I’ve mentioned in my ‘why write’ page that my mother was a writer. Here’s a story which she wrote under her pen name Emma Payne. Pitched at the YA market it was written before Harry Potter influenced so many authors of fiction. I’ve made a couple of tweaks to keep the plot current. Part 1 is here, the conclusion will follow.
My mother was a witch, but I had no clue until I was ten. Up to that age, children expect their parents to be all powerful, but after that, they begin to question.
Mind you, she was a fantastic mother, she never said “not now dear, I’m busy,” and she was brilliant at inventing games. She could tidy up in a snap as if by magic (which is probably how she did it) and she ran the house without any fuss or bother. She was a great companion and she always took my side in any quarrels. She kept her promises and her forecasts always came true. I thought she was perfect until the fateful day I discovered her secret.
It was an autumn afternoon when Miss Jeffers sent us home from school early because she had a sick headache. On the way home, scuffing through piles of dead leaves, I planned to play a trick on Mum.
I opened the door soundlessly. The smell of freshly baked cakes drifted through the kitchen door, which was ajar. I crept across the hall and peeped in. Where was Mum? I saw a basin on the counter with a wooden spoon stirring vigorously, but no-one was holding it! I couldn’t believe my eyes.
Then I saw her: she was floating in the air just below the ceiling, totally relaxed as if she was lying down. Jason, our cat was floating beside her, washing his paws. I watched in disbelief as a tray of cakes wafted out of the oven and arranged themselves on a wire tray, while Mum drifted above them. That was my first clue that she was a witch!
I slammed the front door and stamped noisily. When I entered the kitchen, Mum was standing by the cakes spooning icing over them while Jason rubbed himself against her legs.
Mum turned round with a welcoming smile. She offered me a cake to try while I explained about Miss Jeffers.
“Never mind, Melina,” she said. “I guarantee she’ll be well tomorrow.”
[“How?” I wanted to yell, “by magic?”]
After that I began to watch her more closely.
That evening she and Dad and I were sitting round the fireplace. We were arguing about the age of different types of rock. Dad said sandstone was older than chalk, but Mum disagreed. I just sat there like a spectator at a tennis match.
“Best not to argue with her Dad,” I warned, “she’s always right.”
Dad grinned. “I bet a box of those fancy chocolates you love to a tub of my favourite ice cream that I’m right.”
Mum almost purred. “Mmm, I can practically taste those chocolates. Melina run and get your tablet so that we can settle this. You left it beside the cook books.”
On the side in the kitchen, when I went to get my iPad, I saw that a thin book had almost slipped off the shelf. As I rescued it, I noticed it had a strange iridescent cover and the pages were smoother and shinier than paper, but it was the text that stopped me in my tracks.
‘After this,’ (it said) ‘grockle the muncheon and slowly plebide the turlow; this should create a smooth felox without unsightly veblons.’
It had to be a spell! This confirmed my suspicious, she was a witch.
At that moment she called out. “Having trouble, Melina?”
I jumped guiltily, and grabbed my tablet. “It’s OK, I’ve found it.”
I don’t remember the outcome of the argument, I went to bed early to think about my awful discovery. There might be a simple explanation but I was strangely shy about asking. As she only did good things, I concluded it didn’t really matter; but I had to think again next day.
Mrs Bearman, our next door neighbour had a rather fat pug called Harold, who was the darling of her heart. Jason, our cat, teased him by using their garden as a shortcut, knowing he could outrun the breathless, overfed pug. However, on this occasion Jason misjudged his advantage and the pug’s snapping teeth connected with the tip of Jason’s tail. Jason howled and ran to Mum for comfort. She soothed the cat while saying dreadful things about the pug.
Soon after this, Harold lost his voice. When he barked, no sounds came out. I heard Mrs Bearman telling another neighbour that Harold seemed to be bewitched.
Bewitched! If that was the case I knew who had cast the spell, and was frantic in case Mrs Bearman guessed too. When I went into the kitchen to try and persuade Mum to remove the spell by hinting to her, I’m almost sure the potatoes were taking off their own skins, but I looked again and saw Mum had a potato peeler in her hand.
“Mrs Bearman can’t hear Harold barking any more, she says it’s as if he were bewitched.”
“Nonsense,” said Mum, “she’s just getting a little deaf.” And then she looked out of the window as if struck by a thought.
I sighed and went to help Dad rake up piles of leaves for a bonfire.
“Tell Mrs Bearman I’m planning a bonfire,” he said. “Don’t want to be blamed for getting smuts on her washing.”
She answered the door drying her hands. “Good morning, Melina.”
“Hi,” I was filled with the usual awkwardness at having to hold a conversation with an adult I didn’t know well. “I came to warn you we’re having a bonfire.”
“No, I am not in the choir,” she said haughtily.
She must have misheard. “Dad is having a fire, do you mind?” I said, a little louder.
“No, I do not mind that I am not in the choir. Why are you asking me this?”
“Fire!” I shouted, “fire not choir.”
“Fire?” said Mrs Bearman, alarmed. “Where is the fire? I must fetch Harold.”
I grabbed her hand. Slowly and clearly, with 100% eye contact, I said “Dad – is – having – a – bonfire.”
“Oh,” she was embarrassed. “How silly of me, I misunderstood.”
“How is Harold?” I asked, “is he better?”
“Letter?” she was off again. “Harold didn’t get a letter, who would write to a dog?”
She looked at me pityingly, but it was I who pitied her. I could only blame Mum for her deafness.
[To be continued …]