Chapter 8

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Candace returned to school the following Monday, sedated, a little thinner, and humorless. It was only after Candace changed so drastically that I realized how much I had liked her previously, when she was like an explosion of sunshine and noise. Her schedule had been rearranged by her mother the previous Friday. Mischa and I had seen Mrs. Lehrer sitting in the principal's office with Mr. Bobek, the guidance counselor who encouraged each and every one of us to consider community college to save money. Mischa told me that Candace's mom had called her own mother asking more questions specifically about Violet, and had informed Mrs. Portnoy that she was going to have Candace switched out of all of the classes she shared with the new girl in town. Only after a week of intense psychiatric care and sedation had Candace stopped rambling about Violet's alleged evil powers and involvement with Olivia's death.

Whatever it was that Candace's mom had said to Mr. Bobek as justification for switching around Candace's required classes, it resulted in me, Mischa, and Violet being called into the principal's office for a stern lecture. Candace wasn't in my first period class in the morning, and when an office runner arrived in my English classroom with a pink slip requesting my presence, I was genuinely surprised.

"Girls, I don't know what your religious upbringings have been, and to be perfectly honest, it's none of my business," Principal Nylander told us as he leaned back, way back, in his swiveling desk chair. The three of us sat on the brown couch in his office. I was in the middle, as was fitting, it seemed, trying to maintain a safe distance of a few inches from Violet, who sat to my left. I could practically smell the fury emanating from Mischa, on my right. "But when I hear accusations of students at my school playing games involving evil spirits, or even alleging to involve evil spirits, I feel personally obligated to step in."

My attention drifted to the window, to the rain falling and the puddles forming in the faculty parking lot. Principal Nylander and his wife were parishioners at St. Monica's, where we used to attend church before my parents divorced. To the best of my knowledge, the Portnoys rarely attended church other than on Easter and Christmas, so I couldn't help but feel like Principal Nylander was scolding me directly even though I knew that Violet and her family were regular church-goers.

"Now if any of you have questions about the afterlife, or about your creator, or heck, even just about entertaining ways to pass time, I encourage you to contact a member of the clergy at your place of worship, a trusted teacher, or your parents. Messing around with occult practices is dangerous business," Principal Nylander warned us, pushing his wire-rimmed glasses further up his little pug nose.

Back in the eerily quiet hallway, empty during the class in session, Mischa glared at Violet. "That was excruciating. I hope you're happy. And I read what you said to that journalist from the town paper. You had no right, do you hear me? No right!" She turned on her leather ballet flat and left me standing there, mouth hanging open, across from Violet.

"Oh. My. God," Violet said, her eyes enormous, her lips tilted into a semi-smile, as if Mischa's reaction was way over the top. "It's not like I ratted. I didn't say a word. It was Candace who started blabbing."

I remembered how I had vowed to try to get closer to Violet to try to find out exactly what she'd done to Olivia, and I remained there, watching Mischa walk down the hall. "I know," I assured Violet.

"Whatever," Violet's eyes narrowed as Mischa disappeared from view around a corner. "Her days are numbered, anyway."


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