This story is by Jeanne Lemire and was part of our 2017 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Lydia Lang was embarrassed; her father had moved them again. Every fall memories of her mother made him sad and required a change. That meant they would be moving on, they could never buy a home or even rent their own apartment. They had to find a boarding house because, her father explained, it was easier to leave when all you had to carry was a small suitcase.
Living with strangers made Lydia retreat into herself. Her mother had made their own home safe and comfortable. Wisengers lived for hundreds of years, but an accidental potion error had poisoned her mother. Her father had been a suspect and found innocent by the high coven court. The mistrust of the town had driven him to run away. So here they were, knocking on the door of a purple house with royal blue trim. Everything about the house was round, windows, doors even the shape of the house. The garden was bursting with flowers floating all around the yard in bright autumn colours of red, orange and yellow. A giant tree loomed providing shade and a small round tree house fit snugly into the solid branches.
Lydia’s attention went to the door as it opened and a kind smile filled the round face of the round-shaped lady that greeted them.
“Hello, you must be Mr. Lang. I’ve got your rooms ready, please come in. I’m Martha Elderberry and this is my son Owen.” The round lady wore a long purple dress that swished as she opened the door revealing a tall lanky boy with long greasy hair who stared at his shoes.
Lydia felt he was embarrassed as much as she was. Her first power was feeling what others felt. It had helped her understand her father, but she felt it was a useless power. Her friends had often teased her about it. This boy she could understand. She felt hope for the first time since her mother had passed.
“Hello I’m Lydia.” She moved forward to shake the boy’s hand and was surprised when his mother shook her hand vigorously.
“Well, welcome Lydia; let me take your bag.” She took the small suitcase and slammed it onto her son, “Owen, take the bags and show these people to their rooms upstairs, I will whip up our supper. It will be ready in ten minutes, so don’t dawdle.”
The boy never looked up as he climbed the stairs dragging her bag and her father’s suitcase up the round staircase. He wordlessly put her father’s suitcase in the front room and hers in the room at the end of the hall. Then he soundlessly turned and went back downstairs, all the while staring at the floor.
Her room was clean and a lovely shade of pale green, with white furniture and yellow curtains with small white flowers. She went and looked out the window and saw the most beautiful view. Green fields lead to a turquoise-blue river with shiny rainbow-coloured fish popping out and splashing back in the water. She had heard about the magic waters, but in all her travels she had never seen such a sight. She turned and ran down the stairs.
The living room and dining room were open rooms and she could smell something wonderful and followed the scent into the kitchen. Owen looked up and for the first time she could see his turquoise-blue eyes, surrounded by dark lashes. She felt her heart skip and smiled shyly. She twirled her long dark hair. She always did that when she was nervous. She wanted to speak but couldn’t, so she stared at him. He blushed and returned his gaze to the floor, pushing past her to set plates of food on the table. Her eyes followed him and she failed to notice Martha coming up with platters.
“Here you go young lady; can put these on the table?” Lydia jumped and almost spilled the platters, but Owen caught them and gave her a shy smile. His eyes were so beautiful. She felt her heart sing as her cheeks blushed and she jumped again when Martha touched her shoulder.
“Go and have a seat dear.” Martha’s eyes were a light purple and her smile lit up her eyes. She knew Lydia’s heart and nodded her approval. It was Lydia’s turn to look at the floor as she sat at the table; her father entered the room and sat next to her, while Owen sat directly in front. Lydia’s cheeks were burning.
“Are you all right pumpkin? You look like you have a fever.” Her father pressed a cool hand against her blushing skin, she wanted to melt under the table, but snuck a quick glance at Owen who was smiling. She felt him enjoying her humiliation and glared back at him. No one would put her down, they had tried but she knew how to fight back.
“I’m fine dad.” She pushed his hand away. Her fathers’ light-blue eyes were concerned and she loved him more than anything, but if he told the pumpkin story she would be forced to use the silence spell. She had mastered that one quite well and could do it in her sleep. She was a powerful violet-eyed enchantress, just like her mother. She could even cast it so no one remembered it had happened. Her father had taught her not to abuse her powers, but no one needed to know that she had fallen asleep in the giant pumpkin when she was four.
“Children are much more resilient than we think. I remember when Owen was a baby I was always thinking he was ill, but my wise familiar was always telling me to let nature take its course. Sassy old cat, he’s around here somewhere. I’m sure he’ll introduce himself later. More pourshience Master Lang?”
“Please call me Edmund, Mistress Elderberry. Yes please, this is truly delicious. May I say you have a lovely home?”
“Please call me Martha, Edmund. I am so happy to have such lovely company and a professor as well. What is it you teach?”
“I’m a potion master. If you need help with any potions or other things, I am happy to help.” Edmund Lang had dark hair flecked with gray. Wisengers only got grey hair when they were in their fifth cycle, or if they had broken hearts. Lydia noticed Martha’s grey flecks and realized they were kindred spirits.
“I take care of my mother Master Edmund; we can take care of ourselves.” Owen eyed her father coldly, Lydia felt his anger rising.
“Now Owen, Edmund is being kind, in fact you could do with extra potions tutoring. Perhaps you could recommend some exercises for Owen?” Martha smiled but Lydia felt a slight strain in her voice, her son was having trouble with his studies, this was an opportunity.
“Maybe I could help you Owen. I know my father has a lot of work to do, but we could study together. If you could teach me about the magic waters, I would be most grateful.” Owen eyed Lydia, she felt him trying to decide if she was sincere. She stared into his eyes refusing to back down; he would be the first to look away.
“That sounds like a wonderful offer. Owen knows everything about the magic waters. He’s part fish you know, born in the tad pool of the Merwickian lineage.” Martha beamed at her son. It was Owens’s turn to blush.
“Good Goddess, I believe your son has a fever now.” Her father put his hand on Owens’s face causing his mother to burst out laughing. It was contagious, soon Lydia was laughing which caused Owen to laugh and her father caught on and burst out laughing too.
When they had cleared the table and magicked the dishes, Owen took Lydia to the water. Waving his hands the rainbow-coloured fish flew through the air, each in their own bubble of water. As he moved his hands the water bubbles changed shapes, from circles to stars, then triangles. He made the fish dance through the air, as the sunlight gave the webbing between his fingers a golden glow. Lydia clapped with delight and marvelled at the beauty of his magical hands. He gently lowered the fish back into the river, freeing them to jump and swim unharmed.
Lydia felt a joy in the beauty of the river. She couldn’t remember ever being this happy before, without thinking she turned to Owen and threw her arms around him. She looked into his eyes and kissed him. She had meant to kiss his cheek, but he turned his head to hers and she found his lips. Closing her eyes, she could feel the joy in her heart. He pulled her closer and whispered in her ear, “Don’t leave me.”
“I won’t.” She whispered back and found his lips again. She had fallen for him and in his arms she had found her home.