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Sixteen-year-old Magnificent Maggie Fontaine is close to giving up on her oh-so-wrecked life. When she accidentally runs away from home, she doesn’t even expect to make it very far before something worse happens. But running away might actually bring her closer to home, and when all hope is lost, a little bit of forbidden magic can change everything. 

 

Aunt Fabulous and the Malevolent Musician

 

by Valerie Brook

Copyright © 2016 Valerie Brook. All rights reserved.

Published by Kickit Press/kickitpress.com

Cover and Layout Copyright © 2016 by Kickit Press

Cover Art Copyright: sleepwalker/shutterstock.com

This is a work of fiction. Name, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual events or locals or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction, in whole or in part in any form.

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STORM CLOUDS BURST OPEN in the midnight sky on the gloomy night that sixteen-year-old Magnificent Maggie Fontanne was destined to meet her Aunt Fabulous.  

And she happened to run away from home, too. 

Actually, Mag hadn’t meant to run away. It happened accidently—in the same way no one ever means to trip on a garden hoe, or bump their head on a chandelier, or eat liver.  

And she kinda stole a cello as well.

That had been even more of a ridiculous and regrettable decision—and now Mag realized how awkward it was to run along the sidewalk, her arms skinny as a toothpick, dragging a mammoth case on little wheels that pitched and rocked and threatened to topple on its side.

But what was done was done.  

In the swampy fogginess of the city of Arcata on the Californian coast, sewing machine needles of rain fell fast, stitching a wet shower curtain of cold, plastic numbness over her skin. The black night swirled through jaundiced streetlamps, silvery rain flashing like schools of fish darting everywhere. 

A strange February wind kicked up, a backward and then forward pull, an I love you, I love you not reversal that swooshed her stick-straight hair into a bird’s nest mess. 

The salty air tasted like oysters and woodsmoke. 

Mag ran up the hill, clomp clomp along the sidewalk, toward the shelter of the corner bus stop aglow in red neon buzz of the convenience shop Closed sign—her knee-high, metal studded, New Rock platform boots echoing up the stairs of mildly dilapidated Victorian homes, the boot zipper on the left foot decidedly non-waterproof, her left sock fast becoming a floppy sponge.  

Her black pleated skirt and pink spaghetti-strap camisole, underneath her black velvet hoodie, grew even blacker polka-dots at an alarming rate, like fabric with a bacterial disease. 

Oh, bother.  

Why hadn’t she grabbed her warm wool jacket when she’d decided to rebel? This whole night had gone terribly wrong. Acting out in anger was overrated. She could be curled up under the covers asleep right now. Instead, she was outside shivering.

A car approached, headlights crawling along the shiny street like the feelers of a mechanical insect.  

Mag yanked the awkward string instrument into the glass-enclosed bus stop, escaping the wind and rain, but not the glare of the headlights as they washed over the fishbowl of her narrow rectangular enclosure.

Every raindrop fractured into a rainbow. 

Mag felt her arms and legs lock in dread—a heavy drop of water sliced down her nose, tickled her lips, then zoomed off her chin into space. But the sleepy stranger drove past, uncaring, unconcerned—and Mag’s appendages flooded with relief and burst into more goose bumps than before. 

The fishbowl rainbows scattered and the cold night came back with a slap. 

Mag leaned the big black case against a stained wooden bench and plunked down beside it next to a McDonald’s hamburger wrapper folded into an artistic origami elephant. Wow, someone who rode the bus was really talented.  

A drop of water rolled off Mag’s elbow and hit the elephant between the eyes. It tumbled onto the dirty concrete and lodged next to a blob of sticky purple Slurpee.

I wreck everything, Mag thought.

Her hand trembled. She flexed her wrist, glanced left and right to double-check her aloneness, pointed her palm at the saddened elephant, and levitated it back to the bench seat just as it had been. 

Mom had made Mag promise a billion times to follow the Statutes. Never use magic in public. Never: as in never.

But the elephant seemed happier on the bench and Mom was dead. Buried back in Chicago two months ago under the deep snow. 

A stranger she’d never met, an Uncle Daniel, had appeared out of nowhere with Mom’s final will and presto! Mag now legally belonged to him, and this dreadfully gloomy coastal city, and her whole life was over. 

Mom had never even mentioned the Uncle. In fact, Mom had said our friends were our true family—and any glance though Mag’s digital photo albums showed a lot of friendly Chicagoan smiles. 

Back in Chicago, when Daniel’s intelligent brown eyes, polished as stone, had probed Mag’s face under the impersonal fluorescent lights of a public hallway when they first met in the county courthouse to sign legal paperwork, Mag had been lambasted with a cruel reality.  

Uncle Daniel was clearly a real uncle.  

And the new Uncle and Niece had the same willful eyebrows, and the same conniving chin. And when they smiled (though not at each other), the right eye got smaller. 

It was genetic, obviously. 

In her youth, Mag had asked all the normal questions kids ask when they get old enough to realize there should be other familial units in the family—where the heck is the dad, the grandparents, maybe a cousin or two? Mom’s answers had all made sense: military father lost overseas, deceased grandparents, answers like that.  

Those answers had been good.  

Now, they were not good. Because Mom wouldn’t do this to Mag—wouldn’t leave emergency custody to an estranged brother she had hid her daughter from all her life. An uncle who appeared out of nowhere, maybe had forged a fake will, and the reasons behind acquiring custody of Mag for two more years until she turned eighteen were all totally oblique. 

Mag chewed her lip and fought back the tears because seriously she didn’t want to cry right now. Crying was so overrated. It fixed nothing. It just opened a hole in her stomach and burned and burned. 

She’d lost so much weight. A connection suddenly clicked in her brain: maybe the burning in her stomach was less existential and more of a real ulcer? She made a mental note to Google ulceric symptoms later.

The temperature in the bus stop dropped.  

Mag wrapped her arms in a hug around her chest and vigorously rubbed her upper arms. The rain went from full-blast sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll on the glass to a softer, more librarian-type musical drizzle. 

Mag’s lips stuck together. She moistened them. The neon signage in the junk food window behind her zapped and clicked. The thoughts in her head widened into a shotgun spray of possibility.

The Uncle would notice the stolen cello and call the police. 

The Uncle would notice the stolen cello and send his sycophantic cult friends after her. 

The Uncle would notice the stolen cello and come after her and kidnap her and kill her and hide the body (her body) somewhere in the redwood forest it would never be found. 

A fit of big shivers wracked Mag.  

Actually, it was only half shivers and the rest dread. She turned her head to peer back the way she’d come, yes—her first time running away from him and she’d only made it one block. Most genuine runaways probably made it much farther by now, right?  

So much for bravery.  

[END EXCERPT]  

Copyright © 2016 Valerie Brook. All rights reserved.

 

 

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