Initiation (Secret Circle)
It wasn’t supposed to be this hot and humid on Cape Cod. Cassie had seen it in the guidebook; everything was supposed to be perfect here, like Camelot.
Except, the guidebook added absently, for the poison ivy, and ticks, and green flies, and toxic shellfish, and undercurrents in seemingly peaceful water.
The book had also warned against hiking out on narrow peninsulas because high tide could come along and strand you. But just at this moment Cassie would have given anything to be stranded on some peninsula jutting far out into the Atlantic Ocean – as long as Portia Bain-bridge was on the other side.
Cassie had never been so miserable in her life.
“… and my other brother, the one on the MIT debate team, the one who went to the World Debate Tournament in Scotland two years ago…” Portia was saying. Cassie felt her eyes glaze over again and slipped back into her wretched trance. Both of Portia’s brothers went to MIT and were frighteningly accomplished, not only at intellectual pursuits but also at athletics. Portia was frighteningly accomplished herself, even though she was only going to be a junior in high school this year, like Cassie. And since Portia’s favorite subject was Portia, she’d spent most of the last month telling Cassie all about it.
“… and then after I placed fifth in extemporaneous speaking at the National Forensic League Championship last year, my boyfriend said, ‘Well, of course you’ll go All-American…”
Just one more week, Cassie told herself. Just one more week and I can go home. The very thought filled her with a longing so sharp that tears came to her eyes. Home, where her friends were. Where she didn’t feel like a stranger, and unaccomplished, and boring, and stupid just because she didn’t know what a quahog was. Where she could laugh about all this: her wonderful vacation on the eastern seaboard.
“… so my father said, ‘Why don’t I just buy it for you?’ But I said, ‘No – well, maybe…’ “
Cassie stared out at the sea.
It wasn’t that the Cape wasn’t beautiful. The little cedar-shingled cottages, with white picket fences covered with roses and wicker rocking chairs on the porch and geraniums hanging from the rafters, were pretty as picture postcards. And the village greens and tall-steepled churches and old-fashioned schoolhouses made Cassie feel as if she’d stepped into a different time.
But every day there was Portia to deal with. And even though every night Cassie thought of some devastatingly witty remark to make to Portia, somehow she never got around to actually making any of them. And far worse than anything Portia could do was the plain raw feeling of not belonging. Of being a stranger here, stranded on the wrong coast, completely out of her own element. The tiny duplex back in California had started to seem like heaven to Cassie.
One more week, she thought. You’ve just got to stand it for one more week.
And then there was Mom, so pale lately and so quiet… A worried twinge went through Cassie, and she quickly pushed it away. Mom is fine, she told herself fiercely. She’s probably just miserable here, the same way you are, even though this is her native state. She’s probably counting the days until we can go home, just like you are.
Of course that was it, and that was why her mother looked so unhappy when Cassie talked about being homesick. Her mother felt guilty for bringing Cassie here, for making this place sound like a vacation paradise. Everything would be all right when they got back home, for both of them.
“Cassie! Are you listening to me?