The raindrops darkened into black, looking as if ink fell from the sky. Alyssa leaned closer to them. She squinted to determine the shapes they formed on the kitchen window… letters.
No! That couldn’t happen. Yet, a
message spelled out as more pigments plopped onto the glass. Alyssa gasped at
what it said.
Your life will never be the same again, Alyssa
McCarthy, as magic will interfere.
What? Magic didn’t exist—at least
that’d been what others had told her when she was little. No one on Orion
Street could possess enchanted abilities.
Alyssa had lived here since she’d
lost her parents in that car crash five years ago. She’d only been seven then.
How would she tell her uncle, Bruce, about this? He’d consider her crazy. He’d
already toughened up his attitude and rules. So he might consider it an excuse
to escape this house.
Although Alyssa’s parents had
designated her godfather as the first priority guardian, Uncle Bruce forbade
her to try and contact him. He’d hidden the phone number and other information
Since Alyssa’s aunt, Laura, had died
three years ago, Uncle Bruce had required fun to be earned. And that took more
effort than Alyssa could often accomplish.
Turning around, she spotted her babysitter,
Mrs. Hutchinson, examining the kitchen floor. Alyssa’s eleven-year-old cousin, Hailey,
watched the progress. Hailey had mopped the floor. Would she earn
a break now? Ever since her uncle,
Bruce, had hired Mrs. Hutchinson, Mrs. Hutchinson had admired the way
Hailey had done her chores more than
“Hailey, you can take a break until
your next chore,” said Mrs. Hutchinson. “Alyssa, get back
to work. You’ve been
staring at the rain for too long.”
“Okay.” Alyssa turned back—only to see
the message gone and the rain back to its normal transparency.
“What did I say?” asked Mrs. Hutchinson.
Alyssa sighed. “Fine, I’ll finish
washing the dishes.”
She scrubbed her dish and glass with soap under warm
running water. Her eyes focused on
just those. No way would she want
Mrs. Hutchinson to catch her looking out the window again. Mrs. Hutchinson was
only in her sixties, but she’d sometimes seem to forget that was 2010 and not
1960 with her guidelines. Yet, it had taken Alyssa a while to realize that she wouldn’t even tolerate the mildest kind of nonsense,
such as getting distracted by a windowpane when having to perform
Now that she finished washing her
dishes, Alyssa put them to the side and grabbed some paper towels to dry them.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Mrs. Hutchinson asked.
Alyssa stopped. “I’m just—”
“The last few times I was here, you
left little bits of food on your dishes.”
“But they were stuck.”
“Let me inspect them. Also, if
something is rubbery, you have to wash it again.”
“Because clean dishes aren’t
supposed to be rubbery. And boy, did you do such a sloppy job. Look
at that stain on your sweater.”
Alyssa looked down.
“That looks like chocolate.”
Alyssa blushed and arched her
eyebrows. “Hey—it’s just water.” She covered the stain
at the bottom of her sweater’s V-neck.
finger. “Don’t you ‘hey’ me, Alyssa. That’s rude.
In my days, kids respected their elders. We never would dare talk to them that
way unless we didn’t mind them smacking our bottoms.”
“Not when I’m here, they don’t. Now
let me do my inspection.”
Great—an inspection! How long would
Mrs. Hutchinson take? She might spend a couple minutes or maybe twenty. Alyssa
crossed her arms and tapped her foot. She wanted her break now. She wished to
read, rest, do a small craft, like lanyards—anything but wait for Mrs.
Hutchinson to finish her task.
“Mrs. Hutchinson?” Alyssa asked.
“Whatever you need to say, wait till
I’m done,” she said.
Alyssa sighed. She continued to
watch Mrs. Hutchinson run her finger down the middle of the front of the dish. She then rubbed it back and forth.
When she put it down and nodded, Alyssa
figured out that the dish had nothing on it.
Mrs. Hutchinson spent a few minutes
of running her finger down the glass. She put
it down and
turned to Alyssa. “You’re good. Now what did you want to tell me?”
“Um . . . if I tell you, can you not give me a hard time?”
“There was writing on the window.”
Mrs. Hutchinson pursed her lips and
tilted her head. “Really?”
“No, really, it was there.”
“There was nothing there when I came, and there’s nothing there right now. So don’t tell me stories.”
“But it’s not a story.”
“I don’t want to hear any more. Now
it’s time for your next chore.”
“Aw, but I wanted my break.”
“Too bad. You have to go vacuum the
Alyssa dragged her feet
toward the living room and took the
vacuum from the corner. She cleaned and thought about that
writing as well as how
wouldn’t believe her. Would a
nicer babysitter have believed her? Mrs. Hutchinson had watched her and Hailey for three years,
and not once had
she smiled or assisted with anything.
After vacuuming the carpet for about five minutes, Alyssa decided that she
had tidied the floor enough. So she stopped and put the vacuum away.
“Hailey, you and Alyssa need to go get the mail now!”
Mrs. Hutchinson called, facing the staircase.
rule Uncle Bruce had placed on Alyssa and Hailey was they could only go outside
together. He worried about people taking them or something, even though Alyssa
would turn thirteen next month. But
that rule had been placed because a few months ago, Uncle Bruce had heard about a seventeen-year-old boy who
had been shot while skateboarding in his neighborhood. Violence could even
happen here in Bursnell, New Jersey.
Hailey and Alyssa headed to the
closet and put their raincoats on until Mrs. Hutchinson said, “It stopped
“Already?” asked Alyssa.
“Yes.” Mrs. Hutchinson went to the
The girls walked outside toward the
mailbox. Alyssa pulled the mail and
headed back toward the door. But mud
bubbled from the ground near the house. It piled up, looking like horse
manure, and grew as more soil emerged. Alyssa dropped her jaw and stared at it.
“Alyssa, what’s going on?” Hailey
“No idea,” said Alyssa.
The dirt stopped piling up, but it
continued to bubble, and the effects
spread throughout the whole pile. The bubbles stopped popping up and down.
Alyssa and Hailey gasped as they expanded. They kept their mouths open as the
bubbles merged together, each one attached to another, forming a single bigger
shape. Alyssa and Hailey stepped back as the now giant bubble swelled. And it .
. . popped! Particles of exploding
mud landed on the girls. They shrieked.
front door opened to reveal a glowering Mrs. Hutchinson. “What the heck have
you two been doing?”
mud . . . it e-exploded,” said Hailey.
“Nonsense!” growled Mrs. Hutchinson. “Get inside!”
The girls returned inside, pulling
and wiping the mud out of their hair. Alyssa
could spot the mud in her straight pale-blonde tresses, unlike Hailey, who
likely needed more patience to search
for globs in her elbow-length red locks. But Alyssa’s
hair fell a few inches past her hips, so cleaning out the mud would take
longer, even with the shorter layers in the
“How could dirt explode?” Mrs. Hutchinson
“I-I think it was magic!” exclaimed
“There’s no such thing as magic!” screamed Mrs.
Hutchinson. “Alyssa, you’re twelve
years old. You’re too old to say
things like that!”
“But nothing else can make mud
explode!” Alyssa said.
“Mrs. Hutchinson, we swear it did!”
“Enough!” snapped Mrs. Hutchinson. “You and Hailey—go upstairs and take showers!”
Alyssa followed Hailey up the stairs and heaved a sigh. How else would the mud have splattered all
over them? Mrs. Hutchinson couldn’t
have thought they’d play in the mud like
“Alyssa, can I shower first?” asked Hailey.
“Sure,” said Alyssa.
As Hailey strode into the bathroom,
Alyssa walked into her room. She scratched more mud off her skinny jeans (the
only jeans she’d worn ever since they’d come into style) and the back of her hand. She stood by her bed
since she wanted to keep it clean.
She considered the writing on the window and the exploding mud. Someone wanted magic to interfere with her life,
but who, and how come?
Also, why hadn’t she ever seen wizardry before? Why would her parents and others tell her that it hadn’t existed? Did sorcery just start on earth? Had it hidden somewhere? There had to be some reason why no one had ever believed in it.
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