Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Tempest, Final Episode: Don't Fall in Love




 The Tempest is a short fiction fantasy series that follows the adventures of a young girl with a magical ability to control the sky.  





Sparrow Rémy
Age Sixteen
April 27th
Mendocino Coast, Northern California


Rougey lived until my sixteenth birthday. I think she planned it. I was just old enough to emancipate myself and take over the title to the house and the apothecary. The papers for my emancipation, the house, the apothecary, and a little stone cottage a hundred miles from here were in her will, pre-signed. I think Rougey knew she was going to die when she first looked into the crystal ball. She said she saw an ending. I wonder if this was it.

The white lilies from Rougey’s funeral died today. I can’t stand being alone in this house. I keep thinking I see Rougey walking around. Maddie will be back soon, but whenever she leaves it’s like the rooms start speaking to me. This house is filled with ghosts of memories. It creaks at night and I can’t even pretend it’s Amanda. I could stay here, but everything in my body is screaming for me to run. But I don’t know what I’d be running from. I try but I can’t escape the feeling even that if I were halfway across the world, it wouldn’t change anything. But I have nothing left in this small town. I could cover up this ancient house with sheets and abandon it. Hazel could learn to live in the woods, she’s barely house trained as it is. Maybe Maddie could look after her. Maybe Maddie could look after the house.

Sparrow looked up from her diary and made eye contact with herself in the mirror across the way. She stared, but didn’t recognize the reflection. Her grey eyes were thunderstorms over a sea of sadness marked by acres of splotchy puffed skin. She looked far older than her age and exhausted. Her bright hair lacked luster and had matted to her face, stained from tears. She had dirt on her neck but couldn’t recall from what. She didn’t think she’d been in the garden in weeks. Her eyes crinkled and she let a solitary tear drag down her face before swiping it away and pinching her cheeks. A small bit of pink washed over them and quickly faded back to pale cream. Her brow was forever furrowed and as she stared at her reflection she faked a winning smile, wondering if anyone else would be able to tell how obviously fake it was. She touched the old key around her neck, and looked back down to the page.

I’ve searched high and low for whatever the key is supposed to open. When Rougey stopped speaking The doctors said Rougey had pneumonia, or whatever it was acted like pneumonia. There was nothing they could do, and they couldn’t figure out how she was still alive. They said her lungs were like ice. I read through every single page of mom’s spell book, and nothing countered the pain. She spent weeks and weeks in the hospital, and she knew she would die.

“Tea?” Sparrow looked over as Maddie walked into the library. She’d been living with Sparrow since the start of summer, convinced that if she went home Sparrow wouldn’t take care of herself. Maybe she was right.

Sparrow looked up at Maddie but didn’t respond. She glanced back down and her eyes glazed over as she stared on the floor.

“Tea,” Maddie repeated. This time it was no longer a question and she disappeared into the kitchen.

Sparrow turned back to her diary:

Rougey knew it wasn’t a sickness, she said so herself, ‘a curse can only be cured by its counter curse.’ The way the book described it was similar to snake venom. There are general anti-venoms, but they won’t work for every venom. Same goes for curses, every curse has an exact counter curse. So Rougey lived, and suffered, to make sure I’d be okay. But I’m not.

Sparrow cracked and dropped the pen, it rolled off the table and clattered on the floor. Clutching her heart, Sparrow tried to make sense of it all. Long after her tears dried, she lay on the floor in the hallway, a cold mug of tea sitting beside her, untouched. She focused on her breathing, stared at the white ceiling, and tried to figure out where she belonged. Sparrow never truly belonged anywhere. Sparrow never had a home. This house was never her home, Rougey was home.


***


Papers covered the entry table in the foyer, held down by an empty vase. Papers covered with black ink and envelopes stamped in red ink FINAL NOTICE. The electricity in the house turned off that week, and according to the water bill, that too would shut off in thirty days. But there wasn’t enough money to pay Rougey’s leftover hospital bills and the utilities. The doctor’s refused to release her, she was an anomaly and they should’ve let her come home when they couldn’t figure out what was wrong, but they didn’t. They wanted to study her bizarre sickness. It fascinated them.

The hospital bills piled up for months and there was only a little spare money in Rougey’s savings. Sparrow tried to use the Money Spell, but the more she used it the weaker it became, until soon, she was placing $1 bills underneath the cup, and there would be just $2. It wasn’t enough to stay afloat. But now with the heat and electricity off, and the water bill soon to turn off, Sparrow packed up her clothes in her room. She grabbed her bedding and a pillow, and whistled for Hazel, before loading up the green coupe.

“You’re just going to sleep in the apothecary?” Maddie asked. Her arms were folded across her chest as she watched Sparrow loaded the trunk. “On the counter or something?”

Sparrow nodded in response. “You can head home now. I’m sure your parents miss you.”

“Sparrow, maybe my parents can help out? Maybe just come stay with my parents and I. You don’t have to be alone!”

Sparrow met Maddie’s eyes and they filled with tears. “I can’t let you keep taking care of me.”

“That’s what friends do.”

“I’ll be okay.” Sparrow shut the trunk. “I promise.”

Sparrow got in the car, turned the key, and the engine sputtered and died. Sparrow punched the steering wheel before she tried again, and the engine turned over. The check engine light was on, as well as the gas light. Sparrow sighed, slipped the car into gear and rolled down the hill to the abandoned apothecary. At least the apothecary still had heat and power, it was cheap to keep the place running. Sparrow took out her old keys and opened the three locks, shoved open the door with her shoulder, and stepped inside. Dust swirled around her head as the first fresh breeze in months entered the building. Inside was dusty and cold. Spider webs were constructed in every corner of the ceiling, and one reached all the way to the glass counter. The blackout curtains shut out every bit of light and fresh air. It smelled musty and damp.

Sparrow pulled back the dark burgundy curtains and opened the windows in the shop, letting another fresh breeze fly through. Hazel stepped one paw through the door before sneezing three times and disappearing to the meadow at the back of the shop, leaving a paw print in the dust on the wooden floor.

Sparrow wrapped her arms around her body and turned to take in the old rooms. Green mold was growing in the sink in the kitchen. Sparrow coughed and as she opened the back door, a gust of wind blew through the shop like a tornado. After filling the sink with soapy water and dumping out a vase of dead flowers, Sparrow turned and saw the staircase in the back corner. She’d forgotten about the attic room. She’d only been inside a handful of times. Walking up the staircase and pushing open the door, Sparrow found the small room looked the same as it did the day she’d seen Gio in the crystal ball. In the center of the room was the round table with the crystal ball on top, the rest of the room was filled, wall to wall, with books, boxes, bizarre trinkets, and old yellow papers. She flipped the light in the corner, which flickered before beaming to life. Sparrow walked over to the sun-faded burgundy curtains and pulled them open to find two large windows that looked out onto the ocean. She ripped the curtains down and the room was flooded with sunlight. After pushing open the window to let the stagnant air out, Sparrow began grabbing boxes, carrying them downstairs, and piling them in the kitchen.

With every box, the tiny attic room grew bigger. There was even a twin bed hidden beneath boxes in one corner that would need a new mattress.  When she pushed aside a bookshelf taller than her in the back, she found a small bathroom. Gaining momentum, Sparrow wrapped her hair in a red handkerchief, grabbed a feather duster and set to work.

She uncovered old oil lamps, another wood burning stove -- an entire bedroom set was hidden beneath the filth. She scrubbed the floors and oiled the wood, blisters started appearing on her palms but she didn’t stop for hours, cleaning the windows until they shined, and scrubbing out the old claw footed tub in the teeny bathroom until it returned to its original cream. Reaching over to turn on the faucet, red water spewed into the tarnished sink and Sparrow clapped her hands. The plumbing worked!

When she was finished, she looked around and realized she had a lovely little room. Pulling out her bedding and clothes from the car, she carried them upstairs, ignoring the mess she’d made in the kitchen. Sparrow placed her easel by the window and placed the paints on the lovely cherry wood dining table her grandmother had used for the crystal ball. She placed her glass sparrow on the windowsill with the other odd glass bird her mother had sent her. She fluffed her white featherbed into a cloud and plucked yellow daisies to put in the vase on the table, and when she looked around, a small part of Sparrow was finally happy.

Sparrow walked across the room when a floorboard squeaked beneath her foot. Puzzled, Sparrow crouched down and removed the floorboard. Inside was an old wooden box, covered in dust, with a strange symbol on it. Engraved into the wood was what looked like how Van Gogh painted wind, flying from all directions like a compass. Sparrow turned the box in her hands, trying to pry it open until she saw a hole. Suddenly realizing why the compass was familiar, Sparrow touched her neck and pulled out the golden key her grandmother had given her. Palms sweaty with excitement, she ripped the key from around her neck, twisted, and it clicked. The box popped open.

Inside were yellowed and ripped papers, black and white photographs, a glass swan figurine, a black marble, five playing jacks, and the evil eye her grandmother had made her wear into the swamp. Sparrow sifted through the pages, unsure what to make of them, before she carried the box over to the table and sat down.

First there was a black and white photograph of a smiling man in a uniform, with what looked like a very happy and very young Rougey. She couldn’t have been older than twenty.

The second page was a letter:

My dearest Cygne,

How I wish I could be with you now! I can hardly believe you’re pregnant! The boys keep telling me to stop grinning! If only this war wouldn’t keep us apart. The moment I return from this wretched place we’re to be married! We’ll be a happy family! I love you and our child more than life itself. The picture of you and the thought of our child is the only thing keeping me going here. We will be married, Cygne, you’ll see.

Wait for me.

Yours forever,

Thomas

Sparrow smiled, before she pulled out a newspaper clipping with a photo of the same man. An obituary that he had died in action.

A tear fell down Sparrow cheek as she stared at her grandfather and then set the photograph aside. Next was a photo of Rougey and a young Anna, no older than twelve, eating ice cream on the bluffs. More photos of Derek and her mother at the age of sixteen in Rougey’s garden by the rose bushes. Derek was holding her mother’s pregnant belly and beaming. They looked really happy together, him smiling at the camera and her gazing up at him adoringly. Sparrow set the next newspaper clipping aside. She already knew what happened.

She picked up a note in Rougey’s handwriting:

As a child in India, my mother never spoke of my father. I was only told he died in war. Now that my Thomas has died, I worry. I am beginning to believe that any man that marries a Rémy will die when the woman falls pregnant. Like a disgusting spider. I hate myself and what I’ve done to Thomas and his parents. This poor child will grow up without a father and it’s my fault. What have I done?

Next Sparrow pulled out a ripped page from a book of folklore:

A Tempest is magical folk similar to a witch. They grow up with an ability to control the sky and hone it into individual power. From the age of 13, they are able to perform spells and are granted a specific gift. Some are given the ability to fly, others can become invisible. Some can turn humans to stone or shoot lightning from their fingertips.

However, with the Tempest’s gift, comes a great curse. For there is no record of a male Tempest, and once a Tempest falls pregnant, the man she loves will die.

A Tempest is a roamer and is not meant to stay in one place for more than a quarter century. At the age of 25, they are uprooted and taken in a whirlwind around the world to try and help as many as they can. The symbol of the Tempest is the four directions of the wind. As they travel the world, they take on the names of birds to recognize one another.

Sparrow set the letter down, her head spinning: Océanite. Cygne. Sparrow. Sparrow ran across the room to the bookshelf and snatched up a French dictionary; she flipped to the word “Cygne” and found “Swan.” She flipped further and found “Océanite,” “a black sea bird, a storm petrel.” All this time, she wasn’t the only one named after a bird. They all were. Sparrow looked at the photo of the storm petrel, then up to the glass sparrow on her windowsill. She picked up the other glass bird her mother had sent her, and finally understood. Holding the glass swan in her palm, she set the sparrow, the petrel, and the swan together on the windowsill.

Sparrow slowly sat back down, lifting the next page. It looked like a page from her mother’s spell book. She smoothed it out and read her mother’s handwriting, there were just two spells:

How to Capture and Keep a Soul Alive

And on the back:

Bringing a Human Back from Death
(only for use on captured souls)


Sparrow dropped the page, unwilling to read anymore. This was the spell Magdalena and Derek had been looking for.

Sparrow opened another note, in Rougey’s handwriting, to no one in particular:

I tried to tell Anna of her fate when she was already in love with Derek. I don’t know how I missed their crushes on each other. I was strict with her, protective; I must have been too strict. When he died she ran away from her past and even further from her future. Anna was taken by the wind and left in my care an innocent child. We must break this cycle.    

The final page was a letter from Anna:

Maman,

I love you, but I can’t come back. Not to that place. Every inch of it reminds me of him. Every wave sings of him and every wheatgrass on every bluff is filled with memories of moonlight dances, stolen kisses, and my broken, empty heart. As long as Sparrow stays unaware, as long as she can keep this hidden, and can keep up her good attitude, we will be okay. But I worry for her. The girl across the street keeps Sparrow happy and lighthearted, they talk all night and are the best of friends, but her friend is moving. I worry Sparrow won’t be able to handle the loss. I worry about puberty and boys. I don’t want her to end up like –

The page cut off. The second half of the letter was lost at some point. But Sparrow knew what the rest of it said. She’d heard her mother talking about it the night she left. Her mom didn’t want Sparrow to be like her.

And she wouldn’t.


***


Sparrow stood outside with her hands on her hips, and Maddie used a hand to tent her eyes from the blinding sunlight, as the two watched the handyman remove the peeling “Madam Cygne’s Apothecary” sign.

Over the past four months Sparrow had completely taken over the apothecary and hadn’t stepped foot in her old house. When she’d walked downstairs from the stupor of finding the hidden box, she looked around the old shop and her imagination had taken hold. She’d packed away the crystal ball, tarot cards, and table cloths. She ripped off the elaborate wallpaper and thick velvet curtains. She’d covered up the furniture and windows of the old house, and began living in the studio of the apothecary. She bought white and mint green paint and began painting the inside of the old shop, changing it from ancient, dark, and dingy, to fresh and bright. She stained the old wood floor a dark coffee. In the mornings, she began brewing potions and placing them in small tinctures. Then she would spend all afternoon whipping up lotions, essential oils, soy candles, bubble baths, and salt scrubs. She made lip balms, eye creams, serums, shampoos and conditioners, and to each one, she added a drop of potion. Sparrow figured that if every item had some small touch of magic, she could hide in plain sight. Lotions that cure cracked dry skin, eye creams that make wrinkles disappear, and body oils that relax sore muscles!

Sparrow walked into the shop, and opened the brand new front windows to let natural light and fresh air into the freshly painted store. Sunshine sprayed across the dark wooden floors, bouncing off the crystal chandelier, and dancing across the sparkling glass counters. Each white shelf was filled to the brim with pretty purple bottles of lavender love potion that used real pheromones, pink salt scrubs that removed spider veins, and green essential oils that removed warts. Yellow soy candles on one shelf proclaimed to make the smeller cheerful, and on another lay deep burgundy candles that filled the smeller with Holiday spirit!

Sparrow stepped back outside and grinned as the handyman drilled the final hole installing the new mint green shop sign overhead. “Soaps, Lotions & Potions!”

“It looks really good, Sparrow,” Maddie said as admiration played across her face.



***


Rain pounded the windows in the shop, coming down in sheets outside. Hazel looked like a wet rat curled up in front of the wood stove, her tail as thin as a wire, while Sparrow was busy in the kitchen, mixing together shea butter, aloe vera, and beeswax for a lotion. She added five droplets of meyer lemon oil, and inhaled deeply, when she heard a tiny mew outside the back door. Sparrow walked over to the back door and flipped the lock. The door creaked open and in walked a small black cat that was soaked to the bone.

“Oh kitty!” Sparrow picked up the cat, and carried it over to the cupboard where she grabbed a fresh towel, before she set the cat in front of the stove beside Hazel. “You poor dear, are you hungry?” Sparrow asked the black cat. Hazel looked up at the new addition and nudged the black cat with her nose. The cat curled up by Hazel’s paw and yawned, while Sparrow pulled out milk and bits of leftover chicken from the fridge. The cat meowed in thanks and lapped up the cream.

“What happened to you out there?” Sparrow studied the animal, who began purring. The cat lifted its pink nose and head-butted Sparrow’s face, leaving a droplet of cream on her cheek. Sparrow giggled. “You’re sweet. You look well fed, so you must have a home somewhere.” Sparrow looked over the cat’s sleek coat and noticed it had a white patch on its forehead that was star-shaped. “That’s very pretty, isn’t it Hazel?”

Hazel purred in response, but it sounded more like a motor running. Sparrow stood up and scratched between Hazel’s ears, before returning to mixing her lemon lotion.

Sparrow heard a car pull up outside and saw lights flash across the windows, but thought nothing of it, until the new bell in the front of the shop rang out. Wiping her hands on her red apron that clashed with her hair, Sparrow walked out of the swinging western doors and found Mason, holding out a bouquet of pink lilies, with a silly grin spread across his face.

Sparrow melted. She ran across the shop in two quick steps and leapt into his open arms. “You’re here!”

“I’m so sorry I missed the funeral!” Mason said into her auburn hair. “You know how much I loved Rougey.”

“Don’t be!” Sparrow wiped away a tear and placed her hands on his cheeks, drinking him in. “I’m just so happy to see you!” She hugged him closer.

Mason picked her up by the waist and carried her into the kitchen, setting her down on a stool by the island.

“These have been in the car a while,” Mason said, a blush creeping up his neck. “They should be put in water.”

“Of course!” Sparrow waltzed across the tiles, grabbing a large vase above the sink.

“I like what you’ve done with the place, I almost drove by it twice,” Mason said, turning around the new shop. He picked up a bottle from the island, Dandelion Dry Shampoo, and turned it over in his hands. The label changed from blue to yellow in the candlelight. “It’s fancy.”

“Oh, it was nothing. You should’ve seen it though, Audrey actually came in. She bought some shower gel and lotions. I don’t think I’ve ever been so shocked in my life.”

“It’s like she was finally approving of you.”

Sparrow shook her head in disbelief but smiled anyway. “Almost. Tea?”

“Sure.”

Sparrow placed the kettle on the stove, before turning to lean against the counter. “How was Europe?”

“It was beautiful. And old. Everything is really old.” Mason stuffed his hands in his pockets and leaned against the island. He smiled at her, and Sparrow's knees went weak.

“Where’d you go again?” Sparrow distracted herself with another question and pulled the tea bags from the cupboard.

“London. A couple days in Glasgow. Paris. It was nice.” Mason rubbed the back of his head and looked down, his chestnut hair falling into his eyes. “I missed you guys though. How’s Maddie? Has she been taking good care of you?”

“She’s the only reason I’ve eaten in four months.”

“Good.”

“I’m not so sure, I’ve gained about fifteen pounds.” Sparrow pinched her hip.

Mason chuckled. “It suits you.”

“Oh shush! What was your favorite part of the trip?”

“I guess that everything in Europe is hundreds of years old. Everything has history.” Mason sat down on a bar stool.

“That’s a good point. Nothing here is all that old.”

“Right. Also, the food! My god, Sparrow, the food in Paris --”

“—is swimming in butter?”

“Not what I was going to say! It’s like the food of the gods!”

“Very cute. You’ve gotten more flowery while you were gone.”

“Oh shut up.” The two shared a warm smile, before Mason dropped his head. “I - Um, this will sound cliché, but I feel like I learned a lot about myself when I was there.”

“That’s great! That’s why people go on these trips after all --” Sparrow said knowingly, grabbing the vase and placing it in the sink.

“I’ve realized a lot about . . .” Mason stood and shuffled his feet. “Can I . . . Talk to you about something?”

 “Sure, what’s up?” Sparrow didn’t turn around as the water filled the vase.

“Can you put the vase down?” Mason looked sheepish and his cheeks were pink.

“Sure. . .” Sparrow set the vase down on the counter and dropped the flowers in.

“Sparrow,” Mason began, seriously looking into her eyes, studying them, before dropping to stare at a kitchen tile. “I think I’ve finally admitted to myself that  . . . Sparrow, I like you.”

Sparrow smiled. “Right, I like you too.”

“No, I . . .  I think I’minlovewithyou,” he blurted. His cheeks flamed all the way down his neck and he dug his hands deeper into his pockets. “I think I always have been.”

Sparrow’s body felt like lead. She stared at the vase filled with his flowers: Beautiful pink lilies, her favorite flower. He was perfect. “I’m sorry, Mason. I don’t feel the same way.” The lie was so transparent; she knew he wouldn’t believe it. She needed to sound more convincing but her voice was starting to shake.

Mason chuckled awkwardly and stood up. “Sparrow, are - are you joking?”

Sparrow sat down on a stool facing away from him, the words burning in her mind: Any man you love will die.

“I’m not.” Sparrow spun around in the stool to face him. She forced her lips into a thin line and set her face into a dull stare. He had to believe her. He had to. “I’ve ne- I’ve never felt that way about you. I’m sorry.”

“But Maddie said. . . “

“Maddie said what?” Sparrow replaced her sadness with unreasonable anger. She stood and set her hands on her hips. Her heart was shattering into a million pieces and she felt like she was going to be sick.

Mason looked hurt. Confused. “She said you –“

“Listen, I’m really busy, okay? I’m trying to keep an entire shop going by myself. You can see yourself out. Thanks for the flowers,” Sparrow added coldly. Her heart plummeted into her stomach and she didn’t think she’d be able to hold back the tears much longer. Her breath hitched in her throat. It wasn’t fair. Thunder rolled in the distance.

“Sparrow, th-th-that’s not true!” Mason sputtered. “I can feel it! I know you feel it too!”

“You feel nothing. We are nothing. Why is this so hard for you to understand?” The tea kettle went off and Sparrow took it off the stove but made no motion to grab any mugs. She closed her eyes and tried to breathe. She just wanted to hold him, and tell him that she loved him too and that everything would be okay. But it wouldn’t. It was doomed before it could start.

“When I told Maddie how I felt, she jumped up and down and said you’ve always had a crush on me! I thought --” Mason frowned and searched Sparrow’s face for the lie.

“How dare you! You and I are barely even friends!” Sparrow yelled. How much more did she have to hurt him? Hurt herself? To save his life?  She turned and placed her hands on the counter to gain some semblance of control and swallowed hard. Lightning flashed through the kitchen window and Sparrow tried to keep her cool. He needed to leave.

“Sparrow, I know that’s not true. You’re the best friend I’ve ever had!” Mason reached out to grab her trembling arm. “Please! Tell me what’s going on!”

“Don’t touch me!” Sparrow snapped, jerking her arm away and glaring at him. “Get away from me!”

“Sparrow – “ Mason started but stopped.

Daring to glance up, Sparrow met Mason’s eyes and watched disbelief splash across his face. She turned to stone as she looked at him, her eyes narrowing. Break his heart. She watched stoically as his face morphed from shock, to anger, and finally acceptance. He hung his head defeated, turned on his heel, and walked out of the shop into the downpour.

Sparrow shook like a leaf and her body flooded with pain as she watched him climb into the front seat of his old black Saab. Mason turned the engine over and drove away. Sparrow watched his red taillights disappear inside the trees before she stepped out into the rain, and screamed.

She fell to her knees and held her head in her hands as the rain drenched her hair and cold droplets streamed down her face, mixing with warm tears. Pushing herself up off the ground, she stomped to the meadow at the back of the store, stepping in puddles and flicking the back of her legs with mud. She watched the angry ocean waves slam into each other beneath her. The top of the ocean was blanketed in pure white foam and the sky was a heavy grey charcoal. Bitterness and anguish brewed in Sparrow's stomach as she glared at the water. It was like she was being stabbed over and over in the chest. Sparrow raised her hands to the sky and let out an ear piercing scream as orange lightning exploded out of her palms, lighting the sky with jagged purple cracks that stretched to each side of the horizon, slicing the sky apart like it was a broken puzzle. The clouds lit pink as the lightning traveled upwards to the stars, before a BOOM! of rolling thunder responded to her.

“Why?” Sparrow begged the sky, her voice broke and she struggled to breathe, before she screamed, “WHY?!”

The clouds churned, furiously swirling in the purple sky and slamming into each other with deafening rumbles and violent cracks of blinding light that carved the sky open. It was like the heavens were yelling back. The wind pushed harder and harder against the hillside and Sparrow fell to the ground, letting the tears fall. The wind screamed in her ears and as the hurricane hit the Mendocino cliffs, Sparrow swore to never love again.



Prologue


Sparrow woke up in her quaint little studio to sun streaming in through the wide open windows. She pushed the simple white comforter off her and quickly made the bed.  In the corner was the small wood burning fireplace, with a rocking chair and coffee table stacked with spell books. In the opposite corner stood the cherry wood dining table with four chairs and fresh cut red lilies from Sparrow’s garden out back. Beside the window, an easel stood with a partially finished watercolor painting of the glittering surf below. The ocean was packed with jumping blue tuna and the cries of seagulls enveloped the air. Out of the corner of her eye Sparrow could’ve sworn she saw the spray of a blue whale breach.

Sparrow walked over to the window to get a better look and saw a rainbow forming in the misty white clouds. As she watched it take shape, she smiled. In her life full of sacrifices, stolen moments, lies, and bad choices - Here she was. She was in her studio, above her shop, filled only with the things she needed most: Her books, her paintings, and her fox, Hazel.

“MERROOW!” The little black cat said from the windowsill, nearly knocking over her glass sparrow.

“Hello again!” Sparrow said, suddenly remembering the cat. She reached down and scratched between his ears. Sparrow placed both hands on the white windowsill and gazed outside at her garden filled with tomato plants, a healthy witch hazel bush, and a four baby lemon trees. Sparrow sighed deeply. She'd made it this far. She had a purpose and could change people’s lives, just like her grandmother and mother before her. As her grandmother had once said, she was given a gift, and Sparrow swore now that she would only ever use it for good.

Sparrow heard the chime of the shop bell downstairs and quickly raced across the studio to her miniature bathroom, squeezing her cheeks in the mirror before changing into a simple white tee shirt, dark jeans and black boots. She brushed out her long auburn hair that fell down her back and weaved it into a fishtail braid. She skipped down the stairs to the kitchen and was about to enter the shop when Hazel started scratching to be let out. Sparrow opened the door and the black cat raced between her legs outside, disappearing into the distance.

“Looks like that little one is all set.” Sparrow pat Hazel’s head, before Hazel traipsed out into the sunshine.

Sparrow walked back into the kitchen and heard Maddie greet the customers in the front of the shop.

“Good morning! Welcome to Soaps, Lotions & Potions! Is there anything you’re looking for in particular today?” Maddie’s warm voice and demeanor lent a homey feeling to the store.

“My husband has had the flu four times this year! I was hoping for some sort of health medication,” a chipper woman’s voice said.

“Well we don’t have medication, but over here we have wellness tinctures. See the labels, they cure all different ailments, I’m sure you’ll find the right one for you!”

The bell tinkled again. Another customer. A man.

“I’m looking to get my wife something special for her birthday?”

“Oh we have some bath packages over here in the wicker. See? Different scents like rose or cinnamon! There’s bubble bath, bath salts, oils, and lotions, and some even include our signature soy candles!”

“What are the potions you sell?”

“They vary!”

Sparrow realized she wasn’t needed in the shop, and turned to start washing up the dishes with lavender-scented soap. She listened to the hustle and bustle of people pushing each other around the shop and felt as light as a schoolgirl. She’d done this all on her own. Well, with Maddie’s help of course. Sparrow dried the last dish, before stepping through the swinging western door and seeing for herself that the shop was brimming with people: Women picking out nail polish that promised longer and stronger nails, teenagers giggling at love potion perfume, children playing with jasmine scented bubble bath in the sink in the front of the shop. (The purple bubbles floated around in the air and when they popped, different music notes rang out.) Maddie was behind the counter, wearing a mint green apron and ringing up an anxiety tea for Mrs. Langley (formerly Miss Penny Brown). Sparrow walked through the shop and saw Mr. Jacobs was showing his wife the soy candles and nudging her toward a burgundy oil called “Smitten” for the bedroom. Mrs. Jacobs giggled as he wrapped his arms around her from behind and kissed her neck. Sparrow grinned and Mr. Jacobs grinned back, his teeth as white as snow.

“This is such a cute shop,” a girl’s voice said from the front door as the bell jingled again. “I can’t believe it used to be an apothecary! Have you ever heard of something so romantic, Mom?”

“How can we help you?” Maddie asked the new customers, as Sparrow straightened out the love potion shelf that had been crawling with teenagers just moments before.

“I need something for my cracked lips! Will this work?” the girl’s mother said, holding up a green peppermint lip balm.

Sparrow turned to look at which lip balm she’d chosen and saw the girl was about her age with a woman who had to be the girl’s mother. From behind, Sparrow noticed the girl’s dark spiral curls, and the curve of her chin. The girl turned her head and pointed out the window to a pelican flying by, when the sunlight sparkled off of the girl’s turquoise eyes. Sparrow dropped the bottle she was holding on the ground with a loud CLUNK! and the girl turned to look, meeting Sparrow’s eyes. Sparrow scrambled to pick up the perfume, which thankfully didn’t break.

The girl stared. She seemed to look straight through Sparrow, as though seeing a ghost, before flicking her eyes to the floor, frowning, and turning back to Maddie’s description of the lip balms. “-- only for thin-lipped women, or you may end up looking something like a fish. Your lips are already full, so I’d recommend this one for you instead.” Maddie held out a creamy rose lip balm that promised lips as smooth as a newborn's bottom. “It’s moisturizing and smoothing.”

But Sparrow wasn’t listening. She stared at the girl. It couldn’t be . . .  

“Tiny. . .” Sparrow whispered.

The girl’s mother looked up and the two stared at Sparrow. The girl didn’t seem to trust her own eyes. Seven years had made quite an impact. She was much taller, and spindly thin, her long curls were lustrous and wild, and her turquoise eyes glinted in the light, before finally teeming with recognition. The girl dropped her purse and raced across the store, flinging herself into Sparrow’s arms.

“Sparrow?! SPARROW?!! OH MY GOD!” Sparrow clutched Tiny to her. Her heart so full she couldn’t speak. “What happened to you?! You’re okay?! I thought you were gone for good! I never thought I’d see you again! Mom! MOM! IT’S SPARROW!”

“I see her Tiny, I see her!” Tiny’s mother giggled, pulling Sparrow into an embrace and squeezing her so hard she couldn’t breathe. “It’s been so very long, my dear! How are you? And how is your mother?”

“I’m good Mrs. Temperman.” Tiny’s mom looked around the shop as though expecting to see Sparrow’s mother there. Sparrow opened her mouth and then shut it. A sinking feeling grew in the pit of her stomach until she mustered, “She’s since passed.”

“Oh no! Oh, my dear, I’m so sorry to hear that.” Tiny’s mother pulled Sparrow into a bear hug, and kissed the top of her head the way only a mother would. Sparrow’s eyes welled with tears, not of sadness, but of relief. “Then, who is in charge of this lovely shop?”  Tiny’s mother turned and waved about. “It’s just gorgeous. We heard about it at a Farmer’s Market a few weeks ago back in Healdsburg. The news of a new shop has been bubbling through our town a hundred and fifty miles from here, people gushing about wrinkle serums and cured acne! People are genuinely calling it magic!”

“How silly,” Sparrow said, but Tiny caught her eye and they both grinned.

“It’s Sparrow’s shop now,” Maddie offered, before reaching out her hand. “Hi, I’m Maddie.”

Tiny beamed at Maddie and the glow of her smile lit up the shop. She clasped Maddie’s hand. “Tiny Temperman, and this is my mother, Daisy. It’s lovely to meet you.”

It was only as she glanced about her friends, old and new, that Sparrow realized she was finally home. For Sparrow’s was a story of tragedy, love, courage, and resilience, but above all, the power of friendship.

THE END



*****



Thank You


Thank you to everyone who stuck with this series this past year! It's been quite a ride & without you I would never have finished it!

Thank you Tamara, for believing that this story could stand on its own.

Thank you Lindsay, for being the first person to read them and constantly asking about the next one.

Thank you Wimmer for going above and beyond the call of duty as my editor. Playing the rolls of therapist and cheerleader, as needed, and making sure I didn't make a fool of myself.
Thank you Katie for letting me vent and bounce ideas off you, and talking me down when I panicked and quit every three months.

Without each of you, this story wouldn't be complete.

Thank you so much.

All my love,
L.B.