We were at the bookstore, you know the one west of the school, next to the fancy bakery, with the vintage neon sign in the window, you can’t miss it. It was a particularly dusty morning, the air heavy as rays of sunlight pierced through it. We came here often, not just to work in the evenings, since this shop was a home before a job, for me and Chai anyway. Mercedes drove us today, which meant we needed to leave soon, or risk being late, since Mercedes always drives the speed limit. We love a safe driver.
Our boss, Primrose, watches us attentively from behind the counter, waiting for Chai to do something questionable, which was a commonality here. Chai is presently making our morning teas: lavender for me, chamomile for Mercedes, and chai (obviously) for Chai.
“Why do you even like chamomile, Mercedes?” Chai asked while haphazardly putting lids on our teas. “It’s so mellow, nothing like the queen of all teas-,”
I rolled my eyes. “We know, chai tea is the queen, just like you are.”
“Chamomile is mellow yes, but chai is just too much sometimes. Sometimes you just need a cup of chamomile, and this morning is one of those times,” Mercedes retrieved her tea from Chai and checked her watch. “Time to go guys.”
“Alright fine,” Chai handed me my tea and swung a left around the bookcase near the door. “Gotta get something to read during history today. Oh! This will do nicely.”
She came back around the corner so quickly that I didn’t even catch what book she grabbed. Primrose sat up suddenly, closing the book she was reading. “Hey Chai what-,”
“I’ll bring it back after school, and I promise it’ll be in mint-” she pointed to her bright mint green hair, “-condition! Bye Primrose we’ll see you tonight!”
Primrose rolled her eyes and waved to us as we headed out to Mercedes’ car, tea and Chai’s book in hand.
“What did you even grab?” I leaned around the passenger seat and grabbed the book from Chai. She’s been banished to the backseat ever since Mercedes had to break check her when she refused to put her seatbelt on. The title read “Origins of Magical Practice: Volume Four: The Lost Sages of Rome.” Gripping.
Chai sipped her tea. “Well Miss Diantha,” she flipped her hair with more sass than normal, especially since she never calls me by my full first name. Just doing that alone was a statement. “I’m studying up on the eras they skim through at school, as if the education system won’t fulfill my studying requests, then I’ll do it myself.”
That made sense honestly. Chai is and always has been our resident history buff.
“Did I tell you guys what happened at work yesterday?” Mercedes piped up from the driver’s seat.
“No? Did something crazy happen, Mercy?” Chai asked as I returned her book to her.
Mercedes chuckled softly, her eyes not leaving the road. “Hayes stopped by,” I heard a quiet this should be good from the backseat. “I didn’t even see him come in, but I was sitting at the counter talking to the notorious radish lady-,” We all knew about the notorious radish lady, who came in about once a month and bought all the radish plants from the nursery. Nobody knows where she lives, or what she uses them all for. “-and I heard one of the girls in the back yelling, so I went to investigate. I found Hayes trying to leave through the back door, his arms full of various vegetable plants! He told me that they just spoke to him, and that he had to take them home. He then paid for them in the end, but it seems that he spooked the girl in the back, just coming out of nowhere and trying to steal vegetables!”
“He’s always been a weird one, that’s for sure!” Chai said, throwing her head back in a laugh. “Always been the big jock baby with an affinity for scaring us in public. Speaking of scaring…”
I started laughing. “No I want to tell this one!” Chai scoffed jokingly in the backseat while Mercedes questioned us in a whisper. “Chai frightened a child last night at the bookstore!” I shouted before breaking down laughing.
Laughter filled the car as we turned onto the road in front of the school. Mercedes was the first to be freed from the giggle fit. “How in the world did you manage to do that in a bookstore?”
“Well you see,” Chai leaned up between the front seats, looking between us like a plotting villainess. “I was shelving the horror section, and this tiny child came up behind me asking where the fairy tales were, but as I turned to speak to her, I accidentally dropped this horrifying book with dismembered limbs on the front, and this kid just screamed so loud. I still feel bad.”
“What book was it?” Mercedes asked.
“I genuinely don’t remember. It was some shock factor slasher that we carry like a total of three copies of. The only interesting part is how frightening the cover is, like I’ve heard the story is terrible. But it was enough to scare that kid.”
We pulled into the school parking lot, Chai launching herself out the door the moment Mercedes turned the car off. Hayes was parked nearby, and upon closer inspection, he was attempting to wedge a tangled mess of sports equipment into the backseat. I’m not surprised in the slightest, since every season for Hayes brings another sport.
“Good morning Hayes. What are you doing?” I said when we reached him.
He spun around quickly, his golden eyes reflecting the sunlight. “Oh, hi guys!” His cheery demeanor always brightens my day. “How are y’all? I’ve been spending my morning organizing my gear for this year.”
“Just for this year?” Chai asked, not really expecting an answer.
Organizing for Hayes meant shoving everything in his car without any reason or system. Chai always likes to say that Hayes has big baby energy, which oddly makes sense, despite him being able to pick up all three of us on his shoulders at once.
Mercedes went to the other side of Hayes’ car to help him actually organize, finding that a lacrosse stick was wedged beneath all the other gear, trapping it. She’s always been our best problem solver. Once Hayes was all sorted, the four of us started our walk up to the school. It was a beautiful day, and here we were, once again spending our time pursuing an education.
I drove Val to school today, which isn’t an odd thing really. Her gaze was idly out the window, her mind far away from the school we were approaching. She looked almost like a young kid, nervous about her first day of school. Her pink cardigan and patterned skirt certainly fit that appearance.
“Alright honey, have a good day at school!” I exclaimed after I had parked my car. I tried my best to mimic my mom’s smile from my first day of elementary school. She always looked worried, but her semi-fake smile was enough to encourage me to have a genuinely good day at school.
Val didn’t agree with that sentiment, and she got out of the car quickly, all her calm vibes lost to the morning wind. For the record, Val is very short, like shorter than some middle schoolers short. She was building up to scream at me, when Winston appeared suddenly behind her, scooping her up by her waist. She did still scream, just not at me.
“Why do you always have to do that?” Val shouted upon being put down.
Winston chuckled. “I’m very sorry Miss Valeria, did I interrupt your accusations?”
Everybody and their mother at this point knew that calling Val by her full name was a guaranteed cause for her to have a fit. Instead, she touched Winston on the nose, a sparkle of enchantment magic sparkling off her finger. “Hope you like following me around today,” The Charmer strikes again.
Val waved to me and headed off to the school, Winston unwillingly following closely behind her, requesting that she remove the charm immediately, to no avail. He should have seen it coming, to be honest. Grabbing my bag and locking my car, I started my walk up to the school.
Ah yes, the Hawthorn School for Talented Young Adults, or what us less fancy people refer to as Hawthorn High School. It’s far from what you’d picture a semi magic institute to look like, but it sure doesn’t look like the storybook conception of a high school. I’ve heard some children refer to it as a palace, but trust me, this place looks nothing like a palace either.
It’s a classic old brick building, with odd alcoves and windows littering the front facade. There’s a front garden full of ivys and the occasional rogue flower, but no fanciful fountain or magical arbor is there to bring fairytale magic into the school. The clock tower stands tall, front and center, though the bells haven’t chimed in what has to be decades. It’s a sturdy school that’s withstood the tests of time and magic, which I guess is something you want when it comes to a school of magic and other modern practices.
Once you pass through the doors, Hawthorn looks like any other high school. Running face first into the massive, obstructing bulletin board is almost a rite of passage, and so is realizing that one of today’s announcements is stuck to your shirt. Security keeps a close eye on us as we enter, which is to be expected. If I was a security guard at a magic school, I think I’d have at least a page of reasons to be paranoid.
The building is split into two levels, the upstairs and downstairs, with the downstairs being partially in a basement. With the main entrance, offices, and lunchroom in the upstairs, most students gather there to flaunt their new skills to their friends and cause mischief, which is more likely than not, unavoidable. The music rooms and some of the more conventional classes find their homes in the upstairs, and most tours display them proudly. The downstairs has more of the classrooms and classes that would be considered questionable to outsiders, so they’re tucked in the basement section, where it would take some extreme magic to alert outsiders of any happenings. The gym and auditorium are also in the downstairs, along with a nice student space for studying or otherwise. It’s all very comfortable, and pleasant to be in, contrary to expectations, since it is a school and all. A school for talented kids, of course.
Take that as you will, since all manner of magic is taught and examined here, and we’ve been known for having a strange occurrence or two every so often. But it’s been a good while since anything crazy’s happened, so who knows. Maybe it’s time for a little bit of magic to get out of hand. It wouldn’t surprise me at this point.
It was always easy to spot Sunflower’s car, considering she has what’s gotta be seven sunflower stickers on her back windshield, all drawn differently with varying degrees of realism. She always recieves them as gifts due to her namesake, so she plasters her car in them out of pure sass. I went up and tapped on her window, prompting her to get out and give me a quick hug hello.
“Good morning, I brought you a coffee,” Sunflower was our designated caretaker of sorts, always making sure me, Val, and Winston were alive and well. We met at the print shop while I was at work about a year ago, and she’s taken on the role of group parent very well.
On our way up to the school, Skye called out to us. They jogged over, backpack and oboe case bobbing as they ran. “Morning guys, glad you didn’t crash on the way,” They almost always greeted us with this, which was completely valid when it comes to the madness of the morning drive.
“Glad to see you here before the second bell,” I said. Skye was notorious for being late to everything, except band. It was enigmatic in a way.
Sunny gave Skye a coffee and inquired about Val and Winston. “Oh yeah,” I started. “Winston scared Val so bad this morning that she actually charmed him to follow her around.”
A smile stretched across Sunny’s face. “That sounds like Val. Well hopefully we’ll see them before class starts. I don’t want their coffees to get cold,” Sunny just innately knows what coffee we all like, and nobody questions it. Some things are just meant to be magical, and Sunny is nothing short of that.
Once settled, we all made our way to the school, hardly prepared for the day ahead.
Want to read more? Stay tuned for future updates continuing the story!