I needed to do something to keep busy. I didn’t miss my job at the investment firm. I hated pushing paper around. Since Granny had left me a considerable chunk of change, I decided I could do without the snotty, shallow fashionistas in the office. There wasn’t enough money to last the rest of my life, but it was more then enough to tide me over until I found a job I liked. Mother had told fortunes. She was very good at it. Me, not so much. I had feelings, hunches. Mother could tell the future. Really. She wasn’t a charlatan. No tricks involved. The future was her thing. Even if I could tell the future, I wouldn’t want to do that all the time. I’m not exactly a people person. Suppose I could learn to be if I had to. I needed to clear my head.
I settled back in the chair, reached for my amethyst pendant, closed my eyes, and gently rubbed the smooth stone. I felt it’s power flow through my hand, my arm, into my entire body. My breathing became slow and shallow. I awoke abruptly when the doorbell sounded. I checked my watch. Six thirty eight. I slept all afternoon. Mr. Barker and Cooper had arrived. I ran my fingers through my hair and hurried to the door.
“Sorry we’re late. Since I invited myself over, the least I could do was pick up the pizza. Hope you like pepperoni.”
Mr. Barker held a large box and Cooper had a paper bag. Cooper held it up. “Got some garlic sticks and a few bottle of water.”
“Come in. May as well take them straight to the kitchen and I’ll make the salad. Sorry it’s not ready, but I fell asleep. I didn’t realize how tired I was.”
“You’ve been under a lot of stress lately. You probably haven’t been sleeping very well.”
I put three plates on the kitchen table, then washed the veggies and made the salad.
We ate our pizza without speaking. I was curious, but didn’t know where to start with my questions. Mr. Barker was first to break the silence.
“I guess you’re wondering what you are and what you have living in your house?”
My mouth was full of pizza. I nodded, not certain I wanted to hear more though.
“Your family is a special type of witch. Well, not really a witch, but close enough. You don’t belong to a coven. Your family is your coven. Each member has their own talent, and the children are trained by their mother or grandmother. Unfortunately your training was interrupted. Do you have any other family?”
“No. Well, not on this side of the ocean. Granny has a sister in England, just outside Devon. Any time we went to England, we always stayed with her. The last few trips were to Germany and Norway, so I haven’t seen Great Aunt Priscilla for a few years.”
“Hmm. She’ll probably do. Can she come over her? Or could you fly to England?”
“I could fly over. I suppose I’ll have to call her again. I had to let her know Granny died. She’s afraid to fly so she didn’t come over for the funeral.”
“That’s a shame. If she was here, she could have started preparing for your birthday. Does she know you haven’t turned twenty-one yet?”
“Beats me. I don’t think so. She never mentioned it.”
I glanced towards the end of the table where Cooper sat. He was busy with his pizza and didn’t seem to be listening.
“Don’t worry about him. Like you, he’s in training. We’re what you could call Helpers. When someone like you requires a special book, or any other item, they come to us and we let them know where to find what they are looking for, or we purchase it on their behalf. Your family trains the daughters, and my family trains the sons.”
“Helpers? Neither Mother or Granny ever mentioned Helpers.”
“It seems there is quite a bit they never mentioned.”
“So if I had a brother, he wouldn’t be trained to be a witch, or warlock, or whatever?”
“It’s rare for families such as yours to have male offspring. Females are rare in my family.”
“Can Granny’s sister complete my training? Is that allowed?”
“I don’t believe there are cut and dry rules about that. As long as someone is willing to take the responsibility, they can train you. Does your Great Aunt have children? It’s always nice when there’s a few people to help with the ceremony.”
I nodded. “Yes, she has two daughters and a couple of grand-daughters. They’re both a bit younger than me. Priscilla is ten years younger than Granny. I guess I can call her tonight.”
“Tomorrow.” Cooper finally spoke.
“And what’s wrong with tonight?”
“Five hour time difference. She’ll be in bed.” Cooper winked.
I could feel the heat rising and hoped it didn’t show. “Right. I’ll call her around ten. She’ll be done with lunch by then.” I turned back to Mr. Barker.
“What about the doors? Found another one, in the garden.”
“The garden you say? Definitely earth elementals. Unusual to have them both in the house and the garden.”
“Earth elementals is what I thought too. They seem ok. Couldn’t tell from the voice if it was male or female.”
“What? You spoke to them?”
“One of them opened the garden door and asked me not to lock them in. Couldn’t see what it was though. The door was only open a crack. I did see a hand, but that’s all.”
Mr. Barker stroked his chin. “I believe you might have gnomes, but I don’t know which type. People like you don’t generally speak of such things to Helpers. The occasional thing may slip out, but never elaborated on. I glad you feel you can trust me. You probably have a house gnome, but the door into the garden is puzzling. Garden gnomes are a different species. Cross breeding has been known to happen though. You might have a half-breed. Rare and special. The knowledge of both rolled into one. No way to tell though. They have similar appearances. Not harmful at all. Nothing to worry about, my Dear. You’re quite lucky actually.”
Cooper finally broke his silence.
“How did you find out you had your special power, or whatever you call it?”
“Cooper, we’re not allowed to ask such questions.”
“That’s all right Mr. Barker. I don’t mind talking about it. Besides Mother and Granny, there wasn’t anyone I could tell. I was in grade two. We were out playing at recess and I suddenly had this feeling of dread. ‘Course I didn’t know what it was. Don’t think I even knew what dread meant. I just stood, terrified, looking around the playground. When I saw Missy skipping rope on the narrow laneway that went around the school, I knew it was her I felt scared for. I ran over and grabbed her arm. Told her I wanted to her to play on the teeter-totter with me. She dropped the rope and came with me. About halfway there we heard a crash. A delivery truck had turned over. The end of Missy’s rope was sticking out from under the truck.
I stopped and wiped my eyes.
“Sorry,” I mumbled.
Cooper reached over and put his hand on my arm.
“I’m OK. I haven’t thought about that for years. I just got an image of the truck, like it happened only moments ago. When I told Mother she was so excited. Said she’d been waiting since my birthday. Turns out seven is a magical number. It’s connected to spiritual awakening and awareness. Anyway, she called Granny and that weekend they started educating me on crystals and gemstones. I was fascinated. They were both beautiful and powerful. Then they started playing a guessing game with me. They’d point out some random person and ask me about them. It was difficult at first, but eventually I could pick out people who needed to take care. It was years later when Mother showed me the newspaper write up from grade two. The driver had said the truck started to pick up speed and his breaks failed. The mechanic couldn’t find anything wrong with the truck. The driver only got a few scratches and was charged with reckless driving.”
I leaned back in my chair. It felt good to talk about it.
“I was in high school when my friends started to distance themselves from me. I was over at Candice’s house after school and her father was getting ready for a business trip. I told him he should change flights. He didn’t. The engine stalled at take-off and the plan crashed at the end of the runway. No one was hurt, but Candice told everyone, and I think her parents told some of their friends too. It was fun at first. I got lots of attention, but as more and more predictions came true, I became a freak. I immersed myself into my home studies and never bothered with college.”
Cooper and Mr. Barker exchanged a look and smiled. Cooper nodded and turned to me.
“You should go to the museum tomorrow. Ask about the special collection they just received. It’s not on display yet. You’ll find it quite interesting.”
I had nothing planned so I said I’d go. They were Helpers after all. Maybe there was something in the collection that would help with my initiation on my birthday.
“Since we seem to be breaking protocol,” Mr. Barker said, “might I be so bold as to ask to see the doors? The one with the symbols has my interested, as does the one in the garden.”
“Sure, why not?” We finished off the pizza and salad and I showed them to the room at the back of the house.
“I haven’t been able to figure out the symbols. I know the one at the top matches the one on Mother’s pendant, but I don’t know much about symbols yet. Granny was just starting to tell me about them when she died. Can you help?”