These Witches Don't Burn

By: Isabel Sterling

1



THEY SAY THERE’S A fine line between love and hate.

I used to think They were idiots. Most people are. What could some faceless They know about love? Or hate for that matter. But then I dated Veronica Matthews.

Veronica. Matthews.

The girl who pulled me out of the closet so fast and so completely my head was still spinning weeks later. Our first kiss was life-changing. Identity-altering. Even after a year of dating, I still don’t have the right words to describe it.

My parents were surprised, though they recovered quickly, when I walked into the kitchen the day of the kiss to announce, “Mom. Dad. Turns out, I’m gay.”

Dad dropped his sauce spoon on the floor. He blinked a few times, then shrugged. “Oh, well, okay then.”

Mom picked up the sauce spoon and rinsed it in the sink. “Want to talk about it?”

I remember shrugging. Dad and I do that a lot. “Nope. Just thought you should know.”

And that was that.

Veronica Matthews taught me about love, and I guess They were right. There really was a fine line to cross to hate. The same girl who dragged my ass out of the closet later tore my heart from my chest with her meticulously manicured nails.

I hate her. The stupid, self-centered—

Someone clears their throat in front of me. I tear my gaze away from Veronica, who’s in the back of the shop by the prepackaged potions, flirting with a girl whose name I can’t remember. She looks familiar, with her warm brown skin and a tumble of tight black curls. I think she was on the cheerleading squad with Veronica.

Evan Woelk, a tall, skinny white boy with guyliner thick around his dark brown eyes, stands on the other side of the counter. He smiles when I finally turn my attention his way. “Hey, Hannah.” He drops a pile of merchandise next to the register and shoves his hands deep in his front pockets.

“Find everything okay?” I ask, stifling a cringe as Veronica giggles. Even the lavender incense burning on the counter behind me can’t calm my nerves when she’s around.

Evan nods and watches the total go up and up as I scan his items. Black candles. Twine for binding rituals. A book on hexes. Incense. An all-black athame, both edges of the knife sharp even though the blade is only used for directing energy. I fight the urge to roll my eyes. Yet another Reg playing at being a witch.

I ring up the last item and glance at Evan. He has the whole goth thing going on—black jeans, a tight black shirt, and rings on every finger—which makes this all the more ridiculous. “Eighty-four ninety-five.” I bite my lip as he swipes his card. Part of me wants to warn him. Even if Wiccan magic is child’s play compared to what I can do, it’s still dangerous to mess with forces you don’t understand.

Not that I’ll actually say anything. To expose my secret is to risk banishment.

Or worse.

Evan accepts his bag with a tight smile. He shifts on his feet, not leaving. I plaster on my work smile, but I’m itching for him to go. Veronica’s still giggling over something What’s-Her-Face has said. I don’t want to deal with her, but I can’t leave the counter with a customer in the shop. I never considered myself the jealous type, but if those two don’t get out of here soon, I’ll—

“Is that Veronica?” he asks, pointing at the pad of paper in front of me. The one with my half-finished Veronica-turned-evil-demon sketch. “I heard you two broke up.”

Heat burns at my cheeks. I crumple the page and toss it in the trash. “I really don’t want to talk about it.” Of course he’s heard. The whole school gossiped about our public breakup for weeks.

“Forget I asked.” Evan brushes his dark hair out of his eyes. It’s a wasted effort, as it flops right back into place. “Are you going to the bonfire tonight?”

I offer a half smile, my thanks for the subject change. “I think Gemma wants to go.” And if my best friend wants to go to the annual end-of-school-year bonfire in the woods, there’s no way she’ll let me skip it. “I take it you’re going?”

“Wouldn’t miss it.” He raises his bag of magic supplies, the athame poking out through a small tear in the plastic. “See you tonight.”