All witches have to keep secrets, but Katie’s mother is perhaps too secretive for her own good. The story ends on a cliff-hanger (it’s a bit of a soap).
Story by Bertie.
Read by Natasha.
Proofread by Jana Elizabeth.
Katie and Mr. New
Hello, This is Natasha
And this is the latest story about Katie, the ordinary witch. Some people have been asking us what ever happened to Katie’s dad. I do seem to recall that we mentioned him in the first story – as well as a family dog – and we’ve forgotten all about them both ever since. Well this story might explain things just a bit. And by the way, Bertie says that it’s rather more romantic than usual.
Katie was just a little bit putout. Her mother was going to the theatre without her. This was very strange, because Katie and her mum always did everything together.
Great-Aunt Chloe came to stay the night.
“You wouldn’t want to be a gooseberry,” she told a glum-looking Katie.
“No,” thought Katie, “and I wouldn’t want to be a strawberry either. What strange things my relatives say sometimes!”
It was only later, when Katie was lying in bed, that she twigged: “Oh I get it. Mum’s found a boyfriend! That’s why she’s been so secretive recently.” A moonbeam did a little dance on the window sill to say, “Yes, Katie, you slowcoach, why didn’t you think of that before?”
You see, Katie’s dad had upped and left some years ago. He was a professor at the Institute of Paranormal Phenomena and he thought that his home life was just a bit too much like his work life. So it was probably about time that Katie’s mum found another man.
At breakfast time, Katie said to her mum: “How was your evening?” but all she could get out of her was, “It was a very nice Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
It was only two day’s later that Katie’s suspicions were finally confirmed. She was standing in row for school assembly when her best friend Isis whispered:
“Katie, is it true that there’s a Mr. New in your mum’s life?”
“Search me,” said Katie, her cheeks reddening. “I’d be the last person she would tell. Anyway, why do you ask?”
But then they had to be silent, because the Headmistress was climbing up onto her podium. All through the long assembly, full of boring notices and school sports results, Katie fidgeted uneasily. Eventually, as they shuffled out to the classroom, Isabelle sidled up to her and said:
“Katie, everyone except you knows that your mum is going out with an estate agent.”
“An ESTATE AGENT!” exclaimed Katie.
“You really didn’t know?” asked Isis rather baffled. “My mum thought you were moving house, because she kept on seeing your mum popping into the estate agent’s office. Then she saw her hanging onto his arm and laughing as they came out of the park!”
Katie went bright red. She didn’t know why she felt so humiliated, but she did.
“And he’s Indian too,” said Isabelle.
“So! “ said Katie defensively.
“Nothing wrong with that,” said Isabelle. But there’s plenty wrong with selling houses. My dad says that estate agents are slimy toads. He says that you can tell if an estate agent is lying, because his mouth is open.”
Katie wasn’t just angry with her mother. She was a seething cauldron of rage. That evening she exploded with fury and tears:
“You’re romancing an Indian Estate Agent and you don’t say a word to me! The whole school knows about it except for me…. it’s just so, so humiliating! “
“I’m so sorry darling,” said her mother, quite white with shock. “It’s all very early days, and I didn’t want to say anything because most probably, it will all come to nothing.” Finally, after plenty of hugs and tears, Katie calmed down and said:
“Ok mum. I forgive you. So tell me about your Mr. New.”
“Well his name is Shumash,” her mother said, “And I like him because he’s very spiritual.”
“A spiritual estate agent?” thought Katie. “I bet.” And then another obvious thought popped into her head:
“And I don’t suppose you’ve mentioned to him that we’re witches..”
“Of course not,” said her mother pertly. “As soon as a man gets a hint of that, he runs off like a scared rabbit. He knows I sell magical things of course, but he thinks they are just nice spiritual products – you know, mandrake bath aromas, and and nettle teas. He has no idea about the stuff I keep at the back of the shop.”
“You mean like the broomsticks and packets of frozen spiders?”
“Well yes. I wouldn’t show him those, would I? Now look Katie. You’ll have to meet him soon. He’s a really, really lovely man, and I do so hope you will like him. But not a hint of magic! Do you promise faithfully?”
Katie shuffled and thought : “Why would I want to do magic for him anyway?” and she said:
“Yes of course mum.”
It was getting towards the end of the Summer Term, and that meant that Sports day was coming up. It was the one school event a year when as many dads as mums came watch and support their children. And It was a time when Katie’s mum felt especially single. She imagined that people were thinking “She’s on her own because she’s a witch, and nobody normal would want to live with her.” She made a big decision. She asked Shumash to come with her to Sports Day. Everybody would see him. Nobody could say that he was a secret in her life.
When Katie was lining up to take part in the 100 metre relay race, she heard someone call out: “Go on Katie,” she looked up and saw an Indian man sitting next to her mum: She thought “That’s him!” and as she took the baton and ran off she was thinking, “He doesn’t look that bad after all.”
Katie didn’t win any medals. If she had done, people would have accused her of cheating with magic.
By tradition, the last race of the day was a special one for the fathers. They all pretended not to care who won, but in fact, some of them were quite competitive about it. In the weeks before, they had been training in the park, so as to look good in front of their families. Isis’s mum – who was also single – said “Shumash – are you going to take part?” and Katie’s mum said, “Yes, Katie would like that,” which just goes to show how quite often, parents don’t understand their children at all.
“I’m not really a sportsman at all,” said Shumash modestly.. but as two women were urging him on, he agreed to join the line-up. He wasn’t even wearing running shoes – just sandals.
“Oh no,” thought Katie when she saw him stand up. “Please don’t do that. You don’t look like much of an athlete. And you’re not my dad.”
Mrs Hepworth fired the starter’s gun, and the dads sprinted off for one lap of the 400 metre track. At first Shumash looked like he was going to be left behind. Samantha’s father was out in front, bounding along on long legs, and Susan’s more stocky dad was in second place. But on the final bend, Shumash started to accelerate. He went past the other runners as if he was flying. You should have seen his face as he ran through the winning tape. He was as astonished as anyone.
Katie looked up at her mum in the spectator’s stand. She had never seen her quite so excited and not really very ladylike. She was jumping up and down and waving her fist and shouting “Shumash, Shumash!”
“Oh no! How embarrassing! ” thought Katie. “I don’t know what’s got into her. That’s not like mum at all.”
Shumash jogged over to Katie and said: “Pleased to meet you, Katie. Your mum’s told me so much about you.”
Katie didn’t really know what to say, so she replied: “Well done in the race.”
“I’m sure I wouldn’t run like that normally,” he said. “You’re mum inspired me. She’s such a special woman. Everything seems to go right for me when she’s around. I trust it does for you too.”
Katie just smiled.
Shumash said: “Well lovely to speak to you at long last. Have a blessed day.”
And Katie thought, “I suppose he said that because he’s spiritual.”
After school, Katie said to her mother in the car: “Shumash was very speedy,” and her mum smiled and looked happy. “I don’t suppose he had any help… mused Katie…”of the magical kind.”
By the way her mum went red, Katie understood everything. “And what other help have you been giving him? He said everything’s been going well for him ever since he met you…”
“Oh you know, a little nudge along for his business. When his customers aren’t quite sure about buying a house, a little sprinkling of magic can make up their minds.”
Katie was horrified : “Mum! You’d never do that to your own customers!”
“I know,” sighed her mother. “I can’t stop myself. He’s just such a nice guy.”
Katie shook her head and thought, “She can’t help herself. She can only help others.”
The following Saturday, Katie’s mum was going to meet Shumash’s family.
“Mum, why are you in such a fluster?” asked Katie as she watched her mother smudge her lipstick.
“Oh I think it’s make or break,” she replied. “His grandmother is the head of the family and she’s very traditional. I’m not Indian and Shumash is younger than me. I don’t have a dowry…” she laughed nervously as she said that… “She’ll probably say I’m not right for him.”
“So..” said Katie.
“What she says matters a lot to Shumash,” replied her mum.
“Well just use a little magic,” said Katie.
“Oh I couldn’t do that. I want her to accept me as I am, not because she’s under a spell.”
And Katie sighed. She knew her mum was just hopeless.
And she wasn’t entirely surprised when three hours later, she came back through the front door in silence, went into the kitchen, sat down, and burst into tears. Great Aunt Chloe put her arm around her and said: “Oh come dear. It can’t have been that bad. What happened?”
“His Grandmother told him I’m a witch,” she said. “She knew right away. He’s furious.”
“That you’re a witch?” asked Katie.
“No. That I didn’t tell him,” sobbed her mother. “He says he can’t trust me if I keep such an important thing secret from him.”
“Oh mum,” sighed Katie, “If only you knew how to break a secret.”