Dara took the book to the attic and put it in the cabinet where they kept old and useless stuff. Probably it was not the best of thoughts or the most appropriate place to shelter Carlos Hechizo Demalastrosí book of shadows. Yet Dara didnít want it around, let alone think of keeping it in her sleeping room. She carefully wrapped it in a piece of black silk cloth to protect it from the cockroaches, which had turned the old cabinet into their own comfortable home. Then, having locked the cabinet with a padlock, she had deliberately bought to serve that purpose; she put the key into her pocket.
"Better burn it to ashes," Lisa suggested and Nirupa who, during all this time was following her Mom to see where she would put the book in the hope that later, when nobody was watching she could have a look at it, shivered.
"No way!" Dara said. "It might be extremely dangerous do to that. We donít know if the book isnít protected by some mirror spell or some binding spell. And if this is true the spell will immediately turn against us. It would be almost impossible to undo the spell as only the magician who cast the spell would be able to break it."
Nirupa was strictly forbidden to approach the attic. She half-heartedly agreed to stay away from the attic but the mere fact that something was forbidden to her, made the matter so much interesting. Only one thought reigned in Nirupaís mind from that moment on; to get hold of the book. And that thought kept on stinging in her head as though she had a nest of bumblebees inside.
That Monday Ni didnít go to school because Sunday had been loaded with so many unusual events that Dara let her sleep until late. On Tuesday at a quarter to seven, however, Dara jumped from her bed in total panic. She was reaching out with her right hand to stop the frightening alarm clock that was ringing at a horrible blare; and with her left hand she was trying to grasp her peignoir, which she could not remember where she had thrown the night before.
"Ni! Nira! Nirupa!" she called out running downstairs thirty seconds later. "My goodness we are so late! Nirupa, wake up!" She shook Ni who was deep asleep even with the fuss.
Nirupa rubbed her eyes.
"What time is it?" she asked.
"Seven. We are very late!" Dara trying to put on her sweater hastily had put her head inside the sleeve.
Ni laughed seeing her Mom struggling with the sweater, but before long she
felt her own arms pushed into sleeves. Next she felt water on her face as a toothbrush was handed to her. After that her Mom handed her a cheese sandwich, and exactly ten minutes later Nirupa found herself aside her mother waiting for the bus in the corner of the street.
"Did you take all your books?" Dara asked, while Ni chewed quickly to get that piece of bread down as soon as possible,
"May I throw it away?" Nirupa asked.
"Are you out of your mind? Eat it and fast, as this is all youíve got until lunch time," Dara replied. "Come on, the bus is coming."
While Ni toiled over that sandwich, she felt someone pulling on her packsack. Ni She turned and saw a black-haired dirty little beggar girl looking straight into her eyes. The girl looked about Niís age, but much smaller. "Yes," Nirupa said, "can I help you?"
The girl did not speak, but kept staring into her eyes.
"Would you like a piece of bread?" Ni held it out.
The girl took the bread and devoured it in three bites. Now Nirupa understood.
"You were starving!" The girl continued to stare at her.
She stretched out a dark hand and touched Niís curls.
"My sisters will be so jealous." she whispered to her ear.
"Do I know you?" Ni asked, astonished.
"At last, the prophecy has been accomplished. You have at last come, and we do not need to live amidst fears anymore. I am so lucky to have seen you." She left jumping joyfully on one foot.
"What did you say?" Ni asked startled.
But Dara who, until then was chatting to a woman in front of her in line turned around and looking at Ni and the bagger girl got nervous.
"Whatís going on here?" Dara pulled Ni away from the bagger girl. The bagger girl stepped back but she still smiled at Ni, waved at her a hasty goodbye and ran away.
"Well, you could find the right place for your bread, couldnít you?" Dara said looking at Ni reproachfully.
"Oh no, you are wrong, mom," Nirupa tried to explain while they were getting on the bus. "She said something strange to me." Then she told her mother about it in minute detail. But a second after telling Dara everything Ni could tell how upset her mom was, and almost wished she hadnít told her.
"After school, wait for me. I will come and take you home." she said. "Donít go out alone! Got it?"
The dayís wonders were not over. Before getting off the bus, an old man caressed her hair murmuring to her things that sounded like blessings. And On the street, in front of the school entrance, a group of gypsies which had a monkey with them chased Nirupa blessing her a thousand times.
Ni got so discombobulated and confused. She didnít know what to make of all that. She thought to talk about it with Dara, but she quickly changed her mind the second she saw how worried her Mom looked.
Dara was on pins and needles until she walked Nirupa to the door of her classroom.
"Honey, please donít go out during the recess! And wait for me after school!"
Nirupa promised. Dara left, running because she was so late for work.
Nirupa entered the classroom and made for her desk. The rest of the kids were making noise talking with each other, as the lesson had not started yet. When she entered, they all hushed at the same time as though by consent, and turned their eyes on her. Ni sat at her desk without speaking to anyone. She felt everyone looking at her. Confused, she began to leaf through the biology text.
"Ni," Melissa called out from her desk across the aisle. "Good, youíre here!" She collected her books and rushed to Nirupaís desk. "Scoot over! Iíve got something to tell you. She pointed to the corner row where Jane, was tattling aloud to Fiona and Emma.
"That curse of yours did work. Yesterday Jane came in late, with bags under her eyes. She didnít have any sleep at all, she was so afraid. Was it a really bad curse?"
"Címon, it was a nursery rhyme," Nirupa sighed. "A rhyme about a baby elephant. How bad could that be?"
"Well, donít know." Melissa shrugged "But yesterdayís history class nobody will forget, Iím sure. Hereís the good part. Yesterday Miss Marten was talking about Middle Ages and pagan religions and. You know what pagans are, right? Those who worship many Gods are called pagans. Miss Marten also talked about witchcraft, and said that it was a pagan belief. Miss Marten said she was convinced that magic is real and many people practice it. She said that magic and curses are extremely powerful and they do exist. You should have seen Janeís face when Miss Marten was speaking; she got so upset. Then her tooth had come loose because she had a new one coming in that she knew nothing about. Hey lookÖ I also have two looseÖ see? And the dentist told granny that there was nothing to worry about and that itís quite normal. But Jane started to scream saying that she would lose all her teeth and die because you had cursed her on Sunday. What a fuss! The headmistress took Jane to her office to calm her down. We all laughed our heads off. Iím sure she hates you tons now, so watch out. I think sheíll want to get back on you."
Nirupa couldnít help the big smile she felt popping out on her face. She was in seventh heaven. It wasnít even really her fault, but that little brat Jane had learned a good lesson.
Miss Marten walked in to the classroom.
"Well, children," she said. "Todayís lesson is about plant cells. We will learn how to prepare the plant for microscopic analysis.
Saying so, she took a carnation and put it on a flat board.
"We take the plant," she explained, "and cut it into small pieces." Then she began to cut it with something looking like a curved-edge knife.
Niís schoolbag began to move as though something, which was inside it, wanted to force itself out. Ni gripped the zipper of her sack tightly with both her hands, hoping that she could keep it closed. What was going on? Her hands felt sweaty. No matter what was inside the bag, she would not let it out. The bag continued tossing and shaking. Nirupa could hardly sit still. Worse yet, Miss Marten was now watching her which made Ni blush up to her ears.
"Nirupa," she called out, "Come up her to help me prepare the microscopic bead."
She had no way out. Ni set the bag on her desk and joined the teacher. The bag fell on the floor. Nirupa watched, horrified, as a tiny white light came out of it and flew up to her. Nirupa was flabbergasted to see the tiny light fly around her gibbering with joy. How could that tiny light have gotten inside her school bag?
"Go back inside the bag," Ni muttered through clenched teeth. Apparently, the tiny light was so happy to have gotten out that the bag she was not even considering of obeying Nirupaís orders.
No one else could see the tiny light, but they for sure saw Nirupaís reaction.
Miss Marten watched her, a puzzled look on her face. "Nirupa, are you feeling well?"
"Yes, I am well," she hastened to answered, her face burning red.
But the tiny light was saying something to Nirupa and Ni could hear nothing but the plant fairyís complaint. Miss Bell was counting to Nirupa all the evils Miss Xeel had done to her, at the same time swearing she would never return to Xeelís plant, or speak to Xeel again. At that precise moment Miss Bell noticed the carnation lying on the table and let out a loud cry. Nirupa jumped up in the air as if stung, throwing the microscope bead on the floor. The class burst out laughing.
"Whatís wrong with you, Nirupa?" the teacher said softly. Well then, go back to your desk, if you donít feel like making the experiment together. Letís have someone else come up here. Well, who would like to join me?"
But Nirupa noticed that the tiny light had already landed on the carnation lying on the table, and was pulling it away. Luckily enough, her teacher was not attentive to what was happening in front of her eyes.
"Leave it! That flower isnít yours!" Nirupa murmured. But it seemed the tiny light was deaf on that ear. Ni knew very well how whimsical Miss Bell could be. Miss Bell had apparently made up her mind to snatch the carnation from Miss Martenís hands. Miss Bell said that she would not all allow this badger Ė the name she was shamelessly giving to the teacher Ė to cut it into pieces with a knife. Nirupa realized sheíd better stay right here or Miss Bell would cause a lot of confusion.
"Miss, may I stay here?" she asked, "I feel better now."
"If you wish," the teacher said, still looking puzzled as she watched Nirupa. But now Miss Bell lifted the carnation, hovering a few inches off the desk. Nirupa sighed. It was too late. Watching the carnation hanging in the air without holding onto anything, her class breathed out one prolonged "oooh." The astonished teacher gripped the carnation and pulled it. Miss Bell, surprisingly strong, wouldnít let go. Ni felt ready to faint.
"Whatís the matter?" her teacher shouted. Then, instead of giving up her efforts at that point, she continued to pull harder. Miss Bell raged at that and gave the teacher a good kick, which made her bump into the blackboard. The fairy even though extremely tiny had the strength of one hundred horses. As a result of it, the chalk box standing above the chalkboard fell on the teacherís head, covering her whole body with chalk powder. Niís face had gone completely pale. The kids were laughing out loudly. But Miss Bell was not yet done. Nirupa knew exactly what the fairy was thinkingóthat people like Miss Marten who damage flowers are wicked, wicked people and should be punished. The fairy lifted the vase from the table to pour its water on the teacherís head. Nirupa finally came to her senses and seized tiny Bell in her hand, just in time, replacing the vase on the table. She ran to her desk and zipped Miss Bell into her bag before she could escape again. Melissa watched in astonishment. Nirupa wondered what she could tell her later. But she soon forgot about it as she saw Miss Marten struggling to get up from the floor. Jane rushed to help her.
"Miss Marten, this is Nirupaís fault. She and her mother are witches. Sheís done some kind of her magic.
Nirupa heard a gasp of shock from the class. She could hardly breathe, she felt so angry at Jane but before she could say a word, Miss Harold glared at Jane.
"Jane Howard, shut up! I do not want you to utter a single word. You and Nirupa Hakra will meet the headmistress right now. Hurry up!"
Meeting with the headmistress wasnít the best of situations Nirupa would have normally liked to find herself into, but the fact that Jane was coming along after being shouted at by Miss Marten made Ni feel better.
The rest of the afternoon was a blur for Nirupa.
Dara arrived to take Ni home, and both of them went to the schoolmistressís office and waited for Janeís mom to come. The Mayorís wife Ė Gwendolyn Ė arrived twenty minutes later. Jane had asked her to come and pick her up and not send her driver instead. Janeís mother was a young round woman; her face was very pretty, yet stamped with a striking expression of airiness, which was also noticeable in the way she spoke using a soft silky voice and lengthening the words. She was wearing a sky-blue silk dress, and had put way too much make-up.
The schoolmistress shook hands with her respectfully and then introduced her to Niís mother.
"I am glad to meet you," the other smiled. "Whatís has my baby done? Could we get over with that quickly because tonight we are invited to the Presidentís birthday party.
"Excuse me Madam, the president of...," the headmistress couldnít hold it.
"The Nationís President." Janeís mom uttered indifferently.
"Oh all right then," the schoolmistress energetically resumed, "The girls donít abide by the principle of mutual respect and keep on quarrelling. Is that true or not, Nirupa?" she cast a reproachful look at the girl.
"I never start any fight," Nirupa replied. "Itís Jane who badmouths me."
"What a liar!" Jane screamed. "Miss, she cursed me and she put a spell on me last Sunday. The entire world knows that her family is bonkers."
Ni noticed that Dara was getting restless and she was nervously playing with her ruby ring.
The headmistress put a stop to the fight.
"Your mothers and I will talk about that. Please girls go out and wait in the corridor."
The girls stood up and went out. They turned their backs to each other positioning themselves at separate windows from where they could watch the school garden. Minutes passed and the door of the schoolmistressís office remained closed, and both of them completely lost their patience waiting.
"Why do you hate me? What have I done to you?" Nirupa suddenly broke the silence.
Jane had not expected Nirupa talking to her so she didnít know what to say. She starred at Ni and then smiled maliciously. Ni starred back at Jane and waited.
"I never speak to witches," Jane snarled.
Nirupa bit her lip. She had to keep control, she knew it, though she wanted to scream at Jane and punch her. "Iíve never done anything bad to you. Canít you at least leave me in peace from now on?"
"Of course you canít harm me." Jane snapped back completely mad from Nirupaís calm tone of voice. "Your magic is lame. Youíre a lame which."
Nirupa took a deep breath, trying hard not to lose her temper.
"Ok," she said. "Think as you like but you have to stop saying bad things about me and my mom."
"Really?" Jane smirked. "Iíll talk about you all I want. And you canít do anything about it. You and your lame family of witches!"
"Youíll be sorry for that, I promise," Nirupa replied coldly. "You started this war between us."
At that moment the door opened, and Dara, and Janeís mother stepped out accompanied by the schoolmistress.
"Thank you for your coming and thank you for your time," the schoolmistress said shaking hands with Janeís mother. She extended her hand to Dara but Nirupa could see it was without much enthusiasm.
"Girls, you may go with your mothers, and I hope you will cause no more problems from now on."
"Mom, what did she say to you?" Nirupa asked as Dara walked away, pulling her by her hand.
"Well, she thinks her daughter is the model of cleverness and noble behaviors. And it was you who had painfully worried Jane with that silly curse."
"But she called me a witch!" Ni protested.
"Right," Dara said. "I told her that my daughter never bullies anyone for pleasureís sake. We are indeed simple people but, who, at least, have not developed either habits or needs to slander or fabricate untrue stories to climb the social ladder and feel comfortable. My words had an effect on her and she grew moody and angry and shut up her mouth. Now baby, promise me youíll stay away from these girls. And I promise you I will not let anyone hurt you or your feelings."
Nirupa tightened her grip on her motherís hand lovingly. She felt she loved her Mom very much. She was always there to protect her, but now it was Niís turn to come to her Momís defense. Jane who, dared to badmouth Dara certainly needed a good lesson.
Yet Dara, as though already knowing what her daughter was brooding over, suddenly stopped. Faced her daughter, gripped her both hands, held them in hers for a second and said:
"Be careful, Nirupa! Please get over with such tricks. Stay away from such people.
"Yes, Mom, I will."
"Will you give me your word?" Dara asked.
"No! I wonít!í a voice yelled within Nirupa, but on the outside she forced the sweetest smile ever and politely said:
"Yes, of course, Mom!" Behind her back she crossed her fingers, which everybody knew, made it okay to break her promise.
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