At eight, Bethie sought out June Manolis after school with her single red folder clutched to her chest. She missed the school bus but eventually found June walking along a quiet street. They lived in the same direction from school, but June’s house was farther.
Bethie caught up to June and tapped her on the shoulder. June turned and smiled, a creepy grin that was out of place on the seven-year-old girl. “What dost thou need?”
Bethie shuddered, and June laughed. June loved having the power to make the other girls and even boys and even teachers at their school scared with just a few words. Her mother was the only known witch in Papillion, and June declared every lunchtime that she was training to be one, so everyone wondered what she was capable of. But Bethie didn’t scream or run away. She squared her shoulders and clutched the edges of her folder so hard that her knuckles turned white. “I need a good grade on the math test tomorrow. An A plus.”
June smiled. “I can do that.”
“Not just an A,” Bethie said, not trusting June, “an A plus.”
“I said I can do that,” June replied coldly.
“Are you sure?”
“What you should be more worried about is what you’ll give me.”
Bethie scoffed. “What do you want?”
June’s bright witch’s mind went suddenly blank. She couldn’t think of anything that Bethie Matthews would be able to give her. Mrs. Matthews gave Bethie pudding cups for lunch, but June didn’t like chocolate very much anyway and if the teachers saw Bethie giving June anything they would get suspicious and then June’s mom would get mad at her. June decided to go vague. “I want everything.”
“Well, you can h-have my firstborn child?” Bethie offered, hiding her fear pretty well. She didn’t much care for children, anyway. Her younger brother Seward was four and annoying and her parents were always stressed out about him. Children just screamed and pooped a lot.
June considered the offer and decided that it was as good as she was going to get. “Okay.” She held out her hand to Bethie. Bethie looked at it, then back up at June’s face. June was a good three months younger than Bethie was, but still taller than most of the girls in their class. It was annoying.
“I don’t bite,” June promised.
“You bit Alex Raymond last week.”
June laughed. “Yeah. That was fun. C’mon, shake!”
Bethie let her hands fall to her sides. She held tight to her red folder in her left hand and took June’s right hand. Nothing happened. June shook a few times, her grip tight, but there were no magic words or fireworks or anything. Bethie was sort of disappointed.
“You can’t do much magic, can you?” she asked.
June frowned. “I can do plenty.”
“Really? Show me.”
“No. I don’t show just anyone. Only my best friend.”
Bethie furrowed her brows. Everyone was scared of June. At recess, June always sat alone under the slides, and she said that she liked it like that. “You don’t have a best friend.”
“Yes I do,” June snapped, letting their hands drop, noticing that Bethie had some pretty blue nail polish, only slightly chipped.
“No, you don’t,” Bethie decided, and stuck out her tongue for good measure.
“Yes, I do.” June didn’t know why this suddenly felt so important to her. “Our deal’s off.”
“No it’s not. We shook on it.”
June was stopped short by this argument and had to shrug in defeat. Bethie grinned, and they walked together until they got to Bethie’s house. Bethie didn’t study that night, and sure enough, she still got an A+ when they got the test back the next Wednesday. They both pretended that the conversation had never occurred.
At ten, June blew up her first kitchen. Her mother, Lia, didn’t even say anything, just quietly righting what had happened and sending June to bed early. Later that night, June heard her mother talking on the phone with Aunt Hannah. She was laughing a lot, which was good sign.
June tried casting a listening spell and when that didn’t work snuck to the top of the stairs. The old cottage they lived in was creaky and made it hard to go on any spying missions, but Lia must’ve been drinking because her voice was loud and uninhibited and she wasn’t paying attention to any creakings.
“Yeah, the whole damn kitchen!” Lia laughed. “God, you were worse, though...oh, don’t say I’m a liar! You must’ve exploded the whole neighborhood the first time you tried with a fire spell!”
There was silence except for Lia giggling and a weight was lifted off of June’s chest as she realized her mother wasn’t angry with her. But then Lia spoke again, quieter.
“Yes, Hannie, I realize that she’s a bit old for this. But that’s fine. She’s got a lot of time. She’s stressed out at school...yeah, the kids aren’t great, but you can’t expect them to be...it’s Papillion, Hannie. I knew this would happen the second we moved out to Nebraska.
“Oh, stop telling me that…” silence. “No, yeah, I...yeah...yeah, I know...Hannie, stop…”
Things went silent for a very long time then.
“I didn’t follow him blindly!” Lia suddenly shouted. “Phil was from Fremont! I always knew we’d be moving back! And after the split he always said he wanted to see her, so I thought Omaha—but Ma hates cities, you know that—don’t give me that, Hannie, there’s no way I could’ve...stop! Papillion was the best place!”
Then there was a very long silence and it was broken by Lia screaming into the phone, “how dare you, Hannah?! How dare you?! Get off of your high horse and just—” and then some more silence and before it was over Lia was crying and then June heard the click of the phone.
Lia was still crying downstairs and without really thinking about it, June descended and walked into the small living room. Lia was curled up in her favorite armchair, sobbing into her knees.
June hadn’t called Lia ‘mama’ in a long time but she did now, repeating the word and hugging Lia as hard as she could. “It’s okay, Mama. It’s gonna be okay, Mama, I promise.”
Lia hugged back and June smelled whiskey on her breath but that was okay. And then Lia pulled June onto her lap. June knew that she was too big for this, both too old and literally too big, already nearly as tall as her twenty-seven-year-old mother, but it was comfortable and warm and June liked it.
“God,” June heard her mother saying after a few minutes, “I’m a mess. C’mon, Junie, you need to get into bed.”
Still, June didn’t sleep much that night. Instead, she thought about her father, who she had only met once or twice, and her aunt and her grandmother who she didn’t get to see as much as she’d like to. She thought about the endless fields of corn right outside of her window. She thought about blowing up the kitchen and how she should’ve been old enough for a simple fire spell. She thought about inevitably becoming the mother of someone else’s firstborn child and decided that she be would the best mother possible.
She went to school the next day not feeling awful. But then Mrs. Hughes asked her how she was doing and June knew that everyone had heard the explosion, that they all knew what a failure she was.
“I’m fine,” June said.
Mrs. Hughes clearly didn’t want to talk, so she let June go out onto the playground. Some of the other girls had already taken over June’s usual haunt over under the slide so June went to the flower bushes near the edge of the playground. It was early fall so the flowers hadn’t all wilted yet, just most of them, and the green leaves were still thick.
June crawled into a bush and would’ve stayed there except then Bethie Matthews crawled past her, stopping when she saw June. June felt humiliated. She was a witch. She should’ve been stronger than this. And a single look at Bethie’s face let June know that Bethie knew everything.
Bethie looked behind her, and June realized that the distance between the two of them and Bethie’s friends, who were picking flowers, was very far. Farther than it should’ve been. She must have accidentally warped their reality without trying to. Bethie looked sort of nervous, but mostly brave. June liked that. Bethie had always been the bravest girl in their grade. In first grade, she had touched a spider.
“I’m a real witch,” June decided to say. “It doesn’t matter what you heard. I’m a real witch.”
“Okay,” Bethie said, not seeming to care very much.
June closed her eyes and focused on the flowers around her. The dead ones, the dying ones, the simple ideas of flowers stored in the bushes, waiting to bloom next spring. She forced the three strings to come together. She forced the three types of life forces to flow together like three rivers, and then made the rivers flow back and forth. Unborn, living, dying, three simple and changeable stages, all moving together like the Mississippi River Delta that Mrs. Hughes made sound so important.
But of course, the thought of Mrs. Hughes made June lose her concentration, and then she became very aware of Bethie’s breathing, long and deep, and then aware of how close together she and Bethie were sitting, and how much heat Bethie was letting off. June opened her eyes. Bethie was looking at the bushes and then she turned towards June and her face was full of awe.
“...wow,” she breathed, her brown eyes big and sparkling.
“I know,” June said, sounding more arrogant than she felt.
“That was awesome!”
“What did I tell you?”
Bethie twisted her mouth, biting the inside of her cheek. “When I give my firstborn child to you, will you teach them to be a witch?” She sounded hopeful.
“Maybe,” June said. “It depends on whether they have magic in them.”
“So you don’t just learn it?”
“Maybe a little,” Bethie admitted.
“Yeah, you’re born with it,” June said. “Some people have more. Some have less. My mom is a witch so I was going to be one, but my dad had little magic too, so she decided to have me with him.”
“Oh.” Bethie furrowed her eyebrows, looking cute, and June had no doubt that she would report what she had heard to her mother, who would then tell Bethie that June and Lia were weird. “But your daddy doesn’t live with you.”
“Yeah. He lives in Fremont.”
“I’ve been to Fremont!”
“Cool! Do you know him?”
There was a brief pause. Bethie was still smiling, excited. Hating herself, June reminded her, “you better get back to your friends.”
“Oh. Yeah.” Bethie reached out to one of the newly-blossomed flowers on the bush and plucked it. A bit of pain shot through June at the motion. She wished that Bethie hadn’t done that.
“I’ll see you later,” Bethie said.
“You too,” June promised.
June decided that any child of Bethie’s would be a good one. One that June would like to have. June had made a good choice when she had made that deal.
In eighth grade, the entire grade was forced to sit through the equally dreaded and anticipated Sex Ed class. They were separated by sex and made to sit down for three hours while Miss Gomolinski, their adorable eighth grade math teacher, explained the intricacies of life.
There was a lot of awkward giggling and a few of the girls that were on the cooler side of the spectrum like Carolyn Clarke and Tasha Edwardson made themselves look bored so that everyone would know that they knew what a penis looked like already. June just didn’t care about what was happening in class. Bethie was a little bit scared and a little bit intrigued but mostly worried. She hadn’t realized exactly what having a baby entailed. She knew that she would need a guy, of course, but hadn’t realized exactly why.
She found herself looking at June a lot and wondering what June was thinking. June was an outcast, everyone knew that, but she was a little bit cool too. All of the girls liked wearing the same cotton-polyester knee-length dresses, pastel colored; taken in at the waist. Luckily, Bethie looked good in those types of things, with her shoulder-length brown hair and round face making her look pretty and like she was meant to be wearing it. Her chest (which she now understood where it came from) wasn’t as good as Tasha’s but it was accentuated by those dresses, so she liked them.
June, though, always wore black pants and a loose purple shirt that was kind of like a sack. It was really ugly, but June wore it well. She wore it with triangle-shaped earrings and necklaces and a lot of colorful bracelets. Mrs. Manolis—no, Miss Manolis—let June wear whatever makeup she wanted, and Bethie was jealous of that. June was different. She was confident. She was cool in her own way. And Bethie guessed that her mother had already told her all about puberty and sex and that kind of stuff, and she wasn’t obnoxious about it like stupid Carolyn Clarke.
Miss Gomolinski’s voice faded away as Bethie stared at June. June’s face was really pointy and angular. Her chin was like a knife and her cheekbones stabbed out of her face violently. But her skin was a really pretty olive color and her eyes were almost gray and her skin was smooth and pretty. Her nose was perfect, small and pointed and centered in her face. Bethie decided that June wasn’t actually that ugly, no matter what everyone else said. Bethie remembered the flowers and how pretty June had looked when she was focused and all magic-y.
Then Miss Gomolinski said something about protection that made Bethie look up and start paying attention and Bethie forgot all about June Manolis.
The next day, June walked into her and Bethie’s English classroom on a mission. Now that Bethie, and hopefully the boys, finally understood where babies came from, June could look forward to getting her firstborn child. It was a status thing nowadays. Aunt Hannah kept asking when June was going to become a real witch and either steal a soul or a baby.
Bethie was sitting at her desk, staring across the classroom as she tapped her red folder. June thought that she was wearing a little bit of makeup today. Maybe she’d be ready to continue with their deal. Unnoticed, June sat next to her, squinting at the person Bethie was staring at.
“So,” she began, leaning back in her chair. The sound startled Bethie out of her daze.
“So?” Bethie feigned innocence, tugging nervously on a strand of hair. It was the most nervous June had ever seen her.
“Is that who I’m getting my baby from?” June cocked her head in the direction of the boy sitting across the room.
Bethie’s face turned an interesting shade of magenta. “Sorry?”
“Don’t play the fool with me, Bethie.” June pointed at her with her pencil. “I paid attention in sex ed yesterday.”
Bethie’s face made the transition from pink to green. She coughed into her hand and pointedly turned away from her, back in the direction of one Alex Raymond.
“Shut up,” she muttered.
“A deal is a deal,” June sing-songed.
Bethie whipped her head around to face June. “I. Am. Thirteen. Leave me alone!”
June ignored her, still humming to herself with a creepy little smile on her face. “Deal, deal, deal.”
Groaning, Bethie buried her head in her arms. An A plus on one dumb little math test was not worth this. Kids? She already knew she was going to get enough flak from her mom in a few years, she didn’t need creepy June the witch bugging her too.
Anyway, she didn’t even like Alex all that much. Certainly not enough for him to have her child. She really only convinced herself that she liked him because everyone else in her class seemed to, and Bethie was nothing if not someone who went with the flow.
Bethie turned her head and stared at June, peeking through the gaps in her hair like a kid peering through fence posts at the cute neighbor.
June looked sharp and she acted like it too. She was tall, and her hair was easily the longest in the class. She wore it in a tight braid at the base of her neck that she sometimes tied up into a bun. She was different. She stood out from all of the cookie-cutter kids in this class.
Way prettier than Bethie could ever hope to be, and she didn’t even see it.
Bethie groaned and turned back to stare at her faux crush. Whatever.
At fourteen, Alex Raymond had finally asked Beth on that date. It had been a great day for Beth, who wasn’t as pretty as Carolyn or as good of a singer as Jana or as fast as Marie. But Beth was still the best at wearing the pink cotton-polyester knee-length dresses that all of the girls in their class liked wearing except for June.
June still wore tight black and dark purple clothes and triangle-shaped jewelry and now her mother’s knee-high boots. Mrs. Matthews liked saying that June was going to get pregnant at sixteen and then go nowhere with her life. She said that only loose women wore high boots like that, especially at such a young age. But Beth thought that June looked kind of cool.
Also, if June was a loose woman for wearing boots, then Mrs. Matthews definitely would’ve thought that Beth was loose as well. Beth’s older sister Willow had taught her how to wear her bra and dress and hold herself so that she pushed out her chest and could make her boobs look bigger than she was. Boys liked that. Beth wondered if June did.
Of course, it was problematic that Beth was thinking that as she looked at what Alex was wearing on their date. He was wearing black clothes, just loose and with a Nirvana logo on the t-shirt. He was gorgeous. He had fawn-colored hair that went just past his ears and tan skin with a bit of a sunburn on the back of his neck. He had the best muscles of any of the boys in their class. He lifted weights. And all Beth could think about was how June would’ve worn those clothes better.
They were going to the cheap Italian restaurant that really just served pizza. Alex got them both a slice of pepperoni and a Coke and said that he would pay for a slice of New York-style cheesecake if they wanted it. He was stammering a little bit but he didn’t talk enough and Beth’s mind was horribly blank as she tried to think of something to say. Alex probably thought that she was boring and stupid. He was going to gossip about her on Monday to all of the other girls, even that jerky Carolyn Clarke. He probably hated her and was regretting asking her on a date.
He stammered a few more things out and she stammered a few things back. Jana had said that she was supposed to feel nervous, that meant that she liked him, and that it was a fun feeling. But this wasn’t fun. This was just painful.
The only thought running through her mind was how when she and Alex had a kid, she would have to give it to stupid June. (I bet that if June was here we’d find something to talk about.) Would Alex be okay with that? And did Beth even want to have Alex’s kid?
“What’s your favorite name?” she finally asked him during one of the long silences.
He stared at her, terrified, for a few moments. “Elizabeth,” he blurted.
That was partly romantic and mostly the stupidest thing that Beth had ever heard. “Mine is Rosaline,” she offered. She had always imagined herself a Rosaline. It was such a pretty, dignified name, and if she had a daughter she would give them the name Rosaline.
Of course, if she ever had a Rosaline, it would just be stupid June’s! The thought made Beth irritated. And now Alex was staring at her weirdly. What had Beth been thinking?! That was such a stupid, immature question! He probably thought that she was a crazy stalker that wanted to have a kid and get married right now! She had scared off her first-ever boyfriend!
“What’s your favorite sport?” she asked, trying to get things back on track, but then remembered it was basketball and he had spent the entire first fifteen minutes of their date talking about the Cornhuskers.
He stared at her and she laughed as if she had made a joke, only it was too loud and anyone should’ve been able to tell how fake it was. “I really like Brian Conklin,” she said, because she knew he was on the team because her older sister Willow was always talking about him.
“He’s fine,” Alex shrugged, and then gave an explanation about why he wasn’t the best on the team even though he was the tallest. Beth tried to listen but she didn’t really care.
“What’s your favorite movie?” she asked.
“Harry Potter,” he said.
Beth laughed in relief because she finally found something she could talk about. “The first one? Me too!” As soon as she said it, she knew it was a mistake. Now she was just thinking about June and witchiness and giving her and Alex’s child to June and then she remembered how babies got made and it just made her think about Alex’s...thing, and that made her into a pervert, didn’t it?!
But at least she was able to chatter about movies, and when she stopped he spoke too. But too soon, they had exhausted the subject and why did I think it was a good idea to get cheesecake? Now we have to talk for even longer! They lapsed into silence again and Beth wanted to scream. Alex was just staring forward, not even able to meet her eyes.
Beth wanted to ask about babies. But that made her feel like a total pervert. Her mother would be so angry with her. “Favorite book?” she desperately asked.
He gave a short answer and they made a few more exchanges like that. He was so embarrassed, or bored, or something, that he couldn’t even look at her. Good. Well, maybe he thought that this stupid, awful date was his fault. It certainly wasn’t Beth’s! If anything, it was June’s!
June’s just like Alex’s and my baby. Rosaline Raymond. Ugh, that sounds pretty awful. Elizabeth Raymond...that’s not bad, though. I like it. Beth blushed at the thoughts she was having. Immodest, stupid, immature. What was she expecting? To marry Alex or something? And would she ever be able to go on a date without the thoughts of June invading her mind?
“What did you think of yesterday’s history class?” she asked, trying to get Alex to feel less awkward. Even if she didn’t like him very much, she liked the idea of him liking her. She shifted her arms so that she was pushing her chest together and outwards and then realized, with a horrible shock running through her, that Alex was staring at her chest.
Beth gasped, standing up quickly. Alex jerked out of his reverie, staring up at her guiltily, and Beth knew in that look that she had been right. “Jerk!” she snapped, her eyes getting hot and filling with tears. Alex said something but Beth wasn’t listening. She turned and stomped out of the restaurant, slamming the door behind her. She was crying by the time she got home but she made herself stop before entering the house. She didn’t need her mother asking what was wrong.
She felt better by the next day at school, but of course June was walking by her house as Beth left, and they ended up walking together. June gave her a knowing look, raising an eyebrow. “So, my baby…?”
Beth just scoffed, glaring at the ground and wanting to cry again. Would June even bother talking to her if it weren’t for that stupid deal?
“Is Alex Raymond not the one? Don’t worry, I’ll set you up with someone else. A deal’s a deal, after all.”
“Is that all you think about?” Beth burst out.
June looked shocked, and Beth rushed forward, running the rest of the way to school.
June didn’t ask about the baby again for the rest of freshman year.
At sixteen, June had finally started wearing dresses. Not pastel ones, though, dark-colored ones that were shaped kind of like sacks and made June look like a lump. June hated how they made her look, but they were kind of cool, and at least they were unique. It was better than everyone seeing how fat she was, anyway.
She spotted Beth across the hall. They had mostly different classes this year. Beth had started wearing pants, finally. She wore t-shirts well. Beth was really pretty, actually, and June didn’t understand why she didn’t go on more dates. She never was going to get that firstborn child. Not that she really wanted it, but a deal was a deal, and June didn’t plan on letting this one go. Besides, once she had that firstborn, her family would finally stop calling her useless.
So she approached Beth at lunch on the first day of junior year, before Beth’s friends had a chance to join her. “So, I was thinking about what guys you’d like. What do you think of Hugo McPherson?”
Beth groaned. “Give it a rest, June.”
“Oh, honey, I really can’t. Remember? A deal is…”
“A deal.” Beth completed the phrase but was clearly skeptical.
“Okay, but here’s another idea for you, okay? You can remember that we were just stupid little kids back then. Are you even a real witch? I’ve heard that training isn’t going that well. Or rather, I’ve seen the mushroom clouds. You must be on your fifth house by now.”
Rage blossomed within June, and she let her face turn into that of a demon, the skin going gray and stony and her eyes expanding and turning red. But she only kept up the mask for a moment or two and then dropped it. Beth was staring at her, shaken, and June suddenly hated that Beth had finally realized just how ugly June truly was. Good. June knew she was a monster, in the way she treated Bethie and in who she was, and now maybe Bethie finally knew it too. June thought that she might cry.
“So, not Hugo McPherson.” But she wouldn’t let her voice crack. I’m in pain. Why aren’t you?! “Danny Klein? He’s cute. Good hair, as I’m told.”
“No? What about James Domolin?”
“June, give it a rest.”
“Nerds aren’t your type? Kettridge Mercer is really good at basketball, and at math. Good genes all around, really.”
Beth swallowed hard, looking really uncomfortable, and June smiled pleasantly. Jana Phelps walked up behind them. “Oh. Hey, Juno.”
June smiled at Beth’s best friend, who was definitely afraid of her but pretended to be friendly at least. “Hey there, Jana. We have really similar names, now that I think about it.”
“We certainly do. Is there something that you wanted?” Jana’s tone was guarded, afraid, but slightly dangerous. June glanced back at Beth and realized that Beth was sniffling a little. Her eyes were shiny. Jana was just defending her friend.
June hadn’t meant to make Beth cry.
“I’ll see you around,” she singsonged, feeling awful, and walked away.
At twenty-one, Beth nervously perched on the white countertop in her kitchen, staring at the call-box on the wall of her apartment. Next to the box was an open window letting in some wet air from the Boston autumn. The streets below were noisy, which Beth still hadn’t gotten quite used to. It was different from Nebraska, that was for sure.
She fiddled with her simple blue dress, tugging on the hem of it as if she could pull it below her knees and get it to stay there. It was one of the shortest things that she owned, barely going to her knees, but it was pretty and casual enough for a first date.
5:20. Alex should’ve been here right now. But everyone was late around here. Traffic, the pain of life...there was plenty that kept people occupied. Beth understood that pretty well. She was entering her third year at the Berklee College of Music and still no idea what she was doing with her life. Which was fine, you know, I’m perfectly fine, Mother, don’t worry...insert hysterical laughter that spoke of fear.
Yeah. Maybe Beth didn’t have this figured out.
Sighing, she jumped off of the counter and grabbed one of her five cups, getting herself a glass of water. It was a glass cup, tall, like you’d get at a restaurant. It made her think of her very first date with Alex. She smirked, remembering that disaster. Handsome for a ninth grader, Alex had still been a complete dickwad.
And yet, here Beth was, ready to go on another date with him six years later. Re-introduced by a mutual friend, they had agreed to give it another try just for old times’ sake. If only June could see them now.
Ugh. June. Sadly, June still hung prominently in Beth’s mind. She still wondered daily if June expected her firstborn child. It would probably be awhile before that happened, not that Beth was very guilty about that. At least I have a contingency plan if I get pregnant. That’s last resort, though. Beth had to accept that the stupid childhood deal she had made with June would probably ruin her life. What guy would want to have a kid with her if he knew that she’d just give it away? Maybe she needed to have the kid now and just get it over with. There was a bigger witch community in Boston, though, all of Massachusetts really, so if Beth met a nice boy from around here he’d probably at least understand.
The main problem was that Beth didn’t really feel much for any of the guys that she had gone out with. She was probably going to end up being an old maid with no children. June would be bitter about that.
I want an A plus on the math test on Monday, and in return I’ll give you my first born child.
Sure. A deal is a deal.
Beth really had been an idiot. She thought again of June’s pointy face. June had always been strangely beautiful to her. Probably just her witch-aura making Beth obsessed.
The call-box buzzed and Beth jumped. She pressed the button, expecting to hear Alex’s rough voice.
Instead, a musical one met her ears. “Bethie?”
Beth tried to recognize that voice before gasping, horrified, realizing that it sounded a lot like June. Jesus, I guess ‘think of the devil’ really works?! Can she read my mind?!
“June?” Beth winced at how incredulous she sounded.
“Hey, honey. Just coming by to say hello.”
Her heart was beating out of her chest, but surprisingly, Beth felt surprisingly unpanicked. “What do you want, June?”
“We need to talk.”
“Relax, Bethie. We really just need to work some things out, and I was in town. I don’t bite.”
Beth sighed as loudly as she could, hoping that June though she was exasperated and not afraid. “Look, I’ve…”
“I know! Your date! I’m helping you get ready. Let me up.”
Beth knew it was a bad idea, but she let June come up. June wasn’t even that much of a witch anyway, everyone knew that. Beth’s mother had reported that June had started wandering the country with an indie-type band that also did service projects and made baked goods. All distinctly un-magical pursuits. Beth had no reason to be afraid. June couldn’t hurt her.
Unbidden, a memory from third grade rose.
Beth had found June at recess. She felt bad that June was always alone and had no friends so when June said she was going to do magic, she had humored her. But then Beth had been struck by how golden her eyes looked in that moment, as if she was seeing June truly for the first time.
The flowers had begun to pulse, then, growing and shrinking and sliding back and forth and then the petals had come undone and floated over Beth like a pink rain. She had flinched back and then relaxed at June’s serene expressions. Her eyes were shut tight. She looked like she was glowing.
The memory was strange and Beth was half-sure that she had dreamed it, but either way it was peaceful and golden and frozen in time.
Beth was startled out of her reverie by several insistent knocks on her door. She hurried over, twisting the lock and opening it, coming face to face with JunefrickingManolis—and oh dear, did she look good.
She’d cut off her long hair—in the back of her mind, she hoped it had been donated, it was so pretty—into a wavy pixie cut. She still kept with her darker style, this time in a grey tank top, black jeans and combat boots. Indie band? You don’t say. June looked pretty and confident despite how simple her clothes were, and Beth suddenly felt overdressed in her blue slip. She was trying way too hard.
“Oh, honey,” June grinned, leaning against the doorframe. “How’ve you been?”
Her easy way of talking calmed Beth down a bit. “Fine,” she responded, offering a small smile.
June beamed in response, jumping forward and linking their arms together. “Got a date tonight, huh?” She wiggled her eyebrows and Beth was so shocked by the movement that she had to giggle. “Let’s get you ready. Gotta get that baby out of the way.” She threw her a lascivious wink and Beth turned red, feeling warm under her skin. She was a bit afraid of telling June that the deal wouldn’t work out, and a bit angry that June didn’t care about her as more than a uterus.
“Tell me later. Do you really want to be wearing that dress?”
“It’s what I have,” Beth said a bit snappishly.
“Do you want the date to fail?”
Beth wanted all of her dates to go well. Somehow, they never did. Men were just overrated. But that was such a stupid thought to have. What else did Beth expect out of life? Her mother had been very clear, grandchildren were expected by the time Beth was thirty-five, and even that was pushing it.
“So, Alex again, huh? Guess all my efforts in junior year were for nothing?”
Bethie gave no response, and June snickered.
“Is he attractive? I can’t have you go and have an ugly first born child. Is he at Harvard? No, there’s no way, now that I think about it. There’s a lot of colleges around here, right?” June pulled a phone out of her pocket—it was strange to see her with anything modern—and tapped it a bit. “Instagram...damn, Bethie, he is fine.”
“When will you stop being so creepy?”
June pushed up her pointy nose. “Well, I wouldn’t have to be if you’d just respond to my questions. And thanks for the compliment.”
The thing was, as much as Beth wanted to dislike June and be able to yell at her, June was still incredibly charismatic. And she said such strange things that were so funny, and she was so uninhibited that Beth couldn’t help but like her. She wished that they had been actual friends back in Papillion. Her heart beat a little bit faster and Beth bit her lip. Stop it, Matthews. Get it together. You’re being crazy.
“I have an outfit picked out already,” June chirped as they walked to her bedroom. “You’re meeting at a pub, yeah? I got you covered.”
Bethie looked extremely mutinous as she padded into the room and stared at the outfit laid out on the bed. “Those…aren’t my clothes,” she said suspiciously. She would never be caught dead in an outfit like that.
“Trust me, honey, it’s all the rage. Nothing you currently have would work.”
“How do you…” She trailed off. “Never mind. Turn around so I can change.”
“Nothing I haven’t seen before, honey,” June smirked as she turned around. She was only referring to swim unit in high school, but Bethie didn’t have to know that. Her smile widened at Bethie’s confused spluttering. June really did like Bethie, and enjoyed being able to see her and spend time with her. It was just so satisfying to fluster her like that. She was incredibly easy to work up.
“I’m done,” Beth grumbled. “You can turn around.”
June did, and clapped her hands together. Thankfully, June’s fashion sense was still on point. She had given Beth a grey top with a lattice v-neck and black skinny jeans. Beth was really pretty, actually. Her light brown hair had grown out, and she had it in a high ponytail. June would have to do something about that. Her face was still round and adorable. “Tuck in the shirt?” June requested, and Bethie complied. She wasn’t thin, but she didn’t look bad either, and altogether she was really nice-looking. “I like it. Well, Elizabeth, don’t you look ravishing!” She pointed at the chair sitting in front of her desk. “Sit. I’m not done with you yet.”
Beth sat warily, watching June as she opened and closed the drawers in her desk. “You couldn’t have dressed me with magic or whatever?”
“Now, now, dear, that would’ve been a waste of magic. There’s a manifesto on it, you know. Where’s your makeup?”
“I don’t really wear makeup. And you’re lying about the manifesto.”
June clucked her tongue. “Shame.” She left the room and came back with a big leather bag. “Good thing I came prepared.”
Beth squinted. She didn’t remember June coming in with a bag that large.
Hovering her hand over it, June’s eyes glowed gold as various makeup pieces flew out. “We’re going to make you even prettier than you already are.” Beth tried not to blush at the somewhat backhanded compliment. “Aww, it’s okay, Bethie. I know you like me.” June winked again as she continued to allow makeup to fly around the room. Beth tried not to stare or flinch as it started applying itself to her face.
“I think we’ll go for a more neutral look tonight, just accentuate what’s already there. Maybe a nice dark lip to pull the look together.” June paused. “Kiss-proof, of course.”
Beth rolled her eyes. June was partly the best-friend-slash-older-sister that Beth had always wanted, and kind of way too creepy. She thought again about how hard it was to keep up a conversation with most people and how easy June made it. If only June could come with her on the date, invisible or something...what am I thinking?!
June hummed to herself as she waved her hands around, glowing eyes focusing intently on Beth’s face as she applied the makeup. Beth flinched as June came up close, wielding an eyeliner pencil.
“Eyeliner is better done by hand,” she explained, leaning in close.
Beth tried to control her breathing as she felt June’s hand press on to her cheek and move the pencil across her lashline. She smells like flowers, Beth vaguely thought, and then flushed at the fact that she had noticed.
“It’s Dior.” June’s breath fluttered across her cheek.
The rest of the makeup session passed in relative silence, Beth definitely not thinking about June and her stupid Dior perfume and stupid jeans and stupid stupid stupid face and how nice it felt to have makeup applied, tickly but calming.
Beth let out a long exhale as June moved away from her and back onto the bed. She dug around in her bag before pulling out a tube of lipstick. “Aha! Almost forgot.” She moved back to crouch in front of Beth, opening the tube. “It’s mauve. Kat Von D.” Beth held her breath as June swiped the stick on her lips. She was taking a ridiculous amount of time. Was it supposed to take this long? Beth pretty much never wore lipstick.
“Done, for real this time.”
Beth opened her eyes to be face-to-face with June’s still-golden eyes. “Does it look good?” she found herself asking.
“Beautiful,” June said, then snapped her mouth shut, standing up abruptly. Beth’s heart bumped at the compliment. “I’m leaving now.” She swept out of the room, taking the floral smell with her.
Beth stood up too and ran after her. “Wait—June—”
The apartment was suddenly empty. June was gone.
Beth found herself not looking forward to the date as much as she had been before as she moved around her small apartment, grabbing her keys and phone and putting them in her purse. Hopefully it at least wouldn’t be as awkward as the first time. She smirked to herself as she walked down the few flights of stairs to the ground floor. The pub where they had decided to meet was at least in walking distance, so she didn’t have to worry about getting a ride. The only thing was that Beth still hadn’t gotten used to the sheer volume of people that she didn’t know on the streets. In Papillion, she recognized everyone she met, and knew that they wouldn’t hurt her. In Boston, she didn’t feel as safe.
Stepping into the dimly lit room, Beth peered around nervously. To her right, a bar with a sleazy looking young guy wiping down the counter, to her left, tables and booths scattered around. Farther up ahead was a grimy bathroom. She wrinkled her nose. Not the classiest place for a first date—no, don’t think like that, Alex is trying his hardest and this seems like a lot of fun. So much more liberating than the places in Papillion. She wanted the date to go well, and desperately hoped Alex wasn’t just here to get her drunk and have some fun for one night.
And the outfit was actually really appropriate. Beth would’ve been totally overdressed in that blue dress. Here, she looked cool, and actually fit in. And it was actually pretty classy. She tried not to stare as a tall woman in a tight black minidress sauntered past.
Beth flinched at the sound of her name being called from across the pub. Turning in the direction of the shout, she observed the man sitting at the end of the bar nursing what looked to be a whiskey. Still gorgeous, she observed to herself wryly. Instagram doesn’t lie.
Picking her way around the tables in front of her to the seat he was gesturing at, Beth tried to come up with a few conversation topics to make their date less awkward.
She quickly realized she had nothing to worry about.
Alex smiled at her, a genuine smile, and asked how she had been. As they made small talk, it didn’t slip past Beth that he was trying to subtly check her out. That was fine, because she was doing the same. Feel something! she roared at herself. C’mon! He’s gorgeous! He’s from home! He’s interested in you! So why are you so broken?! Why can’t you just make yourself like the guy?! She startled as what looked like a rum and coke was set down sharply in front of her. She stared at the greasy bartender as he winked suggestively at her and walked away to serve another customer. Swallowing nervously, she turned back to Alex, who hadn’t seemed to have noticed. He was still talking animatedly about his internship at an engineering company. She was pretty sure he’d mentioned that he was majoring in chemical engineering at the University of Massachusetts, but she couldn’t be sure. Shaking herself out of her daze, she refocused on the conversation.
“—and that’s how I was able to land this internship.” Alex smiled warmly at her. “What about you?”
“What’s your major?”
“Uh—music. At Berklee,” Beth stammered out, waiting for the usual mockery or condescension that came with telling a science or math major her own.
His eyes brightened and he straightened up. “That’s awesome! I’ve been trying to learn guitar recently, but I’m so incredibly shitty.”
Beth laughed. “Yeah, I’m not too great myself. I’m more for piano or singing. Not exactly great for being in a rock band, but it’s what’s usually required for being a music teacher or doing something else for a school, which is the logical path for being a music major.”
“So you’re doing theory stuff too?”
“Yeah. It’s more fun than I originally expected.”
They chatted more, and Beth found herself relaxing. He was much better at conversation than he had been the last time they went on a date, and she found herself genuinely having fun. She worked her way through the rum and coke that had been set in front of her and when she had finished it, it was immediately whisked away and replaced by another one by the same sleaze as before, who winked at her again and pointedly looked at her chest.
This time Alex noticed.
“Hey, you wanna lay off?” He glared at the bartender.
“Chill, man, just giving a pretty lady a drink.” The bartender turned back to Beth and performed his best attempt at a winning smile.
Beth gave him her best withering glare.
He frowned. “No need to be a bitch.”
Beth scoffed and in one fluid motion tossed the new rum and coke in his face. “Go fuck yourself.” She stood up and grabbed Alex’s arm, leading him out of the pub.
Once they were outside, she let out a shaky breath.
“What a douche.” Alex put his arm around her shoulders. “You okay?”
“Yeah, whatever. Not like this hasn’t happened to be before.” She leaned into his chest.
She felt him take a deep breath. “Doesn’t mean you should have to. Want to go back to my place?”
“No, I’d better go. I had fun, though,” she smiled, trying not to seem dismissive. She really had had fun.
“Okay. Uh, yeah, I did too.” Alex shifted awkwardly from foot to foot, seeming to be working himself up to do something.
He quickly leaned forward and pressed his lips to her’s, cupping her cheek with his hand as he did so. Beth opened her eyes wide in surprise, then leaned forward to deepen the kiss, pressing her hands against his lower back.
He pulled away suddenly, face bright red. “I gotta go,” he stammered, stepping back.
Beth waved an awkward goodbye, totally sure her face was bright red. She replayed the kiss over in her mind all the way back to her apartment.
At twenty, June was huddled up in Bethie’s apartment, waiting for the girl to get home. She felt like a stalker. She knew that if she wanted Bethie to actually think of her as a friend, she needed to stop doing this. Still, June knew that she had burned her bridges with Beth a long time ago. She and Beth were never going to be friends, they were never going to be close, so there was no point in trying. At this point, it would be a miracle if Beth didn’t murder her by the end of the year.
June knew that she was annoying. She knew that she was being weird and stalkerish. But she also knew that the world knew that this was how witches acted. Maybe Bethie would never like her, but maybe Beth wouldn’t hate her either.
She grinned as Beth reentered the apartment and yelped. “Jesus! June, you can’t just show up here!”
“I think I can, actually.”
“I’m gonna get an anti-magic thing.”
“Those are pretty expensive.”
Bethie glared. “Can you just not?”
“Say the magic word.”
Beth glared harder. “Please,” she spat.
“Actually, it’s syranthus—oh, shit!”
A few minutes later, Bethie opened the door. June was still sitting on the floor outside of her apartment, in the same position that she had teleported herself in. “You’re kind of stupid.”
The comment stung, but June knew that Bethie didn’t know how June’s family said that all the time. Bethie probably didn’t have a mean bone in her body. Unlike June. June wondered again how she was able to know Beth.
“Can I come in?” June asked.
“Fine. Tell me about your date from there.”
Bethie didn’t slam the door, which was a good sign. Instead, she went bright red. “It was...fine.”
June knew better than to ask about the baby.
Not for the first time, she felt guilty.
At 22, Beth shut the door to her bathroom, taking a shaky breath. She stared down at the rectangular box clutched in her sweaty hands, feeling her stomach roll with dread.
She and Alex had been officially dating for around a year at this point, so when it came up positive he might not ditch her.
Stupid, stupid, stupid. Even if he did stay with her she would have to give the kid to June anyway. It might come up negative. Maybe she just had food poisoning. For a month? a tiny voice whispered in the back of her mind. Yes, she thought firmly. She skipped periods all the time too…nothing to worry about.
Beth nervously paced around her room, staring at the timer on her phone ticking down the seconds until she found out if her life was over.
God, she had to stop being so dramatic. Maybe she should have gone into theater. She jumped at the sound of the timer buzzing. Heart beating in her throat, she raced into the bathroom and stared at the little stick.
She felt the floor give way underneath her feet as she took in the news.
Hands shaking so bad she almost couldn’t type, she called Alex.
“Hey, Alex? Can you come home early from work today?”
“Probably. What’s up?”
Beth swallowed. “Uh, I’ll tell you in person.”
She spent the next half an hour sitting ramrod-straight on the couch, trying to distract herself by scrolling through her Instagram. It wasn’t working.
“Beth?” Alex’s worried face looked at her from the open front door.
“Come sit down?” Next to her was the positive test.
She took a deep breath. “This is a bit fast.”
Alex titled his head in concern.
Beth held up the test and squinted her eyes shut, watching nervously for his reaction.
His eyes got wide and his mouth opened in a huge smile. “Elizabeth!” He grabbed her hands in his. “This is amazing!”
Beth laughed nervously. “What?”
He ran a hand through his hair. “I mean, it is a little fast, but I really like you, Beth. I really do want this with you. Maybe it’s a little earlier than we expected but—”
“Wait,” Beth interrupted, “you’re not mad?”
“No! Not at all.” Alex smiled earnestly at her. “We can do this.”
Beth smiled wide and wrapped her arms around him. Right then, in the golden afternoon sunlight, she truly believed that they would.
At 23, June felt a disturbance.
It started when she began chronically vomiting and getting weird cravings. Mood swings, disgust at her favorite foods. Textbook pregnancy symptoms, only she hadn’t had sex in a few months.
She realized pretty quickly what it meant. After all these years, Bethie was pregnant. After nine months, June would have the baby that meant she was a real witch. Everything that her family said about her would be wrong. June was just as valid as the rest of them.
For some reason, she didn’t want it.
She thought about Bethie and how Bethie was probably excited to have her family. Alex wasn’t a bad guy, either. He would treat Bethie well. He would raise their kid well. They’d have a sporty, smart, kind person. They’d visit family on the weekends and have big Thanksgivings and Christmases. They didn’t need the horror of June stealing their baby.
June didn’t want to call her mother, but she needed advice. Lia had been given custody of at least three babies so far, one of which was living with her in Papillion, which wasn’t even a record when it came to witches or to June’s family. But was this normal for a witch to feel? Was she too human? Lia picked up after the third time June tried to call her. “Juno.”
“Mother. Look, I’m gonna get my baby.”
There was silence from the other end, and then finally her mother’s elated voice. “June! That’s amazing! This is the one from the Matthews girl? Oh, I knew you had it in you!”
“That’s a lie,” June pointed out.
“Well—don’t be silly, June, you’re a witch, of course you could do it! Where are you going to raise the child? Are you going to train them in magic?”
“Mother, I don’t know anymore. It seems...wrong...to take the baby.”
There was silence again, but this time June could hear the magic sizzling in the other room, cold and stony. She wondered if the phone lines would be down in this area for a few hours after this call. “Mother?”
“June, you can’t be serious. It’s not wrong. They’re the ones that made the deal. And you’re going to give the baby a good life.”
“But...she was only, like, eight! And she’s a good person!”
“Juno, you listen to me,” Lia said. “Getting a child from someone else makes you more of a witch than anything else. If you want to be part of this world, you’ve got to get used to it. You won’t regret it. Hannah’s kids are what give her life. And down here—you’ve met him. You know how good he is.”
Jace, Juno’s technically adopted little brother. Juno had never met him. She hadn’t visited Papillion since leaving after high school. “But, Mother…”
“Do you want to be a witch or not?!” The lights above shattered as the magic shot through the phone line. “Damn it, Juno, this is why people say you’re weak!” More silence. June stared at the glass of the light on the floor.
“June, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to say—”
“Mother, did you want to have me?”
“June—well—I wanted to, yes. I don’t regret you. You’re my daughter. I—”
“It was about my father, though,” June said. “That was why you had me. After he left, did you want me?”
“Mother, don’t lie to me.”
There was nothing but silence from the other end and June nodded, knowing that her mother couldn’t see her. She hung up the phone. The curly phone wire fizzed slightly, and then there was a popping noise and the rest of the lights in her apartment went out. She wondered whether everyone else had lost their lights as well. They were probably used to it at this point. She lived in mixed witch-human housing for artists, and the electricity was spotty at the best of times.
June thought about calling Aunt Hannah. Aunt Hannah would assure her that she was doing the right thing. But she was crueler than Lia was. June didn’t need to hear her confirming that she was the worst witch ever.
She thought about her father, and without thinking about it, picked up the phone. She dialed the number that she had memorized over years of sleepless nights, along with the address she had never visited despite being less than fifty miles away. Hi, Dad, she would say, it’s June and I know that you’ve got your own family now and that you don’t remember me but I need advice—
The phone wasn’t working. June felt like an idiot. Disappointment, too, and that emotion was weak.
I have no choice. I’m a witch. Do I really want to prove everyone right?
June thought of Bethie’s face and her eyes.
The autumn wind rustled through the branches above June and Beth as they sat on a bench in the park. Beth’s hands were resting on her slightly-showing bump and June was watching the leaves swirl around on the ground. Beth watched her. She looked calmer than Beth had ever seen her before. She really was beautiful. Gah. I need to stop. It had gotten worse after moving to Boston, but Beth kept feeling strange things for all the wrong people.
“So how are things?” June broke the silence, still staring at the ground. Her voice was warm and Beth liked it.
Beth beamed, thinking about how kind and wonderful Alex had been, how their baby could really be happy, how classes hadn’t been bad. Something was pushing at the back of her mind. “Really good! We’re planning on converting my tiny office area into the kid’s room. Money will be tight but Alex has been working a couple extra hours around our classes. It’s been stressful, but it’ll be so worth it.” Her smile faded. “I don’t know how I’m going to tell him we’ll have to give her up.” There it was. What would Alex think of her idiocy? Her betrayal? She had to tell him soon. But she didn’t want to. She wanted another few months of happiness—but that was so selfish.
“You know she’s going to be a girl?”
Beth half-smiled. “Well, no. It’s just a feeling. Better for a witch, right?” Her smiled started look more strained. “Have you thought about staying in Boston for the first few years?”
“I actually wanted to talk to you about that.”
Beth instantly panicked. She had to run away and never stop. Happiness was too much for someone like her. “What do you mean?”
“How’re classes going?”
“I’ve been talking to someone. About life. A therapist.”
“That’s good, but…”
“Autumn is a good time to be a witch. So many things growing and fading at the same time. It’s a wonderful contradiction.”
Beth wondered if her child would grow up like this: sounding sort of high all of the time. But happy. And in tune with life. That was all she could hope for, right? Her daughter’s happiness?
June ignored her. “It really makes you think. About what’s good for yourself versus what’s good for other people. Sometimes you have to make hard choices…and I’ve made mine.”
She turned, taking Beth’s hands in her’s and closing her eyes. “Elizabeth Matthews, I formally release you of the deal made fourteen years ago. You are no long indebted to me and are cleared of all obligations towards me, Juno Asherah Circe Manolis.” She opened her eyes as a breeze brushed past them, bringing sweet smells of flowers and nectar.
Beth’s mind froze.
This was a dream, right? There was no way that after all these years, June was giving up. No way that Beth was going to get the life she had always wanted. No way…
“Are you crazy?”
“No.” June grinned, tears filling her eyes, and Beth’s eyes stung too. “For the first time, I think I’m seeing clearly.”
“June…” Beth was breathing hard, her eyes burning.
June smiled softly. “No need to thank me, Elizabeth.” She leaned forward and pressed a kiss to her forehead. Beth closed her eyes, her heart expanding and fluttering away. When she opened them again, June was gone, leaving only a faint smell of roses behind.
At 23 June stood outside of Bethie’s apartment and knocked three times.
The door was yanked open. “Al—”
Bethie cut herself off when she saw June standing there and June was overcome with a wave of guilt. Bethie’s eyes were red and her face was teary. Her stomach was getting big. “Oh.”
“Why are you here?” Beth groaned.
“I felt that something was wrong.” Years of a pact had made them too connected. June had still been getting mood swings and weird cravings.
“Can I come in?”
“Are you okay?”
A fresh wave of sobs hit Bethie and June reached forward and supported her. She was shaking. “He said—he said we could do it—but then—I don’t know—”
“It’s not your fault,” June said. “It’s not your fault. Come on, Bethie, let’s sit down.”
“No!” Beth pushed June away. “Get away! Fine, you’re right! You’d be a better mother than me, this baby’d be happier with you—I’m alone! I’ve got no job! I’m a student! I feel all these weird things that I shouldn’t! Hell, I even care about you! So take the stupid baby! It’s yours anyway!”
“Shut up!” Beth screamed. “I hate you!”
The door was slammed and June just heard sobbing from inside.
She sat down outside of the apartment door and waited. It was another hour before Beth pulled the door open but it was worth every second of the wait.
“I don’t hate you,” Bethie sobbed.
“I’m scared, June.”
“My mom’s gonna kill me.”
“She won’t. She loves you.”
“She always told me not to get pregnant. Just because I was in Boston, I couldn’t turn into a loose woman. She’s gonna kill me.”
“She won’t, because I won’t let her.”
Beth stared down at June, her expression full of grief. “I can’t do this, June.”
“You can. You’re the strongest person I’ve ever met.”
Another wave of tears overcame Bethie, but then she pulled it together. Her voice trembling and cracking, she said, “no. I can’t do this.” She gestured between the two of them. “I don’t know what to do, June! I should hate you! But you’re just—maybe it’s because you’re a witch—but I feel all of these weird things, not just towards you, things I should only feel for men, and—I just—”
June had to struggle not to let the surprise show on her face. Jesus, she’s been mixing up her anger towards me for trying to steal her baby with closeted bisexuality this entire time?!
“It’s not wrong, Bethie.”
“Yes, it is!”
“Please,” Beth said, her lips trembling. “Please don’t leave me.”
June kept her feet planted outside of the apartment, but reached in and took Bethie’s hands. “I won’t.”
“I promise, Bethie.”
Bethie looked at June, her eyes getting shiny. “Do you hate me?”
“Why would I hate you?”
“Because I spent my life hating you. I bullied you in school, and I didn’t stop anyone from calling you names. I wasn’t your friend, even though I could’ve been. And I spent forever trying to get out of that deal.”
June shrugged, her heart hurting. “I think that was mostly my fault. Do you hate me?”
“I tortured you, Beth. It wasn’t okay. It was harassment, that’s what it was. I was a monster to you.”
Beth stared at June, absentmindedly touching the tips of her fingers to June’s clear skin. “No. I don’t hate you.”
“Oh.” June felt like she was choking. “My family was right, you know? I’m not a real witch.”
“I’m trying to stop. It’s not...it’s not good for me. I think that you’ve helped me see that.”
“I won’t leave,” Bethie promised without being asked.
“I think we’re stuck together,” June reflected.
“What a shame.”
June looked up from where she sat in the kitchen with her book. “What’s up, Beth?”
She dropped her book face down on the table and ran into the living room where Bethie sat next to Amarantha.
“Bethie, there is no way she’s talking, she’s barely eighteen months—” June paused as she took in the scene.
Beth and Amarantha were sitting together on the carpet in their tiny living room filled with books and plants. Beth was staring at Amarantha as she gurgled happily to herself from her position lying on the floor.
“Watch,” Bethie whispered.
The two were silent as Amarantha continued to babble. As they watched her, June noticed one of the plants closest to her blooming in time with Amarantha’s breaths.
June felt a flush of pride.
Slowly all the plants in the room began to pulse in time with her breaths until the room seemed to breathe with life.
“I think we’ve got ourselves a witch, June,” Bethie smiled.
“I blame you.”
“Oh, shut up!”
June laughed, and reached out to take Bethie’s hand. Beth tensed up a bit but didn’t drop hands. She liked this. She’d find a way to make it work.
“I guess we do.” June leaned down and kissed the top of her head and Beth felt something spring to life within her. June was the one thing Beth had never wanted, yet in the end she was the only thing Beth could trust. Beth could see a life with her. “I guess we do.”