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*I decided I needed something to introduce the reader to Ella, when she still doesn’t believe in magic. Here it is.*

Ella Peabody walked home in the twilight, her worn green backpack slung over her shoulders. She walked on the left side of the road, facing traffic, so she noticed when two of the four squad cars of the Fall City PD passed her, apparently headed to a silent alarm. She stopped at the crosswalk in front of Miss Sophy’s home, but not before waving at the figure hidden behind the sheer curtains. Miss Sophy waved back, but didn’t quit spying. No doubt, she was curious about the emergency, too.
Fall City was a remote mountain village, set deep in the Cascades, with a two lane highway in and out, and only seasonal tourist attractions in the form of summer cabins along what was referred to as Fall Lake, but which was little more than a mosquito pond.. There was really no industry of any kind: a little logging, a lot of hunting and fishing in season, some outlying ranches, a dying main street, and one sad little strip mall. The bowling alley still attracted local teams. Cell reception sometimes was lost for days when a good winter storm blew in and the passes were snowed in.
Ella looked both ways and proceeded across the street. She was almost clear of the last lane when a big white van blew past her, going well over the 25 mile-an-hour speed limit and crazily close to the teenager.
“Jerk!” she muttered, too shy to shout it.
Ella wasn’t just shy: she was socially inept, according to her best friend, Billie.
“You spend too much time in the science lab,” Billie would say. “Why don’t you come hang out at the skate park with me and the guys?”
The guys were Dustin (“Dish”) and Gran, Ella and Billie’s childhood friends. Ella had a crush on Dish, but she didn’t dare tell anyone, not even Billie. Billie was a little spitfire, totally out-going, and only a so-so student in school. Billie also already had a date lined up for the Winter Ball, and Ella had – well, nothing. She doubted Dish would ever try to ask her out: she was just ‘one of the guys’.
Fall City had a decent skate park. The city fathers built it to keep teenagers out of trouble, and it worked for some of them. Others hung around at the skate park and smoked cigarettes before leaving to shred sidewalks around abandoned businesses. There was also a dirt BMX bike track that got used by mountain bikers and BMX riders, but it wasn’t sanctioned by the town council and was always in danger of being bulldozed over.
Ella loved Fall City with the sole exception of the widely-held belief that it was a haven for witches and practioners of magic. She once spent an entire summer convincing tourist kids there was no such thing as magic. She did this by setting up a booth at the Farmer’s Market and offering to debunk any magic trick they tried to prove. She’d done quite well, too, much to the amusement of the good citizens of Fall City (most of whom liked their spooky reputation). However, her endeavors had further isolated her from school mates who now looked a little askance when she neared. Ella the Nerd, they called her.
Mr. Gist, who lived four houses down from the Peabody’s, backed out of his driveway so quickly that he nearly hit Ella. She jumped back and was surprised at the angry look on the little man’s face. He was usually such a nice man!
She walked up the long walkway to her home, a late 1800’s Queen Anne, shaking her head. She was still pondering all the odd events when she let herself in and smelled dinner cooking. Lasagna, her favorite. She dropped her back pack and tossed her jacket onto the coat tree near the front door.
“I’m home!”
“Great! Now we can eat!” Her little brother, Aric, pushed himself out of the gaming chair he had been ensconced in. “I’ve had to smell that for, like, an hour. Pure torture.”
Dinner was good, and her parents were in good humor. Ella cleared the table and loaded the dishwasher, before going upstairs to her bedroom to study for her Advanced Science course. She fell asleep in the wee hours of the night.
She dreamed there were distant sirens and someone was walking down the middle of the street, pointing a magic wand at houses and sending them up in flames. Ella wrapped herself in a robe and floated out her bedroom window to the street, and held up her Advanced Science book as if to repel the cloaked stranger.
“Magic does not exist!” she shouted. She shouted and shouted until she woke herself up, mumbling in her sleep and gasping.
“That was weird,” she told her stuffed cat. “Of course magic doesn’t actually exist.”

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