A Hex In The West - Chapter One
“Are you a real witch?”
The innocent question escaped from the lips of Timothy, one of the more precocious readers that joined me in my storybook group every other Saturday morning for story time. I started the group not long after I had decided to open a book store on the main street drag. It was fun to see children’s imaginations light up as I read and, secretly, Timothy was my favorite. Never, in the two years that I’d been running the shop, Story Emporium, did I have a more invested participant during story time.
“Now, why would you ask that, Timothy?”
“Because the story says that witches are real and lure kids in with candy!” The boy, six and freckle faced, exaggeratedly looked about the small stage, where the rest of the readers were circled around me, and then pointed to everybody’s pumpkin shaped goody bags I’d handed out. “Well, we are kids and you are giving us candy!” His tone was playful and she knew he was essentially pulling her leg.
Little did the kid know, though, that I was a witch. Yup, that’s right. I, Sabrina Kent, am a real-life witch. But we’ll get to that later. I’m still in the middle of my storybook time, after all.
“It seems to me that the candy is Halloween themed. But I like your argument. Do I get to pick the type of witch I am?” I innocently asked Timothy.
“There’s more than one kind of witch?”
I chuckled. “But of course! Just like there are more than one type of superhero!” I paused, trying to look serious. “I hope I can be a garden witch. I’d like to grow my very own pumpkins!” The kids all giggled.
Timothy paused, his face bemused. That gave time for Charity, the little girl next to him, a chance to pipe up with her own thoughts. “What about cowboys? Are there different kinds of those, too?” Her small face was so serious. “Like evil cowboys?”
To most, this would likely be an odd question. But, I probably forgot to mention that I live in Georgetown, Colorado. A town that was settled during the wild, wild west days and, seemingly, never changed. Every day in Georgetown was a celebration of those glorious western old days. And Charity’s father owned a dude ranch, so she saw a lot of cowboys and, sad to say, wannabe cowboys.
“Of course there are different kinds of cowboys, but I bet they’re all still good.” I smiled at her, hearing the chimes on the door signaling the reading hour was almost over as parents started to pop in to pick up their children. “Let’s talk more about this after class and finish our story first.”
I loved the story of Hansel and Gretel, always feeling the need to read it near Halloween. My sister, Serena, told me I was trying to use it as a fable to warn kids not to eat too much candy. Maybe she was right, but the children didn’t have to know that.
It was the first weekend in October and officially my favorite season in the Rocky Mountains. Aspens littered every inch of space along the skyline and they always twinkled like pure, golden sunshine at this time of year. It was ironic that a town, founded because of gold mining in 1868, was now surrounded by gold of a different variation in the modern day. Did other people get that?
And while many small villages in the mountains close down at this time until ski season begins, Georgetown seems to get busier and busier every year. Probably because our town seems to have a thing for festivals, which occur at least once a month, at minimum. And yes, they almost always have a western theme to them.
My sister and I moved here when we were ten years old to live with our Aunt Bridget, not long after our mom died. Our dad hadn’t ever been in our lives, so trying to find him to live with had always been a non-starter.
Aunt Bridget owns and manages a bed and breakfast, the Bird’s Nest, while Serena owns a ghost tourism operation. Of course, in an old mining town like ours, there are a lot of whisperings of haunted happenings in these hills. There’s even a pretty cool cemetery where she starts her tours, the Alvarado. Even I had to admit, some of the tombstones were pretty dang cool.
I never thought starting the ghost tour business was a good idea. Mostly, because when we were kids, Serena and I had a lot of rumors going on about us in this small town. It probably didn’t help that we moved to Colorado from Salem, Massachusetts, or that we came with a few quirks. And then there was Aunt Bridget. She played into the witch rumors that followed us here, or perhaps she even started them. After all, she looks like a fairytale villain character with her long black hair and love of tall black boots and stockings. The kids we grew up with had a field day with that.
But Serena and I took after our mom with our curly, strawberry blonde hair, pale skin, and emerald green eyes. In truth, we could be twins, we were so much alike, but were actually fourteen months apart in age. Still, we felt connected to each other just the same. If she hurt, I felt it. Our mother used to tell us that our bonds of sisterhood is where we got our strength from.
As similar as possible on the outside, on the inside we were vastly different. I, being the oldest, was always a bit more cautious. Serena tends to throw that caution into the wind. I always worked hard to try and get everything perfect, she just showed up and wowed people with her charisma. And yet, there was no breaking our bond.
Still, having moved from Salem, the home of the infamous witch trials, we weathered the school kid rumor mill train for years. So, when Serena announced her plans to start leading ghost tours, I was worried those rumors would start up again. Especially since Serena can see ghosts. Yeah, that’s one of those little quirks I mentioned that she and I came with. However, most of the ghosts in town really liked Serena and helped her tours quickly become a successful venture for the small historic village of Georgetown.
Our small town is so tiny, maybe only a population of a thousand people, that I always refer to it as a village. Of course, it always feels larger since tourists come calling all four seasons of the year. The town always seemed to be booming, but the faces continuously changed. Seriously, we don’t even have a police department, just a sheriff and one deputy.
As I finished reading Hansel and Gretel, the chimes of the front door increased as more and more parents arrived to take their children home. My storybook hour was so popular, neighboring towns of Dillon and Fraser brought their children too, so it was no surprise to suddenly have about twenty parents in my small shop. The benefit of this was, they almost always purchased something, which was beneficial to me and their children, at least, if their parents wanted to continue having a little free time on Saturday mornings every once and a while.
“Alright everybody, your parents are here for pick up.” My head popped up to meet the eyes of all the parents. “Don’t forget, the next storybook hour will be a pumpkin carving party, so don’t forget to bring your pumpkins. I’ll have all the tools we need here already. So,” I returned my eyes to the faces of all the excited children, “be sure to think long and hard about your favorite story time character and that’s what your jack-o-lanterns will be!”
Ten minutes later, all the children were gone and I prepared to close up the shop for mine and Sadie’s lunch break. Oh, did I not mention Sadie yet?
Sadie was my aunt’s daughter, five years younger than Serena, and eternally on my nerves since she’d returned home from college. Without a job, she melodramatically moved home from Denver and began working for the family businesses until she could figure out her next moves. Yes, she’s a witch, too. And we all tried to keep this a secret as best we could, outside of helping those in need of our help from time to time.
It was at that moment Serena barreled through the doorway, her normally calm face appearing frayed with emotion with her blonde hair swinging wildly.
“Did you hear about Deputy Bryan? He’s dead.”
Get your copy of A Hex In The West here!