Life’s A Witch
The white-furred puffball cat tore out from beneath Blair’s bed like a demon. Blair shrieked as the feline streaked out of her bedroom into the living area and vanished.
“Felix! You scared me.”
Felix darted by the open door once, twice, a third time, an ivory pitter-patter blur. The fourth time he screeched to a halt and stared with wide, dark eyes.
“I scare myself sometimes.”
Blair chuckled as he continued his mad romp around the apartment she shared with her sister Maeve. The levity provided by her familiar proved a timely distraction. Blair’s melancholy lifted, if only a little.
She reached under the bed to retrieve the item she’d sought before her feline familiar’s crazy dashing distracted her. Blair’s fingers felt about until they laid on a wooden box roughly large enough to hold a laptop.
The wooden box slid across the uneven timbers into view. Blair lifted it onto the bed and sat beside it. She traced a line along the wildflowers carved into its surface. The box, and its contents, were all she had ever truly known of her parents.
Blair flipped the lid open and gazed within. On top sat a black and white polaroid, slightly overexposed, the one photo she had of her parents. She could see herself in the bump of her mother’s nose, and the fullness of her father’s lips. Blair ran her index finger down the photo and longed for what could not be.
Sighing, she set the photo aside and removed the next item, a leather-bound grimoire the size of a phone book. The book had an ancient feel to it, with weathered yellow pages and faded gold embossed letters spelling out her mother’s name, Agatha Harker. The cover creaked as she opened the tome. Handwriting in a careful, beautiful Cyrillic script filled the pages.
Blair learned all she knew of magic from reading the spells and charms within. She often wondered if her mother herself had scribed the tome. It was just another mystery which threatened to remain unsolved.
Perhaps, she mused to herself, she’d been attracted to solving enigmas precisely because her own family remained a mystery. Her adoptive parents, the Barrows, had been the most loving and kind guardians a girl could hope for. They’d made every effort to find Blair’s surviving family but had come up short.
Blair glanced up to see the pretty, winsome face of her adoptive sister, Maeve. Maeve’s blue-eyed gaze emanated sympathy as she leaned on the doorframe.
“Hey,” Blair said, forcing a smile to her face. “Come on in.”
Maeve entered, sitting on the opposite side of the box.
“It’s been a while since you got the box out,” Maeve said. “Not since you converted your spell book to PDF, in fact.”
“Yes,” Blair said. “Don’t get me wrong. I love Mom and Dad. I just wish I knew more about where I came from. I mean, I’ve never even met another witch.”
Maeve perked up. “Maybe we could hire a private investigator? I heard on a podcast that a lot of orphans use them when they try to track down their biological family.”
Blair pursed her lips and nodded. “That is not a bad idea at all, Maeve. I just…”
Blair looked into her sister’s blue eyes and sighed. “I’m just worried I might not like what turns up.”
Maeve arched her graceful eyebrows high on her unblemished face. “Isn’t it worse not knowing, though? I mean, I think it would be for me.”
Blair nodded. Felix was fond of saying if you dug up the past, all you got was dirty. Yet, she could not help but feel a void aching to be filled.
A heavy thump from the living room drew their attention. They unfolded from the bed and went through the door into their cozy—ie, small—living room to find Felix up on his hind legs, front limbs pumping in a furious blur.
“Felix?” Blair said. “What’s gotten into you?”
“I swear I put the catnip where he couldn’t get it,” Maeve said.
“I’m not on the nip,” Felix howled, his feline voice seeming near panic.
“Then what on earth is wrong with you?” Blair asked.
“I went and pissed off the wrong ghost, that’s what.”
Blair and Maeve exchanged glances.
“Ghost?” they said in unison.
Felix abruptly dropped to all fours and tore back into the bedroom to disappear under the bed. Blair shook her head and grinned. Familiar or not, cats would be cats. Before she could further question Felix about his ghost comment, her phone rang.
“Who is it?” Maeve asked eagerly, eyes shining. “Detective Farrow?”
Blair felt a red blush come to her cheeks as she stared at the screen.
“No, it’s not Christopher. He hasn’t called me since the Gary fiasco.”
“Maybe you should call him?” Maeve teased as Blair stared at the unfamiliar number on her screen. “I mean, we’re modern gals in New York City. We can do stuff like that.”
“Why would I call him?” Blair asked, on the cusp of letting the call go through.
“Because he’s handsome?”
“Hush, you,” Blair said, embarrassed. She pushed the accept button and put the phone to her ear. “Hello?”
Blair flinched. She hadn’t expected to hear the thick Brooklyn accented female voice on the other end.
“Yes,” Blair said. “Is this Jade?”
“Yeah, I hope you don’t mind, but Jessica gave me your number.”
Before Blair could figure out if she minded or not, Jade continued.
“Listen, I’m in urgent need of your help.”
Blair sat up a bit straighter. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing’s wrong, exactly. I need you to help prevent a homicide.”
“Oh, my goodness, a homicide?”
“Who is it?” Maeve interjected. “What homicide? Put it on speaker.”
Blair waved her sister away as Jade spoke again.
“My ex boyfriend’s homicide. If he tries to talk to me, I’ll push him off the roof.”
“Yeah, it’s one of those fancy rooftop parties. I think it’s a fundraiser or some shit. Anyway, I really need some chaperones. I was hoping maybe you and your sister would come along.”
“Did she say party?” Maeve asked eagerly. “Tell her we’ll go!”
“I—” Blair looked into her sister’s hopeful eyes and sighed. “Sure, Jade. We’d love to go.”
“Fantastic. It’s one of those El Swanko type deals, so dress to the nines. I’ll text you the details. You’re a lifesaver, girl.”
Jade hung up, and Blair frowned at her screen.
“I thought Jade didn’t like you?” Maeve said.
“We’re trying to be friends,” Blair said.
“Even though she’s a mob princess?”
“Alleged,” Blair replied. “I don’t think she’s into that side of her family business.”
“Whatever,” Maeve said excitedly. “You know what this means?”
“That my frenemy now wants me to safeguard her ex-boyfriend from her wrath?”
“No, silly,” Maeve said. “We have an excuse to go shopping! Our first big city party… this is going to be so much fun!”
Blair nodded, wishing she could share her sister’s enthusiasm. The last time she’d gotten involved with Jade, it ended with Jade’s brother Mario trying to kill her.
There was simply no way she would dash her sister’s hopes, however.
“All right,” Blair said, tucking her phone away. “Let’s go shopping.”
The afternoon sun stretched the sisters’ shadows out long behind them on the sidewalk as they moved through Union Square. So far they’d been to several different clothiers but hadn’t found the right garment for the party.
This didn’t preclude their carrying numerous bags filled with items for other occasions, however. Blair was particularly fond of the strappy boho sandals she’d picked up for a significant discount, even if autumn had begun to flirt with the Big Apple. They’d look great in the spring.
Felix rode along on her shoulder, curled up in his customary spot. From time to time some passers by—enamored of the cute fluffy ball of cat—would pause and try to pet him. Felix let out a long, loud hiss which belied his form most of these times. To Blair, his cat-speech translated instantly through their familiar bond.
“Hands off the merchandise!” or “I just saw that finger up your nose pal, you keep your boogers to yourself.” And even “Look but don’t touch. Sugar melts.”
“Honestly, Felix, you could try being a little nicer,” Blair scolded.
“Yeah, yeah. It’s New York, Blair. If you’re nice, they eat you alive in this burg—wait, let’s check in here.”
Blair and Maeve paused in front of a high end clothier. “Oh, Felix, I’m not sure we can afford this place.”
“You’ve got that trust fund your parents set up for you, right?”
“That’s for emergencies. I want to earn my own way in the city.”
“I’m with Felix,” Maeve said. “You need to live a little. There might be some cute guys at this party, don’t you want to look your best?”
Blair sighed. “I suppose it can’t hurt to look.”
They entered the foyer. A woman with dark frizzy hair wearing a fashionable pantsuit instantly came to bar her way.
“I’m sorry, but pets aren’t allowed on the premises.”
Blair started to apologize and turned to leave, but Maeve cut her off.
“Have a heart, will you?” Maeve said. “It’s her emotional support kitty.”
The woman placed her hands on her hips, lips twitching a scowl.
“I’ll have to see some certification,” she replied icily.
“No, you won’t,” Maeve countered. “Legally, all you’re allowed to ask is whether it’s a service animal or not, and what service it’s trained to perform. Since we’ve already told you both of those things, you can’t stop us from shopping here.”
The woman’s lips became a thin, tight line. “Fine. If the cat damages any merchandise, you’ll be held fiscally responsible.”
“Nothing could be more damaged than that rag mop you call a haircut,” Felix quipped.
Blair held in a smile as they entered the shop proper. Her mouth gaped open at the various racks of colorful clothing. A far friendlier clerk approached and asked if they needed assistance.
The clerk showed them to the formal wear section. Blair and Maeve tried on several different garments, but Felix shot down most of them right off.
“No one wears white after Labor day.” “Are you sure green is your color?” “That’s not authentic Parisian fashion, is all I’m saying.”
Eventually Blair tried on a deep sapphire blue gown. The floor length, strapless off-shoulder dress featured a bodice with satin full circle skirt and slit up to mid thigh. An applique at front and back of the bodice added an air of elegance.
Blair came out with the gown on, causing Felix and Maeve excitement.
“That’s the one,” Maeve said.
“Definitely,” Felix said, the most positive thing he’d had to say about her choices so far.
“Are you sure?” Blair stared down at her chest. “Are you sure this isn’t too much cleavage?”
“Nah,” Maeve said. “You look great.”
Maeve had already purchased a tube style dress in peach with one shoulder bared and a flared out peplum skirt. Felix had warned her it would be chilly on the roof for such thin material but Maeve had her heart set on it.
Blair purchased the dress, trying not to think of the cost as the clerk rang them up. Armed with their purchases, the sisters decided to take a break before beginning the next phase of their shopping excursion; shoes.
“Where do you want to eat?” Blair asked as they strolled along.
“Something decadent,” Maeve said, her eyes shining.
“So says the chocoholic,” Felix quipped.
“What about that bakery?” Blair pointed at an establishment with a pirate on the signage dubbing it the Jelly Roger. “Their coffee smells good, if nothing else.”
They entered the bakery and perused the menu. Blair selected a French cruller with raspberry glaze and a cinnamon stick. Maeve gushed over the chocolate filled churros, while Felix demanded a latte.
“Pumpkin spice,” he insisted.
“Not everywhere has pumpkin spice,” Blair chided. “A lot of people think it’s gauche.”
“Well, this place doesn’t. Look, see? Pumpkin spice, pumpkin spice, pumpkin spice—”
“Okay, okay,” Blair said as Felix’s constant meowing drew the patrons’ attention.
The sisters and the cat selected a table near the window and sat down to enjoy their repast. Blair found her cruller to be perfect; crispy on the outside, warm and fluffy on the inside. The raspberry crème glaze was a bit sweet to her taste, but sips of coffee helped balance it out.
“How come you always get black coffee?” Maeve asked.
“Because I can see the future in it,” Blair said with a wink. “But only if it’s hot.”
“Is that a magic thing?” Maeve asked.
“Yes, but it’s not a spell. It’s more like a Talent.”
“Oh,” Maeve said. “Like your electric thing?”
Both sisters stiffened up. Neither of them had spoken. They turned as one to face the speaker, a tall man whose muscular forearms were decorated with numerous tattoos.
“Carl?” Blair said, feeling some trepidation at seeing his severe, but not unhandsome, features. Their last encounter had been somewhat hostile.
“Blair,” he said politely. She eyed his apron.
“Do you work here?”
“I guess you could call me owner-operator,” Carl replied. “I’ve gone legit. No more slinging contraband for this Queens boy.”
Carl puffed up his chest a bit, and Blair’s fears lessened.
“That’s great, Carl. I’m happy for you.”
“Hey there, little guy,” Carl said, his eyes growing wide as dinner plates. He reached out to scratch Felix under the chin. The white puffball cat’s eyes squeezed shut, and a contented sigh escaped his feline mouth.
“Oh yeah, that’s the spot. Take notes, ladies, THIS is how you scratch a cat.”
“Listen,” Carl said. “I just wanted to apologize for being kind of a jerk before. I know you had good reasons for thinking I was the one who offed that sleaze Gary. So, you know…no hard feelings.”
He reached into his apron pocket and extracted a coupon, handing it over to them. “Here. One free donut with the purchase of a coffee.”
“Thanks,” Blair said. She watched as Carl headed back into the kitchen to help his harried staff. Had he always been in such good shape, or had Carl turned over a new leaf now that he was out of the drug game?
“That was unexpectedly pleasant,” Maeve said. “I guess people are always surprising, huh?”
“Yes,” Blair said, staring after Carl. “Yes, they are.”