The Witch in the Mirror – Part 35

Beatrice decided she wanted to get to know Josh. The way his music moved her—she needed to learn more about this boy. She had found out his name from Emily. Bea had casually asked Emily to tell her about some of the kids in the class.

Emily said she didn’t know much. She usually kept away from them, she said, because they were mostly the children of rich parents—spoilt children whose parents could afford this expensive school. She didn’t have time for any of them.

‘What about that scruffy guy over there?’ Bea had said, casually pointing at Josh. ‘He doesn’t look rich.’

Emily had admitted they weren’t all spoilt. Bea suspected it was a way for Emily to justify her attitude to herself.

‘His name is Josh. His mother is the school librarian. That’s how he can afford to come here and why he’s always hanging about the school late in the afternoon—waiting for his mum I guess.’

The librarian! Bea made a plan.

That afternoon as soon as the final bell went Bea packed her bag and rushed to the library. Sure enough, there was Josh sitting on a bench just outside the library. The cello case was on the ground beside him.

Bea stopped for a moment to catch her breath then walked casually up to him.

‘Hi, is the library shut already?’ She knew it was.

Josh was startled.

He just nodded.

‘Oh, damn. I’ll just have to take these books back tomorrow.’ She had several books tucked under her arm.

Josh was looking uncomfortably at her.

‘Is that your cello? I heard you playing in the music room the other day.’

Josh’s face relaxed a little. ‘Yeah, it’s new. I only got it a few weeks ago.’

‘I think the cello is the most amazing instrument. It produces such beautiful music. It makes me want to sing.’

Josh was amazed. No girl had ever spoken this much to him before.

‘Do you sing?’

‘Not really,’ said Bea, ‘At least—I don’t think so.’

Josh frowned.

‘Do you ever perform in public? I love hearing the cello played.’

‘I’m in the school orchestra. Actually—’ Josh hesitated. He could feel his heart racing. ‘I’m playing at the Fireworks Spectacular on the weekend. Are you going?’

‘I haven’t decided yet. Emily wants me to go.’

‘Oh—yeah—Emily.’

Josh lowered his eyes.

Bea looked at him curiously.

‘Well, I guess I should be going. I have to catch my bus. Maybe I’ll see you at the fireworks on Saturday.’

Josh nodded and Bea smiled as she turned and walked away. Her red hair bounced against her shoulders as she moved and Josh felt a warm glow spread throughout his chest.

He reached into his bag and pulled out a notepad and began scribbling down some music—this piece was going to soar like magic spinning across the sun. He needed to get home and begin practicing it so he could play it for Bea on Saturday night.

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The Witch in the Mirror – Part 34

Emily was smiling as she sat on the edge of the bathtub. Candles illuminated the bathroom. Flower petals floated on the steamy surface of the water. She had been left alone in the house while her mother was out with Dave. That was her chance to study the book she had found in her locker. She assumed it had been a present from Bea.

The book had a single crescent moon printed on its cover. No title or anything to indicate what it was. She couldn’t believe her eyes when she realised it was a notebook. The pages were covered in handwritten scrawl and drawings, just like the one she had found in the cottage.

But unlike the other book this one was full of spells. Emily took off her coat and threw it on the sofa. She curled up with her feet underneath her bottom and began to flick through the book. A small packet fell out and when she opened it Emily found a silver chain with a pendant in the shape of a crescent. It was the same as the pendant she’d gotten from the antique shop. She stood at the mirror and placed the chain around her neck.

When Emily went to bed that night her head was full of happiness spells, love spells, wish spells—but best of all was the page titled memory spell.

 

Herbs for sleeping and dreaming – hops (dream pillow), passion flower, camomile, lavender, peppermint, poppy seeds, willow

 

Emily let her gaze return to the steaming bathtub. She could still picture the tattoo on the back of her neck.

Emily whispered.

‘Goddess, send me your gifts.’

She looked around the room and her eyes came to rest on the chair. Even in the dim candlelight she could see the book propped against the back of the chair.

Through the thin walls of the apartment she could hear children playing.

Emily thought about her mother. The long hours she worked to keep food on the table and Emily in school. When she could, Emily would create a money spell and her mother would never have to work again.

Emily stood and slipped off her robe. She turned to see if she could see the back of her neck in the mirror. She couldn’t see it, but it was still tingling. Instead she studied her body. She could see the outline of her ribs, the soft layer across her stomach. She sucked it in then ran her fingers across the tattoo that was tingling at the back of her neck.

The Witch in the Mirror – Part 33

The town of Pemblebury had settled down to silence after the bustle of market day. Only the taverns still rattled with the noise of drunken traders being pushed out the door after last drinks. Decent citizens were safely home tucked up in bed because the nights were no longer safe.

The king’s guards roamed the streets, occasionally looking up at the stone castle perched on the hill overlooking the town. None of them were game to go near it even if they could. Some soldiers had tried in the early days of the king’s reign and their burnt bodies were later found in the woods. The king himself had decreed that the castle be left to rot—nobody was to go in, nobody was to come out.

The grassy parkland surrounding the castle had grown lank and weedy. To the west the woods were still wild and untamed. To the north was the crystal clear water of Pemblebury sound. The town of Pemblebury surrounded the eastern and southern edges of the castle.

The captain of the guard stood at the edge of the town square and watched a couple of drunks staggering home. A curl of red hair crept out from under his hat. The darkness hid the cruel smile on his lips. He would have some fun with those two later, just like he usually did. Nobody would ever miss peasants like that and if a body or two turned up in Pemblebury Sound in the morning nobody ever asked any questions.

But right now he was scouring the streets for signs of magic. There were still pockets of witches hiding amongst the villagers. The captain of the guard prided himself on the ability to smell witchcraft. It left behind a tang that was disgusting to him. He barely remembered the night his mother died giving birth to his younger sister but he could still remember the tang of magic left behind as the healer tried to save her life. She failed, though, and ever since Aran had hated witches until he could feel it boiling inside him. It was that hatred that had made him flee to the north, away from the rule of the witch queen and her blasted magic goodness.

Aran spat on the ground. He was only ten years old when he had reached Glaston Rock and fallen in with thieves and murderers. Then he was taken one night by the prince’s recruiters and trained to be a killer. His hand stroked the sword attached to his side. He loved nothing more than killing witches—killing drunks just kept him in practice and satisfied his thirst for blood.

A burst of light hit the street as the tavern door opened again. A few more drunks stumbled onto the cobblestones. Sailors this time. Aran could tell by the way they walked, as though they were bracing their drunken legs against a rising deck.

Aran never missed anything that happened on the streets usually, but he didn’t notice the figure in the dark cloak pausing at the end of the alleyway. Even when he turned his head and looked toward where the figure was standing in the shadows he saw nothing.

The cloaked figure waited until Aran turned his head again and then it melted back into the darkness. Leaving the town square, the figure paused again by a row of workers cottages. The face was obscured by the cloak but its head turned as though it were sniffing the air. Then it moved quickly toward one of the cottages in the middle.

Aeilin and her husband were fast asleep. Neither of them heard the latch on their cottage door unfasten and the door creak slowly open. Only the sound of the husband’s snoring carried through the tiny room.

The cloaked figure waited a moment and then moved toward the sleeping child. Alyce pulled back the hood to reveal her long silver hair plaited into a knot on top of her head. She hesitated. Guilt ran through her body. Could she do this? Then she remembered her sister and silently knelt by the child’s bedside.

With her healing talents it was just as easy to steal a child’s magic as it was to cast her own magic. Alyce pressed her hands together until they were warm and then lowered them to hover above the child’s heart.

Instantly Alyce could feel the tingle of the little girl’s magic running through her fingers and up her arms. It felt so good.

She kept her hands steady until she could feel the magic start to wane. Suddenly she realised the girl’s eyes were staring at her in horror—but what disturbed Alyce the most was the vacant look in the girl’s eyes. They were empty.

Alyce’s heart was racing as she quickly ran from the cottage and melted back into the night. She didn’t stop until she had safely reached the secret entrance to the castle. She paused and looked up at the full moon. It was shrouded in dark cloud.

She started saying a prayer to the goddess but an image of the young child’s eyes popped into her mind. She stopped praying. Then she remembered how good it felt as the magic ran up her arms.

She needed so much more.

Alyce swept through the secret door of the castle.

The moon disappeared completely behind the clouds.

The Witch in the Mirror – Part 32

Bea watched Josh climb the stairs and walk into the music room. He was skinny and his clothes were worn out. Black curls dangled over his collar and he was carrying a beat up cello case. He stopped at the door for a moment and turned. Bea quickly looked away when he caught her looking but she could sense that he was studying her. Then she heard the door close and when she looked up again he was gone. A few minutes later that haunting cello melody began to ripple through Bea’s body. She found her hips swaying in time and her feet started moving. She just couldn’t help it.

Bea saw him again later that day in the library. She was sitting again at the desk in the back corner when she noticed him moving along the bookshelves. His lips were moving silently, as though he were counting the numbers on the shelves. When he reached the end of the row he suddenly jumped when he saw Bea sitting there. She smiled. Hi.

Hello. Their eyes met for a second and then he quickly looked away.

‘Do you need help finding a book?’

He quickly looked up and once again their eyes met. This time he kept Bea’s gaze for a few seconds. He looked at her long enough for Bea to see that his eyes were hazel, a dark hazel with hidden depths that looked hopeful. Then he looked down again and his long hair fell across his face.

‘Yeah, I’m trying to find the music section. The librarian said it was down here but all I can see are chemistry books.’

‘It’s on the other side of the shelf.’ Bea pointed.

‘Oh, okay. Thanks.’ And then he was gone.

Boost your glow

Boost your glow
With herbs and flowers
Fruits of the forest
Roses for your cheeks
Then run through the trees
Under blue blue skies

The Witch in the Mirror – Part 28

Rain was falling gently outside as Josh hurried through the door of the café. He pushed his wet hair back off his forehead and manoeuvered his cello case past the tables, careful not to bump his brand new instrument. Squeezing into his usual table in the back corner of the café he leaned the cello against the wall.

The café was dimly lit, which was exactly why Josh liked to come here. He could hide in the corner and watch the world passing by without anyone noticing him. Plus he loved the Belgian hot chocolates and marshmallows they served here.

Josh slung his backpack onto a chair to claim the table and then made his way to the counter and ordered his hot chocolate. The girl behind the counter didn’t even bother to look up at him as she took his money. He picked up the table number and turned to walk back to his table when he noticed Bea and Emily sitting at a table on the other side of the room. He recognised them from class, even though he had never spoken to either of them.

He slipped back into his chair and pulled a book from his bag. Throne of Glass. He had been enthralled by the book for weeks. He opened the book and started reading, but his eyes kept being drawn toward Bea and Emily.

He had known Emily as a classmate for years. She was kind of quiet and kept to herself. A strand of dark hair hung down over her forehead and partly obscured her face. Josh had never seen her in the café before.

He watched as Emily reached across the table and squeezed the other girl’s arm. She seemed to be upset about something. Josh looked at the new girl more closely. Her long red hair was tied up on top of her head. The frizzy hair that escaped caught the light and gave her a reddish-golden halo. He found himself drawn to her round face. Josh wasn’t usually attracted to girls but he couldn’t help thinking that Bea was one of the prettiest girls he had ever seen.

He wondered why she was upset. Even from this distance he could see tears forming in her eyes. He felt a lump in his throat and had an urge to help her, whatever it was. He didn’t move of course. Josh often had these urges but he was too shy to ever act on them.

Emily squeezed Bea’s hand and Josh looked away. He had to find out what had happened to the beautiful assassin in his book. The next time he looked up the table was empty. Bea and Emily had left.

The Witch in the Mirror – Part 26

Josh felt the magic as soon as his fingers stroked the maple neck of the cello. His mother had promised him a new instrument for passing his theory exams. Up until then he had to be satisfied with practicing on one of the old cellos that belonged to the school. Josh had been obsessed with the cello for years. While the other boys were out chasing footballs around the playground he had immersed himself in learning everything he could about this wonderful instrument.

Now he had his own cello and he took care of it like it was a new born baby. He ran his fingers over the instrument again and felt a thrill run up his arm. He held the bow in the other hand, waiting so he could savour this moment like he always did. He could feel the tension build in his body with the cello pressed against his legs and his fingers stroking its neck.

Josh closed his eyes and drew the bow across the strings again. Just three notes that sang with yearning and desire. He stopped and scribbled on the blank music page and then played a few more notes. He had a week to hand in a draft of this piece to his music teacher, but he wanted to make sure it was perfect. Josh always wanted it to be perfect.

The strings vibrated under his bow. When he closed his eyes Josh could hear the entire piece. Just relax and play. Getting lost in the moment was something Josh was good at. All of the tension washed out of his body and music filled the room as he worked himself to a peak.

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.

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