Feb 18

Mulberry Wands Chapter Twenty-Two


Want to start at the beginning? Go here.

Chapter Twenty-Two



“I’m big,” Susan said, looking at her hands. She was lying in her mom’s bed, naked except for a fuzzy raspberry colored afghan flung over her. It was warm in the trailer, warm and stuffy, overlaid with the smell of incense, pot, and cigarette smoke. “I kind of wanted to see how you did the dissolution.”

“I waited till you were asleep. Ruby said that spell hurts a lot,” Maggie said. She had a cigarette in her mouth, as usual, but it wasn’t lit. “You slept like the dead. You musta been tired.”

“Was it hard?” Susan asked. She felt a lot heavier now, and not as strong. It sure was good to be big though.

“Nah. The owl told me the Encanto mage did it, and then it just took a phone call and an afternoon’s work. Me and Andrea go way back. I knew her back when she was still Andrew.”

“Thanks.” Susan sat up. It had grown dark outside. She felt stiff, like she’d been sleeping for days, though according to the clock it was only eight thirty. She leaned forward over her legs, stretching. The cut on her calf was gone.

“You healed me.”

Maggie stuck her leg out, lifting the hem of her dress. She pointed at the tiny pinprick, a cut no larger than one made by a bamboo skewer. “Non-proportional wound exchange. You and Jess developed that spell, remember? When the nest fell out of the palm tree during the monsoon and you guys were all sad about the hurt birds?”

Susan rotated her neck. She should have been stiff there too, from the whiplash that Sphinx gave her, but she felt fine. “Wow. Great job. I was really hurt.”

“Yeah, well, you’re still my little girl. Gotta take care of my baby.” Maggie had a string of beads around her neck, and she was playing with them. “Hey, Susie, I’m sorry.”

“Susan,” she corrected. “For what?”

“For, you know, not helping you. Ruby got on my case about not noticing that you were gone.”

“It’s okay,” Susan said. She wished she could have seen the conversation between Maggie and Ruby. Ruby must have really lit into her if Maggie felt guilty enough to apologize.

“I can’t make wands no more. Me and the owls had a talk.”

“Yeah,” she said, not like she cared, but because Maggie seemed a little upset. She pulled the afghan closer around her, putting her fingers through the yarn loops. “That’s too bad.”

“Well, too much work anyway, even if the money was nice.” Maggie let the beads drop. “You know what you need? A vacation. We could both use one. How ‘bout we drive down to Rocky Point for a few days, hmm? Get some seafood, spend some time on the beach, have a few margaritas.”

Susan had to admit it sounded like a fantastic idea. “I can’t. I owe Zoë a couple months’ rent, and I gotta see if I can get my job back.”

Maggie tsked. “Why do you always gotta be so responsible? C’mon, ceviche and Coronas on the beach. Why can’t you loosen up, live a little?”

Because someone had to be the grown up. That was the obvious answer, the one she’d given before, but Susan didn’t feel like fighting. She leaned forward and hugged her mom, then kissed her on the cheek.

“Can I borrow some clothes?”

“Yeah, yeah, sure.” Maggie picked up a green dress, sniffed it, then tossed it aside. She picked up a tie-dyed sundress. It passed the sniff test, so she tossed it at Susan.

Susan slipped it over her head. It was huge on her, and the spaghetti straps threatened to slide off the shoulders. She never wore dresses like this. She was really too busty to go without a bra, and it was hard to find strapless bras in her size.

“You want to borrow some underwear?” Maggie offered, holding up a pair of white granny-panties.

“Um, no thanks.” Going commando was way better than wearing your mom’s slightly-clean underwear. “Can you give me a ride home?”

“Can’t. Car’s busted,” Maggie said. “Mechanic said it’s gonna cost six hundred bucks. I don’t suppose you can help me out?”

“I’ll see if I have anything over after I pay the rent,” Susan said. “Don’t worry, Zoë can give me a ride.”

Zoë could, and did. Zoë was happy to see her, though her quiet hug was nothing compared to the way Darius greeted her when she walked in the door.

“SUUUUUSAN!” She thought he was going to leap over the banister, but he settled for running downstairs and scooping her into a hug, swinging her around. “Girl, you oughta wear that dress more often.”

“I was gonna go upstairs and change.”

Zoë and Darius both followed her upstairs, like they didn’t trust her to vanish again if she left their sight. The new guy came out of his room, probably to see what the racket was.

“Hey, man, look who’s back!” Darius shouted. “And big now!”

“Hi, I’m Griff,” he said, offering a handshake. “Glad you’re okay, Susan.”

“Me too.” She shook his hand.

Zoë, Darius, Griff, and Susan stood together in the upstairs hallway. Susan wanted to change out of the dress and into her own clothes, but she sensed that it would be rude to cut this reunion short. Zoë was staring at her quietly.

“I’m sorry to make you guys worry about me,” Susan said, looking at Zoë. Susan never knew what was going on in her head. Zoë kept things close. “I tried to get a message that I was okay.”

“It’s okay,” Zoë said quietly. “That guy told us some of what happened. It wasn’t your fault.”

Someone knocked on the door, and Griff pushed past them to answer it.

“I guess I lost my job, but I have some money in savings so I can pay you for the back rent.”

Zoë nodded.

“I like what you did to my room. Thanks.”

Zoë hugged her quickly, once, then stepped back. She wasn’t the hugging type, so even that much surprised Susan. “I worried about you.”

“I worried about me too,” Susan said.

“Hey, Susan? Some guy’s here to see you,” Griff called up. He opened the door wider so she could see who it was.

Paul was wearing a leather jacket whose shoulders were dotted with holes. Under that he wore a white t-shirt tight enough to show off his lean frame. He looked like he’d just had a haircut, and his face was clean shaven. He held something half hidden behind him, as though he weren’t sure if he should be holding it or not.

“Paul!” She waved him up.

Paul dashed upstairs. The thing he’d been holding was a bouquet of yellow daisies. He hugged her, crushing the flowers against her back. He smelled fantastic, clean and manly with just a hint of aftershave. He felt nice too, strong and lean. She really needed to get him somewhere private. She’d really missed having a boyfriend.

“It’s good to see you too,” she said when he let her go.

“I was hoping we could go out for sushi, if you’re up to it.” He handed her the daisies, not looking at them, like he didn’t really want to be seen holding flowers any longer.

“Sushi?” She took his hand and pulled him into her room, shutting the door behind him.

“Yeah, it’s raw fish, and rice.” He looked at the closed door, then back at her face. “You’re not mad, are you?”

“For what?”

He shrugged. “You seemed pretty scared.”

“Terrified,” she said. She slid the straps off her shoulders so the dress fell to the floor.


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