"Did it have to be today?" Luna groaned, staring out the rain-spattered window at the storm raging outside. "Why?"
"Don't you think storms are fun?" Cecy said excitedly, gleefully watching a flimsy tree bending almost double with the wind, while someone's long-lost lunch box flew by. "Besides, we'll have to stay over in school today! We could stay up all night doing nonsense!"
Luna didn't usually glare at her friend, seeing as it was quite pointless, but this time she did. "Cecy," she said. "Maybe I would join your enthusiasm if we didn't have the big bad Literature exam tomorrow, not to mention Maths and Potions!" She huffed an annoyed sigh, angrily brushing a strand of black hair out of her face, and hurried over to her locker. "Let's better hope I have all that rubbish here, or else how am I going to study?"
"But… but Literature is okay!" Cecy exclaimed, skipping after her as if there was not a care in the world and no hurricane was raging just outside the school building. "Besides, the hurricane'll probably last until tomorrow, so who cares about those exams? If they don't cancel them I can always organise a revolution."
Luna slammed open her locker and started digging through the mess inside, growling, "Like the teachers would even care for silly student revolutions." She pushed aside a bunch of outdated lunar calendars, a nastily chewed-up old soccer ball and her three large lunch boxes, letting them all drop onto the floor. Cecy quickly picked them up for her.
"Spells… Botany… Calligraphy…" Luna muttered to herself, sorting through the many books and folders stacked untidily at the far back of the locker.
"If you don't find your stuff, I can always teach you," Cecy suggested.
"NO! It has to be here!" Growling in a frighteningly wolf-like manner, Luna continued searching through her things, refusing to accept defeat.
Just then, there was a loud crash of thunder. All of a sudden, all went dark. Some girls close-by screamed, then giggled. Cecy glanced up at the dead lights. "Whoops. Electricity's gone," she remarked.
"I noticed!" Luna yelled. Sighing in frustration, she banged the locker shut again. Usually she was much quieter than Cecy, never getting extremely excited over things. But when she was angry – then she really was angry!
While Luna disappeared somewhere to be mad by herself, Cecy decided to wander around a bit, relishing in the fact that there were only seven more exams to be written and that she would pass them all. Of course, she told herself, it wasn't selfish to enjoy exams. They were much more interesting than school lessons, not mentioning none of the annoying boys would try to throw love letters at her from the other end of the room. How she hated that…
Plus, in the exam hall she was always placed at the very front, so she wouldn't have to watch Luna and Raven stare at each other like two lovebirds, every so often giving lovesick sighs. It was no wonder they both did so badly if they let themselves be distracted by such unimportant things! While Cecy knew that she was the one who had always encouraged her friend to find a boyfriend, she had never meant such a soppy relationship in which they thought they couldn't even go to the sports changing rooms without each other. Seeing them behave so lovesick almost made her puke at times.
Outside, the clouds had become so thick that it became properly dark, and the rain was lashing against the windows with a vengeance while the wind howled furiously away, tearing leaves and twigs with it. Everyone looked as gloomy as the weather, either depressed or bad-tempered. There was not one happy face among the students Cecy passed.
"Noble Cecilia!" A tall figure suddenly rose from a chair in the study area.
"Oh no…" Cecy murmured, looking at the floor and quickly walking on.
"Would you, fair lady, please tell me where you are heading, that I may accompany you?"
Cecy rolled her eyes. Ever since Samson had decided to improve his useless romancing attempts by reading Shakespeare, he had become more unbearable than ever. "I'm going no where, good-bye," she said, hurrying on.
"But my dear Cecilia! In such dreadful weather a lady like you should not walk alone! It is too dangerous!"
"Dangerous?" Cecy laughed, stopping and turning around to face him. "Okay, you tell me what could happen to me."
"A flood might occur, or a branch may break through the window, causing glass to scatter in the air and one shard to pierce your beautiful heart… I could not let such harm befall you!"
Snorting, Cecy remarked, "We're on a hill, Sammy, so all the water will flow nicely down. Besides, this is the fourth floor. The trees closest to the school only reach to the second floor. Go be heroic somewhere else."
At that, Samson made such an unhappy face that even the stone masquerading as Cecy's heart softened slightly. She walked slowly over to him. "What's wrong, Sammy?" she asked. "Exam stress too?"
Looking more unhappy than ever, Samson half nodded, half shook his head – one of those annoying gestures that Cecy thought proved his stupidity. "You have rejected me once too often, I have lost my study notes once too often, and I'm sure I'm going to fail! And this hurricane must be a bad omen!"
Cecy tried not to roll her eyes. She sat down beside him. "Since when do you believe in omens anyway?"
Samson shrugged. "Cathy told me it must be one."
"Well, I'm sure it isn't; anyway, Cathy must be trying to depress everyone again as revenge that her best friend ditched her recently."
"She's doing a good job with it," he sighed. "Everyone's depressed, and not just because of exam stress!"
"Maybe she did something nasty like mix a depression potion into our school lunches," Cecy suggested. "Or she let some kind of depression spell diffuse into the air in here. And we can't even open the windows!" She stared at Samson, wide-eyed. "Now that's bad! I'm starting to feel kind of depressed too now..."
"See?" Samson said, staring morosely at the floor. "And there's not even anything we can do against it!"
At that, Cecy jumped up – and as if on queue, the light flickered on again. "Don't worry! I can always figure something out! Trust me!" And she whizzed away so quickly that her light brown hair and black-and-white striped stockings were only a blur.
Cecy quickly looked at herself in the little pocket mirror she permanently carried with her. "This should do," she muttered, taking another pinch of glittery pink powder out of a little pouch and dabbing it onto one eye. She blinked a few times, grinned at her reflection, then put away her mirror and knocked on the door.
"Yes?" Mr Boilit almost shouted, pulling open the door with more force than necessary. Seeing his favourite student, he relaxed. "Oh, it's you. I thought it was another of those pestering busybodies trying to find out what questions will be in the paper. Come in." He started to turn away and return to his rather messy desk, when he noticed Cecy's face. "Good heavens, what has happened to you?" he exclaimed.
Cecy gave as realistic a sniff as possible, while blinking her reddened eyes and wiping away a tear. "I – I – I was going t-to study for tomorrow, s-sir," she sobbed, "b-b-but… I think I f-forgot all my books and n-notes and things i-in the c-classroom d-downstairs. W-without them I think I'll f-fail, and I c-can't bear th-the idea!"
Mr Boilit watched, horror-struck, as more tears dripped from those dazzling green eyes. His best student failing! That could not be! No longer able to bear the crying, he reached into his drawer and handed over the key which otherwise he would trust to no one else, since the potions classroom was the most dangerous room in the building. "Here!" he cried, close to tears himself. "Go, get the books! I couldn't survive seeing you fail!"
"Oh, thank you, Mr Boilit!" Cecy exclaimed, her tear-filled eyes glittering with sudden joy. "I promise to become class best in this exam!" (Not a hard thing to do, really, since she already was not only top of her class, but of the country.) With the happiest of smiles, she grabbed the key and quickly hurried out.
Once two floors were between her and the Potions teacher, Cecy ducked into a corner and quickly rubbed the last of the Instant Tear Powder from her eyes. Despite being the cheapest thing to buy from the school's black market, she had to admit it was quite effective. Though she would never use it, as others did, to make boys feel sorry for her. Ew!
Happily wielding the key, Cecy rushed to the Potions classroom and unlocked the door. With a short snap of her fingers, she carelessly lit all the candles in the room before grabbing a grubby apron from the apron rack.
She knew exactly what she wanted to do – she had only just read about it in the library that very morning, and what better chance than to try it out now? Cecy took the book out of her crammed-full bag, flicking quickly though it to find the recipe. "Let's better hope all the ingredients are here," she muttered to herself. "I don't feel like playing the cry-baby with Mr Boilit again."
After a cursory glance at the page, she opened the huge ingredients cupboard – or, more correctly, ingredients wardrobe – and started to look for what she needed, quietly reading out each label of the many bottles, boxes and bundles stacked inside it. "Willow Sap… Mosquito Blood… Pure Caffeine…" With a wave of her hand, she lazily let the caffeine float across the room and tip just the right amount into a large cauldron.
Only when she had gone through the first four shelves and was half-way up the ladder to reach the fifth, did Cecy remember that Luna was still somewhere in the school building, probably by now reduced either to tears or to fury. Usually, if Cecy did any mischief in school, Luna was always part of it. Should she go find her?
But no, Cecy reminded herself, Luna sucked at Potions. She would make something blow up or set the classroom on fire or end up causing the potion to do the opposite of what it was supposed to. Anyway, she had Raven now. It wouldn't be Cecy's problem if Raven neglected his girlfriend – she had never liked him anyway, so this was a chance to prove once and for all that he was a jerk and Luna should go find someone else.
Once everything was in the cauldron, Cecy poked the wood under the cauldron with her foot, lighting a fire. It took her five whole minutes to find a suitable ladle which wasn't half burnt off or covered in a strange purple slime smelling like curry. By the time she returned to the cauldron, half the rose pollen was burnt up, and most of the Joy Juice had evaporated away. No matter, she thought, adding a bit more of each ingredient.
According to the recipe, Cecy now had to stir for an hour, singing If you're happy and you know it until the potion made pink bubbles. Feeling silly, she did so, hoping that no one would hear her. She hated that song!
As she stirred and stirred, her arms getting more and more tired, she realised that no one in his right mind would drink a bright blinding pink potion – even she could hardly look at it without feeling disgusted. Not to mention, no one would trust her passing around mugs of some unknown drink. Too bad that everyone paid so much attention in Safety Education class… The teacher had beaten into them from the first day, repeating again and again, that one should never accept a drink from another magician.
Cecy remembered other times she had made potions for her schoolmates. Once, in second grade, it had been pizzas for the teachers. Of course, they enjoyed them and, as promised in Potions to Trick your Teachers, agreed immediately to give her A in every single subject. That was until the side effects of red and green striped pimples appeared, and the headmaster noticed. Just because he was vegetarian and refused to eat pizza with salami…
And then there were the Enchanted Fries in sixth grade, when no one wanted to be her friend. The enchantment was supposed to make everyone friendlier, but hardly anyone wanted to eat the rather limp-looking fries – not to mention everyone was on diet, weirdly enough – and she ended up having to feed them to a stray cat, which was still suffering under the effects of the potion, following her around and going on her nerves.
Not to mention the Enchanted Pies just a year ago, with which she intended to make all the boys fall in love with Luna. She still felt sick every time she remembered the sight of Samson kneeling down before her and actually asking her to marry him. EW!
No, no pizza, no fries, and definitely no pies! She couldn't stand pies since then. No, it should be something else, something that depressed people would eat gladly. What did she eat when she was depressed? Well, Cecy had to admit, when she was sad she shovelled kilos of cat food into herself. No one in school would eat cat food – she was the only werecat, as far as she knew.
Thinking hard, her arms aching more than ever, she turned around, still singing, and glanced around the classroom. And then she saw a big, heart-shaped box right on the teacher's desk. "To Paul, with lots of Love, your favourite Gobstoppers."
As expected, Raven was playing computer games with his friends in the Computer Lab, far away from poor Luna. Cecy rolled her eyes. He was one person she would definitely not give any of her Enchanted Gobstoppers to. After so much work just to make them look a little less pink than they did after she left them in the potion for half an hour, she didn't want to waste any on him.
Cecy hurried up the stairs, back to where she had left Samson. As expected, he was still there, gloomily watching the rain and wind raging outside. "Sammy! Here, have a sweet," she said.
"Why?" He looked suspiciously up at her. "Why are you so nice with me all of a sudden?"
Cecy shrugged. "What, would you rather have me be nasty?" she asked.
Samson shook his head and grinned. "No, rather not," he said, reaching for a gobstopper. "Thanks, by the way." And he popped it into his mouth.
Happy that her plan was working so far, Cecy skipped about, looking for more people to make happy. Everyone she met received a gobstopper; her favourite teachers even received two. Mr Boilit was quite surprised when she arrived in his office so happy. "Did you find what you were looking for?" he asked.
"What?" It took her a while to remember again. "Oh! Oh, that. Aha, yes." She handed him his key. "Here, have a gobstopper," she added.
Mr Boilit's eyes widened. "Gobstoppers! My favourites! Can I have three?"
"Of course!" Cecy was sure they would all be enough; the box in the classroom had been so big.
Only after taking care of everyone else did Cecy finally find Luna. She should have expected to find her on the sixth floor, the "forbidden floor" where students actually weren't allowed to go. Cecy and Luna often went there when they wanted to be alone, hiding between all the cleaning utensils, spare furniture and broken chairs. "Luna!" she exclaimed once she was up there. "Are you okay?"
"What do you mean, okay?" Luna shot back. "There is no way for me to prepare for the exam, you ditched me for absolutely no reason, and Raven doesn't seem to care either!"
"I'm sorry," Cecy said. "I was just… thinking of a way to help."
"Yeah right. Every time you try to help, you mess it up. Admit it!"
"Not this time!" Cecy exclaimed, sitting down beside her. "This time I'm sure it'll work! Anyway, we're all better experienced now." Luna only sighed. "Come on… have a gobstopper." And she held out the box to her, which now only contained a single lonely sweet.
"Why should I accept anything from you?" Luna asked. "I don't trust you."
"I didn't tamper with this stuff, I promise!" Cecy said, trying to look as sincere as possible while crossing her fingers behind her back.
Giving her friend a glare, Luna reached for the gobstopper. "Thanks," she said grudgingly.
"I knew you're still my friend," Cecy exclaimed, hugging her tightly.
"Ow! Stop! You're going to make me swallow it whole!" Luna cried. She couldn't help laughing. She laughed and laughed. Even when Cecy let her go again, she continued laughing.
"Erm… I guess the joke's over now, Luns," Cecy remarked.
Luna didn't say anything, but neither did she stop. She couldn't stop! She rolled around on the floor laughing, giggling and shrieking like a crazy person. Cecy watched, alarmed. "Luna?" she whispered. "Oh my goodness, what have I done?"
She jumped up immediately and rushed down the stairs, hoping that Luna's outburst wasn't what she expected it to be. But it was. Just as she reached the floor below, she almost bumped into the ever-serious History teacher. "Oh, sorry Mr Passet!" she exclaimed, expecting him to yell at her or give her detention. She couldn't believe her eyes when she saw that he was bent almost double with laughter. He was laughing almost maniacally!
Frightened, Cecy quickly ran away, only to find the biggest school bully and his cronies rolling around on the floor in laughter, clutching their stomachs, hardly able to catch breath. But Mr Boilit was the worst – after his three gobstoppers, he now laughed the loudest and the hardest. He couldn't stand on his two feet with laughter!
"Oh no! What have I done?" Cecy cried. And then she felt a familiar prickling feeling on the tips of her fingers and toes. Her skin tickled slightly. She stared down at herself. "No… not this!" she exclaimed. And she turned around and rushed right back up to the sixth floor.
How could she have forgotten to take her anti-transformation tablet? She should have remembered that it was new moon tonight! And already the sun was setting… meaning that in less than an hour, she would be a cute and fluffy tabby cat. At home, she wouldn't mind. But… in school?
Cecy stared at the fine down of reddish fur now covering her hands. Her fingers were shrinking, her fingernails replaced by claws. Why had she forgotten? Why? Her gaze fell on the empty gobstoppers box.
Why hadn't she just left things as they were? Why did she always have to tamper? Now the whole school was laughing itself to pieces because she had been careless with the ingredients – no, because she had been stupid enough to try brewing an advanced potion not even Mr Boilit had ever brewed before. She should have learnt from her previous mistakes. But no, she never did.
"What's going on here?" the vegetarian principal asked, emerging from his office where he had locked himself in for the past few hours. He stared as a teacher hobbled by, clutching his hands over his mouth to try and stop laughing. A student was crying with laughter. Something, the principal noticed, was very wrong.
He grabbed hold of the student, shook him, and asked, "What's wrong with you? Why are you laughing?"
But the student was laughing so hard, he couldn't even speak. He tried to gesture with his hands, but the principal couldn't interpret any of his signs. Finally, the principal handed him pencil and paper, and though the student's writing was shaky and squint from the heavy laughter, it was at least legible: "Gobstopper from Cecilia."
"Cecilia?" The principal raised his eyebrows. "Not the Cecilia? The werecat?" The student could hardly nod, but with a lot of effort, he managed. The principal understood at once. "Always her," he sighed. Already knowing where Cecy always went to hide, he took the stairs two steps at a time until he reached the sixth floor.
A loud "MEOW!" was the first sound that greeted him, accompanied by a noisy giggling coming from behind a pile of towels. The principal quickly looked down to see that he had stepped on the tail of a very grumpy-looking, green-eyed tabby cat.
"Hello, Cecilia," he said, grinning, as he picked up the protesting creature. "You do like to cause mischief, don't you? Well, a little laughter in this school, especially during exam month, isn't all too bad." The cat only flattened her ears and hissed at him.
"You're not that bad as a cat, you know," he remarked as he carried her downstairs.
Cecy just sat defeatedly in his arm, knowing that nothing good must be coming out of this. This is the last time I ever do this type of thing again! she promised herself.
The thing is, Cecy hardly ever keeps her promises.