The charm bubbled enthusiastically, spraying glitter, and Arachne leapt backwards with a cry, arms windmilling to maintain her balance.
“No, no, no!” she sputtered, teetering back on her heels and then forwards, righting herself. Brown eyes flicked frantically to the printed sheet of instructions, An Easy Guide to Perma-Fume: Making Your Own Long Lasting Perfume, which fluttered nervously in the breeze she’d made. “Come on, why is it doing this?” The mixture continued to boil, and at her distracted hand motion a lid descended, containing the flyaways and muffling the sound. She scanned the instructions again, flipping the pages over rapidly as she searched for what might have gone wrong. The cauldron, a cutesy porcelain one she’d purchased from Broomsticks and Beyond, shifted back and forth as the charm began to boil more violently, bubbles pushing at the lid.
“Maybe it’s just too hot?” she questioned, looking over at the lazy cat that was sprawled across her window seat. He mewed casually, seeming unimpressed with her efforts, and flicked his tail. In response, the purple flames below the cauldron shivered and shrank.
“Thank you for all of your help, Velcro.” Arachne sniffed, turn- ing back to her instructions. Velcro just huffed and turned back to the sunlight, eyes closing in nonchalance.
Minutes passed by in relative quiet, the silence broken only by Arachne flipping through the pages with growing agitation. Her eyes skimmed the list of ingredients one more time, and she realized that hidden amid the swirls of looping text was an ingredient she had not used: toad’s drool. She turned back to the ingredients she had brewed with, still sitting nearby on the counter, and groaned at the sight of a pie tin full of toadstools. With a growing sense of dread, Arachne eyed the boiling glamour charm that was now pressurized inside her favorite cauldron.
“Velcro, I may have made a mistake …” she started meekly. The cat jolted at that, jumping to his feet and scurrying under the bed with an apprehensive hiss. Arachne scowled, sticking out her tongue.
“Fraidy-cat,” she muttered under her breath, turning back to the cauldron. Cautiously, she reached for her charmed oven mitts, woven to protect her from any unwanted side-effects of potions gone awry. She murmured the command and the purple flames died completely, though the enchanted coals still smoldered. No sooner did her mitts brush the edge of the cauldron than the pressure burst, the lid flying off as foul-smelling glitter rained all over the room. Arachne could not hold in her yelp as the glass cover hit the ceiling, embedding itself next to her floating wisp-o’-lamp. With the pressure released, the potion stilled, bubbling moodily and then quieting all together as the liquid hardened into a chalky black substance that she just knew would be a pain to wash out of the cauldron later. Before she had time to pull the lid out of the ceiling, the door slammed open, and she flinched.
“Arachne, what the devil is going on in here?!” Her mother roared, hair fluffing up not unlike a frazzled cat. The woman’s green eyes flew around the room momentarily, taking in the situation and stopping on the printed instructions in Arachne’s hands. “You’re playing around with spells from that stupid blogger again, aren’t you!?” She stormed in, snatching the paper from Arachne and burning it in green flames before her daughter could protest. After a brief moment of stillness, a few more little pieces of plaster fell from the ceiling to her right and she glowered.
“I’ve told you again and again, that’s not real spellcasting. If you want to get better at magic, you need to stop fooling around with all this sunshine and butterfly crap!” The older witch spied the new cauldron and wrinkled her nose. She pulled a thick spell book off of the top shelf where it had been abandoned, shoving it in Arachne’s arms. The force of the push made Arachne stumble backwards, eyes widening in fright, and her mother’s gaze softened. She sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose.
“I’m sorry for yelling,” she said after a moment of silence had passed. “But … we both know you have so much potential. I wish you’d start using it.” The woman gestured to the rest of the room, to the fluffy carpet, the cheery yellow walls, the mound of stuffed animals piled onto Arachne’s bed. “I thought this would just be a phase.” Her hands, no longer trembling in anger, cupped her daughter’s face gently, and Arachne sighed, leaning absently into her touch. “And I worry about you,” she admitted a moment later, smiling in spite of the worry lines between her eyebrows. “There’s so much more to spells than charming. And I know once you start cursing you’ll never want to stop; it’s so fun.” Arachne nodded absently, looking away.
“I’ll try a couple spells from the book,” she promised quietly. “I know it means a lot to you, since you and Grandma Poppy wrote it.” Their eyes met and her mother gave a teary smile.
“Thank you, sweetheart. Just try it. That’s all I ask.” More plaster fell from above and her mother stepped around the growing pile on the floor, backing out of the room meekly. “Sorry for storming in. I’ll leave you to the clean-up.” She began to close the door gently. “Love you, sweetheart. I’m glad you’re alright.”
When the door clicked shut, Arachne sighed, glancing around her room as Velcro crept out from under the bed.
“Alright is one word for it.”