This story is by Katie Redington and was part of our 2020 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
“Happy birthday, dear Raevyn, happy birthday to you!”
Raevyn blew out her 13 candles.
“What did you wish for?” Mom asked.
“I’m not telling you!”
After enjoying delicious cake, everyone gathered around Raevyn. She tore the wrapping off each present and held it up to show her famil
“Thanks Aunt Nicole and Uncle Russ!” Raevyn squealed as she opened her last present. She hugged her aunts, uncles, and cousins as they left, thanking each one for coming. Finally, her and Gram were alone as Mom did the dishes.
“My little Rae of sunshine, all grown up. I can’t believe it,” Gram whispered into her hair and hugged her tight. She pulled out a shiny, silver wrapped present.
“Oh Gram! Another one?”
“Shhh…I don’t want your mother to hear.”
Raevyn raised her eyebrows. Mom hummed to the radio in the kitchen. She motioned for Gram to follow her to her room.
“Why don’t you want Mom to know?” Gram and Mom weren’t as close as the two of them were, but they’d never kept a secret from her.
“Open it,” Gram said with a twinkle in her eye.
Raevyn tore the paper off to reveal a large, black book with a green snake.
“Why’d you give me a snake book?” Raevyn questioned as she wrinkled her nose.
“This is a special book, Raevyn. It’s time you learn about the history of our family. I’ve tucked a letter for you inside. Read the letter and book, but don’t try anything until I come back. I need to check on Poppy, but we’ll be back in two weeks. Don’t share this book with your mother yet. She’s different from us and will be a little sad at first. Keep it hidden for now.” Gram held her gaze before pulling her in for another hug. Raevyn kissed her plump cheeks and took in her scent of vanilla, honey, and homey-ness.
“I’ll take care of it, Gram. Thanks for sharing this with me. Love you.”
“Love you too, sweetheart. See you soon.”
Raevyn tucked the book under her bed and headed back to the kitchen to help her mother.
It had been two weeks since her birthday and nothing felt right. Gram and Poppy were supposed to be arriving for a visit today. Instead, they were gone. A Saturday evening out for dinner had gone horribly wrong after a missed red light. A drunken man, a mangled white car, and just like that - gone. Raevyn was cried out, hollow yet heavy.
She fell back on her bed in her black dress and stared aimlessly at the ceiling. She couldn’t imagine life without Gram and Poppy, especially Gram. She was her best friend and always there for her. Life would never be the same. She rolled on her side, bumping her favorite stuffed owl off. As she reached down to grab him, her hands brushed something hard. The book! She fell to her knees and lugged it out. As she did, the letter peeked out.
To my little Rae of sunshine,
I‘ve been not-so-patiently waiting for your 13th birthday! I can now share with you my secret, our secret. We’re witches. Yes, real witches. Unfortunately, the magic skipped over your mother. Don’t tell her yet; I’ll be there, and we’ll tell her together. This book has been passed down from woman to woman in our family for generations. It contains all you need to know, but of course, I’ll be here to help you. Just remember, it’s not our magic that defines who we are, but our choices. With this magic comes responsibility. I trust that you will be a kind and courageous witch.
Wet spots dotted the page and her vision blurred. She dropped the letter and covered her eyes as the tears flowed and her throat tightened. Gram wasn’t here. Her mother wasn’t a witch. She was a witch. It was so much to take in. She had to know more. She tucked the letter back inside.
Raevyn spent several hours exploring the book. It had her family tree and descriptions of generations of witches. There was a section of spells with random notes and tips, such as ,”Use rose buds not petals, pnk mn”. She wasn’t sure what that meant. She continued flipping through the spells until she saw one titled, Light of the Dead.
This is it! She jumped up from her bed and peeked out her door. It was well past midnight and her mother’s door was shut, so Raevyn gathered supplies.
Raevyn sat on her floor with a tray. A white candle glowed as wax melted and she added salt. There were two white pieces of paper, the word “yes” on the left and “no” on the right.
“I call forth from space and time, a matriarch from our family line. Gram, I seek you. Come to me, help me be, tell me all that’s true.”
The flame burst, waving back and forth.
“Gram, are you there?”
The light’s glow flickered to the left and Raevyn gasped!
“Am I really a witch?” Again, the flame’s glow flickered to the left.
“If I’m a witch, does that mean I can bring you back?” Raevyn whispered in a pleading voice.
She stared at the flame until it slowly drifted to the right. Her stomach sank.
“I can’t do this, Gram. I can’t be a witch without you.” Raevyn murmured defeatedly.
The candle glowed brighter and the flame danced to the left. Through her tears, Raevyn smiled. Of course Gram believed in her. She always had.
Spring ended and the hot, sticky summer days arrived. Raevyn read her family’s book and had tried simple spells. She was usually adventurous, but nervous to try anything too big without guidance. She hadn’t tried any more spells to communicate with the dead, but was content to have Gram visit in her dreams. After those nights, she felt peaceful. She didn’t know how to bring up being a witch to her mom.
One July morning during breakfast, Raevyn sorted through their mail. She noticed a green envelope in the stack. Her mom froze as she saw it and her eyes met Raevyn’s.
“Do you need to tell me something?”
“I’m a-a witch. Gram gave me a book on my birthday and said we’d tell you and she’d teach me. I didn’t know what to do.”
Rae’s mom enveloped her in a hug as the tears spilled out over her face.
“Oh honey! You’re so much like your Gram, full of kindness and courage. You’ll make a wonderful witch, and I wish I could help. I was sad when I didn’t get the letter after my 13th birthday. This green envelope lets you know that you can start at Manunog Academy this fall. It’s where all the women in our family who were witches have gone.
“I don’t know if I can do this without her, Mom,” Raevyn mumbled.
“I believe in you, Rae. I always have. Even though I don’t understand it all, I’ll support you.”
“Thanks, Mom,” she whispered as they hugged again.
Raevyn picked up the green envelope and headed to her room, stretching out on her bed.
A familiar scent wafted into her nose. Raevyn’s honey and vanilla candle glowed. She closed her eyes and saw Gram’s smiling face. Gram whispered one word, “yes.”
With that word, Rae knew what she meant. She thought, “Yes, I can. I can be a witch. I have my whole life in front of me and I can keep learning and keep believing - yes.”