Saffron Ripper adjusted the brim of her large black hat, took a deep breath, and pushed open the doors to the school canteen. Mr Mistoffelees followed, his long white-tipped black tail curled around her calves with each step.
The familiar smells of powdered mashed potato and overcooked cabbage assaulted her senses and she wrinkled her nose in disgust. The room fell silent and her heels resonated on the grey chipped floor tiles. She nodded at Mr Rowsell, the incompetent headmaster, and paused. Ten long years she’d waited.
‘S… Saf… won,’ he stammered and offered his hand. She held his focus and his arm dropped back to his side. ‘So pleased you could make this momentous reunion.’ His jaw wobbled, the folds of skin shimmered with sweat. ‘All the class of ’79 have made it.’
Saffron raised one corner of her mouth. ‘Even Annunziata Revel-Rattcliffe?’
Mr Rowsell nodded enthusiastically. ‘Yes. The top prefect of all her five years studying here.’ He leant into her and the cat fell to the floor, preparing to pounce. ‘She’s a school governor now, such a success—’
Saffron pushed past him, making for the only person in the room who had continued to talk, loudly. She stood and waited, watching Annunziata’s audience squirm with discomfort.
‘Do you remember?’ Annunziata spoke in the same baby tone that had irritated her all those years ago. ‘Ripper? The girl who wanted to be a witch?’ Her bottle blond chignon secured with a pearl-studded bow caught the light from the window. ‘She used to carry around a stuffed black and white cat called Mr Toffee or something. They found the poor thing in one of the loo’s, drowned in pee-pee, the poor thing.’
Saffron muttered under her breath, and the pin dislodged, releasing a hair piece that fell to the floor. In one quick sweep Mr Mistoffelees picked it up in his mouth and ducked under the nearest table. Chuckles erupted around the room.
Annunziata swung around, her face like thunder. She tucked her thinning locks behind each ear.
‘So, you made it? I heard you were down in the gutter where you belong. A cleaning job in the public toilets?’ She held Saffron’s gaze with a pair of mean blue eyes. ‘I don’t suppose all of us can be blessed with intelligence and a university degree.’
‘Oh, I’ve just graduated,’ Saffron grinned, watching the confusion wrinkle across her brow. ‘With honours,’ she added. The gold cross at Annunziata’s throat rose and fell with her swallow. Reaching into her cloak, Saffron pulled out a rather bent long pencil. Along its length was a coil of purple hair.
Annunziata stepped back and laughed nervously. ‘Really? And can I ask where you graduated from?’
‘Keakorths, Academy of Witchcraft.’ Saffron muttered a chant under her breath as a bolt of light shot from the pencil. Annunziata screamed and disappeared. The crowd gasped. Saffron waited until the brightness faded, revealing a large fat toad. Around its brown mottled neck sat a gold cross which wobbled as it croaked.
‘Oops,’ Saffron giggled as Mr Mistoffelees crept up behind it, his belly brushing the floor. ‘I’m still working on that spell.’