Witch Charm

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Chapter One

 

Wake up. You’re being burgled.

Stop purring in my ear.

You’re being robbed and you complain about my purring?

 

Lexie punched her pillow. “Have you been eating bacon again? You know it gives you nightmares.”

The sound of muffled footsteps had both Lexie and Luna looking up.

“Tell me you heard that.”

Lexie gave a small nod. “I did.”

“So go see.”

“You live here too. Why don’t you go see?”

“I’m not the one being robbed. I’m a free spirited cat. I come unencumbered by possessions.” Luna nudged her. “You go see.”

“You’re a cat. You excel at stealth. You go,” Lexie whispered. “It’s about time you did your fair share. After all, what do I feed you for? In fact, now that I think about it, what exactly is your purpose?”

Luna stared down her nose at her. “I am your loyal feline companion and confidante.”

“Okay. You’ve done such a fine job of that, I’ll reward you with a promotion. You are now my chief of security. Now, go investigate.”

“Does this new role come with perks?”

“Crispy bacon. And not the fake type, but real bacon.”

Luna’s ears pricked up. She crouched down and, staring at the door, moved like a panther on the prowl.

Footsteps approached. They stopped outside her bedroom door, and then scurried off.

Luna stopped at the foot of the bed. “Sounds like they’re going away. I’ve earned my keep.”

As Luna turned back, they heard a thump followed by something heavy scraping across the wooden floor.

Growling softly, Lexie sat up. She reached over to her bedside table and after a brief hunt around, came up with a coin. “Tell you what… I’ll flip you for it.”

“Sounds fair,” Luna whispered.

“Heads you go, tails I go.”

“Hang on. Is that coin rigged?”

“Of course not, why would you say that?”

Luna took a dainty step back. “I don’t know…”

“Okay. I’ll take tails.”

“Huh?” Luna leaped forward. “Are you trying to trick me?”

“Me?”

“Yes, you.” Luna sniffed the coin.

Lexie snorted. “Are you right there?”

“I changed my mind. I’ll take… I’ll take heads…”

“Are you sure?”

Luna sat on her haunches and gave her ear a vigorous scratch. “Yeah. Hang on… Yes, I’m sure.”

“Okay. Heads you go, tails I go.”

Her loyal feline companion scrunched up her little face. “Wait.”

“What?”

“We agree to abide by this? The coin toss is sacred and binding. Whatever comes up, you have to accept it.”

Lexie nodded and flipped the coin in the air. They both followed its descent. When it landed on the bed, Luna scampered over to it.

Lexie smiled. “Heads it is.”

“Why does it have to be me?” Luna complained.

“Because you’re the one who brought it up and… Hey, you can make yourself invisible.”

“Oh… I forgot about that. All right, here goes. If I’m not back in five, come look for me.”

“Sure.” Lexie plumped up her pillow and tried to go back to sleep but that meant ignoring the sound of furniture being dragged across the room. When this was followed by another hard thump, she put her pillow over her head. Moments later, Luna leaped up onto the bed, sauntered over and curled up in the crook of her arm.

“Well?”

“It’s nothing. Go back to sleep.”

“What do you mean it’s nothing?”

Luna sighed. “It’s Sunday. The birds are chirping. The sun’s coming up… Go back to sleep. All’s well.”

Outside, a car came to a screeching halt. Horns blared. An argument erupted.

Luna sighed again. “Really. It’s nothing.”

Lexie flung the bedcovers off. “I only ask for one day off. The average person gets two days off a week. My personal assistant has the entire week off…”

“Honestly, you’re making a fuss over nothing,” Luna insisted.

Lexie padded over to the door and pressed her ear against it. She knew the moment she opened the door, there’d be no turning back. “Who’s out there?” she asked Luna.

“No one. Come back to bed.”

“Fine, I’ll go see for myself.” As soon as she opened the door and peeked out, she wished she hadn’t.

Moments later, Lexie shuffled back to bed and pulled the covers over her head. This couldn’t be happening to her…

Luna burrowed her way under the bedcovers. “Well? What did you see?”

“Me? What did you see?”

“You go first.”

“So you did see something.”

Luna purred. “Only if you did.”

They fell silent.

“Like you said, it’s Sunday. All’s well.” It had to be.

Luna snorted. “You’re pulling my tail. You must have seen something.”

“How about we flip for it? Heads you say what you saw, tails… I say what I saw.”

“I’m not falling for that again.”

 

Lexie? Where are you?

 

“That’s Catherine,” Lexie murmured.

The bedcover lifted slightly and Catherine’s orb burrowed its way in.

“Hello. What are you two doing under the bedcovers?”

“Hello, Catherine. We’re… we’re having a meeting.”

“About what?”

“We heard sounds,” Luna said. “We thought someone had broken into the apartment. Then we went to investigate. I went first… because I’m a cat and I’ve been awarded a promotion…”

“You know Catharine can’t hear you.”

 

Catherine? Where are you? Where is everyone?

 

“Mirabelle’s here. Shh. Don’t make a sound,” Catherine said. “If she catches us here, she’ll think we’re conspiring against her.”

“Why would she think that?” both Lexie and Luna asked.

“It’s what this meeting is about. She wants to take measures against another witch going rogue and there’s also the other matter.”

Lexie sighed. “I seem to remember asking you and Mirabelle to send me a memo about meetings. I don’t recall receiving one. And what’s this about another matter?”

“A complaint has been lodged against you.”

“Me? What did I do?”

“You went snooping around. Some people take exception to that.”

“I… I did no such thing. I only went where I was forced to go…”

Luna put her paw on her hand.

 

Keep calm. Lick you paw. Embrace the indifference.

This isn’t the time for Feline Zen, Luna.

 

“Well, we’ll clear it all up, but that will have to wait because there’s another matter that needs to be tackled first,” Catherine explained.

“Hang on. You’re losing me.”

“I told Mirabelle this would be too much for a Sunday, but you know her, she always has an answer for everything.”

“And?”

“And she thinks it’s time we incorporated our business. Once we make it legal, you can’t be sued.”

“What business? And… Who’s suing me?”

“No one. Yet.”

The bedcovers were wrenched off.

“There you are. What are you all doing hiding under the bedcovers?” Mirabelle asked in her best imperious tone.

Lexie looked up at the orb hovering over her. “This is my bed and I’m perfectly within my rights to be under the bedcovers. As for you two… I think it’s time we drew boundary lines. You can’t come barging in here when you feel like it.”

“We have a serious matter to discuss,” the High Chair of the British Isles and all Circumferential Domains Pertaining to the Mackenzie Coven said in her haughtiest tone.

“Several, by the sounds of it and… You always say that, right before I’m sent off to clean up after your mess.”

Mirabelle’s orb glowed red. “Any concerns need to be added to the agenda.”

“Fine. Catherine, add my concerns to the agenda.”

“I’m afraid this week’s agenda is rather full,” Catherine chirped. “I’ll schedule it for our next meeting.”

“Now that has been sorted out, please make yourself presentable,” Mirabelle said, “I believe the others are about to arrive.”

“Others? What others?”

“Our first official clients. I cannot stress how important it is for us to make a favorable impression. We have done the best we could to make your sitting room presentable—”

“So it was you rearranging my furniture,” Lexie accused. “Whose footsteps did we hear?”

“We… we had assistance.”

“And why are we meeting here? You live in a Hall. I’ve never seen it but it sounds large…” Lexie hunted around for a word Mirabelle would appreciate, “Commodious, and… and handsomely furnished.”

“Our clients happen to be local. I can’t very well ask them to fly over to England for one meeting.”

“Local?”

“Closer to you than to either of us.”

“Specifics, Mirabelle. That’s not much to ask for.”

“Salem.”

Lexie huffed out a breath. “I’m guessing this involves hocus-pocus.”

“Please refrain from referring to our craft as hocus-pocus,” Mirabelle’s voice hitched, “And for goodness’ sake, mind your p’s and q’s. The Lauriston Academy for Ladies and their Feline Companions will be our most valuable client to date. We must impress them.”

“Hey, if I’m going to pull up my socks, I want to know why. I don’t know them from Adam.”

Mirabelle spluttered. “You… you don’t know them? Every High Chair since the establishment of our most revered coven has attended—”

Catherine’s orb rushed over to Mirabelle. A brisk exchange later, the orbs tilted down as if looking down their noses at Lexie.

Mirabelle cleared her throat. “Yes, of course. How remiss of me.”

“What did you miss?”

“Catherine merely reminded me of your… lapse.”

“Huh?”

“We understand you pursued an alternative education and so cannot be held entirely accountable for your behavior.”

Lexie frowned. “You went to the what’s its’ name Lady’s Academy?”

“The Lauriston Academy for Ladies and their Feline Companions. Yes, it’s our alma mater.”

“How did Catherine manage that? She doesn’t travel.”

“An exception was granted and Catherine achieved the highest honors via correspondence.”

“It remains unmatched to this day,” Catherine announced, “Something which I’m proud of and flaunt at every opportunity. Although, I believe my reputation precedes me so I rarely have to mention it. Doing the course by correspondence added a degree of difficulty.”

“I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I feel rather left out,” Lexie admitted.

 

Don’t worry. It’s really nothing to brag about. The place has some nice hidey-holes but in the winter, it’s horribly drafty.

How do you know?

Because I’m a graduate too.

You? You’re a cat.

And your point is?

 

A bell tinkled.

“Oh, that must be them,” Catherine exclaimed and rushed off leaving a trail of sparkles behind her.

Mirabelle cleared her throat. “If you could… perhaps… please try to make yourself presentable and join us as soon as… you are… What are you going to wear?”

“My Sunday best, of course.” Lexie wondered if she should match her faded blue jeans with a blue t-shirt or a pink one…

Instead of leaving her to it, Mirabelle’s orb rushed over to her wardrobe. “I don’t see anything suitable here.” Mirabelle growled softly. “No. No. No. This won’t do at all.” She swung toward Lexie. Her orb glowed…

“Hey,” Lexie took a quick sidestep. “What are you doing?”

“Taking your measure.”

“What for? Stop that.” She sidestepped her again.

“Stand still.”

 

* * *

 

She dressed me in white. White. A white dress with puffy sleeves. And you… look at you.

Everyone wears white at The Lauriston Academy for Ladies and their Feline Companions.

 

As for her sitting room…

She didn’t recognize it.

Her furniture had been hidden behind elegant looking room dividers with Japanese motifs printed on them. And in place of her couch, there was now a settee in pale teal with gold highlights. An antique, Mirabelle had remarked.

 

All I’m saying is that she’d better turn you back. It’s taken me this long to get used to you being black one moment and golden the next. Now you’re white. If you start shedding…

Hush. Ms Penelope Stewart is speaking. She is head of the Elocution Department and deserves your undivided attention. You might learn something.

Why are you talking funny?

I am not. I am merely conforming to the rules of proper behavior as instilled in me over many arduous hours of comportment lessons. Ms Penelope does not suffer… contractions.

Huh? What’s that?

What is… not what’s. It is… what is. Anyhow, Ms Penelope Stewart is also head of the Annual Cotillion Review Committee. The fact she has taken time away from her many duties can only mean—

I swear, if they make me go on stage again—

 

“It all began with a few items going missing,” the softly spoken Ms Penelope Stewart said, “A mother of pearl hairbrush. A bracelet. Gloves. Then it escalated. One of our most esteemed pupils, Miss Claudette Lafayette, woke up one morning to find her luscious locks had been shorn off. We need this matter investigated promptly and, needless to say, with the utmost discretion. Our governing body has made it plainly clear, the parents cannot discover these heinous crimes have been perpetrated against our students. It could spell disaster for our school. In its entire history, nothing like this has ever happened.”

Ms Penelope looked as though she was sucking lemons and about to have an attack of nerves or a premature wave of hot flushes.

“Rest assured, we will do our outmost to identify the culprit and bring them to justice,” Mirabelle declared, “It is what we excel at.”

Ms Penelope Stewart’s gaze drifted over to Lexie. Her eyes narrowed. “Am I to understand Miss Alexandra Elizabeth Mackenzie has the skills to tackle the complexity of this matter?”

“Absolutely. She has proven herself a most valuable member of our team…”

 

Her diction is as perfect as it ever was. I am in awe.

Who are you and what have done with my cat?

You might want to pay attention. Ms Penelope Stewart—

Yeah, yeah, she doesn’t suffer fools.

Actually, it is… Yes, yes, she does not suffer fools.

I swear, this better be temporary ‘cos I’m not going to put up with your tongue in cheek—

She is speaking to you.

 

“Huh?”

Ms Penelope Stewart gasped. “I do beg your pardon.”

“Why? What did you do?”

“It is impolite to express—” Ms Penelope Stewart broke off and turned to Mirabelle. “Are you absolutely certain this… she is the best candidate for this delicate matter?”

Mirabelle’s silence spoke of retribution of the highest, severest order.

Lexie sat up only then realizing she’d slumped… or rather, she had slumped. She did a quick hunt around in her mental archives for any dialogue that might help her. Fortunately, she’d… she had recently spent an evening curled up on the couch watching Pride and Prejudice. Mr Darcy’s apologetic monologue came to mind. “Ms Penelope Stewart, please do not be alarmed, ma’am, that this be my normal behavior. No, no, not at all, it is nothing but a temporary lapse of poor judgment on my part and shall not, no… no… no, it shall not be repeated. Of that, I can give you my heartiest assurances…”

“Ma’am?”

 

Why does she sound… what’s… what is the word I am looking for?

Affronted. It is highly improper to address someone as ma’am. There are exceptions to the rule, of course. If the person addressed happens to be the Queen of England or a royal princess you are free to use the honorific. However, in this instance, and I cannot stress this enough, it is highly erroneous to address an American as ma’am.

Huh?

Pay attention. Mirabelle is going into damage control. She is determined to secure this prestigious assignment and I do believe she will, even if it is the last duty she performs as a fully competent High Chair.

You think I’ve driven her to the edge?

I believe you have pushed her a tad over the edge. Yes. Oh, how I wish I could lick my paw but it would not do, not in the presence of Ms Penelope Stewart. She would never forgive the indiscretion.

Don’t you just wish you could have a scratch too?

Your taunt is most inopportune. Rest assured, it shall not go unpunished. I will contrive to… oh, damnation… it itches.

 

With an exemplary show of stiff upper-lipped haughtiness, Ms Penelope Stewart rose and bid her farewells… and adieus. Lexie slumped right back and sighed with relief.

“Hey, Luna. Go forth and scratch.”

Luna leaped off the chair and rolled around the rug maniacally scratching and licking to her heart’s content.

Mirabelle’s orb turned toward Lexie.

With or without her newly acquired altered state of intuition, Lexie knew she’d… she had just earned a black blotchy mark against her. Unfortunately, she also knew it wouldn’t get her off the hook.

She was off to The Lauriston Academy for Ladies and their Feline Companions to investigate what sounded like a case of petty theft.

 

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Copyright © 2017 Sonia Parin

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