It was about half past four when I finished putting away the last of the books. I pulled on my autumn jacket then picked up my backpack and slung it over my shoulder as I made my way towards the library door.
I paused at the librarian's office and said, "Ms. Sutton? I'm all finished now, so I'm going to head home ok?"
The older woman looked up from her computer screen and peered at me over the edge of her glasses. She smiled, "Of course. Thanks dear, you have a good weekend."
"Thanks Ms. Sutton," I replied as I returned the smile. "You too. See you next week."
Not many students would willingly stay an extra hour or so after school to do volunteer work in the library. Especially not on a Friday afternoon. But I always felt like a bit of an outcast, I was more comfortable with books than with other people.
I always found the library to be a welcoming place. It was quiet, peaceful, and I'd read almost everything in the sci-fi / fantasy section. It was a great way to escape my own quiet mundane life for a few hours at a time, and experience incredible things, other worlds, other lives.
And Ms. Sutton was nice, she usually let me hang out in the library even when it wasn't technically supposed to be open, or when she knew I was cutting class. Not that I skipped that much, but I probably spent more of gym class in the library than in the actual gym.
I almost felt a little sad as I left the sanctuary of the library and found myself back in the school hallway. The front doors were just off to my left, past the principal's office. Instead I turned right and started making my way down the quiet corridor towards the back of the school. It was quicker for me to get home that way, I could cut across the school yard and through the ravine.
I walked past the closed, quiet classrooms as I made my way towards the back doors, but I stopped short. There were voices talking quietly in Miss Hawthorne's class, and I could see some flickering yellowy-orange light shining under the door.
There was a simple hand-written note taped to the outside of the door, it read 'Club Luna - meeting 4pm' and below the text was a crude drawing of a waxing crescent moon, a full moon, and a waning crescent moon.
Our little high-school didn't actually have a lot of clubs. There were some sports teams and a book club, that was about it. I'd never heard of a moon club though. I wondered if it was actually about astronomy or something, but if that was the case then why were they meeting in Miss Hawthorne's class? She taught English and Creative Writing.
I could still hear voices from inside but they were speaking quietly enough it was hard to make out what was being said. I caught the odd word, it sounded like something about spirits and an investigation, and I definitely heard someone mention Island Lake, which was a glorified name for the reservoir and conservation area just outside town.
The voices were muffled just enough that I couldn't recognize any of them. All I could say for sure was it sounded like a few girls were discussing stuff that sounded kind of interesting.
Curiosity got the better of me and I turned the knob on the door then walked in.
As soon as I entered the four girls sitting together in the middle of the room went silent and turned to stare at me.
I immediately recognized Paige and Kaylee, they were in grade eleven like me and I shared a few classes with both of them.
Paige was tall, she was about the same height as me. And she was slim and attractive, and also fairly popular. She was big in sports, on the track and field team and the girls soccer team and maybe a couple others. She was dressed very casual as usual, running shoes and tight jeans and a tight t-shirt, and her dark hair was cut in a short sporty style.
Kaylee was a cute redhead. She was a bit of a bookworm like me, and she definitely looked the part. She was wearing a loose sweater and long wool skirt. She was curvier than Paige, and wore fashionable glasses with bright red frames. I actually had a bit of a crush on her but I'd never dare to admit it.
I didn't know the younger blonde girl, but I'd seen her around and I knew she was in grade ten. She had fair skin like Kaylee, but where the former had some freckles this girl's skin was clear. Her hair was a bright sunny blonde and she was wearing black jeans and a white blouse, she had black ankle-boots on her feet. I thought she was cute too, I was sure I'd seen a sort of mischievous look in her eyes the few times I'd seen her around school.
And finally I knew the older blonde was named Brooke, she was in grade twelve. She was sort of conventionally attractive, with long dark-blonde hair, blue eyes, and a tanned complexion. Brooke was tall like Paige, and also dressed similar, in jeans and a t-shirt and sneakers.
There was no sign of Miss Hawthorne which surprised me. Normally a teacher would be present to supervise when students were using their classroom.
I was also surprised to see about two dozen little candles set up around the classroom. They were just small tea-lights, each one was in a glass cup to keep the flame and wax contained. They were arranged on numerous desks to form a sort of large circular shape, with the four girls in the middle of it.
From what I could see the girls all had notebooks out, and the way they were sitting it looked like Brooke was leading the meeting.
The four of them were still staring at me, and I felt my cheeks colouring. I started to approach them as I said, "Sorry to interrupt. I saw the sign outside and I was curious. What's Club Luna?"
As I moved towards the girls I passed by some of the candles, and at that moment I felt all the little hairs on my arms and legs suddenly stand up as if there was a charge of static or something, then a chill ran down my spine. At the same time all the candles in the room suddenly flickered, and the ones closest to me actually went out.
It was really strange since there wasn't any breeze or anything. I figured maybe me opening the door and walking in was enough to do it, but it seemed unusual. The girls seemed even more startled by the candles going out than I did, and they all looked at each other, then at Brooke.
"Who are you?" the older blonde asked as she stared at me. "How did you get in here?"
I wasn't surprised they didn't know me. I usually stayed quiet and kept to myself at the back of the class. I felt my cheeks growing brighter red as I gestured over my shoulder, "The door was unlocked? And uh, you can call me Cass."
Paige shook her head "You can't be here."
The younger blonde added, "This is a girls-only space."
I'd have actually just left, but that kind of comment got under my skin. I wasn't even sure why, but I hated being excluded from stuff because I was a boy. I didn't even know what this club was all about but just being told it was girls-only made me want to join. And as much as I hated confrontation, this was one of the few things I was prepared to argue about because I knew in this case I was right.
"You can't exclude boys from your club," I replied quietly. I couldn't quite manage to sound confident, even if I was right. "Any clubs that are endorsed by teachers or the school have to be inclusive. You're meeting in Miss Hawthorne's classroom so she must have endorsed it, and that means you can't exclude any students on the basis of gender or sexuality or anything else."
Kaylee shook her head "That's not what she meant. It's literally -"
Brooke cut her off as she stated, "Club Luna is about exploring the supernatural. We uh, talk about hauntings, spirit sightings, demons, fae, magic, witchcraft, that sort of thing."
The other three girls all stared at the tall blonde, they looked surprised she was telling me this stuff.
"Ok," I said with a slight shrug. "That all sounds kind of cool. So can I..."
I paused to cough and clear my throat. There was something wrong with my voice, it didn't sound right to me. "Can I join your club?"
All four pairs of eyes were on me again. Paige, Kaylee and the younger girl were all staring wide-eyed. Brooke was staring too but she looked more curious than surprised. And maybe a little bit amused, which I didn't really understand.
After a moment she replied with a slight smile, "It looks like you already have."
"What do you mean by that?" I coughed and cleared my throat again. "Sorry my voice is going funny, I think I need a drink or something."
The grade ten girl gestured towards the door, "There's a drinking fountain just around the corner."
"I know," I nodded as I headed out past the candles and through the door. I heard the girls start talking in hushed voices as soon as I was out in the hall but I ignored them for the moment. My voice had gotten kind of squeaky and kept coming out in a higher pitch and I needed to drink something to try and settle it down.
When I reached the drinking fountain I turned it on then leaned down for some water. I was startled to have some of my hair slip forward into my face. I used one hand to pull it out of the way and drank a few gulps of water, then straightened up and tugged at the hair.
It was attached, and it was impossibly long. My hair was like two inches long when I combed it this morning. Now it was hanging down to my shoulders.
My heart raced as I stumbled back towards Miss Hawthorne's classroom. I felt several more unfamiliar sensations as I moved. I could tell my pants were loose, they were threatening to slide down completely. And the sleeves of my jacket were getting longer, my hands were almost hidden inside them. Even my shoes felt loose, like they might just fall off as I walked.
Like before, as soon as I entered the room the four girls went silent as they all stared at me. My eyes were probably as wide as theirs were.
"Something really weird's going on!" I exclaimed. My voice still wasn't coming out right, it was definitely too high. And I had one hand at my waist holding my pants up.
Brooke nodded, "Come here Cass, have a seat."
She gestured to one of the desks next to the others, then looked at the younger blonde and said "Marissa get the door please. Make sure it's locked this time."
I took a few steps forward then stopped and stared at the younger blonde as she moved past me. I was positive last time I saw her she was a short girl, but now she'd grown to be an inch or two taller than me.
Finally I stumbled the last few paces and slumped into the chair Brooke had indicated. I let my backpack drop to the floor by my feet as I looked at the girls. My eyes were still wide and my heart was racing.
The young blonde, Marissa, moved back to her seat after closing the door.
Brooke looked at me and said "Ok... This is going to sound crazy but please try not to interrupt. You can ask questions after."
She took a breath then began to explain. "Like I said, Club Luna is about the supernatural. We don't just talk about that stuff though. We research it, we work with it. Spirits, magic, witchcraft... When Marissa said this was a girls-only space she didn't mean the club. She meant this space, inside the Circle. See, the ring of candles marks out a magic circle, which we enchanted before we began our meeting. It's meant to keep us safe while we're working on this stuff. And only someone like us can pass through the Circle once it's been empowered."
I shook my head, "I don't understand. What's happening to me, and what's it have to do with all that stuff?"
Kaylee gave me a sympathetic look, "Like Brooke said, only one of us can pass through the Circle. You passed through it, so you must be one of us."
"What?" I frowned, "I still don't get it."
"We're witches," Paige said quietly. "I mean, real spell-casting magic-using witches. And granted, there's nothing that says guys can't be witches, but..."
Marissa finished for her. "Our Coven is girls-only, because we work exclusively with feminine energies. The only way you could cross that line and get in here is if you were a witch, and a girl."
I shook my head again, "Well obviously that's not true. I'm not a witch, and I'm definitely not a girl."
Brooke grimaced as she glanced at the other girls, "I think we'll have to put our Island Lake plans on hold for a little while girls. We're going to need to figure out how to handle this situation sooner rather than later."
"We need to call Miss Hawthorne," Kaylee stated. "I don't think we can handle this on our own."
"What situation?" I demanded. My voice still sounded higher-pitched than it should, and even sitting down I could feel strange unfamiliar things about my body. "Will one of you please just tell me what's going on?!"
It was the young blonde who finally gave me a straight answer. It just wasn't the kind of answer I expected to hear.
Marissa sighed, "Sorry Cass. Like I said, only a girl and a witch could enter the Circle. When you crossed that line, all the energy in the Circle got dumped into you and let your true self out. You're a girl, and you must be a witch."
"That's not possible! I..."
My high-pitched voice trailed off as I looked down at my small hands and slender fingers that were just poking out of the sleeves of my jacket. The jacket that was now hanging loose off my body. The jacket who's contours revealed a pair of lumps on my chest that weren't there an hour ago. My shoulder-length brown hair was still tickling my neck whenever I moved my head.
My eyes widened as I stared down at myself. I gulped, then looked up again at the four girls.
"I'm a girl?" I gulped again. "And I'm a witch?!"
Kaylee slid her glasses up a little higher on her nose then gave me an awkward smile and said, "Welcome to the club."