Hello again! As you already know if you’ve been reading this blog for longer than a week, I’m doing something a little different for this year’s Witchy Weekends series. Instead of sharing movies or books or music with you, I’m sharing with you a story I’m writing, a work-in-progress. (I’ve already written quite a bit of it, but not every last thing yet.) This is a bit of an experiment for me, but I hope you’ll enjoy it.
Here’s the plan: each weekend this month I’ll share a scene with you from this WIP (in which one of the characters is a witch), and you, dear reader, get to share with me your reaction to it. That’s right, I’m crowdsourcing a beta-read. I’ve never done this before, so I don’t really know what to expect — though you all are a very nice bunch, so I’m not expecting you to be rude. 🙂
Click here to read the first scene. (And I recommend you read the scenes in order for the story to make the most sense.)
Feel free to post in the comments what you think of the scene, any aspect of it, and what you think is going to happen next in the story. I’d love to know!
“The Frog Wish” (part 2)
The antiques store, a peeling pier-and-beam house in the unzoned Montrose area, was nothing if not old. But then all the vintage and antique shops lining this street were. It was like two blocks living in the past amidst some conspicuously hip restaurants and the artsy residential section of town. Eleanor climbed the noisy wooden steps to the front porch and opened the screen door. The oak door, whose red paint had faded to a morose coral, was propped open and blocked her view of what had probably been a dining room in the 1930s.
“Hello?” she called down a hallway lined with ornate wooden furniture. The living room to her left contained several sideboards and secretary desks, as well as some framed prints she thought might have dated back to the forties. She glanced around the oak door: the dining room was filled with small tables and their chairs. She heard a scuffling coming from the depths of the house, someone’s boots shifting on the wooden floors.
“I’ll be there in a sec,” a voice called out from the labyrinth of dressers and bedframes and curio cabinets and chairs and vanities Eleanor knew the house contained. All of these antique shops were alike––too many pieces of old furniture wedged into rooms barely big enough to hold both the merchandise and a passel of customers.
“I’ll come to you,” Eleanor answered and picked her away through the hallway to the next open space. Openish. At least the merchandise seemed to be in good shape. Other than a thin layer of dust on some of the taller pieces and the persistent aroma of incipient mildew germane to pretty much every place like this on the Gulf Coast that didn’t have central air and heat, the proprietor seemed to have a good handle on how to take care of the antiques. That encouraged her.
The shop owner came into view, navigating a row of end tables. He was an older man, probably approaching sixty, in a dark green t-shirt and blue jeans. He saw Eleanor and waved.
“Hey there.” His subtle twang suggested she was dealing with a born-and-raised. “I’m guessing you’re Ms. Richardsen.”
“I am,” she said, walking toward him with hand outstretched. He shook it. “Call me Eleanor.”
“Righty then.” He looked around. “I’m Joe. I just got some new dressers in last week, so the shop is a little bursting. But the––you were looking for bedframes?––I have some nice ones, about a hundred years old, from upstate New York.” He waved her toward the next room. “Rich mahogany stain, some lovely carvings.”
She needed a new bedframe because Lucas had taken theirs when he left. She’d bought a new mattress and box springs and metal frame on casters the same afternoon, because where else was she going to sleep? Moira had offered her the guest room at her house for as long as she needed, but Eleanor was determined to make her own space as quickly as she could.
It didn’t help that Lucas was Moira’s cousin and might show up there, looking for either company or commiseration or spells. Moira was staying totally neutral with her uncanny ability not to take sides. Maybe all the meditation kept her centered? Eleanor had no idea.
“How about this one?” Joe moved an umbrella stand made from a tree trunk off to the side and wiped a chamois cloth across the top of a queen-sized headboard peaked with an elaborately carved medallion. The image looked familiar, somehow, a triple spiral curling in on itself. It was pretty, but she didn’t know where she’d seen it before. The stain on the wood highlighted its grain pattern; the diagonal patterns on either side of the midline created an oppositional symmetry she found pleasing.
“I love it,” she said without thinking. She should have shown a little more hesitation to get the best price. Too late now, though. “Matching footboard?”
Joe nodded. It was propped up behind the headboard for some reason. “The side rails are solid and strong, no warping or chips at all, but you’ll need to add your own slats to hold the mattress and box.” He sniffed and scratched his scalp. “Probably four good two-by-fours oughtta do it, but get six if you want extra stability.”
For what? she thought sullenly but just nodded her head. She knew the enthusiasm in her eyes had dimmed. “How much?”
He leaned his head from side to side. “Five hundred, but we can work something out if you buy anything else.”
“Like what?” she asked. “Does this bed come with any matching pieces?” Lucas had taken the dresser, too, but she didn’t care as much about that. He was into Scandinavian “clean lines,” which she found utterly lacking in character.
“Course it does.” He smiled and led her toward a cluster of bureaus. “This is part of the same set.” His chamois wiped the top of an imposing cabinet almost as tall as she was. It had numerous large drawers and matching cabinet doors on the sides. The legs were carved in a style she didn’t see often. Every detail, down to the carved horn knobs, was thoughtful and deliberate. The top of the piece lifted with a trap door to reveal a modest storage space––she imagined it filled with gloves and the occasional decorative fan, maybe an embroidered handkerchief––and a place for a mirror, which was missing. That didn’t bother her, though. The bureau was gorgeous and in good shape.
“This is becoming an expensive appointment,” Eleanor said, injecting a note of caution into her voice.
“It’s solid stuff. You won’t find this design anywhere else in Houston.”
That much was true. She hadn’t seen anything else like these in all her years of collecting.
“Take both pieces, we’ll call it seven-fifty.”
“That bureau is missing its mirror.”
Joe grinned. “I got plenty of mirrors here.”
Eleanor sighed. She was going to buy this furniture, she already knew it. She didn’t even really mind how much this was costing her; she’d prepared for that when she’d decided to furnish her bedroom with antiques––to remake her own space in her own image, as it were––and these were fair prices for the value.
She backed away from the bureau section and followed Joe toward a room filled with glass. A single chandelier in the middle of the ceiling was reflected in thirty or forty mirrors lining the walls, so even though it had just a few warm bulbs in it, the room was the brightest in the shop so far. The selection was overwhelming. She could understand why this room was so far back in the labyrinth; in the front room it might scare customers off.
She turned around in a circle under the chandelier, trying to absorb all the different mirrors. Seeing herself reflected in so many distortions and angles made her a little dizzy, so she avoiding looking at that; she focused on the bevels and frames and occasional imperfections in the surfaces. Then another piece, framed in dark wood and standing so tall it nearly grazed the ceiling, caught her eye.
“I really like this one,” Eleanor said, pointing to the large mirror in the corner. It was propped up against the wall with a chiffonier in front of it, obscuring its bottom half.
“That one? Really?” Joe asked.
Eleanor looked at him, a little surprised by his hesitation. “Is something wrong with it?”
Joe shifted his weight and put his hands in his pockets before answering, as if he wasn’t sure how to explain to her what ought to be incredibly obvious. “Well, it’s just got all these water spots on it, so you can hardly see anything clear. We even tried Windexing the thing, but that’s as clean as it gets.”
“It’s not so bad.”
He looked at her skeptically, as if she weren’t looking at the same mirror he was. This mirror had long jagged streaks of frosted imperfection ripping its smooth surface from the top of the carved frame to the bottom beveled edge.
“I think it was in a fire or something,” he offered.
“The frame is marvelous, though, don’t you think?” She wasn’t sure why she was defending this piece, since she was pretty sure she could talk down the price if he didn’t expect the mirror could be sold.
“Well, yeah, it’s all right––but I’ve got a similar frame, in a smaller scale, over on this other mirror over here…” His voice trailed off as he made his way toward one hanging on a wall. It was an oval about a foot wide. The price tag was just about the same as on the one Eleanor had picked out, but her mirror couldn’t have been smaller than four feet by seven.
She looked at Joe over her nose as if amused. “There’s hardly a comparison.”
“But the glass on this one is perfect––you can’t hardly even see through the other one. It’s been here forever.”
She pretended to consider this point; she never really looked into mirrors much, anyway, but she loved having them around. The imperfections wouldn’t bother her at all. She walked carefully back over to her choice.
“You’re right, this one is quite flawed,” she said. “Perhaps you could lower the price on it? I mean, if you aren’t selling it otherwise, I could take it off your hands. Especially if I’m taking those other two pieces.”
The dealer looked like he was thinking about her offer, then said, “Ten percent off.”
She chuckled, ha! “How about twenty?”
“Sold if you’ll deliver all of it to my house for free. I’m just in the neighborhood here.”
“Yeah…okay. I can have someone bring it around this afternoon.”
“Done,” she said cheerfully, shaking Joe’s hand and then reaching into her purse for her wallet.
Thank you for reading! In the comments, I welcome your feedback:
* What did you like?
* What confused you, if anything?
* What needs work?
* What are you most interested about?
* What do you think will happen next?
Check back next weekend for the next installment in the story!
Want to read more of my writing that’s already finished and published? Click here for poetry, click here for urban fantasy, and click here for realistic flash fiction. You can also buy my books in Houston at Blue Willow Bookshop!