It's a little less than half the length of the last chapter, but I liked where I stopped it, so I...stopped it. If anyone notices any inconsistencies or anything, let me know, because I don't have a beta reader, and I'm only human; therefore, my editing is fallible. :)


I instantly froze, trying desperately to think of a way to convey the truth to her without hurting her feelings.

"Uh…well…I try to keep an open mind," great, vagueness was always good in avoiding touchy subjects—wait, why exactly was magic a touchy subject? "but I haven't really seen anything…magical…so I guess…it's possible…maybe." I think I handled that quite well.

"Oh darling, it's a simple yes or no question. Do you or do you not believe in magic?" Grandma was being frighteningly serious now. "I can't afford any round-about answers."

Deciding that offending Grandma on my first day here would not be such a good move, I decided to just do it—lie. "Yes." It came out more like a question, but at least I said it. And it wasn't a total lie. I did sort of believe in magic, it just wasn't the kind of thing I went around thinking about a lot.

"You sound unsure. Well, no matter. At least you're not completely closed minded to the idea. I have some things I have to tell you, but I need you to promise me that you'll take them seriously. At least, don't shut out the idea just because it sounds ludicrous. Can you do that?"

More than a little nervous, I nodded. What were my parents thinking, leaving me here?

"You're cursed sweetie. I can't explain why now, but you just need to know it—don't give me that look, I know what you're thinking. All you need to know is that when I was young, I made some mistakes while traveling in foreign lands, and my misdeeds have carried over to you."

I was speechless. Utterly, absolutely, totally speechless. My grandmother was a nut. And I was stuck here with her for a whole year.

"Can you…prove it?" My voice was shaky, and I felt slightly ill. I was appalled at Grandma's statements, but part of me—a teeny, tiny part of me—was actually scared that what she was saying was true. Ihad been taught that magic was real, and to keep an open mind about the supernatural. I did after all live with my mother, who was the direct offspring of this woman, and therefore held her beliefs somewhat. She taught me to be serious about magic, and not treat it like it came from a Disney movie. "Magic is all around you, but you must treat it delicately. It's not something to be played with, or wished upon," she had said. I was confused, so she just said that default line that all parents say to bewildered children. "you'll understand when you're older. Was that time now? I wondered.

On the other hand, I had never had even the slightest inkling that I was cursed. No bad luck, no near deaths, no bad love life (actually my love life was nearly nonexistent, but I never thought of that as acurse, merely as something that just hadn't happened yet).

"Well, unfortunately the curse only manifests itself within your children, and when your children have children, if they live through the curse's symptoms, it just sort of moves on to the next generation, leaving the previous alone. When your mother was a child, I did my best to keep the symptoms at bay, and I was able to protect here, to some extent. As for you, well, I had you protected when you were very young, but unfortunately, my protection can only go so far and last so long, and as of now, it's running out."

"Is that why I'm here now? Because you think there's a threat to my life?" I couldn't possibly imagine that the whole situation with my parents was a set-up.

"Partially. When your parents made the decision to leave for the year, they thought about leaving you at a friend's house, but then I made contact with them and persuaded them to allow you to stay here with me so I could protect you further."

Well that was new. I thought that my parents just didn't trust me enough to leave me with someone I knew. I felt slightly angry at that. I would have chosen to stay with my best friend Sam over my probably-insane grandmother any day.

"Does Mom believe in the curse?" If grandma said she did, then I would probably believe it too. I trusted my mother with all my heart, and followed her blindly. If she thought it was real, then I would too.

"Your mother is a tough one. She has seen undeniable evidence of our family's curse, and she knows it's real. However, when you were born, she thought that if she could deny it enough, it would go away and not bother you. But she was wrong. And it could cost you if you don't get the help you need."

"What are the symptoms of…it?" I made a mental note to ask my mom about it later. I'd see what she said before I made any judgments.

"Well, it starts with misfortune. You're clumsy, and you fall a lot. Nothing serious. But it only gets worse from there."

"It seems like a pretty clichéd curse, don't you think?"

"Oh dear," grandma waved a hand as if to fend off an annoying fly. "These things are never as complex as one might think. Dangerous, yes, but never complicated. All curses are basically the same. You can't cast a curse on someone and kill them instantly, it doesn't work that way. You can kill them, but it would take a long time, and a very skilled practitioner to do it. Time travel, healing, controlling the mind, those are actually simpler than killing a body with a curse."

"And the one who cast this curse?"

"Very skilled."

"So what do I do?"

"This is where it gets a little complicated."

As if it wasn't already.

"I want you to go back in time. Back when this all happened, and I want you to make sure that it never happens."

"How can I do that?"

"You leave that to me."

There was an awkward sort of silence, so I said, "Would you mind if I go into town for a bit? I think I need to…think."

Grandma's face filled with concern and she said, "Of course you do. I take it your mother hasn't dealt with this subject much?"

"She has, but not in depth."

"Well, that's good at least. What do you say we go pick up your car, and you can ride around a while on your own?"

"Great."

XOXOX

A few minutes later, I found myself outside a small, cozy looking house. I figured this was where Elliot lived, since Grandma said she got the car from his parents. I felt ashamed of myself for being embarrassed to be seen with Grandma. I wondered what the people thought of her around her.

A large, middle aged man opened the door with a big smile, stepped outside with us, and gave Elsie the biggest hug.

"Elsie!" He exclaimed. "So good to see you! Come to pick up the car?"

"Yes, Earl. This is my granddaughter, Crikket."

"Lovely name," he replied, and he shook my hand. "Elsie says you'll be staying here for a while."

"Yeah, a year." I said.

"Great! You'll love it." This man's smile was infectious, and I found myself smiling back. Maybe I would like it here. Earl turned around and shouted into the house, "Elliot! Bring me the keys to the Nissan!"

My smile grew as I saw Elliot, a smile not unlike his dad's plastered to his face, come outside with a set of keys. He looked at me and said, "I KNEW it was you. Dad said he sold the car to Elsie because her granddaughter was coming down here, and then when you came into the book store, I thought it was you!"

I laughed nervously, "yeah, it's me."

"Cool. Come around back and I'll show you the car."

I followed him around to the back of the house, and I saw a small, mid nineties model Nissan Altima. Not bad. I liked it. Props to grandma for having good taste in cars.

"It used to belong to my older sister, but she left it behind when she moved out, and since I already had a car, Dad sold it. It's a cute car. For a girl." He elbowed me in the side, shooting a sideways smile at me.

"Watch it," I joked. "I'll curse you into next week."

He laughed at me. "I doubt that."

"What," I said, "Don't you believe in magic?"

"Oh I do, trust me, you can't live in this town and NOT believe. This whole place is like a haven for practitioners. You wouldn't be able to curse me because your grandmother wouldn't allow it. You believe in magic don't you?"

I had never heard of an entire town of practitioners. "Yeah, I guess I do."

"You'd have to. Look at your grandma. She's one of the most respected women in this town. She's the first person many people go to when they need something."

"Really?"

"Yeah."

"And this whole town is full of practitioners?"

"Yeah. You probably didn't know because they kind of like to keep it a secret."

"I didn't know. I mean, I didn't even think that there were that many people who still practice magic." Mom had told me once that most of the old magic had died out over the years.

"It's mainly in the old families. It's coming back though. Lots of people are getting into it for healing purposes and stuff, but the old ones here don't want it to get out too much, lest the wrong person learns something that could be used for the wrong reasons. I wouldn't worry about that though. Nearly everyone here is trustworthy. Except for a couple people, but they're nothing serious."

In a way I was sort of excited. To me, magic had always been something that I had heard about, but never seen; hence my reluctance to believe. But hearing Elliot talk about how he (we) lived in a town packed with people who were skilled in magic, I began to wonder just how much I had been missing my whole life.

"So," Elliot continued, "can you do any magic?"

"No. my mother never taught me. We lived in a big city, and I guess she thought that it wasn't an appropriate place to teach a young girl to do magic."

"Smart. Are you interested in learning now that you're here?"

"That depends. Are you going to teach me?"

"Oh, I'm not nearly as good as Elsie. She practically puts everyone here to shame."

"Well, then I guess I'll just have to get her to teach me some of her tricks then, won't I?"

He laughed. I felt rather strange all of a sudden, like I'd been dropped into a pool of Jell-O. I felt myself getting dizzy and swaying. Elliot asked me if I was alright, but I could barely register it.

Then, as if it never happened, I was fine again. I looked at Elliot, who was looking for all the world as if he'd seen a ghost.

"What was that all about?" Elliot gave me a crooked smile, trying to lighten the mood.

"I don't know. Probably nothing." I waved him off, not wanting to think what my brain was telling me to think. It's not the curse, it's not the curse, it's NOT the curse.

I heard Elsie call my name from inside the house. Grateful for the escape, I smiled at Elliot and said, "I'd better go see what she wants." He followed me inside, where we found Elsie sitting with Earl and a woman whom I presumed was his wife. My assumption was affirmed when Elliot said, "Hey mom, what's for supper?"

She smiled at him. "That's just what we were discussing. We've invited Elsie and Crikket here to stay for supper."

Elsie looked at me and asked, "Is that alright? I know you said you wanted some time to yourself…"

"Actually, I'd love to stay." I gave Elliot a big smile.

Elsie smiled. "And after supper maybe it would be a good idea for you and Elliot to spend some time together on the town. Better than wandering around alone, don't you think?"

"Yeah."

Elliot's mom looked over at me and smiled. "Hello dear. Elsie's told me all about you. My name's Joanna—I'm Elliot's' mother. So Elliot told me he met you earlier at the bookshop?" I watched Elliot as he blushed, and I felt the intense urge to go AWWWW.

"Yes, when I first got here. He and Andie really made me feel welcome."

"My Elliot's a sweet boy. I'm glad you got to meet him." I smiled at Joanna's doting-motherliness. Elliot, meanwhile, was improving his impression of a giant tomato.

"So mom," he said hastily, "what's for supper?"

"Meatloaf and potatoes, which I need to go get." Then she got up and left the room. Earl was preoccupied with showing Elsie what looked like a bundle of herbs, and Elliot turned to look at me. He seemed embarrassed. I thought it was cute. "My mom's insane," he mumbled.

"She seems nice. So where do you want to go after dinner?"

"Well," he looked at me conspiratorially. "Actually, I was thinking we skip mom's meatloaf and grab something at Perry's."

"What's that?"

"You'll see when we get there. Hey Mom!"

Apparently I wasn't getting any better answer than that. As Elliot told his mom that he would rather take me to dinner on the town, I looked around the house. It seemed kind of New-Agey—not really anything I wouldn't expect, given what Elliot had told me outside. It seemed homey. There were dark, muted colors. Burgundies and dark blues. I thought it was a little dark for my taste, but it seemed to work for them.

Suddenly, Elliot grabbed my arm and pulled me toward the door.

"Great Mom, thanks, bye, I'll be home by midnight!"

As Elliot pulled me down the driveway to his car, I saw Elsie smile and wave at me from a window in the house. I waved back, unsure of what I was in for.