No men were at the Thanksgiving table.
Looking around, Fawn realized she only recognized her mom and grandmother in the group of women. She couldn’t shake the feeling of vague familiarity. She squinted. Evelyn? It was the venerated matriarch of the Belgrave family. This had to be something from her imagination. The dead could not rise, let alone dine with the living.
Scanning the faces again, she remembered the special silver album. It was traditional for each family witch to have a picture taken when her powers first emerged.
Her concentration broke when she saw her ginger ale ripple. Her eyes widened in horror when a man’s face materialized in the crystal. His eyes were black as coal, and they shone with sinister intent. She instinctively backhanded the glass across the room. It shattered on impact, but no one moved as if nothing had happened.
She did not have time to wonder why before the face returned, this time appearing in the large mirror over the console. “You can’t get rid of me.”
Backing away, she forgot to step around her chair. It fell backwards and clattered to the floor. The door to the kitchen was missing and the dining room was slowly stripped away like peeling wallpaper, disappearing into the void as large gray wisps of smoke. The space began to rumble, and Fawn woke up to someone shaking her.
Her twin brother Alec loomed over her, his forehead crinkled with worry. “What just happened?” His fingers remained curled around her shoulders.
Fawn could feel the pressure on her head, slowly stamping out her senses. Black spots peppered her vision. “Don’t yell, Alec. I have a migraine.” She glanced at the clock and saw it was past midnight. They were officially sixteen.
Through the window, lightning flashed. It illuminated everything in its path for a brief second before shadows once again engulfed the space. Fawn winced. The exposure burned her eyes, and even the distant rumble of thunder was too loud.
She shivered again, realizing her blanket had fallen to the floor while she slept. She pointed to it, in too much pain to retrieve it herself.
Alec grabbed the comforter, laid it over her. Though she was cradling her head in her hands, she could still feel his searching gaze penetrating the darkness. With each flash of lightning she flinched.
She envied her brother, who remained unaffected by the pain she was experiencing. Their twin connection only allowed access to each other’s emotions, not any physical conditions.
He stood by her pillow, a crease forming between his eyebrows. “Tell me what happened.”
“What are you talking about?” Fawn clenched her jaw as another bout of pain seared through her.
He motioned her to scoot over. She did, and the mattress sank under the combined weight as he settled next to her. They sat shoulder to shoulder. Alec gently gave her hand a reassuring squeeze. “You were staring at a mirror and looked positively freaked out.”
“I was watching you, but apparently you couldn’t see me.”
“A man was stalking me…” Fawn didn’t know if her dream was an omen. She had a history of psychic visions. Was this one or just a terrifying figment of her imagination? “And you said you actually saw my dream? How is that even possible?”
“I was having a normal dream, when it suddenly fell away, and a one-way glass wall appeared. I was curious, so I checked it out. Just as quickly, I was back in my room. I think someone didn’t want me to see what was happening. I immediately came here to see if you were okay.”
“Have you seen my dreams before?” Fawn asked.
“No. I was pushed into it, and then someone took me out.” He paused. “I think we should tell Mom.”
As if on cue, the door creaked open, revealing the silhouette of Stella.
Sleep clouded the warm, blue eyes that normally sparkled with excitement. Despite the early hour, she wore her hair in a bun and sported a moon necklace, star earrings, and a triple-moon bracelet. They reflected the light from the window.
Her brother recovered first. “Mom? We were just about to get you.”
“I know.” Her tone was both warm and regal. “I heard you rush in here, and some of what you were saying. May I come in or are you two still sorting through private twin matters?”
Alec looked to his sister. Fawn nodded.
Stella sat at the foot of the bed and looked outside. Despite the storm, the full moon was clearly visible in the night sky. It glowed with an ethereal beauty that only amplified the mystical atmosphere. “What questions do you have for me?” Her mother’s voice had risen from a whisper to a normal speaking voice, but Fawn could finally feel the pain beginning to subside, so the volume didn’t bother her.
“I saw her dream. That’s never happened before. What’s going on?”
“On Halloween, the veil between the mystical and normal worlds is blurred to the point where there is almost no distinction. Witches are responsible for keeping the balance during this window of time until the barrier is restored once again. Tonight’s strange events may have been because of your birthdays. You’re finally getting your powers.”
Fawn’s jaw involuntarily dropped a few inches. She had grown up with their family’s magical history, but she never believed it would really happen to her.
Alec leaned back until his head touched the wall behind the bed. “Didn’t you say only girls inherit the magic? Why am I being affected?”
Stella took both her children’s hands in her own. “Fawn is a very powerful witch because she’s the seventh generation of our family, and some of her magic has rubbed off on you, Alec. That is why your twin connection is unusual. You know each other’s emotions.” Stella paused. “As to why you were privy to Fawn’s dream, the only explanation I can think of is divine intervention.” She turned her attention to her daughter. “Are you still frightened, honey?”
“I’m not as scared as before now that you’re both here, but I’ve been better. And why was I having logical thoughts during the dream?”
“You’re experiencing pain because you woke up while your magical powers were in the middle of transforming your DNA.” Stella saw Fawn’s eyes go wide with alarm. “It’s not as bad as it sounds. It’s undetectable by science, too. Witches usually stay asleep while receiving their abilities and don’t wake during the process. Your body is pulsing with new power. It’s like growing pains.”
“I thought I got over that when I first had my period,” Fawn grumbled. Beside her, Alec gagged. She elbowed him in the ribs, and he stopped.
Stella continued. “As to your second question, magic allows us witches to maintain complete control over our faculties even while in the dream realm.” She thought for a moment before continuing. “I have an idea that might help. Alec, please get sixteen candles. Fawn, you’re going to do your first spell in order to fully own your magic. I’ll guide you through it.”
Alec didn’t move. “Why do I have to get them? Why can’t she do it?”
“Would you send her out alone to roam the house after such a terrifying dream?”
He opened his mouth to speak, closed it again, and left to retrieve the candles. When he returned, Stella then instructed them to arrange the candles in a circle on the floor and to sit in a triangle in the middle. The twins did as they were told and Fawn immediately missed the warmth of her bed. The air conditioner had turned her room into an icebox, and she quickly shut it off.
“Hold hands.” They followed their mom’s orders. “This is called channeling,” Stella explained. She seemed a little distant, her voice taking on a mystical quality. The moonlight illuminated her face. “It’s when witches tap into the energy around them. Did I ever tell you why I moved to New York after college?”
They shook their heads, wondering where their mother was going with this random tangent.
“I wanted to be near ley lines so my psychic powers would be strengthened.” Stella’s next words breathed more mystery into the room as she continued. “Ley lines are mystical energy trails that intersect throughout the world. Cleopatra’s Needle marks a powerful convergence site.”
Fawn nodded, understanding. She had read theories of why the major cities of the world all seemed to possess a special vitality. She never believed studies that claimed the basis was mystical energy, but when her mom said it, she trusted her.
A new thought occurred to her. “But what about Salem? Can’t witches collect power from massacre sites?”
“That is true, but the danger of channeling that magic is that often steeped in so much anger and pain, it can overwhelm one’s personal magic. I choose to use pure natural sources because it does not come with the same warnings.” She saw her daughter forming a new question. “And, before you ask, channeling a person temporarily drains them of their life force. However, human contact is the most powerful type of channeling.” She paused. “Fawn, you’re going to light these candles. This act will bind your magic to you, and then maybe the pain will go away.”
“Will the candles melt on my carpet?” It seemed silly, but Fawn didn’t want the purple plum carpet ruined.
Stella raised an amused eyebrow. “No, darling. I’ve spelled the candles so they don’t melt—just in case of an emergency.”
Fawn closed her eyes, and imagined finding a beacon of light. A flame appeared and engulfed her, searing through her veins. It raced up her limbs toward her heart like bullets flying toward a target. She grit her teeth as the tendrils began to settle in her chest.
The burning subsided to a relaxed simmer, and she felt the tingling warmth spread across her skin. She could feel her headache beginning to slip away as if the light was chasing away the shadows from her mind. Her skin started burning again. It was no longer comfortable, and her heart felt as if it were on fire.
In an attempt to cool down, she imagined the current emanating from her palms and going into her brother and mother. Maybe if the three of them shared the burden it wouldn’t hurt as much. She imagined her inner fire lighting the candlewicks in a single whoosh. She felt a breeze on her skin and sighed as it gradually faded to a soothing sensation…
“Fawn!” her mom shouted in alarm.
The light disappeared and her headache was back, all traces of the wonderful feeling gone. Her eyes snapped open. She was sitting in a ring of fire, and she could see there was a blaze expanding in the sky.
She’d done all that within moments? It was so effortless she hadn’t noticed her magic’s effect.
Fawn glanced at the pink light pouring in through the window. “Why’s the sun rising?” She started to breathe harder. Guess it zapped more of her energy than she had thought or maybe it was just her anxiety taking over.
“You magnified everything.” The awe and pride in Stella’s tone was apparent, but her tone quickly became practical. “Visualize the light disappearing.”
Fawn quickly did as she was told.
“Damn, that was cool,” Alec mumbled.
Stella leaned forward. “Fawn, did you visualize a lit candle?” She sounded like a teacher sorting out a scuffle on the playground. Not directly saying the child was wrong, but her tone unmistakably noting a mistake had been made.
The new witch hesitated and then shook her head.
“You have to be very specific in what you visualize. You’re more powerful than I thought. I’m sorry. I threw you into this too quickly without fully preparing you. When you channel someone, you have to ” Stella paused, the cost of speaking finally taking a toll on her.
Fawn was surprised. She thought she had done all the work. Had she also been channeling her mom and Alec without realizing it? Looking closer, Fawn realized her mother’s normal glow had faded. And Alec looked like he was about to pass out. “Are you guys okay?”
“Here’s a birthday present I think will help.” From out of nowhere, Stella produced a large, leather book. On the cover, a sun and a moon were embossed against a background of stars. “It’s a Grimoire,” she explained. “Every witch in our family, including Evelyn, has chronicled her magical experiences in it. Think of it as a witch’s diary, if you will.”
This was as old as the original Belgrave witch? Fawn was suddenly anxious about touching the book. What if it fell apart? What would she do? But despite her worry, Fawn ran her hands over the cover. It had a silver filigree pattern that reflected the moonlight in the most magical way. It was a beautiful gift.
Stella rose to leave. “I’m going to go to bed now. Feel free to look through it but don’t try any more magic without me. Good night and happy birthday. In the future, Fawn, it is important to remain aware of the people you channel. It can make or break them as well as the spell being cast.” She kissed each of them then exited the room.
Fawn heard the door to her mom’s bedroom close. Alec hugged her before leaving too. I am never doing this again.
A voice whispered in her mind: Fawn. Her forehead wrinkled in confusion. She turned around slowly. No one was there. She hadn’t even noticed Alec had left too. She was now hearing voices in her head. Had she gone crazy?
No, my dear, you are still perfectly sane.
Who are you? Fawn was still searching for the voice, when suddenly a young Evelyn appeared before her. She wore a floor-length gown. It looked as if it had been sewn from the night sky itself.
Evelyn smiled. “I’ve been watching you grow into a very beautiful and confident young lady. You have the gift. It runs in our family, but you are special. Be careful. They will come for you.” Her voice was soft and comforting but the warning was not lost on Fawn.
“Who? And how am I talking to you?” Fawn stood up and walked towards her ancestor. She stopped about a foot away.
“As witches, our family can talk to the dead. It’s one of many other talents.” The hem of Evelyn’s gown fluttered around her ankles in an invisible breeze.
Fawn was staring at her. She seemed solid but she did not want to test the theory. What if her touch made the woman disappear? Or, even more embarrassing, went right through her? “But I’ve never heard the dead before.” Sure, she sometimes had psychic dreams and she shared a freaky twin connection, but she had never spoken to a ghost before.
“You didn’t have the power, but now that you have your gifts, you are the most powerful witch in the world—a world you’re destined to save.”
“There has to be some mistake.”
Her ancestor shook her head. “You are destined to be the savior. But until that time comes, you must be careful with your magic.” Her image began to waver, like a hologram starting to fade.
Fawn scrambled to get her thoughts in line to ask the next question. “Evelyn—” but she was nowhere to be seen. Though she was still new to magic, Fawn could tell the connection had been broken.
The next morning, Fawn woke to the sound of her bedroom door bursting open. Alec quickly appeared on the threshold and launched himself onto the bed, crushing her under his weight. “Happy birthday, baby sis!”
Fawn pulled the pillow out from underneath her head and whacked him with it. “Stop calling me that!” she huffed. “We’re twins, Alec!”
He ignored her. “Hey! Seven minutes is a lot. Besides, we’re sixteen now, so I’m going to have to protect you from all the guys who will be lining up to take you on a date.”
Fawn shoved his shoulder. “Whatever.”
“There are my darling children!” Stella exclaimed as she came waltzing through the doorway. She began to sing gently. “Happy birthday, happy birthday just for you…” She trailed off and they joined in. “Happy birthday and may all your dreams come true. When you blow out the candles, one light stays aglow: it’s the sunshine of your smile where ‘ere you go.”
The song ended and they grinned at each other before entering into a group hug. Stella let go and pulled out two small wrapped boxes, one purple and the other blue. The twins knew which was which.
Fawn stared at the objects in her mom’s hands. “I thought I already got my gifts. You know, magical powers and a spell book that could fall apart the moment I open it.”
“Well, yes. But I’m also giving you both charms—”
Alec interrupted, “I’m a guy. I don’t wear jewelry.”
“No one has to see it. Now listen. This is important. These charms are spelled to tap into the natural twin bond you two have and will allow you to know if either one of you are ever in danger.” She pushed the purple box toward Fawn and the blue toward Alec.
They simultaneously ripped off the wrapping paper and Alec almost dropped his in the process. Turning to her own gift, she opened the box to reveal an oval opal pendant on a silver chain.
Alec got one too, but it was smaller, therefore easier to hide underneath a t-shirt.
“Always wear this and make sure it is touching your skin. That means no pockets, sorry Alec.”
“These are so beautiful!” Fawn exclaimed.
“I’m glad you like it. Fawn, why don’t you get dressed so you can take your picture for the album, okay?” She hugged them both again before leaving. After helping each other fasten on the necklaces, her brother left too.
Fawn groaned inwardly. The picture was bound to happen. She should just do it and be done. Still in her pajamas, she went to her closet and pulled out her trusty lace-up boots, her favorite top with open shoulders and a painted dragon on the front and back. Pulling a hair band off her bedpost, she quickly put her hair into a messy bun.
Glancing at her phone, she could see all the notifications of birthday messages. She would get to them later.
“What’s taking so long, Fawn? Get out here.”
“I’m here.” When she rounded the corner, Fawn saw her mom had gone all out. The family’s purple armchair was in the center of the floor, and a white tarp hung from the ceiling, creating a backdrop worthy of a professional photo shoot. Her mom was perched on a stool behind the tripod, peering through the camera. “I’m just getting a simple picture, right?”
Stella turned and took in her daughter’s outfit. “You need to change. Go put on the purple dress you wore to the wedding last year. This is an important tradition and you want to look your best. I’ll help you with your makeup.”
Twenty minutes later, Fawn was in front of the camera as her mother dictated different poses and camera angles. She sighed in relief when they finally printed the chosen picture.
Fawn approached the coffee table with the silver album. As she got closer, she heard a crowd of whispers. Again? She wondered. Hesitantly, she opened the cover and suddenly it was as if a hundred people were shouting at her.
Warn her— some said.
We will get in trouble— others interrupted.
We need to protect her. The first side argued.
Fawn cleared her throat, staring at the pictures. What do you need to tell me? She asked.
All the voices stopped and a pregnant pause ensued. Fawn shook her head. She was losing it. She was probably just imagining things.
The voices returned with ear-splitting volume. Be careful! He is coming.
I—I don’t understand. Who is coming after me? But they were already gone. Fawn quickly inserted her photo and hurried back to her room.
Once safely inside, she locked the door. He? It was more specific than what Evelyn had told her, but not by much. It was too frustrating. Her ancestors were set on warning her about someone pursuing her, but how they thought their vague warnings were actually helpful was anyone’s guess. If the dead couldn’t give her a straight answer, and her mother hadn’t seen anything dangerous, she was sure no living person could tell her either.