I Dream of Twila, page 1
I Dream of Twila
A Wicked Witches of the Midwest Short
Amanda M. Lee
Copyright © 2017 by Amanda M. Lee
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Books by Amanda M. Lee
Fifteen years ago
“ O kay, here are the lists.”
My sister Winnie was all smiles as she slipped four sheets of paper in front of me. She’s an organized person – which I admire, because no one ever called me organized with a straight face – but the fact that she made lists to keep me on task was beyond annoying. When she makes lists for herself I like it. This, though, this was just … too much.
“You made me lists?” I did my best to remain calm as I swiped a hand through my short-cropped red hair. This month I picked Island Sunrise as my color choice. It’s a bit too tame for me – the red’s more muted than the Lucille Ball color I generally go for – but it’s fine until I have time to touch it up.
“Of course I made you lists.” Winnie’s face was hard to read, a mixture of blandness marked by occasional flashes of worry. “I’m leaving you home for an entire weekend with three teenagers and Aunt Tillie. They’ll eat you alive if I don’t give you lists.”
I was pretty sure that was an insult disguised as sisterly concern. “Uh-huh. You have four lists for me.”
“You have four people to take care of.”
She had a point, still … . “Three of them are children and one acts like a big child. I’m sure I can handle a weekend babysitting four kids.”
“I heard that.” Aunt Tillie, the woman who raised my sisters and me after my mother’s death, breezed into the room with a gardening shovel in her hand. She didn’t look happy about being abandoned by Winnie and Marnie for the weekend, which surprised me. Winnie was always ordering her around like she was one of our girls. I expected Aunt Tillie to be excited at the prospect of freedom.
“I wasn’t whispering.” I did my best to look bossy – channeling my inner Winnie, if you will – but Aunt Tillie didn’t look worried in the least. That was enough to put me on edge. “Just tell Winnie you’ll be good this week and she’ll be on her way.”
I thought that would be enough to appease Aunt Tillie. She hates Winnie’s bossy nature, even though she taught Winnie to be bossy. As the oldest of three sisters, Winnie often takes it upon herself to tell my sister Marnie and me what to do. As the youngest sister, I often take it upon myself to pretend I don’t hear what she’s saying. It’s a balancing act that’s about to go out of whack because Marnie and Winnie are leaving town for the weekend. Which means I’m in charge. Me. Twila Winchester. I’m the boss of the world this weekend.
I’m really looking forward to it, in case you missed that little detail. I’m never in charge. I can’t wait to rule the roost … and take stock of kingdom … and … um … whatever other stuff people in charge get to do when they put on the crown. Wait, what was I doing a few seconds ago?
As if reading my mind, Winnie cocked a challenging eyebrow and stared me down. “Are you even listening to me?”
That’s a trick question, and I know better than to answer it. “I was simply saying that Aunt Tillie has promised to be on her best behavior,” I offered, reminding my oldest sister of a conversation we had almost a month ago. Was it really that long ago? Time spent with my sisters often feels endless. “She won’t be an issue.”
“I’m not especially worried about her being an issue,” Winnie admitted, taking me by surprise. “I’m worried about you being an issue.”
Now wait just a curse-casting minute. “Me? How am I the issue?”
“Are you really asking that question?” Aunt Tillie asked, catching my niece Bay’s attention as the teenager slipped into the room. Bay’s blue eyes met Aunt Tillie’s brown and held for several beats before the blonde teenager broke eye contact and flipped her gaze to her mother.
“What’s going on?”
Winnie shifted to face her daughter, and I realized that Bay was about to get the same earful meant for me. No wonder the kids – we each have a daughter living under this roof, and they treat each other as sisters rather than cousins (which isn’t always a good thing, mind you) – always hide from Winnie when she puts on her “listen to me” face.
“We’re leaving town for the weekend.” Winnie said the words with more gravitas than necessary. “We’ll be gone for days.”
Bay blinked slowly as she blew a bubble with the purple gum she chewed and waited for it to pop before speaking. “I know. I’ll miss you terribly.” Bay’s face was solemn, but I didn’t miss the hint of mayhem lurking beneath.
“No one needs your sarcasm,” Winnie said, wagging a finger in Bay’s face. “You’re not funny.”
“I thought you were funny,” Aunt Tillie interjected, grinning when Winnie gave her a dirty look. “What? She’s getting really good with the snark. She’s almost a full-fledged teenager. She only needs a few more weeks of practice.”
“I am a teenager,” Bay corrected, tilting her head to the side as she shifted her hips from one side to the other. She wore cutoffs thanks to the warm temperatures, and it occurred to me that her legs had somehow grown really long when I wasn’t looking. She was almost a woman … and that was a frightening thought. “I’m fourteen. I’ve been a teenager for a year and a half now.”
“Being a teenager isn’t a matter of age,” Aunt Tillie corrected, her expression pointed. “It’s a state of mind. Why do you think I’m forever young?”
“Mom says it’s because you’re allergic to the word ‘responsibility’ and you don’t want to listen to reason,” Bay answered automatically.
Aunt Tillie was blasé. “Oh, whatever. You could learn oodles from me, and we both know it.”
“Yes, well, I don’t want her learning oodles from you,” Winnie interjected, grabbing a tissue from the box on the table and holding her hand in front of Bay. “Spit.”
Bay knit her eyebrows, confused. “What?”
“Spit,” Winnie repeated, shaking her hand for emphasis. “The way you snap that gum is massively annoying. We’ve talked about this. I can’t stand it.”
Bay opened her mouth to argue and then snapped it shut when Aunt Tillie gave her an almost imperceptible shake of the head. Something was definitely going on between them, which didn’t bode well for me if they were plotting. Instead of fighting with her mother, Bay forced a smile and spit out the wad of gum.
“I don’t think things will be better until you hit the age of thirty but I’ll take what I can get.” Winnie forced a bright smile before turning her attention back to me. “So, we were talking about the lists, right?”
Unfortunately we were. I was starting to believe the lists conversation would never end, that Winnie would simply talk through the weekend and miss the cooking seminar that she and Marnie insisted on attending so they would know something about cooking for large groups when w
Whatever. I’m looking forward to their absence. That’s all that matters. Twila is in charge, people! It’s going to be a great weekend. Wait … Winnie’s lips are moving. That means she’s talking. Crud. I forgot what we were talking about again.
“The thing is, even though it’s summer break all of the girls have schedules to stick to,” Winnie said, drawing me back into the conversation. “Thistle has summer camp down at the town square.”
I narrowed my eyes. “I know that Thistle has summer camp. She’s my daughter.” Thistle is more akin to what I imagine the offspring of Medusa and Satan would be like – on a bad day. But she’s still mine. I love her … most of the time. “She’s taking an art class. I know all about my daughter’s art class.”
Winnie crossed her arms over her chest, clearly annoyed with my tone. “I wasn’t suggesting you didn’t know about Thistle’s art class.”
“Great. I guess we have nothing to argue about.”
“You two will always find something to argue about,” Aunt Tillie argued, gesturing for Bay to move out of the way so she could flick on the television. “That’s what you do. Bay, go into the kitchen and pour me a glass of iced tea.”
Bay made a face. “I’m not your slave.”
“Do it or I’ll enchant a flyswatter to smack your bottom blue all weekend. How much fun does that sound like?”
Oh, that’s right, we’re also witches. I probably left that part out. It’s not important this weekend, because I’m the boss and as the boss I’m ordering that no one perform any magic. It causes too many problems. No magic, no problems. See, I have it all under control.
“You’re mean when you want to be,” Bay grumbled as she stomped toward the kitchen. “One of these days I’ll enchant a flyswatter to go after you. We’ll see how you like it.”
“It won’t be this weekend, so you can shut up about it and get my iced tea,” Aunt Tillie ordered. “Make sure you put a fresh lemon wedge in it, too.”
“Oh, whatever.” Bay rolled her eyes and disappeared from the room. Frankly, I was glad to see her go. I love her, but she’s taken on some of Winnie’s less-favorable mannerisms … like general bossiness and thinking she’s always right.
Wait … what were we talking about again?
“Twila, are you even listening to me?” Winnie’s eyes flashed as I shifted in her direction.
“Of course I’m listening to you,” I snapped. “You were just insulting me and suggesting I didn’t know that my own daughter has art classes in the town square.”
“I didn’t suggest that at all.” Winnie looked as if she was about to lose her temper. I couldn’t be bothered to care. Shouldn’t she be gone already? “I was merely going to ask what Bay and Clove do while Thistle is at her art class.”
I stilled, the question catching me off guard. “Wait … what?”
“That’s what I thought.” Winnie’s expression turned from falsely benign to triumphant. “That’s the whole point of this conversation. And why you need lists, Twila.”
I blew a raspberry as I pushed my hair away from my forehead. The house, which always felt small when we were all inside, suddenly felt inordinately compressed as Winnie sucked up all of the oxygen in the room. “I know what Bay and Clove are doing while Thistle is in her art class.”
“Really? What?” Winnie crossed her arms over her chest, a clear challenge to the authority I was due to claim – that was if Winnie ever left the house, of course.
“They … um … .” I darted a panicked look toward the kitchen door in the hope that Bay would swoop in and rescue me. Instead, Aunt Tillie did the dirty deed, stunning everyone.
“Bay is spending her afternoons at the newspaper office helping William Kelly,” Aunt Tillie volunteered. “He’s paying her as an intern, but she’s really doing busy work and listening to him yammer on and on about stuff that’s not really important, given the state of the newspaper industry today.”
Winnie narrowed her eyes to dangerous slits. “It’s good for Bay. She wants to be a reporter.”
“She should pick a more dependable occupation,” Aunt Tillie argued. “That one will never get her anywhere but trouble. Trust me. I know things.”
“Yes, well, I am impressed you know where Bay is spending her days this summer,” Winnie admitted. “I had no idea you knew.”
“I knew it, too,” I offered.
Winnie made a face only a sister could love – and when I say that, I mean only our other sister could love her right now. She’s honestly on my last nerve. She’s so perfect … and bossy … and she never forgets anything. She’s so … Winnie. It makes me want to punch her. What? It’s her fault. I’m the innocent victim here. Wait … what were we talking about again?
“What about Clove?” Winnie prodded. “What is she doing with her afternoons this week?”
That had to be a trick question. As far as I could tell Clove was doing nothing other than drooling after boys and eating ice cream – not necessarily in that order – and she wasn’t focused on anything other than her rampaging hormones.
I licked my lips. “Well … .”
“Clove isn’t doing anything but stalking that Fitzgerald boy,” Aunt Tillie snapped. “She was supposed to get a summer job, but she decided to become a pint-sized Fatal Attraction wannabe extra instead.”
“Exactly.” I bobbed my head. “She’s a … wait … what?” I snapped my eyes to Aunt Tillie. “Clove is a stalker?”
“I’m not a stalker,” Clove announced, arriving at the bottom of the stairs and scalding me with a dark look. “I can’t believe you’d say that about your favorite niece.”
“I’m her favorite niece,” Bay corrected, strolling back into the room with a glass of iced tea in her hand. “I’m the good one who never gives anyone trouble.”
Aunt Tillie snickered as she accepted her iced tea. “You’re not the good one. You’re simply the one who is better at hiding things when you’re bad. Clove is a poor liar – although she can cry on a whim, and that can come in handy – and Thistle doesn’t care enough to bother thinking up a lie. You’re merely smarter than the other two. That doesn’t make you the good one.”
“Leave her alone,” Winnie ordered, waves of annoyance rolling off my sister and cascading through the room. “She’s not the one I’m worried about this weekend.”
“If you’re worrying about me, don’t,” Aunt Tillie supplied. “It’s supposed to be hot. The only trouble I plan on finding is in a bottle. Oh, and I might take the girls to the lake for a swim. That’s it.”
“Believe it or not, I wasn’t talking about you either,” Winnie said, her eyes drifting toward me. “I’m most worried about Twila.”
“Oh, well, that makes perfect sense,” Aunt Tillie said, brightening. “She’ll screw everything up. Everyone knows it.”
I risked a glance at Bay and Clove and found them solemnly nodding.
Winnie ignored my outburst. “If you run into trouble, Twila, we’re only a phone call away.”
“Don’t worry about that,” Aunt Tillie said. “I’ll be here to make sure everything is fine. You can count on me to fix whatever mess Twila dreams up. Don’t I always?”
Winnie and Aunt Tillie went on talking as if I wasn’t even in the room.
“The girls know their schedules, and they’ve been relatively good for weeks,” Winnie said. “That means they’re due for mischief. The problem is, you’ve been good for a full ten days, which means you’re due for a round of mischief, too. If both of those bouts coincide, Twila will be in over her head, and that hardly seems fair.”
No one bothered to look in my direction.
“Am I suddenly invisible?”
Aunt Tillie shook her head, her eyes never moving from Winnie’s face. “I said I’d be good.
“Maybe because she’s met you,” Bay suggested, offering up a prissy smile.
“You’re on my list, junior Miss Bossy,” Aunt Tillie barked. “You probably don’t want to push things too far.”
“Oh, whatever.” Bay heaved a sigh before focusing on her mother. “Everything will be fine. We promise to be good for Aunt Twila. You have nothing to worry about.”
“We promise to be angels,” Clove added, batting her eyes. “Would we lie to you?”
Winnie extended a finger and narrowed her eyes. “No stalking that poor Fitzgerald boy while we’re gone. You’ve turned him into a nervous wreck. His mother is convinced that you’re in heat or something.”
“I don’t know what that means, but I don’t stalk people.” Clove jutted out her lower lip. “I think I’m being persecuted. Wait … that’s the correct word, right? Witches back in the olden days were persecuted, right?”
Bay nodded. She had the best vocabulary of all the girls. “Yeah. That’s the right word.”
“I’m still persecuted,” Aunt Tillie noted.
“Okay, fine.” Winnie threw up her hands. “I trust you all to be good and not make things too rough for Twila.” She handed the sheets of paper to me and forced a smile. “I wrote down the emergency numbers so you have everything in one place. If you get into real trouble, call Terry.”
Terry Davenport, Walkerville’s top cop, was accustomed to frequent stops at our house.
“I’m more than capable of taking care of three children and one demented old lady for a few days,” I barked. “I’ve got everything under control.”
“Okay, well … good luck.”
I rubbed my forehead as Winnie grabbed her suitcase and shuffled toward the door. I followed her progress, finally locking gazes with Aunt Tillie, who glared in my direction. “What?”
“Demented old lady?”