I mean, that’s how most everyone thinks it goes for us witches. Beaked nose, warts, a leaky cauldron full of steam (well, that bit there’s partly true, I suppose). But there are lots of different types of witches in this world.
My sisters and I, we’re hearth witches—white witches for those not in the know. Meaning, we’re mostly good. ‘Cept for Hyacinth who gets a little wild when she’s had a bit too much to drink, but that ain’t often and don’t tell her I said so.
Truth is, we just like helping others find what makes them happy. My sisters and I, we keep mostly to ourselves, but this is a special time for our township of Blue Moon Bay—established in 1717. Three hundred years ago today we laid the first foundation stone of the little town that we’d all learned to call home.
Most of us living here are too young to remember the old days, but my sisters and I do. The burnings. The witch hunts. Humans had feared us then, not no more. Thanks to the tele and modern day thinking, witches have gotten, what’s that word again?
A point, Violet our oldest sister, finds hilarious since we haven’t changed at all. We’re still the same crotchety old gals who love baking, gardening, and casting the occasional spell. We’re just a wee longer in the tooth now is all.
Anyway, party. That’s what I was getting at when I went off on me tangent. It’s a big deal here. Like a big, big deal.
Well, our town might be a wee bit cursed. Okay, so we are. We’re cursed. Happened two hundred years ago to the day, in fact. Old man Tinker had gone out fishing. His boy, Tom, had stayed back in the care of the shifter pack.
Good scouts, better watch dogs, couldn’t trust anyone more than you could a shifter pack to watch your kid. Problem was, the boy got away from them.
To this day it’s one of the greatest mysteries of our little town and one of the most tragic. Tom was found the next morning. Poor babe was dead.
The entire town had grieved the loss of that boy, but none more so than ol’ Tink. Black witch by birth, he’d lost his marbles when he saw his son. Loss’ll do that to a fella, I s’pose. Cursed the whole town he did.
For the past century our little town has not only been completely invisible to the outside world, but our kind is slowly dying out. Don’t know why, but the couples that were together, they stayed together, thing of it was though, no babies were born that weren’t girls no more.
Kind of hard to grow a place when alls you grow is girls.
The first ripple of the awakening moved through our sleepy little town like the gentle roll of a wave. For only the second time since the curse was placed on us our town is coming alive again.
My sisters and I, I reckon we’ll be pretty busy this time of century. We’ve only got a month to pair up our townsfolk with mates before the curse rolls on through again, shutting us out from the outside world.
Setting down my tepid cup of tea, I stood in the midst of a garden full of blooming flowers that would even make us the envy of Wonderland’s madcap realm. The sky was a brilliant azure. The clouds big and fat and fluffy and a tad gray at the bottom. There’d be a light May sprinkle for sure. Crows and ravens flew overhead, softly circling our thatched roof hut.
Our familiars merely awaited our order.
Cinth was the first to walk out the door hanging onto her broomstick. Dressed up in a fashionable gown the color of her namesake, a fetching shade of purple, with a lovely bodice and bell-shaped bustle. Fashionable in the eighteen hundreds anyhow. Her eyes were a pale shade of lavender, her skin a pastel hue of green—mother had drunk one too many cups of mint tea when she’d had her, stained Cinth’s skin permanently, poor dear. Her silvery hair lay long and wavy down her back. She gave me a crisp smile before moving into place around our rather ancient cast-iron cauldron.
“Violet!” Hyacinth snapped when she looked at the door and our ever tardy sister had not yet promptly appeared.
It was said Vi had even been late to her birth. I did not doubt it. Where Cinth was a paragon of Victorian poise, Vi was…well, Violet was Violet.
“Coming! Coming!” She waddled out the door, dressed in a blue-violet gown a size too small for her, causing her ample cleavage to tremble as she hurried at a fast trot toward us.
Her skin was a flushed shade of dewy rose, and her glasses askew. As always.
Hyacinth was the baby of the family, and yet there was no doubt in our minds she was the boss.
Violet arrived on a rosemary-scented breeze, huffing and puffing and shoving her spectacles up her tiny bridge of a nose.
Tipping her chin up, Hyacinth unfurled her fingers revealing a small black pouch. “Are we ready then, sisters?” she asked, sparring us each a minute glance before turning her attention to the bubbling brew of neon green before us.
“Ready!” We both chortled at once.
“Then on my mark.” Hyacinth undid the string of her pouch, tipped it over and spilled its contents onto her palm.
Tooth of wolf.
Violet did likewise; her charm was scale of dragon.
Finally I poured mine out. Tail of newt. Mortimor, my little darling, had finally dropped his tail this morning. Thank the heavens, or we’d never be able to work our mating spell without it. He was a grumpy little thing, hated being without his bright red tail he did, I touched the tip of my finger to the still twitching thing. But he was awfully cute with his little nub of a stump, and I’d told him so.
“One.” Hyacinth started the countdown by dropping the tooth into the brew. It steamed rapidly now.
“Two,” Vi cried a second later, sliding the scale in. The brew began to froth and churn.
With a kiss to Mort’s perfect little tail, I plopped it right in. “Three.”
A blast of greenish light suddenly spilled up and into the heavens like a golden beacon into the night. Our ravens and crows cried out, flying off to their assigned destinations.
Soon there’d be men for our girls.
Very, very soon. And that was when the fun really started.
I sighed contentedly.
A witches work was never done…
The town was abuzz with gossip tonight as I unlocked the front door of my darkened diner. We only opened during the witching hour, since most of the town’s residents were nocturnal anyway. And well…there was another reason too.
Not that it mattered anymore.
“Did you hear such and such does this now?” I heard Tilly whisper just down the sidewalk as I jiggled my key in the knob.
“Did you know such and such does that now?” I heard Nell—Tilly’s gossipy neighbor in crime—respond right back.
Ugh, it was exhausting. Unlike most of Blue Moon’s townsfolk my profession rarely, if ever, changed. Of course, I matriculated, as did everyone else, the magick holding our town together was a thing of master craftsmanship. Though I’d never say so out loud. The curse was a point of sorrow and contention in our sleepy little coastal village. But from a purely magickal standpoint, it was indeed impressive.
The curse was constantly evolving so that, even as we were trapped away from the rapid rise and growth of the outside world, we still managed to stay up to date on current trends and happenings. My favorite era had been the boom and rise of steel and with it things like freezers, fridges, stoves, and trucks that helped me haul food from my garden to my diner every night.
I did not miss the days of hauling food stuff around on the back of Betsy—my stubborn mule who’d far rather munch on oats than lug around fifty-pound baskets of food. Not that I could really blame the old girl.
You know that old saying, “the world is your oyster”? Well, here in Blue Moon Bay that’s a total lie. For most, living the same life day in and day out was a constant source of vexation. Many residents of Blue Moon wanted nothing more than to get out and see the world.
Call me old-fashioned (I was a hundred and fifty, still very young by Blue Moon standards yet ancient to the human world) but I rather enjoyed the life I’d carved out for myself here. I was doing what I loved. In a town, I never wanted to leave anyway and surrounded by the people I called family and friends.
I was in no rush to find love. A sticking point between me and my three adorable yet slightly quirky aunties. But for most other residents of Blue Moon, tonight was a big, big deal.
Not because they could actually leave, but because the magick would bring in fresh blood. New faces. We’d hear stories from around the world, and maybe…if the magick choose us, we’d even fall in love.
Making everyone else but me squeal with delight.
I’d seen the last time the geis had been lifted. Men, women, and children had poured into our little town like ants at a picnic. Everyone in town adored my aunts, in fact, I’d even go so far as to say there was some serious brown nosing that went on between the years in the hopes that the next time my aunties called in the crowds the magick might think kindly on them and they too might be one of the lucky ones to be chosen.
All I knew was I needed to start making my desserts and getting the coffee brewing. Hungry mouths would be arriving soon.
And hidden away in the kitchens, the magick would miss me completely. On my drive here I’d seen no less than fifteen women—a few vampires, some witches, a shifter, and even an undine on legs—dancing and swaying naked in the streets, looking toward the heavens with hope gleaming in their eyes that this would be their time too.
The town was almost entirely female at this point, though we did have a few males scattered around here and there, but they were already mated the lot of them. I wasn’t at the point yet where my single status bothered me much. True, some nights I was lonely, and maybe I’d even considered what it might be like a time or two to have a partner, but the thoughts were fleeting and never lingered long.
I really didn’t want to be tied down. Really. Really, really.
I ignored the little voice in my head that called me a liar.
Unlocking the door to my seaside inspired diner with the cutest little red and white striped awning over top and frosted glass with the words The Golden Goose stenciled on the front, I opened it and flicked on the lights. Causing Gretchen—my literal golden goose—to honk angrily back at me for daring to disturb her slumber from within the golden nest she called home. Her wings flapped hard enough to create a small wind tunnel, knocking shakers off tabletops and pushing me back on my heels. Then…an egg popped out. Perfectly formed, and gleaming like freshly poured metal.
Gretchen hated to be startled.
“Nighting to you too, Gretchy ol’ girl,” I said with cheerful exuberance as I walked down the aisle now strewn with napkins, menus, and half empty condiment bottles.
Gretchen’s eggs were magick themselves. Fluffy and impossibly golden, they tasted like heaven and made everything taste better.
The rather dull brown bird fluffed at the feathers of her wings, ignoring me completely. She was a waspish thing when awoken, but I was used to her now and she with me. Whether she liked it or not.
Lapis and Malachite—Malachite was the Bombay and Lapiz the Ojos Azules breed of black cat—meowed back at me from their perches on the edge of the polished silver countertop. They’d adopted me as their witch near a century ago now. Oddest thing, but cats could cross the curse with no problem. They were the only thing allowed in or out any time of year.
Personally, I thought it was because being a witch himself, Old Man Tinker was as bonded to cats as they were to us. Cats weren’t just our friends; they were so much more to a witch. Cats were mystical by nature. Any good witch always had a few furry beasties to call upon on when we needed help amplifying a spell and they, in turn, were treated like the kings and queens they naturally were.
Lapis, who had always liked me more than her grumpy sister Malachite, trotted dutifully over toward me as I made my way toward the prepping station. She meowed and purred and rubbed her long, silky body between my legs, tripping me up every step of the way.
Which I secretly loved, but would never tell the rotten thing so.
“Yes, yes, Lady L, I know you want food. Give me a second to settle in. And hello to you too, Malachite.”
Her answer was a sharp hiss. I rolled my eyes with fond exasperation. I really did think that someplace deep inside her cold shriveled heart she might actually care for me, but then, she spent most of her days chasing me around and trying to take a plug out of me. So I honestly couldn’t be certain.
Taking a moment to just breathe, I closed my eyes and smiled.
This place was home for me. Not the four walls and the roof I slept under for the two hours I got each night before it was time to get up and start my day anew. The familiarity of smelling coffee grounds, powdered cinnamon and sugar, vanilla, butter, and nutmeg. The unchanging décor that to others might appear vintage but was in actuality authentically Gibson era, it all grounded me. Made me happy. I’d fallen in love with that point in history from the very first moment I’d spied it.
My fashion choices tended to veer between the 1930s through the 50s. There was just something timeless about that era for me, something I never wanted to lose no matter how fast time marched on.
Women wearing their hair up instead of down. With smart, puffy dresses that came to just above their knees and heels that elongated our legs with those sexy black lined stockings running up our calves. Pearls and the very reddest red you could find for nails and lipstick.
Humming beneath my breath as I rolled up my sleeves and got to work prepping, I shut out all distractions except for the repetitive and soothing rhythm of slapping dough on a floured surface and rolling and kneading and whipping up creations that no one else in town could mimic no matter how hard they tried.
Because for one I was a witch, and I would admit that I did shamelessly use a little magick when baking, but two, I was also a hearth witch. Meaning my magick worked strongest when dealing with hearth and home, of which cooking was definitely one.
Lost in the motions, I forgot all about the time until I heard a meow and looked down to spot Lapis staring at me with her big beautiful blue eyes mournfully.
“Oh, the food, I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” Dusting off my hands I walked over to the pantry, grabbed two jars of fermented shrimp that Meri—my good friend and mermaid—had helped harvest only just last week for me.
“Here you go, my babies,” I crooned as I spooned the contents of the jars into their respective bowls.
Malachite said nothing to me. Not that I’d expected thanks. But Lapis purred her thank you before delicately eating from her bowl. Frowning, I walked over to the sink, washed off my hands and wondered how the call had gone and who’d been chosen this time. Surely the magick had chosen by now.
I’d seen my aunties cast their spell earlier. The green light still pierced the sky like a lighthouses’ glow. Soon our town would be overrun by tourists oohing and aahing over the eccentric little place full of ghouls and things that went bump in the night. Believing it all to just be a bit of fun and show to tell their friends about in their twilight years.
Walking over toward the frosted windows I stared up at the enormous and rare Blue Moon that’d cut the veil between our world and theirs and pursed my lips. For me, I did not care, but I really hoped Eerie would finally get her wish.
Eerie Thistlebottom was my closest friend in Blue Moon. Once a human, now…very much not. I’d grown fond of my young friend who’d stumbled in here the last time the veil had parted.
She’d been a ragamuffin thing with barely a woman’s curves, all spindly arms and legs and dirt caked beneath her nails and stained upon her cheeks, I’d taken pity on the youth. And once I’d learned she had no parents or kin to call her own, I’d made her the offer. Eerie had chosen to stay with me in Blue Moon and through the years I’d begun to view her not just merely as a friend, but rather more like a sister. It had been a great boon to me; she’d helped tremendously with the diner and kept me company on the long winter nights. I’d nearly forgotten Eerie was human at all, until one day her terrible fragileness caught up to us.
Eerie had taken ill.
She’d grown terribly, terribly sick with scarlet fever. I’d tried all I could to fix her, but…the human sickness had finally claimed her late one blustery winter’s night. Staring down at the blond-haired beauty I’d felt a yawning emptiness inside of me, a terrible pain that I knew would haunt me all the days of my life.
My aunts had begged me to respect Eerie’s wishes. She’d known all about our little town and the monsters that lived and worked in it, that was part of its charm for her. But she’d never wanted to become like us.
She’d made me promise to let her go when the time came and always I’d promised her that I would. But she was supposed to live longer than the thirteen years we’d been given. That night a terrible madness had been born in my blood and I’d forgotten my vow, my promises to her.
I could not stand idly by and let my sister just be dead. Not when I could do something about it. And so I’d tethered her soul to my own—so long as I lived, so would she. I wish I could say I’d only created a spectral like our resident Ghost—Annabelle Lee—but I hadn’t.
I’d gone one step further. I’d created a zombie.
No, she was not a mindless brain-eating zealot dripping blood and groaning out for brains day and night. My spell had been very specific. She was an independent, thinking woman. And in fact rather pretty, if I must say so myself.
I’d placed a charm on her that helped keep her body mostly intact. She was meticulous about cleanliness and usually smelled of the rose garden she’d planted in her backyard. She had a green thumb and would have made a fine witch indeed, had fate dealt her a different hand.
She was lovely and convivial and still my truest friend. But, I’d broken her trust and for a while, there Eerie had hated me quite forcefully for it. Time was a great healer though, and though our relationship now would probably never again be what it once at least we talked. Eerie no longer worked as my waitress at the diner; instead, she’d opted to work as a Carney on the pier. A fine gig for her, truly.
But some days I missed her dearly. I sighed and clenched my fist.
Using that kind of magick, it hadn’t come cheaply. There was always a cost when pulling from the darkness. And bringing back the dead was dark magick, no matter if your intentions had been pure. Turning my hand over I started at the marking that had appeared on my palm after waking her.
A black marking of a broken feather. I’d not walked away from that night untainted either.
Suddenly a twinkling miasma of reds and pinks furled through the dark sky, pulling me from my contemplations. It took me a second before I suddenly understood and my eyes widened the second it dawned on me what this was. Heart racing and mouth going suddenly dry, I scooted back on my heels.
“No.” I shook my head, watching as that glowing curl of fog gathered speed, whistling like a thrown spear through the air as it headed unswervingly in my direction. “No. No. No. NO!” I cried.
Twisting on my heel, I turned. Trying to get away. Trying to outrun what came at me with great velocity. I should never have left the safety of the kitchen.
What had I been thinking?
And just as I was about to reach for the door that would keep all unwanted spells away from me I felt a great and mighty shove at my back as that glowing thread of red speared right through my middle.
Suddenly my head was buzzy like I’d drank one too many forget-me elixirs. World whirling around me as my knees suddenly gave way, I cried out and latched tightly onto the first thing I could. Thankfully, it was the bar top. Dropping unceremoniously onto a red upholstered stool, I closed my eyes and grimaced.
Uncertain and worried meows called back at me. I thought I even heard Malachite’s taciturn chirp, but I couldn’t be certain. I huffed, relaxing as the intense dizziness of just moments ago began to slide away.
“I’m fine. Just fine.” I could taste Aunty Prim’s particular brand of magick on the back of my tongue.
They’d been telling me for years they wanted a house overflowing with grandbabies soon. I’d laughed off their words because they knew how I felt. I did not want or need a man. Not right now. I had my work. I was content. There were others in this town far more desperate than I. In fact, I wasn’t sure I ever wanted a man. Not with my condition. It wouldn’t be fair to anyone else.
Huffing a loose curl out of my eye I grumped softly to myself. Just because they’d cast the spell for me, in particular, did not mean I would wind up with a mate. At the end of the day, we all had free will.
“Aunty Prim,” I groused, knowing the old bat had heard me even from the many miles separating us when I heard the sparkling tinkle of her laughter flutter around my head like a hundred tiny butterfly wings flapping here and there.
Not even a second later I heard the bell above my door shop ring. I glanced over my shoulder and startled to see it was Eerie and not my aunt as I’d first imagined.
Dressed in her carney attire of a puffy silky black and red skirt, a buttoned up white vest, a glossy bow tie, black suspenders, fishnet stockings held up with garters—which served a dual purpose as it also helped hold her legs together—black pumps and her hair pulled back into pigtails, she was beaming. Her smile so large it radiated from ear to ear.
I knew immediately without even needing to ask what had happened to her. The same thing that had just happened to me.
My lips thinned.
“It happened!” she said, clapping her hands and bouncing up and down. “It’s finally happened.”
Eerie was wearing stage make-up tonight. Her almost neon blue eyes were hypnotic thanks to the massive quantities of black smoky eye shadow and fake lashes. Her ruby red glittering lips twinkled as she spoke.
“You said it would and it did.”
I’d maybe lit a couple of candles for Eerie, said a spell or two. But magick wasn’t always fool proof, there’d be no guarantee it would work.
Suddenly she stopped smiling, eyeing me hard and then she gasped, no doubt spotting the hue of glowing red still emanating around my head like a shimmering halo. “Oh, Zinnia, you too! We’re in this together.”
Blowing out a raspberry, I wrinkled my nose. “I wish I could feel a tenth of the excitement as you.”
Leaning against the wall, she crossed her arms. No longer quite as animated. “You’re going to be happy, you know. I promise you, whoever your mate winds up being, he won’t care about—”
“Eerie,” I wrinkled my brow and held up a hand, stalling her, “let’s not, okay. I’m not looking for love. I don’t want love. I don’t need it. And as far as that goes, it’s hardly even a—”
“It matters. We both know how much it matters to you, okay. So just stop. I know you, Zinnia Rose Thorne, and while you might never own it, I think we both know why you’re nervous about this. But you shouldn’t be. You really, really shouldn’t be.”
Swallowing hard, I told myself it didn’t matter. That it had stopped mattering years ago. That I didn’t want a man in my life because I simply just didn’t want one. Not because of this secret that wasn’t even much of a secret at all, at least not in our town. Everyone here knew about me.
My heart thundered.
Was Eerie right? Was this really about that? My hesitance for a love match, my refusal to want to take part in these silly games. I nibbled on the corner of my lip as my sister walked up to me, laid a gentle hand on my shoulder and squeezed.
“And if it does matter to him, then…he wasn’t really your soul mate at all.”
“Soul mates, aren’t real, Eerie. You know that.”
She wrinkled her button nose. “Agree to disagree. All I have is the hope that there is a man somewhere in this world who can love me for the monster that I am.”
Her words were said softly and without reproach but they burned through me all the same.
“I’m so sorry, Eers.”
She shrugged. “I’m over it. Long over it. But I’ll fight you to the bitter end about this one. Soul mates do exist and ours are coming today. I also heard,” she leaned in and stage-whispered, “that our resident ghost was also struck by cupid’s arrow.”
“No.” My eyes widened and then I chuckled. Low at first, but soon Eerie joined in and our laughter grew louder and louder, causing Gretchen to honk huffily at us.
“A zombie. A witch. And a ghost…your aunts have their work cut out for them this time,” she said.
I snickered. “Indeed they do. But I’ve still got work to do, diner opens in an hour.”
She bit her bottom lip with a starry-eyed grin. “Mmhhm. Humans again. In our town. I can’t wait!”
Giving me a tight squeeze and a single wave, she turned and fled. The ringing of the bell echoed through the vast quiet of the space and I broke out in a cold sweat. What if he did care?
Turning my hand over I stared at the marking on my palm. The thing that made me an outcast even in a town full of them.
“Work, Zinnia. That’s what you need to focus on. Not this. Not this. Definitely not this.”
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