14 year old Fiona Rosewood clutched her broom so hard her knuckles turned white, looking around the wooded area furtively to make sure that nobody was watching. Her attempts at liftoff in Broom Flight 101 had so far been utterly pitiful, and she was determined to spend the weekend practicing, and to show up in class Monday morning soaring through the air like a fourth-year.
Her best friend Maizie, a talented fire elemental with superb flying skills, had come with her to offer moral support. They were in the Hedge Maze near the back of the spacious grounds at the Briarstone School For Witches and Warlocks, and Fiona planned to spend the day gliding low to the ground between the glossy green walls of hawthorn, where nobody could see her and she wouldn’t have far to fall.
“Do it,” Maizie urged. “You got this!”
Grimacing, Fiona placed the end of the broom handle on the ground, setting it at a 45 degree angle as she’d been taught, settled her plump rear onto the middle of the broom, and clutched the broom handle tightly.
Focus, she told herself, heart hammering in her chest. She visualized the end of the broom lifting off the ground, and yelped as the broom obeyed her command. Now she was hovering, low enough that her feet brushed the dirt beneath her, but definitely hovering,
“Beautiful!” Maizie clapped her hands. “You’re perfectly horizontal to the ground.” She brushed a ringlet of fiery red hair behind her ear, and smiled encouragingly.
Maizie was as slender as the broom Fiona was struggling to balance on, with the school’s black, white and grey plaid skirt emphasizing her pipe-stem legs, and her hair was the ruby red of a pre-raphealite model. Fiona’s hair was the dull black of a raven’s wing, and her mother had had to special order her school uniforms in an extra large – a fact that she reminded Fiona of all summer long, at every meal.
September never came fast enough for Fiona.
The broom wobbled and Fiona forced her thoughts back to the present, until it steadied underneath her. “Well, now we know that I can hold still, two feet off the ground. Goddess, this is so stupid. Why do we still even have to learn Broomstick? Who uses broomsticks for travel any more? That’s what airplanes are for. I might as well learn pumpkin and mouse transformation to create carriages, instead of driving a car.”
“Oh, you know. Tradition. You’ve got to admit, the annual Pride Day Flyover Parade is wicked cool to watch.”
Fiona smiled, envisioning the highly trained teams of witches and warlocks in their color-coordinated robes and conical hats, soaring through the air, doing heart-stopping loop-de-loops, plummeting hundreds of feet and then catching themselves a dozen feet from the ground, zipping over and under arches…
As she pictured it, she rose a little higher; now she was a good three feet off the ground.
“It is beautiful,” she said. “But I’ll never be in the flyover parade. There’s really only one thing I’m good at.” She reached out and stroked the wall of the hedge, and a cluster of tightly furled white buds burst open like tiny white stars. She was a green witch, deeply in tune with all green life around her.
“Actually there’s something else you’re good at. Eating,” a taunting voice came through the end of the hedgerow.
She shrieked and tumbled off the broom, hitting the ground with a heavy thud, and the broom dropped to the ground like a rock, landing next to her.
Arty Moorehead had managed to sneak up on them through the hedge maze, and now he was advancing on them, howling with laughter. Fiona scrambled to her feet, knee scraped and bleeding, and brushed leaves, grass clippings and dirt from her legs.