The sun peeked through the branches heavy with large green leaves on the old maple tree. The rays’ scattered appearance made it seem as if it were raining sunshine. A light, gentle mist of sunlight sprinkled down through the limbs.
Maddy chuckled to herself. “Your head needs to be clear for your lessons, Witchling Darcy,” she mimicked Professor Galt’s deep voice.
Sighing, she pulled her long hair from what was left of her ponytail. Everyone knew she was way beyond the age of a witchling. Maybe that was the real reason Maddy avoided large magical functions. To be labelled a witchling at her age was embarrassing.
She sighed again and flipped the red hair behind her. Red hair. When someone says the colour red you think red car, red apple—but red hair doesn’t mean red. It usually means something between carrot and rust. So why is it called red hair?
Never mind Maddy. I suppose red is better than any alternative. Her hair wasn’t straight or wavy or naturally curly, it wasn’t even full of body—it was straight with odd kinky sections, like it wanted to be wavy but didn’t have the energy. No matter what she tried, it always looked messy.
Oh, you’re feeling quite down on yourself today aren’t you Ramada Darcy? Glancing up she noticed the sunlight was no longer raining through the leaves.
“I can’t hide in my backyard forever.” She stood up and brushed off her jeans. Turning to face the aged bark on the tree she grimaced, not wanting to go.
“I’m ready tree.” She placed her palm against the bark and felt the familiar movement. “To Hidden Cove please.” Without hesitation Maddy stepped towards the tree—by the next step she was in the hallway near the side entrance to Hidden Cove Academy. She glanced at her watch and hissed. “I’m late again.”
Knowing she had to reach the other end of the large building, she spun around the corner and jogged in the direction of the classrooms. Going a little too fast around the last corner she slid to a stop and bounced right into the one person she’d hoped to avoid always.
“Witchling Darcy, do you know how dangerous it can be to run around? Especially running around in such an institute as Hidden Cove? One day you’re going to run right into a spell shield or slide into the middle of someone casting—”
“I’m sorry Professor Galt. I realized I was late, well too late and then I had to go back because I’d forgotten my, uh, wand—which turned out to be in my bag all the time—don’t you hate when that happens?” She took a deep breath, trying not to look down into the puffy eyes glaring up at her. “You search, not once but three times—”
The pudgy older woman raised her hand to stop her. Maddy stopped.
“You know—Ramada—we have to do your lessons after hours or when the general population of the institute is dismissed—”
She sighed. “I know Professor. I’m just — just tired of being...”
“Maddy. I was beginning to think you’d forgotten.”
She turned to see the tall blonde professor in the archway of the connecting hall. Professor Wist always looked more like a model than a spell professor. “I didn’t forget, just running a little late, again.”
Ginger Wist walked towards them. “Is there a problem Professor Galt?”
The older woman wrinkled up her nose. “She was running through the halls like it was a race track.”
Ginger laughed. “I think Maddy is a bit old for scolding, don’t you think?”
Maddy tried not to grin. Everyone knew she was the same age as the blonde professor coming to her rescue, once again.
Ginger grinned at her. “You can wait in the classroom Maddy, I’ll be there shortly.”
Nodding, Maddy used her long legs to remove herself from Professor Galt’s glare. She stopped outside the door to Ginger’s classroom and listened. Their conversation echoed through the empty wooden halls.
“You really have to stop treating her like she’s a first year witchling, Regina. She’s the same age as me for the love of the Goddess!”
Maddy gave a thumbs up to no one and leaned against the door waiting for Regina’s reply. “I am well aware of how old Miss Darcy is Ginger. I’ve known her since she was a girl of twelve and started her first year at Hidden Cove—”
Had she really been coming here for fifteen years? Maddy frowned. Maybe just another ten and she’d reach coven status. She strained to hear more of what was being said.
“She was our brightest student Ginger, it still bothers me we were never able to help her—”
Was that compassion she heard in her oldest professor’s voice? Ginger’s soft voice floated down the hallway.
“I know. I’ve read all the files Regina. She was brilliant in all areas until she was fifteen when her mother passed on. The files clearly state, her eyes changed from green to turquoise at that point stating obviously—”
“I’m well aware of what the files say Ms. Wist. I wrote most of them. Her eye colour shows a curse has been placed on her. Why we haven’t been able to trace the origin is still a mystery—”
She stopped listening and stepped into the classroom. Her running shoes made soft claps against the floor and echoed through the room. She set her bag down on the desk and leaned against it. “That’s me. The twenty-seven year old cursed witchling...”
“Which you’re really getting quite good at working around Maddy.”
Maddy glanced over to find Ginger leaning against the door. “I know, but not good enough to lose the witchling title or be safe to practice in populated areas.”
Ginger shrugged, “In my experience you can have more fun in the unpopulated areas.”
“I’d be kicked out and you’d be terminated if anyone ever found out what we really do in here,” Maddy laughed.
Ginger closed the door and grinned. “It’s only your abilities that are hindered, not your maturity and intelligence. I refuse to teach you the schoolyard tricks that a normal young witchling at your supposed level would learn.” She walked over and pulled a weathered volume from one of the shelves. “How did you do with the last volume I gave you?”
Maddy shrugged and pulled the loaned text out of her bag. “Okay. I didn’t have any problems reversing my thoughts and getting them to work out properly.” She frowned and set the book down. “I always make sure whiskers is nowhere to be found when I practise.”
Ginger flipped through the text. “How is Whiskers these days?”
Maddy pulled her hair back from her face. “She’s as indignant as always. She’s going to make me pay for that botched spell forever—even though she’s happy with the outcome.”
Ginger held out the text. “Cats can hold a grudge for a very long time. Can you blame her?”
Maddy took the old dusty book and browsed the contents page. “No, I guess not.” She tapped a finger on the page she held opened. “These are several levels beyond advanced Ginger. Are you sure I can pull this off without blowing anything up?”
Ginger studied her for a moment. “I know you can. I’ve seen you do things no one else could ever manage. Working a spell or casting is ninety percent mind set and desired outcome. No one else I know could ever achieve that while having to think of the exact opposite of that outcome.”
Maddy set the book down and pulled out her notebook. “Well as you know, it’s been a lot of trial and error—really, really heavy on the error part.”
Ginger rubbed the small scar on her neck that was barely visible now, and took a deep breath. “I know, but I have faith in you.” She clasped her hands together and grinned. “Let’s try the illusion casting. I spent four hours today trying to teach thirteen year olds how to levitate small items and I need something more interesting now.”
Maddy nodded as she flipped to the page. “Boys making skirt hems levitate?”
Ginger sighed. “Yes and the skirt’s owner retaliated with a levitating book to the head.”
Maddy laughed. “I could never be a professor.”
Ginger went over and selected an empty clear dish. “I don’t know how I do it sometimes.” Picking up a few vials from her shelf, she went back to the desk.
Maddy pushed up the sleeves of her sweatshirt. “Me either. Sometimes I’m happy that I’m backwards, so the council can’t stick me in a job like yours.”
“Well backwards one, add the ingredients to this dish and show me some fantastic illusion to take me away from reality please.” Ginger set the dish down and perched on the edge of a desk.
Maddy searched through the small bottles and selected one, pulling the stopper out, she placed a few drops of the oil into the dish. “Let’s see what I can think of not to happen.”
She made it! She practically levitated back through the halls to get out of there as quickly and quietly as possible. She really didn’t need to see professor Galt again today. Maddy was just about to go back through the door transport when her cell phone rang. She grinned at the number. “Hello Ronnie.”
“Hey Mad. I know you’re at school, but I just wanted to tell you I dropped off some kitty snacks for Whiskers. They’re in the fridge.”
Maddy grinned at the phone. “Thanks. It was on my list. Hey, I was going to check out the museum tomorrow, are you busy? They have the artifacts from Ireland and Scotland there this month.” She listened to Veronica’s moan on the other end.
“I have to help Mother with the planning of the summer gala.”
“That’s three months away.”
Veronica snorted. “Oh, I know but it has to be perfect and all that. You know Mother takes her position of Affairs ambassador too seriously.”
Maddy smirked. “Well, you have fun with that.”
“I won’t and you know it. Take lots of pictures for me hun.”
“Will do. Talk to you later.” Maddy tucked the phone back into her pocket and smirked. Poor Ronnie, stuck with a socialite mother. She missed her mother, and father. It wasn’t often both parents were selected to pass onto the high council. At least they hadn’t taken them both at the same time. If there was anything to be thankful for, that was it. The years following her mother’s leaving would have been too hard for Maddy to cope with if she hadn’t had the broad shoulders of her Da to lean on. She’d have to give them a call tonight and see how the otherworldly realm was treating them.
Taking a deep breath she placed her hand on the wall panel. “Home please.”
Slipping onto the back porch she called out. “Whiskers, I’m home.” She looked around for her only companion. Of course her cat had stopped coming to greet her years ago. She walked in the bathroom and glanced in the large claw foot tub. The black cat was lying in it, just as she’d suspected. “Ronnie fill you up on fresh snacks?” The cat didn’t make any move to acknowledge her. She sat on the edge of the tub and looked down at the lounging creature. “Not in a social mood today?”
Am I ever?
Maddy grinned. “No, I guess not.” She stood up. “I’ll be in the study if you feel the need for companionship.”
Maddy chuckled as she walked back out. Hearing her familiar’s thoughts wasn’t an uncommon event in her culture, but there were times she wished she couldn’t. There were times she wished she were normal and Whiskers was normal—what would her normal be like? Magic-less, and what fun would that be? She’d been using magic and spells for as far back as she could remember. Except maybe for those few months after her mother passed on, when they realized something had gone terribly wrong with her ability.
She walked into the study and stopped to take in the room. It was her favourite space on this earth, indoors. Maddy’s home may appear like a small cottage, but her study was castle worthy—that’s how her Da had always described it. A large bookcase overflowing with knowledge covered the one entire wall. A weathered cherry desk, covered in the clutter from her last work assignment. Her oversized comfy chair and triangular table—her favourite because let’s face it, tables just weren’t triangular often. Covering one other wall were shelves of bottles and glass containers of every sort, filled with all the herbs, plant matter and a number of things she couldn’t place in a category—basically, everything a witch could ever ask for.
The room wasn’t brightly painted. At one time it could have been called white, but now was a faded unnameable shade. The surrounding wood cabinets and shelves made the colour seem bright enough for Maddy’s taste. It wasn’t like anyone ever really saw inside the room. Well, other than whiskers and maybe Ronnie every so often. Of course Ronnie’s mother had come in once and looked rather shocked and never stepped near it again. When Maddy had first started her lessons with Ginger, she’d also come to check out her work space—only to inform Maddy that she was an old magic witch without all the new age toys and props most their age used.
Supposedly old magic was a rare and good thing, it meant most of your talent was natural and didn’t have to be forced. In Maddy’s case hers was completely natural and completely cursed backwards. She often wondered if she didn’t have two natural witch parents, both on the high council, if the community would have abandoned her completely.
Turning, she smiled at the two small cabinets on the wall just inside the study doorway. They were oak, a few feet wide and tall. When she opened one, or both of the doors, there her parents would appear in the mirrors—to talk to her and on the rare occasion, help her study.
It was an odd thing that she could never see her parents in corporeal form again, yet they were still alive and well. In the magical culture she’d been born to, some older witches didn’t actually die, they passed on to the high council to fill functional positions, but to the rest of the world her parents had passed on. It wasn’t her fault that most just assumed that meant they’d passed on and died.