I send Hark a text message – “I’ve just seen the news about your sister. Are you okay?”
“You should text Hark Saff.” Raina tells me quietly so our mothers don’t hear.
“I just have.” I say.
“Oh my goodness. He must be gutted.” She says.
“I can’t imagine what he is going through. I wonder what is happening.”
“I dunno. They asked me at the ministry if I had any thoughts on what might be happening when people disappear. I told them I didn’t know.”
“But, like Magnolia is only twelve. She doesn’t even know how to magically disappear yet. They literally, whoever or whatever it was, must have just like, kidnapped her.” I say, shocked at my own words.
“It’s horrible. I don’t want to think about it. That could happen to me and you.”
“It could.” It’s true.
Hark sends me a text. “No. Not really. She never came home from school. Mum and dad are sick with worry. Mum reported it to the ministry straight away. They think it has something to do with your teacher going missing as well.”
I text back: “They definitely seem related.”
“Girls. Dinner’s ready.” Mum says. Raina and I sit down at the kitchen table, help ourselves to some baked naan bread, and watch our plates fill with rice, chicken and sauce.
“Coke?” I ask, and direct my wand to pour four glasses.
“We know that girl on the news.” I say.
“The girl who is missing?” Mum asks.
“Yes. Her name is Magnolia Basswood. She is Hark Basswood’s little sister.” I say.
“She is.” Aunty Alyssum says.
“How would you know?” Raina asks her mum.
“Raina, I know a few year levels, thank you very much.”
“Ow. Ok. No need to flick me.” Raina says, and laughs after Aunty Alyssum has given her an invisible flick on the ear with her wand.
“So with all of these disappearances, is it best if we stay home from school tomorrow?” I say, knowing I’m pushing my luck
“Ha! Nice try.” Mum says, winking, and then pouring more sauce over her rice with her wand.
“Has that single father been in to see you again?” Aunty Alyssum asks mum.
“What single father?” I ask, my interest is suddenly tenfold.
“No, he hasn’t.” Mum says, looking at her sister.
“I’d say he’s pretty keen to take you on a date.” Aunty Alyssum smiles a cheeky grin.
“I’d say he is too, but my dating days are long gone.” Mum says.
“Why? You’re only forty-five. Live a little.” Aunty Alyssum can talk!
“You can talk Mum!” Raina says. She gets another flick on the ear. “Ow. Mum. Stop flicking me.” Raina whinges, and then laughs.
“Sorry darling, what was that?” Aunty Alyssum is being smarmy.
“Nothing. I didn’t say anything.” Raina lies, laughing.
“That’s right. That’s what I thought I heard. Nothing.” Aunty Alyssum jokes and looks at mum. I seriously don’t know why they don’t date. Raina and I would not care.
“We wouldn’t care if you two had boyfriends, you know.” Raina says, clearly thinking the same thing as me. She sips her coke, and burps.
“We know that honey. I just don’t think I need a rook in my life.” Mum says.
“I agree. I don’t need one either.” Aunty Alyssum says.
“Think of all the stuff they could buy you…” Raina says.
“Don’t be so bloody material Raina.” Aunty Alyssum says.
“What? It’s true! Did you see Saffra’s new jacket? It’s gorgeous! Imagine if we could all have gorgeous things every day and not have to spend a cent!”
“Ah, I see where this is going. You think if mamma has a boyfriend who has money, he will spend his money on her mamma and her? Is that right?”
“Well, isn’t that what families do? What dads do? Spend money on their daughters?” Raina says.
“You would think so, but I haven’t seen a cent from your dad.” Aunty Alyssum says.
“And you know I haven’t seen a cent from yours Saffra.”
“Hey, I’m not complaining! I got the jacket. I’m happy.” I smile.
“We can’t all afford to buy velvet jackets can we?” Raina says coolly. She’s annoyed. And I have no idea why.
“Are you okay?” I ask her.
“Yeah. I’m fine. I just have a headache.” She replies, putting down her fork and rubbing her eyes.
“I’ve got a vial for that.” Mum says, and a small glass vial with rosewater-coloured liquid lands in front of Raina and rolls into the side of her china plate.
“Thanks Aunty Delph. This better taste good.” She says, pulling the cork out with her teeth, and drinking it.
“I’m so full. I can’t eat another thing. Can I give it to Farley and Briar?” I ask Mum.
“I doubt they will eat it darling, but you can try.” Mum nods and smiles. Gosh I love her.
“Here puss puss,” I say tapping the fork against the side of the plate and walking hunched over to their bowls. Farley and Briar come running. I scrape some butterchicken with rice into their bowls, and they both lick it cautiously. When they have a better taste for the flavours, they realise they like it and begin eating without caution. I scrape the rest of the food off my plate and into their bowls. Well, that’s the cats fed. Good thing the sauce and chicken was extremely mild and not spicy.
“Mmm. That was yummy. Thanks Aunty Delph.” Raina says, sending her red lovehearts and lip shapes across the table that kiss Mum on the cheek and then pop.
“Thanks darling, for those. You’re welcome. Does anyone want dessert?” Mum asks.
“Hell yes! Even if I’m full!” I say, dropping my plate and knife and fork into the sink where it starts filling up with bubbly hot water.
“What do you have?” Raina asks.
“Butterscotch pudding.” Mum answers, and it comes out of the freezer, unboxes itself, with the cardboard box landing on the ground, and it floats into the microwave, and heats itself up.
“Do you have any custard?” Raina asks.
“No. We had the last of it the other night.”
“Hmm, that’s annoying.” She sighs, and leans her chin on her crossed arms which are resting on our table.
“Oh sook sook. First world problem. There are people who have to wash their own dishes and cook their own dinner. Remember that!” Aunty Alyssum says.
“I would hate to be wilted.” Raina sighs, staring into thin air.
“Thank bracken you are not. If you were, I would never hear the end of it!” Aunty Alyssum says.
“Mum if I was wilted, I wouldn’t be yours.”
“No, you wouldn’t. Point taken.”
“But how good would it be if our realm had an endless supply of chocolate, chai lattes, and clothes… and shoes?” Raina dreams.
“Don’t be ridiculous. It’s impossible to have an endless supply of anything, wilted or gifted.” Aunty Alyssum says.
“Well there should be some advantages to being magical. I just can’t see them.” Raina sighs.
“Raina, bloomers and rooks are very lucky, trust me. We have very easy lives. But if you phoned the ministry and asked them for an endless supply of chocolate and shoes and, clothes, they would laugh in your face.”
“What do you mean? We have wands. We know spells. We build whole houses in two minutes. I don’t see why it’s so hard.”
“Raina, there is a limit, even to magic. The ministry dish a certain amount out to each state daily.”
“What do you mean?” Raina is confused, and quite frankly, so am I.
“All of our magic usage is controlled and monitored. It always has been. And it always will be. If the ministry supplied the magical population of Melbourne with an endless supply of magic for a day, the world would turn to absolute chaos! You’d have people building the Taj Mahal over Federation Square, and casinos, over the Yarra River, and three hundred storey buildings, above Flinders Street.”
“They can’t do that!” Raina says, beginning to understand what she means.
“No, they can’t, because they are allowed a daily limit. But just imagine if magic was limitless. Just imagine what people would do then.” Aunty Alyssum makes us think.
“I get it.” Raina says, and finally so do I.
“Do you remember when I cast that spell for our car, because I didn’t have enough money to buy a new one, and I had to cook all of our food from scratch, and wash the dishes for a whole week? You were around eleven.”
“Oh my goodness. Yes, I remember that. You told me it was wilted week, and you wanted to do everything the wilted way for seven days to see what it was like. I had no idea…”
“Do you now?” Aunty Alyssum asks.
“I totally do. Mum, why didn’t you tell me the truth?”
“You were a child. You didn’t need to know.”
“Mum, why didn’t we give Aunty Alyssum the money for her new car?” I look at Mum.
“I offered her the money darling, but she wouldn’t take it. She sacrificed her allowance of magic instead.” Mum explains.
“That’s like, wow. That’s so brave Aunty Lyss. I can’t believe you did that.” I say. I’m completely blown away.
“It was brave. And I was scared, because it was a major learning curve. I know how to do things that most bloomers and rooks will never know how to do.” She looks proud.
“Like… change a tyre. Check the oil. Umm, wash clothes by hand. Iron a blouse. Change a bed. Mow the grass…”
“That’s so wilted! But so cool!” I say. I think I have a new hero. And she knows it. She sends me kisses with her wand that land on my forehead and then pop.
“How do you think Grandpa Thistlethorn and Grandma Bergamot are so successful? How do you think they founded two schools? The only two magical schools in Melbourne?” Mum asks Raina and I.
“Dunno.” We both say, because we have never been told.
“By sacrificing their magic. They lived like the wilted for ten years just so they could build Goldrose and Meridian in two spells.”
“No way! So each school cost them five years of magic? That’s insane.” I say.
“That’s life.” Mum shrugs her shoulders and the Butterscotch Pudding lands on the kitchen bench with a loud thud, a cake knife, sneaks out of the second drawer, and cuts the pudding into four portions. Four dessert plates form a queue next to the aluminium tray the Butterscotch pudding is sitting in, and one by one the plates are served a piece of pudding, and then send themselves in our direction.
“So what’s the limit for us then?” Raina asks her mum.
“I’d say the most a seventeen year old can do is cast a spell for a new broom. You’ll have no magic for maybe three days.” Aunty Alyssum is working it out in her head. “I don’t know our allowance exactly, but it would be roughly that.” She adds.
“Did you guys ever run out of magic because you cast spells for really dumb stuff?” Raina asks.
“We did, but it only happened a couple of times because Mum and Dad always had enough money to buy whatever we wanted.” Mum says, and I think of our grandpa who passed away before we were born. We never met him. It’s so sad.
“What if you were someone who didn’t have enough money to buy what you wanted? Say you were really poor?” I ask.
“You spent your magic on food.” Mum says.
“Really? That’s terrible. Absolutely terrible.” I say.
“The ministry made it that way many moons ago, so that, no matter how poor a gifted family was, they’d still have some way to eat and feed their kids. They might not have had much physical money, stroms and fens, but their magic allowance afforded them the basics. Food, water.”
Mum says. I look at my phone at the BloomerPix Daisy has just shared with everyone stating we have an assembly in the morning and the ministry will be in attendance. Guess she’s giving us the head’s up even though she probably shouldn’t be.
“We have assembly in the morning, don’t we?” I look at Aunty Alyssum.
“Yes, nine o’clock after homegroup. Don’t be late. It’s important. Wait – how do you know? The ministry only just organised that tonight.”
“Daisy just BloomerPixxed everyone.” I say.
“Oh, well she shouldn’t be. If her mother knows she’s doing that she’ll kill her.”
“So the minister can monitor the magic for the whole of Melbourne but doesn’t bother to monitor her own daughter’s? That does not make sense.” Mum says, sending all of our dessert plates and sporks into the kitchen sink for washing.
“No, it doesn’t actually.” Aunty Alyssum agrees and Raina and I look at eachother.
Raina and I walk to assembly on the oval with Sage and Begonia the next morning. The grass is wet, even though it hasn’t rained.
“I wonder if Daisy got in trouble for telling us all about the assembly…” I say.
“Dunno. But it’s pretty wicked if she didn’t. She would get so much inside information. And she shares it with all of us. She’s such a rebel.” Sage says.
We all sit in the back row farthest away from the black-clothed podium. We have taken the last four seats in the back row. A few more groups of people arrive and sit down around us, everyone gossiping and chatting away.
“Now that we are all here, I would like to start.” Mrs Freestone says, talking to the tip of her wand so that her voice is amplified. There are around one thousand of us sitting on the oval on white wooden collapsible chairs, and we’ve all gone silent.
“Joining us today are the Ministry for Magic from Canberra. As you are all aware, this school has experienced the effects of two disappearances of two of its women – a female staff member, and a female student from year seven. We felt it was crucial we held this assembly so that no more of you go missing. I don’t want to be so brash, but I feel, being in this dire situation we now find ourselves in, I have no choice but to speak plainly and clearly to you all. We have reason to believe that Miss Graveberry and Miss Magnolia Basswood have been taken by wilted, and we don’t really know why. Perhaps the most obvious motive for capturing them is to expose us for who we are, gifted, and to find out more about our kind. I am sure the wilted are aware we live among them, however, we had no idea that they knew about our magical inclinations, and neither did the ministry. The ministry has done all that it can to disguise our secret as best it can, but somehow, somewhere, we have gone wrong. Let me now give the oval to Mrs Dahlia Derefelle, our Minister for Magic.” Mrs Freestone ends her speech, and we all clap loudly, giving Mrs Derefelle a hearty welcome despite the circumstances.
“Hello students of Goldrose. Thank you for having me here. I wish I was here for a more optimistic assembly however things are as they are. Now, to reiterate what Freesia was saying, we all need to be on our guard, from now on. When you come to school and go home in the evening do not engage in conversation with any wilted. I know we have been telling you your whole lives to blend in as much as possible and to acknowledge them, and to converse with them on public transport, and to act and behave as though you are one of them when you are in their streets etcetera. Unfortunately we have come to that time in our evolution where we must now do the opposite. We must ignore them and avoid them at all costs. These disappearances, as sad as they are, are the result of a much larger picture – one that concerns the gifted and the wilted, and we haven’t seen anything like this for at least three hundred years. I am not your mother, your teacher or your guardian, but as Minister for this country, and I will be telling all the other Australian states the very same thing, it is my strong recommendation you all dispose of your myki cards immediately, and boycott all forms of wilted transportation. Trains, trams, buses, taxis, and uber, as well. I understand that for seventy per cent of you, that is how you get to school in the morning, which brings me to my next announcement. From now on, I give explicit permission to all Goldrose and Meridian students, to fly to school and home on their brooms. And letters to your parents regarding this have already found their way inside all of your letterboxes. I know the rule has always been that brooms are only allowed during PE, however my ministers, your teachers and I, all agree the safest way for you all to travel, is inside our realm. Which brings me to my next announcement. Any student found to be traversing between the two realms will be expelled immediately. This may sound harsh however this new rule is for your own safety. It is quite literally a matter of life and death. I don’t mean to be so morbid, but that is the way of things. Thank you.” Mrs Derefelle finishes and takes her seat. Holy shit, things just got real. No more Bridge Road. Or the beach, or Chapel Street, and I can’t be the only girl thinking this right now. Stick to our realm. That’s what they want us to do. Sure, we have our own shops and cafes and grocery stores – but the whole of Melbourne offers a variety our realm will never have!
We all begin expressing our worries and concerns and become rather noisy when Mrs Freestone puts her wand in front of her mouth and says: “Now, if you could all go back to your classes quietly, and do not rush. We do not want any injuries.”
One thousand students stand up at once, and jostle eachother, trying to leave rows, to join the procession of girls in the middle aisle.
We all watch as two figures clad in black fall out of the sky, and land on the wet grass behind all of us. We in the back row have the best view of who these figures are as opposed to the ministry and our teachers who are sat on the podium, one hundred metres away.
Miss Graveberry and Magnolia Basswood have just fallen out of the sky.
“Miss Graveberry! Are you okay?” I run up to her, helping her off the ground.
“Yes, Saffra. Yes, I am. A little shaken but I am ok.” Miss Graveberry replies.
“Magnolia?” I look at Hark’s little sister.
“I think I am ok. I’m ok.” She says.
“You fell out of the sky…” Raina says, shocked, as every student in the back row is.
Our teachers and the ministry have finally joined us, to see what all the commotion is.
“Freesia. How good it is to see you.” Miss Graveberry moves toward Mrs Freestone, who hugs her tightly, in a moving embrace.
“Dear Lachoula. We thought you were dead. Where have you been?” Mrs Freestone asks.
“Oh I think I may tell you everything once I have had a strong cup of tea and a biscuit or two.” Miss Graveberry says walking beside Mrs Freestone toward the school buildings. I pull out my wand, make a square around Magnolia, tap it, and blow on my wand. Hark should get a RookPix, and read my caption telling him that his sister is alive. The ministers all disappear except for Dahlia Derefelle who accompanies Magnolia, Mrs Freestone and Miss Graveberry to Miss Graveberry’s office in building one.
Luckily for Raina and I and a few other girls, we have a spare period, period two, so we loiter in the year twelve corridor, pretending to read cards to eachother, while we eavesdrop in on the conversation emanating from Miss Graveberry’s office nextdoor.
“I disappeared just to the laneway behind The Royal Arcade, because there was a new Vogue magazine out that I had seen on my way into Peach Blossom Lane. I did not buy it when I saw it because I had Rosewater for homegroup and didn’t want to be late to give them my big year twelve speech, as I do it every year. So I figured I would pop out and get it in between homegroup and first period. It would literally take me two minutes, and nobody would have even noticed I was gone. Well, never mind that. I reappeared inside the entrance to Peach Blossom Lane, and I was at the point where it becomes The Royal Arcade again. I was walking to the newspaper stall, you know those little pop-up stations that have the papers and magazines, and what have you? Yes. As I was saying I was walking there and I would have been five metres away from it when a young gentlemen in a black velvet jacket stopped me and asked me where he could find Peach Blossom Lane, and I was about to tell him, because he looked like a rook, except I was carried away and placed in the back of a black vehicle. To this day I don’t know if it were a van or a four-wheel drive, I have no idea. It all happened so quickly, I had no time to take in the make or model, and what have you. The door to this let’s say van, closed, and the van sped off, and it must have cut somebody off, because cars were beeping their horns at this van. We drove in the direction of Docklands, and I think it was Docklands by the time we got through all of the traffic, because the air smelled different when I got out of the van. By this stage I was blindfolded, and could not see, but I still had my wand on me, and I was trying so hard to figure out how I would grab hold of it to turn it into a toothpick before they could body-search me. Anyhow, after I got out of the van I was led into an elevator, and this elevator went a fair way down under the ground. I would say it is a headquarters of some sort, but of this much I cannot be sure. Anyway, they took me to a room, where I was sat down in quite a comfortable chair actually, and I was given a cup of tea, and my blindfold was removed. Two men sat opposite me, staring at all of my facial features as though I were on show. I asked them what they were looking at and they said they were amazed because we looked exactly the same, and I said exactly the same as who? And they said themselves, and I asked them whatever did they mean, and they said, they always thought that we would look different to them, and I asked them who they were talking about when they said we, and did they mean women of english heritage, for that was where I was born, and they said no, and that I no longer needed to maintain my facade, because they know I am a witch. I almost corrected them, and said, no I am a bloomer. Thank goodness I didn’t. Anyhow, when they said this, I knew then that they knew about us, and there was no point in denying anything they said thereafter. They confessed to having watched hundreds of students on a daily basis going in and out of The Royal Arcade, sometimes, never coming out, or more often than not, shopping for six to seven hours at a time from eight thirty in the morning until three thirty in the afternoon. They concluded that it wasn’t normal behaviour, and why did this behaviour include the act of all of us muttering the same three words? What did these three words mean, and were we all a part of some sort of cult, to which I said, no, that we most definitely were not. Apparently they had interviewed wilted shoppers and people who worked in the shops in The Royal Arcade and had asked them if they had seen large swarms of students every morning walk through their arcade, and they said they had not. This answer gave these men sitting in front of me reason to feel uneasy about what we were doing because they could not figure out where one thousand or so individuals were going every day, and why nobody in the arcade had ever seen them. During this whole discussion I had somehow managed to get my wand up my sleeve, and I knew if I could hide it inside my sleeve, but touch the tip of it with the pad of my thumb and say the word “nomale” very softly, my wand would disguise itself as a toothpick. Over the next few minutes I managed to do just this, and I let the toothpick fall into my hand, and then when it had, I stabbed it into my jeans pocket for safe-keeping. They asked me if I knew where I was and I said I did not. And then they said they wanted to get to know me on a more personal level. They wanted to know where I was born, and when I came to Australia, and why I came here, and if I had family here etcetera. I said yes, I have a husband but no children.” And as if right on cue Miss Graveberry’s husband Mr Drolf Gruebankley appears before us and runs into the office. “Yes, darling, I’m fine. I am unharmed. Sit down. Let me finish my story. They ask me my occupation and I say I am a teacher, and they ask which school I teach at and I say The Goldrose School for Girls. It’s not like they’ll be able to find it anyway. They ask me where it is, and I say it’s in our realm, and they ask me what I mean, and I say, it’s a magical realm that only witches and wizards can access. They ask if they would be able to come to our realm and I say it isn’t possible, and they ask me why, and I say because we have governing bodies who have created the doorway to it in such a way that it will only permit the magical kind entry. My strategy here was to try and give them as much detail as possible so they would get caught up on asking me too many questions, while this gave me time to figure out a way to escape. I couldn’t use my wand because it was now a toothpick in my pocket, so in my head I was brainstorming a few other ways to get out. At this point they even asked me why I had not just disappeared before their very eyes and I said it was because I was unable to. They didn’t understand. They assumed that because I am a bloomer, I could do anything, but without my wand in its proper form I could not do much. The hours passed and I was shown to a cute little day room that had sofas, books, lamps and reading tables. They asked me if I would like anything and I said no. I asked them if there were cameras watching me, and they confirmed that there were. I was tempted to transform my wand and just get out of there but I thought about what would happen if it didn’t work because I was feeling stressed. Maybe my magic was shaky because I was shaky. As we all know, that can happen from time to time. I didn’t want to risk losing my wand. I fell asleep in one of the sofa chairs and when I woke up Magnolia was sitting in front of me on the sofa chair opposite. Unlucky for us she was wearing her school uniform, and this was proof of the school I had mentioned earlier. They had also confiscated her wand. She asked if I still had mine on me and I said that I did. She told them it was just a stick she had found in the street, but they weren’t stupid. They told her to do some spells with it, and she lied and said year sevens’ wands aren’t able to do spells. Lucky for us, they believed her. We got chatting and familiarised ourselves with one another-”
“Magnolia – you’re alright!” Magnolia’s parents have just appeared in the office it would seem, and I’m really not sure how many more people will fit in there. It’s a tiny bloody office.
“Mummy! It’s good to see you. I missed you so much mummy. I’m alive. I am not dead. Are you okay? How is Hark? Is he okay? Where is he? Miss Graveberry is just telling everyone our story. Go on Miss Graveberry.” Magnolia says courteously.
“As I was saying Magnolia and I started chatting and we got to know one another. She asked me why we couldn’t just disappear out of there, and I told her about the toothpick in my pocket. She said that it was very wise that I did that. And I told her, that in future, she should do the same to avoid detection or her wand being confiscated. Eventually, when Magnolia needed to go to the bathroom again, I asked the guard if I could go with her, because prior to that, we had only been allowed to go alone, and he escorted us there, and waited outside the door. Magnolia and I stood in a cubicle together, I returned my wand to its original form, held her hand, and we disappeared the hell out of there.”
Wow. That was long-winded story. I could have summed that all up in one sentence.
“Thank you very much for telling us this.” Mrs Derefelle says. “It is good to see you are both alive and well. We all thought we had lost you. We had no idea what had happened to you. I need to return to Canberra now. I will keep you abreast of everything we are doing there. No doubt Daisy will beat me to it with her BloomerPix though.” Aha! So she does know then! Raina and I can assume Mrs Derefelle has disappeared. Mr and Mrs Basswood walk out of the office with Magnolia standing between them, their arms over each of her shoulders. I smile at them as they walk past, and they return the kindness, but they don’t know me. I wonder why Hark hasn’t arrived by now and then I realise he may not have seen his phone.
When I get home from school Mum’s already at home, in the kitchen, standing with her lower back pressed against the bench, holding a hot cup of tea in her hands, waiting. I dump my schoolbag on the kitchen floor, and pull a cup out of the cupboard with my wand and watch it make me some tea.
“Saff. We have to go and see Grandpa Thistlethorn and Grandma Bergamot. They said they want us over for afternoon tea.” Mum says, and she sounds concerned.
“I was wondering why you were home so early.”
“I left Zinnia to mind the shop. There are more important things happening, I think.”
“Like what?” I ask, my cup of tea zooming to my outstretched hands. I take a sip and pop it back down on the bench beside me.
“Like the Wilted kidnapping two bloomers to get information from us. There will be huge changes. You kids have been told you can’t shop in the wilted world anymore and you have to fly to and from school correct?”
“Yes, that’s what they said.” I say, unsure where this is going.
“Grandpa Thistlethorn seems to think our ministry will separate the two realms for good. There will be no going back.” Mum says.
“Separate the two realms for good? They can’t do that! Melbourne is my home. What about our houses? What about where we live?” I am pissed off.
“I’m not entirely sure what they are going to do about that. But in the coming days I think we will find out. Come on. Let’s go. Get your broom.” Mum says, putting her cup in the sink and walking upstairs with her broom in her hand. I throw off my blazer, leave my cup where it is, and follow her upstairs, getting my broom from my room where I had put it ten minutes earlier. We stand in the laundry together and Mum says “Redivilche.” A doorway to our rooftop opens up and I follow behind her up the ladder with my broom and the trap door closes behind me. We fly off the rooftop and make the ten minute journey to Flemington where Grandpa Thistlethorn and Grandma Bergamot live. When we get there, Grandma Marigold is already there, sitting in a lounge chair knitting. I kiss her hello on the cheek, and then kiss Grandpa Thistlethorn and Grandma Bergamot hello in the same manner. Mum does the same. We sit down at their kitchen table where there is tea and scones, despite the fact Mum and I have just had a cup of tea at home. Aunty Alyssum and Raina arrive, and sit down at the table too.
“When was the last time we were all at the same table?” Grandpa Thistlethorn says. He is tall, with a round face, and squinty eyes, and very bushy white eyebrows. His eyes are so squinty, Raina and I have always wondered how he can see, but apparently he can see just fine. He does look like he needs an eyelid lift. But I would never tell him that. He is wearing a light grey blazer over a light grey skivvy and dark blue jeans.
“Thank you for coming at such short notice. Our world as we know it is changing and I want to keep you all in the loop. In the next day or two you’ll get letters from the ministry informing you of their plans to erase the doorways to Peach Blossom Lane and Dark Forest Cove. Once these doors have been erased there will be no way for any bloomer or rook to transport themselves to and from the wilted world.”
“That is so unfair. We aren’t even eighteen yet. Which means we will never get the chance.” Raina is pissed off. I am too.
“Raina, pumpkin. You will still be able to disappear here, there, and everywhere inside our realm. Just not into the wilted realm. That world will no longer exist to any of us. Do you understand?” He asks sternly.
“Yes.” She says.
“Is that clear?” He looks at me.
“Yes. But what about our houses? We live in the Wilted realm.” I say, as though nobody has noticed.
“We do. What I suspect we will be asked to do is commit our houses and all of their contents to memory. And for one day, the ministry will allocate larger portions of magic to each family so that we can rebuild our homes inside our realm with just one spell.”
“You’re gonna need more than one spell.” Raina jokes, and we are reminded of how ostentatious Grandpa Thistlethorn’s house is, with it’s six bedrooms, backyard pools, water fountains, landscaped gardens, and enormous driveway, with its own roundabout. Grandpa Thistlethorn chuckles.
“Well, Bergie and I have been thinking about downsizing anyway, so, what we would like to do, is swap our home with one of yours, preferably yours Alyssum, because it has the least amount of stairs, and Bergie’s knees aren’t as good as they used to be.” He winks at Grandma Bergamot who smiles back at him. They are so adorable.
Everyone talks over eachother all at once. We cannot believe our ears. I’ll personally close the doors to Peach Blossom Lane and Dark Forest Cove myself if it means I get to live in Grandpa Thistlethorn’s mansion forever. I’m sure Raina is thinking the same thing.
“Everyone, hush for one moment. I haven’t finished.” Grandpa Thistlethorn says, and we all go quiet.
“Now. Where was I?… Oh yes… So… Our place here is big enough for the five of you,” He looks around the table at all of us. “What two of you should do is save the allowance of magic the ministry gives you on this one day, and keep it in your wands until there is real cause to spend it. Instead of rebuilding four homes in our realm, we will only be building two, which in my mind, makes a lot of sense. We can even rebuild in the same street if you wish.” He smiles, and then looks around the table to see if we have anything to say. None of us can speak, because what he is suggesting is the best solution any of us have ever heard, about anything. It’s probably how he was able to build his own educational empire from scratch – he is a very smart, intelligent man. Grandma Bergamot’s eyes are twinkling. She knows we are all hugely in favour of his idea.
I look at everyone. We are all grinning like Cheshire cats. Finally, Grandma Marigold speaks.
“Well, I have no qualms about returning to my childhood home. It would be nice to have some company actually.” She says.