THE YEAR we lost Miss Mattie, there was an odd emptiness in the house. I was too young to understand as much about death as I do now but it seemed my older sisters did, especially Emma—she was closest to Miss Mattie and, despite her smiles, I knew she was sad. I didn’t like her being sad.
Every afternoon on my way home from school I would walk past his shop on Simmons Drive but I never was really interested in it, only the tree which hung over it. Its branches bore the sweetest, juiciest mangoes. My friends and I would eagerly watch as they slowly grew, and then descend upon them the moment they were ripe. Sometimes when I was alone I climbed up into the branches just to watch people pass by. And when I became bored I made strange noises to scare them while I hid in the leaves. But that day, when I found myself standing in front of the shop, it was not the tree or its ripe mangoes which I was interested in. Looking at the odd collection of things in the window, I wondered if I would find what I was looking for.
I went in.
The shop wasn’t big but there were so many things in it. Walls were lined with shelves, and the shelves were lined with vases and small statues and little objects of every description imaginable. Some old and mostly odd-looking furniture, along with a few other larger items, sat on the floor next to a wall. At the center of that cramped collection was a great big desk. And there he sat.
“Good afternoon,” he said, looking at me over his round, thick glasses.
We stared at each other for what seemed like forever. His eyes weren’t grey as I’d expected; they were silver, and sparkled like the polished cutlery Mummy only brought out when we had special visitors. It was like they were seeing straight through me and knew what was inside of me. I froze and all of the things I had heard about him began to run through my mind.
He’s a wizard.
He can turn people into lizards and creepy-crawlies.
All of the things in his shop are magic.
“Are you looking for something?” His voice was younger than he looked.
“Yes.” I tried to stop staring at his eyes but I couldn’t.
“What are you looking for?”
“Something for my sister—she’s sad. I think she needs magic.”
“Oh…why would she need magic?”
“Because magic makes the sad go away. When I’m sad Mummy makes magic cocoa for me. It always makes me feel better. But it’s not making Emma feel better. I think she needs other magic—special magic.”
“I see.” He leaned forward. “And what makes you think you can find it here?”
I didn’t know if I should say what I was thinking at the time. I broke from his gaze and surveyed the room. “Well, you have a lot of things in here.”
“Yes, I do.”
“Where do they all come from?”
“Here and there. Almost everywhere.”
“Are they magic things?”
Again our eyes connected. It felt as if he could see my secrets and I couldn’t hide from him. A smile passed his lips for a moment.