I don’t have magic. And I don’t smell either. Well, not smell in the sense of pee, or BO. In fact, if Mum didn’t insist all her phoney potions need a drop of jasmine or sandalwood, I wouldn’t smell of anything other than lavender shower gel.
I’m reminding myself, so that when I see Miss Snippy-tits – sorry, Miss Snippleton, the headmistress who makes Hades look like fun – I have my story straight.
God, I hate to be called by my full name. I get to my feet and face the secretary and make myself breathe calmly.
“Yes, Miss.” They’re all Miss. It’s the only way I remember them.
“You can go in now.” She manages to make it sound like a favour.
I do, ducking my head – when you’re the only girl who’s 6’1” in the class, you get used to ducking, just in case. I stand in front of the desk. Snippy-tits’ face is a closed line of anger. I am in the deep shit here. Oh, yes, I am.
“Take a seat, Cassandra.”
I do. I wait. She waits. I look at the desk and wonder if it would burn well – some plastics don’t. I look at her eyes and wish they were friendlier. If they were, I wouldn’t get so narked.
“I’ve spoken to Jasper,” she says. “And now I’d like your side of things.”
“My side? I don’t have one, Miss. I was on the other side of the classroom.”
She opens her drawer, and I know, absolutely know, what she’s going to bring out. There’s no pleasure in being right, and I stare at my hands as she opens my class record and flicks through it.
“Three times,” she says.
I nod. I have been in this office three times in the last six months, having the same conversation, and I’ll have it again today until we agree there’s nothing to be explained and I’m allowed to go home. Then I’ll help Mum with her spell-making for Mrs Goddard to stop Mr Goddard sleeping with Mr Asram two doors down, which will work as well as it did the last time. Because magic isn’t real. Just because my family have the reputation of being a bit kooky – read for that, three generations of supposed witches – doesn’t mean it works.
“Jasper claims his… accident,” she manages, face straight, “wasn’t an accident. He claims you did it.”
“The bunsen burner did it.” I keep my face straight, remembering science class. It was a pity he’d had such bushy eyebrows for a sixteen year old. “I was on the other side of the classroom, Miss.”
“Indeed.” She rattles a sheet of paper at me, and I can see the handwriting of Mr Simms, the chemistry teacher. “On the other side of the room, close to tears, having been called a name by Jasper.”
“Smelly,” I say. “It’s not a name, not really. And it’s not true.” I bet she thinks it is. I bet she’s planning to spray the place when I go. I want to tell her that I really smell of lavender, but there’s a hotness behind my eyes and I’m afraid I might cry. It’s bad enough getting narked off; getting upset is a whole other kaboodle. “But I didn’t do anything. I was nowhere near him.”
She shuffles the papers. “Just like you were nowhere near Angie in the playground, the time she got knocked over by the ball?”
“That’s right.” Why did she have to bring up that day? I had that filed under do-not-ever-go-there-again. I mean, Angie McClean, she of the golden hair and white teeth, and rich enough not to need the paint-set she’d nicked. I’d taken a detention for her.
“Or Mr Simms?” I’d known that was coming. What can I say? Chemistry labs are dangerous. It’s all that combustible stuff. And it wasn’t like his shirt didn’t wash out. Eventually. “You were right beside him that day.”
I’ve had enough. I can feel it. I meet her eyes and try to think of nothing except getting home.
“Miss, I didn’t do anything. I mean, what do you think I am? A witch?”
She can’t answer that because if she says yes, she’ll look like an idiot who believes in magic, and if she says no, she has no proof that I did anything. I need to pace when I’m this narked. If I don’t, my fingers go all tingly. I get to my feet. “I want to go.”
“Cassandra, I want to help.” Her voice is softer now, like she thinks she can help. As a third-generation non-witch, there’s nothing that can be tried on me that Mum and Gran haven’t had done to them. Gran was dunked, for heaven’s sake; they only let her go when the town hall blew up. Gran can get narked like no one else.
“I don’t know what you mean.” I put my hand on the door. “I have to go. Right now.”
“If you leave, there will be trouble.”
Trouble will have my Mum here, and then I’ll be in trouble at home for lack-of-control. Mum’ll tell me it’s my hormones, and that’ll upset me, and the spell will go wrong, like last time, and poor Mr Asram will never get free of Mr Gropey-Goddard. I breathe, in and out, in and out, six times, and then I turn back, ready to be civil and polite until she lets me go.
My breath leaves me. I try to think of what to say to her but words escape me. She’s bound to notice sometime. Anyone would notice their own eyes turning purple. I don’t suppose telling her ‘her eyes were much friendlier than before’ will help. I stare at her and know that tomorrow I’ll be back again, telling her I didn’t do anything. Because, we know, right? I don’t have magic. Not real magic, with a swirly cape. I just have hormones. Big ones. Especially when I’m narked.