It always gets messy when I blow something up. If I could just learn to control my magic, I might have a fighting chance. Like my stepsisters, for example. They are Faerie Folk and seem to control their simple magic of charms just fine. They make flowers blossom, increase vibrancy in color and work wonders of nature. Their magic always seems to beautify whatever they touch. Mine always seems to destroy.When I was young, my stepsisters teased me and said that I might be a witch. They said it in hushed tones because witches were undesirable. Actually, more than undesirable, they were banished. No one wanted witch magic around when Faerie magic was an option. Witches just weren’t cut out for community living, they said. They were mean and destructive, seeking revenge and power. But I knew I couldn’t be a witch. My father wasn’t a witch and my mother, well, no one knew much about my mother. No one ever talked about her except to say she was different, which made sense because she was from a different part of the land. Both of my parents were outsiders who somehow found a home here. So I guess it wasn’t so hard to believe that I always felt like an outsider. But I wasn’t a witch. I just knew it somehow, deep inside my gut. I wasn’t the same as everyone else and by the way I blew things up, I figured I wasn’t a Faerie, but I couldn’t be a witch.
My father’s birthday cake baked perfectly in the oven, tended by my best friend, Josie, the scullery maid. She is my one and only friend, which is one too many, according to my stepmother and stepsisters. If you asked them, I don’t deserve much of anything except extra chores and cruelly charmed tricks. But in the kitchen, I had found a friend, deserved or not.Josie had grown up in the kitchen. Her mother had been the cook in another home and as soon as she turned 16, she had found work with my father. She should have a family now, with her own young children running around between her feet but instead, she helped raise me. She was considered an old maid now by the village standards, past 30 years old. But I thought she was beautiful and still very capable of love should it ever come along.
The cake cooled quite nicely on the working table in the middle of the servants’ kitchen. Three round cakes, almost an arm’s length each, stacked on top of each other with a thick, smooth layer of sweet cream filling between each. All that was left was the frosting.“But isn’t it sort of morbid?” Josie asked, while pounding spices and flavors into the meat for the dinner feast. “A birthday cake and feast for your dead father? He’s been dead for 10 years now.”
I was searching the kitchen for frosting for the cake and noticed Josie flapping her elbow toward a bowl on a counter against the wall.“I just don’t want to forget him,” I said. I knew that I would never forget him. I could never forget him. But I worried that he was just a means to a wealthy end for my stepmother and a passing stranger to my stepsisters. I didn’t want them to forget that he was the reason they had a home and any wealth that was left. And he was the reason they couldn’t get rid of me, the unwanted step-daughter who never quite fit in.
“And this cake needs to be perfect,” I said, carefully spreading white frosting around the layers. “It needs to be simple and elegant. Strong and quiet, just like he is…was.” I tried to steady my hand but the emotions of loss and loneliness hit hard, as they always did when I missed my father, which seemed like all the time. Time never seemed to bury the feelings deeper than the surface. The stronger the feelings came, the more horrible the frosting seemed to spread. The worse the cake looked, the more frustrated I became and soon enough, the familiar tingle began to stretch from my chest, down my arms and into my fingers.The only good thing that happened when I felt the tingle was, well, nothing. Nothing good ever happened when my power started to charge up. I had no control over it. I tried to get out of the kitchen but I turned my stool over in my haste and bumped into the counter, each fumble costing precious time.
“Dru, come this way,” Josie called, noticing my distress. She motioned me toward the door, knowing what was coming. “Come on Dru. You’ve got to get out of here. I’ve worked too hard on this feast. Out you go.”Then it happened. The power flew right out of my fingers as I was flailing around and hit a jar of syrup that was cooling on the counter opposite the cake. I moved my body in front of the cake just in time to take the brunt of the explosion. The cake was saved but I was a sticky mess. I began to fade just as quickly as the syrup hit me. That is my other power, fading. Destroying things gets me into trouble and fading is how I try to avoid being punished for it.
“Get out of here,” said Josie, exasperation laced in her words. “I’m not sure where you are now, but just get on. You clean yourself up for the feast and,” she looked back at the broken jar of syrup and smirked, “I’ll clean this mess.”Hauling two buckets of hot water up to my attic room, I couldn’t wait to wash the syrup out of my hair. The syrup dripped from the long, dark unruly curls, which never seemed to stay put. I could feel my eyelashes sticking together every time I blinked. And heaven knows my old skirt and blouse needed a washing. I only had two pair, so I wore my worn out outfit as long as I could before changing. I was anxious to undress and wash the rest of my sticky body.
Near the top of the stairs, I heard a noise coming from my room. Quieting my footsteps and thinking it might be a mouse, I readied my bucket in my fist to drop on the rodent if it scurried under the door. I wondered if I should risk using the power I had very little control over to take care of the mouse or just use the weight of the bucket. As I got closer I heard a voice. By the prickles on my arms and the urge to strangle someone, I knew it was my stepmother. “What is she doing in my room?” I wondered. Quietly I laid the buckets on the landing at the top of the stairs and peeked through the slightly open door.Estell, my stepmother was rummaging through the chest drawers directly across from the door. “Where is it? It must be here somewhere. It should be mine. Well, it really shouldn’t be mine but I can’t let it be hers,” she mumbled to herself, turning over the contents of the drawers, which wasn’t much. “This is disgusting,” she said, holding up some underclothing. “So many holes. Which one is for the arm or the leg? Ugly clothes for an ugly girl. I just need to find to find that brooch.” She closed the drawer and looked under the bed, still mumbling. “Stupid husband, to give it to her. Stupid, stupid witch wife. I won’t let it ruin me.”
I began to get mad and felt my face tense and spread along my shoulders. I didn’t have much of my own. When my father died, my stepmother redistributed most of the things in the house, moving valuables and collectibles to her room and her daughters’ rooms. She had taken most of the nice things I had, including dresses and furniture and given them to her daughters and moved my room to the empty attic. But these were my private things; my private, wear-under-my-clothing things. I just couldn’t tolerate the thought of my stepmother looking through my things any longer.When I heard Estell mention the brooch, my body flushed with heat and syrup began to drip from my hands and dark hair. The brooch was the only thing I had left of my mother. It was my mother’s brooch, given to me by my father on his deathbed. I would never forget the words he uttered as he pressed it into my hand. “This will be a protection to you and a comfort. It contains the secret of your heritage and may one day save your life.” Caught up in the memory, I didn’t notice my hands beginning to shake.
My stepmother pulled a box from under the bed and opened it. “Hmm, well this is interesting,” she said. I knew she had found the box of dried flowers, from both her parents’ funerals. White flowers my father had saved from my mother’s casket when I was just a baby and red flowers I had saved from my father’s casket. They were old and withered but beyond value to me. My stepmother dumped the flowers onto the bedroom floor. “What a waste,” she said.I felt a sharp sting as the magic flew from my fingers into the buckets of water I had set on the floor on either side of me. Just as the buckets shattered into a million splintered pieces, covering the stairs with water, there was a rush of action and loud noise from downstairs. Estell stood abruptly and listened. I was silent and fading as the chaos grew loud and urgent from downstairs. Josie was trying to yell over the stepsisters, who were all three yelling for my stepmother. Without a word, Estell walked right across the flowers, crushing them into dust and walked out of the room, not noticing me, faded, in the corner.