There was some commotion going on in the refectory room.
We noticed something was wrong when we heard the noises, as we walked down the steps toward the first floor. People were shouting, sometimes even screaming, and I could hear what seemed like food trays falling on the floor and porcelain dishes shattering into a million tiny fragments each.
“Let’s go,” said Sam, urgently, ushering me to go after her.
We ran down the corridor to where people were gathered.
There was a blue flame hovering above the refectory tables. It zoomed this way and that, quickly, bouncing on anything that found itself on its way. This included people, who fell down on top of each other, and the buffet table. Cutlery and dishes tumbled down on the floor, or flew in the air just to hit people on the other side of the room. Food was everywhere on the floor, and so were books, pencil cases, and pretty much the contents of every student’s bag. A couple of them were trying to counter the blue flame with spells of their own. One tried chanting a sleep spell, but it made no effect on the flame itself, only on the people around him. Another sent an enchanted contraption, which looked a bit like a dragon with leather wings, to chase the flame in the air, but it broke down and fell after a single hit from the blue flame. Finally, the third one was reciting something that seemed to be a spell, but in reality he was just throwing apples in the air, trying to hit the flame with one of them.
“This won’t do,” said Sam, by my side. “They’re helpless.”
“What do we do?”
I dodged a flying backpack, the aftermath of the latest impact of the blue flame against a barricade of students on one corner. Sam was so absorbed in thought that she didn’t even notice that.
“Cotton,” she said finally. “I need cotton. A lot of it.”
Dumbfounded, I watched as Sam walked up to the center of the room, and shouted at the people present.
“Attention everyone! Guys, mostly! Any one of you who’s wearing a cotton shirt, I need you to give it to me. I can stop this thing, but we need a lot of cotton stuff. I’m serious.”
That was a weird demand, but the whole situation was so unreal that nobody questioned it.
“How do I know if my shirt’s made of cotton?” asked one boy.
“Check the label, can’t you?” said Sam, ducking to avoid being tackled by the blue flame.
Students all over the place started taking off their shirts and throwing them over to Sam, who stood alone in the middle of the room. Apparently, every one of them was too scared to walk up to her. I snorted. Guys were really useless sometimes.
Sam started tying the shirts together by the sleeves, taking care to avoid the blue flame and any flying debris as she worked. She was slowly building up a huge ball of shirts.
“I need more!” she yelled, once the ball was as wide as a pizza dish. “Probably just a few more. Can anyone else spare a piece of cotton clothing?”
Surprisingly, I saw some guys taking off their socks, and even pants, and throwing them over to Sam at the center of the room, leaving them standing around in nothing but boxer briefs. Sam herself didn’t even seem to care, she was completely focused on building her big clothes ball, as if that task required her complete attention. Once she had tied up enough of those clothes, and the ball looked as large as a bear cub, she picked it up from the floor and held it over her head.
“Come here!” she yelled at the blue flame. “I’ve got something for you!”
She whistled, and for some reason that did make an impression on the flame. It suddenly stopped bouncing on the walls, stood still in the air for a second, then zipped through the air toward Sam and her big ball of clothes.
Everything happened very fast. The blue flame hit the ball, which blew up, and suddenly the air was filled with clothes. T-shirts, pants, socks, sweaters, every cotton item that the guys had donated, were thrown on the air much like the splashes of water that a bowling ball makes when it falls into a pool. They all fell to the floor, covering the chairs, tables, and students with a layer of clothes. The blue flame was nowhere to be seen.
Sam herself stood like a statue in the middle of the room, cotton clothes draped all over her. She removed someone’s sweater from before her eyes, and looked at me.
I was running toward her already.
“Are you all right?” I asked her, concerned.
“Pretty fine, I think.”
“How did you know what to do? About the blue flame?”
“I’ll tell you in more detail later. Let’s just say this spell felt familiar.”
I hugged her, and began to help her get out of that cotton mess.
“THERE SHE IS!” I heard a woman’s voice. I turned around, toward the back of the room, to see a girl I knew very well, coming toward me with a face so nasty it reminded me of a coiled snake. “I knew you were behind this, Anamaria!”
“Who is she?” Sam asked me.
“The priest’s niece. From my hometown.”
“Excuse me?! I have a name. It’s Eleanor. Listen everyone!” she turned around and started speaking to the people who were spread out around the room. “Anamaria is the one to blame for this! She’s cursed!”
I was ready to cry. It seems that even when the curse proved not to be real, it still showed up to torment me anyway. I saw Sam’s face twist in indignation.
“That’s not—” she began to say, but was interrupted, as someone else shouted from the doorway.
“QUIT THAT, ELEANOR!” this person boomed. I knew that voice. I turned around to see Claire standing among a bunch of confused people. She strode forward with confidence, her face flushed red with anger, shouting to the people in the room as she went, but still keeping her eyes on the priest’s niece all the way. “Anamaria is innocent!!!” she yelled. “She doesn’t have a frigging curse! I’m the one to blame for this! It was my spell, not hers! And if you or anyone else in this school bothers Anamaria about that idiotic rumor again, you’ll have to take it up with the student council!! DO YOU HEAR ME, ELEANOR?!”
“I hear you, alright,” she said, eyes widened with surprise. “I mean… You don’t have to shout.”
“Then stop spreading those stupid rumors!” Claire snapped. “I know you’re the one doing it, Eleanor. I’m onto you. Do it again and I’ll have the director call your parents to reprehend you for bad behavior.”
“On what grounds?” the priest’s niece snapped back, recomposing herself after the shock of seeing shy little girl Claire suddenly all bold to come in my defense. “You can’t stop me from telling the truth!”
“I can, if what you call ‘the truth’ is just a bunch of lies!”
“She’s cursed! Everyone back home knows it.”
Claire’s anger bubble burst, and she slapped the girl’s cheek, hard.
There was a moment of complete silence. I realized that nobody had ever seen Claire hit another student, ever.
The priest’s niece glared back at Claire, the shock of that moment being replaced with a full serving of hatred.
“You’re gonna pay for this.”
Suddenly, that girl was on top of Claire, tackling her, trying to punch her or grab her hair, while Claire was attempting to struggle off that position, hitting the girl’s stomach with her knee. The priest’s niece landed a punch on Claire’s nose, which began to bleed, while Claire managed to get a hold of the girl’s hair, yanking her head back so she could break free and get back on her feet. She punched Claire, who punched back, landing a fist on her rib cage, making her fall on her back on top of a small pile of clothes. They were about to tackle each other again, when a number of people held each of the girls back by their arms.
“Apologize to her!” Claire snarled, like an angry dog. “Apologize to Anamaria!”
The other girl just spit on the floor, to signal she wasn’t going to do as she was told.
“Now just what is going on around here?”
Everyone stopped dead on their tracks.
It was Mr. Thomas, the Witchcraft teacher, along with a couple of other teachers (Math and History, to be precise). They were standing on the doorway, looking mad. Out of the three it was clear that Thomas was the one angriest at us.
“What could possibly justify this entire situation?” he said, hissing.
Hoo, boy, now we were in trouble.