Contest #65 shortlist ⭐️

A Witch’s Guide to Being Brave

Submitted into Contest #65 in response to: Write about a group of witches meeting up on Halloween night.... view prompt

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Teens & Young Adult LGBTQ+ Horror

My hands are clenched inside my robe’s pockets. Better, I think, bunched up and out of sight than to see them shaking. I’m breathing one, two, three, in, and one, two, three, out, but my heart’s still beating in my chest like an annoying neighbor who can’t take a hint. I want to call them—Paola, Saanvi, and Emma—and tell them I’m out. That I’ll join them next Halloween, but Emma’s words won’t stop playing in my head. 


They were the last words she said to me the first day I met her: “Witches don’t have a choice but to be brave. Fear be damned.” She shrugged as she said it, in that careless manner of hers that both scares me and makes me feel brave at the same time. 


Carelessness can lead to deathly mistakes. Morbid, I know, but for as long as I can remember, I’ve always been afraid of death. Not my own; I can live with dying. What I can’t fathom is living when someone you love just isn’t there with you anymore. And even though she doesn’t know it yet, I love Emma more deeply than I’d ever imagined. But her carelessness lodges the words in my throat.


“You got this,” I say to myself. I focus on the task at hand and make my way out the house—broom in one hand, phone in the other—before my thoughts convince me to bail. My eyes widen when I look at the time. 7:55. We agreed to meet up at eight. If there’s anything I fear more than death, it’s Paola’s wrath. Especially tonight. My first Halloween as a witch. 


I throw my phone into my robe’s pocket and run behind the oak tree that looms over our front yard, the grass squelching under my feet. I jump onto the broom, kick off and fly into the sky, wobbling as I try to find my balance. I grasp the broom so I don’t fall. Even after a year I still haven’t gotten the launching part quite right. 


In the air, I allow myself a moment to feel the crisp cool wind slapping my face. Before anyone has a chance of spotting me, I put my hands on the edge of the broomstick and twist—the “splinter” pricks my finger, taking just a drop of blood. In an instant, I’m invisible, and finally, relaxed and at peace. Flying is my favorite part of being a witch. 


Five minutes later, I look down and spot all three girls standing by the edge of the woods, brooms floating beside them. I angle my broom forward and slow as I meet up with them. It’s a smooth stop.


My eyes automatically go to Emma’s as I get off the broom. She smiles, walks to me, and doesn’t say anything before she pecks my lips quickly.


“Get a room,” Saanvi says behind us, which makes Emma dive in for a deeper, longer kiss. I flip off Saanvi as I kiss Emma back, laughing at the same time, our teeth clanking messily. Emma makes me feel like I’m still sitting on my broom, soaring through the sky.


“You’re late,” Paola says once I pull away from Emma. In contrast to Saanvi’s amused face, Paola is serious and always looks like she’s glaring at you, but I like that about her: she’s reliable. I take out my phone from my pocket and say, “Actually, I’m right on time.”


Early is on time,” she says.


Saanvi, suddenly serious says, “Who cares! Is everyone ready?” Despite her mostly bubbly attitude, she’s someone you want to have by your side on the battlefield. Once the fighting starts, you can see the warrior in her eyes. Because that’s what we are. Fighters. Warriors. And Halloween is our busiest night. This is when the werewolves and vampires come out to play.


“Is it dumb that I’m scared?” I say, biting my lip.


Emma shakes her head. “Not at all. I’m always scared.”


You’re scared?” I say, raising an eyebrow. “What happened to Fear be damned?”


“You can be brave and scared at the same time. Bravery just means being stronger than your fear.” 


“Fighting bad humans is one thing,” Paola says, turning my attention toward her, which is probably a good thing. Sometimes Emma makes me dizzy. “Fighting monsters is a whole other field. We need everyone on their A-game.”


“Nothing bad will happen, right?” I say, looking at the three of them. As the more time passes, the more real it feels. This isn’t cartoon characters from Hotel Transylvania we’re about to fight. This is legit. Real. Terrifying.


“We can’t make any promises,” Paola says when no one else has the guts to answer. “We’ve lost girls before, Dani.”


I clench my jaw, and Emma seems to sense the fear because she puts an arm around me and whispers. “You’ll be okay.” I don’t tell her I’m not afraid for myself. I squeeze the hand that’s around my shoulder instead.


Emma was the one who found and told me I was a witch two weeks after mom died. I yelled at her, called her selfish for approaching me so soon after her death, and then I cried in her arms. During that month, she answered all my questions, taught me the basics before meeting the rest of the crew. She was my mentor, but along the way, we developed feelings for one another. Less than three weeks later, she was my girlfriend.


I’d never expected to feel this way about someone before—especially not at seventeen. But here I am, and even though I’m normally an open person, I can’t bring myself to tell her I love her. My courage and fear are playing a game of tug of war, and my courage is losing.


I give them a single nod. Emma kisses my cheek. Paola gets on her broom. We follow her lead.


. . .


Saanvi spots the werewolves first. They’re coming out of the woods—five, ten, up to fifteen of them, maybe. From up high, some look like dogs and others, standing on their legs, like their owners. They move like predators hunting their prey—stalking, almost, rather than walking. Fear creeps up my body, starting at my fingertips, and moves through my veins, shocking me like bolts of lightning.


Emma swoops down beside me, so close our shoulders touch. “Look at me for a second.”


I turn to her. “We’re strong, yeah? We’ve done this before. Everything will turn out perfect, I promise.”


“Don’t make promises you can’t keep,” I say. But it’s not harsh. 


She smiles at me and then she says it, right there in the middle of the sky in that charming careless way of hers. “I love you.”


I freeze for a second. Then I open my mouth, close it, open it, snap it shut one more time. A flash of hurt passes through Emma’s eyes, but suddenly all I can see is one of those werewolves tearing her body apart. Admitting you love someone is the equivalent of handing them your heart. But there’s a reason it’s locked inside of you within a cage of bones. It’s fragile. I can’t just hand it over.


Before I have a chance to say anything at all, Paola says, “Let’s head down.” She zooms downward, and Emma follows behind her. I have no choice but to follow. 


We land just thirty feet in front of them. Their teeth in sight now, the growls practically in my ear.


“Drink your potions now!” Emma says. I reach inside my pocket and pull out the potion I’d made for tonight, still warm in its container. I feel the power rush through my veins as soon as I drink it, and before I know it, my fists are clenched and I’m growling like an animal. 


There’s no pause, like in the movies. No facedown. No “Go!” Suddenly the werewolves are running toward us and we’re running toward them. I set my eyes on one in the middle. He’s at least a foot taller, but I don’t feel so afraid anymore. Once we’re close enough, he lifts a paw and brings it down, but before he can cause any damage, I grab his arm and twist him around, bringing him to the ground.


Another yanks me back right away and throws me in the air like a rag doll. I land on the ground with a thump. He jumps over me and growls so loud it echoes in my ears. I kick him in the chest and he falls backward. He lands beside Saanvi who doesn’t hesitate before yanking her hand through his chest and pulling out his heart. She’s about to squeeze it but another werewolf knocks her down and the heart goes flying. Paola notices, runs to it, hits it with her broom, and the heart shatters to dust. In a blink, it’s gone and so is the werewolf.


“Dani!” Emma yells behind me, and I turn in time to see a werewolf leaping at me. Emma extends her hand and stops the werewolf midair. Levitation


Saanvi runs under him and takes out his heart in less than a second. I resist the urge to gag. “Take it!” she yells and puts it in my hand before running off to another werewolf. 


“Crush it!” Emma yells, and I do. The heart pulverizes into dust quickly thanks to the strength potion I drank. The fighting, the struggle, the hits continue. I lose track of time, and eventually, I start feeling my potion wear off, but I don’t worry since there’s only a handful of werewolves left—most of them dead by now. The others disappeared into the woods, too injured to fight. 


“Heads up!” Emma says. I bend down as she flies past my head, at some point having jumped onto her broom. I get back up when a werewolf runs my way, and with just the bit of strength leftover from the potion, I kick and snap a leg, sending the werewolf to the ground. Saanvi runs by to take his heart, but I don’t have time to focus because I look toward Emma and see that a werewolf is coming straight her way.


“Emma, behind you!” I yell. But it’s too late. The werewolf grabs the edge of her broom and yanks it away. She starts falling to the ground, and midair, before she can even hit the ground, before I can reach her, the werewolf scratches her stomach and rolls onto the grass.


“No!” I yell, and the werewolf runs toward me. I don’t need the potion’s strength to fight it. With a few punches, the werewolf is on the ground. “Cover me!” I say as I run toward Emma, not knowing nor caring whether Saanvi or Paola heard me. My eyes widen at the sight of the deep scratches on her now mangled stomach, and I drop on the floor. Without thinking I take off my robe and push it against her wound.


“Emma,” I say, looking at her. She’s breathing, but her eyes are closed. “Look at me.”


“He got me good,” she says, but her eyes remained closed. It takes her another moment to open them. I’m shocked to find that carelessness still lingering inside of her. 


“Emma,” I breathe out. “You’re okay. We’re gonna get you some help.” I can no longer hear anything behind me. I want to tell her I love her, but it feels wrong now. “Hold on, please. I’m not ready to lose you.”


“Move!” Paola says, suddenly behind me. The werewolves must be gone. She reaches into her robe and pulls out a potion. “This isn’t enough to save her, but it’ll help a little. Enough to get her to the closest healing room.”


“Why don’t you have anything better?” I say, anger bursting through me.


“You know healers have access to rarer ingredients. Let’s go!” She gets up and grabs my broom and hers. She puts them beside each other, floating in the air still, and it creates a cot.


“Help me carry her,” Saanvi says to me. I nod, and carefully, we move Emma onto the cot. They don’t think I notice, but Paola gives Saanvi a look. It’s bad, it says. I look at Emma’s stomach one more time, but it doesn’t look any better with the potion. I grab Emma’s broom and Paola jumps behind with me without a word. Saanvi and I each grab a side of the cot, and Paola puts pressure on the wound. 


“Not you too,” I hear Paola say. We fly as fast as we can toward the healing room, and we’re there in ten minutes. We jump off our brooms, leaving them floating by the front of the house, and push Emma toward the door. 


“We need help,” Paola says as soon as we’re inside. Two women take Emma immediately, and I pretend not to notice the worried expressions on their faces. They take Emma into a room, and all I can do is collapse into a chair.


Saanvi sits beside me and says, “She’ll make it. She’s Emma. She has to.” But all I can think about is Emma’s face when I didn’t tell her I loved her. How could I ever let myself feel afraid? Yes, she could die. She could break my heart. She could hurt me. But I realize now it doesn’t matter. I want to love her for as long as she lets me.


. . .


I haven’t moved from my spot since we arrived two hours ago. Saanvi and Paola are impatient in their own ways, I notice. Saanvi won’t stop pacing the room, sitting down, and then standing up to pace again. Paola has sat beside me the whole time, still, save for her bouncing leg. She has an unreadable expression on her face. 


A young woman came by earlier and rubbed some type of ointment that smelled like onions on our bruises, and they’re practically gone now. The deeper cuts, she said, would take another day to heal, but we would be okay. When we asked her about Emma, she said she couldn’t let us know just yet. She cleaned our blood-ridden hands—black since it belonged to the werewolves—and then left us alone.


An older woman, maybe in her fifties, comes out of the back room. She looks at us and says, “I don’t know how you did it, but you got here just in time. We managed to save her.”


Saanvi gets up and says, “Oh my God.” Paola places a hand over her heart and sighs in relief. I close my eyes and feel teardrops wet my cheeks.


“She’s okay?” I ask, needing to hear it again.


“She’s in a bit of pain as her stomach tries to heal itself—the potion we created has strong ingredients, and it probably still stings a bit. She’ll need at least a full week of recovery. You’ll have to watch over her.”


Paola nods. “We can do that.”


“When can we see her?” I ask.


The woman smiles at me and says, “You can see her now. One at a time.” I turn to Paola and Saanvi, and they both nod. The woman leads me to Emma’s room. 


When I enter, the room is mostly dark, lit only by candles. Emma lays on a bed in the middle of the room, her eyes closed. I guess she hears me walk in because she opens her eyes. 


“Emma,” I say, more tears immediately pooling in my eyes. I pull up a chair and sit beside her. She looks at me, and I realize that careless look in her eyes is gone now. “What’s wrong?” I cringe at the question as soon as it comes out of my mouth, but Emma doesn’t seem bothered by it.


“I almost died,” she says. 


I let out a shaky breath. “You did.” I grab her hand, and I want to squeeze it, hold her tight, but I don’t want to hurt her. “I almost lost you.”


“I’m so sorry,” she says, shaking her head.


“Are you apologizing for almost dying?” I say.


She nods. “When we first started dating you told me that you were afraid to fall in love because you had a fear of death—of the people you love dying. Remember that?”


I nod. I decided to be honest with her right from the start.


“I’m so sorry if I scared you. Just… please. Don’t leave me.” Her eyes beg me.


I freeze. “What?”


“I saw it in your eyes earlier, when I told you I loved you. The hesitation. I could sense the fear, and then I go ahead and almost die, and now you’re going to break up with me, aren’t you?”


“I—” I pause. Gather my thoughts. “You almost died, Emma. Right in front of me. I saw the blood.”


But I’m not explaining myself well because Emma says: “Death is part of life, Dani. You can’t just let that stop you from loving someone. From loving me.” 


“I know that, I—”


“When I said we didn’t have a choice to be brave, I was talking about more than being a witch,” she says. 


“Let me finish!” I say. “Seeing you like that was the hardest thing I’ve ever seen. It’s going to haunt me," I admit. “But when I saw you, I couldn’t stop playing the words in my head, and I’ve never regretted anything as much as I regret not saying it back. Because I get it now. And I don’t want to leave. I want to love you for as long as you’ll have me.”


Emma’s eyes widen. “You do?”


“Yes, but you won’t shut up and let me tell you.” I grab her face gently and meet her eyes. “I love you, Emma. So much.”


“Fear be damned?” she says, grinning.


I laugh and kiss her hard. “Fear be damned.” 

October 30, 2020 19:29

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9 comments

Michael Boquet
01:24 Jan 16, 2021

You may have just penned the beginning of the next YA fantasy craze! I'd much rather read more about your witches than brooding vampires or angsty wizards. Love the "splinter" on the broon activating 'blood magic'. That's a clever touch.

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Itxy Lopez
18:06 Jan 16, 2021

Thanks so much! You have no idea how badly I want to turn this into a full novel right away. But I'm working on one right now, so this will have to wait! Appreciate you leaving a comment.

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00:09 Dec 22, 2020

Wow, wow, wow, Itxy! This is great! the fight scene, the romance and the bit after the battle-- very well described. I know that there's a word limit, and often my stories will get cut short because of it, but I'd like to see more. I have a character named Emma-- could you check out my stories? Thank you!

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Itxy Lopez
18:04 Jan 16, 2021

Thanks so much, Emmie! I appreciate you saying that. It was super fun to write.

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18:34 Jan 16, 2021

:D

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Omg i love it!!!

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Relaxed Minds
01:31 Jan 16, 2021

Hello Itxy, My Team and I Have decided to pick and use your story on our youtube channel, What is your say about it.

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Paige Winters
23:12 Nov 19, 2020

This is a very interesting story. I would have liked more detail in the battle but I understand that there is a limited amount of words you can use. I love how Dani is afraid of losing those she loves the most, it adds a really interesting layer to the entire story. All and all, it's an amazing read. Can't wait for your next story.

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Itxy Lopez
19:54 Dec 13, 2020

Yeah, that scene was actually longer, but I went beyond 3k words, so I had to cut a lot from the entire story. Thanks so much for reading, though :)

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