MIDDLE AGE READERS Isabella Pestoni has a secret. In the quiet solitude of her fruit cellar she practices witchcraft, an Old Tradition her grandmother's been teaching her for years. But on the night of her thirteenth birthday... everything changes. A dream. A warning. A betrayal. A threat. Isabella's life is suddenly turned upside down as she questions her beliefs, her faith and even herself. Thus begins a journey fraught with danger, surprises and terror as an evil force vows to destroy her. And the only help she can depend on is from the four rats in her cellar. Coven of Rats is the story of one girl's quest for maturity, answers and love as she races against the clock to save her life... and time is running out.
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The slow walk to the principal’s office is a solemn one. I feel like a death row prisoner taking her final steps. I don’t know what is scarier: the predicament of having no clue why I was dragged out of Mass or Sister Crowley’s demeanor. She is a demure woman, barely taller than me, but fierce as fire. Nobody knows her actual age, but there are parents of kids in my class who knew her when they went to this school and swear she was as old then as she is now. Stern to a fault, most of the kids despise her. I, however, have developed a certain respect for her over the years. She doesn’t let any of the problem kids (or teachers, for that matter) bully her. Many tried, all have failed. Stories of physical discipline are rampant throughout these halls, though nobody is brave enough to put the gossip to the test.
I sit in an old, wooden chair in front of her desk. Both pieces of furniture are weathered and marked with battle scars of years past. It is common knowledge that nuns lead pious lives. And Sister Crowley’s office reflects that lifestyle. Very few decorations adorn the walls, with the exception of a crucifix high above her desk and a picture of the Virgin Mary in a metal frame on the plain white wall to my left. Two rusting metal cabinets rest against a window, blocking valuable sunlight. They’re a mismatched pair, remnants of yard sales or plucked from a defunct business.
Sister Crowley ruffles some papers and finally makes eye contact. Her pursed lips want to speak, but are having trouble. She sips a beverage from her Our Lady of the Lake mug and ruffles some more papers.
She sniffs and deeply sighs. “Sorry for removing you from Mass, Isabella. But I felt it was necessary.”
“That’s okay,” I reply nervously, “he was just starting communion.”
“I see.” The nun sighs again. “Isabella, your father called, oh about twenty minutes ago and asked if he could speak with you. Of course, Mass was under way so I pressed him for information.”
“And…” I ask, now sitting on the edge of my chair.
“Apparently…” Sister Crowley clears her throat. “Apparently, your grandmother passed away this morning. I’m very sorry for your loss.”
I stare at the nun, unable to process the news. There is obviously some mistake. Grandma is sick, but she’ll get better. She’s fine. Grabbing the arms of my chair, I lash out.
“How can you be so cruel? Why would you lie to me?”
“Bella, I wouldn’t lie. I know this news isn’t easy to hear, but”
“You don’t know anything!” I interrupt. “My grandma is fine. I’ll show you. I’ll show you.”
I stomp from the room like an angry bull and storm into the empty hall, determined to set the record straight. I’m going to march right over to grandma’s house and have her phone old Sister Liar.
I arrive at my locker and angrily open the door, causing it to crash into the locker next to mine. The echo rings through the vacant corridor. I rip open my backpack with too much force as books and my oil canister spill out onto the black and white checker tile floor. Rage builds inside me. I throw the backpack to the ground and give it a kick, sending it sprawling against the wall.
Then I hear another sound, like a tin can hitting concrete. I glance at the floor near my feet and see my cimaruta and pieces of the broken clasp. I fall to my knees, grasp the amulet in both hands and hold it to my heart.
Curled up like a newborn baby, I unabashedly weep.