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.
I appreciated everything she tried teaching me, but I honestly didn’t think this magic thing was for me.
“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.”