Authors: Marlene Perez
at school, I felt like someone had painted a bull's-eye on my back. The air fairly reeked of suspicion, innuendo, and rumors. More than the normal high school, that is.
When I walked down the hall, the whispers started. I hadn't a clue what they were whispering about, but it couldn't be good.
In English class, I was staring at the blackboard, not really comprehending the chalk letters written there, when a voice interrupted my train of thought.
"Hey, hey, Daisy," Austin Waterman said in a whisper. I tried to ignore him. He was the biggest wannabe lady's man at Nightshade and he gave me the skeevs.
I ignored him, but looked pointedly at Ms. Tripplehorn, who was not one of the teachers who usually put up with chatter in her classroom.
"Daisy, so you and Sean, huh?"
"What are you talking about?"
He gave me a wink. "Riiight," he said, stretching the word out meaningfully.
But I wasn't catching his meaning.
Austin leaned in and said, "If you ever want to get together..." He put a hand on my arm.
I pushed him away.
a boy friend," I said. "And even if I didn't, I'm not interested in hooking up with you."
"Walsh is good enough for you, but I'm not?" He sneered.
"Sean is Samantha's boyfriend," I said. "He and I are just friends."
"That's not what I heard," he said.
"Where, exactly, did you hear that?"
"You're famous," he said. "Or should I say, infamous?"
I took a deep breath. He was lucky that I had my powers under control or he might have ended up toasted like a marshmallow.
"Tell me who you heard this garbage from," I said.
"I didn't hear it," he said. "I read it."
I didn't know you could read.
I bit back the totally junior high comment before it escaped my lips. Antagonizing him wouldn't get me the information I needed.
He wouldn't give me the information, though, so I had to try to get it out of that pin-size brain of his.
It was like wading in gelatin, but I finally found the information I was looking for. The bathroom wall? How ... stereotypical.
I decided to check it out for myself. Sure enough, the once pristine wall in the third-floor girls' bathroom was covered with ugliness. Who would write such horrible things?
I asked Ryan about it at lunch that day.
"There are some pretty horrid things written on the walls of the girls' bathroom," I said. "I was wondering if the boys' had been hit, too."
Ryan nodded. "It's hard not to notice," he said. "And it seems to be getting worse."
"Do you recognize the writing?" I asked.
"No," he said. "But is it just me, or does it seem like it changes all the time?"
"You mean someone writes new stuff?"
"That, too," he said. "But I meant that the writing itself changes. I was reading something when the handwriting switched from printing to cursive."
"That's ... freaky," I replied.
"Yeah, that's what I thought," he said.
"I'm going to talk to Principal Amador about it," I said.
Ryan offered to come with me.
The principal had Ms. Tray sit in on our meeting.
"That's just awful, Daisy," she drawled when I told her the kinds of things that had been written about me. "If you ever need to talk about it, I'm here for you." Something about the way she said it seemed totally insincere.
Principal Amador promised to have the bathrooms repainted that very day, and I thought the problem was solved. But the angry writing reappeared later that week.
"That's it," I said to Ryan after school on Wednesday. "I'm going to find out who's doing it."
"Do you need some help?"
"Not unless you want to stake out the bathroom with me," I said.
"Spending time with you? What's not to like about that scenario?" Ryan said. "Name the time."
We hung around after school until it looked like everyone had left. I half expected someone to bust us, but we didn't encounter anyone on our way to the third-floor bathroom.
I kept a sharp eye out for Ms. Tray. Her office was on the third floor, near the bathroom. Ryan might like her, but she gave me the creeps.
The bathroom was empty and the walls were pristine.
"Principal Amador must have ordered it to be painted over again," I said, but I wasn't sure how that was possible. I was sure I'd just seen new writing in there that very morning.
"Now what?" Ryan said.
"I'm sure the culprit will come back," I said. "So now we wait."
"In the girls' bathroom?" he said. He didn't try to keep the horror from his voice. "What if we get caught?"
"If you hear someone coming, just give me a kiss," I suggested.
Ryan grinned. "Will do."
A minute later, he said, "Did you hear that?"
"Someone's coming," he said, and then swept me into his arms.
"I can't believe I fell for that," I said, several minutes later.
"It seemed like a good way to pass the time," Ryan said.
We waited there for over an hour, but no one entered the room.
I went to the sink to splash some cold water on my face. When I looked up, letters began to materialize on the wall nearest the sink. As I watched, the letters became an entire sentence, written in an angry black scrawl. "A certain Were cub in San Carlos has Ryan Mendez's green eyes."
Rage swept over me. The mirror above the sink shattered. A shard barely missed Ryan's head, but he didn't seem to care.
"What is it? What's wrong?" he said.
I pointed with a shaking hand to the writing on the wall.
"Unbelievable," Ryan said.
"Let's get out of here," I said.
I interrupted him. "Whoever is doing this obviously knows we're here. Let's go."
We didn't say anything until we were out of the building and in Ryan's car.
"You don't believe it, do you?" Ryan asked. His hands were clenched tightly at his side.
"Of course I do," I said.
I finally registered the misery on my boyfriend's face. "No, I didn't mean it like that," I responded. "I meant that I know you have a little cousin in San Carlos. I met him, remember? He has green eyes, just like you."
"You scared me," Ryan said. "Was the mirror..."
"Me," I admitted. "I lost my temper."
He gave me a hug. "Your powers are getting stronger."
"Don't you know by now that I wouldn't believe any rumors about you. But I wonder who else knows about your cousin Ben?"
"It's not exactly a secret," Ryan said.
"True," I said. "But why would someone go to the trouble of putting it up on the bathroom wall?"
"And the bigger question is how did he or she manage to do it when we were standing right there?"
"It seems suspiciously supernatural," I replied. "I think it's time to get my sisters involved in this."
"We'll figure it out," Ryan said. "We always do."
I certainly hoped so. I wasn't sure my reputation could take much more of it.
When I got home,
I filled my sisters in on the situation at school.
"Is it only the girls' bathroom?" Poppy asked.
"Boys' and girls'," I said. "Those third-floor bathrooms are enchanted or something. Nobody was in there besides us."
Rose looked at me shrewdly. "You're sure you weren't distracted? Even for a minute?"
My blush gave me away, but Rose's only comment was "Hmm."
"We need to have another stakeout," Poppy said.
"Maybe Natalie can help," I suggested. Natalie was Slim's girlfriend and a witch. The good kind.
"She should be able to tell us if someone has used magic," Rose said.
"I wonder if a witch can recognize another witch's style," Poppy said.
"Let's stop over at the pumpkin patch and talk to her."
Natalie lived with Slim, but she was running a pumpkin patch on her grandmother's property, right in our neighborhood. Mrs. Mason, Natalie's grandmother, had died recently. Everyone had thought of Mrs. Mason as a kindly witch who wore pink track suits and loved gardening, but it turned out she had been helping the Scourge, creating doppelgangers. Her greenhouse had been destroyed in a terrible accident, but the former grounds were still enchanted, making for some huge pumpkins.
Natalie seemed really happy to see us, and she invited us into the small shed where she oversaw the pumpkin patch. "I'm just closing up for the day," she informed us.
"How's business?" Rose asked.
"Great," Natalie said. "The anniversary festivities have really brought a lot of people to town. I'm just hoping all the extra business helps Slim get back on his feet."
"Me, too," I said.
"These really are some superb pumpkins you have here," Poppy said as she admired a massive orange specimen in the corner of the shed. Natalie's familiar, a cat, came up and rubbed its face on the hem of Natalie's overalls and purred appreciatively.
"You can't get a better pumpkin anywhere," Natalie said. She added wistfully, "Grandma wasn't perfect, but she really did have a knack for gardening."
She offered us some hot chocolate from a thermos and we discussed our problem.
"When did you notice the writing?" Natalie asked.
"Just a few days ago," I said.
"Anything else weird going on?" she asked.
"You mean weirder than usual?" I replied. "Gossip, a bathroom wall that spews lies, and a mysterious blackmailer. Business as usual at Nightshade High."
"Hmm," Natalie said. "And you say that the writing just appeared?"
"I'm pretty sure," I said.
"Is something like that even possible?" Poppy asked.
Natalie nodded. "I know of a few spells. Or it could be a poltergeist."
Poppy went still.
"A poltergeist?" Rose repeated. She gave Poppy a worried look.
"A haunting," Natalie clarified.
"You mean a ghost?" Poppy said. At my concerned look, she added, "Don't worry. I know it's not Gage." Her chin trembled a little. "He's gone for good. I accept it."
"Can you get me in there tomorrow after school?" Natalie asked.
"Sure," I said. "The cheerleaders will be practicing, so Sam can let us in."
"I'll come, too," Poppy said.
"Should we bring anything?" Rose asked.
"You're coming, too?" I said.
"I wouldn't miss it for anything," she replied. "Besides, there's strength in numbers."
Samantha was in the gym with the other cheerleaders when my sisters got to the school.
Natalie was already there, watching their workout from the bleachers. "I always wanted to try out for cheerleading," she admitted.
"Why didn't you?" Rose asked.
"My gr-grandmother wouldn't let me," she said.
Sam said something to the other cheerleaders and then joined us.
"You guys ready?" she asked.
Natalie nodded and Sam led our little expedition through the school.
There wasn't a sign of any problem in the boys' bathroom on the third floor, but Poppy offered to keep watch.
"Are you sure you'll be okay in here alone?" I asked.
"Oh yeah," she assured us. "Maybe I'll even meet a new guy."
Sam looked scandalized. "I'm kidding," Poppy laughed. "Nobody is in the building except the cheerleaders. I've got a book and my phone, and you guys are right next door. I'll be fine." With that, the door of the boys' room swung shut behind her.
In the girls' bathroom, we found a whole wall of new graffiti. I was the featured player in most of it. While we watched, a new slur appeared on the wall. It read "Daisy Giordano: Psychic or Psycho?"
Natalie studied it for a minute. "Definitely witchcraft," she said. "But I'm not sure who. The spell itself is master level, but the workmanship is uncertain, shaky, which would indicate a new witch. Someone found an ancient spellbook is my guess."
"How many witches are there in Nightshade?" Samantha asked.
Natalie shrugged. "I have no idea," she said. "Not everyone is out, and Grandma never took me to any local coven meetings, anyway. I don't think she was happy that there was another witch in the family."
"What can we do?" I asked her.
"I think I can break the spell," she said. "I have some ingredients with me, but I'm going to have to go to the science lab to put them together."
"I'll show you where it is," Sam said. "And then I've got to get back to the squad."
"We'll wait here," I said, speaking for my sister, too. There was no way I was staying there by myself.
After they left, Rose's cell went off. She looked at the number. "I have to take this," she said. "I'll be right back. The acoustics are horrible in here."
"Wait," I said. But she was already gone. I didn't want to admit that the changing handwriting gave me serious heebie-jeebies, so I hopped up on the counter and waited for someone to come back.
It seemed like they were gone a long time, so when the door opened, I didn't even look to see who was standing there.
"It's about time," I said.
"Are you talking to yourself?" Penny asked. "Geez, Giordano, you're really losing it lately."
She had a point, but I wasn't going to let her know that.
"I thought you were my sister," I said. "What are you doing here?"
"The usual," Penny said dryly. "Not that it's any of your business."
"Why didn't you use the bathroom by the gym?" I said suspiciously.
Penny sighed, clearly annoyed. "If you must know, the downstairs bathrooms are being cleaned."
"Oh," I said. Then I noticed she was carrying a purple and orange La Contessa bag. Just like the one Sam said she'd sold to Circe. A one-of-a-kind item that suddenly seemed to be popping up everywhere. "Where did you get that bag?"
"This bag?" Penny smiled triumphantly. "You'd never be able to afford one of these in a million years," she said.
I refrained from pointing out that I'd never
a bag like that in a million years.
Rose walked back into the restroom. "Sorry that took so long," she said. "Oh. Hi, Penny."
Penny nodded coldly and then left.
"Any sign of the perp?" Rose asked.
I stared after Penny, lost in thought. "Maybe," I said.
Natalie came back and put the whammy on the nasty little bathroom-wall spell. I watched her as she mixed up ingredients and then sprinkled the powdered substance around the room.
"It smells like peppermint," I said.
She nodded. "I mixed peppermint, wintergreen, and chamomile into arrowroot powder."
The words disappeared, and this time, they didn't come back.
"I'm so relieved," I said. "Thanks so much, Natalie."
"Any time," she said. "But, Daisy, be careful. Someone doesn't like you very much."
"What do you mean?"
"The spell wasn't just to create random gossip. Your name was embedded in that spell," she explained. "Which means those nasty words were definitely aimed at you specifically."
"Who did you tick off this time?" Rose asked.
I sighed. "There's a long list," I said. And now Penny was at the top of it.