"Of course she isn't weird! She's a witch!" Pearl said, as if that explained everything.

"Well, weird or witch, she and my mom think that you and me should work for her some."

"Huh." Pearl frowned and flopped on her bed. Several beads spilled out of a shallow cardboard box and rolled into folds of the comforter. Abbey sat down a bit more carefully next to Pearl and picked up the beads one by one, dropping them back into the box.

"Maybe it's not so bad." Pearl stared up at the ceiling, which still had most of the glow-in-the-dark stars that she and Abbey had put up two years ago. "She probably wants us to think she's all nice and normal and stuff, so I bet she won't work us too hard."

"Well, she does seem pretty normal. She's got tons of plants in her kitchen, and her garden is all in circles, sort of, instead of being in a square or rectangle, but what's so weird about that? It just looks a little different."

"But it is different, down deep. This could be our big opportunity, to watch her and find out more about what she does." Pearl sat up and faced Abbey. "Did you see that cat when you were there? That's her familiar."

"But it's just a cat! Just a big white cat with yellow splotches; it isn't even black."

"A cat doesn't have to be black to be a witch's familiar. It has to be around her all the time, and, um, serve her, and do her bidding. Did it lead you into the garden?" Pearl picked up the box of beads and began to sort through them.

"No, it just sat there being a cat. It wasn't special at all, just a big fat cat and it plopped down right in front of me when I was nearly to the middle. I didn't know how friendly it was, so I didn't try to pet it, I just went back in."

"Aha!" Pearl said. "He kept you from getting to the center of the garden; he was guarding the witch's inner sanctum." Pearl was the only person Abbey knew who could use phrases like "inner sanctum" with perfect seriousness. And it did sound believable when Pearl said it. Maybe the big cat had been keeping her away from something. It had just sat there and looked at her; it hadn't meowed and it hadn't come to rub itself around her ankles like her cousins' cats did. "Maybe he's just, like, territorial..." she started, but Pearl had already turned away from her to rummage through the box of beads.

"Here. We'll make necklaces, with protective crystals, like ( insert crystal mumbojumbo )." Pearl spoke excitedly, as she laid out beads in two lines between her and Abbey.

Abbey hated/loved this about Pearl; she made the utterly fabulous seem right next door, so possible and still so poetic. But then the stuff she did, that she coaxed Abbey into doing, didn't measure up to her dramatic words. Pearl was sorting through threads and ribbons now, talking about the fibers most suited to supporting truth and strengthening their powers of observation.

Abbey picked up the black ribbon and wove it around her fingers. This did look good, felt silky and spooky — but the beads. They lay there on Pearl's bedspread, looking dull and plastic-y. Was there a real crystal in the bunch? If there were any real crystals, were they the crystals that Pearl thought they were? Did they have any powers?

"Oh, and I know what else we can use, I just haven't figured out quite how yet. This is great. I found this Saturday afternoon, I was exploring the ravine after, you know, after, the fence thing."

Yeah, Abbey thought, and while I was getting scolded for the rip in my jeans and Mom was swabbing iodine on that gash, and telling me that I needed to just Think For A Moment, and it was a good thing I'd had a tetanus shot just last year, and If Pearl Jumped Off a Bridge... she jerked her attention back to Pearl, who was pulling a shoebox out from under her bed.

"Check this out." Pearl pulled off the lid and began pulling out wads of pink tissue, to reveal a small white — rock?

"Whoa!" Abbey said. "It's a skull!"

"Cool, right? Who knows how long it's been there — long enough to be just the bone, that must be a long time."

"Geez, it's not even as big as your fist. What do you think it is? Squirrel? Cat or dog?"

"Something wild, I think. Something to connect me to the wild, to the forces of nature. D'ya think I could string it along with the beads?"

"Yuck, no way!" But Abbey could imagine Pearl showing up at school with the skull dangling on her chest — and spending all day in the principal's or counselor's office. "Maybe you should leave it here until, until you get more of a sense of what it can do for you." She felt like a wretched fake for saying this and encouraging Pearl's magical fancies, but Pearl agreed without argument, and they turned to stringing together beads.


Created by kristin. Last Modification: Saturday 04 of February, 2006 14:00:04 EST by kristin.