Her mom’s a witch. Her dad’s a demon. And she just wants to be ordinary.
The heir to the powerful Hayle coven, Syd would rather hang with the normal kids. Too bad they want nothing to do with her.
When a mysterious enemy attacks, she must choose between her dream of leaving magic behind and her family. Some choice.
I guess I must have made it obvious I wasn’t in the mood for bullying. Despite Alison’s parting remark, a typical fair warning of nastiness to come, I made it through the day in peace and quiet. In fact, unlike most days when I normally had to force my way through the crowd in the cafeteria to get a milk or the push of kids to reach my locker, the way seemed to part before me in a rippling wave of retreating humanity. I’m not sure if they didn’t want to have any contact with me in case I turned contagious and would bring Alison’s wrath down on them too, or if I radiated ‘don’t mess with me.’
Probably a little bit of both.
I finally toned back my new badass aura when two freshmen ran away from me with tears in their eyes. Talk about going from one extreme to another. I had to be oozing magic to raise a response like that. Time to pull the reins in reverse and manhandle myself under control. But if the past couple of days taught me anything, I knew I wasn’t getting anywhere doing the same thing over and over again. I needed a new plan, even if it meant flushing any chance I ever had to belong.
I headed home that afternoon feeling better about myself than I had in a long time, even looking kind of forward to talking to Mom, much to my own amazement. I couldn’t believe I was even considering having a frank discussion with my mother. She wasn’t going to get it anyway. We would devolve into another huge fight where she would cry and I would end up disappearing behind my slamming bedroom door.
Still, with new optimism blooming and hoping to survive the next ten minutes, I walked into the kitchen to the smell of homemade chocolate chip cookies.
Allow me to explain. My mother, Miriam Hayle, powerful witch and coven leader, could not bake. In fact, as a rule and a whole, we tried to stop her at the first sign of blossoming domesticity. Her brief and often disastrous forays into all things homey were notorious for ending in tragedy, shed blood and a bucket of tears.
Not always hers.
So these perfect lumps of divine smelling sugary sweetness could not possibly have come from the hands of my mother.
I checked around for a telltale paper bag or plastic container explaining the appearance of fresh baked anything in my house. I stood over the cooling rack when Mom came in the kitchen and caught me drooling. She looked adorable in her clean, crisp black apron with ‘Witch in the Kitch’ written across it in florescent green.
We watched each other, silent, uncomfortable. It was pretty clear she was hiding something from me and didn’t know how to share. Decision made, she smiled.
“Sydlynn, honey, I’m glad you’re home.” Mom took a step forward into the kitchen, still smiling.
I smiled tentatively back. Maybe this would be easier than I thought.
“Hi, Mom,” I said.
Mom glanced down at the tray of cooling cookies and laughed.
“Surprised?” She said.
She went to the cupboard and took out a plate. A spatula emerged from the drawer below it. She started serving the treats onto the waiting dish.
“I wasn’t sure at first,” she said, “but they seemed to turn out okay in the end.” She held up the plate to me, a hopeful, wistful expression on her face. “Cookie?”
That lump of chocolate and wheat could have tasted like crap and it wouldn’t have mattered. I loved my mother so much right then I would have eaten it wriggling or still on fire if I had to. She tried for me. I took a cookie and sniffed in its warm goodness before taking a bite. I almost dropped it, eyes going wide.
Mom looked distressed. “Tell me I didn’t just poison you!” She reached for the cookie.
I held it away and laughed, amazed. “Mom!” I said. “It’s delicious!”
She laughed herself, a little shaky, and tried one too. “So it is,” she said. “Well what do you know?”
We happily munched our cookies, smiling at each other, as if the sugar we shared melted the rift between us.
“Thanks, Mom,” I said, swallowing the last bite. “That was awesome.”
“You’re welcome,” she blushed and I knew how hard she was trying. It made me want to try harder too. Maybe there was hope for us after all.
“Another?” She offered the plate. I couldn’t say no.
“Seriously, Mom, I’m proud of you,” I said as I studied the cookie for the best place to take the first bite.
“Finally,” she said.
“Yeah, well, practice makes perfect, right?” I filled my mouth and grinned at her.
“You have no idea,” she giggled. I don’t think I ever heard my mother giggle.
“What do you mean?” I went for a glass and to the fridge for milk as she helped herself to another.
“These cookies came with a pretty big price tag,” she said.
I set the milk on the counter beside her to share.
“Don’t tell me you bought them,” I crossed my arms over my chest, still grinning.
“No, Syd, I made these with my own two hands,” she assured me.
“No magic,” she said.
“So where’s the price tag?” I took a long drink and handed her the glass. She polished off her cookie and the rest of the milk, eyes twinkling over the rim as she finished it in a couple of gulps. She licked off her mustache and winked at me.
“The sweat of my brow,” she said.
I went to the closet where we kept the trash with the empty milk carton. “Uh-huh. Erica helped this time?”
Her eyes widened as I opened the door. She half reached for me before the sparkle returned.
“What?” I asked, turning to dump the container.
As soon as I did, I started to laugh.
The large silver can overflowed with horribly disfigured and charred cookies, empty bags of sugar, flour and cartons of eggs and milk. From the appearance of the trash, she made cookies all day and went through hell and back to get it right.
Now I really loved my mother. I turned back to her and grabbed her in the biggest hug, wondering why I had ever been mad at her. My mom, my amazing mom, tortured herself in the kitchen for me so I could feel like a normal kid.
“Thanks,” I whispered into her hair.
I felt her tense before she hugged me back, whole body softening, her power wrapping around me like a warm blanket. “It was worth it for this,” she said.
For the first time since I could remember, I felt a complete connection to my mother, her unconditional love and acceptance without judgment or expectation.
It was amazing, but wasn’t meant to last. In fact, it ended shortly after the doorbell rang.
Mom’s face fell. That was when I knew without a doubt, despite the fact she tried, my mother couldn’t do anything without an ulterior motive. I closed off and from the guarded look in her eyes, she knew it.
“Can you get the door, please, dear?” She tried to keep the cheer in her voice. “I’ll get a plate of refreshments for our guests.”
I was wrong. The cookies, the effort she made, none of it was really for me at all. She kicked her own butt in the kitchen to impress whoever stood behind door number one. That warm and fuzzy feeling went the way of her discarded attempts, along with my happiness.
I didn’t bother asking any questions. Whoever waited at the door was going to make me unhappy one way or another or she wouldn’t have been trying so hard.
I left the kitchen with my distrust rising past my fury even though I had no idea what was going on. Which meant when I answered the door I was already antagonistic and definitely not in the mood for anything to do with Mom’s betrayal or her grand plans for me and my future.
I pulled the door open a little harder than necessary and scowled at the three people standing on the front step. An immediate wave of unease hit me, scrubbing away my anger and leaving me cold. What appeared to be middle-aged mother, father and teenaged son screamed magic at me. For a moment, I flinched from the usual flood of nausea. The power came and went so fast I wondered if maybe I imagined it.
I must have been silent, staring for an unusual amount of time, because the woman’s smile began to fade as she held out her hand to me.
“You must be Sydlynn.” She forced her smile back to its original width, stretching her tacky lipstick so much it showed where it bled into the lines around her mouth.
“So I’ve been told,” I muttered.
The woman glanced at the older man beside her and tittered a laugh so fake it made my cheeks ache. She was short, shorter than me, with badly dyed brownish- blonde hair and faded blue eyes made up with too much eyeliner. Her dress tightly hugged her plump figure, excess flesh bunching over her bra. The man beside her stood only slightly taller, dressed in a tweed suit complete with leather arm patches. He even had a pipe in his breast pocket. Imagine.
“Clever,” he said to the woman beside him. “I like that.” He beamed at me in a male chauvinist kind of way that made me want to slam the door in their faces and tell Mom it had simply been a mysterious walk-by ringing.
“Thanks,” I said instead. “Can I help you with something?”
The woman’s expression tightened enough a teenager would notice but a grownup would miss. She did not like me. I can say the feeling was instantaneously mutual.
“We’re the Moromonds, dear,” she said, as if that explained everything.
“And?” I prompted.
Mom’s firm grip on the door saved me from the woman’s curt reply. She pulled it from my hand and stepped up beside me in the now fully opened entry.
“Batsheva! Dominic! So lovely you came,” Mom reached out for the woman and grasped her hand. Batsheva Moromond plastered her fake smile back on and air kissed my mother on both cheeks.
“Miriam, dear, it’s been too long,” she said.
Dominic took Mom’s hand and kissed it, lingering just a little too long, his eyes never leaving hers. Mom actually blushed.
“Yes, Miriam,” Dominic said. “Beautiful as ever.”
Mom pulled her hand free and I could tell she struggled for a way to change the subject. It was so weird to see my all-powerful mother floored by a man hitting on her in front of his wife. Go figure.
She finally settled on the teenager standing in their shadow.
“This can’t be Quaid,” she said to Batsheva, holding out a hand to him. As he stepped forward to greet her, I took my first good look.
Wow. His parents may have been creepy, but he was hot. In fact, Quaid was everything they weren’t. Tall, lean in his punk band t-shirt, black hair shaggy with curls. He offered my mother his large, slim hand, the other shoved in the back pocket of his black jeans. I was never into bad boys. Whether I chose to finally stop hiding who I really was or because he was just that attractive, I found myself wondering, ‘Brad who?’
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Ms. Hayle,” Quaid offered in his deep, smooth voice. I imagined he was a singer with pipes like that. His eyes flickered to me, deep brown to almost black with a little curiosity behind them. I tried to play cool but think I came off as weird and goofy. So what else is new?
“Hi,” I said.
“Hi,” he answered.
“Splendid!” Dominic interrupted. Heat flushed my cheeks. Crap.
I quickly glanced away and caught Mom watching me out of the corner of my eye. I ignored her and backed out of the way as she welcomed them inside.
“Syd, why don’t you join us?” My mom motioned me toward the living room we never used. From the pleading in her eyes, she expected a fight. No way, not this time. If these people were important enough to warrant Mom’s descent into domestic humiliation, I needed to know why. Of course, it didn’t hurt I would also have the chance to spend a little more time imprinting Quaid Moromond into my memory for later.
I was the last to leave the entry. For some reason, I felt compelled to look back outside as I pushed the door closed. A huge black dog sat at the end of the driveway, watching me. I caught the door and watched right back. We faced off, stare to stare. It felt like the showdown went on forever. Mom’s voice calling me from inside the house finally broke my eye contact. I turned to answer her, looked back.
The dog was gone. Stupid mutt.
I shook myself a little and closed the door.
They had already taken a civilized seat around the coffee table. I joined my mother on the sofa as Mom proudly handed out cookies. Quaid passed and sat back. He watched me the entire time, my plan all along, although I never intended to be so open about it. I refused to back down. He gave me a tight, sideways grin and glanced away.
It took me a breathless moment to accept I won the battle. I never won. Wicked. I grinned on the inside while I finally decided to pay attention to the conversation. “It’s the sweetest little high school,” Batsheva was saying. “We just know our Quaidy will love it there, won’t you, honey?”
I highly doubted ‘Quaidy’ would do anything of the sort.
“Of course, Mother,” he said. Either he was whipped or knew how to pick his battles.
“Thank you so much for the invitation,” Batsheva went on. “Since our coven disbanded, we’ve been hoping to have a chance to come back to the family.”
“I’m happy you chose to come home,” Mom sounded genuine, like she really cared. “I’ve missed you all these years.” Surprising how she was being so nice. It seemed like they had a history. Interesting. And what was this home business?
“Such a wonderful family,” Dominic answered. “When Batsheva told me you wanted her to return to the fold, I couldn’t wait to see if we would fit in here.”
It started to sound like a done deal. What did Mom need me for? Maybe to run interference? The thought of Mr. Slimy looking at my mom that way in front of my father made my skin crawl. On the other hand, it would be interesting to see if Dad thought as little of it as I did. I doubted old Dominic was strong enough to face off with a demon.
“Of course I immediately remembered your offer to bind our families together,” Batsheva went on. “We’re thrilled, positively thrilled, at the prospect. Aren’t we?” She looked back and forth between the two males, getting a nod and a wink from Dominic. Quaid’s eyes flickered to mine and his sideways grin came back. I was beginning get a horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach.
Mom didn’t look at me. Why did she seem so nervous? I’d never seen my mother’s hands shake.
“Of course,” she said. “But we’ll discuss that at another time.”
“I don’t see why we should put it off,” Batsheva said. “Especially since the kids are both here.” She smiled her oily smile at me. “Such a lovely little thing. Don’t you think so, Quaid?”
I frowned as Quaid’s grin widened but came nowhere near his eyes. In fact, if I had to guess, he was as pissed as I was confused. My walls slammed up so fast it left me breathless. I turned to my mother who bit her bottom lip.
“Mom?” I said softly, slowly. “What’s going on?”
Batsheva and Dominic exchanged a glance before turning to my very uncomfortable mom.
Instead of talking to me she addressed their unspoken question.
“I hadn’t said anything to Sydlynn, yet.” Mom said. “Your arrival was so sudden… I take it you talked to Quaid?”
His eyes never left mine, although they softened a little.
That feeling in my stomach solidified into a hard ball of something I couldn’t yet identify. My shoulders tightened.
She finally looked at me.
“It was something your father and I thought might help all of us, dear.” Wary but resigned. Not a good sign. I could sense her deep in the regret of being unable to turn away from a massive disaster she knew was of her own making. “We were waiting for the right time to tell you.”
“Tell me what?” I kept my voice as flat as possible, not wanting to hate her again but feeling it rising within me, an unstoppable tide. I knew, knew, she did something she was afraid I would never forgive her for. And I was pretty sure she was right.
Quaid broke the news.
“You and me, Syd,” he said. “For the good of the coven. We’ll make really powerful babies, don’t you think?”
I had absolutely nothing to say.