Gertie and Bridget go to a yard sale

Photo by Ignat Kushanrev on Unsplash
“Ten dollars,” Bridget said, countering the man’s offer.
He sighed. “Fine, take the jacket.”
Bridget pulled the bill out of her wallet and handed it to the man. She slipped the Fairweather jacket over her shoulders, smiling as it magically lengthened and grew to fit her, since its previous owner had clearly been much more petite. The material reacted to the sunlight, making the gray shimmer in blues and greens. It was quite the find, after digging through the large boxes of clothes where everything was marked as “name your price.” Bridget loved going to yard sales.
Gertie looked through the potted plants sitting on a plastic folding table. She shifted aside the vines and leaves in search of stickers denoting prices, only to find the names of the plants instead. Her mouth popped open in a gasp, and she picked up one of the plastic pots.
“Is this a milkberry vine?” she asked the man running the sale.
“I don’t know.” He glanced over it. “I’ll give it to you for three dollars though, since it’s so tiny.”
Gertie looked dumbstruck. “Don’t you… but it’s a milkberry vine!”
“My family tasked me with selling what they wanted to get rid of,” the man said, typing numbers into a cash register and putting Bridget’s bill in. “If they didn’t put a price on it, or mention one to me, it’s on them.”
That was good enough for Gertie. “Sure. Three dollars.”
She passed the pot to her sister and pulled out her new wallet to pay.
Bridget staggered under the weight - the plant was much heavier than it looked. It was barely more than a thick central stem with a few small black and purple flowers. The man was right; it didn’t look like it was worth much.
“Can we go home?” Gertie said, excitedly taking the pot back from her sister.
“Yeah, let’s-”
“Wait,” the man stopped them. “You seem interested in magical things. All the furniture’s been sold, and I can donate the clothes, but these are all useless to me. You want them?”
He held out a cardboard box. It contained several small boxes, some jewelry, a few books, and other random items. One thing was clear, through Bridget’s enchanted eye that let her see such things: every item was somewhat magic.
“How much?” Bridget asked hesitantly.
The man sighed. “Fifteen for the whole box?”
“Deal!” Gertie said, putting down her new plant and pulling out her wallet again.


***


Gertie portioned out the water from a bottle into a drinking cup, meticulously measuring it down to the drop with a pipet.
Ziggy, the sisters’ ghost dog, sat in front of her, begging her with soft eyes to play with him. Gertie could see him only because she wore her enchanted baseball cap that was spelled to let her see the ghost.
“Hey boy.” Gertie reached down and attempted to pet him. Her hand went right through his fur, as he was incorporeal, but his mouth hung open in joy just the same. “I can’t play now. I have work to do!”
“Come on, Ziggy. You can help me,” Bridget said. He obediently lay down in the center of the room, next to Bridget who was still sorting through the box from the yard sale.
“What’s so special about the plant anyway?” Bridget asked as she inspected a bottle.
“Milkberries are used in a lot of healing potions,” Gertie said. She went to her bookshelf and got out the plastic container labeled “plant food.” It was filled with a white powder that looked like baking soda. Gertie used it to enrich the soil and keep her plants healthy in her dorm room.
“So you want to learn healing potions?” Bridget asked, trying to figure out why Gertie was so worked up
“No. Well, yes.” Gertie used the scoop inside the plastic container to measure out the plant food and mixed it into the cup of water. “But the berries themselves have healing properties, almost like their juice is a potion. I just figure that if we had an endless supply of fresh-from-the-vine healing berries, we won’t have to keep going to the infirmary for bruises and scrapes.”
“Wow!”
The tone was much too excited for what Gertie had said, so she looked up and saw her sister levitating.
Apparently, there had been an enchanted sunhat in the box that Gertie hadn’t noticed. It now sat proudly on Bridget’s head, allowing her to float.
“Mine!” Gertie said, running to her younger sister and trying to yank the hat off. Of course, Bridget was taller than her, and now she wasn’t even on the ground. Gertie tried jumping, but couldn’t get close to the hat.
“Why?” Bridget floated around the room, using her legs to paddle through the air, her feet just barely hovering, like Ziggy’s were.
“I collect hats! I paid for the box.”
“I don’t know,” Bridget said playfully and swooped to the side as Gertie grabbed at her. “I kind of like this. Maybe I’ll start my own hat collection!”
Gertie groaned in frustration and threw the almost-empty water bottle in her hand at her dodging sister.
To their shock, the bottle hit Bridget’s jacket and, with a flash of light from the material, sprung away. It whooshed past Gertie’s shoulder and crackled against the dorm wall, leaving a scratch in the paint. Ziggy yipped at the noise.
“Huh,” Bridget said, removing the hat and thumping to the floor with both feet. She held the hat out to her sister, who took it with a quiet word of thanks. “Did the jacket do that?”
“Yeah,” Gertie said. She placed her new sunhat on her desk to be stored later.
Bridget ran her hand over the fabric on her arm, watching the colors change and trying to discern with her eye what enchantments it had woven into it.
After a moment of thought, Gertie took a deep breath and took a fighter’s stance with her fists up, facing her sister.
Bridget threw up her arms defensively. “What are you doing?”
“I’m going to punch the jacket.”
“Why?”
“To test it.”
Ziggy whined in protest.
“What if it reflects that badly back on you?” Bridget asked.
Gertie had already thought of that. “Then I get punished for trying to punch you.”
“What if you actually hurt me?”
Gertie paused. “Do you have any other ideas?”
Bridget thought for a moment and shook her head, putting down her arms and turning to expose more of the jacket.
“Ok.” Gertie pulled her fist back, and punched Bridget’s arm.
The fabric her fist landed on lit up and felt like she had hit a wall instead of a person.
“Agh,” Gertie shook her hand out, trying to relieve the pain.
“See!” Bridget grabbed a cold pack from Gertie’s mini-fridge. “I told you it would hurt.”
“Still,” Gertie took the cold pack gratefully and put it on her bruised knuckles. “That’s a useful jacket to have. I can think of a lot of fights it would have helped in. Did you feel anything?”
“No, nothing,” Bridget murmured, her mind wandering to the possibilities.
Gertie looked to the box, full of unknown potential. “I wonder what else is in there.”
The sisters sorted through the box, digging past the top layer they had seen at the yard sale. They found necklaces that stored power, a baseball that Ziggy could play with despite being a ghost, and old books on charm studies, magical creatures, and crockpot recipes. There were bottles and glasses, rags and soaps, a vase, a statue, and more. In short, an endless supply of weird things to test.
“What’s going on?” Ernest came into the room without knocking on the open door, a beanie on his head.
“Look at all this cool stuff!” Gertie said, holding up an empty picture frame in front of her face. She pressed a button on the side, and the image of her expression froze as a painting in the frame.
“Nice.” Ernest hesitated. “So, about that thing we texted about?”
“Oh, right!” Gertie sat up and went to her cupboard. She pulled a bottle out labeled with a “G”.
“What’s that?” Bridget asked.
“None of your business,” Ernest snapped.
Gertie grabbed a second styrofoam cup from her stack.
Bridget stared at him. “It’s a little warm for a hat, isn’t it?”
It was Gertie who answered her. “It’s never too warm for a hat.” She pulled out some teaspoons and measured the potion from the bottle into the cup.
“I’m just saying.” Bridget inched closer to Ernest. “Maybe something else is amiss?” She playfully reached for the tip of the beanie and Ernest backed away.
“Don’t you dare!”
“Did the figgle get out of its cage and eat some of your hair?” she asked. The little pest had bothered Gertie for long enough before they caught it and Ernest offered to care for it. And its most common source of food was human hair.
Ernest turned beet red. “No!”
“Did it get out and eat all of it?”
Ernest balled his hands into fists. “Don’t you dare laugh or I’ll let it free into your room!”
Bridget bit her bottom lip, struggling not to giggle.
It was Gertie who did her in. “Ok.”  She set the cup down on the table towards Ernest. “I measured this perfectly so you don’t accidentally grow hair on your elbow or-”
Bridget started laughing so hard she teared up.
“Oh screw you!” Ernest shouted, marching out of the room.
“Ernest, wait! I’m sorry!” Bridget chased after him.
Gertie sighed. She could hear them arguing in the middle of the hall. They would cool off soon enough. She packed away all their new magic paraphernalia that they had strewn over the floor and moved the box to a corner of the room where it would be out of the way. She took the cup and watered the milkberry plant.
After still hearing the arguing, she sat on her bed, playing a game on her phone and petting Ziggy. A door slammed and then there was silence.
After a bit of waiting, she stopped to listen at her door. There weren’t even footsteps.
Without warning, her door opened, nearly hitting her head.
“Everything good?” Gertie asked the no-longer-shouting Bridget and Ernest.
“Bridget’s going to pay for dinner as an apology,” Ernest said.
Bridget nodded. “You can come too.”
“Great!” Gertie grabbed a light jacket off her computer chair.
“Gertie?” Ernest stopped her. “My potion?”
“Right.” Gertie picked up the cup she had set aside and handed it to him.
“Gertie?”
“Yeah?”
“Is it supposed to be green?”
Gertie paused. She took the cup back from him. She smelled it.
“Nope, that’s the plant food,” she mumbled. She looked at the plant. It didn’t look any different. But she had definitely just watered it with growth formula.
“Maybe it’ll be fine?” Bridget said.
Gertie inspected the plant. It hadn’t immediately grown to the ceiling of her dorm; in fact, it hadn’t seemed to react at all.
Maybe this would be a good thing. Maybe the milkberries would grow faster.
Gertie shrugged, trying to shove that exciting thought down. “Well, nothing I can do about it now.” She turned to Ernest. “Want me to make you another potion?”
Ernest waved his hand dismissively. “I’m too hungry. After dinner?”


***
Even before she turned on her light, Gertie knew something was amiss. Her room just didn’t normally smell that sickeningly sweet.
She reached for the switch hesitantly, steeling herself for the worst.
“Oh,” Ernest said, bumping into Gertie when she didn’t walk farther into the room.
“Well, it looks healthier now,” Gertie said.
The milkberry vine was no longer solitary. It had spread tendrils from its spot on Gertie’s window sill, down the wall and up her bookshelf. It had almost reached her bed.
“Hopefully that’s the worst of it,” Gertie said. She picked up her pruning shears next to her plant pots, shaking a few leaves off of them, and began clipping away the flowerless vines.
“So.” Ernest shifted awkwardly. “I guess I’m not getting the growth potion after all?”
Gertie shook her head. She had to deal with the plant. “Is tomorrow ok?”
Ernest nodded and left his hallmate to her task. Gertie spent the better part of an hour cleaning up the fallen tendrils and leaves, but by the end of the night she had her little milkberry vine back.
She changed, turned out the light, got in bed, and settled in to fall asleep.


***


When Gertie woke up, she found she’d been mummified.
It was a bit like opening up her eyes to find her worst nightmare had come to life. She fought against the urge to scream, and tried to sit up.
It took a bit of struggling, but the tangled vines that had grown over her in the night shifted aside, and Gertie took a deep breath.
The plant looked like it had exploded. Every place she had clipped a tendril, two more, thicker, longer ones had taken its place. Half her room looked like the corner of a greenhouse now.
Gertie grumbled. It was far too early for this.
She went to her computer, brushing off more plant matter, and started researching milkberry vine care.
“I brought you some - what the-?” Bridget stopped at the door, rendered speechless by the sight.
“Yeah, so,” Gertie said, still staring at the computer. “It turns out that milkberry vines are notoriously hard to take care of. If you cut it wrong, or cut off any of its tendrils, it just grows another shoot. And the tendrils are useless - only the center vine grows flowers and berries.”
Bridget moved closer to Gertie, setting down the to-go cup of tea she had brought her.
“Thanks,” Gertie said and took a long gulp.
Ziggy, leaving Bridget’s side, sniffed at the plant, trying to figure out what it was doing and how it got there.
“I apparently need to get some Cautopiary potion to brush on after I cut the smaller vines,” Gertie said. “Otherwise this’ll just happen again.”
“Well,” Bridget said. “Let’s go get some then.”


***
“Wow, look at this,” Vivien stepped into Gertie’s dorm room gingerly, her west-Crescyth accent hard to mistake. “It’s almost impressive.”
“You’re not helping,” Ernest said. He had removed his beanie from the heat of the physical labor involved in bending and clipping off vines and brushing on potion for hours, and they could now see what looked like a five o’clock shadow on his head.
“Sorry,” Vivien said. “How can I be of assistance?”
“Take this.” Bridget handed her a garbage bag full of vines and leaves. “And walk it down to the dumpster.”
The vine had lost most of its tendrils, and there was no sign of them coming back, thanks to the potion.
“Hey!” Gertie pulled a white berry from underneath some leaves, holding it up triumphantly. “Our first milkberry!”
“Nice!” Vivien said. Bridget and Ernest exchanged a look of frustration and got back to work. How could Gertie be so excited when they still had so much to do?
Gertie held the berry like a treasure. “I’m going to save this one-”
“Ouch!” Ernest held up his finger, a large gash in the side from where he had accidentally clipped it.
It was bleeding.
Gertie sighed. “Here.” She handed over the milkberry. “Eat it.”
Ernest looked at her hesitantly, took the milkberry and popped it into his mouth, chewed, and swallowed. He held his finger up again.
The four students watched as the cut slowly stitched itself together, leaving nothing but a drop of blood to signal that anything had been wrong in the first place.
“Well, that was-” Ernest paused and frowned. He reached up and started scratching at his head.
Before long, his fingers were getting tangled in hair. His own hair.
“...Awesome.”
With the last of the milkberry’s powers, Ernest’s hair had returned to its normal length.

“Well,” Bridget said. “Looks like you got your growth potion after all.”

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