Newbie in town
Thornwood. What a strange name for a town lying beside a narrow river called Pantego and a mysterious forest that holds secrets neither the mortals nor the witches could ever describe or understand. It was a morning rich in sunshine, which in my case meant, it was already noon. On weekends I can get lazy and sleep in. What always gives me the motivation to get out of bed is the way I crave coffee. I am only sixteen, but I drink caffeine every day. It’s a habit I learned from my parents and sister, Emily. We are a coffee driven family. When somebody wants some, everybody wants some - that’s the unwritten rule. Mom opened my door and said, “Aren’t you going to come downstairs to eat something?” My sister was standing behind her, peeking in and smiling sarcastically. She likes to poke the bear a lot until it results in a fight, and mom starts yelling. I am pretty much used to it because others at school made fun of me just like she does. This is why I believe I am somewhat allowed to hold my defenses against her. Usually, we tickle each other because we are both very sensitive to it, and it doesn’t involve physical harm. This time around, she was no different. Em started poking me with sarcastic questions that motivated me to jump out of bed and get back at her. Sibling rivalry is real in our house. We love each other, but sometimes we can have a nasty fight in front of everyone too. There is a ten-year difference between us, but we can be just as childish as the other kids who grew up together and are in the same age range. Mom wouldn’t let me out, and my sister kept using magic on me, so I did the same. We have this prank thing; it includes blowing air with magic into the face or ear of each other unexpectedly. It is annoying and irritating, especially when you want to clap back, but mom stops you and says it’s your fault. I always take the blame when my sister pranks me, but it doesn’t work the other way around. She was doing the same this time; she waved her fingers and air began to blow on my ears and face. I was furious, and mom had no idea what to do, so she stood there trying to act like she was in charge. I was mad. Mom wanted to hold my hands down to stop me from using magic, but we all know, I am more creative than that. As mom was holding my hands, my sister felt victorious over me. Suddenly, I moved my head swiftly, which would mess up her long red hair. It was blown straight into her face. I laughed at her, and mom said, “Enough the both of you!” She thought we lost the appetite for more pranks, so we went to the stairs to walk down. I wanted to surprise my sister, but she noticed me, so she trans-mutated to somewhere else in the house, which was enough for her to escape my spell. She was sitting already at the kitchen island as we got down with mom. I sat down next to her. All I wanted is to enjoy my toast and half-victory upstairs, but she had to continue being herself. I ignored everything Em had to say and tried to enjoy my meal and then drink my coffee in peace. Mom broke the silence by asking me, “Have you chosen a familiar yet? You know, Jerrie could always use the companion of a female dog.” - Jerrie is our dog. He was lying on the ground while we talked to each other. My eye was twitching in my mind from what I just heard. I hate this dog; he doesn’t behave and receives no scolding at all. I told mom several times that for one, I can’t decide, and for two, I would never want a dog - we already have two. I was into the idea of having a cat or a bird. However, mom was pretty much against it because I already have eight fish in our old aquarium. She pointed out that I can’t have a cat or a bird if I do not clean the fish tank every once in a while. I mean, I help when it is time to do the job, but it always starts with mom or dad. The water gets dirty and green, and the whole kitchen and living room stinks when we open the lid so you can imagine why I am not keen on putting my hands in there. I like to keep fish; I always wanted them. I lost interest in the hobby after a while, and since then, I couldn’t get back in. Maybe one day, just not right now.
After breakfast, I went upstairs to my room to get dressed. Right after I finished, I sat down at my desk and started looking for animal pictures on the Internet. I cried over - metaphorically speaking - the pictures of animals I am never going to be allowed to keep at home, like a cat. I don’t understand why mom is so disapproving of my ideas. She has this fixed mentality where new things are considered harmful and destructive. I was scrolling through the images and saw a flock of ravens sitting on a tree, and it instantly clicked in my head; what if I had a raven? - although I wasn’t sure how to go about this. I could not imagine how I would be able to own a raven. They are one of the animals I like the most, and to keep them is a challenge itself. They are free spirits. You can’t lock them up or scold them to behave. If the challenges a raven brings you weren’t enough, you also need a license for that. You need to be a registered owner of a raven or face charges. For a second, I frowned and almost turned my mood into pure sadness, but then I got an idea, “What if I used magic? I could summon one! I am a witch after all; it can’t be that hard!” I can get very excited by planning out new ideas, and this wasn’t any different. I was already thinking way before ahead. I pictured this image in my head where I own an actual raven and call it my familiar; it cheered me up. I don’t know myself completely yet, but I can already tell that I like to invent new things. Things that never existed before. Creativity is my strong suit and the only free time interest that makes me forget how hard life is. I was bullied at school for being different and not fitting in; I was the school’s weird kid. Sometimes those memories crawl back into my thoughts again and can ruin my whole self-esteem; I tend to over-analyze situations. You know the kind of feeling when you close your eyes at night, and suddenly, your brain says, “Girl, not yet; remember that time from three years ago when you embarrassed yourself in front of everyone?” And then there goes my sleep. I usually stay up for another hour, laying in the darkness in my bed with wide-open eyes and strong anger, trying to negotiate with my brain so it would be kind enough to stop the crap and let me fall asleep. This is the reason why I chose to embrace my creative side over the analytical one. It helps me to forget about everything and turns me off mentally. I have a lot to thank for creativity; it was there for me when no one else was. Those ideas and concepts I came up with, helped me feel understood and belong somewhere. When I think about my creations, I always treat them as a part of me; my ideas would never judge me or beat me after school. And this is why this idea I came up with meant a lot to me. By looking at the picture I found of the ravens, I had to come up with a conclusion in myself; I want a raven as a familiar, period. I am better than the thoughts that would keep me away from doing what I am passionate about. This way, I managed to keep up my motivation longer and began to develop solutions to its execution. Whenever I get excited about something new, I have an automated instinct to tell everyone. I looked at the picture for a few more seconds and then stood up from my desk to walk downstairs and tell someone willing to listen. I felt like a child when he is excited to tell about his discoveries but in teenager edition. Mom was washing dishes at the sink, and Em was on her laptop, texting someone. I went closer to the kitchen counter and sat down there to tell mom about the idea I came up with. “So I was thinking… and figured out what familiar I want.” which sounded shy, in my opinion. I knew whom I was talking to, and having confidence in new ideas in front of mom is a no-go zone. She prefers to do things the usual way. “Oh? So what is it then?” she sounded harsh and curious at the same time. I had to swallow before I could say anything else. “So I was looking at pictures, taking notes, collecting ideas… and I found one, and it caught my attention; I think I would want a raven familiar if you let me.” I was trying to keep it low and avoid making her angry. She raised her head and said, “A raven?! Not in this house! They are expensive and…” she reminded me about the hassles of owning a raven, which I already knew. I was listening and waiting for her to stop talking. After losing patience, I said, “I know, mom, that’s why I wanted to do it magically. I was thinking about a ritual or spell of some sort.” She wasn’t keen on the idea of conjuring an animal out of nothing. Her reaction was speechless and frightened. The kitchen was silent, and even my sister was listening to us. Something was up; I just didn’t understand it. Mom didn’t say anything. I was questioning the situation because I had no idea whether I said something wrong or not. Suddenly, she started talking again, “There is going to be no familiar summoning at all. You can choose a real pet or nothing, but no magic.” Her answer didn’t feel satisfying at all. I could feel she was not telling me something, but sadly mom is always like this. Whenever there comes up an issue we should discuss, she turns off and ignores everything around her. It leaves the other person frustrated and confused. I didn’t want to poke the bear even though there was an obvious elephant in the room. I let her be with the dirty dishes and started walking upstairs, disappointed. Em watched me as I was going up and followed me while holding her stuff in her hands. She told me to go to her room and let’s talk. She has a couch-bed, which was large enough for both of us to sit down and have the talk she initiated. I knew she was going to say something about mom; I know her. I said, “Do you know anything about why she reacted like that?” I could see, she was preparing for something important to talk about. Her sigh told me more about the level of a mess I was in than I could ever guess. “You brought up something that you shouldn’t have. Mom’s problem with what you said is that it reminded her of something from the past. There are things about our family you don’t know yet.” Said Em while sounding mysterious and creepy at the same time. There are very few occasions when I see my sister being this serious, but I liked it, I like the adult talk. I was curious to find out what she meant, and I asked her, “Things like what exactly?” She was feeling guilty for telling me about this, I could tell. The hesitation and the way she didn’t know where to start making it very clear. I wanted to help her somehow, but I felt helpless, just like her, so I said, “Come on, you can tell me!” After a few seconds of doubt, she started talking, and I listened closely to what she had to say. Emily started talking and introduced a whole new side of our family that I never knew existed. “Mom and dad had a child before you. Her name was Samantha, and she was born seven years before you. She could do advanced spells and magic when she was only thirteen. She was exceptional and strong-willed, and that is what ended her life. She never behaved or kept her magic at bay when mom told her to. She was careless and dangerous to others.” I had to stop Em so I could take in and understand everything she said. My sister telling me I had another older sister is something I would never have guessed in a million years. I tried to phrase a question that would seem smart, but all I could come up with is “What happened to her? How did she die? I had mixed feelings, and I didn’t know what else to say. She continued the storytelling, so I didn’t have to say anything. “She was a conjurer. She liked to use magic to make anything appear to her. Some days the spells included summoning sweets mom forbid her to eat before dinner, then it got gradually worse when she started to sneak out of the house on her broom. No matter how many times mom took it away, she created a new one. She wasn’t behaving at all. Obeying parental rules wasn’t an option for her. Mom and dad had to work hard to put food on the table and ensure a roof above our heads. When they were working, grandma and I took care of you and Samantha when nobody else was home. Grams suggested, mom should bind Samantha’s magic, but she refused to. She believed Samantha would grow out of it one day, and the guilt of not raising her child with good morals was too much for mom. She didn’t want to admit she failed at being a parent. Luckily, you were a calm child, playing by yourself and not harming anyone. You liked to move toys in the air and watch them as they flew around you. But Samantha… she was a troubled kid. You were only six when she decided to use her magic to scare you whenever she felt like it. Each spell of hers was a test to see how much she could freak you out. After about four or five tries, she figured out that you are afraid of spiders. I remember those days when she was begging me to make her some food so she would have time to poke you with magic. You didn’t even know what was going on. However, you were crying after an encounter because Samantha had the talent to present things differently, which made everything seem much worse than they actually were. She played jokes on you many times. I stopped her when I saw her doing it to you, but one day I was not there, and it was fatal this time. You were in your room; the door was open. Samantha was standing in the hall at your door, looking at you and her hand pointing at you. I had a plate of food in my hand as I was coming upstairs to give it to her when I saw her doing magic. She used a summoning spell, but in this case, it turned into a complete disaster. Conjuration is an advanced technique, and it takes time to practice it safely. She wanted to summon something monstrous in your room that would scare the living Hell out of you. She failed, but something happened nonetheless. Her spell went wrong, and instead of summoning a spider, she opened a portal thin enough for a demon to come through. The plate I was holding in my arm fell and broke as I saw a creature of Hell emerging out of nothing in our house. Banishing demons is not something I was good at. I was desperately trying to come up with spells, but the demon easily diverted all of them. At that moment, even Samantha was shaken and scared; I never saw her like that before. The demon took Samantha, and as I was trying to run towards you to grab you, that thing pushed me away, and I fell off the stairs. I blacked out, and the next thing I remember is mom being home and holding a pack of frozen beans to my forehead on the couch downstairs. She didn’t know what was up. All she saw was her oldest daughter lying unconscious on the floor. You were alone, crying heavily, and her other daughter was gone. I told her what happened, but I couldn’t explain how the demon disappeared or the reason it didn’t take you too. She told me I wasn’t taking proper care of the two of you and that I wasn’t responsible enough. It destroyed and left a scar on our family. I wanted to make it right, but I couldn’t. We couldn’t afford the dangers of summoning the demon again, and after several failed spells, we decided to give up. Everybody coped differently, but the worst part was the burial. After years of not finding her, the police declared her dead. We had an empty casket and told the public that Samantha was kidnapped. Now I think you have a good idea of why mom and dad drink a lot. Those empty glasses they throw out represent every painful memory of theirs. I can’t help them even though I want to. Mom forgave me, but going through all this; I don’t think we will ever be able to move on truly. As you were growing up, I healed through the times we spent together by reminding myself that I did everything possible. I never wanted to lose another sibling to magic. I am sorry for not telling you this earlier. Mom and Dad decided not to talk about it ever again; it’s just painful for everyone.” She finished her monologue, and I was even more speechless now. I was sitting there and decided to hug her and say something nice. “It’as not your fault. You did everything you could.” She started crying and said, “Yeah, I wish I could have done more.”
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