The thought of September fading away, whatever that meant, hit me like a punch to the nose. I think I stepped back twice and clutched him up until he was almost wrapped around my neck.
I couldn’t say why the prospect of losing him seemed so horrifying. I hadn’t known September long enough to feel that protective of him, but I did. Being a talking cat made him kind of special, but neither Grandma Apples or Pumpkin seemed that impressed by it. That wasn’t important though. Septemeber wasn’t just a talking cat, he was my talking cat!
“Now don’t fret,” Grandma Apples said. “I’m sure you’ve got plenty of magic in you.”
“What she doesn’t have is plenty of time,” Pumpkin said.
“I suppose sunset is coming on rather quickly isn’t it?” Grandma Apples glanced out out her window as she finished packing away her groceries. “How about we fly her back home?”
“You have your Tea Circle tonight,” Pumpkin said. He had somehow wriggled into a small kitty apron and was adjusting the ties on it.
“I suppose there’ll be all sorts of holiday business to go over,” Grandma Apples said. She put on an apron that matched the one Pumpkin was wearing and began to assemble little glass and porcelain jars of tea. Some of them were familiar like Jasmine and Assam and Lady Grey. Others were labeled in scripts I couldn’t read or had names that didn’t sound like tea at all. Summer Sunfish and Grated Starlight were odd names for teas, but it was the jars labeled Sorrow’s Recollection and the Mists of History that really made me wonder what Grandma Apples was serving, and whether I wanted to be around when her guests arrived.
“How do you feel about flying on your own my dear?” she asked.
“I…I don’t know how to fly,” I said.
“Oh Sweepy can take care of that,” she said. “You just need to tell her where to go.”
The broom that had been floating behind Grandma Apples rose to attention beside her and gave what I could have sworn was a happy little dance.
“What if I fall off?” I asked.
“Sweepy won’t let that happen,” she said. “If she can keep these old bones floating safely you can be sure a spry young thing like yourself will be able to manage the trip.”
“Do I need to have any magic for it to work?” I asked. I pictured getting on the broom and having it collapse under me the moment I floated outside Grandma Apple’s door.
“Not at all,” she said.
“Are you sure?” I asked. I really didn’t like the idea of plummeting out of the sky because I wasn’t the girl Grandma Apples thought I was.
“Yes dear, I’m sure,” she said. “It’s my broom, so it’s my magic that will get you home. Or do you think the groceries Sweepy was carrying had their own magic too?”
“I don’t know, can food have magic?” I asked.
“You’re a clever one,” Grandma Apples said. “Food has all sorts of magic, but not the kind that makes a broom fly. Not usually anyways.”
I didn’t feel terribly clever, but it was nice to know a little more about witchcraft, or whatever it was Grandma Apples did.
“That sounds very nice then,” I said. “And I can come back here tomorrow?”
“Yes, come after your school lets out,” she said. “We’ll make a pie and get you started on the basics.”
It occurred to me that wandering into the homes of strange old ladies, especially strange old ladies who were witches, was one of the classic fairy tale blunders. September vouched for her though and since she hadn’t tried to stick me in a stew pot or make a doily out of me, the prospect of making a pie didn’t sound too scary.
Grandma Apples finished putting together her tray of teas and whatever else she was serving, reviewed the selections and nodded in satisfaction.
“Thank you,” September said and hid his face back in the crook of my arm.
“You’re quite welcome,” Grandma Apples said as I followed her into the living room. “And don’t worry about Sweepy, she’ll make it back here on her own just fine.”
The broom trotted forth on its bristles and bounced up and down until I transferred September to my right arm and grasped it with my left hand.
I felt a gust of wind swirl around me the moment I touched the broom and noticed that both the broom and I were hovering about a half inch off the ground in the wake of the wind.
“Just tell her your address and she’ll take you there,” Grandma Apples said. “But you might want to get onto her and get outdoors first. She’s a little eager to show off.”
“Ok,” I said. “And thank you again, I’ll see you tomorrow I guess.”
Grandma Apples made a little gesture and the front door swung open on its own accord.
“Tomorrow it is then,” she said and I took the opportunity to head outside with the broom and September in my hands.
Getting onto the broom felt a little weird. I’d played horsey as a little girl and used broomsticks as an imaginary pegasus on more than one occasion. In those cases though I weighed a lot less and the broomstick didn’t need to actually support my weight.
I tried to picture what it would be like to have to balance on an inch thick bar of wood the for whole flight home. In the worst case, I figured I could adjust my weight down onto the top of the bristles where it was at least a bit wider like a real seat. Holding on to the broom and to September was going to be a challenge either way but I didn’t see any good options there.
At least not until September hopped out of my arms and stood at the tip of the broom handle with perfect poise and balance.
“I like Sweepy,” he said as an explanation, because even if he was mine, and even if he could talk, he was still a cat and sometimes cats are just weird.
Not wanting to wait any longer, I straddled the handle and grasped on with both hands. I felt like I was going to crush the wood under my grip but Sweepy didn’t protest. Instead she simply rose off the ground slightly to give me a sense of what flying was going to be like.
All my expectations had been wrong.
It wasn’t like balancing on a narrow stick of wood at all. I felt vast unseen wings beating gently to my sides and the handle underneath me was as solid and sure and broad as any pegasus I’d ever imagined.
“My house is at 15 Sunrise Circle,” I said.
I’d expected we’d lift off and float into the air, pushed along gently by the wings beating beside me.
Again I was wrong.
We blasted off like a rocket! One second we were in front of Grandma Apples’ door, the next we were outracing a shock wave and screaming into the wild blue yonder and I was very glad I was hanging on tightly.