My chair creaks as I lean back and trace my finger along the jagged dent in my grandma’s old wooden desk. I sigh as I pick up a dusty book off the pile, setting it down in an empty spot. My grandmother gifted me these old books just as I turned fourteen yesterday, telling me they were hers when she was my age..
I flip open the thick leather cover, coughing on the dust blown into my nostrils. All I see is odd lettering. It looks to be a foreign language. On the flyleaf there is what I assume is a name to show ownership, which is in quite sloppy handwriting. It is in the same language as the rest of the text. Why would my grandma give me books I can’t read? I need to pop over to her house tomorrow to inquire.
“Ethel, dinner time!” my mother hollers, clearing the haze containing my thoughts.
Coming,” I quickly mumble before galloping down the stairs. It doesn’t matter, she obviously heard me anyway.
I sit down in front of my plate and mentally prepare for the awkward dinner conversation. I just have to smile politely and be brief.
We do our prayers and my mother starts off with the usual and easy to answer, "How was your day?" and whatnot.
Our usually scheduled program gets cut short when my father gets that look in his eye and amusingly looks at me as if he has one thought on his mind that takes over his entire face. New body language wipes over him and can't help but let us know what's on his mind, even if my mom was about to ask my brother a question. This is typical Dad, and I actually get a little excited because this is usually a good indication that he'll brighten up the conversation.
"We got a prank call earlier about a school out on a potato farm near here trying to recruit you. We've lived in town for how many years and they think they can fool us? There is no “Potato Farm School” here," he chuckles loudly creasing his eyes.
I look up from my plate and smile. We all turn to see my brother as he bursts into laughter. Axel has always been good at being part of the conversation, even if he doesn't entirely understand what he's laughing about.
We finish eating dinner together with a lighter air to the conversation. As I collect the dishes to clean I start planning the next day. “I’ll bike to my grandma’s mid-morning,” I think, and hurry to my room to place my new books in my leather messenger bag before I forget, before returning to the dishes. I’m really curious as to what she’ll say. Those books seem so out of the blue for her. Sure, she can be a little odd sometimes. Like the one time I walked in on her singing to her tea. Plants I’ve heard of, but tea? It makes me think, what in the world are those books?
BEEP. BEEP. BEEP. And that’s my alarm. I rub my eyes and slowly sit up. Deep breath, today is going to be an exciting day, I have good reason to get out of bed. I push my covers off and get dressed into my favorite blue striped button up over my favorite tucked in graphic tee. I look at my phone’s clock to see 8:34. I still have time to kill so cereal and my favorite show will do. And when I say favorite, I really mean favorite. It is this animated show, but not a show for little kids, about this group of unlikely 4, becoming friends and learning magic while living in the middle of a wacky and spontaneous forest, saving the world. I love it.
When it reaches about 10am, a time I don’t think I will intrude too much when visiting someone, I close my laptop and put the empty bowl I should have put away an hour ago, into the sink. I check the time again to make sure I read it right, even though my grandma is the type of person that welcomes you anytime of the day or night unannounced, simply because she loves to be that person to make you tea and listen to all of your problems. She’s great.
I put my leather bag into the bike’s basket, kick the stick that keeps your bike standing when unaccompanied by any type of support, swing my leg around, and start pedaling. I enjoy biking around different neighborhoods, it’s peaceful, and thinking about how all these buildings came to be and came to look has always been of interest to me. It’s also a nice time to remember all the things I should be stressing about. For example, I started thinking about the dinner conversation from last night and for some reason this is the first time his thought is registering, but I am starting highschool at the end of the summer. Highschool. That’s pretty big. Big school, bigger stakes. More people, more homework, more pressure. I am not ready.
I take a deep breath and smile when I see my grandma’s house come into view. I’m glad we live so close to each other so I can think about something that actually interests me rather than stresses me out.
I park my bike on her lawn, leaning it up against the side of the house. I grab the strap of my bag and swing it around my shoulder, crossing it over my chest. I walk over and knock on the door, excited to see my Grandma’s face. I hear footsteps and the sound of the door’s lock being turned from the inside. And boom, there’s her arms open wide with a warm smile. I gladly wrap my arms around her and take a deep breath of contentment. Her house smells like old books and pretty flowers. She is a plant lady. We walk over to her kitchen table and sit down in her cushion-y chairs.
I open the clasp on my bag and pull out one of her gifted books while she intertwines her fingers together, placing her hands on the table and smiles up at me. I look up, turn the book to face her, and open the cover. “I realized I didn’t pay too close attention to these books when I was opening presents at my birthday party. I mean, I noticed the leather binding and whatnot looked really cool, but I decided to fully appreciate them later when I actually could, rather than in all the ruckus that always is family gatherings. But then when I did get a chance to look at them I got confused real quick” I blurbed out quickly, trying to explain my confusion without sounding like I disregarded her books before this point. They truly are cool looking books and I trust my grandma’s taste in writing immensely.
“I was expecting this conversation,” she says with a delighted look on her face. Which makes me wonder why she a) didn’t just outright tell me and b) gave me books we needed to have a whole conversation about, and at this level of conversation. Because it feels like we're about to have a conversation.
I respond with a, “you were?” and place the book down flat on the table instead of propped up against my hands.
“I was indeed,” she nods, “You see, you’re starting highschool next year, it’s a big year for you”
Oh god, another unneeded reminder about school. “Yeah…” I say in response.
“You see, the writing there? That’s a Witch’s Code.”
My heart drops. “And what does a Witch’s Code have to do with me?”
“Well, my dear. You aren’t going to a normal highschool. You’re going to one that hardly anyone knows of but witches. It’s out on a “farm,” you see?” she explains with air quotes.
My heart double drops. Wasn’t the prank call about a farm school? One that my dad probably didn’t take seriously on the phone. Oh god. “Is it perhaps on a potato farm?” I ask.
“Ah, so you’ve already gotten the call, eh? This is exciting news! I knew you would grow up to be a witch, ever since you were a little girl!” she says with great excitement.
My eyes go wide. I try to even out my breathing. So much of my Grandma is making sense now. I just thought she was incredibly cool? And I guess she is. And… I guess I will be too?
“But wait, why did Dad think the call wasn’t a real call? Why hasn’t Mom ever told me about this? Why haven’t I seen her do any magic stuff?” I burst out.
‘You see, my daughter isn’t a witch. It skipped a generation, it seems. I did try to introduce her to the world of magic when she was young. From a young age she never showed signs, though. She started getting bullied when kids found out about my weird and wacky ways of doing things. Once we found out she didn’t have any magic for sure, at 14, the same age as you, she seemed bitter at the idea of it all. And with all of the bullying, she probably hoped you wouldn’t turn out magic. Especially since she wasn’t, so she didn’t raise you the same way. The good news is, you'll be surrounded by people like you, but also vastly different. It's a great place to go to school, you'll learn so much. And I'll always be here if you have any questions or need help. Hopefully your mother can look past the bullying and be happy for you.”
Our main character finds the things they always felt made them different doesn't make them all that different after all. A phone call from a hidden magic/queer school asking them to join leads them and their friends on a road to self discovery and joy.
(I'm working on art for cover/thumbnail, so what's there now is a placeholder)