Dusty cauldrons, untouched magic, and… romance? Check out our final Halloween Flash Fiction for the day, from Genevieve Jack. A story inspired by this image…
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Cauldron Kisses by Genevieve Jack
“Please, Beatrix. What do you want from me, an engraved invitation?” My mother’s shrill voice came through the phone, her disappointed tone laced with a heavy dose of anger. Our coven’s All Hallows Eve Ball was scheduled to kick off at the stroke of midnight, and as high priestess, she was embarrassed that her only daughter wouldn’t be in attendance.
“I just don’t see the point. I live among humans now. It’s not like I have any power to contribute to the festivities.”
“And you’ll never have any with that attitude.” She clucked her tongue. “Magic begets magic. You have to spend time with your own kind if you want your rose to bloom.”
I rolled my eyes. “I’m almost thirty. If my rose hasn’t bloomed by now, I think we can make some assumptions. Anyway, I’m not giving up on magic, I just have no interest in suffering the polite interactions of people who mostly pity me for being a dud.”
Mother’s deep sigh filled my ear. “Fine. Stay home. But at least use the evening to practice your magic. Tonight, the veil between the living and the dead is at its thinnest, not to mention there’s a full moon. Anything is possible… even for you.”
I ended the call, trying not to feel bad about that last jab. I drummed my fingers on the counter. It was Saturday night. I had no plans. If she wanted me to practice magic, I’d practice magic.
From the deep dark recesses of my under-counter cabinets, I retrieved my cauldron. Sadly, it was as dusty as my love life. I blew on the wrought iron, then waved a hand to clear the air. Crap, it had been a long time.
I dropped it on the gas burner then dug out my old Hello Kitty three-ring binder from high school, the one I used to keep track of spells I’d come across. Unlike most witches my age, I’d never developed a proper grimoire, but there were a few interesting recipes in my collection. I flipped through them until one caught my eye. It stood out because my normally neat handwriting splashed across the page in a panicked scribble. I’d stolen this one from my mother’s book, a page I wasn’t supposed to see.
“Potion to reveal one’s perfect mate,” I read aloud. I tapped my chin. Why not?
I am not a powerful witch. My mother, Eledora Bishop-Broomholm is. Extremely powerful. In fact, she’s a direct descendant of Sarah Bishop. Her genes never really kicked in though. I take after my father, Malcolm Broomholm, ordinary human and American pastry chef. Which means, I can whip up a fresh batch of croissants with relative ease but my potion making is a lesson in humility. Still, the instructions seemed simple enough. Combine ingredients. Stir. By goddess, even a monkey could do it.
I warmed the cauldron over medium-high heat.
“Step one, add a bottle of the target’s favorite wine.” Since I was the target of the spell, I popped the cork on the pinot noir on my counter and poured myself a glass before emptying the rest as indicated. “One for me, the rest for the cauldron.”
“Step two, add a box of the target’s favorite chocolates.” I opened my cupboard. The only chocolates I found populated a small Godiva heart my mailman had left me on Valentine’s day. I shrugged and dumped them in.
“Three, add the heads of a half-dozen flowers of the target’s choosing.” At least the flowers I had at the ready. I’d always loved salmon-colored roses, and I’d recently cut some from the bushes in my front yard. I selected six from the vase on my counter, tore off the petals, and added them to the mix.
The brew bubbled and fizzed, emitting a cloying stench that could only be compared to Axe body spray. “This can’t be right.” I held my nose and referred to the instructions again.
I reread my scrawl. There at the bottom was my missed ingredient. Extract of Asphodel Leaf.
The last time I’d used Asphodel Leaf, I’d owned a flip phone. I rummaged through the highest shelf of my pantry, all the way in the back, and my fingers met dust and cobwebs. “Ew. Ew. Ew.” I wiped my hand on my apron and did a very unwitchy dance around my kitchen. Grabbing a kitchen towel, I dove in again, this time connecting with the neck of a glass bottle. How long had it been since I’d tried my hand at potion-making? Did Asphodel go bad?
“Stars and lightning, Beatrix. You really need to practice more!” After swishing the bottle, I poured a tablespoon of the tincture. I was about three drops shy of measurement. I added it in. “Close enough.”
“Your mother is going to be so happy to hear you took her advice.”
I whirled to find my mother’s assistant, Giles Wardwell, standing in my kitchen and smirking at me. At least he couldn’t see the layer of dust in my dark brown curls or the splashes of wine on my apron. The man had been blind since birth, a condition that hadn’t stopped him from becoming one of the most powerful wizards in our coven.
“Giles! What are you doing here?” I took a healthy gulp of my wine and leaned my ass against the kitchen counter.
“I came to deliver this engraved invitation to your mother’s All Hallows Eve Ball.” He handed me an envelope sealed with my mother’s purple wax emblem of a sparrow.
“Wow, she is incorrigible.” I tossed the invitation on the counter.
“What are you brewing?” He curled his nose. “It smells like a wino stumbled into the perfume department at Macy’s.”
I swallowed loud enough that I was sure he could hear it and waved a hand dismissively. “Oh, trying out a potpourri recipe. Needs more orange peel!”
He raised an incredulous eyebrow. “Beatrix, it’s me. You could never lie to me, and even when you try, you know I can smell it.”
It was true that Giles was more than just a pretty face, and he was pretty, with dark brown hair and a square jaw covered in a thin layer of scruff that begged to be touched. Giles’s magic filled in for his lack of sight. Even now I could feel it swirling around me, thick with his curiosity.
“Honestly, it’s none of your business. I have the invitation, now go back to your team of flying monkeys.”
He ignored me and stepped to my side behind the cauldron, nose sniffing. I fanned the fumes, trying to clear the air.
His unfairly plump lips spread into a wide smile. “This is a divination spell. What exactly are you divining Ms. Broomholm?” He chuckled.
“Divination spell?” I scoffed and slapped the counter. “You know me, Giles, I can’t get the simplest magic right. Why would I try something as difficult as a divination spell?”
His hand landed on mine on the counter. “I know it’s been hard for you. I can’t imagine the pressure Eledora has put on you to…”
“To marry an extremely powerful wizard so that my children aren’t duds like me.”
“You are not a dud.” He stared off to my left looking serious.
I squeezed his hand. “Do you remember that concert we all went to junior year?”
“Beyonce. Who could forget?”
“I used the restroom that night and found myself in a predicament. No toilet paper. I gathered all my magical powers, called on my ancestor Sarah Bishop, and focused every ounce of energy I had in me out of sheer desperation. Do you know what happened?”
He shook his head.
A deep laugh bellowed from his lungs. “Beatrix…”
“One square, Giles. That’s all I’m good for.” My shoulders slumped.
His fingers trailed up my arm, over my shoulder, and gave my chin a shake. “Remember that time in school when you fell from the Bell Tower?”
“How could I forget? You do know we were all supposed to slowly float to the ground. It was a flying lesson. I slapped the yard so hard I left a dent.” The protective magic used on the grounds of Bright Batton School for Witches and Wizards kept me from serious injury, but I still experienced a wave of humiliation at the memory.
He moved closer, and I heard him inhale, his magic wrapping tighter around me. This was how Giles “saw” me, not with his eyes but with his magic.
“I remember hearing you hit the dirt,” he said with a rasp in his voice. “I helped you up.”
“Well, when I touched you, I felt magic.”
I laughed. “You probably sensed the school’s magic.”
He shook his head. “No. It’s in you. I feel it now, like a pulse.” His hand wrapped around my neck, thumb caressing my carotid. “It might be sleeping, but it’s there, under the surface.”
“You’re very kind Giles, really, but I—”
His lips connected with mine within the heady cloud of rose and chocolate scent that emanated from the cauldron. I’d known Giles from childhood, but we’d never kissed, not even close. I was missing out. The warm, soft movement of his lips created a head-spinning rush in my veins. I cradled his face in my hands and breathed him in, my heart hammering a fierce tattoo against my sternum.
When he finally pulled away, a roguish smile bent the corner of his mouth. “See? Magic.”
My breath hitched. I couldn’t form words. My brain tried to process the rush of unexpected desire I’d just experienced and produced the equivalent of a toy monkey banging a set of cymbals between my ears.
“Hmm.” His head turned toward the rising moon outside my window. “Time for me to fly. Can I expect you at the ball?” He gestured toward my mother’s invitation.
I gaped like a fish.
“By the way, your potion needs three stirs to the left.” He reached across me and gave the spoon three big turns.”
A purple flash blasted from the cauldron, and then the fire underneath it extinguished. Inside, the fizzy purple brew turned black and tarry. I stared into the cauldron, still recovering from the bewildering kiss.
With a deep sigh, I reached for the invitation Giles had brought me. I couldn’t believe my mother—
It was gone. I ran my hands along the counter, searched the floor, even moved the refrigerator. Nothing. My heart clenched. I tentatively reached for my phone and dialed my mother. “Beatrix, isn’t this a nice surprise?”
“What are you up to, Mother?”
“Same thing I was doing last time we spoke. Giles and I are making preparations for this evening’s ball. Why?”
I blinked incredulously at the cauldron. “Is that invitation to attend still open?”
Her breath caught. “Oh sweetheart, always. I’m so glad you’ve reconsidered. You won’t be disappointed.”
“You know Mom, this one time, I think you may be right.”
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