I probably went to the only school in the country with a rule against practicing witchcraft.
That wasn’t really as crazy as it sounded. The Massachusetts town where I lived was sort of known for its rumored history of magical residents. Some said it was even more haunted by witches than Salem, our famous neighbor. The story went that while the Pilgrims in Salem were burning innocent women at the stake, the real witches went to Whitfield and vanished into a fog.
Of course, that wasn’t entirely true. Nobody had actually been burned at the stake in Salem. Oh, there had been plenty of murders, jailings, and torture of women who hadn’t done much more than piss off their neighbors. Lots of widows had their property stolen, and one guy got crushed to death. But the burnings were pretty much left to the Europeans. The part of the story that was true was the part about the real witches going to Whitfield.
I knew because I was the descendant of one of those witches.
A lot of us were, although we kept quiet about it. That was because even there, in the town where at least half the population were witches, we had to live among cowen, aka non-magical people. Actually, we thought of ourselves as talented—we could all do different things—rather than magical. But that wouldn’t have mattered to cowen. They had a nice tradition of destroying anything they couldn’t understand. Look at Salem.
At school there were two kinds of students, the Muffies and the witches. Muffies were the kinds of girls you’d find at every boarding school in the Northeast: fashionable, promiscuous, and clueless. Okay, that wasn’t fair. There were plenty of cowen kids at Ainsworth School who weren’t Muffies. Half of them weren’t even girls. But those non-Muffies generally left us alone. It was the Muffies who were always making life difficult.
They sneered at us. They called us names. (Yeah, these were the same people who were legally named Bitsy, Binky, and Buffy.) “Geek” was probably the most popular name for us, since it was pretty much true, at least from their point of view. We generally didn’t have problems with drugs, alcoholism, reckless driving, kleptomania, credit card debt, or STDs. To be fair, we did sometimes have issues with ghosts, apparitions, disappearing, transmogrification, rainmaking, telepathy, demon rampages, telekinesis, and raising the dead. And maybe a few other things.
Hence the injunction against performing witchcraft at Ainsworth. This rule had been in place ever since my ancestor Serenity Ainsworth had founded the school. (I liked to think that one of her pupils had given some Puritan Muffy a pig nose in a catfight.)
The Muffies didn’t know about this rule. They didn’t know that Whitfield was the biggest and oldest community of witches in the United States, or that the geeks at Ainsworth School could summon enough power to make a hydrogen bomb seem like a fart in a bathtub if we wanted to. They thought that Whitfield was an ordinary place and that Ainsworth was an ordinary school.
Or did they?
I’d often wondered if they knew. . . . I mean, how could they not know? On every major witch holiday the Meadow—that was a big field in the middle of Old Town—filled up with fog so dense that you couldn’t see through it. It was the same fog that saved the witches from being grabbed by the Puritans back in the day. When the fog appeared, the witches all tumbled into it like lemmings, but cowen couldn’t—physically couldn’t—enter. And that was only one of the weird shenanigans that went on there. Even the dumbest Muffies must have had an inkling once in a while that Whitfield, Massachusetts, was a little different from wherever they called home.
At least that was my theory about how the whole mess started. With a jealous Muffy.
And an idiot who should have known better than to forget the no-witchcraft rule, since it was her relative who’d made it in the first place.