Home > Flowerheart

Author: Catherine Bakewell


Gladioli for courage. White carnations for luck. Hellebores for peace.

Though I’d filled the sitting room with flowers and wrapped myself in their sweet perfume, I could not forget the Council’s warning.

Miss Clara Danielle Lucas, representatives of the Most Esteemed Council of Magicians will pay you a visit today at ten o’clock.

My heart beat in rhythm with the clock, ticking ever closer to the hour.

I threw the windows open wide and let in the delicious summer air. The magic within me hummed delightedly as I stood in a sunbeam. And then, after a moment of calm, it whispered, The Council has no use for a witch like you.

My hands clenched in the fabric of my sky-blue dress. I hated the taunts of my magic, but this time, I feared it was right. I could not help but think of other witches my age, picking out white gowns and trying on elbow-length gloves for the induction ceremony and the ball. Finally beginning the careers to which they’d devoted their lives.

And I thought of Xavier Morwyn. My dearest friend from my childhood had been certified a year ahead of schedule. He was running a shop alongside his parents. He helped people; he made miracles. He’d become all that the two of us had dreamed we could be.

I wondered if he ever thought of me. Or if he knew what a disappointment I had become.

The kitchen door creaked open, and Papa pushed his way through, holding tight to a tray of three teapots and an assortment of mismatched cups. His blue eyes glimmered with hope—a fire within him that never seemed to go out, no matter how many times I’d failed.

“Don’t you fret,” he said. He set the tray on our low, weathered table and navigated through a maze of chairs—every one that we owned, since we didn’t know how many Councilmembers to expect—until he reached me, clapping his hands against the puffs of fabric at my shoulders.

“You’re the most talented young witch I know,” he continued. “I’m certain they’ll recognize that.”

On most days, his confidence in me was sweet and refreshing—but today, it was as cloying as a bowl’s worth of sugar in my tea.

“The Council isn’t known to make house calls for good news, Papa,” I murmured. Magic pulled my muscles tight and quickened my heart and whispered relentlessly, Failure, failure, failure.

It drew out my memories, lit a spark to fuel the burning shame in my chest. The time I’d set Madam Carvalho’s curtains on fire. The fit of laughter that had caused lilies of the valley to grow up through Master Pierre’s floorboards. My magic had taken the power of my own anxiety and twisted it until it broke all of Madam Ben Ammar’s potion bottles.

Behind Papa, something rattled and clinked, like a strange musical instrument. One of the teapots had begun to wobble to and fro, threatening to spill its contents. I glowered and marched over to set my hand hard against the pale pink lid. Sometimes my magic frightened me—other times, it simply annoyed me.

Please, I begged it, please behave yourself.

There was a soft knock on our front door.

My plait whipped against my throat as I whirled back towards Papa, wide-eyed. “Will you stay here for the meeting?”

His freckled brow furrowed. “But dear, I’m not magical—”

“Please.” The word was small, like I was just a child.

He nodded, stepping towards me to squeeze my hand.

As I faced the door, my magic dug its claws into my heart. With all my might, I concentrated on being brave. An ounce of fear would be all my magic needed to wreak havoc on our little cottage, right in front of the Council. Buckle the buttercup-yellow door. Send clouds of pollen from the flowers into the air. Shatter our windows.

I could not let that happen.

With a deep breath, I reached for the doorknob—but the door was already creaking open.

Where my front lawn ought to have been was a dimly lit chamber with marble floors and ceilings. A foot away from me stood a witch all dressed in black, as was traditional, with the golden sun pin that marked her as a Councilmember. Her cold blue eyes made my shoulders tense. I remembered that stare so well—and the lectures that always followed.

“Miss Lucas,” said Madam Albright, my very first teacher.

I grimaced and bowed my head to her. “It’s good to see you again, Your Greatness.”

She sniffed and wiped the front of her black silk gown like I’d sullied it somehow. Papa hurriedly offered her our “best”—only—armchair.

Next, a wizard stepped through the doorway, sweeping a silk top hat off his head.

“Miss Lucas,” said the wizard, “I’m Master O’Brian.”

I curtsied. Magic hammered against my breastbone. “Welcome, Your Greatness.”

I let him step through, and at once, Papa set about shaking the wizard’s hand and finding him a seat.

Another wizard filed into the room, and then a witch, and then another, until there were eight of them, dressed in their austere black gowns and suits. As I bent in curtsy after curtsy and welcomed each magician, Papa scurried into the kitchen to find a stool.

I looked back at the group of magicians—a small murder of crows, the lot of them—and my mind stirred. What sort of judgment have they come to bring me?

All I could do was hold tight to the doorknob and to old lessons on how to calm my magic. Focus on your breath, my teachers had said.

I inhaled deeply and drew the door closed—

A shiny black shoe stuck itself into the crack of the door.

“Sorry,” came the voice of a young man—a voice I knew.

With a frown, I pulled back the front door.

My thoughts scattered about like leaves in the wind.

Xavier Morwyn.

As a child, I had always found him comely, but now, to my great chagrin, I found that he had grown to be very handsome. He was taller than before; we used to look one another in the eye, challenging each other to stare the longest without blinking. Now his hat nearly brushed the lintel. His once neatly trimmed hair now hung past the stiff white collar of his shirt. He was paler than I remembered, too, and there were dark circles around his brown eyes, like he hadn’t slept in many, many nights.

He slowly removed the top hat from his dark hair, pressing it to his heart.

“Hello,” he said softly.

If we had been children, we would have embraced each other, laughing and chattering away and picking up right where we’d left off.

Perhaps we still might have done so now if he had ever bothered to write me back. If he hadn’t ignored me for five long years.

And now, of all days to visit, he’d chosen this one.

“What are you doing here?” I asked.

A blush painted his pale cheeks and spread to his ears. “Oh, er, they called a meeting of all the Councilmembers in the district.” He pointed to the golden sun pinned to his black cravat.

Envy pricked my heart. We were nearly the same age. There was nothing truly different between us; I should have been practicing magic. Instead, he was here with his peers to bear witness to my failures.

I offered him a stiff curtsy. “Welcome, Your Greatness.”

He winced and opened his mouth to say something, but seemed to think better of it. Instead, he bowed and stepped over the stoop, hanging up his hat with the others. I shut the door behind him and, turning back, found that he was still standing in the entryway.

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