Cinder awoke with a start and turned to look at the alarm clock, checking to see the day. Wednesday, April 15. Cinder then sat up in her bed and stretched her arms out wide.
“Today’s going to be a good day,” she said to herself, punctuating her sentence with a short but prominent yawn.
Cinder then tiredly hopped out of bed, well, fell out of bed is a better word for it, and began to leave for the bathroom to get ready, only to remember at the last second her father’s unreasonable order to make her bed each morning. Cinder’s dad was always complaining that her bed looked like a tornado had swept through it after she slept there.
Cinder groaned and headed back for her bed, which admittedly looked like a disaster even after a full night of sleep. After quickly making her bed, Cinder grabbed the nearest set of clothes she could find and stumbled to the bathroom to get ready, hoping to be finished before her parents came upstairs to check and that she looked at least somewhat decent in her random choice of clothes.
Once she was finished getting dressed, she hurriedly grabbed a comb from the counter top, trying in vain to tame her long red curls. When she finally realized that there would be no hope in trying to attempt such a task, she pulled back her hair into a ponytail and turned to look at herself in the mirror.
A bright young girl stood in the reflection, almost at the age of thirteen. Cinder’s outfit was acceptable enough; a sports jersey passed down from her dad that was far too big for her with a pair of shiny black leggings. Her long red curls were pulled back into a tight ponytail with many strands of hair sticking out from the attempted orderly hairstyle, with warm, hazel eyes that could almost be a shade of yellow.
“Perfect,” she muttered and walked (or perhaps stumbled is a better word for it) down the stairs to her parents.
“Good morning, Cindy,” Cinder’s mom greeted cheerily, pouring milk for Cinder’s cereal.
“Ugh,” Cinder’s dad grunted, flipping absentmindedly through the newspaper. Cinder’s mom was a morning person. Cinder’s dad was not.
“I told you to call me Cinder now. It’s much more professional,” Cinder replied indignantly as she sat down to eat her breakfast.
“You got it, Cindy,” Cinder’s mom winked before sitting down beside her.
Following the speedy breakfast, Cinder got up from her seat, hugged both her parent’s goodbye and then grabbed her backpack, laced up her shoes and at the last second, remembered to get her homework from her room as she finally made her way to school. And she was almost there, only to be delayed by a sound of pounding feet behind her.
“Cinder, wait up!” Cinder, recognizing his voice, smiled and slowed her pace, allowing Mason to catch up.
“Mason, I told you to fix your alarm clock,” she teased while Mason tried desperately to regain his breath.
“It’s not...my fault...you walk...so fast,” he countered, childishly sticking out his tongue.
Yes, it was a perfectly normal day for Cinder Brookes. Perfectly normal indeed.
“Hey Cinderella,” Blake taunted, throwing his arm around Cinder, surprising her so greatly she nearly fell over. “You know, all Weasleys have red hair. So why do you walk instead of fly when your terrible at walking in the first place?”
Blake’s friends, Kevin, Mike and all the rest chortled as if what he had said was the funniest thing in the world while Cinder and Mason merely shared an exasperated glance.
“Why did we take the shortcut through the alley,” Mason groaned.
Yep, it was a perfectly normal day. And what would a perfectly normal school day be without starting it with your perfectly average school bully. Especially a bully who knew exactly what to say so that it was purposefully annoying, but not so extreme that it would draw the attention of an adult.
“Come on Mason,” Cinder said, in no mood to spend any time around Blake. “Let’s just leave.”
Cinder then ducked under Blake’s arm and walked ahead to Mason, with the full intent to leave Blake and his cronies behind. However, the next words Blake spoke stopped her in her tracks.
“Hey Cindy, I heard your aunt’s gone to jail. What was the crime again? Harassment or some junk? I can’t say I’m surprised that someone related to you is a disaster.”
And even though she knew people like Blake only are looking for a response, she couldn’t help but open her mouth.
“Why don’t you ever just be quiet,” Cinder snapped, turning back to him.
“Cinder, he’s not worth it,” Mason whispered, tugging her hand.
“I know! I just wish he didn’t go to this school. I wish I never met him!” However Blake, delighted by the apparently touchy subject, didn’t seem to realize that this time he had gone too far.
“You know, there’s no reason to hide it. You’re both from the same family, you look exactly alike, and you’re both extremely clumsy. You’re just like her.”
And for Cinder, that was the last straw. All she could remember next was staring at Blake’s face before a bright red light filled her entire vision. And the first thing she saw after that were two scarlet strings of energy that seemed to somehow come from her outstretched hands and Blake and his goons looking absolutely terrified as they stood floating in the air.
“Cinder,” Mason breathed. ”What’s happening?”
“I...I don’t know!” Cinder whispered, staring with her mouth open wide at her hands.
Suddenly, they heard a woman yell behind all of them.
They turned to look at what was happening and with Cinder’s eyes no longer toward Blake and his friends, they crashed down to the ground. There, standing in front of them, was the outline of a red-haired woman, flickering like she was nothing but a hologram.
“Aunt Celeste,” Cinder gasped.
Cinder awoke with a start and turned to look at the alarm clock, checking to see the day. Wednesday, April 15. She then sat up in her bed and looked wildly around, totally confused and gasping for air.
“What the heck just happened,” she panted, her heart nearly pounding out of her chest.
Kevin’s uncle was definitely a bit odd. Everyone in his family said so. So when Kevin’s uncle moved to town, they all were delighted, as they still were family, but they advised the children to stay away from him. Kevin never really understood why. To him, Uncle Drew seemed like the coolest guy in the world.
Kevin remembered how when he was little, Uncle Drew would always come over and tell him the wildest of stories. The golden-eyed witches lurked in every corner, cackling in the moonlight and using their powers for bad. And in the end, Uncle Drew would make him and Kevin the heroes, the ones descended from the witch hunters so many centuries ago, fighting away the evil witches and stopping their rein once and for all.
Eventually, Kevin’s mom asked him to stop coming over, afraid that Kevin would get nightmares of the horrible witches and that Kevin would start to believe they were real. But Kevin never forgot. And, unbeknownst to his mother, every day after school Kevin still visited his house, fascinated to hear more stories of the wicked red haired and golden eyed witches.
One day after school when Kevin rode his bike over to Uncle Drew’s house, he found him laid out on the floor, staring at the ceiling. Kevin remembered running over to him, shaking him and asking him if he was okay. What happened next spooked Kevin so greatly he almost never went back to Uncle Drew’s house again. Uncle Drew sat up straight, looking somewhat like a robot and turned to Kevin without blinking once.
“I found the witch,” he had whispered, giggling like a child. “I found her.”
Celeste laid on her rackety old, bed staring at the ceiling above. Well, at least that’s what your average spectator would have seen. But if that spectator had stopped to really look, they would have noticed the little things, like how her eyes seemed to be glazed over and there was absolutely no color flushed to her cheeks. They would have noticed that there was something very strange happening. And indeed it was.
For there, inside her mind, were visions being played like a movie. First it was Cinder sleeping soundly in her bed, then it was her doing her homework, and finally Cinder leaving for school. Yes, Celeste was keeping tabs on Cinder. But not just because she missed her. Oh no, there was a much darker reason behind that. It all started with the day she was arrested - the day she had finally met the crazy guy in town.
It felt as if it was only yesterday when it happened. Celeste had been walking down the street, whistling a happy tune without a care in the world. She hurried along to her apartment, eager to finish her newest project so she could finally rest after a long day of work. Celeste remembered the moment exactly. She had just gotten out of the elevator and into her apartment when she heard the ring of her intercom.
She recalled frowning in confusion, remembering how she had specifically told them she wanted to get her project in by midnight. She had then walked over to the intercom, about to tell the person just that, when his chilling voice stopped her quick. But it was the context of what he said was more shocking than anything else.
“I know what you are. 114 Franklin Road. 9:00. Be there.”
Of course she had to go. How could she have not? Would it be possible that anyone would actually believe him? It turns out, they didn’t have to. Celeste had taken a seat across from the man, her eyes never quite meeting his face, even though she knew that she had done absolutely nothing wrong. It was clear, even from a brief meeting, that this man was insane.
Trinkets and toys littered the floor and pictures covered up every inch of the wall. Most of them didn’t even make sense. The only one that seemed to be normal, or even in focus, was of a young boy smiling with his arms wrapped tight around a clearly unkempt man. The man that was seated in front of her.
Celeste continued to sort through the visions, watching a particularly recent one of Cinder and her friend walking to school, only to be stopped by what seemed to be a school bully, his gang stationed behind him. Celeste almost disregarded what was happening, seeing that while the guy was annoying he seemed to not be a danger, but something told her that something was off with the scene.
So Celeste stayed, knowing by now to trust her gut, and started to try to pay close attention to the scene unfolding before her. And when the magnitude of the situation finally weighed upon her, she almost gasped in shock, realizing now what she had been missing. The boy egging him on, the dumb bully, just getting a reaction out of Cinder - it all made sense.
Celeste quickly closed her eyes, knowing that there wasn’t any time to lose. She knew she had to fix what was going to happen, even if it would take up all of her magic. Even though the boy already knew too much. Celeste watched her spirit leave her body and disappear into the darkness of the cell, praying that she wasn’t too late.