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 31

Anar was deep in thought as she found herself staring at her own reflection in the window of Margrit’s Old Wares and Antiques. She had been forming a plan of how she could get back at Emily and Bea. This shop was perfect because it wouldn’t have the security cameras and scanners of more modern stores.

A bell tinkled as Anar pushed the door open. The inside of the shop was dry and dusty and she couldn’t help coughing.

‘Good morrow, lassie. May I help you?’

‘Oh—hi. No thanks. I just wanted to browse.’ This is the perfect place, Anar thought to herself.

‘Take your time, dear. There is plenty of time to find something—or it will find you.’

The old lady behind the counter chuckled hoarsely. She peered at Anar from behind a tiny pair of glasses. Her long grey hair was tied in a single plait that hung down her back.

Anar felt a superstitious shiver. The old woman looked like a witch, particularly with those dried herbs hanging above her head.

‘There are books out the back as well. Some are quite old but you’ll find them interesting,’ the old lady called out to Anar.

‘Okay, thanks.’

Anar walked through the door and into a little room at the back of the shop. It smelt like old mushrooms and Anar held her scarf over her nose. She was amazed to see so many books stacked haphazardly from floor to ceiling. Those that were on shelves were just a jumble and she didn’t know where to begin.

She was about to leave the book room when an old green book caught her eye. The cover was faded with age but in the centre was a silver crescent moon that sparkled brightly. Anar reached up for the book but it was too high. She found a footstool and moved it closer. Dust rose off the top step and made her sneeze. Anar grabbed the book and looked over her shoulder to make sure the old lady couldn’t see her. She quickly shoved the book into her shoulder bag and arranged her scarf so it was covering the book.

Anar walked back into the shop and strode up to the counter.

‘Could I please have two of those scented candles? They’re a present for my gran.’

‘Oh, what a lovely granddaughter you are. My grandchildren have never bought me presents with their pocket money. Would you like them gift wrapped, dear?’

Anar nodded. She was thinking about the next phase of her plan.

The Witch in the Mirror – Part 30

High Street in Pemblebury was long, narrow and rambling. Lined with a mixture of new and old buildings, High Street still followed the medieval wagon track that had once led to Pemblebury marketplace. There are no more remnants of those ancients markets but the medieval traders left their mark in the way High Street still follows the twists and turns around long forgotten rock outcrops and low lying swampy ground. The road had been closed to traffic years ago and now featured six city blocks of paved shopping mall.

Many of the buildings along High Street shopping mall were new constructions of steel and glass that reached high into the sky and changed the city’s skyline so much that few medieval folk would recognise their old village now. Some of the buildings were older, however, surviving in more or less their original form for centuries. The dusty canvas awning of one of these old stone buildings advertised itself as a seller of old wares and antiques.

Crowds of Saturday morning shoppers hurried past as Josh walked along High Street, waving his hand like a conductor’s baton. He could feel the rhythm of the crowd and was trying to work out how he could use that in his music assignment.

Da da da dum, Josh hummed.

A truck roared past, shifting gears as it accelerated away from the lights. Josh waited for the lights to change before he could cross. The pedestrian signal beeped and Josh tapped his foot in time. If he could program that timing into his drum machine then he could work a fugue on the cello around it.

Beep—beep—beep.

Beep beep beep.

The lights changed and Josh stepped off the curb. A car screeched to a halt as he sauntered across. His long hair curled across his face and Josh kept his head down rather than making eye contact with the driver. At least the footpath wasn’t as busy on this side of High Street.

Josh looked up and noticed one of the girls from school walking towards him. He slowed down and began to pretend to look in the window of a shop. The last thing he wanted was to run into Anar. She was one of those kids at school that had made the past two years hell for him.

He knew it was her group that had started the rumours about him being gay—just because he didn’t play football. He had never been sporty and it felt stupid chasing a ball around the park. He much preferred being inside with a book or playing music.

The bullying hadn’t started with anything too obvious. It was just little things that people said and then they always said they were joking. He usually laughed with them, but only until he got home. Then he would bury his head in his pillow and try and stop the tears—the tears just proved that what they said was true. Maybe he really was gay.

But Josh was pretty sure he wasn’t gay. He liked to look at girls—was even attracted to them—but he just didn’t know how to talk to them. He became tongue-tied whenever a girl was around. His mouth went dry and he stammered. No wonder they all thought he was queer. But he had never felt that way around guys. He just had nothing in common with the guys in his class at school and he was definitely not attracted to them.

He repeated this to himself as he turned his head to see if Anar had gone past yet, but she had stopped. She was standing in front of that antique shop with the faded awning.

She was wearing a short skirt and tight fitting top and cardigan. He studied her face while she seemed to be deep in thought. Suddenly she smiled as though she’d had an idea and pushed the door open to enter the shop.

Josh was curious. Why would Anar be looking in an antique shop?

He moved closer until he could see her through the window. The old lady behind the counter was talking to her and Anar was looking around. He couldn’t hear what they were saying but he saw Anar nod her head and disappear into a room out the back.

He moved further down the street and waited for her to come out. A few minutes later she quickly walked through the door of the shop and hurried past where Josh stood. She didn’t notice him as she reached into her bag and pulled out a green book. He caught a glimpse of something silver glint in the sunlight. Anar was smiling as she slipped the book back into her bag.

The Witch in the Mirror – Part 29

The first thing Alyce needed to do was find a spell to break the king’s enchantment over her sister. It would need to be a powerful spell—more powerful than any that had ever been cast before on the Southern Isle.

Alyce sat in the library, her face lit by the flickering lamp, as she thought of all the things she had been taught about magic by her mother. The first thing was that magic was bestowed by the goddess. It was inside all living things and many things that weren’t living as well. The flowers, trees, birds, animals of the forest, all possessed their own kind of magic, just like the wind, water in a stream, clouds in the sky, the rocks and sand.

It took a special person to be able to use that magic, to control it. That was the lesson that Alyce had found the hardest to learn as a child. She remembered how all she wanted to do was make things move, but it was just too hard. It all seemed to come so easily to her sister, Alexandria. Katharine would just stand by and smile but she never helped. Alexandria was so full of excitement that she could control the wind, turn water into ice and create a fireball in her hand. But Alyce could do none of those things. Once again her mother calmed Alyce’s tears and patiently explained that magic came from inside.

Alyce had closed her eyes and eventually conjured up a tiny ball of fire. She never got the hang of wind and water but she later discovered her real talent was as a healer. That wasn’t as satisfying to Alyce as making things move. That is why Alexandria was made the queen when their mother died, because she had control of all her magic and was a true moon witch.

But somehow the prince had been able to overcome that magic with his own darkness and it was now up to Alyce to save the islands—and her sister.

She moved the lamp to the desk. She could already hear voices whispering from the Book of Shadows. It was over a thousand years old and contained the knowledge of all the daughters of the moon that had come before her.

Alyce nervously opened the front cover as she whispered a prayer to the goddess. Rain hammered against the window and the pages of the book fluttered back and forth. Slowly they settled and Alyce leaned forward to see what was written there.

To undo what has been done

By the shadows of darkness

Begotten ruthless silence

To cast your spell takes patience

Alyce stared at the page. She had no idea what it meant. But two words caught her eye—darkness and patience.

If darkness had been used to cast the enchantment it would take all the magic of the three moons to break the spell. Or Alyce could just wait until she had gained enough power to break the spell on her own. And that would require patience.

She closed the book and sat back and thought hard. The castle was well protected against the king. Defense spells were one type of magic Alyce knew she was good at. That bought her enough time to be patient. The other problem was how to build up her magic. She knew of one way. The quickest was to take the magic from a young witch. Their magic was strongest, but also most vulnerable, on the third full moon after a witch’s sixteenth birthday. It was also when a young witch’s magic ran wildly out of control before she learned to harness it and take her place as a fully-fledged witch of the Coven of the moon. But where could Alyce find a witch that was just about to turn sixteen?

There was a slower way. Alyce remembered the fairy tales her mother had told her and her sisters when they were children. The one that sprang into her mind was the story of the evil witch that had feasted on the magic of the village children. The story was meant to be a warning to children to be home and safe inside before darkness fell. But if it were true…

Alyce shuddered to think of where those thoughts might lead her. But she had to rescue her sister. Besides—she convinced herself—the village children didn’t even use their magic. Most of them didn’t even know they had any so they wouldn’t miss it if she took a little from them. A little bit of magic at a time wouldn’t hurt at all.

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.’

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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