Here, my dear, patient readers, is a little teaser excerpt from Brewing Trouble. The manuscript is finally complete, and off to the editor, so if you see any typos, please feel free to let me know! After all, even editors are only human.
Sarah and Gabe were laughing when they walked into The Apothecary tea shop. Gabe only helped out a few days a week now that he was working with Sebastian and Kai at the apartments. He didn’t need to wait tables anymore, and as a result of his schedule, it meant that he was working seven days a week. Still, he said he liked the atmosphere at the shop, and he’d rather spend a day off there anyway, might as well get paid for it. Sarah was just glad of the chance to hang out with him. She liked the kid.
It was still early enough that the shop wasn’t open yet, so the fact that there was nobody in the dining room wasn’t a surprise. The fact that they stepped into the back room to grab their aprons and found Doc being fussed over by the new girl was.
“Doc! What happened?” Sarah hurried over to inspect the scrape that ran up from the older woman’s elbow. Meg— the new hire— was dabbing at it with a clean tea cloth.
“I’ll get the front set up,” Gabe said quietly so just Sarah could hear. He didn’t say that Sarah could handle the Meg Situation.
“Some jerk on a bike damn near ran me over on the way here. Didn’t even apologize or slow down much. Just wobbled a bit and kept going, while cussing at me,” Doc scowled. “Like it’s rude for a pedestrian to be crossing the street in a crosswalk or something. Jackass.”
“Hold still,” Meg stuffed the cloth into her pocket and started to turn towards the shelves. “Now where’s the first aid kit back here?”
“I’ll get it,” Sarah said. Nobody wanted Meg rummaging around too much. All the shop stock was on the front shelves, but in the back of the room were Doc and Sarah’s more specialized supplies. It wasn’t always easy keeping a community of spirits healthy on a normal day, and in the past six months, abnormal had become much more common. Wights and Hunters and warlocks and… Sarah sighed and grabbed the small kit near the front of the shelving units.
“Here we go, Doc. Get to break into the new batch of ointment yourself!” Sarah winked.
“Wow, is that handmade?” Meg gasped, her eyes wide. Doc and Sarah exchanged glances.
“Yep,” Doc answered. “Made it myself. I’ve studied herbal remedies for years.”
“Oh my gosh, that is so exciting! I’m considering that path myself,” Meg gushed while she watched Sarah carefully. “It would mesh really well with my other skills. After all, I’m a witch, you know, and it just seems like such a perfectly witchy thing to do.” Doc’s eyebrows shot up her forehead and Sarah almost dropped the jar at this declaration. They exchanged glances and turned to look at Meg, who was holding out her hand to take the jar and peer at it curiously, completely oblivious to the other two women.
Sarah reached out mentally, seeking a trace, a wisp of power to confirm the girl’s statement, and came up blank. Another glance at Doc confirmed that her mentor hadn’t detected anything either. They shrugged and moved on. Lots of women called themselves witches. It was a cool thing, or a spiritual thing, or a wishful thinking thing. If Meg wanted to call herself a witch and study herbal medicine there was no reason to discourage her, after all.
“My coven leader agrees that it’s worth pursuing,” Meg turned the small jar this way and that, as if she could figure out its secrets just from peering into it. “She’s really encouraging that way. It’s so nice to have that sort of guidance in one’s life, you know? Everyone should have a mentor of some kind, I think, even if they don’t have access to the magic of the deeper mysteries like I do.”
“Well if you want to learn a few things, I could tell you some. It takes a lot of hard work and focus though, if you want to really know much about it all. If you really want to pursue it, you need to learn a lot of biology and mainstream medicine as well,” Doc said. Sarah bit her lip to keep her laugher back and taped the square bandage over the scrape. It wasn’t bad enough for anything more than that, but it would annoy the older woman every time she bent her arm and noticed the tape.
“Oh, do you mean that?” Meg was starting to really gush now, and Sarah smiled. “I’m sure that I’ll be able to pick it up quickly once you start teaching. I have a true connection to the energies of plants. My coven leader says she’s never seen anyone as inherently talented in the garden as I am. She loves it when I come over to help her out with the weeding and harvesting, she says that the plants always seem more lively when I’m done.”
Sarah was not surprised. Gardens generally look nicer after a bit of attention, but if it made Meg happy, then who was she to judge? And there were plenty of herbalists out there that had not a lick of magic in them who were true healers.
“I’m always impressed by anyone who can be a healer,” Sarah said. She finished packing up the first aid kit and returned it to the shelf. “Doc’s been teaching me a bit, but I don’t know if I could ever be as good as she is. Or as my gran was, from all I hear.”
“Oh, honey. You’re an excellent student, don’t be talking yourself down. Your gran would be so proud of you, and of how far you’ve come in just a few months.” Doc reached out and put her hand on Sarah’s shoulder, a small, sad smile on her face.
“Where’s your gran?” Meg asked.
“She died last winter. Cancer,” Sarah answered, washing her hands. She rummaged under the sink for the cleaner and a rag. “I hadn’t seen her since I was a kid. She and my mom had a fight about something, and Mom never forgave her, I guess.” Sarah shrugged, but the acid mix of emotions stirred in her stomach again. Regret at never being brave enough to defy her mother until Gran was dead. Anger and frustration with her mother for being so close-minded and controlling. Guilt at feeling glad to be away from both her mother and New York City, and at not being a better daughter.
“Holding a grudge only hurts the grudge holder,” Meg shook her head sadly. “And I guess it hurts the grudge holder’s daughter, too.” Meg stepped forward for a quick hug.
“That’s very wise, Meg,” Doc said.“And you new her Gran. Sarah is Rosie’s granddaughter.”
“And my mom was her daughter in law, but I think your point still applies. I don’t think Mom came out of the whole thing unscathed either.” Sarah sighed, then shook her head so as not to get lost in memories.
Doc shooed both women in front of her and toward the door like she was herding ducks. “Maybe we can continue this out front, where I’m sure Gabe could use our help.”
“Oh!” Meg jumped, then scurried out to the front. Doc just laughed quietly and shook her head.
“That girl is sweet. A bit easily led, but sweet,” Doc said. “I suppose I can teach her a bit about the teas and what have you.”
“I kind of wonder about this coven, though. How are we going to deal with our…” Sarah groped for a subtle way to say Spirit customers that need magical help but her imagination failed her.
“Our work with the spirit folk? We’ll manage,” Doc shrugged. “It’s a bit of a lull right now, thankfully. I’m hoping that we have a few weeks at least, between Gabe’s adventures and whatever it was that he saw coming next. He tried to get a clearer vision, but I guess that seeing what could be and what will be are two entirely different things.” Doc started pulling supplies down from the shelf and Sarah joined her at the work bench, curious to see what today’s special blend of tea would be. Doc started with the green tea she favored for blending. The sweet herbal smell floated through the back room and Sarah took a deep breath to pull the sensation into her body. The barest fizz of the magic inherent in the tea plants soothed her as much as the familiar scent of the tea.
“Yeah. He was explaining it to me a little,” Sarah nodded. “I guess, the more branches there are between now and the possible future event, the fuzzier it is for him. He can see the past a much clearer, but only little bits of it, like a short internet video or something.”
“Yes,” Doc nodded, measuring the tea into her large mixing bowl with practiced movements. “Also, he’s still adjusting to being able to call his visions on command instead of whenever the power leaks out of him and takes control. He’s been practicing every day, though. I think he’ll get the hang of it sooner rather than later.”
The mint’s bright sharpness swelled, then started blending with the softer green tea as Doc scooped that into her bowl.
“Yeah. He’s a great kid. Young man, excuse me,” Sarah grinned. Doc added a large scoop of bright yellow lemon peel and the sunny citrus smell added its note to the chorus of scents. Sebastian will enjoy this when he stops by. He always stopped by the door when he came in and took a deep breath, scenting the day’s blend and finding some peace in the moment. Sarah had noticed it soon after she started working there, and it made her smile every time, even when she was having a terrible day.
Doc mixed the batch with her fingers, carefully sifting through the new blend and making sure she was satisfied with the proportions. She didn’t use recipes for these, going more by instinct, and Sarah herself was beginning to get a feel for it as well.
“Ready?” Doc flicked her eyes to Sarah for a moment, then to the door out to the front of the shop to make sure they were undisturbed, and they both held their hands over the bowl, casting the enchantment they always infused into their teas. Good health, and now after everything the Village had survived over the past few months, they also threw in a mild protection charm.
After the spells were cast, Doc rolled her shoulders and gestured to the large tea canister they would use for the day.
“You okay?” Sarah asked. She scooped the new blend into the canister and tidied up the workspace.
“Yeah. I think I must have gone down harder than I thought, though. I’m feeling it a bit,” Doc said. “You mind if I get some office work done for now? You can call me if you need anything, but sitting down for a bit and taking it easy feels like a good idea.”
“No problem at all,” Sarah said. She picked up the canister and headed to the front. “You take care of yourself. I’ll bring you a cup in a bit. And a snack when the food gets here.”
“Oh, good. There’s supposed to be a purslane and tomato salad today. Sounds just right.” Doc winked and headed back to the office, while Sarah bumped the door to the front open with her hip.