The Witch in the Mirror – Part 24

Beatrice was walking along the corridor on the bottom floor of the main school building when she heard it. Music filled the air. She felt herself drawn to it. The door was closed but she could see into the music room through the window.

There was a guy sitting with a cello between his legs. It was the same guy she had seen from the bus the other day. As he drew a bow across the strings a haunting melody poured from the instrument. Beatrice was hypnotised. She couldn’t move.

Beatrice didn’t notice Miss Elizabeth—the music teacher and unofficial school counsellor—sitting in the corner of the music room. She was tapping her foot in time with the music but she turned her head to see Beatrice peering through the window. Miss Elizabeth looked thoughtfully at Beatrice. She already knew most of the students from music class but she hadn’t met this girl with fiery red hair before. Just maybe… Miss Elizabeth let her thoughts drift as the bow flew faster across the strings of the cello.

Music swirled around Beatrice’s head and filled her heart until she felt like she was being lifted from the ground. She was flying through the darkness. Far below her in the mist was a mountain peak and she descended to find a dark-haired woman waiting for her.

‘Bea,’ she called, ‘Bea.’ The voice became more insistent and Beatrice felt a tugging at her sleeve.

‘Bea, come on, we’ll be late for history.’

Beatrice’s eyes suddenly focused to find Emily standing in front of her.

‘Bea, are you okay?’

‘Oh—yeah, sure. We should get to class.’ She turned and looked back at the music room. It was silent as they walked away.

Beatrice was still shaking as she took her seat in the classroom next to Emily.

Mr Garcia was at the front of the room. He began moving among the desks handing out notes. ‘This is a permission letter that you need to get your parents to sign. Next week we have our excursion to Lawton Wold which we will be using for our major project.’

He moved back to the front of the room.

‘History—what does it mean to you?’ He paused and looked around the blank faces in the room. ‘What is the difference between history and memory?’ Someone coughed nervously. ‘While these are rhetorical questions, we can shape our enquiry into history by defining the difference between history and memory. Would anyone like to have a go?’ He looked expectantly at the class. ‘Emily, how about you?’

‘Ummm—oh gosh, well—I guess history is what happened. Ummm—memory is what you think happened.’ She felt the answer was pretty lame. Emily looked at Beatrice for support, but she was surprised at the look on Beatrice’s face―it was like someone had suddenly walked over her grave.

‘Not a bad attempt, but I think you got it around the wrong way. Memory is about what happened and history is our attempt to understand the meaning of what happened. The modern conception of the self has memory at its core. You are what you remember. Identities retain the traces of the past in subtle but important ways. So now—Beatrice, are you okay?’ Mr Garcia had suddenly noticed her pale face.

‘I—I think I just need to go to the bathroom.’

Beatrice stood up uncertainly and hurried from the room.

‘Sir, perhaps I should go with her. Make sure she is okay.’

Mr Garcia nodded and Emily hurried after Beatrice. She found her locked in a cubicle and Emily could hear Beatrice sobbing. ‘Bea, are you okay?’

‘Yes,’ she sniffed.

‘What happened?’

Beatrice opened the cubicle door and walked to the sink. ‘I don’t remember anything.’ Her voice was a whisper.

‘What do you mean?’

Beatrice told her about the car accident and her memory loss. ‘So now I live with my grandmother. She says my memories will come back in time. Sometimes I get little flashes but they don’t make any sense.’

Emily didn’t know what to say. She put her arms around Beatrice’s shoulders and hugged her. Beatrice’s hair was soft against her face.

The Witch in the Mirror – Part 23

Ailis twisted the petals in her fingers. She was lying on her stomach in the woods studying the wildflowers. She picked a handful and wove them into her curly red hair.

She looked up as a flock of ravens flew high overhead. They would be heading back to the mountains for the summer to roost. Their black shapes circled once before disappearing toward the east.

Her stomach grumbled with hunger but Ailis was too busy to bother doing anything about it. She had until the sun was high until she had to take her father’s lunch to the blacksmith forge. It had only just risen above the treetops so she had plenty of time. Besides, it was warm and peaceful in the woods.

Through the trees Ailis could hear the water of the lake lapping against the shore. She stood and walked through the trees until she could see glimpses of blue. She felt a thrill of excitement. She had never come this far into the wood before. But today was special. It was her birthday—and she was no longer a child, having bled for the first time last full moon.

Ailis’s red hair glinted in the sunlight as she stepped from the trees and moved to the edge of the lake. The lake stretched so far she couldn’t see the other side. Somewhere over there was the Westerly Mountains and on the other side—so her father told her once when she was young—was a magnificent castle where the king sat on his throne of gold.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to sit on that gold throne and rule the kingdom? Ailis smiled to herself. One day she would travel to that far away castle. Maybe she would even meet a prince and he would fall in love with her—even though she was only a blacksmith’s daughter. She grimaced and looked down at the patched skirt she wore. Her hands were small and still soft but she could feel callouses starting to her form on her palms. She rubbed her hands against her skirt, as though that would rub the callouses away. When she found her prince she hoped he would see the heart that lay beneath the patched skirt and calloused hands. He would shower her with beautiful things and she would never have to wear old clothes and live in a tiny cottage ever again.

Ailis closed her eyes and tried to imagine what a castle even looked like. The sun was warm on her face and she spread her arms wide. She began to picture herself flying—across the lake, over the snow-capped mountains, toward the distant castle. She felt light—light as a feather. Like she was floating …

Ailis opened her eyes and gasped before falling back to the ground with a thump. She had been floating. Flying! Really flying. Did she have magic? She felt a thrill of fear. Magic was forbidden throughout the kingdom. It had been forbidden years ago. Ever since before she was born.

She dimly remembered the stories her mother had told her. She had trouble remembering what she looked like now. It had been so long ago. She could remember her grey hair. She knew her face was kind even though Ailis could no longer picture her anymore. She had just disappeared one night. Ailis’ father had said she was with the king’s army, working as a healer for the soldiers. She will come home one day, he had said. But Ailis didn’t believe it anymore. If she was still alive she would surely have come back to them by now. Bryn the blacksmith never talked about Saba anymore, but Ailis had never forgotten that she had told her she was special. She had touched the pendant and said it kept her safe and she should never take it off.

Ailis felt the pendant under her dress. It was warm where it lay between her small breasts. She looked around to make sure she was still alone. A mischievous grin crossed her face.

She could fly!

The Witch in the Mirror – Part 22

Beatrice and Emily were at a bench in the science lab. They were both studying the test tube in front of them. Their first assignment was to observe the chemical reaction when they added a number of substances together.

‘So what do we do next?’ Beatrice asked.

‘Using the tongs, place the strip of magnesium in the bottom of the bottle,’ Emily read from the instruction sheet.

Beatrice carefully picked up the long magnesium strip with the tongs and placed it in the bottle.

‘Now add a pinch of salt and seal the bottle.’

As Beatrice reached into the container for the salt she sliced her finger on the sharp metal edge. She dropped the salt into the jar. They both stared at the spots of blood mixed with the salt.

‘Great Goddess, grant us your protection.’

Beatrice looked up and Emily was staring at her with wide eyes.

‘What did you just say?’ Emily whispered.

‘I don’t know, the words just sort of popped out.’

They stared at each other until suddenly there was a blinding flash of light and a puff of smoke rose from the jar.

When the smoke cleared they looked into the jar and the magnesium had become a small pile of ash in the shape of a crescent moon.

The Witch in the Mirror – Part 21

Gwen sat at the kitchen table watching Beatrice eat her dinner. Beatrice looked up from her plate and saw the worried look on her grandmother’s face.

‘What’s up, Gramma. You don’t look very happy.’

‘Oh child, you have such an imagination. This is just the way my face looks.’ She smiled but Beatrice could see there was no heart in it.

‘What is it, Gramma?’

‘I’m just glad you’re home safe and sound. When the bus was late I worried about you.’

‘It was only because the road was wet and there was a lot of traffic.’

‘I just want you to be careful, sweetie.’

Bea took another mouthful of stew. She looked thoughtful as she chewed slowly.

‘Gramma, is there something you’re not telling me?’

‘Like what?’

‘Oh, I don’t know. It’s just—well, you know—it’s just that you seem to worry about me all the time—and I’m fine—really I am.’

‘I just want you to be happy, Bea. You said yourself that you didn’t feel like you were fitting in at school.’

‘Well, I have made a friend now. Her name is Emily and we sit together in English and chemistry—so you can stop worrying about me.’

Gwen looked up. Was that the reason for the lipstick? There was also something shining in Beatrice’s eye that she didn’t quite understand. There was a glow of happiness when she mentioned Emily, but there was something else as well—there was a shadow and Gwen knew there was something Beatrice wasn’t telling her.

‘—and I’ve started writing little stories. They’re silly really but it gives me something to do. I thought the stories might help me to remember. You know, it’s almost hypnotic.’

‘Stories can’t replace your memories,’ Gwen said quickly. ‘Tell me about Emily. I’m so glad you’ve found a friend.’

Beatrice’s face lit up again and the shadow disappeared.

‘She’s great—a bit shy, but I can see she has a real strength underneath. There is a real energy about her. She says she’s interested in witchcraft.’

Gwen gripped the table hard. ‘What do you mean—witchcraft?’

‘Oh, it’s just a thing—books and things, you know.’ Beatrice looked up again. ‘What is it, Gramma?’ Gwen’s face had gone white. She began stroking the beads around her neck.

‘You don’t want to mess around with witchcraft.’

‘It’s only stories,’ Beatrice laughed, but her laughter echoed hollowly in her own ears as she thought about the chemistry experiment.

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