The Enchantress’ Curse by Victoria Durm

Grace pushed her way through the crowd of potential parents in the waiting room. Conversations about possible bedroom decor and whether a tree house could be made in the place of the family swimming pool filled the young girl’s ears. She paid no attention to the idle chatter, she was on mission; she had to find her little brother.  She pushed her way through the heavy front doors. “Henry! Are you here?”

“Gracie! Look! I found the most beautiful thing ever!” Henry all but ran her over, something cupped in his small hands. She reached over to push his dark bangs out of his eyes as he knelt on the ground in front of her. Her brother opened his hands carefully, revealing a beautiful butterfly. “Isn’t it pretty?”

“It’s gorgeous,’ she agreed, ‘Now let it go. You’ve ruined your good pants!  We’ll be hard pressed to find something else to put you in before our interviewer gets here.” Grace waited for the butterfly to alight from his palm before taking Henry by the wrist. “If Ms. Margo sees you like this she’ll cancel the interview,” she fretted.  Suddenly, Grace’s spine stiffened, she sensed they were no longer alone.

“Grace and Henry Ulrich, I thought I might find you two troublemakers outside!”  The children turned to see Ms. Margo, a plain woman in stiff clothing standing behind them.  “You’ve done all of your chores, girl?”

“Yes ma’m.” Grace replied.

“And you?” The house mother turned to Henry now. “I don’t suppose you’ve even bathed today, have you?”

In response, Grace’s brother burst into tears. “I did, I swear!”

“Stop that racket. You two are becoming far more trouble than you’re worth!” The woman glared at the two of them. “I’ll have to find different accommodations for you. I’ll be taking in a family of eight come tomorrow, and your rooms will be needed.”  Without saying another word,  Ms. Margo turned and went back to the main house.

Grace spent a lot of time after that, planning. She didn’t want her and Henry to be thrown out. Up until that day, she’d never realized just how fast a place in the house could be lost. Now that she knew they were in trouble, the girl found herself desperate for a solution that would suit them both.

That night, she slipped out of bed. After checking on Henry, Grace went downstairs to visit the library. Using her small flashlight, the girl searched among the tomes for anything that might be useful. Finally, her gaze fell on a stack of books hidden in the corner of one aisle. She raised the small light, as she neared the stack.

She read the title of the book on the top of the stack.  “Simple Spells and Summonings.” Carefully, Grace picked it up and then settled herself behind the vacant desk, propping the book open to the table of contents. “Chapter One: Incantations for All Occasions, Chapter Two: Bringing A Dream to Life.”  She read until she finished the very last chapter, which told Grace how she could learn these more by going on the book’s website.  “Well, this will do nicely.” She tucked the book into her backpack, before slipping out of the library using the side exit which led back to the orphan’s sleeping quarters.

Grace was abruptly awakened the next morning to cold water being dumped on her bed. Shooting up, she looked around as the initial shock turned to annoyance. The boys of the hall were known to play pranks on her because of how reclusive she tended to be so she expected to see one of them, but instead of seeing ugly Joe Benson, she was surprised to see who stood in the doorway. “Ms. Margo?”

“Get up, you lazy girl. I need this room available in an hour.”

“But, then, where will I sleep,” Grace asked, knowing she probably wasn’t going to like the answer.

“You and your insolent brother are going to be living in the cellar. And I don’t want to hear any whining about it either.”  Without waiting for any sort of reaction from the girl, Ms. Margo turned on her heel, slamming the door as she left.

Grace stood there for a long moment, letting the reality of the situation process. She didn’t have long to ponder, however, Henry’s frantic knock interrupted her thoughts.

“Gracie, she really is throwing us out of our rooms! It’s not fair!”

“Don’t worry. I’ll get us adopted, and then we won’t have to worry about things like sleeping in the cellar ever again.”  Putting an arm around Henry, she led him out of the room. “Wait here a second.”  Grace went back into the room. Reaching a hand under her mattress, the girl brought out of the book she’d stolen from the library. She tucked into her backpack with the rest of her meager belongings before rejoining her brother.

That first night in the cellar, they sat in front of the coal burning furnace that served as the heating source for the entire orphanage. They curled up against each other to maximize their warmth. Grace entertained her younger brother by telling stories of Mama and Father. Eventually, the younger of the two fell asleep, his head in her lap and a hand curled around her sleeve.

Grace found it nearly impossible to sleep that night. After she was sure Henry was deep in his dreams, she extracted herself from her brother’s grasp, careful to lay his head down against her folded sweater.  She poked at the heating coals with a metal rod to increase their heat, before settling directly to the side.  “Now I’ll be able to focus on the summoning of an adopter,” she said quietly to herself. The girl pulled the book from her pack, situating it on her knees.

She found the lighting to be the biggest problem. Grace adjusted her sitting position several times before finding the right angle that would give her the most light. She turned once more to the chapter on summoning to see what she would need. The girl ran her finger down the list of supplies, reading each one aloud in a low voice, “Paper, permanent ink, and salt.”  Grace read the list over and over, burning it into her memory. The ingredients could be easily enough gathered after everyone, including Ms. Margo, was in bed. Lugging a heavy book with her in the middle of the night as she snuck around the house wasn’t ideal, so it was best for her to memorize the ingredients.

After Grace was sure she had them right, she turned her attention to the application of the summoning itself.  It didn’t seem too complicated.  Yet, she wanted to make sure she understood it well enough to perform it correctly.  She read each step twice, making sure she understood how things were to be set up.  The whole thing would take two hours to complete, but Grace thought she could handle that. It wasn’t as if anyone would wake up.  Most of the residents at the orphanage slept like rocks at night. One more glance toward the coal pit confirmed that her brother remained asleep. Grace stood, heading to the kitchen to get the ingredients she would need.

“You’re not supposed to be up, young Grace,” a voice said in the relatively darkened room.

Grace jumped a mile, turning to see Fredrick, the janitor and handyman.  She put on her best innocent smile. “I’m not up.  You’re dreaming, Frederick.  You really should stop eating all those doughnuts before bed.”

For a moment, the stout man faltered. Then a smirk crossed his features. “Well now, someone’s been practicing her acting.”  Frederick set his mop aside, coming to stand just in front of Grace. “What are you scrounging for?”

The girl contemplated telling him.  Of all the employees of the orphanage, Frederick was the one she loved the most.  Shaking her head, she decided that telling him would mean getting talked out of it.  Not only that, but as close as they were, Frederick was a devout Catholic.  Any mention of magick sent him running in the opposite direction.  “Just some salt for my peanuts,” she finally said.

“Ah.”  The man went to the cook’s cupboard and brought down the container of Morton’s.  “Here you go.  Take what you need.”

Grace nodded.  Salt, check.  She poured a bit into an abandoned paper cup. Squishing the edges tightly to seal it in, Grace pocketed her supply.  “Thanks, Frederick. Please don’t tell Ms. Margo I was awake.”

“No worries,” he said.  Frederick picked his mop up once more but then paused to examine her. “Why do I have the feeling you’re up to no good?”

“Oh Frederick, you know me far too well!” Grace giggled, as she darted out of the kitchen. Now she just needed a Sharpie and some paper and she knew just where they could be found.

Once Grace had the rest of her supplies, she went back to the cellar.  The sound of Henry calling for their mother met her as she hit the bottom of the stairs.  Forgetting momentarily about the summoning, the girl dropped her pack on the last step before sprinting to where her brother laid. “Henry…”  She shook him gently.  “Wake up, Henry.”

“Gracie…?”  Sitting up, her brother rubbed his tear-filled eyes.  “I had a dream…”

“I’m sorry I wasn’t here.”  She apologized, hugging him close.  “Listen, Henry.  You need to go back to sleep.  I won’t be leaving anymore tonight, but I need you to be quiet.  I’ve figured out how to get us out of this horrible place once and for all.”

“H-how?”  Henry’s eyes widened with wonder.  “What are you going to do?”

“Magick,” she replied.  She began to tuck her brother back into his pallet.  “But I need you to stay quiet.  It takes a lot of concentration in order to make it all work right.”

His lower lip stuck out in a pout.  “But do you know if it will work?  You’re not like those women on TV with the long skirts and braids…”

“I can only try,” Grace said patiently.  “Now go back to sleep.”  She ended the conversation by going back to her bag.  She took it over to the coal burner and, pulling them out one by one, began to organize all of the items in a neat row.  Once she finished, Grace pulled the book out again.  After finding her page, she read the spell aloud.  “Dear Goddess, giver of life, mother of all, hear me!  Your children call, needing comfort, guidance.  We need a mother, one whom we can love.  Send us a mother from somewhere above.”  The incantation finished, Grace wrote down the request on the paper, and put in the fire, sending it into the Universe, as the book said.

The girl swayed.  Steadying herself before she fell, Grace moved to the old rocking chair in the corner.  She used what was left of an old quilt to cover herself.  Before she knew it, she was sound asleep, not even noticing the tiny sparks of blue light that popped in the fire light.

“Gracie, wake up…!”  A cold little hand accompanied the yelling and startled Grace awake.  Her brother Henry stood there, his eyes wide.   “Gracie, there was a woman here, and she disappeared!”

“A woman?”  Grace pulled her bare arm out of Henry’s grasp.  Stretching, the girl stood up.   She took a long look around the cellar; there was nothing out of the ordinary.  “You were probably dreaming again.”

“I wasn’t! I swear!”  Henry argued.  “What kind of magick did you do, Gracie?”

“Summoning,” Grace replied.  Her whole body ached.  She imagined it was due to the amount of energy she’d poured into the spell.  “We’d better get upstairs or we’ll miss breakfast.”

Grace wasn’t even sure if they were going to be allowed to eat.  She almost felt as if they’d been banished from living.  The only thing that stopped Ms. Margo from throwing them out completely was the fact they were still paid up till the end of the month thanks to the government.

“Okay,” Henry said.  His tone said he wasn’t ready to let go of his argument, but his stomach would preoccupy him in the meantime.

Grace smiled at him as she ruffled his unkempt hair.  “Better go up.  I’ll be right behind you.” After being sure that Henry had disappeared, she went over to coal burner.  There, on the floor, laid a single piece of charred paper.  Grace knelt down and picked it up.  Scrawled on it in tiny letters were the words:  Dear girl: You have been heard.  She read it twice more before throwing it into the coal burner.  There was no need to leave evidence of her pagan ways around for others to find when they came to renew the fire.

Grace knew that something was different the moment she came up from the cellar.  Her brother was sitting in the dining room, right alongside his friend Bartholomew.  The two friends were munching on steaming bowls of grits and cinnamon rolls.  Henry looked up, his eyes saying what he didn’t voice aloud.  Something had changed Ms. Margo’s mind.  “What’s going on?”

“I ‘unno,” Henry said around a mouthful of grits before he swallowed.  Gesturing with a fork, he indicated an empty chair.  “Get that chair before Marilyn takes it.”  He went back to stuffing himself.  Grace worried he’d make himself sick, but she couldn’t blame him; they’d barely been allowed a crumb the night before.

Grace settled herself in the chair before beginning to pile food on to the plate in front of her. She was halfway through a bran muffin with Ms. Margo came into the dining room.  She waited for the woman to start yelling and throwing a fit about her and Henry eating with the other orphans but it never came. Instead, the woman went to the head of the table.

“Good morning, children.  I’ve got a few announcements today.  The first is a happy piece of news.  Your friends Grace and Henry MacIntire are to be adopted, effective immediately.”

Grace didn’t hear the rest of the announcements.  Her mind was trying to understand exactly what had just been said.  Was she really to be adopted?  Her and Henry?  It didn’t seem possible!  Then she thought about the note that had been left for her in response to the summoning.  “Henry…” she reached over, tapping her brother on the shoulder; he glanced at her and Grace mouthed the words, “the spell.”

“Wow,” he mouthed back, before turning his attention back to Ms. Margo.  The woman was now talking about new reading materials that were being donated to the orphans.  At length, Henry raised his hand.

“Henry?”  The tone her voice held was a far cry from the cruel tone she’d used towards them the night before.  “What can I do for you?”

“When are we leaving?”  Grace heard the disbelief in her brother’s voice.  He was just as dumbfounded by the drastic change in Ms. Margo as she was.

“In a few minutes; your new guardian only left a little earlier and she will be back with her limousine shortly.”

The table erupted with excitement as Ms. Margo left them; presumably to finish up the adoption paperwork.  Pushing her chair back, Grace stood.  To her surprise, she found that she was shaking. Henry glanced over at her.  “I’m fine, really.”

“No, you’re not…you look terrible.”  Her brother stood from his chair and crossed the small distance between them.  He put a hand on her arm.  “It was that summoning, wasn’t it?”

“I think so.”  Grace tried to push herself up as Ms. Margo returned, a young woman with stringy blonde hair at her side.

“Hello, children,” the woman said.  “You may call me Misty.”

Grace followed her brother over, holding out her hand.  “I’m Grace.”

“Pleasure to meet you, Grace.”  Misty turned to Henry.  “And that must mean you’re Henry.”

“Yeah.”  He moved closer to his sister.  “What kind of house do you live in?”

“A really big one,” their new guardian said, a smile crossing her face.  “We’ll have so much fun, the three of us, and Scampers.”

“Scampers?”  Grace blink ed. “Is she your pet?”

He is. He’s my pet bat.”

“Bat?”  Henry and Grace chorused.  Then Grace shrugged; everyone liked different animals.

“He’s very tame.  And he likes children.”  Misty turned to leave.  “Come on, he’s waiting.”   The tall woman didn’t say anything more as she began to walk towards the foyer.  “I’ll be taking them now.”

“But the paperwork isn’t finished yet,”  Grace heard Ms. Margo exclaim.

“I’ll send my assistant to take care of it.  We have a gala affair to attend tonight, and neither of these children is properly attired.”

Grace glanced at her brother.  Henry mouthed, “Attired?”

“I have no idea.”   shook her head, wondering what they were getting themselves into.

When Misty said the house was huge, the woman wasn’t kidding.  Grace guessed it took her about fifteen minutes just to find her way out of the entrance hall due to the hundreds of doors she had to choose from.  Henry had lingered outside, wanting to see the stables they’d spotted on the way in.  Glancing around a middle sized room, Grace decided she wasn’t so sure about living there.  Misty had gone into a room she’d announced as forbidden the instant they were in the gates.  Unprepared to be left to her own devices, Grace found that she was bored and lonely.

“You could read,” a small voice said.  Grace glanced about the room, not seeing anyone. “Down here.”

Grace turned her gaze to the floor.  There, situated just under the vanity chair, stood a mouse.  Her first instinct was to laugh.  Surely she wasn’t really seeing a mouse that talked.  This wasn’t like some storybook.  “Did you…say something?”

“I’m Timothy Bartlett.”  The mouse’s jaw moved up and down.  It had, indeed, spoken.  “I used to be human.”

“Used to be?”

“Close the door, before someone hears us,” Timothy replied.  Grace wandered over and closed the heavy door.  Its closing echoed down the large corridor.  “Now, listen to me carefully, or you’ll end up exactly like me.”

Grace frowned as she squatted so that she was closer to the mouse’s level.  This is absurd! Mice can’t talk!   “What’s wrong? And how did you become this way?”

“Misty; she’s an enchantress.  I summoned her, probably the same way you did.  Did you use a forbidden book?”

Grace’s eyes widened.  “Y-yes.  How did you know about that?”  She sat down on the floor properly, crossing her legs.  “My brother and I were dumped in that orphanage because my stepfather didn’t want us.”

“Your brother is a mischief maker, isn’t he?  Only mischief makers end up here.  They’re summoned unwittingly by someone like you, who wants out of a situation.  However, there’s that Ms. Margo, who can sense when spells are being read.  She then calls Misty to come and ‘adopt’ the children.”
Grace opened and closed her mouth for a moment before shaking her head. “I’m sorry…did you say that Ms. Margo is in on all of this?”

Timothy didn’t get a chance to reply.  There was a knock on the door, followed by Misty’s voice.  “Grace, it’s time for dinner, honey.  Come and eat.”  Now that Grace knew the truth about the woman, the sound of her sweet voice sent goose bumps up and down her arms.  She glanced at the mouse.

“Go.  Just be wary.  And don’t let Henry eat her pie.”  Before Grace could ask what that meant, the mouse was gone.

“Coming,” Grace announced as she stood.  She pulled a shawl hanging from the bed post over her shoulders.  Taking one last glance around the room, she went out into the hall.

Once she was downstairs, the smell of homemade apple pie met her nose.  Without fail, her stomach grumbled.  Grace sat down at the long table.  Her brother sat down across from her, automatically reaching for the pie.  “No!”

“Why on earth not?  He’s welcome to eat whatever he wants,” Misty said.  Grace hadn’t seen her come in.

Henry stared at her as if she’d lost her mind, the forkful of apple pie halfway to his mouth.  “Are you crazy?” he asked, before pushing the fork into his mouth.

Grace frowned without a reply.  She poured herself some water from the pitcher in front of her as she contemplated what she wanted to attempt eating.  The cookies in front of her looked the safest. The rest just seemed to be set pieces, things Grace had thought she’d never get to taste.  At least she knew what cookies were supposed to taste like.

Their adoptive mother stood in the doorway between the dining room and the kitchen.  Grace noted that she seemed to be observing them.  The woman pushed her blonde hair over her shoulders before moving to sit down.  “You really should eat more than just cookies, Grace.  There is meat loaf and mashed potatoes.”  Without waiting for Grace to consent, Misty put a plate together for her.  She placed it in front of Grace with a smile. “You need your strength.  Tomorrow is going to be a big day.”

“What are we doing?”  Henry inquired around a mouthful of pie.

“Oh, you’re not doing anything, dear one.  I’m taking your sister into town to get cooking ingredients for a party this weekend.”  She turned to Grace. “Do you know how to cook, Grace?”

“Only a little,” Grace said.  She pushed the mashed potatoes around her plate, inspecting them for suspicious ingredients.  Finding none, she dared to take a bite.  Surprisingly, the potatoes tasted normal enough.  “I’d love to learn more,” she added after swallowing.

“Good!” Misty said, clapping her hands together.  “You should both get to bed early then.  Town is a long way from here.  We’ll be getting up early.”  She stood, leaving the dining room.

Grace heard a door shut on the next floor.  Turning to Henry, she nudged him.  “Stop eating the pie. Something’s wrong here.”

“Wrong?”  Henry blinked.  He’d been about to take another slice, his third.  “Oh come on, Grace.  This place is great. Do you know what Misty said?  She said that I’m a free spirit.  She wants me to have free reign of the place, whatever that means.”

“I’m telling you, something is wrong, and we have to get out of here, tonight.”

“I don’t want to leave,” Henry replied, pulling away from her.  “I like it here; it’s good, Grace.”

“No. Here is bad.  I don’t trust her, Henry.”  Grace said.  She stopped her argument as Misty re-entered the dining hall.  “I’m done,” she said, setting down her fork.

“That’s good,” Misty said.  “Off to bed with you then.  I’ll take care of your brother.”

Grace stood.  Reluctant to leave, she took her time.  “I can put Henry to bed.  I’ve been doing it for as long as I can remember.”

“It’s alright, dear girl.  You have been doing it for so long, it’s time to let someone else take over.”  Misty came over and put a hand on Grace’s shoulder.  “Go on now.  Go to bed; I know you’re tired.”   The woman nudged her towards the door with a light shove.  Grace took the hint and went upstairs two at a time.  She hoped Timothy would be there, she had so many questions for him.

“I knew it!” The mouse said.  Grace’s new found friend paced around on top of the desk.  “She’s taken a liking to him.  That’s not a good sign, Grace.  You need to get him out of here.”

“And go where, Timothy?” she asked, as she brushed her tangled hair out.  “She could call Ms. Margo if we run away and if we got caught by her than we’d be right back where we started, only worse.”

“Not if you’re smart about it.  You need to form a plan.”  His whiskers twitched as he stared up at her.  “You could bake the witch.”

“Bake?”  Grace echoed.  “I don’t know.  This isn’t some fairy tale.”  Though, Grace thought, it might as well be.  I even have the talking mouse to prove it!  Shaking her head, she scooped Timothy into her palm before going over to her bed.  “You’re wrong.”

“I don’t think so,’ her tiny friend said.  Timothy curled up on the pillow opposite Grace’s.  “Just think about what I said, because your brother’s life depends on it.”

Over the next couple of days, Grace didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary.  Instead, she found Henry was happier than she’d ever seen him.  Misty, while still behaving erratically, became the mother figure the siblings had been missing for years.  She taught Grace a good number of things in the kitchen.

“I think I’ll make a special pie today,” Misty announced one morning after the children had been there a month.  “What do you think, Grace?  Blueberry or apple?”

“Blueberry,” Grace replied.  She pushed her lengthening hair over her shoulder, getting it out of the way of her dough kneading.  “Misty, do you know what?  My brother and I thought you were some sort of witch or enchantress when we first came here.  Silly, isn’t it?”

“Ah,” Misty said with a laugh, “That’s not silly at all.  It’s hard for foster children to adjust when the parent has been out of their lives for so long.”  She went over to the oven.  “I think it’s almost hot enough for the croissants.  Let me just go make sure Henry is getting the stall cleaned out, alright?” The woman left before Grace could reply.

“Psst!”  A familiar squeak reminded Grace that she was not alone.  “That was a bad sign!”

“What?  That’s Henry’s chore….”

Timothy jumped on to the table.  “Grace.  Listen to me–”

Grace didn’t get to hear what the mouse was going to say, Henry’s shocked cry, followed by a crash interrupted.  She stood quickly, knocking her chair back.  “Henry!”

“Be careful, Grace,” Timothy cautioned.

“I will be.”  Without waiting for more warning, Grace left, heading toward the stables.

Upon reaching the clearing where the stables located, Grace stopped.  She could hear voices within.  She crept close to the entrance, flattening herself against the side to listen.  Misty was talking.

“You think it’s easy on me?  I didn’t want to do this, but if I don’t…oh what that woman would do…”

“But, I’m not bad, I promise you!  Ms. Margo just wants perfect!” Grace’s brother protested.  “You really don’t have to do this!”

“Oh, but I do.”  The sound of an iron door slamming came next.  “And if your sister tries to help you, she’ll wish she hadn’t.”

Grace backed up as the woman left the stable alone.  She watched their guardian head back to the house before she ran into the stables.  “Henry?” she called to her brother in a loud whisper.  “Where has she put you?”

“Up here,” her brother replied.  Looking around, the girl spotted her younger sibling dangling in a cage just above the sharp tools.  “Grace, you have to get away from here.  Misty is a bad, bad woman.”

“As if I’m going to leave here without you,” Grace said.  She proceeded to look around for something to cut him down with.  “We can leave together, Henry.  I just need to get you down, and you need to hide while I think.”

“We don’t have much time.” Henry replied. “Besides, how are you going to get me down?”

Grace held up an axe, “With this.”   She swallowed past a lump in her throat.  She wasn’t sure if she could really aim from the ground.

“Give me a break… there’s no way,” Henry said.  His voice, however, conveyed how he wished she’d contradict his mistrust.

Grace took a few swings.  The thing was heavier than she’d anticipated.   “I don’t know if I can do this,” she said then, hope suddenly abandoning her.

“I think you can,” a small voice said from the ground.  “But, it would probably be easier if I climbed up and chewed the ropes down.”

“Is that…a mouse talking to you?”  Henry asked.  “There’s no way!”

“Well, you’re hearing me, aren’t you?”  Timothy asked.  “Believe it or not, I used to be a human being, just like you.”  The mouse started up the rope.  “You’d better get back to the main house, Grace. I’ll take care of your brother.  Misty can’t know you’re on to her.”  He began gnawing at the ropes, leaving no more room for discussion.

“Timothy will take care of you; listen to what he tells you,” Grace said to Henry before leaving to go back to the house.

“Your brother’s going to busy for a while so we should go ahead and get things ready for dinner,” Misty said as soon as Grace stepped into the room.  “We’ll be having pies and  cakes for dessert.  That means I’m putting you in charge of the oven.”

“The oven?” Grace repeated, playing dumb.  “I don’t think I know how to use an oven…”

“I’ll show you.  It’s fairly easy,” Misty replied.  “But first, why don’t you get some older clothes on; you’ll be getting very messy.”

“Alright,” Grace said.  Quickly, she rushed to her room and changed into some dirty clothes.  It didn’t matter to her how dirty they were.  Glancing out the window, she spotted Henry.  He saw her too. She went over, pushing the window up.  “Stay out of sight.”  Footsteps on the stairs caused Grace to slam the window shut.

“You ready, Grace?” Misty asked.  She stood in the doorway, arms crossed.  “The cakes won’t bake themselves.”

“I’m ready.”  Grace followed her adoptive mother back to the kitchen.  The time is now.

Grace watched Misty put the finishing touches on the cake mix and pour it into the pan.  “How hot should the oven get?”

“Three-seventy-five,” Misty said without looking up.

Grace took the opportunity to re-arrange the racks.  She felt something crawling up her pant leg. Glancing down, she saw Timothy.  Discretely, she picked the mouse up, and placed him on her shoulder.  “What are you doing here?” she asked out of the corner of her mouth.  “I’m doing fine.”

“You’re planning to melt her?  What are you thinking?”

“Hansel and Gretel did it,” Grace replied.  Timothy scooted into her apron pocket.  “Misty, I think it’s ready.  Can you check it for me?”

“Just a second, dear.”  Without turning to face her, Grace could sense something troubling. “Are you sure you don’t know how to do it?”

“I’m sure.” Grace replied, making sure to add a bit of a whine to the pitch of her voice.

“Okay, okay.  Fine, I’ll do it,” Misty said, obviously annoyed.  She opened the oven, leaning forward.

“Now!”  Timothy squeaked from Grace’s apron.

“Whaaat?” Misty shrieked as Grace shoved with all her strength, pushing the woman into the oven.

The girl tried hard to ignore Misty’s screams of pain as she locked the oven for good measure. Timothy climbed out of her apron as she peeled it off.  “We’re going to be in so much trouble… this is murder.”

“As long as you stick to the story we’re going to come up with, everything will be fine,” Timothy said.  Or at least, she thought it was him, the voice no longer squeaked as much.  In fact, it sounded altogether different. “You did a brave thing, Grace.”

“T-timothy?”  When she turned, standing before her was a boy at least five and a half foot tall.

“She’s dead, so the spell’s been broken.”  He smiled. “We should get out of here, though.  Come on.”  He took her by the hand, leading her out of the house just before it burst into flames.

Victoria Durm–


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