Jordyn wasn’t careful with what she wished for.
After making a reckless choice that destroyed her life along with the life of her high school sweetheart, Jordyn fled her small town and became a professional mermaid. Being around water suppresses her earth-based magic, something she desperately needs.
Yet Jordyn can't suppress who she really is --- a witch.
When she learns that her mother is dying of cancer, she returns home. But it isn’t until people end up dead and everyone points fingers at her that she realizes her past is coming back to haunt her. Because her ex-boyfriend Zach has been waiting for her. And he hasn’t forgotten how she brought him back to life that night three years ago.
Jordyn will finally have to embrace being a witch to learn the truth. And it will change her life forever.
** I'd Rather be a Witch is a tie-in with How to be a Mermaid. It uses some of the same characters and can be read as a standalone or as a complement to it. **
I’d Rather Be a Witch
Tonight, there was a blood moon in Los Angeles.
That was never a good thing. After all, I believe in bad omens.
You can’t get me to cross the road when I see a black cat on the other side; I never open umbrellas inside; if I spill salt, I toss some over my shoulder; I always knock wood to counteract jinxes; and I have never liked Friday the thirteenth.
Those were only a few among many, many other bad omens that I was constantly aware of. When you’re descended from a long line of witches, you don’t mess with forces you don’t fully understand. You have to respect them, because they certainly don’t respect you. Even though I don’t practice witchcraft anymore, I never ignore the signs.
When the clouds parted and I noticed the red moon for the first time, mocking me with its reminder of the last time I saw one, I wanted to scream.
I tried to mask my horror, but my friend and coworker, Alaina, still noticed. She was four months pregnant and had this supernatural ability to pick up on any change in emotions. Either that or I looked as horrified as I felt.
“Jordyn, what’s wrong?” she asked.
The two of us were on West Washington Boulevard in Los Angeles, trying out some of the food trucks after a long day. Our professional mermaid troupe, Neptune’s Mermaids, was in town for our exclusive water ballet performances at the L.A. Aquarium. We had sold out every show so far, and with another three performances in as many days, we were set to break our own records.
We were exhausted, and a kebab or some tacos sounded amazing.
At least they did. I had lost my appetite after seeing the moon.
As soon as I started to speak, my phone rang. Even before I saw who was calling, I knew what it was going to be about: someone I loved had died or was dying. Because that’s what blood moons meant in the past.
I answered the call, a sense of dread gripping me with icy tendrils.
“Jordyn?” my little sister asked on the other end. When I heard the tears in her voice, I instantly felt them prick in the corners of my eyes. My heart pounded in answer, my mind screaming in time with it.
No, no, no, no.
“It’s Mom. She’s…” her voice trailed off before she spoke the words I didn’t want to hear, because I already knew what they were going to be. “She got back from the doctor today. She…she has cancer.”
I closed my eyes. “What kind?”
“Brain cancer.” My sister’s voice caught. “They say it’s terminal. They’ve given her less than four weeks to live.”
I covered my mouth with my hand, containing the cry that wanted to escape. Alaina saw my distress and frowned.
“Can you come home?” Abby asked. “I don’t know what to do.”
I nodded into the phone, not thinking about the other consequences of me returning home. Mom was all that mattered now. “I’ll get there as soon as I can.”
Abby only had one more word for me: “Hurry.”
As I ended the call, I heard her gasping sob.
“I’ve got to talk to Neptune,” I told Alaina, surprised at how strong my voice sounded. “I need to go home. My mother’s sick.”
Alaina’s face crumpled into a sad frown. “Oh, Jordyn, I’m so sorry.”
I may have messed up horribly in the past, but I certainly wasn’t going to let my family down at a time like this.
After three years, it was finally time to go home.
“Yes, of course you can take some time off,” my boss, Neptune, told me. We were sitting in the lobby of the hotel twenty minutes later, sipping on drinks from the café. My chamomile tea was doing nothing to calm my nerves. “Family is the most important thing.”
Unfortunately, my absence meant that Neptune would have to cancel the remaining record-breaking shows in Lost Angeles. With only Alaina and Christine left, they couldn’t do the full show.
Despite all my efforts to the contrary, I was bawling my eyes out, creating a scene in a public place.
I’d been numb after Abby called me, but once the tears started, I couldn’t stop them. Somehow I managed to tell Neptune that my mother was dying, but beyond that, my words had quickly melted into blubbering.
“Buh—buh—but the shows… The muh—muh—money…”
“Aw, Jordyn, honey,” Christine said, her voice cracking with sympathy. She wrapped me in a big hug. “It’s going to be okay.”
“Seriously,” Alaina added. She hugged from my other side. “Your mom is way more important.”
I gulped down some air, managing to get myself a little under control. “But you’d only have two mermaids for the show. How could—?”
Neptune shook his head. “Jordyn, we’re in L.A., the city of actors, actresses, and everything in between. We’ll find someone to replace you. You’re not that special,” he added playfully, which did the trick; I hiccupped a laugh. He didn’t know my secret, that I actually was special. Or cursed, depending on your point of view. “Besides, since Tara left to go to college and Alaina is going to have her baby soon, we’ll have to find more mermaids anyways. It’s something we need to start doing. The troupe will be fine. Trust me.”
I did trust him. I trusted Christine and Alaina, too, and even Tara, who had left the troupe a month ago to go to college full time. I didn’t want to let them down, which was exactly what I was going to do. I’d been with them for two years and we’d gone through so much together. They were my family as much as my biological family.
“Jordyn,” Christine said warmly, “don’t worry about us. Just take care of your mother and your family, and everything will be fine.”
Will it? Will a world without Mom still have bright and sunny days?
She brought all of that and more wherever she was. She took care of me, knew my failings and still loved me, even though one of my mistakes had splintered our family and destroyed another family. I was a bit of a freak by any standard, so losing one of the few people who understood me would leave me…
“Thank you,” I said, meaning it with every fiber of my being. “Thank you so much.”
We hugged again, and Neptune joined in this time, which was completely unlike him. I didn’t care—I was so glad they were there for me. The kindness of my mermaid family made me cry harder, and that made Alaina cry harder.
I was going to miss them. Especially since I needed their strength more than anything. Now that I was going home, I’d have to face my past. Face him, Zachary Harington, the one person I never wanted to see again. The last time I saw him, he tried to kill me, and it was all my fault.
Because I was a witch who did one of the worst things imaginable in one moment of weakness.
I brought him back from the dead when we were seventeen.
About Erin Hayes
Sci-fi junkie, video game nerd, and wannabe manga artist Erin Hayes writes a lot of things. Sometimes she writes books, like the fantasy mystery novel Death is but a Dream, the sci-fi middle grade book Jacob Smith is Incredibly Average, and the Her Wolf paranormal series.
She works as an advertising copywriter during the day, and she moonlights as an author. She has lived in New Zealand, Texas, and now in Birmingham, Alabama with her husband, cat, and a growing collection of geek paraphernalia.
You can reach her at email@example.com and she'll be happy to chat. Especially if you want to debate Star Wars.
Connect with Erin online