Read Familiar Online

Authors: Michelle Rowen

Tags: #romance, #fantasy, #young adult, #witch, #teen, #shapeshifter

Familiar

 

FAMILIAR

A Young Adult Short Story

by

Michelle Rowen

Originally published in the
Kiss Me Deadly
anthology

Smashwords Edition

Copyright 2010 Michelle Rowen

This ebook is licensed for your
personal enjoyment only. All rights reserved, including the right
to reproduce this book, or portion thereof, in any form. This ebook
may not be resold or uploaded for distribution to
others.

This is a work of fiction. Any
references to historical events, real people, or real locales are
used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places and incidents
are the product of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to
actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely
coincidental.

 

 

Chapter 1

“That one.”

The witch followed the direction of my pointing
finger, which singled out a tiny, tawny-colored striped kitten
sitting in the far corner of the pen. She frowned with
disapproval.

“Wouldn’t you rather have one of the others, Brenda?
They’re more playful. That little runt looks half-dead. I’m not
even sure why my apprentice put it in the mix today.”

I shrugged. “I guess half-dead runts appeal to me. My
mother said I could pick whichever one I wanted.”

“Your mother also said she’s wanted you to do this
for almost a year now.”

“What can I say? I’ve been busy.”

I tried to ignore the icy glare my flippant comment
inspired. When it came to witch manners, I figured I was lacking.
Not that I really cared. It’s not like my powers were any big deal.
Not compared to my mother’s.

“Go pick out your familiar so you can start your
real training.”

“But I don’t want to be a witch.”

“You can’t change what you already are.”

We’d had this discussion every Monday for nearly a
whole year, ever since I turned sixteen. But when you don’t really
want to do something, it’s hard to feign interest. Basically, I
just wanted to be normal. I didn’t want to go into the “family
business,” as it were.

Maybe I should have gone to live with my dad after
the divorce. Normal high school, normal friends, normal life. I
just wished I knew for sure what the right answer was. A little bit
of perfect clarity would really come in handy every now and
then.

Like this—picking out my “familiar.” A familiar is a
witch’s pet, an animal that becomes her constant companion and is
supposed to help her do magic and bring protection and good luck.
Frankly, I could use all the luck I could get. My mom was a high
level, respected witch in our neighborhood coven, but me? I could
barely do a decent card trick. Mom says it’s because I don’t
practice very much, but I had other things to do. More important
things. At least, that’s what I kept telling myself.

But to get her off my back for a while, I agreed to
go to Hocus Pocus, a magic shop that supplies all sorts of witchy
paraphernalia—including potential familiars. There were cats,
ferrets, snakes, rats, even a couple of bats here. No puppies,
though. I really would have liked a puppy.

I wasn’t much of a cat person. But, in my opinion, it
was way better than a snake.

The kitten hissed as Mrs. Timmons picked it up by the
scruff of its neck.

“Interesting,” she said. “It’s wearing a little
rhinestone collar. Denise must have put it on earlier. I’ll include
it with the price since it suits him.”

“Great,” I replied absently, not really listening to
her. Instead I swept my gaze over the interior of the shop. I’d
been there loads of times with my mom as she picked up her
supplies. The place always creeped me out with its musty, dusty
interior and cluttered shelves holding everything from carved
wooden boxes to crystal balls of all shapes and sizes to herbs and
spices for potion-making to what looked like a dried up, severed
monkey’s paw on a shelf directly to my right.

I grimaced.
Poor monkey.

“Here you go,” Mrs. Timmons said, and her face
cracked into a thousand wrinkles as she forced a smile that did not
look even slightly genuine. She didn’t like me very much. I once
heard her call me a troublemaker. She handed me an open shoebox
that weighed next to nothing even with the tiny kitten sitting
inside. “I know your mother already has a feline familiar, so I
won’t worry about food and litter.”

“No, don’t worry.”

“You’ll have to give it a name. Just concentrate and
it’ll come to you. Remember, there’s power in names, so be sure
it’s the right one.”

“Power in names. Got it.” I resisted the urge to roll
my eyes. “Do I need to pay anything right now?”

“No. I’ll bill your mother’s account.”

“Okay, then bye. Thanks.” I turned to leave.

“Wait!” Mrs. Timmons grabbed my arm. “One last
thing.”

“What?”

“The bond. It’s important it be done right away. As
long as you’re positive this kitten is your chosen familiar...”

“Couldn’t be more positive if I tried.” I glanced at
the clock on the wall that read seven o’clock. How long was this
going to take?

Mrs. Timmons grabbed my wrist tightly and reached
into the box to touch the kitten. “I bond you together as Brenda
Collins, apprentice witch, and her loyal and obedient
familiar.”

“And what does—ahh!” I gasped as an electric bolt of
pain jolted through me so fast I barely had time to register
it.

“Ow! Damn it!”

I frowned at the sound of the pained male voice and
glanced around at the shop, empty except for me and Mrs. Timmons.
Who said that?

“Now you can go.” The witch wiped her forehead with
the back of her hand and gave me a weary look. “Give my regards to
your mother.”

“Yeah, I’ll do that.”

I was out of there before she changed her mind and
turned me into a toad, or something. Mission accomplished. I hoped
this would be enough to get Mom off my back for a while longer. I
mean, the cat had to grow up before it could be any real use to me.
How long did I have? A few months, maybe?

I’d take what I could get.

“Now I have a kitten,” I mumbled, holding the shoebox
close to my chest as I walked home in the dusky light of early
evening. It was only a half-mile to my house from the store. “At
least you’re cute enough. Kind of antisocial, but cute. Sort of
like me without the cute part.”

“I think you’re cute.”

I stopped walking for a second and looked over my
shoulder to see who’d spoke, but no one was there. Just my
imagination, I guess. Maybe my positive affirmations were bubbling
to the surface. Mom always told me not to put myself down, so maybe
I was starting to get it.

“I have no idea what to call you,” I said, as I
continued on walking. “Mrs. Timmons said just to concentrate and it
would come to me.”

“The name’s Owen.”

“I don’t like that name at all,” I told my
imagination. “I want something way cooler than Owen.”

My imagination swore under its breath.
“Wait a
minute, you can read my thoughts? How the hell can you do
that?”

I was about to answer my imagination when I noticed
that someone was standing in my way. Two men, actually, both well
over six feet tall with broad chests and shoulders like football
players, blocking what little light there was on the horizon. I
stopped walking and looked at them nervously.

“We need that,” one of them said.

“I don’t have any money,” I stammered. “Like, maybe
five bucks total.”

“Keep your money, we just want what’s in the
box.”

I looked down at the box holding the kitten. The
kitten itself eyed me curiously for a moment before the box was
pulled completely out of my hands. The kitten jumped out and one of
the men grabbed for it.

“Hands off,”
my imagination—which I was now
thinking wasn’t my imagination at all—snarled.

The kitten arched its back and hissed, swiping a tiny
paw in the man’s direction.

“Aw, isn’t that adorable?” one of the men said
sarcastically to the other. “Little Owen’s showing his big, scary
claws. Kids. Pain in the ass, if you ask me.”

Before I could say anything, do anything, something
crazy happened. And, growing up in a house with a magic-using witch
as a mother, that was saying something.

The kitten grew before my very eyes.

Instead of a tiny striped kitten standing between me
and the men, there was now a huge tiger who had to be five hundred
pounds or more.

It growled, baring long sharp teeth, and then flicked
a glance at me.

“Stay back. Werewolves are dangerous even in human
form.”

Werewolves? I staggered back a step, almost falling
over.

“Come on,” one of the men said, although he was
backing up a step at a time. “We don’t want a fight, Owen. Not
here, not now. Just give us what we’re after and nobody has to get
hurt.”

What they got was another fierce growl as the huge
tiger moved toward them. Without another word, they turned and ran,
the tiger stalking after them.

Had they called the tiger
Owen
?

I looked with shock down at the discarded shoebox
that had contained a tiny kitten only minutes ago. Next to it was
the sparkling collar the kitten had been wearing around its
neck—rhinestone, Mrs. Timmons had said. I reached down and picked
it up, looking at it closer. It didn’t really look like cheap
knock-off jewelry to me. It didn’t look like a collar for a pet,
either. It looked like a bracelet with a broken clasp. A diamond
bracelet.

Another growl from the huge wildcat now loose in the
city made me instinctively turn around and start running for my
house. I’d never moved so fast in my life. Keeping the bracelet on
me made me nervous so I decided to quickly hide it under a dumpster
in an alleyway I passed on my way home. I’d come back for it in the
daylight when every shadow didn’t seem as if it was ready to
pounce.

“Hey honey,” Mom said, distracted since she was on
the phone when I blew through the front door. “How did it go at
Hocus Pocus? Did you find a familiar?”

“I don’t know,” I said when I’d found my voice. It
came out really shaky. “I’ll have to go back tomorrow. I have
homework. Talk to you later.”

I ran upstairs and shut my bedroom door, wanting to
put what had happened out of my mind forever.

 

 

Chapter 2

When I woke up the next morning, there was a small
striped kitten sitting on my chest, looking at me. It cocked its
head to the side.

“You’re finally awake. I’ve been waiting forever.
Where’s the bracelet, Brenda?”

I heard the voice in my head, the same voice from
last night. I pushed the kitten away from me and scrambled out of
the bed, getting tangled up in the sheets and my baggy pajamas.

“Wh-what do you want from me?” I stammered.

The kitten watched me carefully.
“The bracelet.
Like I just said.”

If it was actually the kitten speaking to me, its
lips didn’t move. All I heard was a voice—a male voice. “How come I
can hear you?”

“Good question. I figure it’s because that old
witch did her abracadabra thing last night. I’m your familiar now,
remember? Who knew that would actually mean something? But at least
it helped me find you again. You’re like a homing beacon for me
now.”
He didn’t sound terribly happy about that.

The familiar/witch bonding spell.

My mouth felt very dry. “You turned into a tiger last
night.”

“And you’re lucky I did. You have no idea how
dangerous those werewolves were.”

“Werewolves? Wh-what did they want?”

“See? We’ve come back to the subject of the bracelet
again. It’s what they want. It’s what I want. So why don’t you hand
it over so I can go on my merry way and leave you to your normal
life?”

“Brenda!” Mom called from the hallway outside my
closed door. “You up?”

I tensed. “Yeah.”

“Breakfast is almost ready. I made blueberry
pancakes.”

I gulped. “Super. Just a moment.”

“I’ll bring you up some orange juice to start.”

“No, that’s not really—” But I heard the footsteps on
the stairs, indicating she’d already headed back down to the
kitchen. Great. Today of all days my mother decides she wants to
hand-deliver me some vitamin C.

I blew out a long, shaky breath. It didn’t matter. It
wasn’t as if I was hiding anything other than a little kitten in
my—

I turned around and nearly screamed, stopping myself
only by clamping my hands over my mouth.

The kitten was gone. In its place was not a tiger
this time, but a boy with tawny-colored hair and dark blue eyes. He
was bare-chested and had my sheets pulled up to his waist. I had
the sinking feeling that was all he was wearing.

“Comfortable,” he said, pressing on the mattress. “I
could get used to this. Haven’t had a bed for a while. Being on the
run has a tendency to mess up your sleeping patterns.”

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