Our protagonist's special day
If you've finished Welcome to Wis' Apothecary, then you know how important Isabel's birthday is to her. Tierre's months are structured just like ours (I wonder why? Haha), meaning her birthday of Octoria 13th would be just a couple days away if we were in Aramore. So join me in wishing Isabel a very happy birthday! I've decided to celebrate the occasion with a free birthday vignette this week, so I hope you enjoy.
A special birthday commission from my talented illustrator, Eduardo. Insta: @abundisart
No Surprise At All
Wasn't it ironic? Despite being surrounded by magic, work at the apothecary was terribly demanding. I hate to complain. After all, I'm just an apprentice. It's kinda part of the whole deal. But... did I have to work so hard on my birthday?!
"You missed a spot." Master Wis remarked as she entered the shop from the back, setting down a large parcel she had prepared on the counter. The sound of rattling potions emanated from inside.
I growled quietly and trudged back over to the rightmost window, trying to figure out what my teacher was even talking about. I had to look over the glass twice before noticing the smudge in the bottom corner, which looked suspiciously like it could have come from a cat's wet nose.
How did Master Wis even notice this tiny thing? Well, I may have been exaggerating a little...
"When you're through there, can you run this medicine to Mr. Borde's?"
"A delivery?" I groaned. The store was now closed, but my work continued. I looked out at the darkening sky in dismay, but stifled any further complaints. "Yes ma'am..."
"Thank you." My teacher sang, before disappearing into the lab.
I made short work of the remaining windows, and reluctantly picked up the parcel of potions. The faster I could make the delivery, the faster I could return and enjoy what little of my birthday was left. Maybe at least I'd get cake? That wasn't too much to ask, right?
When I returned to our home above the apothecary a short time later, however, I was disappointed to find all the sun crystals were dark. Did Master Wis already go to bed? Not even Cloud was waiting at the door for me.
I stepped towards the den and started to call for my teacher, when...
"SURPRISE! Happy birthday!"
All the sun crystals and sconces in the home lit up all at once, revealing an assortment of familiar characters who had been hiding in the dark amongst the furniture. Colorful sparkles of light fell before my eyes and drifted to the ground, the magic fading soon after.
"You guys!" I laughed, my hand held over my racing heart. "Seriously? Wow, thank you."
"Bel-Bel!" I was rushed by a silver-haired vampire child, and I excitedly met her for a hug. She risked her life for me once, proving she still had more humanity in her than most. She was like the little sister I never had – even though she was technically more than 100 years older than me!
"Hi Becca. I’ve missed you."
The tiny den was packed with those I was lucky enough to call friends and family. It wasn't just Becca. Her adopted father and sister were there too. As was Heidi, the hybrid twins Kyon and Ailu, and their mom. Even my parents had made the trip, my dad struggling to hang on to my very annoyed cat, who was squirming uncomfortably in his hands. And of course, the apparent mastermind of the evening, my esteemed teacher stood at the center with twinkling eyes and a bewitching smile.
"This is so incredible. I don't know what to say." As I spoke, tears began forming in the corner of my eyes.
"Oh man, here we go again..." Ailu rolled her eyes.
"Shut up." I chuckled, wrapping my arms around the twins and pulling them in for a group hug. Kyon giggled, her thick tail wagging happily.
“Isabel, happy birthday!” The twins’ mom joined us for the hug, and I beamed at her. It was so good to see her healthy and out of bed, despite being so sick before. But her daughters went through extraordinary lengths for her, bringing us all together today.
"Happy birthday, Bella!" My parents were next. My father lifted me off the ground and nearly crushed me in his arms.
"Dad!" I wheezed, pounding on his shoulders in defeat. He just laughed heartily as always, setting me down so my mom could have a turn.
"Happy birthday, sweetheart. We're so proud of the woman you're becoming."
My feline companion rubbed up against my legs, and I reached down to scratch him on the head with a snicker. "Thanks, Cloud."
Then someone tapped on my shoulder, and I turned to face a grinning Heidi. I threw myself on her and we squealed and danced. "Thanks so much for being here, Heidi."
Heidi first walked into the apothecary as a customer, but after a love potion mishap, she was here now as my best friend.
"My mom baked a cake!" She cheerfully reported.
"Yum, I can't wait." I smacked my lips.
"Don't forget me." My teacher pouted.
"How could I?" I smirked, wrapping my arms tightly around her. She squeezed back just as tightly, stroking the back of my head tenderly.
"Surprised?" She whispered mirthfully.
"I just thought you were putting me to work as always." I softly chuckled.
"Well, that medicine did need to get delivered." As she laughed, she waved a hand nonchalantly. "But we can have fun here, too. Right?"
I looked up at her and beamed. "Thank you. So much."
"Oh! Before I forget." Master Wis clapped her hands together. "You've got a letter from Jonah. And Princess Fleur had this sent over."
Master Wis withdrew an envelope and small gift box from her robes, and handed them to me – precious offerings from friends far away. It was sad they couldn’t be here in person, but after the adventures we shared, their presence was still felt warmly.
"Aww. No way?" I pressed my lips together, fighting back the urge to shed more tears. I tucked the letter away for later, and eagerly pulled on the red ribbon holding the embossed, white gift box together. Inside was a simple but beautiful chain bracelet, threaded together with an intricate design.
"Wow, it's so pretty!" Did she really need to send me such a nice gift? I clutched it in my hand, and held it close to my chest. Thanks Fleur.
"Oh! Are we doing presents?" Ailu peered over my shoulder.
"Here you go, Isabel!" Kyon brightly presented a cute box, holding it out towards me with both of her hands. It was wrapped in pink paper, with a polka dot pattern.
"Aw. You guys didn't have to get me anything." I reached out for the box, but then something like a reflex kicked in. "Wait, this isn't going to, like, explode in my face or anything, is it?"
"What do you take us for?" Ailu snapped, though rather playfully.
"We really wanted to get you something..." Kyon's eyes glimmered and her ears drooped, which immediately made me feel ashamed of myself.
"No, I'm sorry. This was really thoughtful," I gently removed the wrapping paper and started to open the box. "I shouldn't have… "
A thick, white cloud of smoke rose up towards me, coating my face and hair in a fine powder. The smell of rye flour filled my nose, and dried my lips. I looked up at the twins in utter disbelief, who were cackling so hard they had to cling to each other to remain on their feet.
"That look on your face!" Ailu rasped, wiping a tear from her eye.
Unfamiliar with their antics, many in the room were unsure of how to react at first. But when Master Wis started giggling, soon the entire room was filled with laughter at the harmless prank.
"You're good, Isabel." Kyon sputtered, clutching her gut. "I thought you were on to us, for sure. How did you guess?"
"Argh!" I lunged at them, my eyes stinging from the flour, but filled with rage.
"Hey! Hey! Relax." Kyon laughed, diving out of the way.
"Yeah, dummy. Look in the box."
I snarled at them, but looked down into the box. Inside was a large, shimmering aquatic scale. I gingerly picked it up and examined the heavy plate, which changed from blue to green depending on how the light hit it.
"What is it?" I asked in wonder, momentarily forgetting about the flour prank.
"It's a mermaid scale!" Ailu clapped her chest proudly. "We found it stuck inside one of our fishing nets."
"Isn't it neat?" Kyon grinned. "For your collection."
I chuckled incredulously, wiping the flour from my face with my sleeve. These two were unbelievable. It was... perfect. The nerve!
"Becca wants a gift too!" The vampire sulked, tugging on my sleeve to get a better look at the mermaid scale.
"That's not how birthday parties work, Becca!" Avelina, her adopted sister, chastised. "Today is about Isabel."
"Don't worry, Becca." I wrapped my arm around her shoulders. "When it's your birthday, I'll make sure to get you something super awesome."
"You promise?" She looked up at me with a wide smile.
I extended a pinky out towards her, and we shared a knowing look. She giggled as she wrapped her pinky around mine.
"Alright, who's ready for some cake?" Master Wis called, stepping out from the kitchen carrying a chocolate layer cake so fresh, the raspberry filling was dripping down the sides.
My eyes lit up with joy as my mouth began to water. Cake...
"Becca wants some!" Becca was the first to make a dash for the dessert.
The twins chased right after. "We do, too!"
"Well, I suppose a slice wouldn't hurt..." My mom walked forward with my dad, and before I knew it, everyone but me was in line for cake.
Still, I couldn’t move. I was lost in awe, watching my loved ones laugh and chat with one another. My father held Becca in his giant arms as she happily ate cake, licking the raspberry filling off her fingers. The twins’ mother was scolding them for their prank, but it was clear all three of them were fighting off the urge to laugh. And over the cake, Heidi and my mom were having an animated conversation about baking.
I couldn't help but feel anything but gratitude. I was the luckiest witch's apprentice in the world. But that was no surprise at all.
Master Wis looked over at me, holding out a piece of cake. She was wearing her usual mystical expression, and of course, it said it all. “Happy Birthday, Isabel.”
A personal celebration, too
Isabel's birthday also marks nearly a year since Welcome to Wis' Apothecary was published. At this time last year, I was rushing to make final adjustments with my editor, and formatting the cover with my illustrator. Time has flown, but I too am filled with gratitude when I think of everyone involved with this journey. From my collaborators, to my beta readers, and to the friends and family cheering me on along the way. And of course, now, to you. The reader.
With the sequel well on its way, I look forward to many more birthdays, and many more adventures. And I hope you do too!
What did you think of the short story? Let me know in the comments, and of course, be sure to wish Isabel a happy birthday! Watch for the special illustration on my social media (or here) Thursday. I'll randomly select one person who likes and shares the post with the #wisapothecary, and send them a free, signed copy of my book!
Once again, a very happy birthday, Isabel! And as always, thanks for reading.
Until next time!