It was a day like any other. I rolled out of bed, snatched my guitar from its place on the wall, and I jogged across the street to Donaugh’s. It’s where I go for both guitar and life lessons. Donaugh is only a year older than me, but he happens to be my best and only friend, and he happens to be one of the wisest people I’ve ever met. I was never good with girls in the first place and my last female friend deserted me a few months ago because she caught her boyfriend kissing me, and she didn’t believe that he practically assaulted me.
Did I mention I was only in the seventh grade? Ah, the drama of pubescence. It was alright in the end though, because we were never really close.
I don’t have to worry about this crap with Donaugh, because A) he is a boy, B) he is the brother I never had, and C) even if he thought that I was pretty (because honestly, you either go crazy for the looks or you don’t), he is desperately in love with my sister Grace. He gave her wildflowers that grew from a crack in the asphalt of an empty lot once, back when we were four and five. It’s one of my very first memories, and it was clear to me then as it is now that Donaugh would give Grace anything she wanted.
It’s a shame she is oblivious to the world around her; I’m sure that if she stopped being so- I don’t know, Grace- she’d notice how he feels. Maybe she'd even notice how perfect they would be together, and maybe they would end up in a functional relationship. Although, considering this is a certain Grace Małgorzata McKeown, possibly the sister with the worst social skills, my ‘maybes’ are more than a bit of a stretch.
To clear some things up, my name is Amaretta Gallagher, seeing as that is mouthful, everyone calls me Etty. It’s nice to get to school on the first day and to have a teacher know who I am and know well enough to call me Etty. It’s one of the only perks of having my sisters.
To clear another thing up, I have four sisters: Patience, Faith, Grace, and Merce. We are all supernaturally beautiful, what with being half-Veela. A Veela is a mythical creature that is basically a beautiful woman and a spirit mixed into one that turns into a crow when she gets pissed. That's the shortened version of the story anyway. Seeing as Veela have intensified feelings, that happens fairly often. It’s like PMS, but really that’s just how we are. Anyway.
As I trotted on over to Donaugh's I noticed the sun was rising and smiled to myself. I had a feeling today's going to be a good day. It’s spring break and I can do what I want, to some extent (Patience likes to control who we hang out with, but Merce is the only one who really has friends). None of us are socially competent: Faith is a little… different, Grace is too ornery to hang around anyone other than surly old people, and Patience’s life revolves around work and making sure we are at least sort of fed. And even if I possessed the social skills to deal with other girls my age, I’m not sure I would want to try. These past few years, the boys my age started noticing just how beautiful I am, and the girls are already jealous. They get pretty catty. I’d need to find someone who wasn’t 24/7-vindictive.
I let myself in, skipped up the stairs to his room, and we started with our whole routine. We play a few chords, harmonize and songwrite a bit. Donaugh realized it was my birthday after about twenty minutes of guessing why I was so very happy- he can’t remember dates for crap- and sings me a hasty-but-heartfelt song he makes up on the spot. I laugh and try write it down on paper so we can tweak it. By the time we've finish, it’s noon, we’ve had an impressive number of snack breaks, and some of Donaugh’s younger siblings had gathered round to watch the Etty and Donaugh Show.
Maggie and Connor, two of the five-year-old triplets, have crowded us, saying, "Please play that song again, please Etty!" With their blue eyes and wavy brown hair and perfect manners, they are adorable. However, they aren’t my favorites of Donaugh’s siblings. That title belongs to Harry, who sat on my lap.
While Connor and Maggie are impeccably-mannered and are inseparable, Harry won’t let anything embarrass him and he prefers to play by himself. It’s the best thing to be walking home from school and to have him run up to meet you, armed with a story about his day at home. He’s unruly, and even the no-nonsense Mrs. McLaughlin, who has raised five other children, has trouble catching him. Especially if he doesn’t want to be caught.
"You know what I think?" He asks, looking up at me with his big brown eyes. "I think you, me, and Donaugh could be a band."
Donaugh laughs. "Oh, really?"
Harry beams at his older brother, "Oh, yeah, and we could be called ‘The Awesome Cool Guys,’ I think everyone will like that. And when we see the world, we can go to Mexico!" See? This kid is adorable. "And Etty can do our costumes- by the way could my costume be blue?"
"Sure thing," I laugh. I turn away from Harry who is rambling on, to look out the window when I see something out of the corner of my eye. Something tawny brown was fluttering past the window. A few minutes later it flew past again. A bird, maybe.
I turn back to the banter, and after hearing about my birthday Harry tries to sing Happy Birthday. It's hilarious and just about the cutest thing, but I can’t enjoy it as much as I’d like. That stupid bird has flown by the window so many times, and it’s really bothering me. I blame Veela blood: it really is like constant PMS; anything could set me off.
To elaborate, when I’m mad, I might never forgive you. And when I’m happy, nothing can bring me down. And then there’s the L-word, but that won’t come till later in the story so let’s leave it alone for now, shall we?
Yes. We shall.
Harry rolls himself off my lap and over to the doorway, where another of his sisters, the infamously moody Cailin, stands with arms crossed and a furrowed brow. She looks like a hedgehog when she frowns. Someone should tell her it does not look appealing or attractive. Actually, I might have done so at some point. That might have been the reason she smacked me that time…
In case you were wondering, and you so totally were, Cailin and I don’t get along. I used to try to be nice to her at first because I’m a nice person, and then for Donaugh’s sake. After awhile, I realized that nothing was going to sway her. She’s in my grade, and although she isn’t ‘cool’ enough to the ‘cool’ kids to torture me at school, she sneers along with them.
Looking at her, it fairly obvious that we are nothing alike. In a single glance, I can see she’s wearing one of those cheaply-made-yet-highly-overpriced skirts from the chain store everyone at school seems to find fashionable. Not only is the style very generic and forgettable, it is working no wonders for her figure, which is admittedly very much pear-shaped for a thirteen-year-old. Yes, I can tell all this from a glance.
Donaugh says it’s amazing and slightly freaky at the same time, but I say if I’m going to be a designer I need to know my stuff. Then Merce says, no, Etty, it’s weird as hell. I love my little sister, but she tends to rain on my parade.
Cailin scowls at me and I gaze dreamily, Faith-style, at the air beside her head. I know this will get a rise out of her. I’m turning into Grace. Insert melodramatic wail. This goes on for awhile, and no one in the room seems to want to break the awkward silence. Even Harry, who can’t ever shut up, is silently tugging Cailin’s skirt hem to get her attention. She doesn’t respond to him, and we go on in silence for while.
In the meantime, the bird flies past once, twice, three times. I swear to God, if it flies past once more time I’ll- that’s four times.
"That’s it," I snarl, as I jump up and stomp over to the window. I wrench it open and stick my upper body out of it. I’m going to catch this bird if it the last thing I do. And when I do, I’ll-
It’s coming round again.
I stick my body a little farther out the window, and open my arms towards the bird. It flies closer, and now I can see it has a paper in its mouth. Odd, but I’m a girl on a mission.
The bird swoops ever so closer, and it’s almost in my arms when things go wrong. The bird flies right past me through the window into the room. Said bird, which I can now see is an owl, perches on Donaugh’s head. Donaugh then proceeds to scream like a little girl and faints onto the floor which leaves an awkward silence hanging in the air. Then Cailin starts screaming and runs out, and that sets off Maggie and Connor, who also follow her out of the room.
Harry scrunches up his nose. "Should I scream and run too?"
I thought about it for a moment before asking, "Do you want to?" He nodded. "Then knock yourself out, kid."
He jumps up and down a couple times and runs out of the room, all while screaming at the top of his lungs. Lovely.
I turn back to Donaugh, who still has a look of horror plastered on his now-sleeping face, and the owl. I was right earlier; it is carrying a piece of paper. Upon closer inspection, I can see it has my name imprinted on the front.
Miss Amaretta Italia Gallagher
The Smallest Bedroom
79 Douglas Avenue
South Boston, MA 02127-3968
I gasped when I saw my full name, with my 'unique' middle name that no one knows about.
Careful not to disturb the owl or Donaugh, I slide the envelope out of the owl’s grasp with my finger. I open the envelope carefully and slide out the cream colored paper. I scanned it once. I scanned it again. It couldn’t be true, I thought. Could it?
I knew I didn’t really have any friends, and that I was generally hated by more than half the girls at school, even the older ones, but I didn’t think it was this bad. I didn't think that someone would hire an owl, or train one themselves, just to send me a letter that said I was a witch. A legit witch, like the people up in Salem think they are.
Are people this crazy? Do they hate me this much?
Donaugh stirred from his place on the floor. Blinking up at me he asked, "What happened?" He attempted to sit up, to no avail.
I sighed. "You knocked yourself out. There’s an owl somewhere in your room. And I have to go now." He didn’t ask; he knows how I get sometimes. So I just left. He let me go.
I ran across the street again, seeing the sun high over the Southie skyline. I heard the laughs of a city on spring break. Normally I would be among them. But now I was a little too confused.
I let myself into the house, and locked myself into my room. Technically it isn’t mine, because I share it with Grace, Faith and Merce. Patience moved into Mumia’s old room a few months back.
I re-read the letter over and over again, thinking and even crying a little over it. It didn’t make sense. I don’t know anyone this crazy, and Southie is a small place. I know a lot of people, and even if I don’t know them personally, I’ve heard about them.
Who would do something like this? It wasn’t true. Was it? It couldn’t be.
After I don’t know how long, I wiped my face and decided to make a snack for myself as all the crying seemed to have made me hungry. When I walked into living room, I saw Patience. Home early, I thought. That wasn’t weird, nor was the fact that I didn’t hear her come in. It was that she was sitting across the table from a strangely dressed woman. Patience didn’t like people in the house. She didn’t like people in general.
I tried to slip back into the room, but it was too late: the lady was staring straight at me, she stood up and started walking towards me. Can’t hide now, I thought. Patience seemed to turn and stare at the lady until she sat down again.
Patience's glare had that effect on people. I have actually seen grown men cry. Seriously.
Patience called me in, and I knew I couldn’t use the old standby of acting stupid. So I walked into are teeny little kitchen, and Patience sat me down. I think I’ll remember this moment forever.
Patience looked me hard in the eyes. It was weird to me then, because Patience doesn’t like looking people straight in the eyes like that. Her eyes are almost white, and they creep people out. The last time she looked like that was when she said we couldn’t afford to take the T into school anymore so we would have to walk together.
"Etty," she began, sounding like she was speaking to a wounded animal: soothing, strangely sad, and somewhat pitying. "There was something I wanted to tell you this morning, what with it being your birthday."
Jesus, I thought, she’s going to tell me this old lady is my real mother or something else that won’t make sense.
She was still talking. "You don’t remember your father, but I do. He was a special man. A wizard, with real magic. He had a wand and everything.
"Etty- Etty, you have magic too. You are a witch."
I didn’t flip out. I didn’t get angry. I didn’t sob with happiness, nor did I feel sad.
“So it’s true,” I mumbled, and the world got all swirly, and then my knees went out for good.
A/N: Sorry I took so long... I play a buttload of softball and once the season starts in earnest, I pretty don't come home for longer than time allows me to swap uniforms. And I live outside Boston, and everything has been a mess up here for that past few weeks.
The MBTA is the public transit authority in the Boston area. This includes city proper, but also extends to the areas around it. The T covers trains (like the Subway), trolleys, and buses.
Today's fact: Etty picks at buttons when she’s nervous. When she was younger, she would pick at them so hard they would pop off. Patience started making her fix them, and that fostered a love for hand-sewing and embroidery.