The Glass Magician

By: Charlie N. Holmberg

CHAPTER 1



A LATE SUMMER BREEZE wafted through the open kitchen window, making the twenty tiny flames upon Ceony’s cake dance back and forth on their candlewicks. Ceony hadn’t made the cake, of course, as one should never bake her own birthday cake, but her mother was a good cook and a better baker, so Ceony had no doubts that the confection, complete with pink cherry frosting and jelly filling, would be delicious.

But as her parents and three siblings sang her birthday wishes, Ceony’s mind wandered from the dessert and the celebration at hand. Her thoughts narrowed in on an image she had seen in a fortuity box just three months ago, after reading Magician Emery Thane’s fortune. A flowery hill at sunset, the smell of clover, and Emery sitting beside her, his green eyes bright, as two children played beside them.

Three months had passed, and the vision had not come to fruition. Ceony certainly couldn’t expect otherwise, especially since children were involved, but she ached for a wisp of the thing. She and Emery—Mg. Thane, that is—had grown close during her appointment as his apprentice and the subsequent rescuing of his heart. Still, she longed for them to be closer.

She debated her birthday wish and wondered if it would be better to ask for love or for patience.

“The wax is dripping on the cake!” Zina, Ceony’s younger sister by two and a half years, exclaimed from the other end of the table. She tapped her foot on the ground and blew a short lock of dark hair from her face.

Margo, the youngest sister at age eleven, nudged Ceony in the hip. “Make a wish!”

Taking a deep breath and clinging to the crisp memory of the flowery hill and sunset, Ceony bent over and blew out the candles, careful not to let her braid catch fire.

Nineteen went out, casting the kitchen into near darkness. Ceony quickly huffed and extinguished the twentieth rogue candle, praying it wouldn’t count against her.

The family applauded while Zina rushed to turn on the one electric bulb that hung from the kitchen ceiling. It flickered thrice before popping, sending a downpour of glass and darkness onto the partygoers.

“Well, great,” complained thirteen-year-old Marshall, Ceony’s only brother. She heard his hands slide around the table, searching for matches—or perhaps sneaking an early taste of cake.

“Watch your step!” Ceony’s mother cried.

“I’ve got it, I’ve got it,” Ceony’s father said, shuffling toward the cupboard-shaped shadows. A few moments later he lit a thick candle, then fished around in a drawer for an extra bulb. “They really are handy, when they work.”

“Well,” Ceony’s mother said, ensuring none of the glass had landed on the cake, “a little darkness never hurt anyone. Let’s cut the cake! Do chew with care, Margo.”

“Finally,” Zina sighed.

“Thank you,” Ceony said as her mother expertly sliced a triangle of birthday cake and handed it to her. “I really appreciate this.”

“We can always spare a cake for you, no matter how old you get,” her mother said, almost chiding. “Especially for a magician’s apprentice.” She beamed with pride.

“Did you make me something?” Marshall asked, eyeing the pockets of Ceony’s red apprentice apron. “You promised you would two letters ago, remember?”

Ceony nodded. She took a bite of cake before setting the plate down and retreating into the tiny living room, where her purse hung from a rusted hook on the wall. Marshall followed excitedly, with Margo at his heels.

From the purse Ceony pulled out a flat, Folded piece of violet paper, feeling the slight, familiar tingling of it beneath her fingers. Marshall looked on as she pressed it against the wall and made the last few Folds that formed the bat’s wings and ears, careful to align the edges of the paper so the magic would take. Then, holding the bat’s belly in her hand, she commanded it, “Breathe.”

The paper bat hunched and pushed itself up on her palm with the small paper hooks on its wings.

“Amazing!” Marshall exclaimed, seizing the bat before it could fly away.

“Careful with it!” Ceony called as he rushed toward the back hallway, to the room he, Zina, and Margo shared.

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