Autumn air is always described as crisp, but that’s exactly how it was when I cast my first hex. I stood at the corner of the street and my eight-year-old body shivered as the cold air brushed against my bare cheek. Eric Desmond approached the corner and waved energetically. He didn’t go to my school, but because of my school’s budget, I had to ride his bus, an experience that usually resulted in tears for me. I braced myself for any teasing. This time I was ready.

“Hey, Maria. What are you going to be for Halloween?” he asked.

“A werewolf.”

“That’s a boy’s costume.”

“Is not.”

“Is so. Girls are supposed to be pretty things like princesses, fairies, and fairy princesses.”

“We are not. Halloween is not about being pretty. Halloween is supposed to be scary!” I wasn’t as ready as I thought. No matter what, his words would get to me. My body tensed and I clenched my fists, ready to punch him.

“Boys are supposed to be scary! Or cool. Do you want to be a boy or something?” he asked with disgust.

“Not if it means I’d be like you!” I screamed. Then I remembered my weapon. “I bet I know what you’re going to be for Halloween,” I said with a grin. If my eyes could shoot fire, they would have done so then. I glared at him, walked closer, and put my hand on his shoulder.

Eric stiffened. “Don’t touch me,” he said and shoved my hand off his shoulder.

I reached for him with my other hand.

“Spirits of the North, Spirits of the East, Spirits of the South, Spirits of the West, I call upon you to take this boy to your realm and return him as a cockroach so he can spend the rest of his short life running from his father’s shoes,” I said icily.

Tears welled up in his eyes and his face paled. He ran home, screaming for his mother. I cackled in the way I practiced all week. Later I learned that his father was an abusive alcoholic, but I never knew for sure if that was because of my unpolished hex or just a coincidence. Maybe it wasn’t ethical to hex Eric Desmond. He didn’t threaten me or my family, except maybe my state of mind, but I didn’t have to deal with him ever again and that’s okay to me.