November Blog Post: A Short Story!

Hello, and welcome to the November 2017 blog post! It’s late, and I am so deeply sorry.

As has become my habit, for my last blog of the year, I do a short story featuring one of the Perfect Coven characters. This sketch takes place between Cursebreaker’s Dance and Jasper’s Song. More accurately, this story takes place simultaneously with the opening of Jasper’s Song; while the others are helping Jasper with his show, Jarvi has gone home to visit his family and rejuvenate in his home water.

As always, if you prefer, we are collecting all our out-takes and short pieces over on the Perfect Coven Wattpad.

I’ll put the actual story beneath a cut, so here are the other Perfect Coven authors’ comments:

James says:  And we get our first glimpse into family life of a not-quite-human species on Perfect Coven Earth.  This is fun, but it could just be that Jarvi’s family is basically insane.  LOL  This is some good material for future world-building as PCE develops new facets and more depth.

Mickie says:  Anyone who has a large extended family (or has friends with a large extended family) will recognize the chaos that happens when you get them all in the same house.  This is a fun vignette and a bit of insight into where Jarvi comes from (and how he’s so tolerant of Shelley’s mercurial temper!).

Family Time

Jarvi opened the front door and slid inside. While the house was suspiciously silent, it didn’t feel empty. He dropped his duffel bag, his book bag, and his overstuffed dirty laundry bag onto the gray-carpeted floor, soft thump following soft thump.

Nothing.

No acknowledgment of his arrival.

No Mother asking if he was hungry after the trip; no flood of great-aunts converging for hugs and kisses and exclamations; no tiny waterspout of a sister jumping up and down, eager to show him what new witchery she’d mastered. Instead, he stood alone in the great room, staring at the empty couches and the short wall of glass bricks that divided the living area from the kitchen.

Jarvi darted a look at the door. There still might be time to get out, he thought. I know Jasper could use my help with the show. The door remained closed, solid, keeping him inside the family domicile, a firm demarcation between the freedom and love he’d found at school, and the boundaries and good-hearted but stifling love of his home.

Footsteps in the heretofore silent house jolted his thoughts, and he realized he’d actually moved a step nearer to the door. He shook his head, resolving to stand his ground, and turned to see his father, Xander, coming up the stairs from the water entrance. Xander’s wet hair, as black and heavy as Jarvi’s, glistened under the lights.

“You’re early. Your mother wasn’t expecting you until later this evening,” Xander said, as he hugged his son. Jarvi returned his father’s embrace, inhaling the scent of their home water from the drops still glistening in Xander’s hair.

Jarvi disengaged, stepped back, and smiled. “My last class let out early for the break, so since I was already packed, I just jumped in the car and left.”

His father raised a questioning eyebrow. “Just like that? Really? And your water witch was okay with this?”

Jarvi shifted his weight, fidgeting. Truthfully, Shelley hadn’t been best pleased when he’d talked to her at lunch, but he didn’t want to let on that there might be any stress in this new relationship at all. He didn’t want to give his grandmother and great-aunts any reasons to disapprove or to dislike his new girlfriend.

Xander grinned – the mischievous smile that Cassie had inherited –  and Jarvi knew he hadn’t fooled his father one iota. “My dad – your grandfather – is a Water witch, in case you’ve forgotten,” Xander said, through a laugh. “I know about the famed mercurial moods.”

Jarvi nodded, not agreeing, but wanting to end the conversation before it got too personal. While he adored his Mama Lira and Papa Alex, he knew their situation wasn’t the same his and Shelley’s. Jarvi sighed and Xander said, “It’s going to be fine, son. Trust me.”

Jarvi attempted a smile, but he didn’t believe his father. He knew his status as the only son of an Elder of the powerful Saginaw Bay Huron Clan made him a coveted mate for any Naiad Witch with an eye on an Elder’s seat. He’d been told this all his life. He couldn’t remember a time when he wasn’t aware if this fact. In his darker moods, Jarvi wondered at his motives for dating Shelley; was it the fact that Shelley was completely ignorant of his heritage and family connections? Shelley just loved him, not the power of his name or family connections.

Xander rolled his eyes. “You have an over-inflated sense of your own worth, boyo. I blame your grandmother and her sisters for that.”

Jarvi started. “What did you say? You’ve never said anything like that before!”

“Well, at least you stopped moping. And honestly, give it break. Enjoy yourself. And your time with your witch.”

“But,” Jarvi began.

“No,” his father interrupted. “Don’t give me that fishbubble about ‘family status’ and ‘first grandchild’ and ‘eldest male’. That’s your grandmother speaking. You’re an adult now, make your choices and stick by them. Also, for what it’s worth, Malivia, for one, is pretty impressed that your witch is a cursebreaker. There aren’t many that go in for that anymore. Also, Sarah and Vada? Not at all pleased with that naiad girl that came with the ailur queen to get the worked water for the cursebreaking.”

Jarvi stared at his father, mouth open, but no words came. He’d come home expecting to be grilled about the curse, and his relationship with a non-naiad. He had not expected to be treated to a father-son talk, especially one where his father spoke as though to an equal, and not a child. Still uncomfortable, though, Jarvi thought, but not nearly as bad as the sex talk. He shuddered just thinking about that, but thankfully, his father didn’t notice.

“Let me call your mother,” Xander said. “She’s at your grandmother’s with Cassie.” He began to wander around the room, looking under cushions and into drawers, muttering to himself. Jarvi grinned, finally relaxing; his father’s always-lost cell phone was a running family joke. However, Jarvi knew Xander was playing up the old scenario, drawing it out, giving Jarvi time to shake his black thoughts and prepare to deal with the onslaught of female relatives.

Ah! Found it!” Xander cried, holding up the phone that had somehow found its way beneath a sofa cushion.

He dialed, and said, “Jarvi’s here already. What’s the plan?” He paused, Jarvi fidgeted. “Yeah, uh-huh, yes, that’s fine, sure,” and Xander tossed the phone onto a nearby table, guaranteeing that Rupert, his wife’s mink familiar, would make it lost again soon.

“Off the hook for tonight,” Xander announced. “Cassie and your mom are on their way home. Tomorrow, though, it’s dinner at your grandmother and Malivia’s place.”

#     #     #

When Jarvi’s family arrived at his grandmother’s house, the family party was already in full swing. Vada, his mother, sailed through the greatroom/dining room  into the kitchen area – separated, as in Jarvi’s house, by a half-height wall of glass bricks, his mother and grandmother having very similar taste. Vada held a covered dish of whitefish chowder over her head. Her familiar, Rupert, followed close on her heels. The mink loved whitefish chowder and Jarvi knew Rupert would attempt to stay close to the pot until he got his share. Xander joined the rest of Vada’s siblings and their spouses in the living area, where a lively discussion appeared to be underway. Jarvi figured his mother would hand off the soup and go to  join the discussion, as the great-aunts preferred to dominate the kitchen during family gatherings.

“Yay, there’s Helen,” Cassie said, waving at their cousin, a witch near Cassie’s age, who appeared to be on the lookout for their arrival. She waved back and pointed toward the stairs heading down to the water entrance. Cassie handed off her coat and gloves to Jarvi and took off with Helen to the water room, presumably to catch up with the rest of the younger kids, Cynthia and Ella. Jarvi looked around for his best friend, the cousin that was just two months younger than him. I don’t see Cecilia. She must not have come back for the break, he concluded. Damn. I really wanted to talk to her. I should probably call her tonight. She’ll be wondering about…everything. He grimaced. I should probably have called her a while ago. She’s going to have my head in a basket.

Jarvi nodded to another cousin, Melissa; she was a little less than two years younger than he and Cecilia, and still in high school. Melissa, as usual, sat by Great-Grandmother Sarah’s chair, which was strategically positioned so she could observe everyone and everything in the great room and kitchen area. Memo-Sarah, as all the children called her, held Jarvi’s infant cousin, Antony, in her lap. She rocked and cooed to the baby while her swan familiar, Bartholomew, settled into his cushioned nest and prepared to nap. Jarvi loved the swan’s crystalline feathers; he always wanted to touch them, but even though Bartholomew was good-natured for a swan, Jarvi knew better than to try. Instead, he smiled at the scene of domestic bliss, took a deep breath, and went to the kitchen.

Unlike at Jarvi’s family home where the living area comprised most of the greatroom, in his grandmother and great-aunt’s shared abode, the kitchen/dining area took up most of the space. They’d lined most of the walls with ornate, antique sideboards that had been in the family for generations, along with a number of tables to provide extra counterspace, in order to accommodate huge buffet-style family meals. The kitchen, as always, smelled glorious, with all the great-aunts, aunts, and culinarily-inclined uncles bringing food for the family gathering. Jarvi slipped around the edges, trying to see if he could grab a bit of his Uncle Alexi’s famous honey cake.

At that moment, Jarvi’s grandmother, Cassandra, turned around and spied him. She resembled her daughter, Jarvi’s mother, being small and soft-looking, though in reality both were strong-willed and no-nonsense, but Cassandra’s hair was mostly white instead of the deep brown Vada still sported. Cassandra bustled over, smelling of spices and love, to give him a hug and pat his back with her flour-covered hands. “Glad you made it, Jarvi, we’ve missed you.” Her eyes, green like Cassie’s, twinkled up at him. “How’d your witch take your leaving her, hm?”

Jarvi shrugged and Cassandra chuckled. He wasn’t as nervous since he’d talked to his father, but that didn’t mean Grammy Cass couldn’t pull a very uncomfortable question out of nowhere. Jarvi remained relaxed, but wary.

“Oh, give the boy a break,” Great-Aunt Therese said, waving her too-full wineglass at Grammy Cass. “He hasn’t even been here long enough to eat anything yet.” Privately, Jarvi had always wondered if Therese didn’t have dryad somewhere in her family history, as she was tall and thin, her arms branch-like, her skin slightly darker than the warm fawn tone Jarvi had inherited from his mother and grandmother. Therese still favored the bright lipstick she’d worn as a much younger woman, and religiously colored her hair flaming red, claiming that allowing it to go gray or white didn’t suit her sense of style.

Cassandra’s eyes narrowed. “He’s my grandson, Therese, you keep your big nose out of it. Drink your wine.” The wine in Therese’s glass sloshed, dribbling over the rim to stain her fingers. Quincy, Therese’s red-throated loon familiar, bated his wings and called, the siren shriek causing Grammy Cass’s familiar, a black paca named Franklin who had been napping in his box, to sit up on his hind legs and growl. Therese reached out to rub the gray spot on Quincy’s head. “Now look what you’ve done, Cass, you’ve upset the boys.”

Great-Aunt Malivia sailed in, her layered skirts swirling about her ankles. She wasn’t any taller than her younger sister Cassandra, though she shared the air of command they’d both inherited from their mother, Sarah. Malivia’s hair had been snowy white since her twenties, and she wore it long, sometimes securing it at her nape with one of the intricate, hand-made clips her partners had loved to make for her. Her eyes, however, were a wintry, pale blue, unlike either of her parents or any of her siblings. Despite her Ortho status, she could quell her younger siblings – and their spouses – like no one except perhaps Memo-Sarah, though she rarely bothered refereeing disputes any longer. She preferred to sit in her chair and dote on the babies and familiars.

Aunt Malivia – never Mal, and Livvy only to her two partners, both gone – dominated the room with her presence. She stopped her sibling and her sister-in-law’s bickering with a single raised eyebrow. Both familiars backed down as well, going out to the living room area to complain to Memo-Sarah, Jarvi figured.

Behind Malivia came Aunt Lilian, along with her familiar, a blue and green-striped snapping turtle named Oswald. Aunt Lilian was sharp-tongued and peppery, though she looked deceptively sweet. Jarvi, when he read bedtime stories to Cassie, always described the witch in Hansel and Gretel as Aunt Lilian. After Lilian marched Aunt Kattalin, the youngest, taller than her sisters, easy-going and always laughing, along with Silas, her red and black tuxedo guinea pig familiar. Both witches bore heavy bags. Once there, all the great-aunts converged and set out the newly-arrived dishes. Jarvi fancied he could hear the counters and tables groaning under the weight of all the food.

No one’s watching. Now! Jarvi thought, and made a quick slide toward the platter that contained the enormous honey cake Uncle Alexi had brought. A crash and a howl brought him up short. He bit his lip and turned, slowly, hoping that his run for the cake hadn’t caused whatever had happened. On the floor, shards of dark glass rose like dangerous islands in a crimson sea. Jarvi gulped. Someone had broken Great-Aunt Therese’s bottle of wine.

Jarvi froze where he stood. Unfortunately, he didn’t have a way out of the kitchen that wouldn’t draw his great-aunts’ attention. From the corner of his eye he could just spy Memo-Sarah and the scintillating whiteness of Bartholomew.

Therese clutched her half-empty wineglass and glared at the other women. “What did you do?” she thundered. From Jarvi’s point of view, the question could have been directed at all of the other aunts or none. He hoped it wasn’t directed at him, though he’d been nowhere near Therese nor the counter where the wine had sat. He pressed himself against the wall as all the familiars left in the kitchen scampered out, not wanting any part of what might happen next. Even Rupert abandoned his post beneath the table where the coveted whitefish chowder rested.

A cacophony of denials rose from the other four women,  but Therese was having none of it. Her shout rose over the rest. “Who knocked it over?” Her lips twisted as she peered at her favorite rival. “Did you do it, Lilian?”

“Is that an accusation?” Aunt Lilian yelped. Her eyes narrowed, and her left hand shot out, first three fingers hooked, thumb holding smallest finger across her palm. She jerked her hand in a sharp, short arc, and the last of the wine in Therese’s glass fountained out, splashing  across Therese’s scowl, and Aunt Kattalin, who was standing beside Therese.

Kattalin threw out both hands and pulled, not by accident catching Therese’s hair in her hands as well. Therese yelled, and twisted to grab Kattalin’s wrists just as a waterspout erupted from the sink, drenching all the other aunts.

“You devilkin hellion!” Cassandra screeched, throwing out the fighting words from the siblings’ youth. She cupped her hands one above the other and rotated them, as though forming a ball from clay or dough, but instead, she pulled the water from her hair and clothes into a sphere and threw it full in her youngest sister’s face.

“Oh, you are just asking for it,” Kattalin retorted, catching the water and pulling it into a circle to prepare her favorite hex. Lilian drew close behind, lending her witchery to her sister.

Cassandra hissed, and pulled the wine on the floor into a circle, preparing to throw a hex of her own. Therese joined Cassandra, throwing her ire as well as her witchery into the counter-hex.

“Stop it! No hexes! Jarvi’s in here!” Malivia shouted, slapping at Kattalin’s hands, just as a loud, annoyed honk sounded from the living room. Everyone froze. Bartholomew rose to his full height and paced toward the kitchen. Jarvi could have sworn that that swan cast a disapproving, beady eye on Memo-Sarah before he moved to fill the kitchen doorway, but surely he had to be mistaken. I’m starting to see Ette in all avian familiars, gods help me, Jarvi thought. Bartholomew honked again, imperious, and tossed his head toward the puddles on the floor. Abashed, the ladies nodded and began handing around cloths and towels, not meeting each other’s eyes. They cleaned the mess in silence beneath Bartholomew’s watchful gaze.

Afterward, they all left, including Malivia, filing silently past Jarvi and the annoyed familiar on their way to the bathrooms to clean themselves up. When they were alone, Bartholomew nudged Jarvi with his wing. Obliging, Jarvi cut the swan a piece of cake. He put it on a small plate that Bartholomew took in his beak and went back to his nest beside Memo-Sarah, who, Jarvi couldn’t help but notice, was very intently rocking a fast-asleep Antony and not looking at her familiar at all. As he finally cut himself a piece of the cake, Jarvi shook his head. I knew I should have stayed and helped with the show, he thought, and had a nice, calm weekend, with no stress,  no drama….  

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