The first chapter
Anita changed into her clothes. Nothing special; just jeans and a tee-shirt. She opened the closet door and walked into the kitchen. The von Wizard family had given her a closet to sleep in. They seemed to enjoy the fact that it had a lock that they punished her by locking her in. The von Wizard family was her aunt, uncle, and cousin. They had always told Anita that her mother and father had perished in a fire in which she was the only survivor and Anita knew they weren’t lying because of a dim memory she had of that fire.
In that blurry memory she was a baby clinging on to her mother. The room was engulfed in flames and the burned remains of a crib told her it was her room. She could see a man that must have been her father’s mouth moving like he was shouting but couldn’t hear the words. He was probably calling for help. She was looking in the opposite way of her mother and her father was behind his wife, holding a burning stick.
Two things didn’t make since in that memory. One: why was her dad holding a burning stick? Two: why wasn’t smoke engulfing the room, blurring the vision more than what the fuzz of ?
“Anita, start the bacon,” John von Wizard told his niece. Anita sighed and started frying the bacon. The von Wizard’s seemed unaware that it was the last day of August. That meant it was Anita’s birthday. She was now thirteen. Though no one cared, as always. Sometimes she even forgot her own birthday but she always remembered the anniversary of the day that left her an orphan and soon after, placed with a family that didn’t really love her and if they did, liked showing it in a way of abuse and neglect. She still had bruises as a result of her punishment after the ‘April Incident’, as she thought of it.
“It’s amazing that your hair stays the same way. It always needs a haircut,” John, Anita’s uncle, commented. He said that every two days. Anita might as well have more haircuts than all the kids in her class together. Her messy brown hair just grew that way.
Anita Cora was happy that she looked like her parents and not like her aunt, uncle, and cousin. Pictures in one, tiny, pocket photo album told her that her mother had the same messy brown hair and thin face as Anita. The pictures also told her that her father had eyes an unusual silver that was just like Anita’s bright silver eyes that sparkled in the sun. Her mother had silver eyes, but not as magnificent as those of Anita’s father; almost gray.
The two things she liked about her appearance were her silver eyes and the birthmarks on her neck. They almost looked like deep bite marks. Despite knowing what her parents looked like Anita would have liked to know her heritage. She and her family had German accents and she was sure that ‘von’ was a title for German nobility but due to the ‘ask-no-questions-and-get-out-of-my-face-you-worthless-trash’ policy it wasn’t going to get confirmed anytime soon.
Anita ate very quickly and was about to take more to find that the rest of the family had taken all the bacon. Anita had an appetite for meat, especially today for some reason. She could almost eat them all up. She could almost feel the blood on her teeth, the flesh so tender. It was a sickening feeling yet so inviting.
Anita sighed and decided to look at the old pictures of her parents. If no one would acknowledge her birthday she felt she should look at memories of her parents; the only proof that they had existed and opened up a photo album that was slightly burned from the fire.
She looked at her favorite picture of her mom and dad. It showed her as a baby, tugging at her fathers long shaggy blond hair playfully while her mother and another girl were laughing. When Anita had inquired about the girl that looked like she could be her older sister her uncle merely shrugged her off, saying that girl was her father’s godchild and she had burned in the fire.
“Well mom, dad, its me. I’m thirteen today. It’s been thirteen years since I’ve been born and twelve years since you died. Eight years I’ve been talking to a bunch of photos.” Anita sighed to herself. ‘Like that’s going to bring them back,’ she thought. In her dreams her parents, who had miraculously survived the fire and for some reason had to hide for awhile, would walk down the street and take their daughter to a huge mansion where she could be happy with the mysterious girl. Unfortunately that day never came.
In the opened window a red envelope flew in. The wind -it must have been the wind- led it to Fiona. Anita glimpsed at the writing.
Information to all matters concerning Tancora von Wizard. Fiona and John von Wizard.
Who’s Tancora? Anita thought. A relative obviously, von Wizard isn’t exactly a common name. But Tancora isn’t a common name either. Maybe German. It was peculiar that a letter for them had arrived out the window and it was a Sunday.
She heard Fiona talking to John after reading the letter with a horrified expression.
“Dear, can we talk about something in private?”
“What Fiona?” John asked. Fiona nudged her head over by Anita. “Oh right, let’s go,” John replied when he realized what Fiona had meant. He hadn’t noticed the letter but if he did he would have been as horrified as it meant his niece was more like her parents than he had hoped.
Now Anita knew it probably concerned her. She had what John called ‘[her] dad’s nose.’ That meant Anita was a great deal curious like her dad. She was always happy she inherited something other than her silver eyes from her father.
Anita darted to an old dumbwaiter placed on the wall in a small, spare bedroom that for some reason she wasn’t allowed to sleep in. A man had lived in the house in the late Victorian ages and had the dumbwaiter installed for his servants to bring food upstairs. The room the dumbwaiter led to was the parents room. Anita had used it before to listen in on her aunt and uncle although their private conversations weren’t interesting so it was basically abandoned.
Anita was uncomfortable but was small for her age and just fitted. She stopped the dumbwaiter before she reached the room but held the rope tight. The dumbwaiter made a loud click plus they would see her because Mandy ripped the cover. It was still easy to hear the conversation.
“It’s her birthday today!” She heard Fiona cry.
“She’s twelve so we won’t have to worry about her for another year!” John replied.
“No, she was a year old when she was left for us, not a month old, do the math!” Fiona pointed out something that Anita couldn’t understand. Left for us… was she talking about Anita or this Tancora?
“But we squashed it out of her!”
“This letter means we didn’t! ‘Dear Mr. and Mrs. von Wizard. You are still being watched by the court. Our sources tell us you both participated in both calling her by a name other than her own and badly treat her in the hopes that her exceptional powers will diminish. As the incident of the last April shows this is not so and is intolerable in any magical division. You must explain to ‘Anita Cora’ her real identity by the time you are done discussing this letter, which you are no doubt doing now, or choose a sentence on the charge of restricting the education of minors. Morgan Ambrosius. Headmistress of Merlin Academy.’
“She will have to know how to control herself before she decides to turn us into who know what.”
“I never feared her as much as I do now.”
Anita jumped out of the dumbwaiter. It was just her luck Mandy was standing right there.
“You were eavesdropping, weren’t you?” Mandy said, using an obnoxious tone that she used for telling her mom or dad what her cousin was doing.
“Why would I eavesdrop? The only reason I’d listen to your parents boring conversations is if you tell me to with an umbrella in your hand when your birthday is in a week,” Anita countered with a cocky tone that took Mandy off guard. Usually Anita would pull the fraying ropes and hide and when the parents were down run and hide in the lockable bathroom. The matter was just too important for her to hide. The conversation made her seem better than hiding in a bathroom for an hour.
“You got me there but still, you were eavesdropping,” Mandy replied.
Mandy always wanted to bust Anita for something. Even if she had to frame her to do it. Anita didn’t care much for what Mandy was saying. She was more concerned about what her aunt and uncle was saying. Watched by court? Name change? Powers? Emphasis on ‘Anita Cora?”
“Anita Cora, we have to tell you something,” Fiona told Anita.
“Mom, AC was…,” Mandy began.
“Go to your room Amanda,” John told his daughter. She reluctantly went to her room. Usually she would have argued but she knew that when her real name was used that he wasn’t going to change his mind. When she went up the staircase she stopped and drew her finger across her neck menacingly.
“What, did I forget to turn on the dishwasher?” Anita asked, as if she wasn’t listening on their conversations just five minutes ago and they didn’t ask Mandy to leave the room, an unnecessary precaution. They always let Mandy humiliate her for the stupidest things.
“No. First of all, your name isn’t Anita Cora,” Fiona answered.
“My name’s Anita Cora. It’s been that all my life,” Anita said. She actually would like a different name so Mandy wouldn’t keep on calling her AC like she was a mere air conditioner.
“No. We changed your name as a baby so you would fit in better and have no trace of your history; an anagram to honor my brother,” John said. “Your real name is Tancora.”
“Fat chance of fitting in better and what kind of name is Tancora anyway?” Anita Cora asked. Tancora von Wizard…the name had a nice ring to it.
“It is a wizard name originating in Germany after it got involved in the English magic community, hence the English word wizard.” Fiona answered.
“You think I’m Harry Potter or something?” Anita Cora smiled. The only reason she knew about Harry Potter was because Mandy made her do book reports on the series.
Okay, maybe her family has a sick sense of humor and knew about her spying on them in the dumbwaiter and had a friend drop the letter off. Wait… they didn’t have any friends or a sense of humor.
“You are more than a witch. Your mother, Banshee, is a ghost,” Fiona replied.
“She’s dead. You don’t have to remind me every second of every day!” Anita/Tancora replied angrily.
“Ghost gave people their powers and they can be at rest in the spirit world or something. Your father, my brother Prospero not Peter, was a wizard, good at water and invisibility spells. Just like everyone else on your father’s side of the family,” John told Anita/Tancora.
“How come your not a wizard if it’s hereditary?” Anita/Tancora asked challengingly.
“My witch mother married a wizard. When she had her first son he was just one of the family, a wizard, and she couldn’t wait until he was thirteen, the age you get when your powers fully develop. When she had another son he well, wasn’t. I think you get the point,” John explained.
“So you’re saying I’m part ghost and part witch?” Anita or Tancora confirmed.
“Not just that. Those marks on your neck aren't’t birthmarks. Those are bite marks from a werewolf and a vampire. I think we have said enough about who you are,” Fiona added.
“Can you prove I’m Tancora?” Anita or Tancora asked.
“Remember last week at the zoo the wall gave away and reappeared, trapping Mandy inside the snake tank?” John asked.
“Yeah,” Anita/Tancora answered with a grin. It was the only trip when Mandy was too scared to constantly pinch her.
“You were smiling. You wanted that to happen so the magic within you did it without your knowing. A sign of you’re powers developing,” John answered.
“Still don’t believe you,” Anita/Tancora replied.
“Mandy’s violin strings? The ones that broke when Mandy played it?” Fiona tried.
“They could have broken on their own accord because of Mandy playing it hard and so awfully,” Anita/Tancora answered.
“The music disc?” John tried.
“It was such horrible music it’s impossible for it not to break. Besides you bought the player at a terrible pawn shop; it was bound to screw up the disks sooner or later.”
“What about what had happened in April?”
“Uh…uh…” Now there was something to explain.
Anita/Tancora had always been the loner at school and was constantly picked on, especially by Mandy’s gang. Once in April she was being pursued by the friends of a boy named William ‘Billy’ Campbell, unbelievably Mandy’s boyfriend. Nothing out of the ordinary; in a movie one of the neighbors on their porch would be looking at their watch waiting for the show to start.
“Get the bitch!” Billy had yelled. Anita/Tancora had been offended by this and in a moment of stupidity lifted up a hand, proudly displaying a special finger. Then the boys started yelling louder with more foul language, Anita/Tancora running faster. Unfortunately Billy had secretly told two of his gang to take a shortcut through an ally Anita/Tancora had been running to hard to think about. Right when she was turning she bumped into the boys, both bigger than her. Turning to run back and double-back home she saw the rest of the gang. Billy was holding a switchblade by her neck, the red handle going well with his blue jeans jacket.
“Get her.” The two guys from behind grabbed her under the arm.
“C’mon Billy. You ain’t going to stab me with that thing, are you?” Anita/Tancora said nervously. What she was thinking was ‘if you cut me the police will see the bruises left by John and I’ll go to a foster home. You might actually help by stabbing me.’
“You sayin’ I’m chicken AC? Think that I ain’t got the guts? I’ll show you.”
“Better not Billy. My uncle stabbed a kid and got jailed. Don’t want to get jailed or your life will be screwed up permanently. Worse when you’re young ‘cause then you messed up your chance of a good life,” John Shears said. He was the least violent member of the group and came from a family of criminals. His parents were in jail and his uncle purposely overdosed on heavy drugs when the police were coming in so foster care had been his home for the last year. Unlike the rest of the aspiring delinquents he had seen the reality of what a life of crime can do to you and was determined to be the generation that set his family straight.
“Fine. Chuck, Jones, let’s dump her in the creek.” Chuck and Jones, who held Anita/Tancora, started dragging her.
When Anita/Tancora saw the creek it seemed more rocky and dangerous than when she had seen it before. Surely a few bones would be broken or at the very least cracked.
“Chuck her and then we’ll split. Bye AC,” the young leader of the gang replied, a smirk on his face. Now kicking and pleading for mercy Anita/Tancora was thrown over into the trashing depths of the rocky creek.
While she was bracing herself for pain she suddenly opened her eyes with a jolt. She had… landed on something and now was being flung through the air on some sort of purple force-field. Instinctively she ducked-and-rolled onto the pavement on the other side of the street, her arms securely hiding her head.
“What the…” Jones muttered. Stumbling when she got up Anita/Tancora awkwardly ran off. She had mentioned the event to her aunt and uncle but they had said she was making it up. It hadn’t been mentioned since.
Maybe it was the reasoning of her presence at these unusual events. Maybe it was a desire to rid herself of the life she had always known. It could have been both. But for some reason Tancora accepted being Tancora.
“You mean AC gets to have powers and not me?” Mandy asked her mom.
“It’s Tancora sweet pea,” her mother corrected.
“Either way, it’s no fair that she gets magic powers and I don’t! No fair!” Mandy complained. Yep, Mandy was still the same. She always wanted what Tancora got and more of it.
“You don’t want to be a freak like her. It’s her kind that was sentenced to death in the olden days. Every last one of them uncivilized. You should be lucky your not one of them. She can’t even see herself in a mirror now or get near garlic!” Her father told his daughter.
This was how breakfast went the day after Tancora learned she was unusual. The only reason she wasn’t chained to a doghouse was because a full moon wasn’t scheduled until the next week.
When she had been frying bacon for five seconds Mandy exclaimed, “Hurry up!”
“I just started,” Tancora replied.
“Use those magic powers of yours to speed it up,” Mandy replied.
“That a girl!” John exclaimed.
“So I get to decide what school I go to?” Tancora asked the next morning. The table was filled with pamphlets that had an indestructible charm from Tancora’s fathers collection.
“Yes, choose any school you want,” John replied. Tancora knew that this was because John didn’t want her to say, “Ala Amphibian” turning them into frogs. The only pamphlets on the table Tancora looked at were the ones that said ‘boarding school’ because then she wouldn’t be treated like a freak for the rest of the day, yet wanted to torment her cousin and the rest of her family too. She saw one that she kind of liked.
“What about Merlin Academy?” Tancora suggested. The letter was from the Headmistress of that school and she wanted to have school with someone who wanted to punish the von Wizard’s as much as she did.
“Absolutely not! That’s the same damn school my brother and his hideous wife went to!” The same school her parents went to. She had to go there and no one said stuff about her parents without a punishment. Come on powers work, Tancora thought. With her fingers tapping against the cedar-wood table the milk that was for the mornings oatmeal started to bubble. Soon it rose, shooting the tightly twisted cap off, spraying on everyone except the spells caster and the pamphlet for Merlin Academy.
“Fine! You can go to that one,” John declared, wiping his now dripping hair out of his eyes.
The instructions said to sign the student and the guardian’s name. When Tancora was finished signing the paper disintegrated, leaving ashes on the table.
“What…” Then the ashes turned into the pamphlet. “Cool.”