I was born on the night of Samhain. Others might call
it Halloween. Born into a family of witches who all carry
various Talents. Others might call it magic.
Except for me.
I alone in my family seemed to have no Talent. No
gift to shape me or to grant me a place in my family’s circle
around the altar to the four elements. All I had was the
prophecy that my grandmother made to my mother in the
first hour of my life. “Your daughter will be one of the most
powerful we have ever seen in this family. She will be a beacon
for us all.”
And then for reasons still unknown, my grandmother
spent the next seventeen years making sure I doubted that
prophecy at every turn. It took the return of an old family
enemy, two episodes of time travel, and one very dangerous
love spell that nearly killed my sister before I learned three
things. First, I can stop anyone from using their Talent to
harm me. Second, I can absorb a person’s Talent if they
attempt to use it against me three times. Third, I apparently
have a choice ahead of me. A choice that will explain the
mysterious workings of my grandmother’s mind and why
she raised me in complete denial of my Talent. A choice
that’s vaguely hinted at in my family’s book. A choice that
will fulfill the prophecy my grandmother made all those
Or destroy my family forever.
A choice that will be so terrible to contemplate that I’d
just rather not encounter it at all.
“I look awful,” I say, staring at myself in front
of the dressing room mirror. The dress I have just struggled
into hangs like a shapeless tent down to my ankles.
Okay, actually, it clings to the top half of me a little too
tightly before suddenly dropping off into the aforementioned
shapeless tent. And it’s gray. Not silver, not opalescent
mist, as the tag promises. Gray. Concrete gray.
My best friend, Agatha, scrunches her eyebrows
together over her bright green eyeglasses as she examines
me from all angles. “You do look awful. Perfectly, awful in
fact,” she finally confirms.
I stick my tongue out at her. Agatha loves the word perfectly
just a little too much. “Yeah, well, that was probably
Rowena’s intention all along,” I mutter, struggling to find
the zipper. The overhead lights of the narrow boutique are
suddenly too hot and glaring.
“Here,” Agatha says, and with swift fingers she yanks
the zipper down.
With a sigh of relief, I slip back into my jeans and flowered
T-shirt, then steps into my fringed wedges that I found
in my favorite thrift store last week. I can’t resist them even
though my ankles start to throb after more than five minutes
of wearing them.
“Why can’t you wear your rose dress?” Agatha asks
again as she arranges the hated gray tent back on its hanger.
Rowena had pronounced it “ethereal” when she had been
in the city a few weeks earlier and had left me three messages
on my cell to come to store “at once.” However, I never
picked up the phone. Caller ID is one of the best inventions
“Because Rowena wants silver. And what Rowena
wants, Rowena gets.”
“She gives new meaning to that term.” I refasten my
pink barrettes to the side of my head, useless, I know, since
they’ll be falling out in about three minutes. My curly hair
defies all devices invented to contain it.
“Too bad,” Agatha says as we exit the dressing room.
“That rose dress is so pretty and you never get to wear it.”
“Yeah,” I say, keeping my expression noncommittal,
while inwardly feeling the familiar pang. Oh, how I wish I
could tell Agatha that I already did wear it. I wore it when
Gabriel and I Traveled back to 1939 to a garden party in
my family’s mansion on Washington Square Park in New
York City. But if I told her that, I’d have to tell her who I
really am. What I really am. And the truth is, I don’t know
who or what I really am. For most of my life I thought I was
ordinary. The black sheep who got stuck in a very extraordinary
family. Not until I left my hometown of Hedgerow
and came to boarding school in Manhattan did I learn not
to mind that so much. For the first time in my life, I was
surrounded by people who had no idea that just enough
powdered mandrake root mixed with wine can make a
man want to kiss you. But too much can make that same
man want to kill you. It felt good to be among people who
thought I was just like them. It felt normal. I felt normal. I
felt like one of them.
And now that feeling is gone. And I can’t decide if I’m
happy or sad about that.
I gaze at Agatha for a moment and contemplate how
to tell her that I don’t really have a hippie crunchy granola
kind of family, as she likes to think. Instead, I have a family
of witches who actively practice their Talents but who
still manage to live relatively obscure lives. I have a mother
and grandmother who offer love spells, sleep spells, and
spells for luck, good fortune, and health to the town residents
who come knocking on the back door after night
falls when they can’t be seen by their neighbors. I have a
father who controls the weather. A sister who can compel
anyone to do anything just by mesmerizing them with the
sound of her voice. My grandmother's sister who can freeze
someone where he stands just by touching his forehead. A
boyfriend who can find anything and anyone that’s missing.
A whole bunch of other people I've been taught to call
"uncle" or "aunt" or "cousin" who are all Talented in one
way or another.
If I told Agatha any of that, she’d look at me like I was
speaking in tongues. If I showed her that I could shoot fire
from my hands or freeze people into statues with one tap of
my finger, she’d think I was a freakshow.
Or worse, she’d be afraid of me.
Agatha’s one of the first and relatively few people who
made me feel normal in my life. Back when I thought I
didn’t have a Talent at all, when I first came to boarding
school in Manhattan, it was okay omitting certain things
about my family life. It was okay to blur the line between
the truth and a lie. But now that I’ve discovered I do have a
Talent after all, it feels harder.
“So what are you going to do?” Agatha asks, breaking
into my headlong rush of thoughts.
“What?” I blink at her until she flourishes the dress
through the air. “Oh. I’m not buying that thing!”
The saleslady who has been hovering around the
dressing room apparently overhears me. She takes the
dress back from Agatha, stroking it like she’s afraid its feelings
just got hurt. Her long pink nose twitches once, reinforcing
my initial impression of a rabbit. “Well,” she says,
her tone frosted over. “Your sister did say that was the one
she wanted. She specifically asked me to put it aside for you
even though it’s really not our policy to do that here. Not
for more than twenty-four hours and it’s been three weeks
already.” The saleslady blinks a little as if suddenly wondering
why she did break store policy.
I try not to roll my eyes. Apparently Rowena has won
over yet another heart. People seem to want to throw themselves
in front of speeding b...