Zayda and her cousins use their special gifts to help a friend escape a bad situation.
|Darkness swirled around the young girl, who perched among the rose bushes. It was calm here. Silent. She pulled in deep breaths and wiped the tears that fell along tracks down her cheeks. She had climbed up the trellis and found the spot where she could balance with her legs crossed below her. The vines continued their climb up the side of the house and unless you knew where to look, she was completely invisible.
“Zayda,” a soft voice called as it entered that part of the garden. “Zayda, please come down.”
“Why must I?” she asked, determined to stay where she was.
“My darling child, the hour grows late and soon your cousins will arrive,” the voice of her aunt reached out to her.
“Must I?” she asked, before heaving a heavy sigh.
“Come,” her aunt called gently and Zayda shifted and lowered herself through the greenery.
Her aunt Jess pulled her in for a comforting hug as she promised hot chocolate and a bowl of decadent chocolate ice cream. Zayda smiled for the first time since the morning.
“You mustn’t let the villagers see how they provoke you,” Aunt Jess began. When Zayda made to protest, her aunt shook her head and continued, “You are made of strong stuff Zayda Gallagher and I dare say they will grow to regret their treatment of you.”
“You’ve said I can’t...” Zayda began.
“Oh, you won’t need to use magic to cause their regret. Humans are a strange breed. They bring it on themselves.”
Zayda thought of all the neighbour ladies who would sneak in and knock on the back door to make requests from the Aunts. They were always desperate to keep their man or punish him for his indiscretions. They never seemed content with their lives; always wanted a miracle cure. Her aunts with their concoctions and spells, were only to happy to oblige.
She was just finishing up her ice cream when the doorbell rang. An odd thing, really. It rarely rang. They had so few visitors. The villagers always snuck to the back door.
“The cousins are here,” Aunt Lydia said in a singsong voice.
Aunt Jess stayed where she was. “Here we go,” she said, making Zayda wonder if she was really pleased or not. When Zayda looked over at her, she winked giving her a secret smile as she closed her book.
One thing was certain - life would not be as quiet around here as it had been for that last few months.
Damien and Adwina were the first to arrive. Zayda stayed back by Aunt Jess as Aunt Lydia engulfed them in hugs. Damien pretended to be chocking as he was hugged. Zayda could not help smiling at his bad play acting. His sister, Adwina was delighted by the attention and she made sure to pull Zayda in for a hug as well.
Zayda liked them immediately. Adwina was her age and shared her love of books and animals, while Damien’s sense of fun made them both laugh at his antics. He was also older by a year – newly thirteen.
They had not been to visit the Aunts since before Zayda had come to live with them two years ago. They were eager to explore.
“Mama and Papa are at conferences all summer. They thought it best we come here. We were told Angelica was going to be coming this year too,” Adwina told her.
“She is,” Zayda confirmed, “though the aunts were not sure when exactly.”
As it was, Angelica arrived several days later when the sun had already dipped down below the horizon. She blew in like a storm; ripe with teenage angst. Not too pleased with being shipped off to the aunts for the summer.
“I had plans this summer,” she told the girls as they settled back into their beds later that night. “My parents didn’t trust me to behave....”
Adwina and Zayda exchanged a look. They had overheard the Aunts talking about Angelica a few days ago...
“An angel that girl is not. We’ll have to be on our guard this summer sister,” Aunt Jess had said.
“She’ll be fine here away from all that....”
“California hijinks,” Aunt Jess finished off for her.
“Well, I wasn’t going to say that...”
“She’s clearly beyond her years. She’s barely fifteen. Val says she has at least three boyfriends and who knows what all she’s been up to...”
“It’ll be quiet here for her. Not as much to get into,” Aunt Lydia mused.
“I don’t know about that. I think, trouble is bound to follow that girl and I fear for the others. They’re impressionable.”
“Zayda has a good head on her shoulders and so does Adwina, if my memory serves...”
“I expect Damien will find his own trouble. He won’t need Angelina’s help.”
The girls had drifted back upstairs to find Damien waiting to scare them. Their screams had him hooting with laughter.
Now Angelica pouted as Zayda and Adwina watched her strip off the makeup she had caked on her face. Unlike their flannel pyjamas, she wore a baby doll of silk that hugged her body like a second skin. Both girls were fascinated with their older cousin’s confidence.
“Are there even any boys here worth my notice?” Angelica moaned as she flung herself dramatically back on the bed.
“Most of the kids around here are.... not very kind,” Zayda told her quietly.
“Small town prejudice. Lovely.” Angelica said with a sarcastic drawl. “We’ll have to see what we can do about that.”
Zayda felt a fissure of anxiety crawl over her. It was true that she wanted some of the kids to pay, but not all of them were awful. Her mind envisioned Trace Wilder, the quiet boy who never seemed to taunt or bully her. He had kind eyes and she could feel his goodness. She could also sense something else that seemed to hover around him. She suspected his family life was not as good as he hoped others thought it was.
Angelina turned her eyes to face Zayda as she said, “not to worry. I won’t do anything to kind boys.” She gave Zayda a wink.
Zayda could not help the blush that flushed up into her checks.
The next day brought them all face to face with Darla Evans and her viperous group of girls. They were mean and vengeful behind their perfect teeth and glossy hair. She could taste Angelica’s dislike of the prissy little group before Darla even opened her mouth.
“Zayda,” Darla said eyeing her and her cousins with distaste. Her nose curled like she had smelled something putrid. “I see you’ve finally made some friends.”
“These are my cousins,” Zayda told her. She could feel their presence buoying her up.
“Oh, really. Figures, only family would have to hang out with you,” she and her friends tittered.
Zayda glanced over at Angelica to see her cousin’s eyes narrow with dislike. Adwina moved closer to her in solidarity.
“I see what you mean about small minds,” Angelica said to her cousins as she cast a haughty look over at the group of girls.
Darla huffed, clearly not impressed with Angelica despite the beauty she was.
Not wise to get on Darla’s bad side, Angelica did not care. The girls stared each other down. Darla was the first to look away, but only after the popular boys came into view.
“Hi boys,” Darla said in her most alluring voice.
Angelica took that moment to conjure a swell of sea gulls who dutifully dropped a smattering of bird poop over the heads of the girls.
Darla and her gang squealed and turned to run away.
The boys roared with laughter.
Angelica winked at her cousins. Zayda covered her hand over her growing smile. She could not help be pleased by Angelica’s bit of magic, though it had been a little mean... but well deserved.
They turned their attention to the boys. Four of them. Ron Busby, Zed Piper, Conner Fey and Trace Wilder.
“Well, seems Roseville is not so drab after all.” Angelica said, giving the boys her most charming smile. The boys seemed clearly drawn in.
Zayda’s eye caught Trace looking at her and she blushed. Angelica was quick to notice the exchange and smiled.
“Well, boys anything interesting to do around this town?”
“We were heading to Nixon’s. Got some treasure back up there.”
“Treasure huh,” Damien asked, “mind if I come along?’
Ron shrugged, then added, “No girls.”
Angelica shrugged, “Your loss,” then before anyone else could say another word she headed further into town. Zayda and Adwina jolted forward to keep up.
“Don’t look,” Angelica whispered to them when they were beside her, “but I bet they’re all watching us go.”
“They think we’re weird,” Zayda told her.
“Yes... and no. They're teenage boys. They think all girls are weird, but they're intrigued.” Angelica told them.
As they rounded the corner, Zayda took a peek to see that, in fact, the boys were all watching them.
“I could get them all running to our beck and call,” Angelica told them. She glanced at Zayda before adding, “well, not all. One is already sweet on you.”
“Me?’ Zayda nearly choked on the water she was drinking from the fountain.
“The one you like, clearly likes you too. But I sense a couple of them could use an adjustment,” Angelica said then laughed when the girls looked at her wide-eyed.
“Nothing sinister, just in fun,” she assured them. “Besides I could use some fun myself.”
That night a storm blew in rattling the shutters with violent force. Angelica, woken by the raging gale outside, slipped down the stairs with intentions of crafting spells without the aunt’s knowing, but at the bottom stair she stopped when someone pounded on the back door.
Who would be out on such a frightful night?
Zayda crept out to see what all the fuss was about. She stood in the quiet shadows with Angelica as they watched the Aunts light the lamps and move to the back door to see who wanted their help.
Zayda caught a glimpse of Mrs. Wilder wrapped in heavy coats and scarves. When she removed the outer layers, Zayda could see the dark bruising and swelling around the frail woman’s jaw and temple.
“You must do something. I fear he’s getting worse and tonight….” The woman shattered into tears as Aunt Lydia gathered her in and helped her to the table. Aunt Jess pored the woman some tea, spiking it with something to calm her. With her speech muffled and jumbled from her sobs they heard her continue, “he… hit… Trace.”
Zayda gasped. Her heart hammering. Was he okay?
Angelica wrapped her arms around Zayda as if to keep her rooted.
“The boy was only trying to protect me,” Mrs. Wilder managed to get out between wracking sobs.
“Is he hurt?” aunt Jess asked and Zayda felt herself holding her breath as she waited for the answer.
Mrs. Wilder shook her head. “Nothing broken, only bruised,” she said after a time.
Zayda let out the breath she was holding and pressed her fingers to her lips to hold back her own mournful cry.
“This is a matter for the police, Mrs. Wilder. We must not interfere…”
“But you must do something. Anything, I pray. Make him…. I don’t know. Can’t you not fix this?” she wailed.
“I can feel in your heart what you want, Mrs. Wilder, but you would die a sick death knowing you had brought him that.”
“We can offer you protections, but they only last awhile as you well know. You must leave him,” Aunt Jess said in her quiet no nonsense tone.
“Protections. No! I want more…”
The aunt’s shook their heads with a sad despair. “It is too dark.” Jess told her.
“But you are witches…”
“We are not heartless,” Jess told her knowing the woman thought they must be.
“Not helping me is heartless,” she wailed back at them. Her fury had her shaking.
“You don’t want this, Lorraine,” Lydia told her calmly. “His death would eat you alive and your children need you. For their sakes you must take this matter to the authorities…. And leave him.”
“He’ll never let me go. This is my only course you must help me. Make it an accident… something.”
Again, the Aunts shook their heads.
“It is too dark,” Aunt Jess told her again.
Mrs. Wilder threw back her chair and began to wrap herself in her heavy scarves and coat. Tears flowed down her face as she raged at them.
The Aunts said nothing. Only when she had flung open the door and bolted back out into the night, did Aunt Jess stand and move to the door to close it and reset the lock.
“We should at least offer her a protection,” Aunt Lydia said quietly.
Aunt Jess nodded as she said, “It is all we can do. She must garner the strength to leave him.”
“She wont’. Her devotion is too strong…” Aunt Jess said as she returned to the table.
“But her children…”
“I know dear sister. I know. But offering death is no solution. His spirit will continue to eat her alive.”
They sat a moment before getting up to perform the protection spell.
Angelica urged Zayda back up the stairs. They tiptoed back up to their beds.
“We must do something,” Angelica whispered to her in the dark as they each climbed back under the covers.
At the other end of the attic room, Adwiina snored on. Damien flipped over in bed and seeing them, mumbled something unintelligible.
“Nothing, go back to sleep,” Angelica told him and his snores soon followed.
Do something. But what?
Zayda lay in bed for a long time thinking of Trace and sending soothing thoughts of quick recovery before falling off into sleep.
The next day Zayda took a walk up along the dunes alone. She always found them to be particularly calming and her mind was still in turmoil after the night before. Last night’s visions had followed her into sleep and left her uneasy when she woke up.
The image of Mrs. Wilder’s cut lip and bruises made her stomach sick with worry.
It was rare for anyone else to be here, but as she rounded one of the many thick rolling dunes, she came upon someone. Trace.
She was almost on top of him before she realized he was there.
“Oh.” The word came out like a gasp as she took in the sight of him. His lip was swollen and cut. Bruises covered his face and one of his eyes was swollen shut. Her heart squeezed with compassion.
When he looked up at her, the sweatshirt’s hoodie he was wearing to cover his injuries fell away. His one good eye widened at the sight of her, then as if remembering what he looked like, he fumbled to pull the hoodie up again and turned to look back at the waves that crashed up on the shore.
“Oh, Trace,” she whispered as she dropped in the sand beside him. Her hand reached out and touched his arm. Touching others was something she rarely did.
The contact surged through her, dragging images of the fight into her mind’s eye. She almost recoiled at the brutal nature of the blows and his pain she could feel swirling around her. As she maintained the contact, a flicker of golden red light shimmered at the edge of her mind’s eye. It was warm and it seemed to permeate the images. Challenging them to recede.
Her eyes met his and held for a moment. He seemed momentarily stunned before he shifted and broke the connection.
Feeling the lost of the contact, Zayda straightened the skirt of her sundress then put her hands together in her lap. She looked out over the dunes as he did.
“I like it here. It’s quiet,” she said wanting not to threaten him, but also wanting to calm her own racing heart. The contact had been the strongest surge she had ever experienced.
Trace rubbed his hands up and down his legs as if he were cold. They sat for quite some time in companionable silence. Each with their own thoughts.
“Do you ever wish you could be someone else or somewhere else?’ he asked after a pause.
“Yes, doesn’t everyone?”
Trace chuckled. Zayda could hear an undertone of cynicism in it.
“I want to be away from here,” he told her his voice barely heard over the crashing waves.
“Where would you go?”
“The city. I could get lost there. No one would ever find me,” He paused then added, “I doubt anyone in my family would care if I disappeared.”
“I’d care,” Zayda admitted boldly, and earned his unwavering gaze. She waited for the caustic words that most people aimed at her, but they did not come.
Instead, he gave her a half smile, careful not to resplit his lip, “ah, but you’re not family.”
“And you like me,” she said remembering the warm red-orange glow of the images. She blushed at her boldness and expected him to deny it.
She watched his cheeks flush and could not contain her own smile. He shook his head slowly, but did not deny it. Her heart sang.
“You’re a crazy one, Zayda Gallagher,”
“It’s my witchy blood,”
“Maybe, but it’s more too, I think. You’re not like the others…”
“Is that a good or bad thing?” she asked, then held her breath as she waited for his response.
He gave her another lopsided, boyish smile as he said, “A good thing.”
“Well, that is good news,” she said smiling back. Silence swirled itself around them again.
“I suppose I should head back, My Mother is expecting me…. I just came here for a little thinking time…”
“And I interrupted you,”
“No, you helped. Thanks.”
He got up. Reaching down, he offered her a hand. She clasped it expecting the surge of dark emotions, only this time, his emotions were clearer – like a fresh morning after a night of storms. She smiled, blushing at the contact.
“I’ll see you around, Zayda Gallagher. Thanks.”
“My pleasure,” she murmured as he headed off the way she had come. She watched him go until he was out of sight, then walked down to the water’s edge to dip her toes into the surf. Part of her felt the heaviness of his emotions, but another part of her wanted to dance for joy. He thought she was a good thing. Nobody outside of her family had ever said such a thing, and she could not contain the smile.
Zayda managed to find Angelica later that day skulking around the waterfront where Mr. Wilder worked. She was learning his ways, studying his habits. Considering her options.
“He needs an accident,” Angelica told her quietly not taking her eyes off the man.
“You heard what the Aunts said. An accident would eat her alive.”
“Ah, what do they know?”
“They know a lot…”
“They are old and decrepit… Old school with a morality to match. I know more recent ways…”
“But nothing. You want him to pay as much as I do,” she looked over at Zayda who could not bring herself to deny it, still she shook her head. “If the spell is cast without her knowing, she and her family will be fine. She did not ask me… or you. So, we can do this.”
Zayda was quiet. Not sure if she should agree to it or not.
Angelica sighed, “fine. I can cast… if you feel so strongly about it, you can cast a protection spell.”
“I’ll need time to prepare. Let’s give him three days. I have a feeling his love of drink and his temper are going to do him in.” Angelica looked over at Zayda and winked. “Besides the aunts are planning to go to their festival that day and I doubt they’ll want to miss any of the evening’s festivities.”
In the days leading up to the spell casting, Angelica busied herself gathering the necessary items and sneaking peeks at the spell book her aunts kept in their apothecary room at the back of the house.
Zayda and Adwina kept the aunts occupied when Angelica scoured the pages of the great tomes of spell books. She would need to get it just right.
The Aunts had gone early that morning hoping to sell some of their fancy soaps and lotions at the festival. They had told the children they wouldn’t be too late.
“We expect you to behave yourselves. We shan’t be too late,” Aunt Lydia told them as she shared a smile with her sister.
After they’d gone, Damien told them he was off too. He was off to meet the boys at the old Nixon place again. They were still claiming to look for treasure, but the girls figured they were going to be up to no good.
When all was silent and the moon had begun to rise in the clear dark sky, Angelica gathered together her items and made her way to the Apothecary room. Zayda and Adwina followed in her wake. The power of three would give the spell more energy. They all wanted this to work.
Of the items, she had managed to snag the ring Mr. Wilder wore on his index finger. The one that left the imprint on Trace’s arm. Zayda suspected he had burned the mark into the boy’s skin years ago. What kind of man would do such a thing? The ring would keep the spell centered directly on this horrible man. How she got it, Zayda did not ask. Her cousin had her wiley ways.
After they had gathered all the necessary items they carried they up onto the balcony where the moon loomed over their proceedings. It’s watchful gaze a beacon and a guiding source.
Angelica preformed the movements and let her words carry on the wind as she cast. Zayda and Adwina clasped hands with Angelica and added their voices to hers and their words rose up over the clear night. They watched the bits carried on the breeze that swirled towards town.
“It’s done. Now we wait,” Angelica whispered.
“When?” Adwina began then fell silent as tears trickled down her face. Zayda squeezed her hand to give her comfort. The connection helped to ease the unease she felt as well.
“I suspect we’ll hear… village gossip and all that. It’ll run faster than Damien.” She said as they watched a Damien sized shadow zipping down the hill heading for home as fast as he could.
That brought small smiles to their lips despite the heaviness of their hearts.
“Let’s go to bed. I can feel the Aunts are close and I don’t feel like explaining why we’re out here.”
The next morning the Aunts put them all to work in the garden. They were to weed the herbs and vegetable patches. A rather onerous job. The Aunts said nothing about the night before, but they sensed a disturbance; as if they knew about the spell’s casting.
Angelica kept her head down and focused on the task at hand. Her attentiveness was suspicious. She usually lounged, preferring to lay out on the grass catching the sun’s rays instead of getting her hands dirty. But this morning she worked with a vengeance. No weed had a chance.
It was Mr. Rivers who brought the mail and the news.
“Walter Wilder died last night… got himself into a brawl and slammed his head into a concrete wall when he was falling from a punch. Bloody mess. Said he was dead before the ambulance even arrived.”
The girls all worked a little more fervently as Mr. Rivers words washed over them. They dared not look at each other or towards the Aunts.
“They’ll be a wake… don’t think many will go… but then again, curiousity might send them out. They’ll want to see what poor Mrs. Wilder will do…” his words trailed off before he gave a jaunty smile and wave and called out his usual, “have a nice day.”
“Serves him right,” Damien pipped up, “Gave my bud, Trace a wicked beating the other night – though he says it was nothing. His eye is still puffed closed.”
The Aunts stood quietly looking over the girls and the garden. Zayda held her breath expecting to be called out on their involvement. The silence seemed to stretch out and Zayda felt her nerves wanting to betray her and confess.
“We’ll send a protection spell,” Aunt Jess said quietly.
“I’ll suspect she’ll need it,” aunt Lydia added.
The aunts headed for the house, leaving the girls to continue to weed.
When they were out of sight, Angelica sat back on her honches and sighed, before adding, “well, that was fast.”
Damien’s mouth dropped open, then he began to laugh. “I’d hate to cross you Angelica,” he said when he was able to catch his breath. “Still, I bow to your take charge kind of thing… the man was a brute and a bully. He deserved what he got. The Aunts…”
“Don’t know a thing and I want to keep it that way,” Angelica told him pointedly. He nodded.
“Still, I would have liked to be in on it,” he looked over at his sister and Zayda who continued to weed, though not as vigorously.
“You kept Trace out of it,” Zayda whispered looking up at him with thanks and he nodded again.
“That’s true. Still, I’d have loved to have known…”
“Best that you didn’t,” Angelica told him.
Zayda worried the Aunts would be very angry, but other than forcing them to work in the garden and a few other scullery chores, they said not a word about it.
“I think they would have liked to help Mrs. Wilder, but since she asked them there would be consequences too great for her… She didn’t ask us. So she is completely free of him.”
“I heard his family is going to the City… to move back in with Mrs. Wilder’s family. From the sound of things… that might not be much of an improvement from staying here…” Zayda told them what she had heard when she’d gone out with Aunt Jess to help with errands that morning. “I’d like to do a prosperity spell….”
“The Aunts have taken to locking up the spell book. I’m not sure how much luck we’ll have with that,” Angelica told them.
“We could ask the Aunts,” Adwina said looking from Zayda to Angelica.
“We could. No harm in asking at least.”
“We’re not supposed to do magic,” Zayda reminded them.
“And yet that hasn’t stopped us,” Angelica said with a grin. The girls laughed a little uneasily.
“We could ask them to do the spell,” Adwina said.
Zayda nodded. Angelica did as well.
“Maybe they’ll let us help. Make the spell stronger if we all add in our energies.”
Zayda was elected to go ask. Adwina went with her for support. Damien joined Angelica on the stairs as they waited for the verdict.
“We want to help,” Zayda told them with a quiet confidence that was fueled by her desire.
The Aunts looked at her solemnly for a moment as Zayda held her breath.
“I have to agree with the girl, sister dear, I’ve heard Lorraine’s father is a bit of a tyrant himself. Protection spells will aid her, but a prosperity spell…” Aunt Lydia began.
“For each of them,” Zayda chimed in wanting to make sure that Trace and his younger brother and sister were included.
“A prosperity spell for each of them would be beneficial.” Aunt Jess finished.
And so it came to be that the Aunts gathered all the children and together under the stars as clear and calm as a night could be, they cast the prosperity spell to guide Trace and his family to find good fortune and happiness.
Several weeks later, Zayda watched from a nearby cluster of trees as the Wilder family packed up the last of their belongings and said goodbye to a few people who saw them off. Just as Trace was about to climb into the front passenger seat of the car, he looked around for one final glance at the place. His gaze was stoney until he noticed Zayda. Their eyes locked. She gave him a sad wistful smile as she raised her hand to wave.
He did not wave back, but his lips tipped up in a sweet smile. The warmth of it touched Zayda’s heart and she felt certain he would be okay.
She stayed where she was, watching him go. Watching until the car turned out of sight and disappeared from view. She walked home trying to will the tears to not fall, but they did.
Adwina met her at the gate. She wrapped her arms around Zayda as she said, “You’ll see him again,” Adwina told her, “I can feel it.”
Zayda took comfort in her cousin’s confidence.
Several weeks later it was time for the cousins to go back to their own homes. She would miss them all. It had been a crazy, wild summer. One she would never forget. The pain of Trace leaving was still heavy on her heart.
“If he’s in the City, I’ll find him,” Damien whispered to her as he hugged her goodbye.
“Thank you,” she whispered back. “Keep him safe, if you find him.”
Word Count = 4947.