Since its founding in 1692 as a safe haven during the witch trials, Yvette I. Koffin’s Exceptional School for Supernatural Students has seen its fair share of catastrophe and tomfoolery. Take, for instance, the year 1906, when Gertie the ghoul got stuck inside the faculty gramophone for three days. Or that unfortunate morning in 1844, when a mischievous warlock put sleeping elixir in the potion master’s tea to get out of a test and ended up exploding the entire east wing. (Nightshade and caffeine do not mix well, it turns out.) It’s even rumored that there was a week, in 1717, when the dormitories inexplicably disappeared. Most suspect that particular incident was not a prank but instead had something to do with the veil of protection that hangs over the school grounds, making all magical goings-on invisible to any human that might be passing by.
And yet, despite all the chaos the school has endured over the years, never in the history of YIKESSS has any student caused such widespread destruction as Bella and Donna Maleficent—and on their first day of sixth grade, no less!
It’s a dreary Monday in Peculiar, Pennsylvania, when their story begins. An hour ago, before the Maleficent twins set foot in Spell Casting class, the window in Yvette Koffin’s tower framed a view of birds chirping beneath clear, sunny skies. Now, however, a steady rain rattles against the glass, and gusts of wind shriek as they roll through the hemlock trees in the courtyard below.
Unlike the rest of the school, Principal Koffin’s office is mostly dry, save for two young witches, soaking wet and sulking on a bench in the center of the room. While the principal is nowhere to be found, a four-eyed crow sits on its perch behind her desk, silent but alert. It has two dark, beady eyes locked on each of the Maleficent twins.
“This is all your fault,” Donna says quietly. Her arms are crossed, her gaze fixed straight ahead. A tiny raindrop falls from her chin onto her emerald-green blazer, right in the center of the YIKESSS school crest. It doesn’t matter. The blazer, like the rest of her uniform, is already drenched.
“My fault?” Bella is wringing the rain out of her long black hair and letting it pool around her feet. There’s so much water on the floor already, she figures a little more won’t make a difference. “No way, Dee. I was only cleaning up your mess.”
Dee squeezes her eyes shut. Conjuring those huge, desk-devouring flames in Spell Casting and nearly burning down the school was definitely not how her first day as a Real and Powerful Witch was supposed to go. After she’d spent five years trying and failing to blend in at the human school, YIKESSS was supposed to be a fresh start. Her chance to finally be a normal witch.
Bella, on the other hand, has never been satisfied with normal. When the twins came into their powers over the summer and they received their official welcome letter from YIKESSS, Bella assured Dee that sixth grade was going to be their year. It didn’t matter that nobody liked them at the human school. Now that they had full access to their powers, all the supernatural kids would want to be their friends.
And then Spell Casting happened.
After a lesson on conjuring, Bella and Dee’s teacher, Professor Belinda, had the class practicing simple sparks, a spell so easy that even a human could do it. At least that’s what Bella said when Dee wasn’t getting it right.
“Turn your wrists to a hundred and thirty degrees, Dee,” Bella explained, repeating Professor Belinda’s words in that annoying, know-it-all tone of hers that made Dee want to zap her own ears off. “No, not like that. Spread your fingers apart, like you’re turning a really big doorknob. Here, watch me.”
Bella is the older by five minutes and is always telling Dee how things should and should not be done. Or how she believes things should and should not be done, anyway.
“But I didn’t need your help,” Dee says now, opening her eyes and slouching farther into the bench. A stray black curl, sopping wet and heavy, falls over her face. She tucks it behind her ear with a huff.
“Oh, you did too,” Bella says. “You always do.”
Dee’s jaw drops in outrage. “Do not!”
Dee fixes Bella with a glare. “I would never even have conjured those flames in the first place if you hadn’t distracted me. You’re so pushy.”
“Pushy?” When the desk they shared caught fire, Bella didn’t hesitate. She did what any brave witch would have done in her situation: she acted. That wasn’t pushy. It was heroic. Besides, she only meant to summon a little rain. It wasn’t her fault her magic was so strong that she summoned a storm cloud all the way from Seattle instead.
“A good witch always listens to their instincts,” Bella says matter-of-factly. It was one of the first things she learned in A Beginner’s Guide to Witchcraft, the Level 1 Spell Casting handbook she’s already read cover to cover. “And my instincts were telling me I had to summon the storm cloud to stop the fire.”
“You could’ve summoned a fire extinguisher,” Dee mumbles. “That would have been way less messy.”
Bella frowns at Dee, frustrated and a little hurt. Why can’t her sister see that she was only trying to help? She looks out the window and starts fiddling with her necklace, a silver crescent moon on a thin chain. It was a first-day-of-school gift from the girls’ dads. Dee got one too, except instead of a moon her charm is a gold star. The moon and stars work together to light up the night, their dad Antony—or Dad—explained, presenting the twins with two dark jewelry boxes. Stronger together, their dad Ron—whom the girls call Pop—added. Just like the two of you.
Bella thinks about that crucial moment in Spell Casting, the one when Dee’s sloppy wristwork—she looked more like she was swatting a fly than opening a door—made their desk catch fire. Bella remembers staring at the flames, so tall that they grazed the ceiling, and imagining, for one terrifying moment, those flames reaching out like tentacles and snatching Dee away.
So Bella curled her hands into fists, let the fire turn her green eyes red, and thought, Make it rain. And rain it did, all over the classrooms, the hallways, and the rest of the school grounds, inside and out. She’d had no idea such a simple spell could be so powerful. By the time Professor Belinda managed to banish the storm outside, the entire first floor of the school was flooded.
On the dark side, at least the fire was out.
“I don’t care what you think.” Bella flips her wet hair over her shoulder with a flick of her wrist. She’s been waiting her whole life to grow into her powers, and now that she has, Dee wants her to feel bad about using them? No way. “I stopped the fire, and I’m not sorry.”
Dee rolls her eyes, the same shade of radioactive green as her sister’s. Dee knows getting Bella to admit she’s wrong is like pulling vampire fangs. Most of the time it’s pointless to even try.
Dee sighs and looks down at her black Mary Janes, a brand-new pair for the new school year. When she put them on at breakfast, she imagined all the different places the shoes would take her. To the courtyard, where she could listen to music by the mermaid fountain. To the flyball field for her first broom-flying lesson. To a lunch table in the center of the cafeteria, surrounded by friends. She had not imagined they would bring her here, to the principal’s office. She should probably pay extra attention in Clairvoyance class this year.
“When Principal Koffin comes, let me do the talking, okay?” Dee looks at Bella. “We’re going to be in enough trouble as it is.”
For the first time since they arrived, Bella’s brow creases with concern. “You think we’ll get in trouble?”
“Duh,” Dee says. She looks up at the four-eyed crow, quiet on its perch. Two of its eyes are still watching her, unblinking.
Bella stands up quickly and starts pacing in small circles. “But it was an accident,” she says. Her black boots squeak with every step she takes. The crow uses its other pair of eyes to follow her movements. “We can’t be punished for an accident.”
“We’re in the principal’s office, Bella,” Dee says, shaking her head. “And Principal Koffin is a harpy. Haven’t you heard what harpy principals do to kids who break the rules?”
Bella stops pacing. “What do they do?”
Dee glances back at the crow, a mischievous look in her eye. Then she sits up straighter and reaches her hands out toward Bella, hooking her fingers like talons. “They snatch them up with their big, birdy claws, fly them back to their nest, and peck out their eyes.”
Bella’s face is skeptical. “Really?”
“No, doofus,” Dee says, relaxing into her seat again. “We’ll probably just get detention.”
Bella’s eyes grow wide. “I can’t get detention,” she cries. “It will ruin my chances of getting on Horror Roll!”
Dee shakes her head in disbelief. She’s pretty sure Bella loves school more than Dee loves anything. Well, except maybe strawberry milkshakes. And cats. “So you don’t get on Horror Roll,” Dee says. “Big deal.”
“It is a big deal!” Bella stomps her foot, and red sparks fly out from beneath her heel. Suddenly the bookcase behind her starts to tremble.
“What’s going on?” Dee jumps up. “What did you do?”
“I don’t know!” Bella replies, and the trembling intensifies. A stack of books falls from the top shelf and lands with a heavy thud just inches from where she stands. Bella lets out a scream of surprise. Around her more furniture starts to shake.
“What does the handbook say about stopping earthquakes?” Dee yells.
“It doesn’t!” Bella shouts back. “Natural disasters are Level Two!”
A thick, leather-bound book falls from the middle shelf and grazes Bella’s shoulder. She jumps to the side, screams again. That’s when Dee realizes: the more Bella panics, the worse the earthquake gets.
“You have to stop freaking out!” Dee says. She extends a hand toward her sister. “Seriously, Bella! Stop!”
Blue sparks fly from Dee’s fingertips, and a moment later the room goes still and silent. Bella and Dee let out synchronized sighs of relief.
“Wow,” Dee says, more to herself than Bella. She pulls her hand back, examines it. Did she do that? Fascinated by her fingers, Dee takes a careless step backward and collides with an antique lamp on Principal Koffin’s desk. It starts to tip forward.
“Watch out!” Bella calls, pointing over Dee’s shoulder.
Dee lunges for the lamp and catches it just before it crashes to the floor, but in her haste she accidentally fires off a giggle charm that hits the four-eyed crow. The bird lets out a string of low, even snickers.
Bella smacks a hand to her forehead. The girls still do not have complete control over their powers and, as such, are no strangers to occasional magical mishaps. “Jeepers creepers, Dee.”
Unsure how to reverse the spell, Dee tries the same one that worked on the earthquake. “Stop!” she says, one hand clutching the lamp and the other pointing at the crow. “Stop laughing!”
It doesn’t work this time. The bird continues to snicker.
Bella crouches over the fallen books. “Quick, put the lamp back and help me pick these up before—”
The door swings open, and the sisters look up. The rest of Bella’s sentence dies in her throat.
Standing ominously in the doorway, her dark red wings filling up the mahogany frame behind her, is Principal Yvette Koffin.