“That’s it, I need a new cauldron.” Gwen sat down by the breakfast table looking unhappy. The cauldron had a leak at the bottom and was no longer of use to anyone. “I have had this one for ages.”
“It shows,” Annabelle said looking up from her breakfast. “That cauldron looks positively ancient.” She took a bite of toast and winked at her mentor.
“It is not ancient,” Gwen protested. “I got this cauldron when I was just an apprentice like yourself,” she said waving her finger at Annabelle.
“Exactly,” Annabelle mumbled into her tea cup, smirking.
Gwen raised her eyebrow at her, half smiling, but trying to look stern. “Oh very funny, I can see you’re in a brat mood today.” She paused as Annabelle nodded and grinned. “It has great sentimental value, young lady. I bought this when I first started earning my own money from potion making. I will have to go to the village today and get a new one. Your’s is a little tiny for my potion making.” She studied Annabelle. “You should come too, you need new shoes.”
Annabelle frowned. “What’s wrong with the shoes I have?”
“They have holes in them, sweetheart. And I don’t think it’s any use patching them together. You’ve had them for quite a while.”
“But… I can’t afford any shoes,” Annabelle said looking down at her plate. She knew Gwen didn’t intend for her to pay for them, but she still hated the idea that she couldn’t buy her own things.
“Don’t be silly, Annabelle. I will buy new shoes for you,” Gwen said as expected. She gave her apprentice a reassuring smile.
“But… can’t I try to sell some of the potions I have made to pay a little myself?” She didn’t like idea of Gwen paying for her things, it made her uncomfortable. She already lived in her house and ate her food. Gwen and Aisling’s kindness often made her feel guilty because she could never repay them for what they had done for her. What they had given her and still gave her was priceless.
“I don’t think you’ll get much for them, Annabelle,” Gwen said. “They’re just simple remedies.”
“And prank potions,” Annabelle mumbled. She looked nervously up at Gwen. She knew how Gwen felt about her making potions without her being there.
“Prank potions? When have you been making prank potions?” Gwen said sternly.
“When you were out,” Annabelle said attempting to sound nonchalant. “But… It’s okay, Alexis supervised. I wasn’t doing anything on my own.”
Having Alexis around was having supervision, but at the same time it meant she could make potions Gwen wouldn’t have let her make and she could make them without someone constantly watching her. Alexis was more laid back and seemed more than happy to help Annabelle with some mischief. “Goddess knows I suffered her pranking when Gwen was your age,” she would say shaking her head. Having Alexis around was almost like having a grandparent spoiling you, or at least that is how Annabelle imagined a grandparent to be like, she had never had the experience herself.
“And you want to earn a living selling prank potions?” Gwen said looking at her sternly. “Is that why I am apprenticing you? So you can help trouble makers prank people?”
“I want to be able to pay for my own things,” she said looking sad. “It would make me feel more self-reliant.” This was true, but that wasn’t really why she was making prank potions. For the most part she just felt this rush of excitement knowing she was making something “naughty” that could get her in trouble, even if when she did get in trouble she wish she hadn’t.
Gwen sighed. “Very well… we will try to sell your prank potions, but I’m hoping that in future you will make a living by creating something useful.”
Annabelle nodded solemnly.
“And Annabelle… you have no need to feel guilty about staying here. You are an apprentice now and it is therefore my responsibility to teach you, feed you and clothe you. Okay? It is not uncommon. Leda does the same for Eylion.”
“But Eylion can make things that are worth more if Leda tries to sell it,” Annabelle said sadly.
“And so will you once you’ve had proper training.”
“But… I won’t because I’ll have to leave soon and I never got to repay you.”
Gwen got up and walked over to where Annabelle was sitting. She bent over and put her arms around her. “I don’t want you to repay me,” Gwen said hugging her and kissing her forhead. “I don’t know when, but when you get out of that school I want you back here with me and Aisling where you belong. You must promise to be safe and you must promise to come back, is that clear?”
“Yes, Gwen,” Annabelle said getting up too, burying herself in Gwen’s embrace. “I promise to come back.”
“Come to think of it… it’s good we are selling those potions, then I won’t have to worry about you trying to smuggle them into the school,” she said rubbing Annabelle’s back.
“Well… we don’t have to sell them… at least not all of them…”
“Oh yes we are, young lady. I can’t believe I just gave you that idea. We are selling the lot of them today. We’ll go after lunch you get some studying done first; in the meantime, I need to go out harvesting for a potion.”
Annabelle looked through her potion book for prank potions. It had been confiscated after her fiasco last attempt to make a potion on her own. Instead of making a potion that turned people into frogs for a short period of time the potion had blown up and Elyon had turned into a big fat toad. Luckily Gwen hadn’t thrown out the book, she had only hidden it from Annabelle, and Alexis was more than happy to tell her where she kept it. Though Alexis kept saying Gwen was a troublemaker when she was young, Annabelle had a feeling that Alexis had once been quite the handful too. “I’m pretty well-behaved,” she thought to herself, justifying her own trouble making.
“A potion that will make you talk backwards,” she mumbled to herself. “That doesn’t sound dangerous at all, but it does sound funny. They won’t know what hit them!” She grinned to herself and set up her little apprentice cauldron.
After three failed attempts Annabelle finally got it right. She poured her precious potion into a little glass bottle. It was pink and it gleamed in the sunlight from the window. She smiled to herself feeling a great amount of pride at having made something all alone without any supervision. She wasn’t supposed to do anything on her own, but that was hardly the point. She quickly hid the bottle in her satchel along with her potion book as she heard footsteps nearing the kitchen.
“Ready for lunch, Annabelle? I sure hope you have gotten some studying done so we can go to the villa…” Gwen stopped in her tracks and took a look around. “What in the world has been going on in here?”
“I eh… I had a little accident… well three little accidents,” Annabelle said as she backed away trying to get as far away from Gwen as possible.
The kitchen was splattered in sticky potion. Some of it was slimy, some of it was blue… the counter top had a nasty burn; all in all, it was just a real mess. She hadn’t really planned what to do next. When she started making the potion she had had plenty of time to finish it before Gwen would be back, but having failed three times she hadn’t had time to cleaning up and hiding the traces of her mischief.
“Annabelle, you know you’re not supposed to make potions without supervision,” Gwen said sternly as she folded her arms and looked at the state of her beloved kitchen.
“I… emh… yes, I know,” she said trying to sound ashamed even if she was still excited at having made something on her own.
“Look at my kitchen!” Gwen said sounding really angry.
“I know it’s a bit messy, Gwen… but… but it’s nothing a good cleaning spell can’t fix, right? I’ve seen you do it plenty of times,” Annabelle said making sure to keep her backside far away from Gwen for good measure.
“Cleaning spell? Oh no, Annabelle, you are on your own with this. You will clean this kitchen without any help from me. That should teach you not to disobey the rules.”
“But… but Gweeen…” Annabelle tried. “What about going to the village? I need new shoes, remember?”
“If you can finish cleaning before I leave for the village, which I doubt, then, yes, you can come. If not, then we’ll just have to get the shoes another day. And you just be glad that I feel too upset to put you over my knee, young lady! You better be on your very best behaviour for the rest of the day or I’ll swear you will have your backside properly warmed before bed. Now let’s have lunch in the sitting room, I don’t want to eat in this messy kitchen.”
“Annabelle, I’m leaving now. If by some miracle you’re finished you may come,” Gwen called before she went out the front door.
Annabelle sighed as she heard the front door slam shut. She was nowhere near being done. She had only started with a sticky puddle on the floor and it proved really tough to clean. Well… she hadn’t really tried to clean it yet, she had been distracted by how fun it was to touch and then time just went by and before she knew it, it was time to leave. If only Gwen had done her cleaning spell then she could have gone too. Why didn’t she know the spell herself? Why hadn’t Gwen taught her? Why hadn’t she read about it? She had read about spells. You could use words, but Gwen never did. Skilled witches didn’t need to use words, words were usually just an extra help. Annabelle had read about the oral spells, you didn’t necessarily have to say an exact incantation, mostly it was the thought behind the words that counted, but for people who don’t have too much control over their minds, like say an apprentice, they help you as a guide. In Annabelle’s book the incantations were always in some old language. Gwen had made Annabelle study it, but she didn’t really know it. She only knew single words.
“Well… it can’t hurt to try,” she said to herself.
She got up raised her hands and closed her eyes and focused on the job she wanted done. “Mundatio, cucina, saponem!” She wasn’t sure if she said it correct and if it would work. It sounded fancy, but all she had tried to say was “cleaning, kitchen , soap!” because she didn’t know much about this old language and how it worked; however, it was a clear instruction and her little incantation did something for suddenly her wooden scrub started moving on its own, in fact, several scrubs started moving around and cleaning the kitchen for her.
“Yes!” She did a little happy dance. She had no idea how she had done it, maybe it was the words, maybe it was how focused she had been to make the object clean the kitchen for her, all she knew was that she was going to the village with Gwen.
She knew that Gwen would have taken the broom, but she always flew so gracefully and careful that she’d have no trouble catching up to her if she grabbed Aisling’s broom and go after her.
“Gwen! Wait for me,” she called after her as she zoomed twenty feet over the ground.
Gwen turned to look back and stopped, hovering in the air.
“Annabelle, what do you think you are doing?”
Annabelle flew next to her and stopped too. “You said if I cleaned the kitchen I could come with you,” she said smiling.
“I said if you finished cleaning the kitchen before I left, you could come. And I most certainly did not say you could fly a broom, young lady!”
“But… but you’ll be with me now, so you can supervise me flying the broom, but I don’t really need you too… look!” She soared around her in a circle showing Gwen her flying skills.
Gwen closed her eyes and counted to ten. She took a deep breath. “Annabelle….”
“Are you upset with me, Gwen?” Annabelle asked frowning. “I just wanted to come to the village with you… I was really looking forward to it. And you said I needed new shoes…” She pouted. “I’m sorry…”
“Oh don’t you try that with me, young lady! It won’t work. You knew it would not be okay for you to borrow Aisling’s broom and come after me,” Gwen scolded her. “I have had it with your attitude and misbehaviour. You clearly haven’t learned your lesson.”
Annabelle bit her lip sensing she was in big trouble.
“I’m sorry, Gwen. Look… I’ll just go back home, okay … I deserve that. I won’t come to the village.” There was no one around and she thought it was better to calm Gwen down quickly or she’d might get a good walloping right there by the side of the road.
Gwen was quiet for a while, thinking.
“You may come,” she finally said, but she still looked stern.
“Really?” Annabelle grinned. “Thanks!”
“Yes, but only because we are almost there, and only because you need new shoes; it will not be a fun trip, we won’t be hanging around. We will do what we need to do and go straight home. And don’t think for one second that this means that you are not in trouble, because I can assure you that you are. Remember what I said earlier about anymore misbehaviour?”
Annabelle frowned. “Emh… ya… but…”
“No, butts, Annabelle; you were warned what would happen, and something tells me that you need a little discipline the way you have been acting out lately. Now land that broom immediately, we are walking from here.”
“No, Annabelle… we are walking.”
Once they got to the village they went to the potion shop where they sold their potions, and Gwen hadn’t been lying when she said that Annabelle’s potions wouldn’t sell for much, but Annabelle didn’t mind. It felt great knowing that she had earned the money herself with her own abilities. She didn’t have them for long though, because next they went to the shoemaker and as promised Annabelle handed over her money to Gwen, helping out to buy her own shoes. It was nowhere near enough, but “every bit helps,” Gwen told her.
“Gwen!” A lady hurried over towards them as they came out of the cauldron shop.
When Gwen saw her she gasped, but she quickly pulled herself together. Seeing her reaction Annabelle was willing to bet money that Gwen would have hidden if she had seen her first, but sadly this was not the case.
“Who is that?” Annabelle asked coming closer to Gwen. She felt unease as the stranger approached them.
“No one special,” Gwen answered. “Stay close.” She grabbed Annabelle’s arm and held her close to her.
“How are you, darling? I haven’t seen you for several decades. How is Aisling?”
“She’s fine,” Gwen said stiffly holding Annabelle’s arm even tighter. It was as though she needed her there because she felt uneasy around this person too.
Annabelle didn’t like her, even if the lady did smile at them. She was beautiful like Gwen. They were the same height, had the same build, had the same eye and hair colour, but Gwen always radiated warmth and kindness; the stranger seemed cold.
“Is this my granddaughter?” she looked at Annabelle who’s eyes widened.
“No,” replied Gwen.
“Great-granddaughter?” she asked again smirking.
“No, mother!” Gwen replied. “She is not related to you.” She seemed angry and defensive. “Why are you here?”
“Gwen, can’t a mother say hello to her own daughter? I haven’t seen you for such a long time.”
“And I’m supposed to believe that you have missed me or something?” Gwen said angrily.
“Well… missed is a strong word,” mumbled the lady.
“Why are you here?” Gwen repeated.
The lady sighed. “Well… if you must know, I am here for the head witch. She has asked to see me. It’s got something to do with that new school of hers.” She looked at Annabelle who frowned at the mention of the school.
“Are you going to the school, girl? You seem about the right age.”
“I don’t want to,” Annabelle said defiantly.
“Is not a question about wanting to, little girl.” She grabbed Annabelle’s chin with her thumb and forefinger and lifted her face so she could look her straight in the eyes. “It’s about doing what the order tells you to do.” She gave Annabelle a cold look and patted her cheek. Annabelle folded her arms and looked the other way.
“Quite the temper on that one, Gwen. She should learn to respect her elders.”
“I only respect elders who aren’t complete…” Annabelle started, looking furious.
“Annabelle, hush!” Gwen silenced her.
“But Gwen… she…” Annabelle tried looking at her mentor.
“I said be quiet. Don’t let your anger get the better of you. It’s not worth it.” She turned to her mother. “We have to get going now….” She hesitated not really sure what to say next. In the end she just said “goodbye” and walked off dragging Annabelle with her.
The trip back was very quiet. Gwen didn’t say anything, and Annabelle knew better to question her about her mother. She had even let Annabelle fly the whole way back. Annabelle guessed she was so upset she just wanted to get back as soon as possible and walking would take a lot longer. It did confuse her because Gwen always said it was for her safety that she wasn’t allowed to fly yet, but now suddenly because she was in this mood it was alright; however, Annabelle was not about to complain when Gwen so willingly let her fly. She was never allowed to fly, which reminded her of how much trouble she was in. Gwen had made it really clear that Annabelle was in for a spanking before bed. But that was also confusing, why should she be punished for doing something, when Gwen suddenly had a change of heart about the whole thing?
When they came back they went in the kitchen door, or correction, they tried to enter the kitchen door. They opened it and they both gasped as foam came out. Annabelle had completely forgotten that she had used a spell to clean the kitchen. It was now full of waist-high, soapy foam. If the kitchen was clean underneath, they could not see it.
Annabelle looked nervously at Gwen, fearing she was going to put her over her knee right there in the garden. Instead she just walked around the house to the front door and threw her broomstick angrily on the ground before walking inside. Annabelle picked it up and placed it up against the wall outside and followed her in.
“Did you girls have a good time in the village,” Alexis asked when they came in. She was sitting in the living room with a book petting the neighbor’s cat, Mr. Whiskers.
“It was fine,” said Gwen snapped before she hurried upstairs and into her bedroom and slammed the door shut.
“What’s got her broomstick in a twist?” Alexis asked Annabelle who looked sad.
“I… I’m not sure,” she replied. It wasn’t entirely true; she knew what had upset Gwen, at least parts of it, but she didn’t know if she was allowed to tell anyone about their encounter with her mother. “I think maybe it’s her week,” she said to relieve Alexis of her suspicion and only after she had said it was she reminded that Gwen was ninety-years-old, but then again she was a witch and not a mortal.
“Oh yes… that would explain it. She has always been a little cranky around that time of the month,” Alexis said nodding to herself. “Best to stay out of her way.”
“Yeah, I think that’s for the best,” Annabelle agreed.
“Alexis…” Annabelle approached the older woman, trying to look very innocent.
“What have you done?”
“How do you know I have done something?” Annabelle asked frustrated. So far her innocent act wasn’t going smoothly.
“Intuition, my dear; I have been in the game for a long time, young lady. Nothing will get past me.”
“ Oh… well okay… well see the thing is… there has been a slight accident in the kitchen.”
“What sort of accident, Annabelle?” Alexis put down her book and got up.
“Emh… I was supposed to clean the kitchen or I couldn’t come to the village… so I sort of made up my own cleaning spell and left.” She bit her finger nervously.
Alexis sighed. “Oh dear…”
“Yah… you can say that, alright. The whole kitchen is full of soapy foam! That might also be part of the reason Gwen snapped…” she looked down at her hands shamefully.
Alexis chuckled. “I had forgotten what life with an apprentice in the house was like.”
Annabelle breathed out in relief. She knew Alexis had a tendency to spoil her, but she knew that there was a certain limit that should not be crossed, she just wasn’t aware of where this limit was yet. Glad that Alexis didn’t think the soapy kitchen a punishable offence she followed her into the kitchen where Alexis put it straight within five seconds. The foam was gone and the kitchen was so clean every surface shone.
“I think I should make dinner tonight,” Alexis said opening the door to the pantry. “Knowing Gwen in this mood, she won’t be coming down anytime soon.”
Annabelle nodded. “Yeah, she seemed very upset.”
“And you…” Alexis said putting her arm around Annabelle’s waist. “You can go stand in that corner for ten minutes.”
“What?” Annabelle protested. Apparently, she had crossed the line after all.
“That’s right. You can think about the trouble you caused, little apprentice.” She swatted Annabelle lightly into the corner. “And you be glad I don’t put you over my knee.”
The next morning when Annabelle came downstairs she found Aisling sleeping on the sofa in the living room. She guessed Gwen was still in a terrible mood, but that wasn’t poor Aisling’s fault. Annabelle felt annoyed with her. She did not like the idea of Gwen making Aisling sleep on the sofa, not at all. If she had known she would have offered to share her own bed with her.
Gwen had not come down for dinner the previous night; Alexis, Annabelle and Aisling had eaten without her. Gwen had not followed through with her spanking threat either, in fact Annabelle hadn’t seen her since they had come back, and she was not stupid enough to tell Aisling that she had one coming, because she might decide to do it instead.
She went into the kitchen and found Alexis putting breakfast on the table. She had put on an apron and her new wooden spoon was sticking out of it. She really hadn’t been joking when she told Annabelle and Eylion that she would be carrying it around with her.
“Will you please wake up Aisling, dear? And tell her that if she doesn’t come I will wake her myself.” She pointed at her spoon while winking.
“Yes, Alexis,” Annabelle said and went back into the living room.
She walked over to the sofa where Aisling was sleeping. Poor thing, her feet were sticking out on the end because the sofa wasn’t long enough.
“Aisling,” Annabelle called her from the door frame.
“Hmmgrf…” Aisling made a grunting noise that meant “what is it you want now?”
“Alexis says breakfast is ready and if you don’t come now she’ll come and wake you herself… and I think maybe she will bring her wooden spoon…”
Aisling sighed. “Yes yes, alright… I’m coming.”
She raised her hand to rub her eyes. Annabelle only realized too late that something was wrong. SPLAT!
“What the… ANNABELLE!” Aisling got up her face splattered with cream.
“It wasn’t me, I swear,” Annabelle said backing away from her as Alexis came out the door.
“What is going on in here,” she asked sternly before taking one look at Aisling and laughing.
“Life with an apprentice, eh?” She chuckled.
“It wasn’t me, Alexis,” Annabelle repeated. “I swear!”
“You, my dear, are in big trouble,” Aisling told her before she went into the kitchen to wash her face off in the sink.
“But…but… “Annabelle stammered.
“Come on, brat. Let’s have breakfast,” Alexis said leading her into the kitchen and giving her a light swat.
Annabelle sat down by the kitchen table looking grouchy. Why wouldn’t they believe her?
She was joined by Alexis and Aisling who both filled their mug with coffee. Annabelle took a bite of toast, glaring at them both.
“Annabelle will you stop giving us the evil eye,” commanded Aisling. “I can promise it will not soften me up. You could say you’re sorry, you know.”
“But I didn’t do anything,” Annabelle replied angrily.
Alexis took a sip of her coffee, not a second after she spluttered it out again making a terrible face.
“What in the world…”
“What’s wrong with you coffee,” asked Aisling, sniffing hers.
“It’s salty!” Alexis said looking at Annabelle.
“Don’t look at me,” Annabelle said taking another bite of toast.
Aisling dipped the tip of her finger into her coffee and tasted it; she too made a face. “Yup, definitely salty. Care to explain, Annabelle?”
“Oh for crying out loud, I said I didn’t do it,” Annabelle said throwing her toast down on her plate.
“There is no need for a tantrum, young lady,” said Aisling sternly. She pointed at the door. “I think we’ve had enough of you for the time being, you can go to your room and stay there until I say you can come out.”
“Why? I’m not six-years-old, Aisling,” Annabelle replied getting up and stomping her foot, which didn’t really help her argument.
“Annabelle, I will not tell you again,” Aisling warned. Her face was getting red, which was never a good sign.
Realizing there was nothing she could do that would make them believe she was a victim of someone else’s plans; she left the kitchen before things turned nasty. She had not forgotten how hard Aisling’s palm was.
“This is just unbelievable,” she muttered to herself as she threw herself onto her bed. “So unfair!”
Someone was up to no good, but who on earth could it be. Eylion? She was a prankster alright, but she would never let Annabelle take the blame for it. And how come she had been sent to her room like some naughty kid?
“No, this is ridiculous, I’m not staying here,” she said to herself and opened her window. She and Eylion had once climbed down the gutters here, it was quite easy.
Making sure to put pillows under her bed covers first so it looked like she had gone back to bed, she went out the window and down to into the garden. She took a sneak peak in the kitchen window to see that Alexis and Aisling enjoying a new cup of “unsalty” coffee, before she got a broom out of the broom shed.
Getting on she soared towards the meadow and her favorite beech tree.
When there, she left the broom on the ground, climbed the tree and found her favorite branch and lay back against the stem of the tree. She let out a loud dramatic sigh. She knew if Aisling caught her she’d be in trouble, but at the moment she didn’t really care because she had told Aisling the truth and she had sent her to her room like some snotty little kid.
Annabelle looked up. A little grey tabby kitten was approaching her.
“Oh hi! Aren’t you a pretty little kitten! How did you get all the way up here by yourself, huh?” She picked it up and started petting it.
“Where is your mummy?”
Annabelle scratched the purring kitten behind the ear and looked around for a bigger cat. After a little while she spotted another, bigger cat on a branch above her, but it wasn’t grey; this was a ginger tabby cat. “Well… it happens,” she thought.
She turned her attention back to the little kitten and held it up towards her face. It gave her a little smack with a clawed paw.
“Eylion, for heaven sakes! Behave yourself!” Leda’s voice appeared out of nowhere.
“Eylion? Leda? What is going on?” Annabelle looked around.
The ginger cat jumped down onto the branch next to Annabelle and gave the kitten a stern look. If anyone ever wondered if cats can give stern looks…well… they can.
The little kitten stopped in its tracks as it was biting Annabelle’s finger. It looked guiltily at the ginger cat. Or what was the ginger cat, because now it was not. Leda was sitting where the ginger cat had been only seconds before. She picked a leaf out of her red hair.
“You? But… how…” Annabelle stared at her and then at the little tabby kitten. “Is this… Eylion?”
“It is indeed,” Leda replied. “We’ve been practicing animal transfiguration, but I’m afraid she insists on being naughty in any kind of form.” She held out her hand motioning for Annabelle to hand Eylion over. She then put the little kitten in the pocked of her witch’s’ cloak and climbed down from the tree.
Following her, Annabelle watched as Leda pulled the kitten out of her pocket again and put it on the ground. It immediately ran off; it seemed that Eylion did not want to turn human just yet.
“Oh will you come back here, young lady!” Leda yelled after her, but the little kitten had already hidden behind the tree.
“Oh very well… I suppose she can run around for a little longer,” Leda said shaking her head. She spotted the broom on the ground.
“Are you supposed to have that?” she asked suspiciously.
“Well… technically… no, but I had to get away,” Annabelle said frowning.
“Oh really? Was there an emergency? A fire perhaps?” Leda asked sternly.
“No… but… but Aisling and Alexis were being mean!” Annabelle said defensively. “So I had to get away quickly.” Not sure she had convinced Leda yet, she continued. “You see… I woke up this morning and Aisling was sleeping on the sofa…”
“Aisling was sleeping on the sofa?” Leda asked with wide eyes.
“Yes… probably because Gwen has been in such a foul mood. She could have just asked to sleep in my bed, I wouldn’t have minded.”
“Ah yes… well that might not have helped with Gwen’s mood,” Leda said smiling.
“Why not?” Annabelle asked confused.
Leda chuckled. “You are so innocent.” She stroked Annabelle’s cheek. “Why don’t you continue telling me why Aisling and Alexis are mean,” she said smiling.
“Oh righ, that… well… So Alexis asked me to wake Aisling up, but someone had put cream in her palm and she splattered it all over her face, and they blamed me! And then when we were going to eat someone had put salt in their coffee, and they blamed that on me too! But it wasn’t me and then Aisling told me that I had to go to my room, which is just not fair at all because I didn’t do anything wrong. I didn’t even get to finish my breakfast…” She pouted, feeling sorry for herself.
Leda shook her head and sighed. “You’ve all had an eventful morning, haven’t you?”
“Please don’t make me go back, Leda,” Annabelle begged. “I really didn’t do it, but no one believes me.”
“I believe you Annabelle, but we should still go back so we can sort this out. You see Aisling and Alexis seemed to have forgotten that they have another prankster living with them other than you.”
“They do?” Annabelle asked confused.
“Oh yes… I can sense the mischief of Gwendoline from a mile away.”
“You think Gwen did it?! Gwen?! Miss-I-love-rules-Gwen?”
“Oh you’d be surprised what she can do when she is in the right mood, Annabelle,” Leda said looking around for Eylion. “Now let me just catch my naughty, little kitten and we can go back and sort this out.”
After unsuccessfully trying to keep Eylion still long enough to turn her back into a human, Leda had picked up the kitten and stuffed her back into her pocket. Then she had taken Annabelle by the hand and led her back home by foot. When Annabelle tried to convince her to let her fly the broom back she said, “I think you’re in enough trouble already, don’t you think?”
When they walked through the front door and into the living room they met Aisling and Alexis, they were both soaking wet. When they saw Annabelle they both rounded on her, both seemed pretty angry.
“You are in a world of trouble, young lady. What is this, Annabelle? Do you feel like you don’t get enough attention? How many traps have you put around the house?”
Annabelle’s eyes filled with tears and she hid behind Leda. How could they think she was misbehaving when she hadn’t even been in the house? She sniffled.
“You two really are the limit!” Leda scolded. “Annabelle has told you over and over that she didn’t do it and you still blame her. Did it even occur to the two of you that there might be someone else in this house that is in need of attention? Aisling, why did you sleep on the sofa? Has anyone see Gwen today?”
“You think Gwen is behind all of this?” Aisling asked confused. “Why would she do this?”
“Why would Annabelle?”
“But… Gwen?!” Alexis cut in. “She hasn’t acted like this in several decades.”
Annabelle stepped forward. She wiped tears off her face. “I didn’t do it,” she said once again, hoping that this time they would believe her.
Aisling came closer and looked her in the eyes. She suddenly looked really sad.
“Oh honey… I… I am so sorry.” She put her arms around Annabelle and hugged her tight. “I could kick myself!”
Annabelle had thought about this carefully and made her decision.
“I need to talk to you about Gwen,” she said looking into Alexis’s eyes from Aisling’s embrace. “I think I know why she is acting so weird.”
“Oh really? Well do tell! I’m getting fed up with this behaviour,” Alexis said sharply.
“Well… you see… when we were in the village she met this lady. A very unpleasant lady,” Annabelle said.
“Who?” asked Aisling and looked down on Annabelle.
“It was her mother,” Annabelle said looking worried. “She was in a good mood… well not good because she was a little fed up with me, but she was normal until we met her in the village, and after that Gwen was acting really strange. I think she’s really hurting and that is why she is doing all these weird things.”
Alexis sighed. “So Wynne is back, is she? Well that would explain why Gwen is acting so strange. Well I know how to deal with it.”
“What are you going to do?” Annabelle asked.
“I’m going to give her what she needs and probably what she is craving.”
“What is that?”
Annabelle’s eyes widened. “You mean… eh…”
“Oh I think she has earned herself a trip across my knee,” Alexis said huffing. She looked over at both Leda and Aisling who both nodded.
“All these tricks?” Alexis continued. “That girl is asking for it!”
They suddenly heard a loud racket outside; it was the sounds of buckets being dropped on the ground and Albert neighing. They all hurried outside, Alexis was first. Annabelle was surprised how fast Alexis could move when she wanted to, usually she just sat on her bottom asking everyone else to get her things, blaming her old age even if, for a witch, she really wasn’t that old.
“Hold it right there, young lady,” they heard her yelling from the back garden.
They came round the corner and saw Gwen amidst the mess with Alexis holding her ear in a firm grip.
“Owww! Alexis! What are you doing?!” Gwen winced.
“We have been blaming Annabelle all day for these little tricks, and it turned out to be you. Would you like to explain why you’ve been acting like a little girl,” she scolded.
“I don’t know what you are talking about,” Gwen said stubbornly.
Alexis let go of her ear and pointed to the kitchen door. “Get in!”
“No!” Gwen replied defiantly. “I’m busy. Leave me alone, will you.”
Alexis swatted her backside hard.
Gwen gasped. “Ow! What do you think you are doing?”
Alexis swatted her again. She gave her back a push and swatted her all the way into the kitchen.
The rest of them followed them inside.
“Sit down, Gwen,” Alexis said pointing at a chair.
“No, I don’t think I will thanks,” Gwen said trying to leave the kitchen, but Aisling blocked her way.
“Gwen, that’s enough. Sit down right now,” she said looking angry.
Gwen turned around trying to make her way out the backdoor into the garden, but Alexis grabbed her arm.
“That’s it; I have had enough of this.” She sat down on the chair herself and hauled Gwen over her lap and gave her backside half a dozen sharp smacks.
“Ow! Alexis you can’t do this! I’m not your apprentice anymore; I’m too old for this!” Gwen protested.
“You might not be an apprentice anymore, but that does not mean that I am not your mentor still, and you are most certainly not too old to be given a spanking, young lady.”
“But… you can’t spank me in front of my own apprentice…” Gwen sniffled.
Annabelle was glad to hear it, because she didn’t want to be in the room when Gwen got her spanking.
“I understand that, sweetheart, but if this is the position that will make you calm down and explain what is going on, then so be it.” Alexis rubbed her back. “I will not dish out a full spanking… yet, but you must calm down and tell me what is wrong. If I let you back up, will you be willing to talk to us?”
Gwen sniffled. “Okay,” she said sadly, admitting defeat.
“Good girl. Let’s go into the sitting room and we can all have a chat.”
“Gwen, tell me why you are upset.” Alexis sat down next to her on the sofa, and Gwen seemed to be very interested in the floor.
“I’m not upset,” she mumbled.
“You’re not in a good position to lie to me, young lady. You are in enough trouble already. Come on… tell me.” She put her arm around her.
“It’s… it’s my mother,” she finally said putting her head on her mentor’s shoulder.
“She is back in town?”
“You mean you didn’t know?” Gwen said sounding almost accusing.
“Alright… I’m not going to lie… I was told, but only very recently and after you started acting so strange. Gwen, you could have told me that she was here, and if not me at least you could have told your wife.” She looked across the room where Aisling was sitting on the sofa with her arm around Annabelle. Leda sat in a comfy chair with Eylion still as a kitten purring on her lap as she was petting her.
“It’s not just that she is here… well mostly… I’ve always hated her guts, but she is working for that woman! She is part of that horrible group that will take Annabelle away from here.”
“And you see that as another betrayal?”
“Why does everything she does feel like a kick in the stomach? Why can’t she do something good for a change?” Gwen’s eyes filled with angry tears.
“Oh honey,” Alexis said stroking her forehead. “She has done one thing right?”
“She gave birth to the lovely young woman next to me. It’s the best thing she ever did or will ever do, and that she cannot see that herself is her loss, but I am forever grateful.”
“Don’t you dare say it’s not so,” she warned. “Her loss, sweetie, but my gain. Focus on the people who love you and are there for you, and forget people like her.”
“But… she is my mother… and I hate that!”
“No, she is not, sweetie. She just gave birth to you. Has she ever been a mother to you? No, she has not. You don’t owe her your tears and she is definitely not worth them. She does not deserve you as a daughter.”
“Gwen,” Leda joined in. “Who took you in as a young rebel? Who taught you? Who raised you to become the witch you are today?”
Gwen looked up. Her eyes were swollen. “Alexis…” she mumbled.
“That’s right!” Alexis said giving her a hug. “And you are like a daughter to me. I have had the privilege to have you in my life for almost eighty years, my girl. And I like to think that I have done my part to bring you up. I was not there from the beginning, but wouldn’t you say that I have been more of a mother than anyone else?”
Gwen nodded. She was still crying, but smiled weakly.
“We have a somewhat untraditional family. We don’t have our own by blood, but we take in those in need of a family. I’m glad to see that you followed in my footstep.” She winked at Annabelle.
“And Annabelle and Eylion… this is for life. Going away doesn’t change anything. We’re still family when you come back.”
Annabelle nodded and Eylion said “meow.”
Alexis gave a little nod towards Leda who understood. She stood up and put Eylion on the chair she had been sitting on. For a moment it looked like the kitten was going to jump off, but when Leda said “Sit!” it sat down again looking up at her.
Next thing the little kitten started growing and quickly transformed into a human being again.
“Done playing around, kitten?” Leda asked raising her eyebrow.
“Ya know… you should scratch me behind my ear more often,” Eylion said grinning. “It’s so calming.”
“Uh huh… get up,” Leda said.
Eylion got up and Leda sat down and hauled her over her knee. She gave her a dozen hard swats on her backside before letting her back up.
“Hey! What was that for?” Eylion said rubbing her backside.
“That’s for all the mischief you got into as a cat,” Leda said.
“What mischief?” Eylion said innocently.
“You smacked me in the face,” Annabelle said. “AND you bit my finger!”
“That’s right,” Leda said. “And it was also for biting my tail!”
Everyone except Leda laughed at this. She narrowed her eyes.
“Don’t think that just because you are the cutest little kitten anyone has ever seen, that you would get away with being naughty.”
“What about being the cutest human anyone has ever seen?” Eylion asked hugging her mentor looking up at her and batting her eyelashes.
Leda chuckled and put her arms around her. “I think we both know you don’t get away with mischief as a human,” she said patting her backside. She kissed her forheard. “Now take Annabelle with you for a walk.”
“But… oh…” Eylion avoided looking at Gwen. “Ah okay… Annabelle… let’s go climb some trees or something.”
Annabelle got up feeling anxious. She had really not appreciated being blamed for everything that Gwen had done, but she didn’t want her to be in trouble. Her stomach turned or growled more like.
“Oh dear, she hasn’t eaten more than a couple of bites of toast,” Alexis said, suddenly remembering that Annabelle had been sent to her room without getting to finish her breakfast. “Hold on, Annabelle, I shall make you a sandwich to bring with you.”
Annabelle nodded, but she didn’t have much of an appetite; however, she knew that there was no way she’d be allowed to leave without it.
“Annabelle, come here.” Gwen patted the seat next to her and she walked over to her and sat down. Gwen put her arms around her and Annabelle rested her head against her shoulder.
“I am really sorry that you got in trouble for what I did,” she said kissing her forehead.
“It’s okay…” Annabelle mumbled.
“No, it’s not. I didn’t mean it, but I should have realized that you’d be the first suspect for such pranks.”
“Eh… thanks,” Annabelle said looking up at her, rolling her eyes.
Gwen chuckled. “Ops… I mean… well… you know… I’m so much older and I don’t get into trouble very often… so…”
Annabelle smiled mischievously. “Well… I suppose I do cause a lot of trouble,” she said and quickly looked away remembering Gwen’s promise to warm her backside.
“And I should have believed you when you said you didn’t do it,” Aisling said. “I’m sorry, Annabelle.”
“Yeah me too,” Alexis said coming back into the room with a sandwich for her. “But you must admit… with the trouble you caused the day before we just assumed.”
“Yeah… but I said…”
“Yes, we know… you said you didn’t do it, and that should have been good enough.” She handed Annabelle the sandwich.
“Now… you youngsters, scoot! You go for a long walk; you both look like you could use some fresh air.” That was code for “Gwen is getting it good so we don’t want you in the house.”
The two apprentices said their goodbyes and went outside and started walking. They were walking down the road towards the forest, Eylion kicking stones and Annabelle nibbling on her sandwich, when they saw a carriage coming towards them. It was big and black and was dragged by two horses. There were windows, but no visible doors. There was probably just one door in the back.
Sitting in front was a man dressed in black, holding the reins and a witch wearing midnight blue robes. She looked familiar and when the carriage came closer Annabelle saw that it was Wynne, Gwen’s mother.
The carriage stopped in front of the two of them.
“You can’t go see Gwen right now,” Annabelle said quickly. “It’s not a good time.”
“I’m not on my way to see Gwen, little girl. We’re here for you,” she said smiling coldly. “Oh and you too. Eylion, right?”
They looked confused at each other and Annabelle looked into the windows of the carriage. Sitting inside looking nervous were four other girls.
“No!” Annabelle said at once, realizing what was going on.
“Yes, girl. Now come along, we don’t want to be late for school.”