Chapter 23:

One day, Pecan and Doe took a test.

Witch Cafe Wisteria

The time had come.

After Reingale History Day, the amount of guests who would come to Witch Cafe Wisteria increased considerably, but the doors were to remain closed for the day.

“You can practice before at the cafe, but get to the sign shop by twelve,” Derry had told them.

It was eight in the morning, and the wait was a bit agonizing for Pecan and Doe. They kept practicing their magic infusions, but it was difficult with their nerves going on mutiny the way they were.

“I think I’m going to die!”

Pecan pat Doe on the back. “You just have to uh… calm down.”

Doe tried, but he couldn’t help but whimper and pace. Pecan had an idea. She brewed a weak batch of Good Rest Tea and infused it with an itsy-bitsy amount of magic.

“Uh… this should be okay,” Pecan said as she gave Doe a cup of her mix.

“Thank you!” Doe said. He quickly downed his cup which earned a snort from Pecan.

“You’re supposed to drink it slowly,” Pecan said in a low, mocking voice.

Doe only twisted his mouth, but he had calmed down to sleepy levels. It was fine. They still had hours until the test.

That’s right, it was the day of the witch test. Pecan and Doe had practiced a lot. Thankfully, Doe was able to infuse thicker liquids and things like the cup of sand, but he wasn’t feeling exactly confident. Pecan wasn’t feeling too confident either, but she also wasn’t exactly sure what the witch test was about.

They practiced infusing magic into many things. Doe was still having a bit of trouble with solid objects, but he was at least able to get it after a few tries. He hoped it would be enough for him to pass.

“Do you think I can pass, Pecan?!” Doe asked.

Pecan shrugged. “Well uh... Derry said it all depends on us, so… I don’t know.”

Doe pumped his fists in determination, but then sleepily placed his head on the counter. “I’m gonna nap!”

“Uh… okay,” Pecan said as she stopped practicing.

She figured that if she practiced too much then she might tire herself out so much that she wouldn’t be able to take the test. With that thought, she grabbed a sandwich out of her bag and began to eat it slowly. Perhaps it was stress eating, or maybe she was just hungry. Regardless of the reason, she ate and noted that it was a darn good sandwich.

She, too, closed her eyes to take a nap. However, a knock at the door made her jolt up. Barley was waving tiredly from the window. After the whole sleeping for multiple days debacle, Pecan always felt pretty bad when it came to Barley. She quickly went to open the door.

“Heya. What’s up today? Openin’ later?” Barley asked with a yawn.

“Nah, we’re uh… actually closed today. Doe and I are taking the witch test,” Pecan explained.

Barley nodded, a little disappointed. “Witch test? Huh… I getcha. Alrighty, lemme go.”

“Uh… you know what? It’s fine. If it’s just you then it’s okay,” Pecan said, ushering the fisherman into the cafe.

“Yuh sure...?” Barley asked, hesitantly walking in.

“Nope, but it’s fine. I guess it’s nap time,” Pecan said as she gestured over to Doe who was already sleeping.

Barley accepted and Pecan brewed Good Rest Tea for him. “Okay, sleep well,” Pecan sang as Barley paid for the cup.

“Thanks,” the fisherman smiled as he made his way over to the window seating. As soon as he finished his tea, he went right to sleep. Pecan picked up his cup and washed it. She took a seat and before she knew it, she was sleeping too. Her plan was to wake up and practice a little more before the test after getting a little more rest.

It was a peaceful time for sure. Thankfully, no one else knocked on the door to disturb them. Unfortunately, no one else knocked on the door to disturb them.

Pecan woke up suddenly and looked at the clock. It was eleven fifty-eight! She shook Doe awake and yelled. “Crap! Crap! We have two minutes, Doe!”

Doe jolted up and screamed. The two of them hurried for the door and ran to the sign shop. They made it inside just a second or so before it became twelve.

“Hello!” Doe yelled as Pecan caught her breath.

An older dark-skinned woman with a cane sat in a chair surrounded by mesh screen- printing screens, a screen-printing station, and incense. Millan was adjusting a piece of wood on one of the station’s palettes and looking disapprovingly at the two visitors.

“I can hear you. You don’t gotta yell, baby,” the older woman said.

“You know, you should probably get to where you need to go earlier than you’re supposed to. Not right on the dot,” Millan said with a little irritation in his voice.

Pecan resisted the urge to say anything smart-mouthed to Millan in the presence of the older woman. She looked like she would whack the spit out of her with the cane she held in her hand. However, the woman smacked her lips a little and shakily smiled as she asked. “Now what you got to say to that?”

“Sorry?!” Doe uttered, a little panicked.

Meanwhile, Pecan couldn’t hold it back anymore. “Millan, you’re going to be a terrible boss.”

“You hear that? What’d I tell you?” the woman asked, turning to Millan, who only glared at Pecan. “Always tryin’ to run the show. We got time. Shoot.”

Doe looked between Millan and the woman, not sure what to say as Pecan grinned at Millan triumphantly.

The older woman turned back to Pecan and Doe. “Now, how much Derry told you bought me?”

“Nothing?” both Pecan and Doe answered.

“But uh… I’m Pecan,” the witch apprentice said. Doe followed suit and introduced himself as well.

“Okay. My name’s Monika. I’m gonna look over your test today-- Millan, get me my hat,” the old woman named Monika said.

Millan quickly went to retrieve the hat after answering her with a “yes, grandma”. It took him no time to come back with a large, elaborate witch hat. Monika set it on her head once Millan handed it over to her and suddenly the nerves started hitting Pecan and Doe again. The hat was a bit intimidating. The woman was the real deal.

It was about then that Derry walked into the sign shop. “Good afternoon…!”

“Uh…? You’re here too--” Pecan asked only to stop speaking once she noticed six people were tagging along behind the cafe owner.

“Guhl, you need to be tellin’ them somethin’! They over here not knowing nothing-- welcome. Welcome,” Monika greeted the six guests as they walked in.

“Sorry Mrs. Monika,” Derry said as she laughed nervously. “The six of you can sit over here.”

Derry directed the six people to an emptier part of the room. They sat as they looked around anxiously.

“So this is how the test goes,” Monika began. “These people got something botherin’ them. You need to do somethin’ about it. That’s all!”

Pecan tilted her head as Doe seemed lost. The blonde asked, “Something like… anything?”

“Whatever you think is good, you do,” Monika clarified. She pointed to Millan and Derry. “And no hints.”

Derry confirmed that she wouldn’t give any hints while Millan folded his arms as he averted his gaze. “Why would I give them hints?”

Monika just gave him a knowing yet stern look. The twelve-year-old buckled under the pressure and stood next to his grandma in a place where she could clearly see him.

“Alright, who wants to go first?” Monika asked. “Whoever ain’t goin’ yet needs to go to the backroom.”

Pecan and Doe looked over at each other. Doe spoke up. “Honestly! I want to go first! I’m so nervous that I want to just do my best and be done!”

That was understandable to Pecan, the man with two last names was looking a little shaky. If going first would help him, then Pecan was willing to go after him. “Okay, go ahead.”

“You?” Monika asked as she eyed Doe. Once she received a nod from Doe, she gave Derry a look.

“Alright. Pecan, follow me,” Derry said. Pecan walked behind her down the hall into another room. “You just wait in here.”

She picked up a box and looked Pecan in the eye. “And good luck…!”

“Thanks,” Pecan said as Derry closed the door and took the box with her.

That left the witch apprentice on her own in the room. It wasn’t exactly a waiting room, but instead seemed to be someone’s bedroom. The only thing out of place was a sofa in the corner. Pecan decided to take a seat there as she twiddled her thumbs.

She couldn’t hear much of what was being said in the other room. Everything sounded like someone was trying to speak with tape over their mouths.

Well, that didn’t bother Pecan too much. She patiently waited, but that didn’t stop her from being nervous. She couldn’t stop looking around the room and jiggling her thumbs. What a long wait it seemed like.

Soon, Derry and Doe came into the room. “Alright, Doe. You stay here. Pecan, you’re up…!”

“How was it?” Pecan asked.

Doe shrugged and was about to speak, but Derry wagged a finger. “Oh no you don’t… it’s a secret.”

Pecan and Doe raised their brows as Derry led the way to the front room. Monika smiled at Pecan with a chuckle.

“Ready to go?” she asked as she motioned over to the now three people sitting cross legged on the floor. It looked like the other three had left.

“Uh… I think so,” Pecan said as she approached the three. They looked almost as nervous as her. “So what exactly do I do?”

Monika tapped the box that Derry had brought in earlier with her cane, but it was Derry who answered. “Anything you can do... to help them.”

Pecan thought for a while and then approached the three remaining people. She sat in front of the first person and asked, “Heya. What’s your name?”

“Cassandra…” the first person replied.

“What brings you here today?”

“I feel like I’m being haunted…” Cassandra whispered as she put her head down.

After a moment of thought, Pecan mumbled, “Okay”. She moved over to the next person and asked, “What’s your name?”

“Lars,” he answered. “I’m having trouble finding a job.”

With a nod, Pecan scooted over to the next person. “And your name?”

“Neda. I uwuh… just want to be less like kinda socially awkward?” the last person said as more of a question than anything.

Hearing all their woes, Pecan went back to thinking. Usually, she would just make a drink spell while using herbs and other ingredients, but she didn’t have any of that. She looked around the room and stared at the box that Derry had brought out. She peeked inside, but it seemed like it was full of random things like old toys, accessories, bottles, and such.

She furrowed her brow at the box for a while, but suddenly had an idea. She picked out an old wallet, a pocketknife, and a glass bottle. They weren’t exactly what Pecan wanted, but she had to work with what she had. She made her way back to the three.

Pecan placed the bottle in front of the last person, the wallet in front of the middle person, and the pocketknife in front of the first.

“So I’m just improvising this, but…” she clapped and placed her hand over the knife. “Don’t lay a hand on her!”

With that, the knife glowed orange. “Keep this knife with you and uh… it should keep evil spirits away.”

Cassandra picked up the knife and observed it carefully. “...Thanks?” She tucked it into her pocket despite thinking it was suspicious.

Pecan moved in front of Lars. “Okay, uh… as for you, I’m giving you a career spell.” She placed a hand over the wallet and yelled. “Get a job!”

“Wha-- it just sounds like you’re my parents,” Lars lamented. Nonetheless, the wallet glowed a light green and returned to normal.

“I know-- but yeah, just uh... make sure you use this wallet from now on, okay?” Pecan instructed as she moved on to Neda.

They stared at each other for a while until Pecan broke the silence with a goofy, “Hi.”

Pecan placed her hand over the bottle and yelled. “Be social! Talk to me darn it!”

The bottle glowed blue and returned to normal. Neda seemed rather confused and asked. “What did that do?”

“Well, I’m hoping that if you drink out of that every now and then, it should be able to help you communicate better. I put an uh… communication spell on it,” Pecan explained.

“Cool,” Neda said as she looked over the bottle.

Monika tapped her cane on the floor three times. “Looks like you three are good to go. Thank you for ya time.”

And with that, the test was over, and the three remaining people filed out as they thanked Pecan.

“Millan, bring ol’ Doe back in here,” Monika demanded. Not missing a beat, Millan went to the room to grab Doe.

Derry shuffled over to Monika and whispered something in her ear, prompting Monika to start whispering back. Upon Doe and Millan returning, Monika instructed the test takers to take a seat in front of them on the floor.

She looked the two over for a while as she hummed in thought. Finally, she spoke up. “Doe, I’m gonna tell you straight out, you gotta know how to make those spells from scratch, baby.”

“Sorry! I know!” Doe said as he placed a fist over his mouth, disappointed in himself.

Derry nodded. “He can get it soon... so if you can, I’d like to make time for another test.”

Monika approved of this arrangement and stared Pecan down. She shook her head. “Who the heck give somebody a pocketknife for ghosts? What she gonna do? Stabbit?”

Pecan’s heart jumped out of her chest. She messed up. Monika was right, once the witch apprentice thought about it, you can’t stab a ghost. “Sorry, you’re right… Hopefully it can uh… protect her anyway.”

“And a bottle? Whatcha tryin’ to make her? Sure, if she drink up all the time then yea maybe she might be more social or somethin’, but that’s a whole other problem,” Monika pointed out.

Pecan sighed in disappointment. “Yeah. Uh… you have a point.”

There was a long silence with Pecan thinking to herself that she would have to do better next time. The test had been a huge kick in the gut. She wasn’t prepared to be a witch yet.

At least that’s what she thought. Monika laughed and leaned back in her chair. “Well, that ain’t the point of the test though. You thought out spells, made ‘em work-- they got what they needed s’long as they keep those t’ings by ‘em.”

Pecan perked up, trying to see if she was following where the conversation’s conclusion was heading. It sure sounded to her like the results were taking a positive turn, but she couldn’t be too sure. “Oh… so uh… do I… pass…?”

“That’s right, baby. That means you are a level one witch,” Monika grinned. “Congratulations. Millan?”

Millan nodded with a smile and went further down the hall in another room.

“Congratulations…!” Derry cheered as she smiled. “Pecan, you’ve worked hella hard, so you deserve it for real.”

Doe happily nodded in agreement. “Yeah! You’ve been getting really good! I couldn’t catch up at all, ha hah!”

“Uh…” For a moment, Pecan waited for Monika to take back her words. However, as soon as Millan came from the back with a small witch hat which matched his, she realized that the woman was sincere. She yelled a thank you to the older woman and then hopped up right onto Derry as she hugged the life out of her teacher.

“Thank you thank you thank you,” Pecan shouted as she refused to let go of Derry who could only laugh and pet her head. Monika and Doe laughed right along as Millan proudly smiled and clapped with the witch hat still in hand. She had done it: Pecan was officially a low-level witch.

After spending more time celebrating at Monika’s shop, Pecan, Derry, and Doe returned to Witch Cafe Wisteria.

“I’m... so proud of both of you. Doe, even if you didn’t pass, it was good to see… that you knew what to do. You just couldn’t do it yet,” Derry said, patting Doe on the head.

He smiled and blushed, seeming like he was about to cry. “I really appreciate that! I’ll just have to work harder!”

“I’ll keep working hard too. I uh… just really want to make sure Witch Cafe Wisteria is the best it can be,” Pecan said.

Doe nodded and pumped his fists. “Me too!”

“Aw, you two,” Derry started, but she paused as she looked behind her apprentice. She quickly changed her tone. “Y’all… why is Barley here...?”

Pecan and Doe looked over to Barley in a panic. They had forgotten about him.

“Oh shoot uh…!”

“Sorry! We forgot to wake him!” Doe exclaimed as he and Pecan ran over to the fisherman to shake him awake.

Pecan quickly turned to the dubious-looking Derry with a sheepish grin. “Uh... ignore this, but count on it, we’re going to do our best!”

With the witch test out of the way, the employees of the cafe all planned to achieve more and do even better going further. Thus ended the first period of Pecan’s adventures at Witch Cafe Wisteria.