Being shy means I often feel like I’m weird, or alone, or just too different to be worth anyone’s time. When I was little, I wanted more than anything to not be different, to not stand out and be picked on, so I tried to be like the other girls to get them to like me. I don’t know that it’s ever going to be easy to accept being different, but I learned that I’m terrible at pretending to be like everyone else. Despite the epic humiliations I’ve endured though, there’s a part of me that still doesn’t want to be alone as who I am. That part leapt for joy at Rosie’s words.
If anything could make being a witch seem bearable, it would be knowing that I wasn’t the only one who’d be dealing with it. Or more precisely, that Rosie would be dealing with it, with me. That really made all the difference in the world.
There was just one potential hurdle to overcome.
“Are there anymore cats like you?” I asked September.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I’m a little scared of some of them.”
“Why? What’s wrong with the other talking cats,” Rosie asked.
“Well, some of them are mean,” September said. “And some of them just don’t want me around.”
“Pumpkin seemed like he liked you didn’t he?” I asked and regretted my words the moment I spoke them. It was true that I thought Grandma Apples’ cat was ok with September, but I’d heard those words all too often directed at me when people were talking about someone who I knew only barely tolerated me.
“I guess so,” September said, echoing the words I’d spoken countless times in response to that question.
“He’s already Grandma Apples cat though,” I said, trying to turn the conversation away from my screw up. “But maybe she knows of some other nice ones?”
September perked up at that notion, as did Rosie.
“That sounds great! When are you going to see her?” Rosie asked.
“She told me to come over after school tomorrow,” I said.
“Oh,” Rosie said and looked crestfallen. “I’ve got PT tomorrow.”
Physical therapy was something Rosie had been dealing with since she was nine, when she lost the use of her legs in a car accident. I knew her before the accident, and I saw her almost as much afterwards, except that some days she had doctor’s visits to deal with. I knew she had one coming up but for some reason I hadn’t thought that she’d want to come with me right away. In retrospect that was kind of dim on my part.
“She only had Pumpkin at her place,” I said. “So she’ll probably need to ask around I think. And I can ask her if it would be ok for you to come over the day after tomorrow.”
“Oh yeah, I guess it would be a little rude to show up unannounced,” she said.
“That’s kind of what I did today though,” I said. “Do you think I should bring anything to say I’m sorry?”
“Like a pie?” Rosie asked. “For ‘Grandma Apples’? I don’t know how well that would go over.”
“Yeah, maybe she likes apples or maybe she’s their guardian angel or something?” I said.
“Do you think it’s safe to go back there though?” Rosie asked. “I mean knowing that all this stuff is real?”
“I think so,” I said. “She was nice and she offered me a ride home. She didn’t have to do that.”
“She’s always been nice to me too,” September said.
“Just be careful ok,” Rosie said. “Even nice people can hurt you.”
“I know, but right now, she’s the only one who can explain all this witch stuff,” I said.
“Do you think she’ll teach you any spells?” Rosie asked.
“I don’t know,” I said. “September, do you know anything about how witches cast spells? Is it dangerous?”
“I think it depends on what they try to do,” he said. “I don’t think Grandma Apples would ask you to do anything scary to start with though.”
“Maybe she’ll have you float a feather!” Rosie said.
“Or brew a potion!” I said.
“I think she might teach you how to draw a circle,” September said. “Circles are really important to witches.”
“I already know how to draw circles though!” I said.
“Not like a witches circle,” September said.
I paused to consider that, thinking of all the things I probably didn’t know yet.
“As long as we learn spells eventually,” Rosie said. “We don’t want to rush it and mess things up.”
“That makes sense,” I said.
We chatted for a while after that, making all kinds of plans and asking September a ton of questions that he didn’t know the answer to. Mom dropped off dinner for me in my room since Dad was going to be working late it turned out, which meant extra time on the video call with Rosie and a lot less for my homework.
By the time bed rolled around, all I had were visions of the kind of cool things Rosie and I would be able to do together once Grandma Apples showed us how. Somehow it didn’t hit me until I slid under the covers that there was one thing in particular I needed to ask about; whether magic could be used to heal people?
I’d gotten so used to Rosie in her wheelchair, that I hadn’t even thought of what the real promise of being a witch was for her. If she could learn to cast spells, she might be able to fix her back and walk again! And if she couldn’t do it, maybe I could!
I went to sleep with visions of that dancing in my head and managed to wake up just before dawn, still bouncing at the idea. September stirred at the foot of my bed and I remembered that I’d never asked Mom about him staying with us. She’s come into the room to bring me dinner, but I guess he hadn’t been anywhere she could see at that point.
Shrugging that off, I looked out the window and watched the new day rise. I was so eager for the afternoon to arrive so that I could bolt out of school and race back to Grandma Apples’ place but I also had the oddest feeling that I was forgetting something.
As the sun broke the horizon and the first rays of true daylight gleamed through the window, I felt another presence in the room with me. I turned and looked around but, aside from September, I was alone.
Or at least I thought I was.
I glanced at the mirror over my bureau to see if I looked any different that I had the day before. Looking into it’s depths, I couldn’t answer that question though because the girl who was looking back out of the mirror wasn’t me!