Chapter One: The Apothecary
“So how are customers liking the remodel, Serena?” Lydia asked, looking over a new display charms. There was everything from pentacles for witches to flowers and herbs magically preserved in resin for fairies and other nature creatures. "It’s good to see you back at it after so long.”
“Well, the number of witches coming in has gone down a bit but the number of other Nocturnals coming in has more than made up for that. Did I tell you that your daughter and I had a gargoyle in here the other day?” Serena, the apothecary shop owner, replied while helping her niece finish a potion they were working on. She ignored her sister’s last comment. “Tell your mom about it, Layla.”
“Yeah, he had big wings and talons. I got to help make the skin cream he asked for. Aunt Serena says rough, stony skin is a common gargoyle problem,” the thirteen year old said, tucking a loose strand of light brown hair behind her ear. she tried so hard to sound like she knew what she was talking about even though she was just starting her witch training.
“I’m impressed. It sounds like you’ve been a big help since Serena took over Grandma’s store. But are you sure you wouldn’t rather train with me at the clinic? We always need a few more healing hands.” Lydia asked, not for the first time since Layla had asked to apprentice under Serena instead of her mother. The daughter might look just like her mother with the same light brown hair and blue eyes but she leaned more toward her aunt when it came to behavior.
“Mom, I’m an earth witch. We both know that Serena should train me since she’s an earth witch too. I don’t belong at the clinic healing with the water witches. Potion making is something I actually have a talent for.” Layla said, putting a cork on the vial of potion she’d just filled.
“It’s true. She’s a prodigy.” Serena agreed, remembering two weeks ago when Layla had first considered working at the shop. She’d been trying to help at the clinic like her mother wanted but every time she attempted a healing spell failed. So when Serena saw how defeated her niece looked, she had asked Layla to help her make a potion. It went much better than the girl’s healing spells. Having her here was good for both of them.
“Fine, I wont ask again. Listen, I’ve got to get to the clinic now. We’re training a new doctor. I’ll see you at home and try to be good, Layla.” Lydia said, kissing Layla’s cheek before hurrying off.
“She worries too much.” Layla muttered before turning back to the potion. “What does this do anyway?”
“It’s a super fertilizer. This potion uses the dust of woodland sprites to make plants grow better and much faster. Put it in the gardening section, please.” Serena explained ask she cleaned up.
“How did you get that?” Layla asked incredulously while putting the new vials in their place next to a weed killing spray and a charm kit that creates a barrier around gardens to keep pests out.
“Well, in the past, witches and other hunters would track down the creatures with useful parts. The creatures would often die in the process but now hunting other Nocturnals is illegal. Of course, I’ve never done that. my ingredients that come from other Nocturnals are either sold or traded to me by that creature. Speaking of which,” Serena explained and jerked her head to the door as a particular customer came in.
“Ah, good morning Serena and Layla,” the customer, a vampiress, said cheerfully while removing a big hat and sunglasses. Then she shook her scarlet hair out and directed her black eyes on Serena. “I see you finally replaced that wooden door handle. Now I wont have to wear gloves to enter your shop.” She beamed, flashing fangs.
“Welcome, Nyssa. I’ve actually gotten rid of anything designed to ward off any species of Nocturnal. I cater to everyone. Speaking of, you ready for our business?” Serena asked, grabbing a package from behind the checkout counter.
“Gloves? Why would you need gloves to come in?” Layla wondered aloud. She watched as Nyssa set down her hat and sunglasses then took out a box of her own from her purse.
“Since you’re young, I’ll forgive you not knowing, Layla. There are only three things that wound vampires: wood, Fire, and sunlight. Thanks to your aunt, I don’t have to worry about the sun as much. As long as it’s not direct, continuous contact, I’m free to walk around with minor difficulties. She makes me a potion every week that negates most of the sun’s effects on me and in exchange, I give her a pint of my blood.” Nyssa explained, exchanging packages with Serena. The vampiress safely tucked hers into her black bag.
“Oh, because vampire blood is used to cure severe wounds and illness, right?” Layla said, looking at the box in Serena’s hands.
“That’s right. Too bad it can’t mend Serena’s broken heart or her sense of fashion. Seriously, you’ll never find another guy by hiding your assets behind aprons and braids. Let that black hair down and come out with me some time.” Nyssa walked around Serena and stole the hair tie off the end of the braid then untied her apron.
“Please, Nyssa. I’m at work. And I’m over Shawn, believe me.” Serena insisted, trying to keep her green apron on as she snagged the hair tie back. Her plaited hair was coming undone quickly and swaying down her back.
“But you haven’t moved on. When was the last time you even talked to a man that wasn’t a customer? You really should get out more,” Nyssa was full of concern for her friend. It wasn’t healthy to keep to yourself as much as Serena did.
Serena honestly had no good answer. After her ordeal with Shawn, she’d thrown herself into her work with the shop and had barely left it since. She’s moved from the apartment they’d shared to the loft upstairs too. This place felt like the only thing in her life her ex hadn’t damaged. Shawn had been like a hurricane, tearing things up at the roots and leaving them broken in his wake. Serena wished she’d never met him.
“I’ve been busy but it’s not like I never intended to get back out there. I just might not be ready yet.” Serena said honestly, taking pride in what she’d managed to accomplish in the last eight months.
“Well I hope you are ready soon. It bothers me to see you stuck where you are,” Nyssa said with a hand on Serena’s shoulder.
“Thanks for the concern but I’ll be fine. Maybe sometime I’ll let you take me to that club of yours.” Serena smiled, not wanting to be stuck.
“I’ll hold you to that. See you both Later.” Nyssa winked before leaving the shop. Serena sighed and went back to work.