The Witch in the Mirror – Part 27

A few days later Beatrice sat in a cafe after school with Emily. They were meant to be putting the finishing touches on their chemistry assignment but neither girl was focused on her schoolwork as they waited for their coffees to be served. Beatrice could feel Emily looking at her thoughtfully. She pretended to be thinking about the assignment but her thoughts were on that haunting tune.

‘How about—’

‘Who is—’ They both began at the same time and stopped and laughed.

‘You go,’ Beatrice said.

Emily took a deep breath.

‘No, you go first.’

‘I was thinking about Anar and why she doesn’t like you.’

Emily’s face dropped.

‘I think she knows you’re afraid of her.’

‘I’m not afraid of her. She’s just mean.’

Emily didn’t want to argue about it.

Beatrice let it drop and went back to reading the textbook.

The two girls sat in silence for a few minutes as the waitress placed their cups on the table.

‘Will that be all,’ she drawled.

‘No thanks, we’re good,’ Beatrice replied. She dipped a spoon in the sugar bowl and began stirring her coffee.

‘So do you really not remember anything from before?’ Emily suddenly blurted out.

‘Nothing.’ Beatrice’s voice was flat.

Emily saw the look on Beatrice’s face. She knew Beatrice didn’t like talking about it and wanted to change the subject. She was never comfortable talking about herself.

‘I’m sorry, Beatrice. It’s just—well, I looked up a newspaper article about the accident. I thought it might prompt your memory. Maybe you need help.’

‘Gramma says I’m fine, it’s just the trauma. But then I have these—’ She was about to say dreams but she didn’t know if she was ready to share that with Emily. Beatrice was even wondering if she should have told Emily about her memory loss.

‘It’s just that, you know, the article doesn’t say anything about you.’ Emily pushed a newspaper clipping across the table.

 

The notorious stretch of road across the Pennines has taken another two lives. A vehicle driving east toward the Pennine Pass left an icy stretch of road at approximately 2:00 to 3:00 am Sunday night. The overturned vehicle was discovered but both the driver and passenger were pronounced dead by the time paramedics arrived. Police have withheld the names of the victims until relatives can be advised.

 

Beatrice finished reading and put the newspaper clipping down.

‘So? Maybe it was the wrong accident.’

‘But look at the date, Beatrice. It’s the same one you said your accident was.’

‘Maybe it’s just coincidence.’ She shrugged. Beatrice didn’t want to think about it. ‘Are you saying Gramma lied to me?’

‘Have you talked to her?’

‘Of course I have. She says I’m not ready.’ Beatrice twisted the coffee cup in her hand. Emily placed her hand on Beatrice’s forearm.

‘I think you should get professional help. It’s not normal to lose your memory. I’ve been researching about that too.’

Emily reached across the table and squeezed Beatrice’s hand.

‘I’m sorry, Bea. I didn’t mean to make you cry.’

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The Witch in the Mirror – Part 25

Princess Alyce slammed the book shut. She had been reading it all night but all she found was frustration. All she had been able to do was cast an enchantment on the castle that protected it—and her—from the king. For now anyway.

What she had learned about breaking the king’s enchantment of Alexandria was another thing completely. She just didn’t have the power. Not on her own. If she had both her sisters they would be strong enough. But Meaghan was out of reach and Katharine had simply disappeared.

Alyce was furious with her older sister. At the first sign of trouble she just flew away without leaving word or staying to help her younger sisters.

She opened the book again. Hushed whispers rose from the pages. So many voices trying to tell her what to do, but she didn’t know which ones to listen to.

A breeze blew through the door and the pages of the book began flipping over. Alyce sat back and watched until they stopped. She leant forward and began reading.

If she needed more power she would get more power. Whatever it takes.

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.

The Witch in the Mirror – Part 20

Anar was still fuming when she got home. She hated being made to look stupid.

It wasn’t the first time Emily had made her look bad. Anar’s cheeks flushed pink as she thought about the day it had started. It didn’t matter that it was way back in eighth grade. Anar had still not forgotten.

BFFs forever.

That is what Emily had written in Anar’s book. And Anar had believed her. She looked up to Emily back then. Emily was the smart one and Anar was quiet and shy and they had instantly become friends when they first met at the beginning of the new school year. Nobody else wanted to play with a girl that had brown skin and a foreign sounding name.

It had only been a month into the year. They had spent the morning cooking cupcakes and Emily and Anar had giggled together as they carefully iced each cake.

After class Anar ran to catch up with Emily when she tripped over somebody’s schoolbag. Cupcakes scattered all across the corridor as Anar landed flat on her face.

At first she was stunned to see her cupcakes rolling on the floor. Then she heard the other children laughing. She looked up to see Emily laughing with them and Anar’s eyes stung with tears.

Emily later said she was sorry and gave Anar big hug. But the following week was Emily’s birthday. She had told Anar she wasn’t having a party or anything. It was only later that Anar discovered all the other girls in the class had been invited to a party.

That was only the beginning and life just got worse from there. Anar never spoke to Emily again.

She clenched her fists on the desk at the memory and screwed up the piece of paper she had been doodling on.

I hate her, I hate her, I hate her, was circled by spirals and shapes and stars.

Anar reached for her jewellery box and peered inside before pulling out a gold chain. She always liked gold best against her skin—they complemented each other. She studied the pendant before putting it around her neck. It had been a gift from her grandmother before the family moved to England. She admired it shining in the mirror.

Anar put the necklace back into the jewellery box and snapped the lid shut. The little ballerina did a half-turn and the box played a couple of musical notes. Anar reached to the back of the box and wound if fully before watching the ballerina do her dance, lost in thought.

The last notes finally tinkled from the jewellery box and Anar smiled to herself. She had a plan now. Beatrice and Emily. They had made Anar look stupid in front of others and she was out for revenge.

The Witch in the Mirror – Part 19

Princess Alyce stood at the window and watched the rain dripping slowly down the glass. It had been raining non-stop all day and she could feel the chill of the wet glass. Long dark hair tumbled down her back with only a simple blue ribbon around her head to keep it in place. Her gown was made of the finest silk and the vibrant blue matched both the ribbon and her eyes. Her hands rested gently on the windowsill but she felt far from peaceful.

Inside, her heart was an emotional turmoil, all bubbling to the surface until she wasn’t even sure which one was dominant.

The letter from the would-be king lay crumpled at her feet. She had read it twice—the first time with surprise and the second with growing anger.

She clenched her hand and the rain outside turned to ice. The so-called king demanded that she relinquish the castle and publicly acknowledge him as rightful ruler of the kingdom. But she would be damned if she did that. A loud crash of thunder echoed through the castle.

Then she thought of her older sister and rain began to fall softly again. Whatever he had done to Alexandria was so powerful that she hadn’t been able to break it. Poor Alex—she was so soft and gentle and susceptible to weaknesses in others. It was why she became queen rather than Katharine herself. Alexandria was Katharine’s equal at all the tests bar one, and that was always going to be Alex’s strength. Compassion. It was the thing that set her apart from Katharine and ensured she would continue the long line of queens that had ruled the Southern Isles.

But this prince had somehow snuck through their defenses and now he had ensnared Alexandria.

Time. Alyce needed more time to build the power to break the spell and return the Isles to its rightful leader. This was her chance to prove herself once and for all.

But time was the one thing Princess Alyce did not have. She had already heard about the army that Prince Ranulph had been secretly building and now there was nothing stopping it from marching right across the Southern Isles and causing destruction.

Another crash of thunder rang out.

Princess Alyce turned and strode downstairs towards the library. Somewhere in her book of shadows was the answer she sought. Her mother had always said she was gifted but didn’t study hard enough. Now she would prove her wrong and she—Princess Alyce—would be the one to save the day.

The Witch in the Mirror – Part 18

Beatrice finished reading her story to the class. The room was quiet for a moment. Emily couldn’t take her eyes from Beatrice’s face.

‘Very nice, Beatrice—I liked the way you left it on a positive note,’ said Mr Garcia. ‘Okay, so who is next?’

At the end of the lesson Beatrice was the last to leave the room. As she made her way down the corridor she saw Emily leaning against a locker. She drew near and Emily lifted her head.

‘Hi,’ she said. ‘It’s Beatrice, right?’ Emily voice was soft.

Bea nodded. Her throat had gone dry.

Emily took a deep breath. ‘I’ve seen you in class. Do you mind if we talk?’

Beatrice shook her head. ‘I was just on my way to chemistry.’

Emily hesitated. ‘That’s what I wanted to talk to you about. I’m sorry to bother you, but I—well—I was wondering if we could—ummm—if you wanted to—to be my lab partner. You know, for the assignment.’

Emily pushed a strand of dark hair behind her ear. Her fingernails were painted a shiny deep purple to match the streak in her hair. Around her neck she wore a long chain with a bunch of charms gathered at the bottom. They jingled when she moved.

Beatrice had overheard some girls in the corridor talking about Emily. They said she was a loser, but they suddenly stopped talking as Beatrice walked past. She could feel their eyes drilling into her back. ‘She’s one of them too,’ she had heard them whisper.

But to Beatrice, Emily just looked like a lonely girl hoping that Beatrice would be her friend.

‘So how about it? Lab partners?’ Emily’s smile was a little unsure. It was the first time Beatrice had ever seen her smile.

‘Sure,’ she replied. ‘That would be great.’

Emily’s smile relaxed and Beatrice suddenly realised how pretty she was.

‘Cool, well—I guess I should leave you in peace then.’ She half turned to go but Beatrice reached out and touched her arm.

‘You don’t have to go. We could, you know, walk together and talk—about the assignment.’ Beatrice was suddenly the one feeling nervous.

Emily and Beatrice walked silently down the corridor. Neither knew what to say now they had actually spoken to each other. Emily was wracking her brain for something clever to say but all she could think of were inane things. She so badly wanted to impress Beatrice. The corridor was a hive of activity and other students streamed in both directions past the two girls.

Beatrice stole a glance at the dark haired girl beside her. She felt a strange energy coming from Emily. Beatrice was deep in thought, trying to remember when she had last felt energy like this.

‘So—how are you enjoying school?’

‘Sorry—what?’ Emily had spoken so softly it was hard to hear her over the noisy corridor.’

‘How are you liking your new school?’ Emily raised her voice a little.

‘Oh—it’s okay, I guess.’ Beatrice smiled quickly at Emily. ‘How about you?—I mean, not your new school—but—ummm, you know, just school.’

‘I hate school. I mean, not studying and stuff—I just don’t like being at school.’ Emily thought about how often she had gone home from school and cried into her pillow. ‘I like English,’ she quickly added. She didn’t want Beatrice to get a bad impression of her.

‘Yes, I like English too. Mr Garcia seems nice—and he’s enthusiastic.’

‘He’s the coolest teacher in the school.’ Emily suddenly blushed. ‘I mean—well, you know.’

Beatrice looked at her new friend again. There was suddenly a change in her expression. Beatrice looked up to see three girls blocking their way. Anar was in the middle with her arms folded across her chest.

‘You can’t go this way.’ She flicked her straight black hair behind her ear. A cluster of bangles jangled on her forearm.

‘Why not?’ Beatrice replied.

‘It’s blocked.’ Anar stared at Beatrice.

‘But our classroom is just through there.’ Beatrice pointed past Anar’s shoulder.

‘You have to go another way.’

‘Come on, Beatrice. Let’s go around.’

‘You should listen to your creepy friend. Go on, run away.’

‘No, we’re going past.’ Beatrice grabbed Emily’s hand and pushed past Anar.

‘You are soooo dead,’ Anar called after them. Her eyes were dark with anger.

Beatrice kept a firm grip of Emily’s hand until they were around the corner.

‘What was that all about?’

‘She’s always been like that. I usually try to avoid her. Anar can make life really unpleasant for you if she wants.’

Beatrice stopped and turned to face Emily. She was still holding her hand.

‘You can’t let her push you around,’ she said softly.

Emily was silent. Her shoulders were tense.

‘I am alone,’ she said in a whisper after a few moments.

‘No you’re not,’ Beatrice replied. ‘There are two of us now.’

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