About the Author
One of her original books for young readers, Cave Boy, illustrated by Mark Dubowski, was awarded an International Reading Association Children's Choice Award.
Cathy writes in her office in a big red barn in North Carolina, where she lives with Mark, daughters Lauren and Megan, and their two golden retrievers, Macdougal and Morgan.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Sabrina Spellman was late for school.
That shouldn't have been a problem for a teenage witch -- who could wave her hand and, in less time than it takes to make microwave popcorn, instantly transport herself across town.
Or across the country.
Or across the universe.
Or even into the Other Realm -- the world inhabited by witches, fairies, leprechauns, trolls, and myriad other magical beings.
(Actually, to do that she had to go through her aunts' personal portal to the Other Realm -- the tiny towel-stacked linen closet in the upstairs hall of their old Victorian home. But it was just as fast.)
But the catch here was that Sabrina was only half witch and was being raised by her six-hundred year-old aunts Zelda and Hilda. They were witches, like her father, and extremely doting. And extremely strict. And extremely involved with, and opinionated about, everything she did.
Which meant two important things.
One, they were mindful of her half-human side and wanted her to learn to live with grace and skill the life of a magical being in a mortal world.
And two, they thought it totally rude to use magic to clean up mistakes -- like goofed-up spells and sleeping late.
So now she'd have to race to school with the speed of someone racing to get 'N Sync concert tickets. Otherwise known as teenage speed of light.
Sabrina threw back the covers, screeched to a stop in front of the full-length mirror on her closet door, and with a snap Of her fingers selected "Way-Late Dress-Without-Thinking outfit, Number 3": Flared jeans, light blue tank top with quarter-inch straps. After slinging her backpack over one shoulder,she zapped her mouth minty-fresh as she vaulted down the wooden stairs, conjured up an McFluffin (witches can't do name brands), aimed herself at the nearest exit.
"I'm late!" she shouted to anyone who might be listening as she grabbed the brass doorknob. "Gotta go -- "
Sabrina shrieked. Everything had gone black!
And even worse-wet!
Magic! Sabrina thought, her heart pounding in her chest. But was it the magic of friend or foe?
Bracing herself, Sabrina reached up to touch her head, hoping it was still there.
But instead of skin, her fingertips touched smooth metal. Frowning, she rapped the material with her knuckles.
"Don't do that!" she told herself, wincing. Her head felt as if it were inside a bell.
Slowly, bracing for any magical side effects, she pulled the metal something off her head-it slid off easily -- then held it out in front of her.
"A bucket?" It looked like a common, ordinary galvanized metal mop bucket.
The liquid drenching her was...sniff, sniff... "Fruit punch?"
Sabrina looked up. This was no trick of the Other Realm -- it was human trickery. Obviously someone had deliberately propped an old bucket of liquid over the door, so that when she opened it, the bucket would fall and soak her.
It was the oldest camp prank in the book.
"But who...?" Shoving wet, sticky blond hair out of her face, Sabrina dropped the bucket and strode to the steps, glancing quickly up and down the street looking for the culprit.
Her neighbor Mrs. Neagle drove by in her new green minivan taking her kids to school. Sabrina waved to Kaity, Kristen, and little Sean buckled into the backseats.
I know it wasn't them, Sabrina thought as she watched the van turn at the corner. They're way too nice.
Then she heard someone running and quickly glanced the other way.
Nope. Just eighty-something Mr. Patton slowly jogging past in his EAT MY DUST T-shirt. A little zany, but definitely not the prankster type.
A rustle in the bushes caught her attention, and she dashed across the porch to look around the side of the house.
No wait -- what's that...? She spotted what looked like the tip of a bushy brown tail disappearing through the bushes of the back garden.
Sabrina sighed. Probably just a neighbor's dog taking a shortcut.
Frustrated, and still wet and sticky, Sabrina stalked back to the front door. She was baffled. Who could have done this?
Libby Chessler, her least favorite person school, maybe?
Nah -- Libby's the type who needs an audience for her acts of humiliation, Sabrina thought.
Besides, it probably wasn't sophisticated enough for Libby. It was such a lame prank, the kind kids pulled on each other at summer camp.
Sabrina's eyes narrowed. She knew only one person who had that kind of sick, juvenile humor. And he lived here -- right under her own roof!
"Saaaa-lem!" she screeched, stomping into the front hall.
Two black ears popped up over the back of the couch in the living room. "Did someone call my name?" a black cat replied with a yawn.
Salem was no ordinary cat. He was an American shorthair -- and darn proud of it! But he had also once been a fierce warlock -- a warlock who tried to take over the world. Unfortunately he got caught, and the Witches' Council turned him into a cat for a hundred years. He lost all his powers -- except one. The ability to talk.
"Uh, Sabrina," he said now, chuckling as he gazed at her dripping hair and clothes. "I believe you're supposed to get dressed after you take your shower -- not before?"
"Very funny, Salem," Sabrina said through clenched teeth. "How could you?"
"How could I what?" Salem asked, surprised. But when he saw the serious look of menace on the face of the teenage witch -- who still had all her powers -- he quickly exclaimed, "Whatever it was I'm innocent!"
"Yeah, right," Sabrina said. "I can't believe this! And I'm already late for school. Why, I ought to -- "
"Meow!" Salem yowled as he ran toward the stairs.
"What is going on down here?" Aunt Zelda -- slim, blond, and elegantly dressed in nice beige slacks and baby blue twinset sweater -- pulled her reading glasses off as she glided down the stairs, a scholarly book in her hand.
Her younger sister Hilda followed, still wearing her worn MOZART ROCKS/'76 TOUR sleepshirt and fuzzy pink slippers. "Yeah," she mumbled sleepily, shoving a tangle of blond curls out of her half-opened eyes. "Didn't the Witches' Council make it illegal to be this noisy before noon?"
Salem leaped into the safety of Zelda's arms, knocking the book from her hand. "Help me!" he cried. "Sabrina's about to skin the cat!"
Sabrina lunged at Salem, but Zelda quickly turned and shoved him into Hilda's arms. "Hold it!" the oldest witch in the house commanded. "Will someone please explain to me what this is all about?"
"I'd be glad to!" Sabrina said, holding out her soggy arms. "Look what Salem did to me!" She explained how the bucket had fallen when she the door. "And I'm already going to be late school!"
"I didn't do it!" Salem insisted.
Sabrina glared. "I don't believe you!"
Salem pretended to be deeply offended. "How can you doubt my word?"
All three witches glared at him. Salem would have blushed if his face weren't covered withthick black hair. "So...I've told a few fibs in my time," he said with a shrug. "But I never lie about important things." Salem leaped from Zelda's arms and padded toward Sabrina, careful to avoid the liquid pooling on the floor around her feet. "First of all, you know how I absolutely loathe water -- "
"It's fruit punch," Sabrina pointed out.
Salem sniffed. "Yech! Disgusting! But that's even more proof. Nobody around here drinks this revolting beverage."
Sabrina crossed her arms. "So?"
Salem sputtered. "What -- do you think I ran down to the comer Piggly Wiggly supermarket and purchased a jug of the stuff just so I could dump it on you?" He snorted. "I have better ways to spend my money."
Zelda's brows knit together in thought. "Hmmm, good point, Salem."
"Thank you," he replied. "And besides, how in the world could I lift a heavy, fruit-punch-filled bucket and prop it up over the doorsill with these?" With all the drama of a courtroom lawyer, he sat back on his haunches and raised his tiny front paws in the air. "May I remind you, I am temporarily without the point-and-click skills you witches have at your disposal?"
Hilda whistled. "I think he's got you there, Sabrina."
Sabrina didn't want to admit it, but Salem's arguments made sense. She sighed in defeat. "Okay, I guess you're innocent."
Salem's whiskers twitched. "And...?" he prompted.
Sabrina rolled her eyes. She hated being wrong. Even more humiliating was having to apologize to Salem, who could be absolutely obnoxious when he wanted to be. "And...I'm sorry I falsely accused you of a crime, Salem,"
The black cat twitched his tail in satisfaction. "Apology accepted."
"Now that that's settled" Zelda cleared her throat and glanced at the untidy floor "would you mind mopping up, Sabrina dear?"
Sabrina sighed and snapped her fingers:
Clean up this slop.
A mop blinked into existence and began swab bing up the tiny puddle on the floor. It reminded Sabrina of the mop in The Sorcerer's Apprentice scene in the movie Fantasia.
"Now to tidy up myself." Sabrina waved hands in the air and said:
Soggy duds, hit the hamper,
Give me something a little less damp...er
Aunt Zelda tsked.
"What? I'm in a hurry!" But Sabrina quickly waved her hand in the air, as if erasing something she'd written there, and tried again.
Off you go to the washer and dryer, You pitiful soggy wet clothes. I need some cool duds from the pages of Teen People So I'll be hip from my head to my toes."
Sabrina's fruit-punch-soaked clothes instantly disappeared, replaced so quickly by a new outfit that you couldn't even see her underwear. Her outfit -- a short, but not too short, light blue slip dress with hand-painted yellow daisies -- was definitely a knockout. So were the chunky black slides. Next she zapped some spring water through her hair to rinse, then snapped her fingers.
A blow dryer and hairbrush hovered in the air. With a wave of her hands, the two commenced a duet of drying and styling Sabrina's soggy hair.
When they finished their task, Sabrina glanced into the antique mirror that hung in the entry hall. Her hair looked sleek and shiny. She'd definitely have to add this to her regular wardrobe.
"There now, that's better," Zelda said, smiling. "Everything's back to normal."
"But it's not," Sabrina insisted.
"Yeah, you missed a spot!" Salem told the mop, pointing with his paw. But Sabrina shook her head. "No, you don't understand. What I mean is, I still don't know who played that prank on me. Do you think it could have been a neighborhood kid? Or maybe somebody from school?"
"Well, let's see now," Zelda said. "Let's try to determine when our culprit may have set up the prank. None of us has used that door since suppertime last night -- "
"Well, not exactly," Hilda interrupted, blushing a little. "I did. I came through it about midnight."
"What?" Zelda exclaimed. "But I thought you went to bed early last night to read."
Hilda looked puzzled. "Were'd you get that idea?"
"From you," Zelda said. "You said you were going to spend the evening with The Count of Monte Cristo!"
"I did," Hilda replied. "I had a date with him."
"But, Hilda," Zelda sputtered, "the Count of Monte Cristo isn't a real person, he's a fictional character created by Alexandre Dumas in 1844!"
Hilda made a face. "I know that -- now, Miss Smartypants." She kicked at the floor with her fuzzy pink slippers and mumbled, "Last time I use that dating service."
"So why didn't you just use the linen closet you came home?" Zelda asked.
"I didn't want to wake the rest of you up," explained. When the Spellmans entered or exited their linen-closet portal to the Other Realm, the house shook with thunder and lightning.
"Hilda, really, you -- "
"Aunt Zelda! Aunt Hilda! What about me?"
"Sorry, dear," Aunt Zelda said. "We'll talk about this later," she told her sister.
"Who set me up with this prank?" Then she snapped her fingers. "I know who it was! Cousin Amanda."
Zelda shook her head. "I don't think so."
"Why not?" exclaimed the portrait hanging on the wall. The painting of Aunt Louisa -- a stern-looking woman with her dark hair pulled back into a prim bun, a high lacy collar at her throat -- gave new meaning to the expression, "If walls could talk." Unlike the paintings in most mortal homes, this one could come to life and suddenly jump into the conversation, which could be quite startling at times. It had taken Sabrina months to get used to it and to learn not to use the kitchen phone for private conversations. Aunt Louisa was quite a snoop.
"That Amanda! She's the brattiest little witch in the cosmos!" Aunt Louisa huffed indignantly. "Why, the last time she was here, she drew a mustache on me!"
Sabrina agreed with Aunt Louisa. Once, when Sabrina lost her mind and agreed to babysit for her, Amanda turned Sabrina into a cute little doll. Then she locked her in a toy box along with other toys and stuffed animals who used to be people before they did something the little witch didn't like.
But Aunt Zelda shook her head as she approached Sabrina. "I spoke with Cousin Marigold yesterday and it seems Amanda has the bat pox. It's kind of like chicken pox, very contagious," she explained to Sabrina. "She's been in quarantine for a week already and has at least another two to go."
"Then who could it be?" Sabrina whined.
"Hmmm," Salem purred, his whiskers twitching. "How do you know for sure that the prank was aimed at you?"
Sabrina shook her head. "What do you mean?"
"Well, anyone could have gone out that door first thing this morning." Salem said. "Even -- even m-m-m-me!" His eyes widened and he shivered as he imagined what it would have been like to be drenched in sticky pink liquid as he stepped out onto the porch in search of his morning Wall Street Journal.
"You know, Sabrina, Salem's right," Aunt Zelda said. "Maybe you're not the target. Maybe it was simply a random prank."
"Yeah, some brainless kids get their jollies doing dumb tricks like that," Aunt Hilda said. She walked over to the bay window and glared outside. "Let me take care of it."
"Now, Hilda," Aunt Zelda admonished "we don't need any more frogs in the neighborhood."
Hilda pouted. "All right." Then she brightened "How 'bout I just give them a bad case of athlete's foot?"
"Ohmygosh!" Sabrina suddenly said. "I forgot -- I am so beyond late! Oh, Aunt Zelda, pleasepleaseplease let me zap myself to school this morning? It wasn't my fault I got soaked."
Zelda smiled. "Sure, sweetheart. Go ahead. Oh -- and here." She zapped a small white envelope into Sabrina's hand.
"What's this?" Sabrina asked.
"A note from your legal guardian," Zelda said with a smile, "in case you need an excuse for being late."
"Thanks!" Sabrina said and gave her aunt a hug. "You're the best. And I promise, I'll be up at the crack of dawn tomorrow."
"We'll see," Zelda said dryly.
Sabrina grabbed her backpack from the front porch, then came back inside.
One plus one is always two,
Two plus two is always four
Zap me to a hidden spot
Just outside the school's front door.
"Bye!" she said, waving to her aunts, just before she disappeared like an image deleted from a video.
"Your meter's improving!" Aunt Zelda called after her. The poetry of spells didn't have to scan or rhyme perfectly to work, but Zelda encouraged it as a sign of a more accomplished magic.
Sabrina's aunts wandered into the kitchen and sat down at the breakfast table. Lost in thought, Zelda zapped them a healthy breakfast of oat bran granola with skim milk, fresh-squeezed orange juice, and black decaffeinated tea.
Frowning, Hilda swirled her finger and -- zap! -- converted the breakfast into a fresh-baked gooey coffee cake and a double lattß with extra cream. She waited for her big sister to protest. To lecture. To change it all back into something more nutritional.
But Zelda did nothing. She just sat there, stirring her spoon around and around in her coffee, staring into space.
Frowning, Hilda conjured up additional calories and sugar -- a huge plateful of little white-powdered doughnuts. Then sat back and waited for her sister to freak.
Zelda didn't even notice!
"Zel!" Hilda exclaimed, her frown changing into a look of real concern. "Speak to me! What's wrong?"
Zelda sighed and turned to her sister. "This prank..."
"What about it?""
"It has me worried."
Hilda gasped. "You mean you don't think it was just some punks practicing random acts of rudeness?
"I don't know," Zelda murmured worriedly as absentmindedly reached for a little powdered doughnut. "But perhaps we should keep our eyes open. Just in case."
Copyright © 1999 by Viacom Productions, Inc.