Magic and Mayhem: Witchin' Spice (Kindle Worlds Novella), page 1
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I can do this. I really can. I can learn to bake a cake. Filled with positive thoughts and repeated affirmations I was pretty sure I didn’t believe, I looked into the bathroom mirror and frowned at my reflection. “What?” I demanded. “Do you doubt me? Well, join the damn club.”
I was a witch or a magician or a strange, freaky person who could flick her fingers and wink her right eye and smiles would appear on nearby faces and hearts would flutter and people would fall in love.
I could also wink my left eye and twitched my nose in exactly the right way, and the opposite would happen. Tears would fall and hearts would break and sadness would filter through those around me.
Needless to say, these had been interesting discoveries when I turned eighteen and realized my boyfriend was secretly in love with my best friend. I’d flicked my fingertips at something she’d said and turned to him with a wink and poof, they were making googly eyes at one another. I was seemingly forgotten.
I didn’t have many friends to begin with and well, after that, I could count how many I had left on two fingers.
Fast forward six years and I was still trying to figure out what the hell was going on with me. I couldn’t hold a job. I had friends one day and none the next. Life was more than a little on the topsy-turvy side and I was ready to check myself into a hospital until an 80’s reject dropped onto my third-hand couch in a plume of purple smoke to inform me I needed to learn some control around humans or I would find myself in magical jail. I was kinda torn between advising that she seek professional help and believing her story about me being a witch.
Until then, I’d had no idea there were others. I hadn’t known there were rules, either. Like, real ones, not guidelines, not memos, but hard and fast rules.
“Who are you?” I’d asked.
She’d smiled and to this day, I’d swear my whole apartment lit up brighter than Rockefeller Plaza at Christmas. “I’m Baba Yaga.”
My lack of knowledge didn’t faze her. “I’m the head witch. Now, what is your decision? I have a breakdance class in thirty and if I’m late, Fabio will come looking for me and believe me, you don’t want that to happen.”
“Breakdance? People still do that?” But given her choice of clothing and whipped up hair that could poke someone’s eye out if they stood too close, I realized my question was moot. However, I hadn’t answered her quickly enough and she’d dropped me off here in Blue Balls Falls, Virginia.
It was a pretty little town deep in the mountains. She assured me more than once that it couldn’t be found on a map and therefore, no humans were in dangers of knowingly or unknowingly being magically manipulated.
It was then I started not liking her, head witch or not.
Two weeks later and staring myself down in the mirror, I was no closer to controlling my magic. Mainly because I had no idea how I was supposed to go about it. I was no closer to learning how to bake, either and what bakery owner doesn’t know how to bake?
“But at least we haven’t blown up the kitchen this week,” I reminded my reflection. “That’s something, right?” I nodded to myself as though it was something to strive for and be proud of, and left the room.
I was staying at the Blue Balls Falls Inn. I had asked about apartments or houses to rent, but the owner, Bethilda, had never once answered me.
And I have to tell you, when I walked in that first day, Bethilda knew my name, had a room ready for me, and was oh so happy to finally meet and that I was welcome to stay just as long as I wanted. The stairs creaked as I took them slow and steady. There was no elevator, only staircases that rose up and up and up, far beyond where I could see. Luckily, I was on the second floor.
“Good morning, my dear.”
I smiled. “Good morning, Bethilda.”
Aside from being the proprietress of the hotel, she was also the town’s oldest resident at two hundred forty-six. She honestly didn’t look a day over forty. Okay, maybe forty-five, but that might be stretching it. There were no wrinkles on her skin and only a few gray hairs that I could see in her long espresso colored curly mane.
That she dressed as a woman from the 1800’s was beside the point.
“How did you sleep? Good, yes?” she asked eagerly.
To be truthful, I had slept well, far better than I’d expected given that I was in a strange magical town, possessed of magic that I had been living with for six years but still hadn’t a clue where it had come from, and I was currently the defacto owner of a bakery and I didn’t know the first thing about baking or business ownership. Was it different in the magical world? Did I need to get permits? Was there a baker in town who’d be happy to do the actual baking? “Yes, I slept great,” I responded. She rewarded me with a brilliant laugh that tinkled in the air like little tiny bells.
“That’s just wonderful. Come. I have breakfast all ready for you.”
“You do?” I should be getting used to it by now. She’d been feeding me like clockwork since the day I arrived.
“I do.” She ushered me into a large, crowded room, much larger than the dimensions of the house should physically allow and seated me at a small two person table near a front facing window.
Voices from all directions distracted me for a few minutes as they did every day. I couldn’t help wondering if they were all like me? Magical? If so, what could they do and why were they here? Were they being punished like I was?
“Oh, no, dear. You’re not being punished,” Bethilda said with tenderness.
“How did you…?” She smiled and set a plate down in front of me loaded with French toast and perfectly cooked bacon. ”And how did you know this is what I wanted?” I stared at her with narrowed eyes. “You can read minds, can’t you?”
She gave me an impish smile, lifting and lowering one shoulder in a half shrug. “I can.”
“Why didn’t you say so before?”
“I didn’t want to overwhelm you, being that you’re not quite sure of yourself and your abilities, yet.”
She was pretty awesome, I had to admit. She’d tried to show me that I could use a little magic to make a bed or to move clothes from drawers and closets to the bed and back again. She’d tried to help me write simple spells for small things. It was like Magic 101, except I was failing every subject.
Clothes ended up on the floor.
The cold water turned on instead of the hot.
The bed flipped itself over, and the sheets flung themselves out the window.
And my spells? Oh yes, those were special. I’d blown up Bethilda’s kitchen at least twice and I’d melted four pounds of butter all over the floor, causing serious injury to two of her cooks.
“Yes, it is. Don’t be so hard on yourself, dear. You’re coming along just fine.”
“I did come up with a new spell last night before I went to sleep, so maybe…” I offered hopefully.
“A new spell? Well, look at you. See?”
Her words were supportive and encouraging, but her eyes darted around before focusing on me again. She didn’t believe I could do it, either.
“Oh yes, I do. I’m just not sure my kitchen can survive you.”
“Can you read every thought?”
She blushed three shades of red. “Oh Goddess no.”
“Then how do you know what is safe to read and what isn’t?”
“I can only hear clean thoughts.”
I wanted to ask more of her. I wanted to know how she could tell the difference when poking through someone’s mind. I wanted to know if mindreading was something she could turn off or if it was something that was always on.
She was saved from my million and one questions, though. A man from two tables over repeatedly snapped his fingers until flames erupted around his plate. Bethilda sighed and shook her head. “That man has been a menace ever since his wife left him.”
“Well, that’s something you don’t see every day, Broo,” I muttered to myself. I slathered my French toast with butter and drowned it in syrup. Once I took a bite and forced myself to hold back the orgasm, ala Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally, I glanced out the window. The bakery stuck out like a sore thumb in midmorning sunlight.
The windows were covered in newspapers, the awning was falling through on one side and threatening to do the same on the other, and there was a crack in the glass in the front door that had been taped together with duct tape. Lovely.
My appetite started to wane and I was close to pushing my plate away when Bethilda walked by the table. “Stop fretting, honey. It’ll all be okay. I promise. You finish eating. I had that made special for you this morning.”
“I don’t know the first thing about bakeries except how to order cupcakes from them.”
“I didn’t know anything about the hotel business when I first got here, but I learned quickly. I had to and so will you.”
“If I don’t blow the building up first.”
“Just take it slow.”
“Meaning I should probably not start at all. There has to be someone in town who can bake. Who was the baker before and what happened to her? Or him? Death? Retire? Runaway from Baba Yaga?”
“Yes, there was a baker. Wonderful girl that once the bakery opens up again will be there.”
“If there’s a baker, why did it close?”
“That’s a long story and one we don’t have time for just now.”
“Oh. Okay.” She was hiding something, but I’d let it go for now. “How long have you been here?”
“Going on close to a hundred and fifty years, I guess.”
“Did you have to stay?”
“Goodness, no. I was only supposed to stay for six months until I’d learned my lesson and Baba Yaga was satisfied.”
“To stop reading minds. I didn’t know I could read human minds until one day I did. I was as shocked as anyone. I thought it was only magicals that I could read.”
“If you could leave, why did you stay?”
“I liked the people. I liked seeing new folks arriving and I liked helping out. So, I came to an agreement with Baba Yaga to stay and run the hotel. Hands on training. It’s the best thing. I learned everything by doing, by making mistakes, and doing again. And that’s how it works for everyone. You’re going to learn the bakery business. One step at a time, through mistakes, and doing.”
“Like blowing up the kitchen.”
“You’ll get better and you have help. You’re not alone in this. Now, you finish eating and get on with it.”
I toyed with the syrup on my plate. She was right. I was still hungry, but before I took another bite, I said, “I think you have a lot more confidence than I do in my ability to pull this off to anyone’s satisfaction. But thank you.”
“Perhaps I do, but that’s only because I’ve been doing this a long time and I’ve seen even the most downtrodden and hopeless witches and warlocks and shifters learn to control their magic, learn to appreciate the rules of magic, and learn to appreciate how special they are.”
“And you think I can do it, too?”
“There isn’t a doubt in my mind about it.”
She hustled off. Clanging pots and pans could be heard amid raised voices and the occasional breaking of glass in the kitchen. At least it wasn’t because of me this time.
I did as I was instructed. I ate. I ate every last crumb. I did everything short of picking the plate up and licking it clean. It was the best French toast I’d ever had and the bacon had, as I’d predicted earlier, been cooked to perfection.
I drained my coffee cup and almost immediately, more coffee filled it.
I looked around to see if anyone in particular had done it, but no one was paying a bit of attention to me. I lifted the cup and inhaled the aroma. Pure, strong, black coffee with steam rising from the surface. I took a sip and immediately regretted it. The dark liquid was scalding hot. Not sure what else I might have been expecting of it, though.
It didn’t take me long to drain that cup either, but when I put it down, it stayed empty. “Hmmm…” Was it like Bethilda’s mind reading? The cup knew when I was done?
It was all very strange. Enchanting, yes. But strange.
She fished a large brass key from the pocket of her dress and laid it across my palm. “This is the key to the bakery. It’s the only one, so don’t lose it.”
“I… I won’t.”
“That’s my girl. Now, off you go. I’ll make sure I have supper ready for you when you get back.”
“And I suppose you’ll know exactly what I want for supper?”
Bethilda laughed and that strange, yet delightful tinkling sound floated through the air. “I haven’t been wrong once since you arrived.”
I was still grinning when I stepped up to the front door of the bakery. I wondered what the name had been before and if I should call it that or call it something else. I also wondered if there was a home supply place anywhere in town where I could pick up some supplies to fix the place up. And what was I supposed to do for money? Was there magical money or was I supposed to use human money? There were so many things Baba Yaga forgot to tell me before she left for her breakdancing class.
I fitted the key into the lock. I expected a little resistance given the dilapidated look of the storefront, but it clicked and turned without an issue.
“Okay, Broo. Whatever you find on the other side, you can handle and you can fix. Nevermind that you’ve never picked up a hammer or saw or well, any kind of power tool. You can handle it.”
I looked up and down the sidewalk hoping no one had heard my little pep talk. Talking to myself was something I did on a pretty regular basis. I didn’t do well in new situations and I didn’t do well with new people and the familiarity of my own voice sometimes comforted me.
I probably needed to get out and meet some of the residents of Blue Balls Falls. Hiding in Bethilda’s kitchen wasn’t going to help me doing what I’d been dropped in town.
I pressed the latch and pushed, again expecting some resistance, and again, I found none. I found that odd, but the sight before me when I stepped inside, left me speechless.
There was no dust or dirt. There were no cobwebs or critters scurrying. There were no broken chairs or broken tables. There was no broken glass or rust. It didn’t look abandoned at all. No, it was beautiful.
I pushed the door closed and stepped further into the room. The display cases were clear and spotless. The countertops gleamed. The light fixtures had fresh bulbs burning bright. The stools looked brand new.
I turned in a circle, taki
I stepped back outside and walked to the middle of the street, then looked up at the front of the bakery. The windows were still covered in newspaper and the door was still taped where the glass was cracked.
Something didn’t fit. The inside was pristine. The outside was a mess, rundown, abandoned. I turned in a circle. None of the other storefronts looked like it. They were all as lovely outwardly as I imagined they were behind their pretty and quaint doors.
As I stood in the street, curiosity got the better of me and I stepped back onto the sidewalk and walked away from the bakery. I hadn't explored the town yet, though, and I couldn't think of a better time than right now.
The streets were brick as were the walkways. There were gas lanterns at the street corners and no traffic lights. Aside from Bethilda’s inn, I found several clothing boutiques, one specializing in 80’s apparel and another specializing in yoga pants and leotards. Earlene’s. I thought it was odd, but perhaps there was a large interest in yoga within the magical community. It was said to help you tune in to yourself and balance you. Maybe I should give it a try.
There were also two diners. One for breakfast and lunch, Janie’s and Lanie’s, and one for lunch and dinner, Lanie’s and Janie’s. “Okay then.” On the other side of the street was the 24-Hour Snack Attack Shack, an ice cream parlor, a coffee and donut shop, too. “Well, at least there’s no shortage of places to eat,” I muttered, continuing on my walk.
To be honest, though, I’d give almost anything for a New York style pizza. That wasn’t the only place I hadn’t seen along the main street, either. There wasn’t a sandwich place or a Chinese restaurant. This might be. Of those three types of food, all were my favorite.
Every so often someone would step outside and wave and I’d wave back, but no one spoke directly to me. Instead, they gathered behind me and whispered among themselves. It was a really weird feeling and each time I turned around to see if I was just being paranoid or not.
I wasn’t. They were there, wide questioning eyes and excited gestures.
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