Authors: Mindy Klasky
Tags: #Fiction, #Contemporary, #Occult & Supernatural, #Humor, #Topic, #Relationships, #Magic, #Witchcraft, #Romance, #Fantasy, #Witch, #Chicklit
SINGLE WITCH’S SURVIVAL GUIDE
Copyright 2013 by Mindy Klasky
Published by Book View Café
Cover by Reece Notley
All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.
This is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. Thank you for respecting the author’s work.
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who helps me find what follows “happily ever after” every day
THIS IS A story about what follows “happily ever after.” After the girl gets the guy, after she outgrows a job she loved, after she figures out who she is and who she wants to be.
Because, really? It doesn’t take long for things to go sideways. Sometimes, you don’t even realize that the entire world is fracturing all around you, because on the surface everything seems happy and easy and perfect. Spoiler alert: those are the times you really need to open your eyes. Otherwise, it just might be too late.
“Earth to Jane! Paging Jane Madison!”
I shook my head as I looked up from the smooth orb of rose quartz I balanced on my palm. The stone was supposed to represent love and peace and happiness, but I wasn’t getting a hint of spiritual warmth. I was just trying to find a good place to store a rock in the mess that surrounded me. “I’m sorry, Neko,” I said. “I wasn’t listening.”
“Obviously.” My familiar clicked his tongue in disapproval. “What I said was, ‘What are you doing with
garbage?’” He sighed in theatrical disgust as he pinched a slender paperback book between his dainty thumb and forefinger. His disdain harkened back to his feline roots—Neko might present as a human male now, but he’d begun life as a giant onyx statue of a cat. Many days, I was tempted to send him back to that form.
Now, though, I cringed as I glanced at the book he was holding.
Better Spellcasting in Seven Days
. The title was picked out in a lurid swirl of purple and pink. Neko started to read from the back cover. “Are your spells low energy? Is your astral focus flagging? Looking for a lift in your magical life?” My familiar raised one leering eyebrow. “I didn’t realize you spent good money on magic porn.”
“I didn’t buy that! They just sent it to me. I’ve been on some mailing list ever since I registered the magicarium with Hecate’s Court.”
The magicarium. It had sounded so glamorous when I first came up with the idea: A school for witches, an exclusive institution of higher learning devoted to teaching the extraordinary witch how to access her inner powers. The Jane Madison Academy.
I’d actually shivered the first time I said the name to myself. Problem was, it was a lot easier to complete the Court’s registration paperwork than it was to get the academic ball actually rolling. Eight months had gone by, and I was still settling into my new home, the farmhouse owned by my warder and boyfriend, David Montrose.
(Boyfriend! That sounded like I was fifteen years old. But “beau” belonged in a historical romance, and “lover” left too little to the imagination. “Significant other” might appear on some government form. “Steady”, “sugar”, “flame”… Yeah. Right. My mother called David her sin-in-law, but that didn’t exactly help
. I’d grit my teeth and live with “boyfriend.”)
In any case, the magicarium had been slow getting out of the gate. Here in the Maryland countryside, an hour from Washington D.C., I was still unpacking boxes. Still organizing books and crystals and herbs. Still trying to figure out what I’d do if I ever enrolled an actual student. Or hired an actual teacher. Or, really, did anything substantive to make the magicarium more than a figment of my overactive imagination.
David was losing patience with me. I was losing patience with me. And that was why I’d vowed on the first day of June that I would have the entire basement organized by the end of the month. Two hours a day. That should have been more than enough to bring order to my magical life.
I didn’t need to look at a calendar to know that there was only a single weekend left between me and defeat. No problem. I could pull an all-nighter tonight, and Saturday, too. I could stay down here, working without interruption. Without distraction. Without—
“Come and get it!” David’s voice rang down the stairs.
Fine. I’d start my marathon after dinner. I needed sustenance to work through the night. Neko followed me up the stairs to the kitchen, and I swear I could hear him smirking with every step.
David was honing a butcher knife against a steel, all of his attention focused on the precise angle of the blade. The overhead light danced off the silver at his temples, mellowing his black hair. His dark brown eyes glinted as he concentrated, relaxed but alert.
A pottery serving platter rested on the center island, cradling a massive grilled steak. Ears of corn nestled in a pottery bowl, their husks perfectly charred, hinting at the roasted kernels inside. Another bowl held thick rings of sweet onion and strips of Anaheim pepper, all speckled with black, testifying to the time they’d spent kissed by fire. A bottle of pinot noir was breathing nearby.
The food was perfect, as much a symphony for my eyes as my nose. Neko clearly thought so as well; a small whine escaped the back of his throat. The sound was matched perfectly by Spot, the oversize black Lab who watched longingly from his plaid bed in the corner of the kitchen.
David laughed. “You,” he said to the dog, “have already had your dinner. And you,” he nodded toward Neko, “can take down a plate and join us.”
Neko sighed dramatically. “I can’t. Jacques and I are going to a party.” Nevertheless, he leaned in as David made the first cut into the porterhouse, and he stole the end slice with nimble fingers. Moaning in culinary ecstasy, he began to angle for another piece.
“Back, thief!” David said, angling the knife in a mock threat.
Neko pouted, but he edged away. “You could always save us a bite or two…” he bargained.
“You could always grill your own steak,” David countered evenly. “One that
purchased, using your
money, during your
trip to the grocery store.”
The grandfather clock in the hallway began to toll, and Neko looked shocked at the time. He gulped, “Jacques is waiting for me in the city. We have a birthday party to go to, and our costumes aren’t even close to finished.”
I felt a little guilty; he’d kept me company all afternoon, and I didn’t have any significant magicarium progress to show. I tried to make up for the wasted time by issuing a witchy command: “
!” I pushed a little power into the word, astral energy that Neko immediately caught up and spun to his best advantage. Without so much as a shimmer, he disappeared from the kitchen. I could give him a magical command to return him to the pied-à-terre the guys kept in town, but on the costume front, he was on his own.
I sighed as I retrieved a couple of wine glasses from the cupboard. I really
started the day with the best of intentions. I’d imagined I would make it through half the boxes down there, organizing the books, finding appropriate shelves for all the crystals, my runes, a handful of rowan wands.
Discouraged, I poured the pinot with a generous hand and began to serve up our feast. While I alternated slices of ruby steak with onions and peppers, David shucked the roasted corn. He made short work of it, slicing off the stem end with his sharp blade, then slipping the ear free from silk and husk at the same time.
“Don’t burn yourself!” I said.
He grinned. “We’re a good month into corn season. I’m an expert by now.”
Conceding David’s point with a smile, I carried our plates to our cozy kitchen table.
kitchen table. I could hardly believe how easily those words came to me. A lot had changed in the three years since David first appeared as my warder. The first night I met him, I’d thought he was as headstrong and obnoxiously proud as Jane Eyre’s Mr. Rochester. To this day, I’d never quite summoned the courage to ask what he’d thought of me on that literally dark and stormy night.
In the intervening years, we’d had a few bumps in the road—failed romances (mine), misapplied witchcraft (mine), dysfunctional family follies (mine). Okay.
had a few bumps in the road. But David had always been there for me, patient and understanding. And when he’d invited me to move in the previous October, I hadn’t hesitated a heartbeat.
“What?” he asked, settling his napkin in his lap.
“You were smiling.”
I glanced down at my plate, suddenly shy. I
been smiling. But that didn’t mean I was going to tell him precisely what I’d been thinking. There was no reason to inflate his self-esteem quite that much. I cut a bite of steak, taking care to add the perfect accent of charred onion. Before I could figure out a reply I was willing to share, the phone rang.
“Saved by the bell,” David said wryly.
I glanced over my shoulder and squinted at the Caller ID. CLARA SMYTHE. My mother was the last person I wanted to interrupt our dinner. I’d prefer a million relationship conversations with David over five minutes of Clara’s craziness. “Let it go,” I said.
“She’ll just call you on your cell.”
“And I’ll let that one go to voicemail, too! Stop! Your dinner will get cold!”
“Steak’s good at any temperature,” David said as he snatched the phone from its receiver on the last ring. I knew he’d grab it. He had to. David was my mother’s warder, as much as he was mine.
“Clara!” His voice was soft with a smile. “What a pleasure to hear from you. No, no, we aren’t doing anything at all.”
I gesticulated toward our plates of food. We
doing something. David only shrugged, obviously amused by my mother’s so-called offbeat charm. I grimaced.
“Of course,” he said. “She’s right here. Just a moment.”
After he passed the phone to me, I covered the receiver. “You could have told her we were eating dinner!”
“And then she would have called back later. When you didn’t have an excuse to get off the phone so quickly.”
Well, when he put it like that…. I made a quick vow to follow his lead, to be more accommodating, more accepting of the woman who had given birth to me. “Mother!” I said, forcing myself to smile as I spoke.
So much for smiling. I reminded her tersely: “Jane.” My mother was the only person in the world who called me Jeanette—the name she’d bestowed on me right before she handed me off to my grandmother and walked out of my life for over two decades. Yielding to Gran’s fierce determination over the past few years, Clara and I had reached a sort of detente, a necessary compromise because all three of us held witchy powers. Those powers, though, apparently did not extend to my own mother remembering my preferred name for longer than twenty-seven seconds.
“I hope it’s not too late to call, Jeanette.” Clara had a casual relationship with time zones. On one call, she was likely to think our Maryland home was six hours ahead of her Arizona retreat. The next time, she’d count in the wrong direction, calculating that we were three hours behind.
“Of course not,” I said. “In fact, we were just eating dinner.” I shot David a dirty look as he took an enthusiastic bite of steak. He didn’t even bother to look abashed while he chewed and swallowed.
“Ah…” Clara sighed with obvious distress, as if I’d just told her about some wicked man who spent his days kicking kittens. I could picture her as she exhaled—flyaway hair more red than my own, bright hazel eyes glinting beneath an oil slick of dramatic gold eyeshadow. She certainly wore one of her caftans, its long silk panels carefully chosen to complement her current aura. Or to counter the energy of the Vortex being out of balance. Or whatever other crazy idea she was playing with in Sedona that day. “I thought you might be doing a working. Something for the Academy.”