One They're always the same. Always at night, in the forest, looking for Drea. The sound of his body lurking somewhere behind me. Branches breaking. Leaves crackling. Wind whirring in my ears, watering my eyes. And the pain in my stomach-sharp, raw, scathing. Real. My nightmares make me dread sleep. I pinch the safety end of the razor blade between three fingers to write. Then I grab the virgin candle and carve the initials D. O. E. S. into the rounded side, tiny flakes of sparkling blue wax crumbling from the surface with each incision and every drag of the blade. They're Drea's initials, but she doesn't suspect a thing, just keeps scribbling away in her diary, like any other night, sitting up in her bed, only a few feet away. With the last curl of the S, I place the razor to the side and pluck a branch of sage from the drawer. It's perfect for burning, all dried up-the leaves shriveled, twisted and gray. I wind a piece of string around it for a cleaner burn, so it won't be as smoky, so I'll have less chance of getting in trouble. Then I drop it into the orange clay pot by my bed. "Going to bed?" Drea asks. "In a few." I unscrew the cap off the bottle of olive oil and pour a few droplets onto my finger. She nods and yawns, caps her feather-tipped pen, and closes up the diary. "Just do me a favor and don't burn the dorm down. I have a serious history presentation tomorrow." "All the more reason," I joke. Drea and I have been roommates for a little over two years, so she's used to rituals like this. She rolls over onto her side and pulls the covers up to her chin. "Better not stay up too late. Don't you have a French test tomorrow morning?" "Thanks, Mom." I watch as she closes her eyes, as her lips settle for sleep, as the muscles around her forehead loosen and relax. It's sickening. Even after midnight, with no visible trace of makeup, not a smidgen of cover-up, hair knotted up in a rubber band, she still looks perfect-angled cheeks; salmonpink, pouty lips; loopy, golden hair; and cat-shaped eyes with curled, jet-black lashes. It's no wonder why every guy at Hillcrest wants her, why every girl hates her-why Chad keeps coming back, even after three breakups. I touch the top end of the candle with my oily finger. "As above," I whisper. Then I touch the bottom. "So below." I wet my finger with more of the oil and touch the center surface. I drag my finger upward, return it to the center, and then drag it downward, careful to keep the carved letters pointed in my direction so she won't see. "Wouldn't it be easier just to wet the whole thing at once?" Drea asks, her eyes, open, watching me. I turn the candle counterclockwise, blocking the letters with my palm, and continue moistening the circumference in the same fashion. "Probably, but that would confuse the energies." "Of course," she says, rolling over. "How ignorant of me." When the candle is fully anointed, I light it with a long, wooden match and place it on the silver holder my grandmother gave me before she passed away. It's my favorite holder because it was hers and it's sort of dishlike, with a curly handle that winds around the base. I close my eyes and concentrate on the waning moon outside, how it's an opportune night to make things go away, how the sage and the engraved candle will help. I light the branch and watch it burn; the leaves curl up and dance in the orangy-yellow flame, then turn black and disappear, the way I pray my nightmares will. When the sage is no more than ashes, I
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Llewellyn Worldwide, LTD.
October 31, 2012
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