After what had been a much more fun night of semi-naked kissing than she’d ever had with Caleb, April had walked her girlfriend back to the small cottage. It was that hazy, optimistic part of the day where the sun was just about to rise. The lights inside the cottage told April that Moon was already awake so this seemed like a totally perfect time to—
“OK, Moon is awake and the sun is about to come up – I’m already getting itchy – shall we try it?” Melinda gushed.
April blinked a few times in surprise. She’d thought she’d sensed some reluctance in Melinda to try the sun potion, but clearly she was wrong about that. No surprise, she was wrong about a lot of things, after all. She nodded and reached into her inventory, which was like a giant pocket on her jeans, but an invisible one.
“OK…” she held the bottle close; doubt in her abilities creeping in. “Um. Shall I go first?”
Melinda shook her head and reached for the potion. “I’ll go first. That way if it turns me into a bug or something you can find an antidote.” She chuckled, but April didn’t get it. Melinda shrugged, a little half-smile making her face look even more cute than it usually did, and asked, “How much do I take?”
April had absolutely no idea. “Half of it?” she guessed.
She watched as Melinda closed her eyes and brought the flask to her lips, taking a couple of gulps and making a slight face as she swallowed.
“What does it taste like?” April asked.
“Ash,” Melinda replied, handing the bottle back. “Ugh! But it feels good! Kind of cooling and invigorating. The itchy, prickly feeling is gone. I think it works!”
April hesitated only a second before emptying the remainder of the bottle down her neck in one swift, unladylike gulp, sploshing some of the contents on her face and down her top.
“Hm,” she said sadly as she felt no different to before, other than being slightly wet-chested. “It doesn’t appear to be having any effect on me— oh. Oh!”
The effect came on suddenly and ferociously. Probably the dose was too high. It was like a triple-scoop ice cream on a hot summer’s day, cooling April from the inside out. It flowed around her whole body, pushing up through her cold skin and out in a fine mist until she felt like there was a fine, protective layer all over. Just like a sun cream!
“It works,” she whispered, waving her arms through the silky cool that surrounded her, not quite believing it. “It really works!”
“It works!” Melinda cheered. “The sun is coming up and we’re outside! We’re outside in the sun, April!”
“It works! We can go outside in the day!”
“You did it!”
“I did it!” April squealed, hopping up and down in glee and clapping her hands while Melinda continued to punch the air. “Where shall we go first? To the beach? Let’s go to the beach!”
“Sure!” Melinda said with a huge grin. “Let me go grab a blanket and a ‘picnic’ and we’ll head on down to… down… to…”
April pouted as Melinda’s shoulders dropped and she started looking a bit sick.
“Mel?” she asked quietly. “Are you all right?”
Melinda didn’t respond immediately. She stared through April looking more and more uncomfortable with every passing second.
“No… I’m feeling a bit hot all of a sudden… are you feeling hot?”
“Holy moly!” she gasped and danced around on the spot, gripped by panic. “I’m burning! April I’m on fire! I’m on fire!”
“Oh shit!” April cursed and flapped her hands. “Agh! Oh no!”
“We’ve had this discussion; the tea tray is not a place for your bottom, no matter how well you may have cleaned it. Now, get down or I’ll blow you down.”
While fixing Moon with a hard stare, her cat performed a final defiant bum wriggle before conceding to the threat of the magical, gust-producing finger.
Unperturbed by the presence of shed fur in her morning tea, Moon poured herself her usual six cups from her variety tea pot and sat down to drink them all. She had been a little alarmed when she’d awoken at dawn and found the house devoid of young vampires, but had relaxed as she’d heard April and Melinda cheering and giggling in her front garden. The sun was peeking over the horizon, so no doubt they’d burst in at any moment, full of youthful exuberance to brighten up her morning.
An oh, did it need brightening. She sipped the first tea, ginger and lemon, while she ran through her daily activity schedule. She’d been summoned to the coven meeting room by the High Priestess and the sole remaining senior witch, Claudia Clusterfuck, and that meeting would likely take up most of her waking hours. She knew that the meeting would either be a request for her mentoring services or a ‘strong recommendation’ that she consider becoming a senior witch to the coven. Perhaps both. Neither scenario filled Moon with any joy.
Moon heaved a heavy sigh and plucked a stray cat whisker from her beverage as she heard her yarn basket being upended in the adjacent room. She had mentored many witches in her years, but she really was too old to be dealing with the drama of Claudia’s mentees. Hearing that she’d be required to act as substitute teacher for the Globrot twins, again, would age Moon another fifty years.
But the other option was worse. Moon didn’t want to be a senior witch, even though she was well qualified to be one. It was too much responsibility, too visible. She hoped that someone like Snotrag Globrot would put himself forwards; he loved the limelight almost as much as Claudia did. Or perhaps Broof would when he was back from his excursion to the swamp. That would be a refreshing change.
No, Moon was not looking forward to this meeting and was silently wishing for an excuse to not have to attend it. But it would have to be a doozy of an excuse to get out of a summons; a tornado maybe, or her house catching fire—
That had been the longest shift ever.
Wyatt had continued to act normally to all the patrons while trying to think of a spell or potion that would undo his mistake and silently praying that Omar wouldn’t revert to form while he was hidden in the bar’s dishwasher.
Finally, morning rolled around and Xavier returned, giving Wyatt chance to grab the bunnified brute and hot foot it up to his apartment to work his literal magic. He hadn’t quite figured out what he’d say when Omar re-materialised and found himself in the grotty apartment, but one thing at time.
He placed Omar on top of an empty keg he’d been using as a table and kicked away some crap from around it. Taking a few paces back, he took a moment to ground himself, not that that ever really helped him control his magic, and focused on his task.
He wasn’t totally sure what he’d actually cast to turn Omar into a porcelain rabbit – it had been pure instinct – but he imagined it was some kind of warped transmutation. He’d learned to do that decades ago from Ma, turning apples into pears and fish into frogs and stuff. But ‘muting a living thing to an inanimate one was something even Ma cautioned against.
It was like taking and granting life, wasn’t it? It was bordering on dark magic. Or did it not matter when the thing was alive to begin with? Ugh. Sometimes the black and white of life and death was so grey. The more Wyatt thought about it, the less he understood it.
Composing himself again, as his train of thought had derailed his meagre attempts to channel his energy, he looked across the room at the pink rabbit.
First thing he’d try was a clean-up of residual energies. It was sort of like an undo button for small magical mistakes. It didn’t usually work on anything more advanced than re-dirtying something that had been magically cleaned, but it was worth a shot.
The rabbit remained, exactly as it was. Perhaps slightly more pissed-off looking, but definitely still inanimate. Wyatt flexed his fingers and took a breather. He hadn’t put his all into that for… reasons… but he didn’t think that attempting it again was going to work.
There were a few other things he could try to undo the mystery spell before he started down the route of ‘bordering on bad’ magic – provided he wasn’t already there – but the thought of drawing the energy required to try those things was giving him weak knees and a racing mind.
After what had happened with his Mum, Wyatt had sworn he’d never use magic again. But he couldn’t just leave the dude this way, could he?
Or could he? Could he throw Omar into a dumpster and flee the country?
No, that was a stupid idea. Wyatt could sort this, he totally could. He’d turned Omar into a bunny without imploding, without even a nosebleed. Heck, it didn’t even rain, that’s how little energy it had taken. He could definitely turn him back without a problem.
He just needed to calm his nerves a bit, that was all. A few deep breaths. In. Out.
That wasn’t working; he only ever did that when he was facing something terrifying so it only served to make him more anxious. These days, there was only really one thing that calmed his frayed nerves enough for him to function, and it definitely wasn’t air…
April fidgeted nervously on the seat she’d taken at the table, opposite Moon and closest to the door. It had a taken only a few brief incantations to extinguish both herself and Melinda, and to rectify the scorched flooring, but April knew that she was in serious trouble. She could tell by the heavy feeling in the air that she knew so very well. The impending explosion of anger in response to her misbehaviour.
She waited, nervously anticipating how far she would be flung on the force of it.
“I’m really sorry,” she mumbled again, making herself as small as she could and bracing herself. “I didn’t mean to set us on fire.”
“There’s no surer way to learn that the pan is hot than to burn yourself on it.” Moon smiled, which was surely a trap. “That wasn’t an advanced potion you crafted, April, but I’d have struggled with it and you are a complete novice. It was irresponsible—”
“I know, I—”
“…of Wyatt. Granted, he’s not a fully qualified witch, but he’s been crafting highly-skilled potions for decades. To craft such a risky potion with you and then to let you test it without a thorough quality assurance and a set of instructions? Whatever was he thinking?”
April pouted, realising that the hole she’d been digging with her spade of lies was deeper than she’d thought. Folding her arms around herself and looking at the table, she muttered, “Actually he… he doesn’t know that I made the potion. I’m really sorry, I know that it’s dangerous to make them by myself, and I wanted him to help me, but he wouldn’t, he…” She pressed her fangs into her tongue to act as a button on the blurting hole that was her mouth. “…He was too busy.”
“Too busy doing what?” Melinda asked.
“It must be very important, this job of his,” Moon chimed in. “If it prevents him from finding any time to help his daughter with a potion that might have life-threatening implications. Did he join the fire brigade? Qualify as an A&E doctor?”
“No…” April hesitated, backed up against a wall. “He works in the bar beneath our apartment. And he wasn’t too busy, that was a lie. I didn’t ask him to help me.”
“Why didn’t you ask him?” Melinda nudged.
April was still firmly biting her tongue, but it wasn’t working to stop the words coming out. All the confusion and frustration started to bubble through the cracks and she couldn’t stop it.
“Because he’s been so upset since Grandma died that he won’t do anything related to magic or potions at all,” she admitted. “I’ve been trying to keep learning by myself, in secret, hoping he’ll snap out of it because if he won’t work on a cure, who will? But he won’t snap out of it. He won’t even talk about magic – he gets so cross when I bring it up.”
“Cross?” Melinda repeated with a clear note of panic. “April, does he—“
“He doesn’t take it out on me, no,” April said quietly. “I think he’s taking it out on himself. Oh, Mel, it’s like he’s given up! He has these horrible ‘friends’ who visit to do… gross things, and he’s always really smelly, and the apartment is so disgusting because he doesn’t ever clean and I try so hard but I’m no good at it. It’s so embarrassing and that’s why I never invite you over.”
“It’s like he’s forgotten how to look after himself and I don’t know how to look after myself because I’m too stupid,” April continued, barely above a whisper but it sounded so loud in the silent little kitchen. “He’s falling to bits, Mel. He’s always late for work, and he always forgets to buy groceries, and sometimes he forgets to eat, and sometimes he forgets to draw blood for me. But then even when he does remember, I have to drink it super slowly, a bit at a time, and lie down afterwards because it makes the room spin as it’s so full of… of…” she groaned and cradled her head in her hands. “Full of drugs,” she mumbled into the cushion of her palms, so she could deny it if they asked her to repeat it.
April heard Moon suck in a breath and she panicked. “I’m making him sound so bad! But it’s not his fault!” she insisted. “I should be able to look after him, and make sure that he’s clean and fed and happy. Because this is all my fault, what happened with Caleb and Grandma and Mother… and… everything. It’s all because of me,” she finished quietly.
To April’s surprise, neither Moon or Melinda seemed to react to this news, other than to exchange a small look.
“Oh April,” Melinda said softly. “Thanks for telling us, we had a feeling something wasn’t quite right. It sounds like you’re both blaming yourselves for what happened to Sage and trying to cope. But no matter what you think, it isn’t your fault. It’s not his fault either; sometimes rubbish things just happen, right Moon?”
“Oh yes, Mother Earth can certainly appear twisted,” Moon agreed. She reached across the table to pat April’s hand. It barely touched her and yet, to April, it felt like a warm embrace. “What you and your dad have been through – are going through – is horrible. But you’re not alone, April.”
“We’re here to help you, April,” Melinda smiled. “You don’t have to bottle things up and hide things anymore, OK? You don’t have to lie or pretend with us.”
April nodded, but the words floated in the air above the table and didn’t sink in.
“Here’s an idea,” Moon said in a strange way that told April it wasn’t the spontaneous idea it appeared to be. “I have a meeting with the High Priestess I’m already late for and she’ll probably be knocking on the door any minute, so why doesn’t Melinda travel back home with you today? She can keep you company, perhaps help out with a little cleaning. Would that be OK?”
“You’d do that for me?”
“Of course! I’ll bring some coins and we’ll do all the laundry, wash all the dishes, whatever needs doing. And if Wyatt does have any, uh, friends over—”
“He’ll be asleep for a few hours yet; he works nights, you see.”
“Ah, we’ll be quiet then. We have no option to vacuum, anyway.”
April sniffed back the last of her dry tears. She actually felt quite a lot better after her little outburst and the idea of having clean laundry was oddly exciting! She wasn’t quite sure how Wyatt would react if she brought Melinda home and let her clean the apartment, but then again, he spent the majority of his day in his bedroom, oblivious to the world in one way or another, so maybe he wouldn’t even notice.
And he did say he wouldn’t let Kaylynn visit anymore, so hopefully there wouldn’t be any visitors.
And it would be really nice to hang out with Melinda… maybe after they were done cleaning they could play video games and she’d finally beat that level she was stuck on.
April lifted her chin and nodded her agreement, hoping she wasn’t making yet another huge mistake.