ELSIE FINDS HER FAMILIAR
& illustrated by Lora Craig-Gaddis
“What you need, child, is a proper familiar.” Aunt Tilly nodded her head to give emphasis to her declaration. She then leaned back in her chair with the air of someone who has settled an Important Matter once and for all.
From her own chair on the other side of the hearth, Elsie frowned. “But I have Edgar.”
Upon hearing his name, the crow gave a loud caw from the corner of the parlor.
“Fuss and Feathers,” snorted her aunt, then added, “No offense, Edgar.”
“Cawr,” the bird answered, and went back to preening his tail.
“Besides,” she continued, “you only understand half of what he’s saying, he spends most of his time in the forest ..." Aunt Tilly lowered her voice, adding in a whisper, "and he's not very bright. What you need is a soul companion that can help you in your magick.”
Elsie raised an eyebrow and a corner of her mouth twitched, betraying a smile that wanted to grow up to be a grin. “I’ve a feeling you’ve one in mind?”
Aunt Tilly nodded. “What you want is a cat!” The elderly woman cleared her throat and casually brushed a speck of lint from her skirts. “As it happens, Serendipity, my own familiar, just had a promising batch of kittens …”
This time Elsie raised both eyebrows. But she agreed to visit Aunt Tilly and look over the new litter.
A couple of weeks later found the little witch, suitcase in hand, stepping off the bus in her aunt’s village. Aunt Tilly met her and whisked her off to the small manor house she shared with Uncle Tiberius.
“Blessed Be! If it’s not my favorite niece!” Her gray haired uncle peered down at her through his glasses. “I understand you’re here to take one of these kittens off our hands?”
“Maybe…” Elsie said slowly. She still wasn’t sure about this.
“Right you are,” nodded Uncle Tiberius. “The finding of a familiar is not a frivolous undertaking. One must find a simpatico soul and experience an instant rapport. There must be that unique spiritual connection that will bond you for life… AND,” he winked, “ a familiar should definitely not eat too much!”
“Tiberius!” Aunt Tilly scolded and gave him a playful jab in the ribs with her elbow. “You’re going to put the child right off finding one!”
After Elsie had finished settling in the guest room, she came down stairs in search of her aunt. She found her in the big old kitchen stirring a small cauldron on the stove. It smelled wonderful! Sweet, spicy and exotic…
“Is that supper?” she asked.
Aunt Tilly gave a great booming laugh. “Goddess Bless, child! This is some incense I’m cooking up for my coven’s new moon ritual.”
Elsie peered into the pot and saw a dark, gooey, lumpy mass. She looked at her aunt quizzically.
“It’s my secret recipe,” Aunt Tilly confided, “but you’re family so I’ll tell you. You take raisins and cook them over a low fire with brandy, honey and myrrh. Then spread it out in a dark place and let it dry for a few days. Then just add your usual ingredients like sandalwood, patchouli and oakmoss.”
A soft voice from the doorway asked, “Is that Dark Moon incense I smell?”
Elsie turned and saw a black, longhaired feline with emerald green eyes.
“There you are, Serendipity!” exclaimed Aunt Tilly.
The cat sauntered over to brush lightly against Elsie’s ankles.
“Greetings, little witch,” she purred. “I’m sorry I wasn’t available earlier. I’m afraid I was occupied with my kittens. I expect you’re here to see them?”
“Yes, please,” smiled Elsie. She was always amused by the contrast between Serendipity’s elegant serenity and her aunt’s own earthy brusqueness. How on earth had the two of them found that special bond between a witch and her familiar?
“Follow me, then.” The cat turned and swept regally from the kitchen. Elsie and Aunt Tilly trailed behind her. Elsie found her heart beating just a little faster. Would she really find her own familiar today?
The proud mother showed Elsie to the barn where she kept her kittens in a warm stall. Elsie knelt down in the straw and let a little white, fluffy one crawl into her lap. She smiled as she stroked its silky fur. “This one’s pretty,” she said.
Behind her, Aunt Tilly said, “Pretty, yes. But does she speak to you?”
Elsie picked up the kitten. It mewed sweetly and gazed up at her, but she didn’t feel that special Connection her uncle had spoken of.
She set the kitten down and watched another one frolicking in the straw. This one was an orange tabby and she laughed as he pounced on his sister, wrestling her to the ground. She scooped him up but the kitten squirmed in her grasp. “Let me go!” she heard him cry. “Must kill Sister!”
Elsie set the kitten back in the straw reluctantly. This one communicated clearly and was feisty and cute, but she still didn’t feel anything Special happening between them.
The third kitten, a plump tabby was clearly more interested in sleeping… No connection there either.
The little witch’s shoulders slumped. She was surprised to realize how much she’d been looking forward to finding the right companion.
Suddenly, a tiny black face poke up out of the straw and blinked at her solemnly.
“How come you’ve got a funny hat?” the kitten asked. He crawled out of the straw and stepped boldly toward her.
“Because I’m a witch,” said Elsie.
“What’s a witch?” he wanted to know. “Can I be one when I grow up?”
She picked him up and cuddled him under her chin. The tiny bundle of black fluff batted her nose with his paw . “My name’s Pooka,” he said.
The girl’s heart suddenly felt too big for her chest. It was as if she'd found a huge piece of her self that, til now, she hadn't even known was missing...
Beaming and hugging the little cat, Elsie turned to her aunt. “This is the One!” she grinned. Somehow she knew it with her whole being.
“Yes, I am,” agreed the kitten. “And so are You.”