When Raina and I arrive home, there is a letter on the kitchen bench waiting for me.
“That just arrived.” Mum says, pouring herself a cup of tea with the pot on the stove.
I open the letter. It is from my manager. She wants to see me as soon as possible.
I tell Mum and Raina I have to go into work and then I disappear, leaving the letter face up on the kitchen bench.
When I arrive inside my office, I walk out of it and literally bump into my manager Tilly Bark, who is shocked and then relieved. “Good. I’m glad you’re here. Let’s talk in my office.” She says, and I know exactly what this is about.
“So it has been brought to my attention that you were involved in the consumption of prohibited substances earlier today…” she says, sipping tea from a china teacup. My teacup sits in front of me but I’m too nervous to take a single sip.
“Okay. I won’t lie. Yes, I was.” I say, looking at the floor.
“Saffra – you’re an adult. You’re a bloomer! You work for the ministry! You know how these things are monitored. Why would you go and do something so stupid?” Tilly isn’t much older than me, and I like her a lot, and even though her question stems from the fact that I have done something wrong, I really don’t like it.
“I don’t know what to tell you. I miss Melbourne. Taking mushrooms is the only way I can visit it anymore.” I say.
“We all miss Melbourne, but taking mushrooms is seriously not the answer.” She says.
“Have you ever had any?” I ask.
“No, I haven’t. I know better.” She says.
“Gee, thanks.” I mumble.
“Come on. Our world isn’t that different. The streets look the same. The shops. Surely it isn’t worth risking your job to see the old world?” Her brows go up. She reminds of someone who’s like fifty years old, instead of twenty five.
“No, you’re right, it isn’t worth it. But I’ve been taking mushrooms since I was seventeen and I haven’t been caught before.” I say.
“I guess the magical surveillance department are doing their jobs a whole lot more thoroughly these days then.”
“I guess so.”
“Take this as your first warning. If you get a second warning in regards to prohibited substances or prohibited anything, you’re gone.”
“I understand.” I say.
“Good. Seriously, though. Don’t do anything else. Your job pays so well. And you have a good reputation here. People like you. Don’t jeopardise that!”
She smiles at me. I return the smile and then leave, disappearing off home.
Raina and Mum are still sitting at the kitchen bench where I left them not all that long ago, when I reappear in the kitchen beside the marble bench.
“Tilly was okay. It wasn’t that bad. I wasn’t fired thank goodness. I got a warning. One more warning though and then I’m out.” I say, magically pouring some coke zero into a glass with my wand.
“You were lucky. Raina is jobless. Your mother is going to kill you when she finds out.” Mum says, looking at Raina.
“She seriously will. I don’t know what I’m going to do for work now. I won’t work in the ministry again. Ever. And all because I was trying to reverse the stuff you did!” Raina is glaring at me.
“Hey – don’t blame me. I had no idea that woman could enter our realm. It wasn’t my fault okay?” I say, standing up for myself.
“Whatever.” Raina gets up from her bar stool and trudges upstairs – clearly pissed off with me, and not in the mood to be reasoned with.
“It was your lack of judgement that lost her her job honey.” Mum says.
“Yeah well, she was the one who got me onto eating the mushrooms in the first place. So if she wants to blame anyone, she should just blame herself.”
“That was years ago, when you were in highschool. Before you had ministry jobs. You have a good steady job now. Don’t lose it because of some adolescent hobby.”
“Mum! Eating mushrooms is the only way I can see Melbourne.”
“Oh… is that why you do it?” Mum asks, curious.
“Yes, these days, that is the main reason why I still eat them. I miss the old world.” I say.
“But honey, with all the building and reworking the ministry have been doing over the past three years, our realm looks more like Melbourne than ever before.” Mum is trying to console me.
“It does, and they are doing an awesome job with the rebuilds, but it’s still not identical is it? Where’s Bridge Road? The CBD? Lygon Street? The Emporium? Collins Street? Chapel Street? Chadstone Shopping Centre? The State Library? The Westgate Bridge? The beach? We have like zero beaches here! Who has zero beaches anywhere? Oh, wait a minute – we do!”
“Saffra, you’re behaving like a small child.” Mum says.
“I’m pissed off.”
“Well, I’m sorry about that. Just be grateful for what you do have. There are bloomers and rooks who have it far worse than you.”
“So you keep telling me. But if they have never had any of those places they are none the wiser. I grew up shopping everywhere. And now? Now – I can only shop in two locations, and always at the same bloody shops. How is that fair?”
“Life isn’t meant to be fair.” Mum says, getting up and rinsing her teacup out with her wand.
“What is it meant to be then?” I ask.
“Life is meant to be fun, and enjoyed. Learn to enjoy what we have, and forget about the things we no longer have. If you are concerned, write a letter to the planning minister about your concerns for more shopping areas.” Mum disappears and I’m left sitting in the kitchen alone. Farley and Briar sensing my loneliness, jump onto the top of the bench and dither under my chin and around my hands that are placed down flat on the marble surface.
“Thanks for trying to cheer me up.” I say, sliding my hand over Farley’s back and down his tail, and then doing the same thing to Briar until I hear them purring.
“Where is everyone?” Aunty Alyssum asks, her wand escorting plastic shopping bags through the kitchen and landing them on the kitchen bench in front of me.
“Raina is pissed off, and has gone upstairs, and Mum, I have no idea.” I say.
“What’s wrong with Raina?” Aunty Alyssum asks.
“She was fired because of the spell reversal.”
“Really? I thought that if her manager met Susannah, the wilted lady, then everything would be okay?” Aunty Alyssum is concerned.
“That’s what we thought as well, but in the end it was a matter of her job or his, and he wanted to keep his, so she had to go.”
“Just like that?” Aunty Alyssum is annoyed.
“Just like that.” I say, clicking my fingers.
“That’s bordering on unfair dismissal.”
“Well, Aunty Lyss, she broke the law. I mean, she did a spell reversal without her boss’s permission or authorisation. We all know we can’t do that.” I say.
“She was trying to cover up your mistakes.” Aunty Alyssum is staring at me.
“I know. Don’t get me wrong. I’m totally grateful for that. I’m glad she tried. We had no idea this would happen. I wish that woman never followed me. But I can’t change any of it, can I?”
“No, you can’t. Would be good if you could though. Should I go up and see her?”
“No. Just leave her. She will be okay.” I say, sending my glass into the metal sink so that my wand can rinse it under the running water.
“So what happened with your job?” She asks me, sending the groceries into the pantry and the toilet and bathroom itsems up the stairs.
“I got a warning.”
“Good. Let that be a warning to you then. No more illegal substances. Throw anything else you have away.”
“I will.” I say, and go upstairs, to do just that.
I find the mushrooms and once I am back downstairs in the kitchen, I throw them in the bin. That was the last of them. I won’t be buying any more. My mushroom days are over.