Beatrice Shall Come to the Mango
by Olga Godim
part 1 of 2
Darya gazed out the Boeing window at the thick dirty-white mass of roiling clouds. She wished Beatrice was with her now, not sleeping like dead inside the suitcase. She couldn’t wait to get home, to dive into the familiar duties of the witch-protector of Vancouver, to shake the dust of old Europe off her sneakers. She couldn’t wait for Beatrice to wake up.
This last Convocation of Witches in Amsterdam was too weird. First — the slide presentation of the two Romanian witches, and then — Beatrice had shown up. Why couldn’t Darya get a cat as a familiar? People transported their pet cats legally every day. But no! Her familiar had to be a Siberian squirrel, illegal to bring into Canada. Darya smiled, remembering.
* * *
Wrapped in her pink fleece robe, she went out onto the balcony of her hotel room after taking a long shower. It was the first day of the Convocation, full of tedious reports and information memos. Gazing at lovely old Amsterdam, she watched the glistening night lights reflecting in the canal. She wanted something wicked, something exiting, something magical.
Not magical in a sense she dealt with every day as a witch-protector of a metropolis, but something fairy, something just for her. Anything was possible on such a charming night. She wasn’t even surprised when a shimmering silvery-blue squirrel jumped on the balcony rail from the roof. The creature was so perfect it looked like a Disney heroine, not a living squirrel.
“Want a peanut?” Darya smiled.
I’m your familiar. My name is Beatrice, the squirrel answered in her mind. It chittered indignantly and lifted its small black nose in the air, sweeping its bushy tail around her like a royal mantle. Pick me up, witch! I want a mango!
“My familiar?” Darya said. The feeling of a Disney-like animated tale had disintegrated. Her familiar was a cranky squirrel? “Then you might as well be polite to me.” Turning around, Darya marched back inside the room.
In one leap, Beatrice sailed from the rail onto Darya’s shoulder. Her small nose rubbed Darya’s neck. Sorry. I’m jet-legged, traveled all the way from Siberia. Can I have a piece of mango? Please. I’ve never tried them. Other familiars said they are delicious. Beatrice’s luxurious tail tickled Darya’s nose and caressed her cheek.
Just like that, Darya had melted. Love for the beautiful blue animal, fragile and impervious, had engulfed her. She grabbed Beatrice in her hands and gazed into the azure eyes, feeling the magical filaments of affection stretching between them. Darya’s fingers threaded through the glossy, silken pelt.
“I don’t have a mango, darling,” she said. “How about an apple?”
Beatrice pouted, but in the end had accepted an apple and a milk jelly. They had been friends ever since. But to bring Beatrice back home to Canada, Darya had to put the poor squirrel into a magical trance.
I don’t want to travel in your suitcase, Beatrice whined. She sat on the back of the armchair in the hotel room, cracking peanuts with her sharp teeth.
“We don’t have a choice,” Darya said. Her brand-new brown suitcase with orange corners lay open in front of her, half-packed. “I can’t bring a squirrel into Canada openly. Customs doesn’t permit it. I have to hide you in the luggage.”
Tell them I’m a cat. Beatrice grabbed another peanut from the red bowl on the side table. They permit cats, right?
Darya snickered. “Come on, Beatrice. Nobody would believe you’re a cat. You won’t feel a thing. You’ll just fall asleep in my hands now, and wake up twenty-four hours later in Vancouver.” She stretched her arms towards her little blue familiar. “Let’s get on with it.”
Twenty-four hours? Beatrice clacked unhappily. I don’t want to sleep for so long.
“That’s how long the spell lasts. Don’t be a brat, Beatrice. When we arrive, I’ll buy you a mango.”
Promise? Beatrice cocked her head to one side, a half-eaten peanut in one tiny black paw.
“Of course, I promise.”
Three more peanuts?
“Beatrice, it is noon already. The plane takes off at three thirty. We have to start moving for the airport.”
Beatrice gobbled up her last peanut and jumped into Darya’s waiting hands. The trusting blue eyes looked deep inside Darya. I love you, witch, she said.
Darya touched the squirrel’s tight, peanut-filled belly with her wand. “Sleep,” she whispered, letting the magic flow. The polished birch-wood wand tingled in her fingers, and the topaz imbedded in the tip flared for a moment.
Beatrice had slumped unconscious, her limp body spilling over Darya’s palm like a silvery-blue boa. Kissing Beatrice’s cold nose, Darya arranged the squirrel’s small body curled inside the suitcase. Then she piled more clothes on top, insulating her little friend from all sides of the bag by the soft layers of fabric.
“Sweet dreams, Beatrice. I’ll miss you,” she whispered, inserting her wand, wrapped in bubble-paper, into a side pocket of the bag. Unfortunately, she couldn’t carry any magical paraphernalia on the plane. The magic devices made airport security equipment go crazy, so she always packed them in the luggage when she traveled. She zipped the bag shut.
As the last precaution, she put a non-attention illusion on the bag, so nobody would want to open it. Especially nobody from Customs. She didn’t need the trouble of being labeled a smuggler of squirrels.
The shining orange corners of the bag had dimmed under the illusion. The handle had suddenly acquired a few chips. Instead of her brand-new, expensive bag, an old, slightly frayed one stood in front of her. She had always been good at illusions — the best in her class. Grinning, she grabbed the handle and headed for the elevator.
* * *
In Vancouver, Darya had to wait for an hour before the arrival carousel started disgorging the luggage from her flight. By the time the taxi brought her home, it was six in the afternoon, Pacific Time. She had seven hours before Beatrice woke up from her trance. Might as well go buy the promised mango and do some major grocery shopping — her fridge was empty.
After she returned home, she put on the tea kettle and knelt in front of the suitcase. Beatrice would love it here, she thought lazily. They would go to the Queen Elizabeth Park together, or promenade along the Fraser River. They would stuff themselves with mangos and cashews. Beatrice would make friends among the local squirrel population and help Darya with her work as a witch-protector of Vancouver. Darya put her hand over the bag to lift the illusion of shabbiness before she opened the bag, but the illusion wasn’t there. Her magic-attuned fingers encountered only emptiness.
Jerking out of her jet-leg daze, Darya looked closer. Where was her illusion? The suitcase was still shabby. The handle still chipped. And the orange corners were all rubbed and scratched. It wasn’t an illusion. It wasn’t her suitcase! Cold fear unfurled inside her as she tugged at the zipper.
Someone else’s red blouse lay folded on top. Frantically, Darya ransacked the content, her hands shaking. Neither her fleece robe, nor her working suits, nor the little blue squirrel was there. And the side pocket with Darya’s wand didn’t exist in this suitcase at all.
Her mouth went dry as she dropped the lid down. The color of the suitcase was the same as hers — brown with orange stripes around the corners — and the size was the same. Even the brand was the same but it was much older. She picked the wrong bag at the carousel!
Someone else had taken her own bag home, together with sleeping Beatrice. She had to get it back fast, before Beatrice woke up, started breathing, and suffocated in the stuffed suitcase. She couldn’t even call the authorities to arrange the exchange. They might insist on opening both suitcases and then they would discover she was smuggling a squirrel into Canada. A squirrel in a magical trance that looked like death. Darya’s heart flopped crazily. They would arrest her. Imprison her. Fine her heavily. Diagnose her as a mentally disabled squirrel-killer. And they would take Beatrice away.
Stop panicking, she told herself sternly. Stop panicking! She didn’t write her address on her airline tag; the Convocation of Witches’ policy didn’t allow it in case someone discovered the magical content of a bag and began asking questions. ‘Don’t draw attention!’ was their motto. But this bag belonged to a mundane. There should be an address and a name there.
Darya’s trembling fingers found the airline tag beneath the curling white ribbon of airport stickers. There was the name Fanny Walport and a telephone number with the local area code but no address. Darya rushed to the phone, punching the number rapidly. After five rings, an answering machine had clicked on, asking for a message. Darya threw the receiver back into its cradle. Fanny Walport was not home.
Darya glanced at the clock on her DVD. It showed seven thirty-seven. Beatrice would wake up roughly at one in the morning. Darya’s eyes flicked around the room in a frenzied search of a solution. What could she do?
She couldn’t wait till this Fanny person got home. She didn’t have the time. Perhaps the woman went to a restaurant with her boyfriend to celebrate her arrival. Or she went to visit her old grandmother in her nursing home in Chilliwack. No, Darya had to find the suitcase now. She had to make the switch as soon as possible.
She could scry! Of course! She would find the location of the suitcase by scrying, chase it, and make the exchange. Beatrice and her wand were inside the suitcase. Both were parts of Darya’s magic. She could find them anywhere.
Darya hoisted herself back on her feet. Don’t panic! She repeated that mantra again and again as she darted towards the closet for her scrying bowl. Breathing deeply, she tried to dispel the dizziness of terror. Don’t panic! She willed her eyes not to swerve towards the DVD clock again. She couldn’t slow the time and she couldn’t rush her magic.
Plopping down at the table, she poured some brandy in her carved green jade bowl. She eyed the bottle dubiously. Should she take a sip to calm her nerves? No! She would have to drive and couldn’t risk being stopped by the police for drunk driving. Instead, she went through a series of breathing exercises she had learned at the Academy. They took ten minutes, she knew, she did them every time before a major spell-casting, and they had finally settled her agitation. Good. Magic didn’t accommodate agitated witches.
Without her wand, she felt exposed and incomplete. She disliked working magic-wandless but she had no choice. Her wand was in the suitcase somewhere, hopefully still inside the province. Bending over the bowl, she pooled some magic into her cupped palm, fractured it into small particles, and blew the particles over the amber liquid. “Search!” she ordered.
Copyright © 2007 by Olga Godim