Olivia clears her throat. “Do you think this calls for an apology?”
Never. I shake my head, my gaze flicking between the raspberry mush in the microwave and the body by the fireplace. “He broke into my house.”
Her laugh carries no real merriment as she paces the length of the room, her cloak fluttering around her legs. “It’s kind of his thing, Avery.”
Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know that. I didn’t freaking believe it.
There’s nothing I can really do about it now. The chubby, red-suited fool got caught in my bubbling cauldron like it was a snare set out for a much more malicious entity. There was a quick shout and then he hit his head and passed out.
I’m still learning how to become the matriarch of our coven and now I’m faced with a seemingly impossible situation. Either I finish the spell Santa Claus ruined and tide us over for another year, or I save his life and the benign magic the humans look forward to every December.
There’s no way to choose.
“I don’t understand why you find this so hard. Send a letter to the North Pole or whatever, tell them they have to find another guy to sit in the sleigh, and use your limited magic to give back to the coven, Ave.”
Olivia is my voice of reason. I called her immediately. She arrived in a burst of purple smoke with wide eyes and a smirk, her feline expression immediately taking in the collapsed form by the fireplace and jumping into new plans.
In rapid succession, she voiced her ideas. She suggested disposing of the body with a spell containing fireplace soot and a bottle of vinegar. She told me to save my magic and move houses, leaving him here for the New Orleans police to find sometime after the holiday. She even suggested doing nothing and focusing solely on the spell trying to bubble in my caldron, the spell that’ll give magic back to the other witches who depend on the yearly routine to be able to do more than a simple levitation throughout the long months.
It’s a yearly sacrafice. The magic festered under my skin starting last Monday. It seeped out of the other witches and returned to me, having been my mother’s before her recent passing. I could see pink specks of it color the air as it gathered in my home and infiltrated my body, wriggling under my fingernails and burrowing into my pores. To hold all of this magic is overwhelming. It takes all of my conscious energy to simply stay planted on the ground when all of this mystical dust wants to float me away to the ceiling and then out into the great beyond.
One witch each year holds the power to change the world and it is our duty to return it to those who dutifully released it to us.
The microwave dings before I can get any further into thinking about what I’m going to do with ‘ol Saint Nick. Olivia wrinkles her nose as I open it, the tart smell of raspberries overtaking my apartment.
“I do hope you aren’t planning to share a slice of that. I think it’s burnt.”
I shake my head. “That’s the sage I mixed in. It should wake him up if I hold it under his nose.”
Of course, it doesn’t. Kneeling next to the unconscious man, I wave the raspberries near him. I flap my fingers in his direction. I even conjure a little tornado to specifically carry the smell straight to his nostrils.
It does nothing.
Crap and fiddlesticks. Why did he have to come in here? I shouldn’t be on his goddamn list. I don’t celebrate his holiday or look forward to strangers breaking into my apartment. All of the different herbs hanging from the rafters make a point of keeping most malicious entities out of here. Mr. Claus apparently didn’t get the memo.
Olivia crosses her arms and taps her boot heel to get my attention. “Hey. We only have the duration of the peak of the full moon. You need to finish the spell.”
I know that. I can feel the magic getting jittery along my bones, begging me to put it to good use. My job is to return it, though, not use it.
Of course, this is a bit of a different circumstance.
“One spell,” I whisper, so that only I and my unconscious acquaintance can hear.
Olivia, obviously, isn’t going to go for it, so I make a big deal of crossing the room to check out my mother’s spell book. “Liv, I need you to grab me two canisters of mustard seed.”
“You mean eye of newt?” She teases, rolling her heavily lined eyes at my refusal to use the old lingo for these spells.
“You know what I want. And grab a bushel of lavender and a sack of honeycomb, too.”
She leaves in a poof. I don’t have much time.
I toss my spell book to the side. Mom wanted me to be a good witch. She wanted me to focus on my cauldron work and never depend on the yearly dispersal of real magic. We just weren’t that kind of witch, she would say. We’re the kind that depend on nature and its limitless gifts.
Except, I’m not.
I’m full of this electrifying power and I know that I saw something in this little black book I picked up at a tavern a few months ago.
Something to revive. Something to help a body thrive. Something to help him survive.
The book tingles under my fingerprints, humming as if it too cannot wait for me to pick the right spell and give this magic a whirl. I shouldn’t. Hesitating, I glance again to the red-suited man that this world looks forward to every year. I must.
Of course, this isn’t entirely my fault. The guy is supposed to check his list twice before jumping into any old chimney.
I’ll fix him up and send him on his way and, if I’m quick, I’ll still have time to share the magic with the other witches. There’s a whole six minutes left before the window for my spell. They probably won’t even notice the little bit I borrowed for this jolly fellow.
At least, that’s what I hope as I clear my throat and clearly enunciate the words on the page. I don’t know what language they’re in. Something Latin-based. Not something I recognize, though. Hopefully, I pronounce it closely enough.
When I’ve seen other witches perform magic, the spell usually starts at their chest, little sparks flaring like fireflies bursting to life around them. Mine, though, doesn’t. It shoots straight out of my extended fingertips. Not yellow, but maroon.
The magic flies straight for the man on the floor. It sizzles and pops, swirling around his head and then disappearing into his nostrils.
There’s a long moment in which I think I might have made the situation worse. I can’t see the magic. He’s not moving. Christmas is over and I’m about to be the world’s most hated witch.
Then, he sucks in a gasp and rolls over to cough up burgundy sparks onto my antique carpet.
It worked. Now, I just need him on his feet and out before Olivia can try to stop me.
Crossing the room to him, I hold out a hand as he carefully pushes up to a sitting position. “Sorry about the cauldron. I really wasn’t expecting a visitor.”
He lets out a raspy laugh that sounds too similar to the “ho, ho, ho” he’s known for. “No need to apologize, Avery. It was my mistake.” The guy lets out a hefty breath as I help heave him to his feet and then hold out my hands to steady him. “How may I repay you?”
I shake my head. “Totally unnecessary. Just have a good night and a merry Christmas and get out of here. You’ve got a lot of people to help.”
“There must be something I can do,” he insists, reaching into his pocket to put on some old spectacles.
Purple mist appears to my left. Out of time. I try to pull Mr. Claus to the door, but he’s not budging.
Olivia drops the ingredients as her jaw falls open. “You. Did. Not!”
Oh, but I did. This is bad.
“I can still do the spell. We have,” I glance at my watch, “four minutes. Let’s toss everything in, stir counterclockwise and get this show on the road.”
“You broke the law, Ave. You can’t use magic that isn’t yours. Do you know what will happen if the council finds out?”
I imagine it has something to do with ropes and a mighty hot fire. “The only people who know are you and me and him, so we’re fine. Let’s just do the spell.”
She shakes her head and staggers back a step, her heeled boot thudding heavily on these old floors. “It’s my duty to report this, Avery. I can’t burn with you.”
There’s no time to convince her otherwise. Purple smoke makes me cough as she vanishes.
Toad toes and crab claws. This is bad. This is really freakin’ bad.
I’m not alone, though.
Turning to the big guy at my side, I blow out a slow breath. “I think there is something you can do for me.”
He nods immediately, somehow already following my train of thought. “My sleigh has enough room for the both of us.”
And so, I grabbed a bag with my emergency essentials and then fled into the night, the sound of sleigh bells covering the panicky thud of my heart.
A merry Xmas eve to everyone who celebrates! I hope you have a wonderful time with your friends and families and look forward to Mr. Claus’ arrival.
Thank you so much for taking a moment out of a chaotic holiday schedule to read this cute story. Leave a like and a comment in the area below to let me know if you enjoyed it 🙂
As always, check out Bridgette’s story as well, dealing with holiday traditions in a New Orleans graveyard: Christmas Eve in the Graveyard
And, if you’re looking for more from me, check out Lore on kindle vella for vampire shenanigans and a cozy romance this week.
We’ll see you next week for our official last story of the year!