. She said, "I don't think you hate me at all. I think you like me. That's why you act like you can't stand me. You like me."
A sound of whipped hair turning told Tori that she had caught Jade's attention – and not in a good way. "What?" Jade said lowly.
"The mocking, the teasing, the threatening, the flirting," Tori listed off, "Admit it, Jade. You actually don't know how to express any feeling but loathing or sarcasm. It's your default setting."
"It's not my default setting," Jade snapped, "I don't like you because you swooped in, kissed my boyfriend when he was my boyfriend, stole all the parts in the plays I would have gotten and you're just—you're just so—"
"What?" Tori shook her head, "What am I?"
"Perfect!" Jade screamed, "And I hate that. I hate that you're just so tiny and petite and that your hair always looks perfect, and that people flock around you and that you don't even really notice it. I hate how you make me feel inferior!"
"Bullshit," Tori didn't know where she was getting the courage for this but it was there and it was rearing it's ugly head. Jade wanted to talk truth, then Tori was going to lay down some facts.
Jade narrowed her eyes, "What did you just say?"
"I said that's bullshit," Tori repeated, "You blame everyone for everything and you push them away, but they're not the problem Jade, you are. You've built this wall around you and it's been there for so long, that even you don't know how to take it down when you want to. You like me, I know you do, and you just can't express it any other way because that's how twisted you are inside."
"Why do you even care, Vega?" Jade snapped, "Why do you even care if I like you or not?"
"Because," Tori felt tears of revelation swarm into her eyes. "Because I like you."
And then it was out there. A home truth that maybe not either girl had realised until they were forced to examine their entire dynamic with each other. She could practically hear Jade plotting away in her head, wondering how to use this new information against the half Latina.
"I'm leaving," Tori reached upwards but Jade caught her hand before she could push against the doors. Jade pulled Tori towards her and when Tori looked into the other girl's eyes, she saw something dark and intense brewing there... almost threatening? The air pulsed around them with the sound of their own heart beats.
Something thick lodged itself in Jade's throat and she swallowed, catching the attention of Tori, who watched a bead of sweat roll down the base of her neck. Turns out, Jade could sweat when the situation called for it. Tori's eyes glazed over slightly as the air came thinner around them and the atmosphere became thicker. It was almost like a sauna in there suddenly.
Jade looked angry for a moment and just when Tori was regretting saying anything, Jade yanked Tori towards her and covered the half Latina's mouth with hers. Tori responded immediately, shocking both herself and Jade, as she allowed herself to be seduced by the alluring scent of Jade's rosemary and thyme perfume. It wasn't slow or loving, it was hard and passionate and lips moving against lips, groans being swallowed and tongues being thrust inside.
An ache nestled at the pit of Jade's stomach, threatening to consume Tori whole. The warmth of their bodies clutched at each other, desperate to be closer. And then suddenly Jade slowed the kissed down and Tori happily followed. It was like a serenade. One of those corny loving ones, that caressed each other's mouths and went on and on. Jade slipped her hands over Tori's neck, feeling her racing pulse and smiling into their kiss.
When they pulled back for air, Jade rested her forehead against Tori's. She felt terrified for the first time that night but Tori couldn't see it. All she saw were Jade's emerald eyes.
Then Jade's face hardened and she said, "We tell no one."
Tori nodded back. She would have kissed the Goth girl again had approaching footsteps not interrupted them. They exchanged a look of horror before the doors were retched open. Beck and Cat, and Tori and Jade both screamed at the sight of each other.
"What the hell are you doing?" Beck gaped.
"We were hiding from you guys," Jade stood up and clambered out of the wardrobe. Tori followed.
"Why?" Cat frowned childishly.
"The jig's up," Tori folded her arms, "We know you did this. Set this whole thing up to scare us."
Beck and Cat exchanged a look with each other. Beck told them, "We didn't do anything. We went to find Sinjin and we did, dead. The back of his head had been smashed in. When we came to find you guys, Andre had also been attacked but he was just unconscious and not bleeding. They wouldn't come in here after you, so Cat and I did. Where's Trina?"
"What?" Tori almost stumbled, "Sinjin's dead? For real? This isn't a joke?"
Cat and Beck nodded grimly.
"There's a dead body out there?" Jade looked at the window.
"Jade!" the three others cried at the same time.
"Oh my god, Trina," Tori realised, horrified, "We thought this was all a big joke—the picture, the wind, the cackle, the room. Jade, the room! The room, the portrait, the painting, the candles, Jade—"
"I know," Jade said breathlessly, her mind racing just like Tori's was.
"I don't understand," Beck frowned, "What happened in here?"
"Oh my god, I can't go home without my sister," Tori started to cry and was surprised when she felt Jade reach out and intertwine their fingers together. It was all she was going to get from Jade at that very moment and it was all she needed.
A creaky floorboard from the other side of the hall made them practically jump out of their skin. They high tailed it down the flight of stairs to the first floor. Tori was tempted to check that room again, but Jade was already pulling her down the second flight of stairs to the foyer.
Beck flung the front door open and raced out with Cat as Tori and Jade followed. Andre and Robbie were still leaning against his van, and they looked up, expecting to see an evil monster chasing them. The front door slammed shut behind them. They bent over, panting.
"Are you okay?" Robbie asked, "Hey, where's Trina?"
Tori clutched her side as she pulled out her phone and dialled her sister's number. It rang twice and then—
"Hello," Trina answered. The sound of a roaring party could be heard in the background. Tori could make out lively music and chattering people, "Hello?"
"Trina!" Tori gasped, "Trina, it's Tori. Where are you? Are you still inside the house?"
"Yeah, this party is off the hook, right?" Trina had to shout the last part because of the noise, "Is it time to go already? Hang on, I'll be right out!" She hung up.
"What is going on?" Tori practically shouted, "My sister sounds like she's at a party!"
The sound of the front door opening made them turn around and when they looked, they nearly fell over with shock. The decrepit abandoned Manor that looked ready to crumble had suddenly transformed. It now looked modern, and rebuilt from scratch, with bright colours and shiny materials.
The windows weren't boarded up anymore. Everything was new. Light was flowing from the Manor and the dancing bodies of costumed up teenagers could be seen from the windows. The house was packed with people.
"What the hell?" Beck gasped.
"No," Tori shook her head, "No. This can't be happening."
Trina stepped out of the house, pulling a drunk looking Sinjin with her. She stumbled over to them, "Hey guys! Did you enjoy yourselves? Thanks for not bothering me at all, I had the best time!"
"Sinjin?" Andre cried.
"Hey guys!" Sinjin giggled, which set Trina off. "I'm a little drunk," he whispered.
"You were a little dead earlier," Cat said.
"What?" Sinjin laughed, "You can't kill the Sin-jin!"
Robbie shook his head, "I feel like I'm going to faint."
"Trina, we saw you walk into the old run down house," Tori folded her arms and looked at her sister, "You saw the outside of it as well. You saw that it was run down! Now look at it, it's like brand new! Within the blink of an eye."
Trina frowned, "Tori, I have no idea what you're talking about. I thought you guys were just being over dramatic when you said it was run down. I mean I know it's no Buckingham Palace, but it's a pretty sweet place."
"But Sinjin—" Beck shook his head, "You saw it too. You saw us open the door and look inside at the dark empty foyer. You were screaming about being in a snuff film, or something."
Sinjin suddenly burped and then frowned, "Beck, I was kidd—ding. I have social anxiety. When I saw the amount of people inside, I freaked and ran away, but the conservatory was open right round the back of the house and this guy gave me a beer and soon, I was on top of the world."
"On top of the table more like!" Trina screamed, grinning. Sinjin reached out and drunkenly high fived her.
"No!" Cat suddenly cried, stomping her foot, "No, no, no, no, no, no! This is not happening! I saw your body Sinjin. I saw that house. I must be losing my—"
"Okay," Sinjin suddenly sighed, "I have something to confess."
Tori and the others folded their arms and waited for it.
"I wasn't smoking an herbal remedy earlier," Sinjin confessed, "It was peyote. It must have been a bad batch. I took it to help me loosen up, but it must have effected all of you and given you shared hallucinations."
"What?" Andre cried, "You were smoking drugs in my van?"
"I'm sorry!" Sinjin cried, "I thought it would be fine!"
"Shared hallucinations?" Tori said sceptically, glancing at Jade. "Are you really telling me that we've been in that party that whole time having a hallucination that we were in a creepy empty haunted house? Because it felt pretty real to me."
"What else can explain it?" Trina snapped suddenly, "I would take the peyote thing and run with it, guys, because you're all crazy if you don't. The evidence is against you, that house is not creepy or haunted, and Sinjin is not dead."
"I guess," Cat nodded slowly, "I guess it explains everything."
"Then how did I get knocked out from behind?" Andre widened his eyes.
"Andre, you probably passed out as you were walking and just assumed someone had knocked you out from behind," Sinjin replied, "Drugged people aren't careful people."
"I guess," Andre frowned, feeling the back of his head.
"Let's get out of here," Tori mumbled.
As they headed towards Andre's van, Trina held Sinjin back by his arm and waited until there was a bit of distance before she whispered, "Sinjin, I know your mother makes you submit to random drug testing. Did you really smoke peyote earlier?"
Sinjin stared down at her, "Of course not! I'm a Van Cleef, we natural people! I had to tell them something, they were losing it."
Trina swallowed suddenly and turned back to the normal modern house with the partying people inside. "What really happened here tonight?" she murmured.
"I don't know," Sinjin shrugged, "All I know is, I think I lost my virginity! Go Halloween!" he raced towards Andre's van. Trina followed after him and clambered inside.
There was an eerie silence in the van as they rode back towards their normal lives. Half way home, Robbie took out his phone and said, "Hey, I got history on that Manor. Apparently it was a speak easy, run by a group of friends who liked to party and pursue artistic achievements, but one night, there was a mysterious fire and the entire house burned down. All of the guests, including the friends that ran it, died in that house. Years later it was remodelled and sold onto a contractor. We must have read that somewhere before, and it fuelled what our drugged minds wanted to see."
Trina and Sinjin exchanged a worried glance across the van.
Jade frowned, suddenly feeling something cold pressed against her chest. She stuck her fingers inside the corset part of her lacy dress and pulled out the exact same photograph that she and Tori had found earlier that night in the picture frame. The photograph of everyone dressed in 1920's clothing.
The picture they'd both thought was a fake. She gasped, staring at everyone's likeness and wondering how the hell it had ended up in her dress. She'd left the picture – and it's frame – behind, and now here it was, in between her fingers. Jade quickly slipped the photograph back inside her dress and glanced over to find Tori staring at her with unreadable dark eyes. Had she seen the photograph?
Jade began to ponder the meaning of everything. If Robbie said that the speak easy was run by a group of artistic friends and the photograph wasn't a fake, did that mean it was them... in another life? A past life? Had they really just visited the site that they had all inhabited in their past lives? Was that even possible? The rest of the drive home was eerily silent.
Trina strutted through her front door, finding that her parents had already gone to bed. It was just a little over midnight. She grabbed a bunch of candy and stormed upstairs, claiming that the bathroom was hers for the next hour.
Tori and Jade lingered awkwardly in the open doorway. Andre was waiting for Jade in Tori's driveway, still to drop off Beck, Cat, Robbie and Sinjin. Tori could tell that Andre was tired, confused and wondering why Jade had offered to walk Tori to her door.
"Tonight was weird," Tori said quietly.
Jade nodded in agreement, "Yeah, you're telling me."
"I'm confused," Tori blurted out, "Over what was real... And what wasn't."
"It was all real," Jade said in a shocking moment of honesty. "All of it. Everything we experienced. There's no rational explanation for it. It wasn't because of Halloween, or Peyote, or drugs... It was something horrific, and magical."
Tori looked at Jade hopefully. Maybe the older Goth wouldn't push her away now.
Andre suddenly beeped his horn, "Come on, Jade!"
"I should go," Jade sighed, disappointed.
"Or you could not," Tori said suddenly.
"What?" Jade frowned.
"Stay," Tori swallowed the lump in her throat, "We can take off these ridiculous costumes—"
"I'm liking this already," Jade smirked.
"—and change into pyjamas and eat junk food and watch whatever movie you want," Tori finished, "It can even be The Scissoring," she grimaced.
"I'd love to," Jade said sincerely. She turned to Andre and said, "I'm good here! You guys get home safe!" she stepped inside and Tori closed the door behind her.
"There was something I forgot to tell you," Jade said as she wrapped her arms around Tori's neck and pulled her in.
"Oh yeah?" Tori titled her head slightly. "What's that?"
"I'm a Witch," Jade said, smirking, "I've put a spell on you. And now you're mine."
Tori laughed, pressing her warm lips against Jade's. "Happy Halloween."