by Tina Zhu
Allora flips the worn OPEN sign to CLOSED as pedestrians stream by Caldera Magic Music Boxes and Bakes. Some of them sniff the air and comment on the smell of freshly baked bread. A group of children is playing tag around the shops in the square, laughing as they leapfrog over trees, exuberant with unpracticed magic. They’re heading towards Caldera, so Allora waves—just in time for two squealing toddlers to run into her.
She shouldn’t have worn her favorite dress today. Spells for cleaning out sand and grit require plants they’ve run out of and a second apprentice to help out with the endless tasks. But before she can fall face-first into the ground, a teenage boy with dark hair and in a gray jacket melts out of the crowd and offers her hand, breaking her fall.
She regains her balance and lets go of the boy. He’s saved her from an unpleasant fall and bruised elbows. She knows the best way to thank him. “Would you like a scone or two on the house? I promise they’re delicious.”
“Are you open right now?” he mutters.
“We can talk business after lunch,” Allora says. “Young man, are you here for a music box?”