Originally written July 2012, rediscovered a few minutes ago.
Tessa was fifteen when she killed her first human.
The phrasing always struck her as odd – technically, Tessa was as human as the barber that she murdered, but her coven insisted on it. “Now you’ve been doing really well with cats and dogs, pet, but you’ve got to step up to the next level. Anyone can stamp on a hamster; killing a human, now that’s where the skill lies.”
And so, under the tutelage of her grandmother’s mother, Tessa had booked an appointment with the barber, last one of the day. She had even let him practice his craft, just as she was about to practice hers, then once he was done cutting the young lady’s hair, she had picked up his own scissors and cut out his heart.
The new haircut felt symbolic, in a way – she’d decided to go quite short, which she’d never done before, and honestly the coven frowned upon. “Witches don’t have short hair,” her aunt’s wife had once told her in private. “It doesn’t sit well with the cackle.”
But looking at herself in the barber’s mirror, his heart still pumping in her hand, spraying the slightest bit of blood over her face, she liked the new her. It was almost pixie-ish; it had that sense of mischief, and it definitely made her look older.
She had slipped the still-beating heart (one of the earliest tricks she had mastered when slitting the throats of her neighbour’s neverending supply of seeing-eye dogs was preventing the heart from realising it had left the body and had no blood left to pump) into her purse, stopped to admire her new look one final time, and left a note on the window on the way out – written in blood, of course. It wasn’t until she was three blocks away that she stopped in horror – Tessa realised she’d forgotten to pay for the haircut, but by that point it was too late to go back.
Her mother disapproved of her activities in general; one of the rare few in Tessa’s family who had no magic in her veins, Tessa’s mother had never really seen what the appeal was. After three years of washing blood out of her daughter’s clothes, Tessa could tell that her patience had started to wear thin, but it wasn’t until tonight that the final straw was broken.
“You forgot?? You forgot to pay? Tessa, I understand that this is important to you, but when you said you were going to murder the barber I didn’t think that you were going to steal from him as well! Have you considered his poor widow? And what about his children? You know young Gerald in the grade below him – yes, the shared last name isn’t just a coincidence, that’s the barber’s son! It’s not bad enough that he’s lost his father, but thanks to you the expense of a funeral is going to be just that much harder to meet.”
Tessa tried to stand defiant, like she’d seen other young witches do when the target of a tirade, but she was still new to the scene, and couldn’t stop her lip from trembling and a pair of tears leaving her eye and rolling down to the end of her nose.
Tessa’s mother stopped. If Tessa had been watching, she would have seen a flash of concern cross her mother’s face, a chink in the armor of anger that she could potentially have exploited. But Tessa was too busy inspecting her shoe, and wishing she still had a long, matted fringe that she could hide her face behind.
“I forgot! There was so much to remember…the ritual, the spells, the note…”
The moment of compassion passed, and Tessa’s mother started her rant anew.
“No! No, that is IT young lady. I let you host the annual meet again last year, I let you borrow my spices for your little spells, but I did not raise a thief. You can go to one more meeting, but that is it – after that, I want you to tell your friends that you are grounded. You are not allowed to be a witch any more.”
Tessa stared up at her mother in horror.
“No buts young lady, that is final. I don’t want to see another toad in this house. This weekend when your father gets home, he is going to take all of that hocus pocus to the dump. No more witching.”
Tessa’s lip started once more, and the tears began to well up in greater numbers. Lost for words, she ran up to her room and slammed the door, leaving her purse besides her.
From behind her, she could hear a scream, and the squelch of a human heart hitting the floor.
“And I told you that I didn’t want to see any more of these in the house!”