Read A Broom With a View Online

Authors: Rebecca Patrick-Howard

Tags: #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Mystery, #Cozy, #Supernatural, #Ghosts, #Witches & Wizards, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Fantasy, #Paranormal & Urban

A Broom With a View

BOOK: A Broom With a View
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For Wilma Lewis

 

A Broom with a View

 

Rebecca Patrick-Howard

Chapter One

 

LIZA JANE
Higginbotham was a witch.

Mind you, not the kind of witch that conversed with black cats or could make herself look like a supermodel with a wave of her hand (although that particular skill would’ve been useful on a number of occasions) but a witch, nonetheless.

When she was twelve she’d watched a movie about a girl who came into her witchy powers on her sixteenth birthday. “Teen Witch,” it was called.

She wasn’t
that
kind of witch either.

Liza Jane had been born a witch, known it most of her life, and considered it as normal as her hair color.

(Okay, maybe not
quite
as normal as her hair color. Thanks to Clairol and some plastic gloves, she’d been dying her hair for so long she had no idea what her natural color was.)

Nope
, she thought as she gave the last box on the U-Haul a good, solid kick with her tennis shoe and sent it flying down the icy ramp,
she was just a regular witch with few useful and exciting skills
.

Sure, she could get rid of negative energy around a place, was a pretty good healer, and could see into the future with a little bit of help from some of her tools–but she couldn’t make herself invisible or turn people into frogs.

Had she been a
TV
kind of witch, she’d have just wrinkled her nose a few times and in an orderly fashion sent those boxes flying into the house, where they then would’ve graciously unpacked themselves. Then she would’ve spent the rest of the afternoon lounging on a perfectly made bed (
not
made by her, of course), watching Rom-Coms, and feeding herself strawberries.

And later she would’ve turned Jennifer Miller into a cockroach. Just for the fun of it.

But she could
not
send all the boxes into the house like that, she couldn’t afford to get cable, and there were no strawberries available in Kudzu Valley in December.

Shivering even inside her thermal coat, Liza Jane rubbed her chapped hands together and hopped down from the back of the truck. She blew out a puff of air, her breath making a large round cloud before floating away, and watched as the box slid off the ramp and landed with a thud at the bottom. One side was completely caved in. She hoped there wasn’t anything breakable in it. She hadn’t taken the time to mark any of them. It was going to be complete chaos for awhile.

Divorce was making her more unorganized than usual.

And she was still a little miffed that she’d missed Thanksgiving back north. But she’d had to get out of there as quickly as possible. She’d had to, even if it meant eating chicken nuggets and fries instead of turkey.

“What the
hell
was I thinking?” she muttered to herself as she turned and looked at her new house.

Well, technically, her
old
house. She had lived there, once upon a time. She’d been six then and now she was in her thirties so it had been…

Well, she didn’t need to think about how many years ago that was. She was already depressed enough as it was.

Her grandparents’ white farm house rose before her in the dreary winter sky, proud and neglected. White paint had chipped off and now sprinkled the dead, brown grass like dirty snow, leaving behind naked patches of worn wood. An upstairs window was boarded up, the glass missing. A black garbage bag covered another. A window unit in the second floor master bedroom had leaked and dripped over the years, leaving a stream of discolored water running down the side of the house. She was almost certain the front porch was leaning, too.

Liza Jane cocked her head to one side and studied it.
Yep
, she thought,
it was definitely crooked
.

“At least it has electricity and running water,” she stated cheerfully.

Nothing answered her back. She was surrounded by more than fifty acres of mountainside and pastureland. Her grandparents’ farm. Her
family
farm. Her heritage.

Damn, it was dismal.

She knew it would look better in the summertime, when the trees were bursting and full of leaves and color, the fields were lush with wildflowers and thick grass, and the sky a brilliant blue.

But for now everything was dead. Dead and gray. Even the tree branches were gray. How was that
possible
?

Her divorce was almost final. She just needed to sign the papers. Her high school sweetheart had left her for the woman at Starbucks who made him his latte every morning. (Well, actually he was marrying the trombone player in the pop opera group he managed. He’d just initially left her for the Starbucks chick. There had, apparently, been many women. Many,
many
women.)

Back in Boston she’d lost her fairly interesting and well-paying job as the administrative assistant to the director at the nonprofit organization she’d been with for two years. She’d been unceremoniously fired when everyone on her floor, including some donors, overheard her yelling obscenities over the phone to her husband’s lawyer.

She’d let the happy new couple have her house in Wakefield. She’d loved that house, had enjoyed everything about it. But once she’d discovered that Latte-Girl had gotten busy on her kitchen table and Trombone Chick had blown more than her mouthpiece on Liza Jane’s $2,000 leather sofa, the bloom kind of fell off the rose.

“You’re being very immature about this,” her husband, Mode, had told her when she’d handed him her house key.

In her mind, Liza had stuck her tongue out at him and snarked,
I thought you thought people overused the word “very.”
Instead, she’d kept her face impassive.

“You own this house outright,” he’d continued, growing increasingly agitated by her lack of fight. “You don’t have a
job
. You won’t be able to support yourself. Your money will run out soon. You’ve
never
been good at money management, Liza. It makes no sense for you to leave the house. Jennifer and I will be fine someplace else. We won’t have any problems settling in.” He’d paused at that moment and leaned in closer to her. Then, with their faces only inches apart, he’d put his hand on her arm. “It’s
you
I’m worried about.”

His self-righteousness had been the last straw. She’d told him where he could stick her house key.

Now, since she’d signed over the house to him and he’d given her half its appraised worth, she was moving back into the only other thing she owned besides her ratty car–her grandparents’ dilapidated farm house in Kudzu Valley, Kentucky.

Liza Jane was depressed.

“Promise me you won’t kill yourself,” her mother, Mabel, had shrilled over the phone on Liza’s drive down. “Nobody would even know forever, you being out there by yourself like that!”

“Please consider medication or a therapist,” Mode had cajoled her with fake worry and sincerity.

“Don’t do anything stupid down there,” her younger sister, Bryar Rose, had warned her. “Like join Scientology or get bangs.”

“Well, maybe just a
little
something,” she muttered, flipping her hair back from her face, her teeth chattering in the gusty wind.

For a moment, the air around her stilled. The time-honored words she chanted ascended from her like a soft breeze, comforting her with their familiarity and cadence. They gently lifted the ends of her hair and swept across her face like motherly hands, their warmth nearly bringing tears to her eyes. Her heart raced and for just a second she felt a surge of adrenalin, like she could take on the world if she wanted.

And then it stopped.

Grinning with satisfaction, Liza opened her eyes and studied the farm house again. The porch was perfectly straight, not a board out of place.

“Yeah, well, I deserved it,” she snapped to the crows that flew overhead.

Then, feeling a little drained and hung over from what she’d just done, Liza Jane proudly marched up her new steps and into her new life.

 

***

 

When
Liza Jane had last been in Kudzu Valley it had boasted a Taco Bell, Burger King, and McDonalds. There was talk back then of putting in a Walmart on the new by-pass that circled around the mountain and circumvented the small downtown area that consisted of two cross streets and one red light.

That Walmart never materialized; the by-pass was a lonesome stretch of road that passed through what used to be farm land and a drive-in. Five families had lost land to it all in the name of progress. It did, however, get travelers to the next county over three minutes faster.  This was important since Morel County was dry, making it impossible to (legally) buy any kind of alcohol.

Liza’s grandfather, Paine, had died ten years earlier. Her grandmother, Nana Bud, had passed away two years ago. The old farm house had been empty ever since, although it had been winterized and a neighbor had watched over it and taken care of any repairs it needed.

Liza had gone down and taken a look at things back in the summer, before her big move, so she kind of knew what she was getting herself into. Still, there weren’t many conveniences. For one thing, it was completely devoid of food, unless you wanted to count the bag of birdseed that someone (her grandfather probably) had left out on the back porch in the 1980s and the small piece of moldy cheese that had led a mouse to his last fatal adventure.

Liza Jane needed supplies.

Other than the tiny food marts attached to some of the gas stations, there was only one grocery store in the entire county. It was a discount chain that sold fatty beef, bait, generic canned food, and bulk bags of cheap cereal.

She could roll with that. At least it was cheap. And right now she needed cheap. She was not only moving to Kudzu Valley, she was opening her own business. The money her grandmother had left her two years ago and the divorce settlement would not last forever.

She’d declined alimony.

As Liza slowly pushed her cart down the unfamiliar aisles and loaded up with boxes of Rice Crisps and Frosty Tiny Wheats, Liza became acutely aware of someone’s eyes drilling holes into her.

Her senses stayed at a heightened state of awareness these days; when she’d let them slide in the past her husband had gone on a one-man tour of the local single ladies and she wasn’t going to make
that
mistake again. However, she did make an effort to turn her senses down when she was out in public so that she didn’t pick up on every Dick, Jane, and Bubba’s feelings and thoughts but even a Normal would’ve felt the sharp eyes stabbing into their back.

“Liza Jane Merriweather!” The loud, reedy shrill came from less than ten feet behind her and had Liza startled, despite her mindfulness.

When she turned, Liza was face to face with a tiny, elderly woman carrying a yellow shopping basket overflowing with at least two dozen packages of frozen spinach. Unlike many of the other shoppers, who looked like they’d stumbled out of bed without getting dressed or brushing their hair or teeth, the little woman before her wore a blue-tailored suit and was in full makeup.

Her lavender eyeshadow framed small, beady eyes behind thick bifocals and her clunky heels sounded like shotgun blasts as she marched over to where Liza Jane patiently waited. Her hair, permed and sprayed within an inch of its life, was a brilliant purple.

Liza closed her eyes for a moment and reached forward, focusing on the woman’s mind. She frantically attempted to extract a name or memory, since it was obvious she was meant to know the person whose arms were now outstretched and gearing up for a hug.

The only word she could come up with was “Pebbles.”

“Just look at
you
!” the woman crooned, squeezing Liza Jane in a bony, yet tight, embrace. The combination of Marlboro Lights, Aqua Net, and Elizabeth Taylor’s White Diamonds was almost overpowering. “You’re so grown up now!”

Liza plastered what she hoped was a respectful smile across her face and gently untangled herself. She was afraid to squeeze back too hard; in spite of the woman’s grip her shoulders and arms felt brittle. God forbid she break somebody on her first day out in town.

“Yes,” she replied courteously. “I’ve grown up a little.”

“Liza Jane Merriweather,” the woman murmured again, shaking her head in apparent disbelief. Her hair didn’t move an inch. Liza had to restrain herself from reaching out and touching it. “I just
can’t
believe it.”

“Well, actually it’s Higginbotham now,” Liza helpfully corrected her. “I got married.”

“Oh?” At the mention of a husband the woman’s eyes sparkled. “Is he here with you?” She began looking around, as though Liza might have hidden him under a gallon of milk in her shopping cart.

“Er…” Liza felt her face turning red. “He’s um, back in Boston. We’re still, uh, getting some things together. For the move down here.”

There was no need to go into the messy details of her impending divorce right there in the grocery store aisle. People were already stopping, pretending to be keenly interested in the nutritional values on the backs of discount cereal boxes while they listened to the two women chat.

“Oh, well, that’s okay. I bet you don’t remember my name. Do you remember my name,” she demanded.

Liza, taken off guard, found herself flustered as she regarded the impatient woman. She reached out again, but came back with nothing. If she’d known her in the past, it was as a child and she’d made little to no impression on Liza.

“Well, I er, I
think
so…” Liza murmured, embarrassed.
Give me a break, lady, it’s been almost thirty years
, she thought to herself at the same time.

“It’s
Penny
! Penny Libbels!” she cried, slapping Liza Jane on the arm with unexpected strength. “I was your granny’s best friend, may she rest in peace.”

“Oh,
Pebbles
,” Liza Jane nodded now. “Okay, that makes more sense.”

“You never
could
say my name right.” Penny stared at her wide-eyed and Liza wondered if she was waiting for her to try to say it
now
.

“Um, well, I was young I guess,” Liza faltered.

Liza had never been particularly good at small talk. Or grocery stores.

“I hear that you’re opening one of those New Agey herbal shops here,” Penny pressed, squinting her purple eyes under the harsh fluorescent lights. “You aren’t gonna be selling those
drugs
are you? That
meth
?”

At least three more people stopped what they were doing and turned to look back at them, not even trying to hide their curiosity. Liza randomly grabbed at a can of pineapples behind her and clutched it tightly, its metal hard and reassuring under her fingertips. She was about to dig a hole into her hands from the wringing and had already popped an acrylic.

“Well, um, no,” she sputtered. “Nothing illegal. It’s a holistic clinic, a day spa really, with herbal remedies and massages and–“

“Not one of those places with
hookers
,” Penny lowered her voice to a stage whisper, her eyes darting around as she pursed her lips.

“Oh no! Just teas and lotions and regular old massages. Nothing bad,” Liza promised.

Oh dear Lord, make me disappear
, she prayed silently.

Liza thought she might pass out. One woman passing by actually grabbed her young son by the arm and pushed him ahead of her, as though Liza was already a lady of the night, hawking her body and illegal drugs in the fruit and cereal aisle.

“Hmmm,” Penny pursed her lips again so tightly they were almost white. “Well, you
might
do okay here. We’re not Hollywood, though. I don’t know how many people need those New Agey things. We got a,” her voice dropped back down to a stage whisper, “
chiropractor
last year.”

Liza nodded her head, pretending to understand the implication.

“He’s just
now
starting to catch on,” Penny continued. “The ladies here are good Christian women and they don’t like being touched in certain places by men who aren’t their husbands. But I suppose since you’re a woman, it will be just fine.”

Penny did not look hopeful.

It was now all Liza Jane could do to keep a straight face. The can of pineapples began to shake in her unsteady hands as she forced her body to control itself. She mentally gathered her thoughts together and forced her breathing to slow down and ease up. Then she ran a quick, but effective, little charm through her mind that sent a wave of coolness through her body, relaxing her muscles and nerves. It wasn’t much, but it would hold until she reached the check-out counter.

“Well, I certainly hope people will give me a chance,” Liza replied diplomatically once she’d collected herself together.

“Well, at least you don’t
have
to work since your husband has a good job. Rosebud was always bragging about his work with the music group. I’m sure your little business will get along just fine and dandy. It’s nice for a lady to have a hobby these days,” Penny crooned, patting Liza Jane on the arm. “I’d better skedaddle now. I’m making a pot roast for dinner after church tomorrow. Have you found a church yet?”

“I, er…”

“Never mind. You’re coming to mine! Elk Creek Primitive. We don’t allow none of that singing or music nonsense that the Baptists and Methodists seem to carry on about but you’ll
love
our services. They run all morning and our preacher truly gets the spirit deep inside him. I will see you at ten!”

Before Liza could answer, Penny was scurrying off through the considerable number of onlookers, her purple hair a helmet raging her into battle towards the produce.

Since it was a dry county and beer was unavailable, Liza turned and headed back to the candy aisle.

She was going to need a lot more chocolate than she’d initially planned for.

 

BOOK: A Broom With a View
6.73Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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