Grandma Apple’s house had the kind of interior that made me want to spend a week exploring it. There was stuff everywhere, but none of it seemed messy. There was a place for all the things and all the things were in their place. I couldn’t stop staring though, because there were so many things!
Shelves full of clear glass bottles, each carefully labeled and arranged. Books and knick knacks and candles and various tool and measuring instruments, all of them sorted and filed into spots that fit them perfectly. I had less than a tenth the stuff that Grandma Apple did, but my room was ten times messier than her house was.
It wasn’t just the sights either. The air smelled wonderful once we stepped inside. There were logs burning in the fireplace in the living room, with a small pile of additional wood waiting on the side to be fed into to keep the blaze going. Over the fire, a large, black, iron pot hung. From inside it, the sweet and savory smells of a stew that fit to serve royalty wafted up and made my mouth water.
“That smells so good,” I said. It wasn’t my fault that I was practically drooling, lunch was hours ago and I’d only had a peanut butter sandwich.
“We’ll have some if you’ll stay for dinner,” Grandma Apples said.
“Thank you, but I was hoping you’d know how I could get back home?” I said.
“That depends, where do live?” she asked.
“My house is on Sunrise Circle,” I told her. I knew better than to give my address to a stranger, but I didn’t think Grandma Apples would be able to help me much is didn’t tell her where I needed to go.
“Sunrise Circle?” she asked. “I’m not familiar with that road. What was your name dear?”
“Penny,” I said. “Penny Rodriguez.”
“And your mother’s name?”
“Gabriella,” I said and added, “I don’t think it’s too far away. I walked here after school.”
“Oh, that’s easy then,” Grandma Apples said, “Just walk back there.”
“I don’t know any of these streets though,” I said.
“That’s ok,” she said. “They know you.”
I didn’t know how to respond to that, so I settled for watching her put her groceries away. Her refrigerator was an old model without a brand on it, but it sparkled like the rest of the house. For the size of it, I didn’t think she’d be able to fit the groceries that she brought into it, especially after seeing how full it started out. Somehow though, she was able to make room for the eggs and the milk and the ice cream and all the other things she brought that needed to stay cool.
“So I don’t have to click my heels together three times?” I asked.
“You can if you like, some witches use that as a focusing trick, but you don’t really need it.” she said.
“Oh, but I’m not a witch though!” I said. As I spoke the words I wanted to take them back. If Grandma Apples was being nice because she thought I was a witch, what would she do when she discovered I was just a normal girl? Visions of fairy tales danced through my head. Was the stew pot big enough to fit me? Or was the oven bigger on the inside like the refrigerator was?
“Of course you’re a witch dear,” Grandma Apples said, apparently uninterested in popping me in either the stew pot or the oven. I didn’t want to argue with her, but if the path home took witchcraft to walk I felt like I was pretty doomed.
“Only witches can make it here,” she said. “You’ve made it here, so you’re a witch.”
That didn’t sound like a very convincing argument to me but, since she seemed happy with it, I wasn’t about to argue.
“Where is ‘here’?” I asked.
“You could be asking about my house, but I suspect you’re asking about the Winding Woods?” she said.
“The Winding Woods are the place the witches live?” I asked.
“Some of us,” she said. “And we’re not the only ones who live here.”
“Indeed,” a black and orange tomcat said as he strolled in the room. “Some of us were here long before humans moved in.”
I jumped at hearing another cat talk. Somehow it seemed appropriate that September could talk, despite that making no sense either. Another talking cat meant I was that much more wrong in how I thought the world worked.
“Don’t frighten the dear thing Pumpkin,” Grandma Apples said.
“It’s seems someone has already managed that,” Pumpkin said, hopping up to inspect the groceries that Grandma Apples hadn’t yet put away.
“They do have that look about them don’t they?” she said. “Tell me child, what has set you off your course? You encountered something frightening no so long ago didn’t you?”
I looked at September, not sure what I was supposed to say.
“It’s ok,” he said and crouched into my arms to hide a little more.
So I told them about the girls, or boggins, that I saw tormenting September. There wasn’t a lot of story to tell, but Grandma Apples and Pumpkin listened politely through my whole stumbling description of what happened.
“That’s rather disturbing,” Pumpkin said.
“I know!” I said. “How could they be so mean?”
“Pumpkin wasn’t referring to the boggins,” Grandma Apple said. “He concerned at how young you seem to be.”
“I’m thirteen!” I said, as though that was old enough to matter to a witch and a talking cat.
“Not as a girl, as a witch,” Pumpkin said. “You haven’t yet seen your first nightfall or your first sunrise.”
“Is that important?” I asked.
“You’ll want to be home for those.” Grandma Apples said. “A witches first nightfall and sunrise are special. Its when we meet our shadows and our seemings. Its best that we be somewhere familiar when that happens or we can lose ourselves for a while.”
“I don’t understand,” I said. It felt like I could have said when I first met Grandma Apples and just kept repeating it.
“You will,” Grandma Apples said. “And you won’t, not right away. Come back tomorrow though. We need to start teaching you how to practice your magic.”
“What if I don’t have any magic?” I asked. Again, it sounded like a dumb question the moment I said the words, but I’d never even managed to do a card trick right. The idea of casting spells or making a broom levitate seemed laughable.
“If you don’t have any magic?” Grandma Apples asked. “If that were true then September would fade away I’m afraid.”