This is one of the many beginnings I wrote to Root Cause.
I didn’t wind up using it because I felt it was a little slow for the beginning, but I like how it shows the relationship between Isabella and her grandfather.
Because it didn’t make it into the story, it’s not as well edited as it could be – I hope you’ll forgive that.
My grandfather took my hand and poured the oblong, black speckled seeds from an unlabeled jar into my upturned palm. I looked up to his weather-worn face, taking in his familiar grey beard and wispy white hair.
“Last set. If you get these right, you’ll have aced this year’s seed test,” he said.
I looked at the seeds and rolled them around in my palm. “Scarlet sage. Or maybe broadleaf sage?”
He cocked a bushy white eyebrow at me and I knew he wasn’t going to give me a hint.
I took another look at the seeds in my hand. “Definitely scarlet sage. Broadleaf seeds are rounder.”
He took the slip of paper out of the mason jar that held the seeds and let me read the answer. A grin plastered itself on my face. I’d gotten ten out of ten right, a record for me in the five years I’ve been helping grandpa with the spring planting.
He kissed the top of my head. “Very good, Isabella.”
We were in the basement of our house, planting seeds for the garden. One side of the room was dedicated to seasonal storage and the other to grandpa’s gardening. He had tools hanging on one pegboard covered wall, bags of peat moss and potting soil stacked in the corner, and two different workbenches. We were sitting at the long cedar potting bench grandpa and I made last November. Every March, grandpa and I spent one weekend planting the seeds we would transplant once the danger of frost was over. Some plants were medicinal, some were ornamental, and some were for the vegetable garden. Today we were working on the medicinal plants.
He’d put about thirty seeds in my hand but I didn’t think we had space for nearly that in the garden. “How many do you want me to plant?”
Grandpa looked up from the grow light timer he was setting. “I think twenty. We’ll plant the best of them outside and in April we’ll compost the rest.”
I planted one seed in each of the soil-filled newspaper cups we made last night and then gently watered them. The earthy scent of the wet potting soil reached my nose and I breathed in deeply. All witches have a deep reverence for nature and mine was further honed by my grandfather, even though he had no magical talent himself.
I put the left-over seeds back in the jar, wiped my grubby hands on my jeans and brought the planted seeds to the join the rest under the grow lamps
I thought we were done but as I turned to go up the stairs, grandpa called me back. “I wanted to talk to you about tomorrow.”
Tomorrow. It was a big day for me and my two cousins, Thea and Delia. Tomorrow we would declare our intentions, as all witches do every seven years. When we were seven, our mothers declared us as beginning students. Now that we were fourteen, we could choose for ourselves. We didn’t have many options, remain beginning students, become intermediate students, or stop our studies and allow our talents to wither.
“What about tomorrow?”
“I’m not asking for any specifics, but I want to make sure you know what you are going to do. And if you don’t, you can always talk to me.”
I sat on a stool next to him. It was odd that grandpa was asking because he was the one non-magical person in the family. Grandma had fallen in love with him and there was no talking her out of marrying him, even though that meant she lost some friends who felt witches should not mix with non-witches.
“I’ve decided what I want to do, and so have Thea and Delia.”
He nodded. “Good. I just wanted to make sure.”
“Don’t worry about us, grandpa, we’re going to be just fine.”
“Well, I guess we’ve put it off for as long as possible.” He sighed. “I suppose it’s time for us to go upstairs.”
I knew how he felt. Sometimes living in a house with six other witches could be overwhelming for me and it was probably worse for him. Our time planting was the only time, outside of school, that I didn’t have to consider doing things with magic. For the rest of the day, the magic and the witches would be in full frenzy, because we were having people, even non-family members, coming to the ceremony tomorrow night.
I followed grandpa up the worn stairs and into the crowded, noisy kitchen. Pots and pans were clanging, my aunts were yelling and laughing, and we were tempted by the smells of fresh-baked bread and deserts.
Grandpa stood by the counter, strategically placing himself between Aunt Nadia and a pan of brownies. I stood behind him and took two, then slipped out of the kitchen before anyone noticed me.
We met in the living room and I handed grandpa his brownie. “Team work makes the dream work,” he said.
We sat on the burgundy upholstered couch, careful not to drop crumbs on the Persian rug. Of all the rooms in the house, grandma loved this one most. Her favorite chair was beside the fireplace and she would spend many long winter nights next to the flickering fire, reading. Of course everyone knew grandpa and I nabbed desserts but no one scolded us for it. This would end if we made any mess in the living room.
“Earl? Are you upstairs?” grandma called from the kitchen.
“Yes dear, I’m in the living room with Isabella.” He turned to me. “You’d better get cleaned up. I’m sure she’s got work for the both of us to do.”