Ashley "Ash" Prince hates using magic, but that doesn't stop her mother from forcing lessons on her. She resists except when it helps her stepbrother, Charlie.
Charlie is sick and none of the doctors knows why. When Ash has a witch dream, she is determined to find the elusive and rare Ghost Orchid—a flower that could be the key to saving him. Her mother begs her not to go because not only did Ash's dream reveal a way to heal her brother, it also hinted at her death. But when her brother gets worse, she refuses to sit around and let him die. In a race against time, Ash and a boy she met in a coffee shop go in search of the Ghost Orchid.
Only someone doesn't want her to find it. Family secrets are revealed and Ash has to decide whom to trust—the mother that raised her, or the boy she barely knows.
Love and family collide in this Cinderella retelling.
I stared at the candlewick and pretended to will it to light. Honestly, I probably spent more energy pretending in my magic lessons than if I actually used magic. I didn’t want to, though.
“Ashley, will you please light the candle?” Mom asked. “I know you’re not really trying.” She sat across from me with her hands folded on top of the table. Her normally blue eyes swirled acid green—something visible to other people with magic—and her blonde hair, clipped back out of her face, moved as if touched by a light breeze.
“You know I don’t want to be here.”
“And you know you could be one of the most powerful witches in the world if you just put forth a little effort.”
“So you’ve told me every day of my life,” I leaned back in my chair and scrubbed my face with my hands. We’d been in the library for two hours. My butt had pins and needles from the hard chair and my legs were like ghosts. “Why is it so important to you?”
She stood up and took the candle from the table. “I want you to live up to your full potential.”
It was the same line of BS she fed to me every time I asked. She used to tell me I was going to be the most powerful witch in the world. I believed her when I was a little girl, but as I got older I chalked it up to boosting my young ego.
She’d just stuffed the candle in a drawer when the door opened and Charlie ran into the room.
“Ash!” he yelled as he vaulted himself into my arms. I caught him with an ‘Oomph’ and mussed his already tangled brown hair as I settled him on my lap.
“Hey, Bud. How was school?”
My little brother shrugged one shoulder and sighed. “Mrs. Clements is so mean. She took my trading cards before show and tell even started.”
“Why’d she do that?” I asked.
“Because she’s mean,” he whined. “I already told you that.”
I raised my eyebrows and waited for him to tell me the truth.
“All I was doing was sorting them in the order I wanted to show them.”
“During class?” I asked.
“Yeah, but it was quiet time and I’d already finished my school work.”
I shook my head and mussed his hair again. “You know you’re supposed to at least pretend to do work during quiet time. Mrs. Clements never believes you’ve finished already.”
“That’s her problem,” he said. It’s a sentiment he’d heard me say plenty.
“It becomes your problem when she takes your stuff.” I lightly poked him in the chest with every word.
He sighed dramatically. “That’s not all, though.”
“Uh-oh. What else happened?”
“She wouldn’t give them back after school. She said she’d keep them until I learned my lesson.”
“Well, don’t worry about it anymore today,” I said as I scooted him off my lap. “Go find Elsa and get an after school snack. I’ll come play with you a little later.”
He scurried off without another word.
“He must be feeling better today,” Mom said.
I turned to where she still sat across the table. She stared at the door as if she could see Charlie on the other side of it, her face unreadable. “Have you heard anything from the doctor?” I asked.
“The latest lab results were negative. Your step-brother doesn’t have cancer.” She stood up, grabbed her purse, and walked to the door. “I have some errands to run and won’t have time to stop by the school. Could you take care of it?”
“Absolutely,” I said. If there was one person in the world I would use my magic for, it was Charlie.
“Can I help you, Miss Prince?” Mrs. Clements asked as I walked into the classroom.
It looked the same as it did when I was a student here; chairs stacked on top of desks, the alphabet posted above the white board, and lockers lined against one wall.
“I’m here to get Charlie’s trading cards,” I said.
She looked up from the papers she graded. “I don’t have them.”
“Charlie says you do, and he didn’t have them with him when he came home this afternoon.”
She shook her head. “I really don’t.”
I grinned and tilted my head to the side. “You’re certain?”
She must have mistaken my grin for politeness because she smiled too. I wanted to rip it right off her face. “Charlie has always been prone to exaggeration.”
“He seems pretty sincere to me,” I growled through the grin-turned-grimace.
“I think it’s your mother,” she continued. She leaned back in her chair and crossed her arms. “I had the same problem with you when you were in my class.”
“I remember,” I said. All trace of feigned politeness disappeared in an instant. It’s one thing for me to complain about my mom but another thing completely for this woman who made my second-grade year a living hell to say anything about her. I reached for the power within me. All I needed was a small trickle for this.
“Give me the cards, Mrs. Clements.” Magic flowed through me. As I spoke, the words filled the room and I watched as Mrs. Clements’ eyes glazed over and her body relaxed from its typical rigidity.
She reached for a drawer in her desk and opened it. From where I stood, I could see at least a dozen confiscated toys. Among them were Charlie’s trading cards. She picked them up and handed them to me before closing the drawer.
“Tomorrow, at the end of class, you will return each one of those toys to the little boy or girl you took them from. You will not remember our conversation or my visit here today.”
“Of course,” she replied. Her voice was soft and child-like.
I turned around and walked out of the school.
Charlie was in his room when I got back. He sat at his desk with his head bent over whatever he was doing.
“Hey, kiddo,” I said as I walked in and threw myself into the beanbag next to him. “What’re you working on?”
“Two giant robots are having an epic battle,” he said as he picked up a piece of paper and showed me. A red robot and a green robot stood in an open field.
“Nice. Which one’s winning?”
He thought about it for a second. “The red one.”
“He does look pretty tough,” I said.
“He’s got lasers and rocket launchers.” He pointed them out as he spoke.
“Ash,” he said. He looked at his door as if someone would come in at any second. “You’re not supposed to use bad words. If Marlene heard you curse around me, she’d be so mad.”
“Don’t worry about Mom,” I said. “She’s out running errands. Besides, I stand by my assessment of the red robot.”
He shook his head and returned to his drawing. I watched him for a while. He was pale. He was naturally pale, but his pallor had a gray sheen to it and small beads of sweat covered his upper lip. “How are you feeling today?”
“Okay, I guess.”
I frowned, but didn’t say anything until his lower lip quivered. “Charlie?”
He put his colored pencil down and looked at me. The tears in his eyes hadn’t spilled over yet, but I knew they would soon. I opened my arms and he rushed to me as the tears exploded from him.
“Why?” he asked between sobs.
I pushed my own tears back. “I don’t know, Bud.”
No one knew. He’d been sick for years. It was the only reason he was in school during the summer—to stay caught up with other kids his age. Weeks would go by with him confined to his bed and other weeks where he was an average eight-year-old boy. The doctors couldn’t figure it out, and I had to sit back and watch as my little brother yo-yoed back and forth between deathly ill and vibrantly alive.
I got him up and into his bed before I got ahold of his on-call nurse. His episodes always sprung up so fast it worried me that if we didn’t find what was wrong soon we’d be bypassing nurses and doctors altogether and calling the funeral home.
While we waited for her to arrive, I got him some of his medicine and gave him the trading cards.
“How’d you get them back?” he asked as he went through to make sure they were all there.
“Magic,” I said and winked at him.