AN: English is not my first language and I'm not sure how I stand up to its standards… so if you see any mistakes, please point it out! :)
This will be a collection of mystery/supernatural stories that happen around Darla, a Witch whose only wish is to not be the villain when fate decides to play in someone's life – she can't help it, however, so read as stories unfold and Darla wrecks her own kind of magic upon the world.
The Magic Shop
There once was a magic shop. It just sat there between two other buildings and hidden behind trees. The path that led to it was made of yellow brick and to reach it, you had to walk through a stone archway inside a candy shop.
I have a shop.
It is located in a quaint little town, in front of a beautiful picturesque square decorated with so many trees it could have been a park if not for the old yellow brick pathways and the surrounding stone buildings. My shop is right between an ice cream parlor and an Italian Bistro that has a couple of iron wrought tables settled in front of our area – it gave that old Parisian air to our joint, which I appreciated greatly.
While that scenic picture might have been normal in any other circumstance, my shop and I aren't really what fit in the 'normal' category. As it stands, I actually have a magic shop.
Not that it was that obvious. The front was that of a candy shop, one of those old times ones that still sells licorice and jelly babies – it attracted quite the number of veterans in search of their favorite vices – and to my hidden amusement, the amount of pregnant women also grew in recent years.
The magic part of the deal happened when the client went through what I like to call magic portal. It was a wide stone archway carved out of the raw bricks that made up my shop. There are a couple of steps separating the levels between them and I had installed old fashioned gas lamps to help settle the atmosphere.
Descending the steps through the archway you would find yourself in the midst of what looked, at first glance, an antique shop. The lights were dimmer in this side of the ambient, the ceiling also lower. You could feel the magic in the air – or that could be just me since…
I'm also a Witch.
"Cara Darla, the dinner, vuoi piace?" Nona's voice drifted toward me from the front door. Nona Marla Giannini is the matronly owner of the next door Bistro. She is a short plump woman with a lot of freckles. It was easy to see how beautiful she must have been one day before time transformed that beauty into an ageless charm. I remember the day she and Nono Eli moved to the spot right next to my shop – a young couple fresh from the ship that brought them from Italy.
Eli Giannini had recently come across an inheritance from an uncle who came to America after the war – in that inheritance was the plot next to mine. At that time, the town was barely that, mostly composed of miners and their family who'd try their luck in the local gold mine. When the trains came, so did progress though, since little Fernville became a stop before reaching the City.
With barely nothing in their pockets, the Giannini settled in their place and the very next day there was an iron table sitting in front of our joint and a still drying hand painted sign written 'Gianni's Bistro – Open'. They only had one serviceable table and an empty kitchen, but I could see they really wanted to succeed, to grow and to persevere. I liked them, I realized, and I wanted them to stay so much that the elusive witch (according to the local gossipers) would come out of her den to dine in that Bistro.
My shop wasn't very popular those times. People still superstitious couldn't get past my less than famous reputation, it didn't help that I was an unmarried woman who owned her own business and wanted practically nothing to do with society. My clients also worked directly against me in a way – I have a magic shop, so what kind of clientele do you think visited me?
But Marla and Eli Giannini didn't mind the gossip, catering to me as a client regardless of reputation. With my patronage came others who were curious about what could drag me away from my shop, and in a scant few weeks the Bistro now had a fully functioning kitchen, employees and a collection of iron tables scattered in front of it that were there until today.
They did not question the fact that I never appeared any older than the day they first saw me.
I was also the target of Nona's motherly instincts, it seemed. Remembering her question about wanting dinner or not, I raise my head from the obscure book I was reading behind the register and smiled happily. "I would, thank you nona!" She comes everyday with the same question regardless of sun or rain for the last thirty years.
Keeping my eyes on the Italian woman as she left my shop not even dinging the little bell I had installed to alert me of incoming clients – such was her familiarity, she said once she hated that noise and since then she never made it again passing through my door. Shaking my head, I made to go back to my book but something else worked to distract me.
A huge pair of crystalline silvery blue eyes framed by white and light brown fur was staring at me in unhindered hatred. That's my cat – o should I say, pet – because that was no normal cat.
"Don't look at me like that Hry, Atlantis knows why I haven't gotten rid of you yet" I told the cat in my most serious voice. I wouldn't 'get rid' of Hry as I put it, it was the thing he wanted badly for the last ten years, so much that around his furry neck was an enchanted collar that wouldn't let him leave the threshold of my shop. When I was in a good mood, I'd let him lounge around the Bistro's iron tables though that was the limit of his wandering capabilities.
Muttering to myself about cursed cats and their rudeness, I was once again distracted, but this time by the doorbell ringing a delightfully cheerful note of sound that reverberated the purposely stale air of the magic half of my shop.
A girl came in. Barely seventeen if her hazard appearance was any indication. It wasn't a rare occasion for one or two teenagers to venture in my shop these days, almost daily I'd get one starry eyed wanna-be wiccan who'd peruse my collection of wonderfuls and end up buying another magical magazine, a couple of stones and incenses.
What was rare was for those said teenagers wanna-be wiccans to have any powers at all. I loved when these kinds of things happened because I could already feel the tingle of fate moving a few clogs to drag destiny along. Grinning in unrepentant mischief about what was about to happen, I let myself be tossed into it, ignoring the angry hiss Hry sent my way.
And that's how the first story started. Maybe this time I wouldn't play the villain.
Every day I pass through this street and as it happened yesterday and the day before, my eyes went unriveted to the almost hidden candy shop nestled between some colorful ice cream parlor and an Italian dinner if the banner proudly displaying the colors red, green and white was any indication. The delicious and mouthwatering smell of a nice home cooked meal drifting through the worn out yellow road path and attracting people to sit at one old, well used iron table sets.
Usually I wouldn't even consider entering a candy shop. I've been getting 'rounder round the bender and my tummy could use a little flattering if I only could manage or else I'm risking not being able to fit into my graduation dress by the end of the school year.
But lately, as I walk this familiar path day after day on the way to school, I'd feel a weird pull toward that candy shop – which didn't even sport a name or sign aside from a minty pattern and a hanging, handmade plaque reading in bold letters, OPEN.
The front was made of weathered wood and full of intricate art-noveou details painted green and gold. The door was wooden and paneled with slightly stained glass, there were large bay windows also paneled, though there were curling ivy designs creeping at every edge, giving the impression of a frame lovingly hugging a picture.
Maybe it wouldn't hurt to check it out? Worse came, I'd buy some candy and regret it for the rest of the day if I didn't work it out immediately. Walking always helps in these cases, and I was thankfully a walker.
Mind settled, I pulled out my phone to check out if I had any incoming messages, disappointed that there weren't any specially since my friend Alice said she was coming over today to set forward the sails of our newest school assignment, maybe she's forgotten but I sent her a note saying I'd be late at any case.
Placing my beloved phone back inside my back pocket, I continued to march until I felt myself stopping in front of the quaint candy shop, with a deep and honestly unnecessary breath I pushed the door as the sign indicated and was greeted by the small bell noise alerting whoever was inside of my coming in.
The scent combined of the assortment of candies reached me next into one thick and deliciously sweet attack that left my head reeling to take everything in.
Another fact, I couldn't recognize any of these… maybe a few from when I was younger, aside from brands, it was like wandering in a parallel world or a different plane. I half expected the woman sitting daintily at the old copper register to speak another language.
"Hello dear" The woman greeted amicably with a smile, turning her head only enough to shush the cat hissing from beyond the imposing stone archway that obviously separated the candy area from another. Noticing my curious stare, the woman tilted her head, making the pile of ebony colored curls fall to the side and pool on her shoulders. "That's my secret stash of merchandise" She confided playfully. "Please feel welcomed to look around"
Shifting uncomfortably under her rather penetrating stare, I was caught by a sudden and burning curiosity. I could see a few things that were presented beyond the candy façade. On the wall the other side of the arch, was a huge metallic pentagram engraved in beautiful but unrecognizable swirls that held up chandelier like candle holders.
With a shiver, I looked some more. From a rack of magazines and a bookcase that contained everything but books – those were stacked on some shelves to the corner of the dim room. Porcelain dolls and a few medieval paintings, I was surprised at the two inch tall Gandalf figurine standing next to what looked like wooden sticks cases– wands maybe?
"You can look closer dear" The woman called from the register, hand holding up her head in a lazy gesture as she used her other hand to motion around. "I know there is something in there that is calling for you, call it saleswoman intuition" A bright teethed grin that was more intimidating than friendly. The cat yowled suddenly, making me jump only to find it a few steps behind me. "Don't mind Hry, he's cranky today"
"It's alright… I'll just… um… go" My voice faltered. Despite my curiosity, I was feeling even more mortified. "I just wanted to look around" It wasn't as if I wanted candy anyway. About to turn leg and make my escape from the weird composition of candy and what looked like voodoo instruction books, I was near the door when it opened soundlessly to admit a portly short middle aged woman with fading red hair thickly held up in a bun.
The woman smiled motherly at me, then deposited a styrofoam container on top of the register's balcony. "Here it is cara, red sauce gnocchi and chicken capeletti" she remarked to the raven haired shop owner. Then I saw the embroidered apron and I realized that the woman was from the dinner next door. "Do come over sometimes, cara, nono Giannini misses your input on our recipes, there is a new pastry that he's been wanting you to taste"
Distracted by the abrupt entrance of the woman, all thoughts of fleeing from this shop left my mind as I watched the two converse in animated tones, they must have known each other for a while now. Feeling like I was eavesdropping enough, I averted my attention to a shelf that was right before me.
To my surprise, there were only mugs on there. Mugs of all sizes and even strange shapes…Made of gleaming ceramic and hand painted if the delicate details were any indication. The designs were also cool, though the one that attracted me the most was a smaller white mug with a single eye painted on it – the eye was dark rimmed, reminiscent of the eye of Horus… or was it Rah? But there was an eyelid and a large dark brown iris staring up at me.
Curious. I took the mug in my hands, rolling it around and feeling its weight. Turning it 180 so I could see its manufacturer stamp for more information, there was only a single word written.
Isn't this an interesting mug? I thought as my eyes remained on that single word. Absently checking the price, I rejoiced for a second that I had enough to purchase this mysterious mug. A more rational side of my brain kept telling me to leave it where I found it and make a haste retreat out of this madness, never to look back if I valued my sanity.
However, there was something strangely attractive about this mug… a familiar sense of pull, the same one that finally won over and made me enter the shady candy shop in the first place, as if all was being arranged to culminate in me finding this cup that was now on my hands.
The urge to toss the darned thing to the ground and simply pay for it entered my mind. It was only a mug… I'd most likely hide it in the kitchen cabinet and never look at it again unless mom or dad occasionally used it to have their morning coffee. But I did no such thing. Before taking notice, I was standing before the woman in the cashier holding up the mug and the right amount of money.
"That's an interesting choice dear" She said. "Just keep this mind… If you stare into the Abyss long enough, it will stare back at you" Her words were obviously said in jest seeing as she was holding the mug upside down and showing me the words 'Abyss' printed at the bottom. The huge eye didn't help.
Pun going over my head since I wasn't in the mood, I hastily grabbed my now bagged mug and ran to the door in a hasty retreat that must have left the woman wondering about my sanity, peeking over my shoulder as I opened the door and stepped out of the shop was the woman happily checking out her packed dinner.
The bell dinged eerily, almost foreshadowing as I left.
Or was it my imagination?
"So you what… went in there and bought a cup, that's all?" Alice Caldwell was my best friend. She had freckles on her freckles and a large nose that she absolutely hated and swore to get fixed as soon as she had enough money to move to L.A. Her brown eyebrows were furrowed as she stared at the mug I just had to buy – she is the friend to whom I sent the message in the first place – she told me she's just gotten out of volleyball practice herself so there was no need to get hissy – her words, not mine.
Shrugging, because I was weirded out enough as it was and sworn to never set foot in that whacky shop ever again, I nodded. "Yeah… I was on my way home when I got this urge to check that shop out, that mug caught my attention, that's all… I even find the design cute"
Alice made another face. "Cute? It's a whats-you-call-it? Illuminati eye or something" She meant Masonry, but I wasn't about to correct her. My younger sister Jeanie was addicted to Robert Langdon books and has the whole collection plus the movies DvDs that I watched once or twice out of boredom. "It's not like you to go out of your way for something like this Cass"
I agreed with her. Usually I was the quiet unassuming girl that sat at the back of the class and was too shy to speak up for anything. I wouldn't purposely gather attention to myself, also a creature of extreme habit so it was just as improbable that I'd do something out of my routine. "I just find it cute" I leant over my bed to snatch the mug out of her hands, the word Abyss flashing briefly at me before I could righter the mug on top of my drawer, the eye watching me silently.
The shopowner's voice echoed in my head. If you stare into the Abyss long enough, it will stare back at you. Drawing a shiver that ran down my spine and made the hairs of both my arms and the back of my neck stand on end.
"It's an eye" Alice was queen of sarcasm. If we weren't childhood friends I doubt she would even notice me. But thankfully we've been neighbors since forever, our moms went to the same doctor and all that jazz that worked in bringing people together in friendship even if they had nothing in common. "Maybe I should check this shop out as well… Everyone's been there at least once, do you know Fawn Addams from 2-4? She said she bought a spell last week so Grey would notice her and it worked."
Yeah, I knew about the gossip. Going around town as well as our school… both teachers and students alike whispered about it like it was a dark secret they wanted to keep hidden. An open secret everyone knew about but were too intrigued and entertained by it to do anything to demystify the mystery.
A magic shop hidden behind the candy façade owned by a real witch…
"It worked because Grey has liked Fawn in like, months, it's a coincidence that he chose last week to ask her out, nothing more" Paint me skeptic, but that shop owner was no witch, though it was easy to make people think otherwise with the gleaming pentagram etched on the wall so blatantly.
"Yet you went there yourself and bought a cup" She pointed out, sitting back up and stretching out her arms. "You know what else you should get? New curtains"
Subject successfully changed, I faked a look of upset and set my jaw. "What do you have against my curtains?"
The cup sat there, watching us like. I never noticed the brown flash red in the painting's iris nor the distant rumble of thunder.
I tossed and turned during sleep. Ghostly fingers traced a line of ice down my brow, or at least it felt like it – spooked, my frantic hand reached out to my forehead and wiped the sweat that formed there – that was it… the impression of fingers must have been from a bead of sweat rolling down, not fingers, silly me.
With a turn, I removed my blanket and relished the fresh air chilling my heated skin. Now laying on my back, I closed my eyes and waiting for sleep to claim me again, however, when my mind finally reached that state between consciousness and sleep, I felt those fingers prod into my skin again.
What the heck? I thought… it was hard to explain, like my thoughts weren't mine at all yet existing in my head.
Now wide awake and really nervous, I sat up in my bed shoving my homework and a few books unceremonily down to the carpeted ground listening to the deafened thud that filled the silence. My questing hand found my corny mickey mouse lamp switch and I clicked it on, momentarily blinded by light, my eyes were immediately dragged to the mug sitting on my drawer.
Now what, I'm actually considering a mug can give me nightmares? Perhaps the stress of the day got to me, it's been years since I've had any nightmare.
Growing angry with my own silliness, I laid back down on my bed, this time pulling the comforter up to my chin and tucking myself against the pillow as best as I could. As I closed my eyes once again, I risked a last peek at the mug, suspicion still gnawing in my stomach.
The mug sat there, eye watching me in smug satisfaction.
I dreamed about it.
"Where did you get that?" Mom asked as she sat down at the table, sipping on a freshly pressed cup of coffee while reaching for the stack of pancakes Jamie was helpfully piling. Neither me nor mom could cook, so that task always fell on dad and my younger sister who seemingly inherited dad's talent at a kitchen top.
Mom and I took care of dishes in that whole distribution of labor thing.
"I got it yesterday… I kind of went in that weird candy shop by Cedar Square" There, I confessed, feeling a mix of smug giddiness and guilt when mom's eyes went wide. "It was really weird, with horrible decorations and even more terrible brand of merchandise, you would have hated it mom, the only cute thing was this mug" I continued to spin my tale, by now both mom and Jamie were listening with rapt attention as I described the dim shop's interior.
"Well… Ann Flowers from down street says she once went there" Mom shared. "She said it wasn't so bad, she bought incense that was supposed to help John get better from his fever and it really helped him, there wasn't even a sneeze two days later"
"I found it creepy though, I'm never going there again" Jamie caught my mug and stared at it curiously, eyes glinting in interest. I just remembered that she liked these obscure, symbolic things and would probably have a good time if she had the chance to explore that candy shop.
Sipping on my tea like it was her own, my dear sister smiled at me from the top of the rim – the eye design turned to stare at me with its unblinking lids and penetrating stare. How can I find this thing cute? It's freakish… but… "I think this is cute too" She said to mom, branding my mug in mom's face after she finished my coffee. "It's not an Egyptian eye though, see, there is no eyebrow and the iris is colored, I don't think it actually means anything though the picture is interesting in a steam punk kind of way?"
Narrowing my eyes, my hand shot out and stole my mug from her unsuspecting grip. "More like Goosebumps, or Pet Shop of Horrors kind of way – and thanks for drinking all my coffee" I said sulkily, refilling my recent purchase with the dark liquid energy and adding a dose of sweetener.
"Then how come you think it's cute?" Bless your soul mom, you asked the question right out of my head.
"It's the mystery, I think" I said jokingly. Mom laughed and Jamie giggled, and even I joined with a chuckle or two – however I'd have liked to think, I didn't believe a word I said. The pull was getting stronger, so much I had to struggle with good sense to leave the mug inside the cabinet as I left for school with Jamie in tow.