Home > Natural Witch (Magical Mayhem #1)(14)

Natural Witch (Magical Mayhem #1)(14)
Author: K.F. Breene

As suddenly as it had stopped, the turning of the world resumed. The wind rushed back in, pushing at my shabby tent. Birds squawked, probably yelling at each other before finding a place to hunker down for the rain. The chatter of booth workers and the clang of the others putting their things away filled in the background.

His eyebrows dipped low over his expressive eyes and he slowly withdrew his hand.

“Not much of a talker, huh?” I asked.

He leaned back slowly, and the chair leaned back with him. He didn’t seem to notice. “Do you know how to read tarot?”

“Yes,” I said confidently. “Would you like me to…” My words dried up under the force of his straightforward stare. Silence once again filled the space between us. Just as before, his waiting had the effect of drawing the words out of me. “You caught me. I really don’t. I just make things up based on the pictures. When people get the death one, things can get a little dicey on the communication train.”

He tilted his head, and it seemed like a nod of approval.

“The ball?” he asked, back to his serial-killer expression.

“I mean, do any crystal balls really show images?” I chuckled.

“Yes.” His eyes took on a haunted look and his face shut down into a block of granite.

I was out of my league, and I had no idea why, how, or even what league I had wandered into. “Right. Well then, no, that is not a crystal ball. It’s a cheap lump of glass.”

He nodded again. “So what is it you do…”

“Penny. Penny Bristol.”

“What is it you do, Penny Bristol?” He spread his hands, indicating my whole setup.

“Well, I…” I looked at my table. With the tarot and crystal ball cleared off to the side, all that was left was a haphazard layout of gems and stones. My chances for getting paid for this visit were diminishing. “I play poker, really.”

“Poker?”

“Yeah.” I shrugged. What was the point in lying? He’d seen right through me, I could tell. “I read people and tell them what they want to hear. That’s what I do.”

“And what do I want to hear?”

“I have absolutely no idea.”

A smile slowly worked up his face. “This isn’t the right job for you, Penny Bristol.”

“Tell me about it.”

He leaned forward and put his forearms on the table. The loud creak didn’t seem to bother him as he gazed at the various items laid out before him. “May I touch your rocks?”

I narrowed my eyes at him. The way he’d said that sounded dirty.

When his eyes came up, though, they were inquisitive instead of filled with mischief.

“They don’t really like to be handled.” I clenched my teeth, realizing what I’d said. “I mean, I don’t like them to be handled. That’s what I meant.”

“No, it isn’t.” Another pocket of silence, and I got the distinct impression he wanted me to wave my weird flag.

“Fine, you want the whole shebang?”

“Yes.”

“Each of those rocks holds power. They like to be laid out in various ways, which changes nearly every day. If I get it right, this game of poker is much easier. The right words come to me. If I get it wrong, I get very little tips on what my customers want to hear.”

“Do you ever get it wrong?”

“In the beginning, I did, yes. They were for decoration, so I just placed them randomly.”

“What changed?”

“I spent more time at the library, researching power items. One day I got it right, and it felt…balanced. Peaceful.”

“Powerful.”

“Yes,” I said, shivers coating my body. “Powerful.”

“I have some knowledge of power rocks, Penny Bristol, though the ones I use are significantly larger than these.” He ran a hand over the table. “You are wrong. They like to be handled. They like to be used, some more than others. But you are right in that they have a will of their own.”

The shivers turned into prickles and I straightened up, fear worming into my middle. Flashes of burned bodies and zombie corpses invaded my mind. The feeling of power that had flooded my senses when I was reading that spell…

The memories rattled me, throwing me into a darker place.

Back into that church.

“Do you know of magic?” I asked in a strangled voice.

The glimmer in his eyes dulled. His gaze roamed my face, then my neck and shoulders. He leaned away from the table and dropped his hands into his lap. “I apologize. I think I’ve overstayed my welcome.” He rose and stepped behind the chair. His gaze went back to serious and intense, the brief sparks of humor from moments ago completely gone. “I know your fear. I know it with everything in my person. But remember this. As Nelson Mandela said, courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. If you hide from that powerful thing inside of you, it will take over in strange ways. It will rule you, and not you it.” He turned to go, but stopped mid-turn and swiveled back around. “And remember this also.” He touched a scarred finger to the center of his chest. “You don’t need fancy words or different languages. You don’t need more than what exists in the wild. You just need the strength of your will to make it so. Good luck, Penny Bristol.”

And with that, he was gone.

The increasing patter of raindrops sounded overhead, but I couldn’t move. My brain whirled with what he’d said, and more, the way he’d said it. Like he knew what I was going through. Like he’d been on the same journey at one point in his life, and he’d overcome the crippling fear.

Like he was encouraging me to overcome it as well.

I took a steadying breath and glanced at my gems and stones, replaying our conversation word for word.

It will rule you, and not you it.

The scenes in the church came back to me again. The decisions I’d made out of ignorance.

I did have some magic. How much or how little was still up for debate, but it was impossible to deny that if I continued to ignore the whole thing, I’d be acting out of fear…just like the stranger had urged me not to do. I’d be hiding from what I was. From finding out exactly what that meant.

Another thing occurred to me.

He hadn’t snickered at me once throughout that whole thing. He hadn’t made a jest at my expense, or a face that suggested he thought I was loony tunes. He’d been on my same page.

Emotion welled up, shifting things around in my chest. Excitement and anticipation built, along with anxiety.

Callie had said I could live in her house. That she had too much money for her own good and could cover my expenses. That would loosen the hold my mother had over me. It would erase my monetary obstacles.

Was I really contemplating accepting the dual-mages’ offer to train me?

Did I have any choice?

A sour face appeared within the front opening of my tent, followed by a wiry old body with droopy man boobs. I’d never seen a thin man with droopy man boobs until Albert, but there you had it. His white mustache curved down toward his chin, following the contours of his equally downturned mouth.

“Who are you trying to impress?” he asked.

I lifted my eyebrows. “You?”

“Bah!” He batted his hand through the air before pointedly looking at the sky. “Can’t you see? It’s starting to rain. There’ll be a storm tonight, mark my words. Those weather people wouldn’t know their business if it was handed to them.”

“Well…it is handed to them. Via a teleprompter.”

“You know what I mean. They said it’ll be light showers. Does that sky look like light showers to you?”

No, it did not. It looked like I needed to start building an ark.

“So what are you waiting for? A second all-clear?” He frowned at me.

“Did we get a first one?” I asked, standing.

He rolled his eyes and walked away.

That was probably a yes.

I stared at my gems and stones for a long moment before picking them up one at a time.

You just need the strength of your will to make it so.

But what was the “it”?

   
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