Jenna went to The Perk right after class Monday and peered in the window. She didn’t see Aunt Donna so she waited outside in the April mist. The rain was very light and in the air was the fresh scent of new life brought by spring. She stood by the unused bistro tables outside the coffee shop, frequently checking across the street for signs of Donna in the Enlightened New Age Bookstore doorway. The previous owners of Enlightened sold it to Donna after she had worked there forever. They were only too happy to sell it to Donna upon retirement because they didn’t have any children and knew she shared their same affinity for books. They also knew the business would continue to run as they envisioned. In their words, “It was like keeping it in the family.”
Soon, the Schnotz sisters emerged from the bookstore, followed by a waving Donna. “Sorry I’m late,” she said as she stepped onto the sidewalk outside the coffee shop.
“No worries,” Jenna replied and hugged Donna, “I was just enjoying the arrival of liquid spring. How is your day going?” They went inside the coffee shop and got in line for their caffeine fix.
“Today wasn’t a bad day. I would have been on time had the Schnotz sisters not showed up with a book order.” Charlene, Chenille, and Cherri Schnotz were triplets who did everything together, which many assumed was because they shared a common brain. “Everything with those three takes triple the time it should.” She chuckled, “Those girls are a real hoot with their continuous nonsensical talk. For some reason they insist on dealing with me exclusively. They say it’s because of our history from high school, but they were three grades ahead of me. I don’t think we even knew each other until well after we had all graduated.”
“I have run into them in the past, but I don’t know them very well,” Jenna admitted. “It’s truly a shame about their father.” The sisters’ father had recently died suddenly, leaving the girls his newspaper, The Chronicle, and the struggle to keep it alive in the digital age. Worse, they had not bothered to learn the newspaper business while he was alive, so they were lost when it came to the nickels and dimes of publishing a daily.
Donna agreed, “The girls are skilled at sniffing out drama and reporting it but they don’t know the first thing about running a successful business. Oh well, enough about them. How is school going?”
“I can’t wait to be finished.” They moved slowly toward the counter because of an unusually long coffee line. “June can’t come soon enough.”
“I’m sure you’re excited. Have you started looking for a job?”
“Not yet. I think it would be better to wait until graduation is closer. And truthfully, I think I would enjoy a mini-vacation before diving headlong into my career.” Jenna recalled dinner from the other night. “You might find this amusing; I used one of Grandma’s old cookbooks for help with my homework the other night.”
Donna laughed, “Good for you! Recycling works! Which one did you use?”
“It’s an old, leather bound book with ornate decorations on the cover that were obviously done by hand. It’s cool! It’s old though. In fact, I can hardly read the title on the cover because most of it has been rubbed off over the years.”
“Oh my.” Donna’s mood suddenly darkened, “What was the recipe called?”
Jenna’s eyes narrowed and she tilter her head to the side, “Athanasia, I think.” The tremor in her hands began as soon as she answered. Startled, she surveyed the coffee shop for visible danger signs, but everything seemed normal. The line in front of them moved slowly and continued to grow behind. A man reeking of old booze got in line behind Jenna. Then two more women, discussing the high price of gas, entered the shop. Despite the innocuous appearance of her surroundings, her personal alarm had triggered, putting her on high alert.
“Oh my,” Donna was visibly concerned, “I was wondering where that book had disappeared to.” She leaned in close to Jenna’s ear and whispered, “I think you may have found a spell book.”
They were next for their coffee order. Jenna gave a half-hearted laugh trying to alleviate the tension, “What are you talking about?”
Still in a muted voice, Donna said, “I looked for that book for weeks in your grandmother’s house after she died. While she was sick, she told me it needed to be protected once she passed. I thought maybe she had just gotten rid of it and forgot.”
Jenna massaged her forehead and eyebrows for a moment, then looked Donna in the eyes and asked, “Okay. So what does all that mean?”
Donna took a quick look around the shop and when she was sure no one was listening she whispered in the quietest voice she could muster, “There are witches in your...in our bloodline,” and then it was their turn to order.
After retrieving their coffee, they went to the back of The Perk for some privacy. Donna sat in an oversized chair and Jenna sat on the couch. They placed their drinks on the coffee table between them.
Once situated, Jenna asked, “Just what are you talking about?” Her voice quaked.
“Keep your voice down,” Donna cautioned. “Your great-great grandmother, Jennabel, was a witch. That is as far back as I have ever traced our bloodline.” Donna leaned forward, “The book belonged to her.”
“Why have I never heard of this?” Jenna sounded anguished as the bricks that built her reality began showing faults.
“As far as I know, Jennabel had to hide her craft and eventually flee Massachusetts to avoid persecution. She passed the secret on to her daughter, your great grandmother, because of the unique skills that need to be hidden blend with society.” Donna spoke very softly, “Your grandmother, my mother, was the last to actively acknowledge the fact that they were witches. For whatever reason, your grandmother did not tell your mother or me about the craft while we were growing up. I assumed it was because the bloodline had been diluted, diminishing our powers or something like that.”
Jenna was at a loss for words for a spell, she just sat with her eyes closed, massaging her temples. She opened her eyes but looked suddenly tired, “If Grandma didn’t tell you, then how do you know about our ancestry?”
“I know this is a lot to take in all at once,” Donna offered, sensing Jenna’s anxiety. She continued, “Diana and I found the book and some other witch paraphernalia in the attic. Your grandmother caught us examining it and scolded us. She told us to leave it alone, it was only for adults.” She chuckled, “Of course that just made us more curious and we explored more when we were teens.”
“This is too much.” Jenna’s head swam. “Okay. Suppose it is a spell book. So what is athanasia?” Donna furrowed her brow. “I’m not sure.” She pulled out her phone to do a Google search. “Ahh. It means immortality.”
“So you think I cooked up a spell for immortality the other night?” Jenna laughed nervously. The laugh belied her feeling of unease because she had never heard Donna speak like this. She looked at the ceiling and rubbed her chin for a moment, “Come to think of it, both Randy and I felt a jolt of energy a few minutes after we finished the dinner. It was an unusual. A feeling of contentment that neither of us could explain.” She raised her eyebrows and thought some more, then hypothesized, “Maybe it could have been a spell, I guess.”
“Exactly!” Donna was very solemn, “This is serious. There are forces you know nothing about at work here. Using the spell book can only lead to bad fortune, which is the main reason your great-great grandmother had to flee and the family had to quit the craft.”
Jenna was shaken at the revelation. She wanted to go home to digest the information that changed the foundation of who she was. She finished her coffee and stood up, “I had better get home. Randy will be there soon.”
“Of course dear. Be very careful with the book.” They hugged and Jenna turned to leave. “I’ll check on you tomorrow,” Donna called to Jenna, who replied with a wave of her hand without looking back. “Dear Jenna, what have you gotten yourself into?” Donna asked herself under her breath.