The butterflies arrived much earlier this year. Their painted wings floated like flower petals in the warm wind that rustled the trees and rattled the loose glass in Cass’s window. She had found a small orange butterfly trapped in a spider web, fluttering it’s wings in a hopeless struggle to get free.
“I know how you feel little guy.” Cass sighed before letting the butterfly fly from her hand where it quickly joined the rest of its colourful friends. She couldn’t help but think about the changes required by those caterpillars. All that hard work weaving their silken cocoon that was to be their home until a few weeks later they emerge as this beautiful creature showing no sign that it might ever have been a caterpillar. It was amazing what hard work would get you and how beautiful the results could be.
“Cassandra darling, what is taking you so long?” Cass rolled her eyes as the snobbish voice of Ephrina, head of the house, called her down from her room. Ephrina liked to give the idea that she comes from royalty. She liked you to think that you could never live up to her standards and that she would always be a shade above you. Even her nose always seemed to be pointed upwards. Cass quickly let the butterflies out and closed her window before Ephrina could inspect the room. She hated when any of the girls would open the windows or even look out at the town below but none of them could help it. The beauty of even the cobblestone streets that wound every which way in a maze of named streets never ceased to grab her attention. She could be lost for hours looking at all the people and the bright colours of the painted shops that never repeated the same colour two shops in a row. Cass had memorized every shop colour. The butcher’s had a blue store front, blue like the sea not the sky. Her favourite was the bakers which always kept the same almost-pink with white trim. What Cass wouldn’t give to be able to get out there just for one day... But Ephrina would never allow it. None of the girls could leave the house until their eighteenth birthday when Ephrina, Magdalene and Sybil would awaken their magic and they would leave for the witch training school in Poland. Which reminded her, it was Isadora’s eighteenth birthday today! No wonder Ephrina was looking for her, she would need to get a head start on her chores.
“Hello Sister Ephrina.” Cass said politely, offering the older woman a curtsey. Ephrina barely acknowledged her, paying attention instead to the speck of dust on her fingertip.
“So this is what Desmona considers a clean shelf? How many times must I tell you all! We witches cannot work midst all this dirt! Our magic is completely ineffective with all this dirt and dust flying about,” Ephrina suddenly noticed Cass had joined her and gave her a disapproving look, “Clean these shelves Cassandra and all of the other ones on this floor. Then go back to your room and put on your blue dress. You know how much I detest lavender on you.” Ephrina shuddered then left in a flurry of perfume and insults. Poor Dessie always got the brunt of Ephrina’s disdain for the girls.
Cass got a cloth from the cupboard in her room and started cleaning. It was long work, the shelves in the library would take the most time so she left them for last. She knocked before entering in case Sybil was working on another of her ‘experiments’ but you could hardly call them that. Usually the result of these experiments turned out to be hazardous and once even melted the pot she brewed it in.
“Hello? Anyone in here?” Cass called out. She poked her head around the door and saw the room was empty. She hardly ever got to have the library to herself, she couldn’t decide what to do first. The cleaning would have to get done eventually but it could wait. The views from the library windows spread out as far as Ricateen Mountain and past the forest. Cass bent forward to open the window when she caught a movement in the snow below her. She immediately moved back and out of sight, but kept her head just high enough to see who it was without being seen. She saw Isadora in a pale white dress that looked simply stunning on her. Ephrina, Magdalene and Sybil followed her out into the snow and pulled red hood up over their heads. It seemed unfair that they would have cloaks on for the ceremony and poor Isadora had nothing. She would catch her death out there. Another movement to the right of Cass’s vision made her look over and see a man hiding in the shadows of the tower, looking at the women. He looked scared, probably he had never seen magic before. Understandable since Ephrina didn’t like them doing magic outside of the tower, even Sybil and Magdalene had to follow that rule.
Without any warning, Sybil snapped Isadora’s neck and she dropped to the ground like a rock. Cass gasped and would have fell to the ground if she hadn’t been gripping the window sill so tightly. They killed Isadora? Why would they do that? They were supposed to awaken her powers and send her on her merry way. But when Cass thought about it, all the other girls who had supposedly been awakened, they all left before anyone could see them and never sent letters or messages back to their friends here. It made sense, in a dark and twisted way but Cass still couldn’t understand why they would kill the girls. She looked out the window again just in time to see Magdalene kill the man who had been watching earlier, then she called the wild dogs from the forest and they dragging him away, leaving nothing behind but a shoe and a trail of blood. Ephrina now held Isadora’s bloody heart in her hand, clear as day Cass could see it though she wished she couldn’t. The dead girl lay on the snow in her beautiful dress now ripped and stained with blood. Cass watched in horror as Ephrina took huge bites out of the heart until it was all gone, then it was as if someone had flicked a switch. That was how fast it had happened. Ephrina looked younger, rejuvenated. Sybil was bouncing up and down and clapping her hands. Magdalene was wiping her bloody hands on her red cloak and already heading back inside. She stopped and looked up toward the library and Cass got down just in time, her heart beating too fast for her chest to handle. She would be eighteen in less than five months. It would be her turn in less than five months.
She had five months to figure out a way to kill Ephrina.