How Not to be Wicked

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Cora Elizabeth Emerson applied her favorite shade of red lipstick, and set out to ruin someone's life

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Cora Elizabeth Emerson applied her favorite shade of red lipstick, and set out to ruin someone's life.

With a few days left until Halloween, she couldn't keep her wickedness contained, not that she had to at all. She belonged amidst the skeletons, ghosts, and ghoulish decorations displayed in almost every shop window. One pharmacy had a sign that read, "Magic Spells 1$." Her family would have huffed at the sign but it warmed Cora's heart.

This would be her year to prove she could be as wicked as the rest of her family.

The smell of toil and trouble lingered in the afternoon air in Thornpoint, Brooklyn, New York, revealing to Cora today was the perfect day to ruin a life. She didn't have much choice in the matter. If she couldn't ruin someone's life by her eighteenth birthday, her powers would dwindle. She would lose them for good and she couldn't have that.

A cool breeze made spiders skitter up her spine and she shivered, liking it. She caught a glimpse of herself in the window of a flower shop and cackled. Well, she tried to but ended up in a coughing fit that sounded like she was on the verge of spitting up a lung or two.

A few people looked her way, including the old woman in front of her who wrinkled her nose over her shoulder. Cora waved her hand, as if to say, "No worries. This happens all the time." It did, more than she'd have liked to admit.

Once the older woman turned away, she grasped her throat. "For the love of Jupiter." Although her great-grandmother, Mariam, had schooled her in the art of cackling, she could never get it quite right.

"It should come from the back of your throat." Mariam demonstrated, tossing back her head of silver curls. When Cora tried, she ended up with saliva down her chin.

The cackle was an amateur sorceresses practice. She should have gotten it right, and because she was in a worse mood than she'd been before she snapped her fingers twice, making a strewn coffee cup roll under the old woman's foot so she almost fell.

Almost, because Cora ran up to her and caught her before she could hit the concrete. The old woman's fine velvet hat went askew on her head, covering her eyes.

"Gosh." She struggled in Cora's arms to right herself. She pushed her hat away from her face. "Thank you, dear, but I'm quite all right now."

Cora's cheeks warmed from guilt. "You're welcome, miss." She let her go.

The old woman tipped backwards once more and this time she did lose her hat. Cora considered letting her fall. As her mother, Stella, would say, "Common courtesy is not the Emerson way." Instead, she caught her and helped her back up to the right position. While the woman adjusted her fur coat, Cora picked up her hat for her. It was as expensive as she'd presumed it to be. Of course, a woman in a fur coat, who most likely wore perfumes with French labels (she smelled as if she did), didn't buy cheap hats from vendors on Court Street.

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