Esmerelda parked her broom and hopped off, running her fingers through her dark, windswept hair. Pointing her warted chin, she marched over to the front of the coffee shop where Hettie stood waiting.
“Morning, Es,” said Hettie, smiling. She was bald, with skin as green as the lily pads down by the pond. She wore a black cloak with a name tag pinned over her heart. “Heard good things about this one.”
“Hmph,” huffed Esmerelda. She wanted to go to the cafe on Wycamore Road, but Hettie insisted they give the new shop a chance.
Hettie wagged her finger. “Don’t be judgmental.”
“I’m not judgmental. I just have high expectations.” Esmerelda snapped her long fingers and a small red notebook appeared in her hands. “Nothing good ever comes from these things.”
“Well, now you’re just being rude.”
Esmerelda rolled her eyes and turned to the shop. It was a small cottage with cobblestone walls, two circular windows on either side of the wooden door, and smoke curling out of the chimney on the roof in wisps of gray that matched the dreary sky.
“Cozy,” said Hettie. She pulled a blue notebook and pen from her pocket and jotted something down.
A sign with GODMOTHER’S NOOK written in crooked handwriting hung on the door, and Esmerelda noticed a small flap right below it, labeled “Employee Entrance.” She groaned.
“Quit your whining and get inside,” said Hettie.
Esmerelda shot her a dark look before pushing the door open.
A series of fireworks the size of thimbles exploded in front of her eyes and she yelped.
“Oh, how lovely!” said Hettie, writing in her notebook as the fireworks faded.
“Lovely?” snarled Esmerelda. “They could’ve singed my eyebrows off!”
“Well, they do need a trim.” Hettie laughed at Esmerelda’s hiss.
“Welcome, witches, welcome!” squeaked a voice to the right.
Esmerelda blinked away the brightness of the fireworks still swimming before her eyes and scanned around the shop. Chairs and tables of all shapes--from the size of an ogre to that of a mouse--sat in the corners, holding plush pillows and blankets. A few bookshelves lined the walls. Grass covered the ground, bursting with swaying flowers and trees with twittering birds hopping between branches.
A few butterflies flew in front of Esmerelda’s eyes and she tried to swat them away.
“Hello!” said the voice again, and Esmerelda looked over to a counter on the right. Compared to the rest of the shop, the counter was bare and colorless, with only a cash register on top. A small chalkboard with four lines of writing hung on the wall behind.
Behind the cash register fluttered a tiny bright light.
“Er--hello,” sniffed Esmerelda. She pointed her chin higher and strode over to the counter, Hettie trailing behind her. The bright light came into focus and Esmerelda gritted her teeth.
The creature wore a bright blue dress with matching heels, and her wings were purple and blue and orange. They reminded her of a fading sunset.
“Welcome to Godmother’s Nook!” piped the fairy, swooping excitedly in a circle.
Esmerelda cleared her throat. “Thank you,” she said stiffly. “We run the Broomsticks Blog and--”
The fairy put her hand to her mouth and gasped. “The Broomsticks Blog?! My favorite! Goodie!”
“Er--yes. We’d like to feature your shop for the first week of fall, if that's alright.”
“Of course! I'm honored, so honored!” The fairy wiped a tear and Esmerelda suppressed the urge to roll her eyes.
"Right. Could you tell us about some of your drinks?” she asked instead, opening her notebook and clicking her pen.
“Certainly, Miss!” The fairy flew up to the chalkboard and pointed at the line of writing on the top. “We have four specials today, ladies. Four! Our first is the Cardigan Cappuccino, made with sweater-weather-in-the-mornings and needs-shorts-in-the-afternoons. Also, a touch of nutmeg.” She winked.
“I assume it’s iced at the top and hot at the bottom?” asked Hettie, scribbling in her notebook.
“Right-o, Miss! Hotter than the dragon sauna down the road!” The fairy clapped her hands and danced in the air.
“Next!” snapped Esmerelda. She wanted to leave as soon as possible; the fairy’s squeaky voice made her tinnitus act up.
“Yes, of course!” The fairy flew a couple of inches lower and pointed to the second line of writing on the menu. “Our most popular: Pumpkin Patch in a Cup! Made with pumpkin spice.”
“How is that any different than every other pumpkin drink?” grumbled Esmerelda.
“Well, Miss, when you finish it, you’re instantly transported to the pumpkin patch closest to you!”
“Wow!” said Hettie, he eyes widening to the size of saucers. “That’s--that’s some magic. I don’t even know if I could do that.”
“Seems like a liability issue,” said Esmerelda. Hettie shot her a warning look and Esmerelda shrugged.
“The next drink?” asked Hettie, smiling at the fairy barista.
“The Fall Frappuccino!” sang the fairy as she fluttered down to the next item on the menu. “Made with fallen leaves and an ogre’s amount of caramel!”
“Yum,” said Hettie, writing in her notebook. “And the ratio of leaves to caramel?”
“Why, the same as the ratio of unicorn horns to cyclops eyes!” The fairy giggled so hard she appeared to vibrate in the air.
“And the last there, fairy?” Hettie asked quickly.
The fairy soared to the final listing on the menu. “My favorite: our Curled by the Fire!”
“I love a good latte,” said Hettie.
“What’s in it?” asked Esmerelda.
“Just a dollop of flames and a dash of apple cider.”
“Why’s it your favorite?” asked Hettie.
“Oh, you’ll just have to see.” The fairy looked dreamily into the distance and sighed.
“Sounds suspicious,” huffed Esmerelda.
“Sounds magical!” said Hettie. She glared at her witch partner, who glared back.
“And that’s it, ladies!” The fairy didn’t seem to see the witches’ exchange, and she glided back to the register. “What’ll it be?”
“We’ll try one of each.” Hettie slapped some gold coins on the counter and the cash register popped open. The fairy pointed at the coins and they floated into the drawer.
“Four specials, coming right up!” The barista flew to a spot under the menu--another flap, similar to the one on the front door. This one was labeled “The Kitchen.”
Hettie sighed when the flap snapped shut after the fairy. “You’re impossible.”
“Whatever. Come on, let’s find a seat.” They found a table with two witch-sized couches in the corner by the door.
“Some great stuff for the blog,” said Hettie, scanning her notebook after settling into her couch.
“Sure, if people want to find themselves in a random pumpkin patch, or whatever ‘Curled by the Fire’ does to you,” grumbled Esmerelda. She crossed her arms.
“I think it’s genius.”
“I think it’s ridiculous.”
Hettie just shook her head and continued to read through her notes, while Esmerelda impatiently drummed her fingers against the armrest of the couch.
“Four specials, at your service!” called the fairy from the flap under the menu. She whizzed over to the witches and pointed at the table between them. Four mugs suddenly appeared, two filled with orange-colored liquid, one filled with a dark brown froth, and the last filled with a swirl of reds and yellows.
“Yum! Thank you!” Hettie grabbed one of the orange drinks, and Esmerelda gritted her teeth and took the other. She looked at it apprehensively before bringing it to her lips, and almost jumped at the crispness of the apple cider that seemed to fill every inch of her body.
“Mm, pumpkin!” Hettie said. “I’ll only drink half so I don’t go off into a pumpkin patch.”
“Very smart, Miss, the closest pumpkin patch is four blocks away,” said the fairy.
“Yes, I don’t want…”
Hettie’s voice began to fade and Esmerelda stared at her in alarm. The green witch still opened her mouth as if she were speaking, but Esmerelda couldn’t hear her. She couldn’t even hear the whining of her tinnitus.
All she could hear was crackling. It sounded like...like the crackling of a fire.
A warmth washed over her and she couldn't help sighing dreamily. Cozy, Hettie had said earlier. Cozy.
Suddenly, a book popped out of the drink and landed on Esmerelda's lap. She stared at it in surprise. On the cover was a witch sitting at a computer, and the title read “15 Tips for Bloggers Trying to Make it Big.”
She looked over at Hettie and the fairy, who were smiling at her. She blinked at them. The fairy gestured toward the book and Esmerelda found herself grinning. She couldn’t remember the last time she smiled so big.
The witch sank deeper into the couch, opened the book, and basked in the quiet. She began to read as the drink and the crackling fire warmed her.