is competition really good
By tanya mottes
I lied when I told Khun Davina I was lesbian.
Yes, I definitely love girls too, but I’m also pretty sure I love boys. I just wanted to get into the Coven so badly, I told her a lie. I know I’m going to have to pay for it some day.
My best friend, Wilderine, is twisting my hair into two long, intricate braids. She learnt how to do it from Paris.
Wilderine is also in love with me. She tries to hide it from me, and herself, but she’s not very good at it. It’s flattering, but I know I can’t reciprocate her feelings because I like someone else.
And they’re a boy.
Wilderine knows this. She’s accepted it. And I love her for it.
“Soooo, Opi,” Wilderine says. Her fingers dance across my hair softly. “How’s it going with Seto?”
I’ve always loved the feeling of girls touching my hair, playing with it. They’re so gentle, so caring, so beautiful, with every move they make, but it’s Wilderine who makes me feel the best. When her fingers brush against the skin on my neck, the spot tingles. It feels like that every time.
“Rine, you know I haven’t seen him in weeks, right?” I ask her. It’s incredibly difficult not to smile as her dainty hands caress my forest-green locks. “It’s hard to find the right time to talk to him. You know Davina is really strict about that sort of thing.”
“Yes, I know,” Wilderine says, making my stomach flutter a little as she brushes some loose hairs off my bare shoulders. “But I thought you could speak to him through the trees?”
“He has trouble interpreting the language of leaves,” I remind her, pulling my corset top up a little more. I can tell Wilderine is staring at my chest as she works.
“Language of leaves,” Wilderine says, laughing softly. Her laugh is like her voice; faraway but magical, as alluring as a light is to a moth.
“I know, it’s stupid,” I say, laughing with her.
“No, it’s not.” Wilderine let go of the hair she was braiding. “You really have to stop telling yourself this stuff.”
“No-one else appreciates it,” I point out. “So what’s the point of rationalizing the weird things in my ability?”
“I appreciate it, Opia,” Wilderine says sincerely, spinning my chair around so she can look at me. “And it’s not stupid.”
“Ugh, I love you, Rine.”
She rushes to hide her burning cheeks by standing behind me again.
At eight o’clock, Wilderine and I head down to the Coven Square. All the others have arrived. Paris pats the empty seats next to her as she brushes her violet-tipped hair off her shoulders.
“Hello,” I whisper as I take the seat. Wilderine is too distracted to notice anything because she’s busy staring at the new girl, who is staring at Khun Davina, who is staring at the sky.
Tajun Rivera is weird.
Wilderine, Paris and I were the first to talk to her, other than Davina. But she didn’t really speak, or communicate her gratefulness – to any of the girls in the Coven. Even Daw, who donated her clothes and living room to her last night so Tajun could have somewhere to sleep.
She’s honestly a very beautiful person, what with her short, dark brown hair, piercing black eyes, tan skin, slim physique, and blood-red lipstick. But he way she acts; it’s as if she wants to be classified as an outsider.
Carmine, opposite me, drums her fingers on the table as she quietly hums the chorus of one of her new songs. She has cherry-red hair, pulled into a messy bun, big amber eyes, and always wears denim and a guitar strung over her back. She’s from Thailand, but her parents wanted her to have a proper education, so they sent her to the Coven. Apart from me, she was one of the first to join.
We lock eyes. Carmine smiles at me shyly. I don’t think either of us has forgotten what happened at the New Year.
Our meal springs up from the table, appearing in our bowls. We all pick up our chopsticks and begin eating.
The Japanese soup is so nourishing after having to wait seven hours for the next meal. And sitting under the stars, surrounded by thirteen quiet, magical witches, makes it seem even more surreal.
I’m the only one to notice Davina pull Tajun aside after we finish out meal.
All the other girls, except Wilderine, have left to go to their huts. None of us go to bed at nine o’clock, so most of us have gone off to talk or practice witchcraft until about midnight.
“Tajun, you do realize that I’m you leader, right?” Davina says sternly. Her voice is very, very quiet.
I look at Wilderine, but she doesn’t notice anything because she is meditating on a rock.
Tajun’s brow furrows. I watch as her eyes briefly flicker down to the circle where Davina’s cleavage is on display. “Um, yes?”
“Don’t think I didn’t notice the way you were looking at me before,” Davina whispers. She raises an eyebrow.
My eyes are so wide that they’re sore.
“What are you talking about?” Tajun says, blushing furiously. She tries to walk back a bit more so she can escape, but Davina grabs her hand.
“Tajun, I’m twenty-two. This is totally inappropriate.” Davina sighs heavily.
I had no idea she was twenty-two. I thought, since she founded the Coven two years ago, she’d have to be at least thirty, but then again she could easily pass for twenty.
Wilderine must have stood up, because I can feel her warm breath tickling my shoulder. “What’s Davina talking about?” she whispers.
“I-I don’t really know,” I whisper back. Her lips are so close to my ear; I can practically feel her touching me.
Tajun finally speaks. “Wait . . . are you saying what I think you’re saying?”
Davina lets go of her hand and nods.
“Oh . . . ” Tajun says very quietly, her cheeks growing steadily more pink. “Well, I don’t like you like that, if that’s what you’re saying.”
I can smell the lie in the air without having to read her thoughts or emotions. So that’s what this is about.
Wilderine moves to my side. “Ohhhhh my god.”
Without another word, Davina walks away from Tajun, who, as soon as Davina is out of sight, rubs her face and bites her lip anxiously.
Wilderine and I stay deadly quiet as we watch the tiniest tear trickle out of Tajun’s eye.
Tajun runs off to her hut.
“Tajun is in love with Davina!”
I’m pacing my room, back and forth, like a clock that won’t stop ticking. Wilderine is twisting her blonde hair into ringlets; a nervous habit.
“I don’t even know how to process this,” she says softly. “I mean, I’m all for lesbianism . . . but Tajun liking Khun Davina? The woman who’s leading us? It’s so . . . weird.”
“So, so weird,” I agree, halting my pace. “Should we talk to Tajun? Do you think she’ll want to talk? I hope she’s okay . . .”
“Hey, why don’t we ask Misaki?” Wilderine suggests, standing up with a bright new glint in her eyes. “I mean, Tajun hasn’t even met her yet, but she might feel more comfortable with . . . well, her.”
Wilderine is right. Misaki is the perfect person to ask.
Out of the entire Coven, Misaki the most loving, most caring, and kindest. She is bright and radiant and a generally wonderful person, and she never backs down from helping someone.
“Yes, let’s go,” I tell Wilderine. “I hope she isn’t too busy with her ice sculptures.”
Misaki is an ice witch, so she likes to create sculptures which she uses to decorate the forest.
Outside my hut, Wilderine and I walk down a familiar path to Misaki’s hut, shivering along the way. It’s winter, so everything is cold anyway, but her ice sculptures add an extra chill.
Thankfully the real girl isn’t icy at all.
Wilderine knocks on the door quietly.
Carmine answers it. “Hello darlings!”
We both smile at her.
Misaki sees us from inside, and stands up, tossing her long, cotton-candy-pink plait over her shoulder. “Hey, girls! We were just working on my new song.”
“We just need to talk to you about something first . . . “
Carmine looks at me, which somehow silences my voice. “Can we show you the song first?”
“Of course,” Wilderine gushes.
She shrugs at me and we walk into Misaki’s Scandinavian-style hut. Carmine picks up her guitar and starts strumming some chords.
Misaki hums the first part softly, and then Carmine opens her mouth and I can’t breathe because she’s so beautiful and entrancing . . .
“Honey, when I am with you now,
I feel like everything I’d known,
Had gone astray,
And it won’t go away-ay . . .
Well, I-I-I-I-I, just wanna feel like me,
But you won’t let me be, you carry me another way . . .”
Misaki joins in.
“Oh, baby, please, just let me be,
‘Cos when I’m with you, I can’t breathe,
Oh, baby, please, just set me free,
Let me feel your kiss and then die away . . .”
They finish off the small song with humming again like they did at the start. Carmine’s song is just like her; freeing and honest and relaxing and sad and happy all at the same time. I’m so dazed that I barely noticed she was looking at me the whole time.
“That was beautiful . . . ” Wilderine says on our behalf. “What is it based on, by the way?”
“Overwhelming love, mostly,” Misaki explains.
“So meaningful . . .” Wilderine whisper-laughs.
And that’s when I catch someone’s eye in the window.
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