Katie and her mum, and of course Solomon the cat, had lived in the same house for the best part of seven years. They did not actually own it, but mum rented it. Mother and daughter, with a little help from their pet, had gradually put their imprint on it, and the house had become more and more homely and witchy. The street it was on had a magical energy anyway because an ancient witch’s stream ran beneath it. If you went divining with two sticks in the back garden, the rods would tremble because of all the magical force beneath the lawn. And over the years, the house itself had soaked up Katie’s and her mum’s vibes. Magic had seeped into the walls, floors and the roof. Even if you were not a witch, you could feel a sort of frisson as you came through the front door. In short, it suited them down to the ground.
But the landlady wanted to put up the rent. This got her mum thinking. She had recently had a piece of good fortune – an American collector had bought a whole consignment of tribal statues from her. For once she had some savings in the bank. What should she do with the money? Buy a new car? Book a nice holiday – or perhaps, just maybe, use it as a down payment on their own house?
The idea of their own house grew and grew. Naturally she went to see Shumash, her friend who was an estate agent, and whose business it was to help people buy and sell houses. If you have heard our earlier Katie stories, you will know that Shumash and Katie’s mum rather like each other. Their shops are on the same street, so she did not have to go far. When she explained what she was thinking of doing he immediately said:
“Excellent idea. I’ll do my utmost to find a place that suits you and Katie down to the ground.”
Katie’s mum said:
“It will have to suit Solomon too. It can’t be near a main road and it has to have a garden.”
“Noted,” said Shumash. And it was not long before he had a list of properties ready so that Katie and her mum could go house hunting.
Shumash drove them around town. Katie felt a little self conscious as she clambered in and out of his car. You could not really fail to notice it, even if it was in the middle of a mile long traffic jam – it was emblazoned in bright orange, blue and red colours of the estate agent’s logo . Solomon sat on her lap in the back seat. Naturally he wanted to have a say where they would live, as a witch’s cat is very particular about homes.
It was funny hearing their friend slip into his salesman pattter … “First I’m going to show you a cosy little place that’s ever so convenient for local shops and amenities, ” he said. It was a tiny house overlooking the carpark of the supermarket. It could not have been less magical. Katie’s mum shook her head. They clambered back into his car. He said:
“The next one is beautifully presented. The current owner is an interior designer.”
And it was immaculate. Everything was sleek and shiny. But it had no heart, and certainly no magic. Solomon knocked over a big china vase and broke it. Katie’s mum hastily did a sticky spell to mend it, but she pretended not to notice the cat hairs that he left on the leather zig zag patterned sofa. Somehow she thought the place benefited from a tiny bit of untidiness.
A little, embarrassed Shumash said “This next one is what we estate agents call “a period property with original features that would benefit from some modernisation.” Translated into English that meant that it was semi derelict and the The loo was at the end of the garden. “But there is is huge potential if you develop it,” he went on. And Katie said : “Yes, mum, I could see this place looking really homely if we did some work on it.” But her mum did not look convinced. She sighed and said:
“I really don’t want to deal with builders.” She thought of all the dust, and expense, and the endless cups of tea. No she didn’t want that. Of course she could have used her magic to renovate the house, but it would have needed a massive spell and would have taken about a week. That sort of thing gets noticed by the neighbours. One minute the house has a big hole in the roof. The next it’s gone. How did that happen? Some busybody was bound to ask.
It was clear that they weren’t destined to find their dream home that morning. At the end of the tour, Shumash stopped being the sales agent and became their familiar friend again. He sat at the wheel of his car and said: “Normally I work through Saturday lunchtime, but I’ve kept it free so I can take you out for a meal.”
Solomon would have appreciated a good fish restaurant, but they dropped him off at home, protestingly loudly that it was unfair not to take him with them, and they drove to an American style Diner called Rocky’s. It was very popular in town. It was funny sitting down and looking at the menu because most people would have assumed that they were a family.
The waitress brought them the menus. Katie’s mum whispered to Shumash:
“People probably think you are Katie’s dad.”
“She’s a little pale to be my daughter,” he replied. He was referring to his skin colour, because he was Indian.
“Oh yes, ” laughed her mother, a touch nervously. It was something obvious that she had overlooked. And then she added: “Anglo Indian children are always very beautiful.”
“What a cheek!” thought Katie. “Does she mean I’m not?” But Shumash almost read her thought and said. “Well Katie’s beautiful anyway. If I may ask, what’s happened to her dad?”
It was of course a long story, and Katie’s mum did not really like talking about it, but since she liked Shumash so much, she thought she had better tell him the whole story. Witches find it quite hard to marry, she explained, because lots of men find their powers just a bit too full on to deal with, and besides they are meant to be secret. She didn’t want to marry a wizard, because to tell you truth, men who can do magic can be a bit perculiar sometimes, and if a witch and a wizard have a row, the magic can be quite explosive. It’s a fact that there aren’t many magical couples. When she was 22 years old, she took part in an experiment into the paranormal at the university. A young PHD student was carrying out the tests for his dissertation. They spent the day together, and he hooked up to his equipment in the lab and measured all sorts of magical forces radiating out of her. At the end, he asked her out, and things went from there. Now he is a professor and a leading expert on Extra Sensory Perception and Paranormal Phenomena. The field is very controversial and he gets lots of publicity. He’s often on the TV.
“Sounds like a perfect match. Why didn’t it work out?” asked Shumash when he had heard the story.
“Well,” said mum, “I just felt like Katie and I were subjects in a continuous experiment. He never stopped studying us. We couldn’t relax.”
“I see,” said Shumash. “Does Katie stay with him sometimes?”
This was a sore point with Katie. She knew that her face showed how she felt. She looked very grumpy. She hadn’t visited her dad for three years. Perhaps he didn’t try hard enough to see her, but she knew her mum made it difficult for him.
“He’s too inconsistent,’ said her mum. “He can’t agree to a schedule because he’s always travelling, going round the world pontificating about magic at conferences. Everything he knows comes from us. We made him. If Katie goes to see him, he’ll just fix her up to a machine in his lab and measure her magical development. I don’t want that.”
“No he won’t,” said Katie, “And in any case I wouldn’t mind. and besides, he wants to take me to a football match.”
“You don’t like football,” said Katie’s mum.
“No, but I’d like to go with dad if that’s his thing.”
“Well that’s the first time I’ve heard that,” replied her mum.
Sumash had never heard Katie and her mum argue like this. In fact it was very rare because normally they got on so well.
“Well if I may say so,” said Shumash. “I think it’s very important for children to see both parents.”
When Shumash spoke, Katie’s mum listened. Katie could see the effect she had on her. Until then, she had not been quite sure if he was a positive factor in their lives, or a slight nuisance and a competitor for her mum’s love and time. Now she was sure that he was an entirely good thing.
As a result of this conversation, Katie went to see her dad the following weekend. He was working on Saturday morning, so mum dropped her off at the university. “Don’t let him experiment on you,” she warned as Katie got out of the car. But Katie thought, “I’ll do what I want.”
She found him in his lab at the Department of Paranormal. A couple of extra keen students had come in to do some work. When Katie entered the door their instruments went off the scale. They looked up in awe to see who had caused a mini magical storm.
“This is my daughter,” said their tutor, proudly. His reputation as the university’s most extraordinary professor rose another notch or two.
Katie let her dad take a quick measurement of her main magical power indicators. They had all shot up considerably over the previous three years. And then they went to the football match to watch his beloved QPR lose three nil. It was funny seeing her father take leave of his quiet academic demeanor and shout, “Come on You Rs” at the top of his voice, and below instructions to the midfield players, as if he was the manager. At half time, he asked, almost pleading, “Couldn’t you just help them a bit Katie?”
“Really dad, you know that wouldn’t be sporting,” she replied. And then he thought and said ” I wonder if Man United have some magical assistance. It would be interesting to setup some instruments at a match and see.”
Afterward the match, they bought hot dogs and onions at one of the stalls and drank fizzy drinks that her mother would never let her have. All in all it was a great day out with her dad and Katie was very happy. In her heart she was grateful to Shumash for helping to make it happen.
Her dad dropped her off on their corner of the street where she lived. As she walked down she noticed something : a new For Sale sign had gone up on one of the houses. It was just like the one where they lived now. In fact, it was right above the source of the magical underground stream, so it was even better. She ran home to tell her mum.
The house was for sale with a different agency from Shumash’s, which was good in a way, because he was free to haggle over the price for them. He got them a really good deal. He also helped them with all the boring and stressful things that grown ups moan about at dinner parties, like surveyors, banks and lawyers. As a result Katie’s mum bought the house in time for the start of the Summer holidays.
The day of the move got closer and closer. No matter how many books, clothes, cds, plates, cups, magical implements and witch’s nick nacks they packed up, there was still more clutter and debris of eight years of life left over. The big beneficiary was the charity shop. Katie had been back and forth with bags of stuff to give away more times that she could recall. Magic was a help of course. But when there is a whole house of stuff to sort out, even spells can only do so much. You still have to go through everything, and decide what to keep, what to throw out, and how best to pack things up. Every evening, Katie’s mum worked on a mega-spell for the actual move. She planned to transport each box into the right room in the new house. The furniture was all labelled too with a magical coordinates. The spell had to be ever so exact to get everything in the right place. She did not want to end up with a bed in the bathroom, or a sofa stuck halfway through the kitchen door. It was particularly tricky as the new house was almost the same as their own, but slightly different. She had to spend a lot of time going round it on a virtual tour through her crystal ball.
At 8am on the day of the move, the doorbell rang. Katie was up and ready to go. She answered it. Shumash stood on the doorstep and said:
“Hello Katie, I’ve hired a van to move you girls down the street.”
Katie’s mum came downstairs, wearing a magical gown, as she was getting ready for her big spell.
“Shumash!” she explained, “You needn’t have … I told you not too. We can manage. It’s just a few doors away.”
“But you’ve still got a ton of heavy things to move. Of course I will help,” he insisted.
Katie’s mum was in quandary. Although Sumash was perfectly aware that she was a witch, she did not want him to actually see her do a big spell. She still had this strong feeling that men were put off by women who do magic. And the last thing she wanted was for a lovely guy like Shumash to find her all a bit too much.
“I insist, ” he said. He had already come into the hall and picked up a couple of boxes. He put them in the back of his van.
“What about the furniture?” asked Katie.
“When we’ve moved the boxes, I’ll get a couple of young interns from the office to help,” he said. “They’re fit and strong and will get it all shifted in no time.”
And so for the next three quarters of an hour they filled up Shumash’s van with crates. It was hard work, especially considering that it was totally unnecessary. As Katie struggled downstairs with a big box of books she wondered if Sumash was such a good factor in their lives after all. Solomon whispered,
“He’s such a dumbo. Why doesn’t your mum tell him to get lost?”
“He means well,” gasped Katie.
“Good intentions,” said Solomon licking his paw, “Are not good enough. I expect results,” and with that he sprang off to the garden. He would find his own way to the new house when everything was ready for him.
Shumash drove the 300 yards down the street to the new house. He had picked up the key from the rival agency. He gave it to katie’s mum. She put it in the lock and opened the front door. It was strange stepping into their new home. It was so like the old one, only different. The previous owners had lived in it for years without doing a thing to it, and then, when they decided to move, they had quickly done it up to make a good sale. It smelt of fresh paint and new carpet. Everything was gleaming white, clean, bland, and a bit cheap. The morning sun filled the empty rooms.
For a start Katie’s mum wanted to repaint everything in warmer, more magical colours. Fortunately that was a simple piece of magic. She could have done the decorating spell there and then, if Shumash had not been with them. Katie followed her into the kitchen. It was clinical like a dentist’s office. This was the room that would have to change most, because it was where they would prepare their spells. A lot of magic is like cooking you see, only more complicated. The right atmosphere in the room makes the spell richer.
Katie whispered to her mum: ‘This is so totally frustrating and silly. Can’t you just explain to him that you can get this move done in a trice?”
He mum wanted to sit down, but there wasn’t a chair. She wiped her forehead. “I suppose I’ll just have to,” she said. Her eyes looked anxious.
“Go on do,” said Katie. “Let’s put it this way, if he doesn’t accept magic as a fact of our lives, then he’s not right for you.”
“Alright,” said her mum, somewhat grimly. She knew that Katie’s words were right, but she didn’t want to test Shumash too much just yet. She went out to see him. He was just putting a box down in the living room. It had a magic code written on it that showed to a witch that it was meant for the master bedroom.
Katie heard her say, “Shumash, there’s something I should tell you.” And then she shut the door. Ten minutes later they all walked back to old house. Katie’s mum went on her own into the kitchen. Shumash and Katie stood outside in the back garden. When Katie’s mum called them back inside, everything was gone… all the tables, chairs, plates, and boxes full of stuff – even the tiles on the wall with magic symbols had disappeared.
“This is amazing,” said Shumash. “It’s like a fantasy. I can’t quite believe my own eyes.”
Katie’s mum looked at him anxiously. She feared he might just freak out completely. But he didn’t. He just needed a little time to adjust his idea of what was possible and impossible in the world.
They went back to the new place and every room now had furniture and boxes in it. Shumash kept on touching things to see if they were real.
“You don’t mind, do you?” said Katie’s mum, nervously.
“Mind about what?” asked Shumash.
“Mind about my magic.”
“If course not,” he said. “Not any more. My family is a bit against that sort of thing, but I think you are the most amazing woman I’ve ever met.” And then he hugged and kissed her.
Katie looked on. A voice in her said : “I always thought it would be a totally yucky to see my mum kiss someone, but Sumash is such a nice man and I’m really happy for her.”
And that was the story of Katie Moves House. Wow things are moving in the right direction for Katie’s mum. I’m really happy for her and glad that Katie’s seen her dad too.
And Bertie would like to send a big thank you to everyone who has left comments with suggestions for Katie stories. He’s really sorry he can’t take up all your suggestions, but they are really helpful and inspiring. We love the fact that you want to get involved. Please don’t get cross if he doesn’t always reply right away. He’s often on the move. He’s got so much to do now he’s a prince again !
In this case Fan suggested a story involving Katie’s dad. By coincidence Bertie was already mulling over the idea, so it goes to show that great minds think alike.
And if you are listening around the time we are publishing this story, at the start of Summer 2014, you might like to hear some of our plans for Storynory.com. This summer we are going to be publishing a musical series about Gladys the girl who wants to be a pop singer. It’s called Gladys Goes Solo and it has lots of new music and beautiful illustrations. You’re going to love it. And reading through the comments we realise that what a lot of our listeners really want are more Bertie and Katie stories. Bertie’s going to be writing hard over the summer so that we can build up a good stock of them for the Autumn when people get back from their holidays. And for those of you who live down under, we hope you don’t mind that we run on the seasons up here in Europe and America.