by Alethea Kontis
Minna tried to stand still in front of the mirror, but it wasn't working. Effie jerked
Minna's hips from side to side, trying to adjust the bustle of her sateen French
cream walking dress. Minna stared at the print of the Luck etching she held, then
closed her eyes and pressed it to her breast, wishing with all her might for the
magic she had given it to seep back into her.
"Would you like some glue?" Minna's eyes snapped open as her friend's voice
sounded in her ear, dark and exotic as the Greek gypsy girl herself.
"See, now," said Minna, pointing at their reflections, "your head looks better on
this dress than mine does." Minna folded the Luck etching and tucked it inside her
sleeve, desperate for its closeness.
Effie noticed. "Luck doesn't always mean the good kind."
"Yes, but Lady Luck is my favorite. At the very least, she'll make life interesting.
And if I'm lucky," Minna wrinkled her nose, "it'll all be good."
"Silly," said Effie. "You can't fool me with that brave act. You're scared to death,
Minna sighed and wove her fingers together. "It is true. I am a little scared. Who
wouldn't be? This interview with Lord Astor is so importantů"
Effie turned Minna back to the mirror and started pinning up her hair. "I'm still
not certain it's a good idea. This Society of Natural Scientists could be a bunch of
fools for all you know. They are men, after all."
Minna tried to look up at Effie, but her friend forced her head back down and
mercilessly drove home another bobby pin. "I need an Alchemist, Effie. A true
magic user. I need someone to guide me. My powers have already outgrown
anything our mothers can teach."
"Yes, but you're a woman," said Effie. She bent down so that her chin rested atop
Minna's coiffed head. Her thick, wavy locks fell to Minna's shoulders. "And they
are men. So they cannot be trusted." She gave Minna a playful wink before
stepping back a pace and putting her hands on her hips. Minna stopped worrying
her hands together and dropped them to her sides.
"Perfection. All you lack now are gloves."
Minna looked at her hands. The skin of her fingertips was stained with etcher's
ink, their pads callused from acid. Her father's legacy. Daddy's little girl.
Jack Willows had been a member of the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers. He had
taught his daughter how to handle the cutting tools and the acid, so that Minna
might make etchings of her own. He had taught his wife as well -- and well
enough that a number of Mother's etchings had even appeared in the newspapers.
Minna learned the art from her father, but she learned the magic from her mother.
Few people had ever noticed the simple magics Mother had taught her to add to
the etchings. Even her father had not known.