While Miss Robichaux’s Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies was doing quite well after a sudden resurgence of magical abilities, Cordelia struggled with finding space for all the girls. So, in order to settle such grievances, she held interviews for all witches who wished to apply.
From that list of seven hundred applicants, fifty were taken into the academy. From those fifty, only twenty actually came. Still, room was required for these girls, and the perfect spot was Zoe and Madison’s own shared quarters. The room of tension, silence, and now disorder.
“I told you to watch them,” Zoe said one day, “for five minutes.”
Madison shrugged, pulling the burning cigarette from her mouth. “I did.” She raised her hand to scan over the whole room, revealing to both herself and Zoe that, in fact, Madison did watch the kids. What Zoe had forgotten to tell her was that by watch, she didn’t mean to just simply sit on her bed as the girls prodded at Zoe’s books, pulling them off their shelves one-by-one. With wide eyes, as well as a pointed stare at Madison, Zoe retrieved her books from the groups of students ogling at pages, attempting to masterfully recite Latin spells, and laughing at Zoe’s messy handwriting in the margins.
With a flushed face, she gathered all her books and Madison placed the cigarette back in her mouth, moving her legs off the edge of her bed. She kicked them, watching the girls groan in annoyance as their interests were being forced onto something less fun than before. Her gaze then shifted to Zoe as her voice took up the room.
“Shouldn’t you all be at dinner right now?”
The girls looked around, not sure whether they wanted to eat or listen in on Zoe and Madison’s intended conversation. It seemed they chose dinner, and, with cheerful shouts and giggles, the room cleared in just a few seconds, leaving Madison and Zoe alone with their visible tension. Since she arrived back from Hell, the atmosphere of Robichaux changed. The young witches begged for Madison’s attention and autographs, leaving the other senior witches and Cordelia frankly upset.
Zoe turned towards her, hands now folding over her chest while Madison drew the cigarette away from her mouth. “I asked Mallory to bring you back, you know.”
“Should have saved your chances.” Madison pressed the end of the cigarette against an ashtray on her dresser, leaning against her pillows.
There was a sigh and then the sound of heavy footsteps. She watched as Zoe moved across the room to her own bed, though didn’t sit. “Everyone told me not to bother, even Mallory protested against it.” She exhaled a sharp breath. “I told her she had to do it, that you would be good. I would make sure of it.”
Madison wanted to make a comment, a rude jest, but bit her tongue. She could read when the time was right for her usual sarcasm and now wasn’t it. Zoe was making a point, a bad one but still a point, nonetheless.
“I should have listened.” Madison watched as Zoe’s eyes fell to the floor, unable to match her gaze. “Mallory’s usually right. I shouldn’t have said something at all.”
Neither spoke for a good minute or so. Finally, the tension broke Zoe and the senior witch left the room. There were no tears from either girl, but instead a lingering feeling of regret, frustration, and distress.
“Maybe you shouldn’t have,” Madison finally retorted once Zoe had left. She pushed herself off the bed and angrily pulled another cigarette from the dispenser on her dresser. The tip burst into a flame once the object pressed against her lips, and Madison drew a long inhale. Though her face was cold, emotionless and a bit angry, she was struck by Zoe’s words. If Zoe didn’t fight for Mallory to bring her back, she’d be stuck in Hell-retail working the rest of eternity serving rude and plain stupid customers.
She drew the cigarette out of her mouth and stormed to the bathroom, connected to the room. In the mirror, she looked at her reflection. Lanky, blonde, pale. Madison noticed all her flaws, but perhaps the worst of them all was inside her heart- she felt nothing. No sympathy in times of crisis, no pain when she falls, not even pain by Cordelia and Queenie’s usual harsh words.
Zoe broke that in her, or perhaps the right word was healed. It was apparent that her heart mended itself just to break again, for now Madison couldn’t help but let tears fall from her eyes. She burnt out the cigarette against the sink counter, tossing it and splashing cold water on her face to wash away her tears and ruined mascara.
When she looked up again, staring at herself in the mirror, she saw the broken soul that had been trapped inside her for years. It was locked away, Zoe being the key that freed it. That dead, zombie-like girl Madison saw just a minute ago was usurped by a damaged witch just trying to redeem herself. Maybe she wasn’t nice, maybe not kind, but she would do her best to take care of her coven if it meant getting approval- not just from herself, but from others. Zoe. Cordelia. Mallory.
Madison collected herself, making sure her eyes were not puffy and red by dipping cold water on her face, before leaving the bathroom and looking at the time on her phone. Five forty-seven, late to dinner. Cordelia would scold her once she arrived, but it was better than not showing up at all. The food wouldn’t even be served by now, anyway. It was always finished at around six.
She made her way down the Robichaux steps and entered the main dining room, one only for the teachers and senior witches. Cordelia sat at the head of the table, being Supreme, while Misty and Zoe sat in the seats next to her. Queenie placed herself across from Zoe while Coco was next to the brunette girl. Mallory sat at the opposite end, leaving Madison’s only open spot being next to Queenie.
“You’re late,” Cordelia said. Madison didn’t bother with a quick retort and sat down silently.
Her eyes drifted to her left through an open archway displaying the other dining hall. It was one only the younger witches sat at, all chatting and giggling over some hot-guy-of-the-day. Madison, disinterested by their childish antics, moved her gaze back towards her own table.
Mallory said something, smiling, and both Coco and Zoe were laughing from it. The whole situation surprised Madison, considering Mallory was never much of a comedian. It was also somewhat disappointing to see Zoe blatantly ignoring her at the table. Never did their eyes meet, and it seemed evident that she was trying her hardest not to catch Madison’s gaze. As soon as the food was placed in front of her by one of the new servants of the house, she focused there and watched the soup emit steam as it burned and bubbled.
The door that separated their room from the younger witches suddenly shut, Madison’s head turning as a lock clicked in place. All the witches at the table remained silent as their eyes focused on Cordelia, who now began to stand.
“One year ago, I sent three of our young sister witches to investigate the former site of a massacre in California: Camp Redwood. Since then, none have returned.” There was silence at the table, and Madison glanced around to take in the reactions of others. Queenie seemed distressed, probably knowing the three girls. Madison was only brought back recently by Mallory, so there was no way she’d have known who the girls were. She turned her head towards Coco, who placed a few limp fingers over her mouth. Mallory reached over to grab Coco’s free hand but closed her eyes, perhaps praying mentally to a supposed God for their safety. Zoe and Misty didn’t have any readable expressions on their faces, probably waiting to hear more of what Cordelia had to say.
The Supreme drew in a breath and swallowed, Madison watching as the lump in her throat rose and fell. “Nobody has heard anything from them, until just a week ago.” A newspaper article slid across the table, the candle lights burning bright against the white paper.
Local pagan cult prepares for the annual Midsummer festival.
Below it, a picture of three women in white robes, wearing flower crowns, with braided hair.
Next to Madison, Queenie let out a gasp. She assumed the girls in the picture were the missing witches from the coven.
Coco quickly spoke up, her voice barely above a whisper. “Why do they look like that?”
Each of their faces looked scarred, almost similar to Madison when she was brought back to life the first time. Red welts blistered along the corners of their eyes, looking so painful Madison had to divert her gaze and swallow a heavy wad of spit down her throat. In addition to the welts, black bruises looked to be formed along their arms, though perhaps it was just the shadow of where the picture was taken. In looking up to view the faces of her fellow witches, she noticed Misty reaching for the paper. With a careful slide, Coco passed it towards her.
“These girls got bite marks,” she whispered, almost too quiet for Madison to hear. Misty looked over at Cordelia. “When I lived back at the swamp, I used to get these kinds of bug bites all the damn time. Horse-flies.”
Zoe interjected, “They have so many bites, though. And all around the same spots. This doesn’t seem like a coincidence.”
“Exactly why I’m bringing this up,” Cordelia affirmed. Her eyes swept the table, making sure everyone was listening. “Our breed is a dying breed, and we need every last witch we can get. Hundreds of girls claimed to hold magic but could not truly demonstrate. Half of the girls who did show their power did not arrive here, and I cannot force anyone to.
“But now, three of our sisters have vanished, only to resurface within a cult. I need to find out what is going on, and make sure they come back here. Safe.”
Mallory was looking down as Cordelia spoke, Madison watching her out of the corner of her eyes. She let her eyes follow the young witch as she stood up, leaving her chair, and focused as she began to speak. “I’ve been worried about something as well, and in some ways, it may be related to what you were talking about just now. I’ve been having… dreams.”
Cordelia sat down and straightened her back against her own chair, leaning ever so slightly forward. Zoe, from across the table, finally made eye contact with Madison- it was slight, yes, but noticeable. She was confused, hoping perhaps the blonde witch could reassure her with a soft smile or shrug.
Madison looked back towards Mallory.
“I’ve been seeing signs that, perhaps, something terrible is going to happen soon. They’ve been showing me a house. It’s a place I’ve been to before, but I think it may be connected to this cult in some way.”
Queenie, somewhat nonchalant about Mallory’s speech, said, “A house? That’s it?”
Hearing Queenie’s disapproval of what she saw in her dreams, Mallory glanced down at her plate. Cordelia let her eyebrows raise, a soft expression rising to her face in order to comfort Mallory. “Why do you think you’ve been seeing this house?”
Minus the sound of murmurs from the other room, the table fell silent. Not a single witch, not even Queenie, touched a utensil or ate a piece of their dinner. Mallory, finally gaining some shroud of confidence, began to speak. “There are people there who I’ve met before. If my dreams are trying to tell me something, I think there is a problem we are going to face that’s a lot larger than just a cult. It won’t be new to me…” She trailed off, finally sitting herself down on her chair.
Cordelia looked over at Misty, glancing at each other as if to communicate telepathically. They did that a lot, Madison noticed, speaking to each other with only their eyes. Finally, the Supreme turned her head to the table as a whole. “Mallory, if you could come with me after dinner, I can try and piece this information together. For the rest of you girls, I would like you all to come with me tomorrow to Los Angeles in order to explore the motives of this group and retrieve our sisters.”
“What about the other witches?” Zoe asked. Madison mentally scoffed, amused by the fact that Zoe cared so much about her pupils.
“I have my thoughts about who can watch them.” She said no more in that regard, leaving the girls’ thoughts to run rampant. “We will leave tomorrow at eight in the morning. Pack your bags tonight.”
She paused. “And try to pack something that isn’t black. We don’t want to cause too much of a distraction.”
Dinner was quiet after Cordelia’s message. There were a few hushed conversations between Coco and Mallory, Misty and Cordelia. With nobody but Queenie near her to talk with, Madison sat silent while she picked at her freshly served meal, chicken. She wasn’t hungry, not after being brought back from the dead twice, and wasn’t particularly in the mood to travel. The cult didn’t scare her, not as it did Mallory or Coco. Pagans were weird, she thought. Madison might have been a witch, but definitely didn’t believe in festivals and strange foreign gods. She went to Hell once, her other death being an envelope of darkness. The only thing she believed in after life was suffering.
Once the witches finished eating, minus Madison who left her main plate as full as it started, the door to the other room swung open and the senior witches filed out. With a wistful glance, she watched Zoe trail out of the room with perfect poise, chatting delightfully with Mallory. Though, as the younger witch departed to leave with Cordelia, Zoe continued her perfected pace up the stairs, Madison diverting slightly from her trail and into the common room.
Cordelia had always known that Miss Robichaux’s required an area of relaxation, and the current living space was occupied by the frail old paintings of former Supremes. A new era was to be ensured with the second Goode in power, so she’d hired a few workers to change the style of the building. It made the academy more livable, and more spacious, but perhaps ruined the traditional style it had obtained through generations of witchcraft before.
Books lined the walls of the room, though not clearly as many as in the library. Many were missing from the shelves, and Madison could only assume they were in Zoe’s custody. Her fellow witch quite often read in times of solitude, though with a perplexed smirk and Madison’s skill in the art of distraction she’d never get quite far. Now, though, she scanned the empty spaces and tried to imagine what Zoe was doing in their room. Reading, performing spells, maybe dealing with a few of their young cohort.
Madison couldn’t handle the thought. It was too many repressed feelings, memories, and maybe even dreams that made her spin out of control whenever Zoe retorted to her searing comments, when she let her eyes glide carelessly over her to scold one of the younger witches. Was she even there in her mind?
She had to be, for otherwise there were things she’d never had said, spoke, or witnessed. It was all too confusing, and with the current obstacles in her way – the cult, the young witches – Madison had to keep herself from throwing her head into a pillow and screaming for Mallory to throw her back into Hell where she belongs.
Instead of doing that, however, she would normally be interrupted by one of her fellow senior witches. This time it was Queenie, who placed herself casually in an empty chair next to the couch Madison laid upon. In seeing her presence manifest in the room, Madison had to roll her eyes. It was only natural when Queenie came.
The witch looked different than when they’d last saw each other. She seemed more jovial, more at home while years ago she’d been treating the coven like some prison she was forced into. It did make Madison somewhat happy, though she’d be remiss to admit it aloud.
While silent for a few moments, as they normally were, Queenie looked at her phone while Madison kept her eyes fixed on the books on the wall. When finished with whatever she was doing, Queenie finally began to speak. “I’ve never heard of that camp before. Never knew there was a massacre like Cordelia said.”
Ironically, Madison did. “One of the first films I ever did was set at the camp. It was based on the second massacre.”
“They made a movie on it?” Queenie seemed somewhat intrigued. “Sounds about right. Hollywood loves to explore tragedies.”
She was right, but Madison wouldn’t admit to it. Instead, she continued on with her original point. “That guy from My Roanoke Nightmare who played Matt-“
“Yeah, he was in it too. Played some guy named Ray, it wasn’t that big of a part. I played a lesbian named Montana, pretty shit role.”
Queenie snorted. “Sounds about right.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Madison shot a quick glare at the witch, raising an eyebrow and her voice in hearing the statement.
Not responding to her question, Queenie snickered while leaning back in her chair. Her eyes focused on her phone, perhaps looking up more information on the camp counselors of Redwood. Frustrated and frankly annoyed, Madison got up from the couch. Facing Zoe would be much better than being mocked by Queenie.
She stormed out of the room, hearing her fellow witch’s comments to try and bring her back. “Madison!” she exclaimed in a long, drawn-out voice. “It was just a joke!”
Those weren’t going to bring her back, not when she was already at war with her mind on this type of matter. The only thing that would give her peace was Zoe, but of course, they needed to talk. Alone. So, upon swinging open the door and sauntering towards her own bed, noticing the two young witches performing spells quietly at the end of the room, Madison gave up on that for the day.
She and Zoe never talk anymore, now too preoccupied with the other witches in the coven. Too many of the girls invade their room and perform reckless spells, leaving Zoe and Madison both to keep them in order. There are noticeable bags under both of their eyes from this, Madison finding them somewhat unique on Zoe. With her, however, the dark rings blend with her pale, half-dead skin to look as if she were a zombified version of her former self. It wasn’t a flattering look.
In placing her body on her own bed, she watched Zoe concentrate on her book. Divination and Discovering the Future. Madison stiffened against her pillow, struck by the title and topic of the book. Being that divination was the only wonder she couldn’t perform successfully, Madison couldn’t help but wonder why Zoe was reading on such a topic.
Her lips moved as her eyes followed the words on the pages as if trying to read a spell. Though her eyes remained open, she was definitely trying to do something. Madison couldn’t help herself, nearly unconsciously shouting a quick remark.
“Practicing for the next Seven Wonders?”
Zoe’s glazed look seemed to melt once Madison spoke. Her concentration was broken, a scowl now placed along her creased feature. “Trying to prepare a lesson.”
She could almost forget that Zoe was a teacher, being barely older than any of the students. Minus the pantsuits she wore constantly, the pigtails-to-straight hair, and the slightly more noticeable lipstick that stained her face, she was just like the other girls.
Still, there was a different kind of feeling that followed Zoe with every step. She emitted authority, whether she wanted to or not. The girls fell in line once seeing her powers on display; a careful flick of her wrist could send three witches against the wall, frozen in place. Madison, though rare to admit, was impressed by her new power. She didn’t just grow up, she matured.
“As if reading a book is going to help much,” Madison replied. The bickering was her only way to try and challenge Zoe’s new grace, her new emotions. After being away from her for so long, it was desirable to see her face contort and twitch, amusing to see what repressed thoughts she could unlock with just her words. Being a witch was fun, it always had its benefits, but with her coven, it was definitely a sight to see how they molded with different words. It was as if she were hands, molding clay to her own will.
She always enjoyed the power.
Zoe’s back relaxed for just a moment, then straightened as she stood up. Always taller than Madison, the blonde witch was inevitably pleased to look up when she stood. Now, she was even taller than years ago with her dark black boots and dark pantsuit. “The new witches may like you, follow you around like puppies to their bitch, but you do nothing productive in this coven. See what Cordelia, Misty, Queenie, and I do. You’re the most ungrateful witch I’ve known.”
It was a sharp blow, and perhaps the venom-laced words were filled with something more than malice. Perhaps Zoe had enough with her retorts, manipulated her through her voice and silenced her for a few minutes. Madison, in any event, couldn’t seem to speak. There wasn’t any time to, however, as Zoe was already out of their room and gliding down the hall with the book in her arms.
Madison had to follow, her legs moving off the covers and down to the floor as if she were a marionette doll, Zoe being her puppeteer. She strode across the floor, her footsteps soft and precise along wooden boards. When she made it to the stairs, a distracted Mallory accidentally brushed her side, though under the enchantment of Zoe she barely gave her a look as she continued after the brunette.
She entered the library, but Madison remained outside the door. The library, just as the common room was to her, was Zoe’s safe haven from Madison’s pestering. Sure, there was nothing stopping her from entering – Zoe never actually put a spell on her – but there were rules between them that she intended to follow. “I’m sorry for making those comments.”
It sounded sincere, though her posture showed nothing of it. Without even a glance at her, nor a movement of her body, the door to the room slammed shut in her face. She was lucky to have stepped back, so the door didn’t break her nose.
Finally, it was time for her to be annoyed. It was always Zoe who hit the brunt of Madison’s comments, followed closely by either Misty or Queenie. However, she always kept her cool and brushed off the starlet’s remarks. It was only recently that she began to retort, and now she hit her breaking point.
But Madison couldn’t handle it as well as she did. Instead of letting the gesture bounce off her, it was absorbed into her heart. She took every comment literally, perhaps deeper than the other witch even intended. It wasn’t new, either. Every cold comment given to her by her parents, every critique from a director, it went to her. It’s what led her to drop that light on her former director’s head, it’s why she joined the coven in the first place.
Madison walked up the stairs, her expression blank as could be. She didn’t make eye contact with anyone who said a word to her, didn’t care for the girls in her room that watched as she entered the bathroom and shut the door telepathically. It took what felt like ages for the tub to fill, the water warm and bubbling as anger boiled in her stomach, radiating into reality.
Her clothes fell once the rising water ceased. She stepped inside the bath, feet first and slow. Blonde hair fell against the biting cold of the tub’s edge, Madison leaning back and letting the water embrace her pale skin.
Puffy eyes made the dark rings red, now crying salty tears. She bottled up her emotions for far too long, it was finally time to come to terms with herself and what she stood for. A bitch? In some regards, yes. But she was a bitch with feelings, not as stone-cold as she’d thought before. Her legs writhed in the water, the heat in the tub growing hotter by the second. Pyrokinesis of all her powers was the most unpredictable, that and her telekinesis. Lined closely with her emotions, she felt it burning with her anger. She kindled flames as if they were really her, the heat burning as her anger dissipated into passion, desire, then dulled with her apathy to the world.
The sudden pique of her emotions made the witch sob, finally letting herself crack. Her skin was red, burning slightly from the heat of the water. As boiled bubbles popped by her side, she finally succumbed to the casual cooling and let her eyes shut. The sobs were short lasted, just as most things were with her. The silence inside the bathroom made it easy for the tub to wash over her, protect her as she capitulated to sleep.