And with that, behold!
Closing her eyes, Virginia stood in her magic circle and closed her fingers over a fistful of salt. She visualized the salt as the dry earth, aching for rain. Dipping her fingers into a dixie cup of water, she sprinkled the drops over the salt. Imagining rain falling through the trees, she let the salt fall from her fingers to the forest floor.
She read through the handwritten spell again, wondering if she should say something or perhaps pray. It was her first time casting a spell, and she wished she knew what she was doing.
"Well, perhaps that was pointless..." she murmured to herself, releasing the circle and pouring the rest of the water on the ground. She reached to snuff the candles, but a drop of water splashed out one of the flames. Another drop landed on her head, then on her hand. The trees rustled, and heavy clouds gathered overhead.
"Whoah... it worked..." she gazed at the sky, blinking when a raindrop splashed on her cheek.
"Of course it worked," said a voice from her left. Virginia looked over and saw a little girl in overalls, pigtails, and bare feet sitting on a rock. Or perhaps she wasn't a little girl but a childlike young woman. "It's raining, isn't it?"
"How long have you been sitting there?"
The girl shrugged. "Since it started raining. But you didn't hear me, I bet. People usually don't hear me when I come, unless it's in a flash of lightning or something."
"You're not English, are you? You have an accent. Are you an American?"
The girl shrugged. "I'm a bit of everything, I guess. I must have picked up this accent in Seattle. But you must be English. You have the accent."
"How can you be a bit of everything?"
"Uh... I travel a lot," the girl twisted her fingers and looked at the ground.
"Who are you, anyway?" Virginia asked.
"Well... just Annie. No last name, but I've acquired a few titles over the years."
"Don't ask," Annie interrupted.
"Where do you live?"
"Ummm..." Annie bit her lip and watched a chipmunk scurry up a tree. "I have a trailer somewhere... sometimes I stay with my friend Andy in Hawaii, Washington, and California... sometimes I live in Washington, I have a cabin in the mountains. And I go to India a lot."
Virginia sighed. Annie didn't make sense to her, and if she was so reluctant and ambiguous, she must have been hiding something.
"Well, why are you here in the woods in Cornwall?"
Annie shrugged. "I came with the rain. Though I suppose I didn't need to, since you obviously wanted the rain and therefore wouldn't consider it bad weather..."
"Uh... well, since it isn't a lightning storm, I suppose it isn't."
"Well then," Annie stood on the rock. "That can be fixed." She gazed up at the sky, raised her arms, and a flash of lightning illuminated the sky. Thunder rumbled, and Annie grinned. "There we go, one lightning storm." Lightning crackled again, and the rain fell harder.
Virginia stared at Annie, who giggled and hopped off the rock. She couldn't have called lightning... could she? But if Virginia had made it rain, then surely Annie could have turned it into a storm.
"Who are you, really? Are you a witch? Did you just use magic?"
"Funny you're the one asking," said Annie. "You're the one who cast a rain spell. You're the wannabe witch, Virginia. You're just testing your powers. I know what my powers are and how to use them. You're just experimenting with what you can do."
Virginia stepped back. She hadn't told Annie her name, had she?
"I'm not a witch. I'm a..." Annie paused. "Uh, I'm a girl. With powers. Yes. And I should be going, or I'll get in trouble again."
"Hold on," Virginia ran up to Annie and grabbed one of her overall straps. "What's this about getting in trouble?"
"Nothing. The council is just strict about what I tell mortals." Annie froze. "I mean, people. Shit!"
Virginia touched Annie's shoulder. It was cold, almost icy. She backed away, then ran to her makeshift altar and started throwing her things into her backpack. "You're not human are you?"
Annie shook her head. "I'm toast. That's the fifth time this year." And with that, she fizzled into a puff of silvery blue glitter.
Virginia stood there, staring at the rock where Annie had stood. The glitter fell to the forest floor into a small puddle of water. Virginia knelt down and dipped a finger into the water. It felt much colder than the rain. Virginia noticed the lightning had stopped, and the rain slowed to a drizzle. She brushed her long, wet purple hair away from her face and looked into the puddle. The glitter swirled around in the water as it slowly sank into the ground. Virginia dipped her water bottle in the puddle and took as much of it as she could. Then, heart pounding, she grabbed her bag and went home.
That evening, Virginia went out to dinner with her girlfriend, Ella. They ate Portobello sandwiches at the Jade Dwarf Caf�, then rented a chick flick to watch at Ella's house. Virginia's mother couldn't deal with the idea of her daughter dating another girl, but Ella's parents were more open-minded. They were willing to at least give the girls some privacy, and they never interrogated them.
Virginia tried to pay attention to the movie, but she kept thinking about Annie and how she had just vanished in a cloud of glitter. Ella seemed interested in the movie, but Virginia just stared at the ground. Why couldn't it just make sense? What was Annie talking about, and why did she refer to Virginia as a "mortal?"
Virginia sighed and lay her head on Ella's shoulder. Ella squeezed her hand and asked, "What's wrong?"
"Just... something. Something weird."
"Well I think David is really stupid, it's so obvious that Janae is in love with him," Ella gestured to the screen.
"Nurse, I spy gypsies, run!" David cried, grabbing Janae's wrist.
"No, not the movie," Virginia groaned. "The movie sucks. I'm talking about my life here."
Ella paused the film and turned to Virginia. "Wanna talk about it?"
"You wouldn't believe me."
Ella raised an eyebrow. "Is it about that spell you tried today?"
"Sort of. I think I invoked something."
"Like the rain?"
"Well that too, but... this girl just kind of showed up."
Virginia nodded. "She was weird. She didn't know what the heck she was talking about, and she literally vanished into thin air."
Ella stared at her, then put a cool palm to her forehead. "You're sure about this?"
"I don't know," Virginia moaned, wrapping her arms around Ella. "I'm confused. I don't know what's going on..."
Ella kissed her on the forehead and traced her spine with a finger. "Whatever you say, sweetcakes. Magic can be pretty powerful. You sure you knew what you were doing?"
"I... I don't know. I just wanted to see if I could make it rain."
"You did magic just for the sake of doing magic? Look, I've never done any of that woo-woo stuff, but I know you shouldn't mess with magic. Well, unless you go to Hogwarts, but even then..."
"Mmmph..." Virginia mumbled into Ella's shoulder. Ella scratched her behind the ears. "I'm so stupid..." she whispered.
"You're not stupid, just a bit... na�ve."
"Blah," Virginia, said, then gazed up at Ella. Ella gave her a reassuring smile, brushed a runaway lock of hair from her face, then leaned down and kissed her. Virginia sat up, wrapped her arms around Ella's neck, and kissed her back. At least Ella didn't judge her for being a newbie to the magical world.
Meanwhile, Annie wandered up the slope of Mt. St. Helens, humming softly to herself. She ignored the snow beneath her bare feet and skipped up the side of the volcano. She followed a rocky trail around a curve and came to a small cave, just barely big enough to squeeze through. Crawling inside, she called out, "Andy?"
After five feet of the tunnel, she stood up. The tunnel led to a small cavern, and puddles of lava bubbled on the floor in several places. The cavern had several arches leading to other chambers, and Annie looked around. "You here, Andy?" She said.
"Coming!" called a voice from one of the chambers. Annie stepped in one of the lava puddles and grinned as the magma oozed between her toes. When Andy emerged, she waved and pranced over to him, leaving red footprints across the cavern floor.
Andy stood just barely taller than Annie, around 5 feet, and his sandy blond hair reached his shoulders. Stocky and muscular, he wore only a pair of worn army green cargo pants, and small ebony wings sprouted from his shoulder blades.
"Good to see you, Annie!" He hugged her and tickled her cheek with the fine stubble on his chin.
Annie grinned, stood back, and stretched her arms while clenching her fists. Soon two yellowish-green buds emerged from slits in the back of her shirt, and they grew into shiny, long butterfly-like wings that trailed glitter whenever Annie moved.
"You look divine," Andy bowed slightly.
"I am divine," Annie beamed.
"That you are," Andy said. "A goddess in both body and spirit."
"The Goddess of Bad Weather, at that," she said.
"Same as usual... but my dad gave me another lecture about not cavorting with mortals so much."
"Zeus did? He's one to talk," Andy rolled his eyes.
"Yeah, well apparently it's ok to breed with them, just not talk to them. And you know how I am, every time I try to talk to them, I end up saying or doing too much and either scare them senseless or reveal my true identity."
"Things have changed, my dear," Andy sighed. "Before we young deities came along, the gods always interacted with mortals. Then the mortals either ignored them or got all 'we're not worthy,' and now we live in separate worlds. I don't think there's anything wrong with having mortal friends, they just get old and die all the time."
Annie shrugged. "Stupid old gods... never let us have any fun any more."
"Hey, we have fun all the time! Remember that time we went tornado-flying and destroyed that chicken farm?"
Annie giggled and nodded. "And that time Loki bribed us to summon a hurricane and earthquake at the same time during that political convention thingy."
Annie and Andy wandered through the caverns of Andy's volcano hideaway, and Annie ran her fingers over the obsidian walls. Andy, God of Natural Disasters, was her best friend, and she often visited him in his various homes. The Mt. St. Helens lair was the biggest, and he spent most of his time there. Annie had a cabin a few mountains over, but she rarely stayed there. She preferred her little trailer in the celestial plain, set between the palaces of Athena and Ganesha. Andy rarely visited his cave in the celestial plane, preferring his earthly homes.
They sat down in Andy's studio, a tiny niche carved deep in the mountain. Occasionally the earth would rumble beneath them. The room contained an old, dilapidated plaid sofa, a computer desk built into the wall, a large wooden chest, and a small fountain against one wall. The fountain boasted a miniature obsidian statue of Andy, and lava trickled from his outstretched hand.
"Can I play with the miniatures?" Annie asked, walking over to the chest.
"If you're careful. Remember what happened last time?"
Annie nodded, remembering how she accidentally flooded a dry valley in Africa. "I just want to play." She opened the chest and pulled out a globe. Andy waved his fingers, and the globe hung in midair. Tiny clouds hovered above the surface of the globe, some leaking misty raindrops.
Annie swirled a finger in one of the clouds, and it darkened, sending thin bolts of lightning to the globe. She pulled out a miniature volcano and set it on the west coast of North America, then took a small velvet pouch from the chest. She opened it and removed two little figures - miniature versions of Andy and herself. The moment her fingers touched the figures, they rose to life and waved at her from her palm. She set them by the volcano and rummaged through the chest.
Andy grinned and watched the tiny figures of Annie and Andy. Tiny Andy raised his arms, and a wisp of smoke rose from the volcano. Andy glanced down at Annie to make sure she wasn't watching, then nudged the miniatures of them closer together. Tiny Andy winked at him, and Tiny Annie giggled.
That night, Virginia kissed Ella goodbye and drove home. While walking up her driveway, she remembered the bottle of glittery water and pulled it out of her backpack. She shook the bottle, and the glitter swirled around in the water. Virginia felt a raindrop on her cheek, and a twinge of uneasiness settled in her stomach. She quickly dumped the water in the front bushes and ran up her porch steps.
"Whatcha doin'?" A voice asked. Virginia turned to see Annie standing in the rhododendron bush. Virginia gasped and dropped her car keys. "Oh, sorry, did I scare you?" Annie stepped out of the bushes and walked up the front porch.
"Who or what are you?" Virginia demanded. Then she noticed Annie's wings. "You're a fairy..."
"No, no, I'm not one of them," Annie laughed. "I just have the wings. I like wings, they're good for flying and looking prettiful and stuff. See?" Annie leapt into the air, her wings dusting glitter onto the porch. She flew past Virginia, over the porch railing, and landed on top of Virginia's mother's minivan.
"Wow... wish I could do that," said Virginia.
Annie flew back to the porch again. "Wanna try?"
"Uh... I can't," Virginia shrugged. "No wings."
"I'll help you," Annie said. "We'll have to go invisible first though."
"But... but I hardly know you! How do I know you won't drop me off the side of a cliff or something?"
"Why would I do that? I'm a nice goddess!"
"You... you're..." Virginia gasped. "No way..."
"Crap! I said too much again!" Annie slapped herself on the forehead. "Oh well... happens all the time, and they've only suspended my license once. But that was six years ago, and..." Annie paused, realizing Virginia was staring at her. "...And I'll shut up now."
"A goddess..." Virginia whispered.
"Oh come on, there are tons of us! I'm just a minor deity nobody has ever heard of, it's not like I'm Aphrodite or anything. And if you ask me, she gets waaaaay too much attention. And... what are you doing?" Annie asked.
Virginia ran her fingers down the side of Annie's arm. "You're so real... so cold..."
Annie stepped back. "Uh... yeah... this is my physical form. Why do you mortals always act so awed around us? We're people too. Immortal people with magical powers nonetheless, but people. I just make it rain and snow and hurricane and stuff."
"Can you bring people back to life and stuff?"
Annie sighed. "I've only done that a couple times, and only when I accidentally killed my friends. I don't like to mess with life and death... I just mess with the weather."
"How can you accidentally kill your friends?"
"Oh, buildings fall on them or they get struck by lightning. You know, normal stuff like that." Virginia stared. Annie sighed and shook her head. "I guess you wouldn't understand."
"Can you really help me fly?"
"If you promise not to freak out or go around telling anyone what I told you."
"Oh! Oh yes! I won't tell, I... I want to fly!"
Annie reached into one of her pockets and pulled out what looked like a medicine bottle. She poured out two whitish spheres and handed one to Virginia. "Swallow this. It will make you invisible, and when you want to go back to normal, just picture yourself. Got it?"
"I... I think," Virginia nodded, popping the pill in her mouth. It slithered like water down her throat, and she coughed.
"Careful there," Annie said.
"Virginia, is that you?" came a voice from inside. Annie winked. The door opened and Virginia's mother, a portly middle-aged woman, stepped out onto the porch. "Virginia?" she asked, looking straight through Virginia before kneeling to pick up the keys on the porch.
Virginia couldn't believe what was happening. Annie nodded to her, then walked behind her and lifted her off the ground by her waist. They flew off the porch and into the sky. Virginia turned her head to see her mother standing on the porch, bewildered, and she cracked a smile.
"We're flying!" She laughed.
"Of course we are," Annie said, rising higher. "Ever go in one of those airplane doohickeys?"
"Yeah, a couple times... but that was different." Virginia gazed below at the shrinking houses, trees, and road. "The wind is blowing through my hair and everything!"
"Check this out," Annie said, plunging towards the ground so fast that Virginia thought her heart would pop out of her chest. At the last moment, Annie swerved upwards, missing the ground by 2 or 3 feet. Virginia could hardly breathe as a mixture of awe, terror, and euphoria overcame her senses.
"This is so cool!" Virginia said as they flew over a field, silent except for the orchestra of crickets. "It's just like in my dreams, only it's so real! And your arms are so cold," she shivered. Annie's arms felt numb and chilly against Virginia's stomach, and she wished she was wearing a sweatshirt.
"That's what Andy always tells me," Annie sighed. "But his are always so warm, it all balances out."
"Who's this Andy? Another deity?"
"Yup, he's my best friend, and he's in charge of making volcanoes erupt and earthquakes rumble and stuff like that. Natural disasters. He's really nice though."
"Thanks, but we've gotta talk," Andy said. He was flying behind Annie and Virginia, and Virginia questioned whether she was really awake. First a goddess randomly appeared while she was trying to cast a spell, then they were flying together, then a god appeared... nothing made sense.
"Andy, you're here!" Annie smiled, but Andy didn't. They landed in the field, and Annie hung her head. "Are you mad at me, Andy?"
"No, of course not..." he said, glancing at Virginia. "But Zeus is."
"Isn't Zeus..." Virginia began.
"He's my dad," Annie said softly. "I'm always getting into trouble with him..."
"I didn't want to be the one to stop you," said Andy. "But flying with mortals is a no-no. The council is already considering putting you on probation, and you don't want your license suspended, do you?"
Annie looked at Virginia and sighed. "No. I'm sorry. I'll send her home. Bye." Annie waved her fingers, and suddenly Virginia flew on her own. It was more like floating above the ground, and Virginia had no control over where she was going, but it was exciting. Virginia looked over her shoulder one last time to see Annie cover her face and Andy pat her on the shoulder.
"What happened? You disappeared for like fifteen minutes," Virginia's mother said when Virginia returned home.
Still excited from the flight but confused, Virginia shrugged. "I was just... outside."
"You dropped your keys on the porch. You sure you're feeling all right?"
"I need to go to bed," Virginia sighed. "Today was too weird for words."
"It's that Ella girl, isn't it? Did you two have a fight? I told you she was trouble."
"No, it's not that. Why do you hate Ella so much? She's my girlfriend, mom. Everything is fine between us, you just don't see because you just want to break us up. Mind your own business for once. At least I'm not dating some scummy bloke." Virginia grumbled, slumping up the stairs to her room.