Cordelia barely looked into the mirror as she pulled her hair into a lazy pony. This would do, she thought, yawning. It was almost 5 am. Not long till sunrise. These long summer days were a killer.
She made her way out of her room. Hawthorne’s voice reached her all the way on the top of the stairs. Her and Micah were painting, by the sounds of it.
“Make sure Freezer Bunny’s ears are really long,” Hawthorne instructed Micah. “That way he won’t get lost in San Myshuno.”
“Makes sense,” Micah nodded, touching up the painting in front of him. Cordelia smiled to herself. She loved how Micah’s pieces for Hawthorne were worlds apart from his usual moody art style.
“Morning, you two.” She greeted them.
“Hi mummy!” Hawthorne looked up briefly, too distracted by the copious amounts of glitter she was adding to her own painting.
“You could have slept in today, remember?” Micah said gently. Like she needed reminding.
“I wanted to see her off.” She willed herself to keep smiling as she turned to Hawthorne. “What did you paint, sweetie?”
“A meadow.” The girl said. “Though it’s not as pretty as Dandy’s one.”
“I think it’s beautiful.” Cordelia told her.
“Daddy painted Freezer Bunny all the way in San Myshuno.” Hawthorne carried on.
“I can see that.” Cordelia nodded. “Freezer Bunny sure is getting adventurous, travelling so far.”
“He probably just transportalated.” Hawthorne shrugged.
Micah glanced out of the window. “I’ll have to finish Freezer Bunny’s adventure tomorrow night, though. I need to head up soon.”
Hawthorne didn’t seem to mind. “That’s ok. Morgyn will be here soon anyway.”
“Can you wait a few more minutes?” Cordelia shot Micah a pleading look. “The sun’s not up yet…”
Damn Morgyn, taking their time. The whole point why they were supposed to come over at stupid o’clock was so that Cordelia didn’t have to deal with them alone.
“Look, here they are!” Hawthorne jumped up as the spellcaster’s silhouette peered through the glass door.
“Great.” Cordelia struggled to feign enthusiasm as she answered the door. Hawthorne didn’t seem to notice.
“Well if it isn’t my favourites…” Morgyn greeted them.
Before Cordelia could complain about Morgyn being late, Hawthorne rushed out of the door, flinging herself at the sage.
“Hi, princess.” The spellcaster hugged her.
“Have you grown more since I last saw you?” Morgyn observed as they took a step back. “You never stop, do you?”
That much was true, Cordelia had to admit. At the very least, Hawthorne did seem to be developing at a regular pace, hitting all the milestones when she should. Or as Morgyn claimed, exceeding them.
“Maybe it’s all the vegetables mummy makes me eat.” Hawthorne pondered. “Do I really need to eat broccoli? I’ve got plasma fruit…”
“You do, to get big and strong.” Micah interjected.
“You don’t eat any…” Hawthorne pouted.
Cordelia glared at Morgyn. This was all their fault…
“I’m sure your mother knows what’s best for you.” Morgyn said sweetly. “Besides, every powerful spellcaster I know eats broccoli.” They added with a smirk.
Luckily, the sarcasm in the sage’s voice went undetected by the girl. “Really?”
“Sure. But more importantly, who’s ready for a day of fun in the magic realm?” Morgyn asked instead.
“I am, I am!” Hawthorne bounced around.
“Have fun with Morgyn,” Micah told his daughter, giving her a quick peck on the cheek. “But be good. Both of you.” He added, glancing towards the sage.
Morgyn let out an amused laugh. “No promises.”
Cordelia felt her body growing stiff, but Micah’s hand found hers, squeezing it. They had agreed to limit any form of physical touch to avoid slip ups, but today, she was grateful for him breaking their own rules. He always knew how to sooth her.
Hawthorne noticed her expression. “Don’t worry, mummy!”
“Yes, don’t worry, Cordelia. I’m sure we’ll have a blast.” Morgyn flashed a grin in her direction. “Now, hang on tight Hawthorne…”
And with a flash, the two of them were gone.
Micah scanned the horizon. “I best head inside.” He told her, stepping back through the door. Cordelia followed.
“Morgyn shoudn’t have been so late…” She grumbled.
“They weren’t, really.” Micah pointed out. “We did say 5am…”
Cordelia frowned. Of course Micah would make excuses for the sage…
“What time was Hawthorne up this morning?” She changed the subject, trying to distract herself.
“3am.” Micah replied. “Better than yesterday.”
“That’s almost four hours of sleep,” Cordelia nodded wearily. Nowhere near what it should be, but at least it wasn’t less yet again. The older Hawthorne got, the less rest she seemed to need. Beyond it being exhausting, it worried Cordelia.
“Speaking of sleep, maybe you should try to get some more.” Micah told her. “You know, take advantage.”
“I’m not tired.” She lied. If she admitted she could use the rest, she might as well say Morgyn was doing them a favour by taking Hawthorne. Which was simply not the case.
“If you say so.” The vampire shrugged. “Anyway, I really need to head up to my room. Skin’s getting all itchy.”
“Sleep well.” She mouthed, though Micah was already halfway up the stairs. Then again, with his hearing, he could probably still make out her words.
Cordelia sighed. The house grew eerily quiet. Morgyn didn’t have Hawthorne over in the magic realm too often, but Cordelia loathed those times all the same. What on earth was she going to do with herself for an entire day?
Hawthorne was a very full-on child, with never-ending energy, and no need for naps. Kept Cordelia busy during the day. If Micah wasn’t able to look after her during the nights, Cordelia wasn’t sure what she’d do.
She dragged herself to the kitchen to get some breakfast.
Contrary to Hawthorne’s claims about broccoli, their fridge rarely had a great deal in it. Cordelia was the only one in the house who seemed to need regular food, so she usually just grabbed quick and easy meals. There didn’t seem to be much of a point, beyond her best efforts.
It wasn’t that Hawthorne couldn’t digest food. Unlike Micah, she was able to eat without any stomach troubles. But she seemed to take no pleasure in ordinary food at all, had no appetite, whatever Cordelia tried. She didn’t even find chocolate tempting. What child didn’t like chocolate?
She’d always known her daughter’s diet was going to be a struggle. When she was born, Hawthorne would only breastfeed as long as Cordelia kept eating the plasma fruit, but with the baby out of her body, Cordelia found the taste of the plasma fruit harder and harder to bear as the days went on.
Eventually, they just had to switch her to the pure plasma fruit juice, even as an infant. Cordelia had hoped to ween Hawthorne off it as she got older, but it had proven challenging, if not impossible.
Still, things could be worse. Hawthorne never expressed any cravings for blood, and her skin had no sensitivity to sunlight. She could play outside in broad daylight, just like any other girl.
Cordelia looked around the kitchen. The house was stupidly clean. Probably Micah’s doing; seemed that annoyingly, he’d kept on top of everything last night. Which left her very little to do.
There had to be some toys in Hawthorne’s room that needed putting away, at least.
Disappointingly, tidying Hawthorne’s room didn’t take long at all. Her and Micah had probably spent most of the early hours of the day painting.
She could do a plasma fruit run to Eden, Cordelia decided. There was barely any left in the fridge, after all. Of course, Cordelia knew most of their supply was in the shed, but she chose to ignore that fact.
She made her way into Sylvan Glade, past Dandy’s house, into the gardens.
Cordelia harvested a small basket of the ripe fruits, strolling back at a leisurely pace. She didn’t spot the elf in his garden on her way back. He was likely still asleep.
She headed to the shed to check on the latest juice fizzing batch. Juice fizzing was the one thing she could find satisfaction in, at least.
It only occurred to her earlier in the year that with Hawthorne starting school this autumn, having the girl carry plasma fruit in her backpack might get awkward if the fruit got squished and leaked through.
And so the juice fizzing idea was born. The great thing was she could just set the fruit away and the machine would run the course without much of a need for intervention.
Or at least, on most days, that was a great thing. Today, Cordelia wished that the process was more involved.
The day rolled over lazily, at a snail pace. Cordelia attempted to read, but as per usual, she was struggling to focus.
She never did get very far in her quest to become well-read. Pages in books never seemed to grab her attention for long. It just didn’t seem to be for her.
Thankfully, an actual distraction came her way in the early afternoon. There was a knock on the door.
Perplexed, Cordelia stood up, putting the book away. For the most part, the only visitors they ever got were Dandy and Morgyn, but Dandy wouldn’t bother knocking, and there was no chance Morgyn would bring Hawthorne back this early.
As far as Cordelia knew, they weren’t expecting any art appraisers to look at Micah’s work either – for the most part, Micah sorted selling his pieces online, and he always told Cordelia if any delivery services were due to collect one of his paintings to take it to its new owner.
But if that eliminated all possibilities, then who could it be?
“Hi there.” The blonde at the door smiled at Cordelia cautiously. “Mind if I come in?”
Cordelia was stumped. Emilia Charm was the last person she’d expect to pop by. On any other day, there was no way she’d allow any of the Charms through her front door. But seeing as she was exceptionally bored today…
“Um, sure.” Cordelia cleared her through, ushering the spellcaster into the kitchen. “Would you like something to drink?”
“That would be kind.” Emilia smiled as she sat down. “Your home is lovely, by the way. Has a warmth to it.”
“Thanks,” Cordelia muttered, placing a jar of iced-tea on the table. Small talk was never her strong suit. “Why are you here, Emilia?”
“Can’t a neighbour come say hello?” Emilia asked. Cordelia stared at her. It had been years since they last spoke, neighbours or not.
“Fine.” Emilia sighed, but managed to maintain her cheery expression. “I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but I am now responsible for running the Hex Shop. I’ve come to offer you a job.”
Cordelia blinked. That came out of nowhere.
“What? It’s been years…”
“And as far as I recall, you were still one of our best workers during that whole time.” Emilia said chirpily. “Well, besides Grace.”
Cordelia cleared her throat. “I… I don’t think me and Grace working together would be such a good idea.”
Emilia’s smile faltered. “Grace left Glimmerbrook. That’s why we have an empty position.”
“Grace left?” Cordelia was taken aback. “But… she always said Glimmerbrook was the place to be for those who were serious about their spellcasting career.”
“I think that might be the exactly it. She was quite disillusioned with it all.” Emilia looked into her eyes. “If you ask me, what went down between the spellcasters and you and your partner… if Morgyn hadn’t intervened… Darrel… Minerva…”
Emilia seemed lost for words. In all honesty, Cordelia was shocked the woman even brought any of it up. It was so long ago. Whenever she did run into the Charms in town, which was rare, they’d all just stuck to pretending nothing had ever happened. Why change it now?
“Micah is not my partner.” Cordelia interrupted Emilia, trying to steer away from discussing the unpleasant memory further. But the woman was not taking the out.
“That’s not really the point. Cordelia-“
“It’s in the past.” Cordelia insisted. “Anyway, thank you for thinking of me Emilia, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable working for Darrel.”
Cordelia was painfully aware of the contradictions in her words, but hoped the spellcaster wouldn’t call her out on it – this wasn’t Morgyn she was talking to, after all.
“You wouldn’t be working for Darrel, you would be working for me.” Emilia told her. “Darrel has other interests than the shop now.”
“I’m quite busy with my daughter.” Cordelia said stiffly.
Emilia paused. “I saw her in the magic realm this morning, you know. Hawthorne.”
“She’s around the same age as my Ollie, isn’t she?” Emilia continued. “Means she’ll be starting school once the summer’s over. You won’t be busy with Hawthorne then, will you?”
Not this. It was bad enough Micah was on her back about that. Now a complete stranger, no, Darrel’s wife of all people, waltzed into her house to lecture her? “How I spend my time is up to me.”
“Look, Cordelia, I know you’ve been keeping to yourself after that… misunderstanding.” Emilia treaded carefully around the topic. “But it’s been years now. Glimmerbrook’s a small place. Our children will be running into each other a lot now. I don’t want any bad blood from the past affecting them.”
Cordelia wasn’t sure what to say.
Emilia took her silence as encouragement. “I know you don’t like the idea of working for Darrel’s wife.” She carried on with her pitch. “But I’m more than just Darrel’s wife. And you’re more than just Hawthorne’s mother.”
Cordelia wanted to snap at her, but she couldn’t think of anything good to say. It was all very reasonable. Kind, even. “I… I’ll think about it.”
“I’m glad.” Emilia told her.
“Emilia… why are you doing this?”
“Why not?” The woman shrugged. “We who weren’t born into this world of magic should stick together.”
What a strange thing to say, Cordelia thought. “You’re a spellcaster, though.” She pointed out.
“By name only. I never really progressed much with my training after my ascension.” Emilia replied.
Emilia tilted her head slightly. “I didn’t think it was worth the trade-off.”