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Chapter Four

Learning to Spell

          The next morning Alice woke up under Ruby’s patchwork quilt, which meant yesterday must have been real. Thank God.  She swung her legs over the side of the bed and stretched.

She got dressed, choosing a comfy, form-fitting brown sweater and a pair of jeans from her suitcase. Her makeup was usually the bare minimum, but today she decided to use black eye liner and a little eye shadow. It took a while, since she hadn’t used it in so long, but the end result was satisfying. The woman who looked back at her from the mirror was an improvement from plain old Alice. She padded out into the kitchen in her bare feet. She had just started on the pancakes, when there was a soft knock on the door.

“Come in.”

            Azura was dressed in black slacks and a grey sweater. That morning she had gelled her short salt-and-pepper hair so it stuck up in spikes at the back. Alice thought it suited her.

            “Good morning! Did you sleep well?” the other woman asked.

            “Very, thanks. It’s so peaceful.”

            “The walls are actually spelled to keep out noise.”

            “Ah…” Alice stirred the pancake batter. “That’s why it’s so quiet.”

            “I think there’s some bacon in the fridge.”

            As Azura set about making the bacon, Alice asked her some of the questions she’d been wondering about last night. “So, I notice there isn’t nearly as much magic in here as there is downstairs.” She gestured to the one or two wisps of magic floating near the ceiling. “Why is that?”

            Azura stabbed at several pieces of bacon with a fork, and flipped them over. “Magic is attracted to other magic; you’ll find the most magic in places where a lot of it is being used.”

            “So Aunt Ruby didn’t do too much magic up here?”

            “Not for the most part.” Azura shrugged. ”No need to, I suppose.”

            Ten minutes later they sat down to pancakes, bacon and orange juice. Alice found Azura a pleasant breakfast companion. When she wasn’t instructing her about the shop she was laughing and telling jokes or stories. She told her how she had actually turned one enraged customer into a newt.

            “You really did?” Alice gasped.

            “I don’t take well to people swearing at me,” Azura said firmly. “They keep a civil tongue in their head or they end up three inches high and eating flies.”

            “Wow! I guess I had better be polite then.”

            When breakfast was over they went downstairs and Alice’s teacher began by showing her some of the basic spells.

            “What shall we start on first…hmm. Here we go!” Azura started to paw through the boxes on one of the shelves. “Strangling Scarves.” She pulled out a blue, woollen scarf and offered it to Alice.

            “Sounds horrible.” Alice took the scarf carefully, as if it might bite her.

            “Don’t worry,” Azura laughed at the look on her face. “It’s not enchanted yet. And we don’t enchant them to be very strong, just a gentle squeeze, for a joke. Kids think it’s funny.”

            “I’m sure,” Alice murmured. “How do I do it?”

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