The sound of the rain banging against the window distracted Alyssa from washing her lunch dishes. She stared out the window and watched every drop. What a better way to spend a Thursday noon than to wash dishes. No hard work involved—just looking out the window.
Gone were the happy days of living in her uncle’s house. No more family fun. No more sweets and desserts. Just a structured life of strict and unfair rules. Alyssa longed for a normal and better life—the kind she’d lived before her parents had died in a car crash five years ago. She wanted to be like many children her age, but when would it happen? Not any time soon.
Unless—she could find her godfather’s phone number and call him without her uncle knowing. One of the rules here was that all phone calls had to be earned unless there was an important reason to call someone. She hadn’t talked to him ever since she’d also lost her aunt three years ago. But she still remembered how sweet, fun, and caring he’d been. He even could be her legal guardian since her parents had designated him as one. If she could find his number at some point and ask about moving in with him, her life would be happier.
But now something didn’t seem right with the raindrops, which took Alyssa’s mind off of her godfather. They turned cadet blue. Huh? How could that be? That broke the laws of nature. Too distract her more, though, the cadet blue darkened into a dark grayish blue. What could be going on?
The rain now turned black, looking as if ink fell from the sky. Alyssa leaned closer, squinting her eyes to determine the shapes it formed on the window. The rain formed—letters. What? No. That was impossible. But then a message formed as the rain plopped other parts of the window. What could be causing this? Nature couldn’t be changing its laws, right?
The message finished putting itself together. Alyssa gasped at what it said.
Your life will never be the same, Alyssa McCarthy, as magic will interfere.
What the heck—magic? Alyssa had never believed in magic. She’d even been told at a very young age that magic didn’t exist. But was now the time to change her views on reality? Was now the time to start believing in magic? Who could’ve done all that? No one on Orion Street was a wizard—at least Alyssa thought that ever since she’d moved here five years ago, right after her parents’ deaths.
Turning around, she saw her babysitter, Mrs. Hutchinson, examine the kitchen floor, while her eleven-year-old cousin, Hailey, watched since she had mopped the floor. Would Hailey get a break now? Ever since her uncle, Bruce, had hired Mrs. Hutchinson, she’d liked the way Hailey did her chores better than her.
“Hailey, you can take a break until your next chore,” said Mrs. Hutchinson. “Alyssa, get back to work. You’ve been staring at the rain for too long.”
“Okay.” Alyssa turned back—only to see the message gone and the rain back to its normal transparency. What?
“What did I say?” asked Mrs. Hutchinson.
Alyssa sighed. “Fine, I’ll finish washing the dishes.” She scrubbed her dish and glass with dishwashing soap under warm running water. Her eyes focused on those and that was it. No way would she want Mrs. Hutchinson to catch her looking out the window again. Even though Mrs. Hutchinson was only in her sixties, she had the irritability of a ninety-year-old. But it had taken Hailey and Alyssa a while to realize that she wouldn’t even tolerate the mildest kind of nonsense, such as getting distracted by a windowpane when having to wash dishes.
After she finished washing her dishes, Alyssa put them to the side and got some paper towels to dry them.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Mrs. Hutchinson asked.
Alyssa stopped. “I’m just—”
“The last few times I was here, you’ve left little bits of food in your dishes,” Mrs. Hutchinson reminded her.
“But they were stuck.”
“Let me inspect them. Also, if it’s rubbery, you have to wash it again.”
“Because clean dishes aren’t supposed to be rubbery. And boy, did you do such a sloppy job? Look at that stain on your sweater.”
Alyssa looked down.
“That looks like chocolate,” said Mrs. Hutchinson.
Alyssa blushed and arched her eyebrows. Washing dishes was no slice of peach cobbler. Yet Mrs. Hutchinson just had to embarrass if she were a messy five-year-old child.
“Hey—it’s just water,” Alyssa said, covering the stain at the bottom of her sweater’s V-neck with her hand.
But Mrs. Hutchinson held up her index finger. “Don’t you ‘hey’ me, Alyssa,” she warned, waving her finger. “That’s very rude. In my days kids expected their elders. We never would dare talk to them that way unless we didn’t mind them to smack our bottoms.”
“Things change,” said Alyssa.
“Yeah, yeah,” said Mrs. Hutchinson. “Let me do my inspection.”
Great—an inspection! How long would Mrs. Hutchinson take? She may take a couple of minutes, or maybe twenty minutes. Alyssa crossed her arms and tapped her foot. She wanted her break now. She wanted to read, rest, do a small craft—anything but wait for Mrs. Hutchinson to finish her silly inspection.
“Mrs. Hutchinson,” Alyssa started.
“Whatever, you need to say, wait till I’m done,” she insisted.
Alyssa sighed. She continued to watch Mrs. Hutchinson run her finger down the middle of the front of the dish. She then rubbed it back and forth. When she put it down and nodded, Alyssa figured out that that dish had nothing in it.
After a few minutes of running her finger down the glass, Mrs. Hutchinson put it down and turned to Alyssa. “You’re good. Now what did you want to tell me?”
“Um… if I tell you, can you not give me a hard time?”
“There was writing on the window.”
Mrs. Hutchinson pursed her lips and tilted her head, as if Alyssa had spoken Ancient Chinese. “Writing?”
“Nonsense,” said Mrs. Hutchinson.
“No, really, it was there,” Alyssa said.
“There was nothing here when I came and there’s nothing there right now. So don’t tell me stories.”
“But it’s not a story.”
“I don’t want to hear any more,” said Mrs. Hutchinson. “Now it’s time for your next chore.”
“Aw, but I wanted my break,” said Alyssa.
“Too bad,” said Mrs. Hutchinson. “You have to go vacuum the living room.”
Alyssa dragged her feet towards the living room and took the vacuum from the corner. Vacuuming, she thought about that writing and how Mrs. Hutchinson wouldn’t believe her. Would a nicer babysitter believe her? Mrs. Hutchinson had babysat her and Hailey for three years, and not once, did she smile or use keenness. Alyssa wanted her out of the house.
After vacuuming the carpet for about ten or fifteen minutes, Alyssa decided that it looked clean enough and stopped vacuuming. She put the vacuum away back where it was before.
“Hailey, you and Alyssa need to go get the mail now!” Mrs. Hutchinson called, facing the staircase.
“Coming!” cried Hailey.
Another rule Uncle Bruce had placed on Alyssa and Hailey was they could not go outside by themselves. He worried about people taking them or some animal attacking them, even though they were older. Alyssa would be turning thirteen next month, and childhood would end for her. But that rule had been placed because last month Uncle Bruce had heard about a seventeen-year-old boy who got shot while skateboarding in his neighborhood. It’s happened here in Bursnell, New Jersey.
Hailey and Alyssa treaded to the closet and put on their raincoats until Mrs. Hutchinson said, “It stopped raining outside.”
“Already?” asked Alyssa.
“Yes,” said Mrs. Hutchinson. “I’m going to go to the bathroom.”
The girls walked outside towards the mailbox. Alyssa pulled the mail out of the mailbox and walked back towards the door—only to see some mud bubbling from the ground. It piled up, looking like horse manure, and grew as more mud emerged. Alyssa dropped her jaw and stared at it.
“Alyssa, what’s going on?” Hailey asked.
“No idea,” said Alyssa.
The mud stopped piling, but then continued to bubble, spreading throughout the whole pile. This also had to be caused by magic, because mud couldn’t just bubble on its own.
The bubbles stopped popping up and down. Alyssa and Hailey gasped as they expanded. They kept their mouths open as the bubbles merged together. Each bubble attaching to another bubble formed a still bigger bubble. Alyssa and Hailey stepped back as the now-one giant bubble swelled. And to Alyssa’s horrors… pop! Particles of exploding mud landed on the girls, causing them to shriek. Then, a few seconds later, the front door opened to reveal a glowering Mrs. Hutchinson.
“What the heck have you two been doing?” she screamed.
“T-the mud… it e-exploded,” explained Hailey.
“Nonsense!” growled Mrs. Hutchinson. “Get inside!”
The girls headed inside, pulling and wiping the mud out of their hair. Alyssa could easily spot mud in her straight pale blonde hair, unlike Hailey, who needed more patience to search for globs in her elbow-length red hair. But Alyssa’s hair fell to her tailbone, a few inches past her hips; so cleaning out the mud would take longer, even with the shorter layers in the front.
“How could dirt explode?” yelled Mrs. Hutchinson, stomping her feet.
“I… I think it was magic!” exclaimed Alyssa.
“There’s no such thing as magic!” screamed Mrs. Hutchinson. “Alyssa, you’re twelve years old. You’re too old to say things like that!”
“But nothing else can make mud explode!” Alyssa pointed out.
“Mrs. Hutchinson, we swear it did!” whined Hailey.
“Enough!” retorted Mrs. Hutchinson. “You and Hailey—go upstairs and take showers!”
Alyssa followed Hailey up the stairs and heaved a sigh. How else would the mud have gotten all over the two of them? Mrs. Hutchinson couldn’t have thought they’d play in the mud. They weren’t small children anymore.
“Alyssa, can I shower first?” asked Hailey.
“Sure,” said Alyssa.
As Hailey strode into the bathroom, Alyssa treaded into her room. She scratched more mud off of her skinny jeans (which she’d only wear ever since they’d come into style) and the back of her left hand.
Standing by her bed, since she didn’t want to get dirt on it, she thought about the writing on the window and the exploding mud. Why did they happen? Someone wanted magic to interfere with her life, but whom, and why?
Also, why didn’t she ever see magic before? Why would her parents and others tell her that magic didn’t exist? Could magic be new to the earth? Had it been hidden somewhere? There had to be some reason why no one ever believed in magic.
Alyssa thought about the possibility that maybe magic would only interfere if she stayed here in her uncle’s house. Maybe she’d be safe if her godfather could arrange with his lawyer to let her move in with him. Or would it? Unlike science, anything could be possible with magic, which meant that magic could follow her wherever she went. How could she find out more about it? Right now, there were no options available.
The sound produced by the shower ended, which let Alyssa know that Hailey had finished. Now she could have a turn. She walked towards the bathroom, as Hailey stepped out with a towel wrapped around her body. After heading inside, she took off her clothes and stepped into the hot shower.
After five minutes Alyssa stepped out and headed back to her room. She put on leggings and a long shirt, but she gasped when something appeared out of nowhere. What on Earth? Now that had to be caused by… magic. Approaching it, she saw that it was a folded piece of paper. She unfolded it and read it.
Hello Alyssa McCarthy,
You must be wondering about the writing on your window, the exploding mud, and the note that appeared here. Who was responsible for them? You’ll find out at some point.
Anonymous? What in the Milky Way—how dare someone create incidents and not say his or her name? To make matters worse, Alyssa didn’t know his or her name, so she couldn’t report him or her to the police. But she needed to know. She didn’t want strange magical occurrences to keep happening. The only way to tell this mysterious person to stop was to find out his or her name.
Regardless of that, now she had proof to Mrs. Hutchinson that the writing and exploding mud had occurred. Mrs. Hutchinson had seen her write before, and this looked nothing like her own handwriting. She wrote in a half-print and half script style. This writing, however, was pure print.
Jogging down the stairs, Alyssa carried the note.
“Mrs. Hutchinson, I have to have something to show you!” she cried.
“Not right now, Alyssa,” said Mrs. Hutchinson, striding out of the kitchen. “You and Hailey have to go wash my car.”
“But it’s quick,” said Alyssa.
“You can show me after you’re done with washing my car,” said Mrs. Hutchinson. She turned to Hailey, who emptied the dishwasher and put dishes away. “Are you almost done?”
“I think so,” said Hailey.
“How many dishes do you have left?” asked Mrs. Hutchinson.
“Uh…” Hailey looked into the top rack. “Four.”
“Okay, hurry up,” Mrs. Hutchinson ordered. She turned to Alyssa. “Why don’t you go put that piece of paper away?”
“But this is what I need to show you,” said Alyssa.
“Do I have to repeat what I said before?” asked Mrs. Hutchinson.
“Alyssa, do as you’re told,” demanded Mrs. Hutchinson, pointing at the staircase.
Alyssa sighed. This note contained so much crucial information. It was the only piece of evidence that those incidents happened.
After putting the note back into her room, Alyssa headed down the stairs and walked with Hailey towards the garage. The two of them grabbed sponges, buckets, and soap for washing cars. They filled the buckets with water and soap and then scrubbed Mrs. Hutchinson’s car.
“I wish we had another babysitter,” muttered Alyssa.
“What was on the piece of paper?” asked Hailey.
Alyssa told her.
“Who wrote it?” asked Hailey.
“There was no name on it,” said Alyssa. “Just anonymous.”
The sound of whistling turned Alyssa’s attention away from the car. She leaned her head towards the sidewalk and saw her friend from school, Madison Jennings, ride her scooter.
“Hi, Alyssa,” said Madison, as the wind blew her long dark brown waves across her face. But when she stopped at Alyssa’s driveway, her hair limped. Hailey and Alyssa ran up to greet and ask her how she’d been.
“I just moved onto Draco Drive a few days ago,” said Madison, regarding a street off of Orion Street.
“So how are you liking the middle school?” asked Alyssa.
“Oh, I go to Catholic school now,” said Madison. “What about you?”
“Hailey and I are homeschooled,” said Alyssa.
“Cool,” said Madison. “So you guys want to come over my house on Saturday?”
“What time?” asked Alyssa.
“I’ll ask my mom,” said Madison. “Okay, bye.” She rode away back in the direction she’d come from as Hailey and Alyssa said goodbye to her.
After washing the car for a half an hour longer, Alyssa and Hailey cleaned up and walked back inside. The sound of snoring suggested to Alyssa that Mrs. Hutchinson slept. Huh? Why would she sleep now? She never slept while babysitting.
Striding towards the living room, Alyssa saw Mrs. Hutchinson sleep on one of the couches.
“Why is Mrs. Hutchinson sleeping?” asked Hailey.
“I don’t know,” said Alyssa.
“Can you show me the note?” asked Hailey.
Alyssa nodded and led her up the stairs. But when she opened her door, she gasped. The note that she’d left on her bed was gone.
“Where’s the note?” asked Hailey.
“It was right there,” said Alyssa, pointing at her bed.
But then another piece of paper appeared. Alyssa picked it up and read it.
Hello again Alyssa,
I have put your babysitter to sleep, just like I did with the other ways to reveal magic to you. You’ll find out why she is sleeping later.
“Not again,” mumbled Alyssa. “Why won’t they say their name?” She showed the note to Hailey.
“Let’s go call my dad before anything else happens,” declared Hailey.
How much worse could this get? Alyssa thought, as she followed Hailey down the stairs.