Born of Irish blood emigrated to the United States by her mother and her father's parents, Kaitlyn Mac Veigh was the picture of a stereotypical Irish lass. Her coppery hair fell in loose curls to the middle of her back. Her fair skin was freckled everywhere the sun could kiss. And her bright eyes were the color of a clear summer sky.
Kaitlyn never met her grandfather, but Móraí (MO ree), her grandmother, lived with her from her earliest memories. Móraí was a pillar in Kaitlyn's childhood even before her mother died from pneumonia she contracted while hospitalized after an appendectomy when Kaitlyn was just three. Then, when she was just starting third grade, a car accident ripped her father away. After that it was just Kaitlyn and her grandmother.
But Móraí raised the young girl as she had been raised in Ireland. The older woman came from a line of traditional celtic healers, and she began teaching Kaitlyn the different herbs before the girl could walk and talk. Kaitlyn proved to be a meticulous and innovative student, devouring Móraí's teachings with the fervor of a cat with a can of tuna.
There were times when their Celtic beliefs cost a young Kaitlyn her friends, or made her the center of ridicule at school. These instances left burning holes in her spirit that she was never able to extinguish or fill.
Grace was Kaitlyn's only real friend in school. The girls had been close since working on an eighth grade science project together. They became friends right away, and spent hours forming the type of friendship that should last a lifetime.
Because of her past experiences, Kaitlyn was careful to keep her Celtic background and practices to herself. Especially once she learned that Grace's family was devout Christian. She never lied about her religious beliefs, but she never told her friend about them either.
One day, in eleventh grade, Grace asked Kaitlyn to go to a weekend youth-group retreat with her. Grace assured Kaitlyn the group had no specific religious orientations, but once they were there it became clear that it was a Christian-based youth group.
Feeling betrayed, Kaitlyn was quiet and withdrawn throughout the weekend. When Grace confronted her the second night, Kaitlyn admitted to not being Christian without divulging her religious beliefs. Her friend was shocked. Having lived in a family with such strong Christian beliefs had left her blind to the fact that not everyone was Christian. She immediately started preaching to Kaitlyn, trying to convert her. She even took the matter to one of the youth group leaders, begging him to help save her friend.
This made Kaitlyn angry, and she went to find a quiet spot for some privacy. At the edge of the woods, she performed a ritual for inner peace and understanding. But Grace had followed her. When she saw Kaitlyn doing her ritual, she screamed, pointing at her from a distance, and yelling, "Witch! You're a witch!"
Kaitlyn had been raised with peace as the center of her spirituality, but this horrid accusation screamed at her by her best friend lit a fire within. As she stood from her small circle of sticks she had formed, her arms went stiff at her sides, her fingers spread wide. Flames born from nothing but the earth and twigs flared waist-high, licking the air before abruptly extinguishing without a trace they were ever there.
Screaming in terror, Grace turned and ran for the lodge. But she wasn't the only one frightened by the burst of flames. Kaitlyn was also taken by surprise. While Grace ran from her, tearing their friendship with each step, Kaitlyn collapsed to the ground, her bare feet to the side, her arms propping her up, her hair curtaining her broken expression.
Two leaders ran out to get Kaitlyn. They half-carried her trembling body back to the lodge where she could hear the hysterical babbling of Grace recanting the tale. Bringing her a glass of water, they asked her version of what happened. But she wouldn't speak. These people may not seem as fanatical as Grace and her family, but you never knew. No amount of avoidance would make the story any less crazy without twisting it. Kaitlyn wouldn't lie, so she said nothing at all.
That night she stayed in the common room of the lodge with her bag at her side. In the morning, after eating breakfast alone while the other kids murmured to each other and peeked at her over their shoulders, Móraí picked her up in her gold Corolla. No words were spoken, and Kaitlyn eventually succumbed to her exhaustion from not sleeping through the night.
At home, Móraí pulled ancient volumes bound in leather from the highest shelf of the bookcase. Then she made a phone call while Kaitlyn ate a honey cake and drank fresh orange juice. The food and drink was her best bet to regaining her lost energy, according to Móraí.
From that day on, Kaitlyn was taught how to control her powers by Móraí and a woman introduced as Brighid. Kaitlyn knew the name from an early age, but she speculated if Brighid was indeed the goddess whose name she used. Throughout the years of teaching, while Móraí aged gracefully into her elder years, Brighid seemed ageless. She always appeared middle-aged, but her wisdom belied her apparent years. Maybe it was just good makeup, but Kaitlyn had a feeling there was powerful magic behind it.
When Móraí became very ill, a twenty-seven year old Kaitlyn, adept at her healing arts, was able to prolong her life for less than a year. In the end Móraí succumbed to the frailties of her mortal body and left Kaitlyn alone in a world that rejected her for her religious beliefs and magical abilities.
Now, at the age of thirty, Kaitlyn had only Brighid for a friend. A powerful ally, to be sure, but loyalty among the deities was fragile at best. Sure, the world had become much more tolerant and accepting, but Kaitlyn had been too badly burned by Grace's rejection.
She ran a business using her homegrown herbs. Móraí's Medley, she called it. Local produce stands, the kind that were permanent and only closed for the winter, and natural foods stores sold her blends of culinary herbs and teas. She stocked the shelves herself, making weekly trips to each of her retailers. This way she knew what the consumers wanted, not the sellers. She would make recommendations to the retailers based on her observations, they would tell her of any special requests, pay her to restock the shelves accordingly, and she was on her way. She also sold online, but who didn't?
There were the occasional customers who heard through the town babble that Kaitlyn had special powers for certain things. They would call the contact number for the business and indicate that they needed something special. A lover's betrayal, or the desire to be noticed would be followed by a request for a love spell or potion. A resentful employee or someone struggling to keep a job might request a spell or tonic for success and wealth. And there were always those angry people who wanted revenge for whatever reason because they felt they had been wronged.
But Kaitlyn didn't use her art for those purposes. She stuck to healing. It was her calling. Móraí had tutored her since birth. Brighid had helped her develop and control her magic. So, when a suffering soul called on her for help with a medical ailment, she heeded.
This was the part of her business where she gained the most joy. For her clients, she mixed teas and culinary herbs, bath oils, aroma therapy, salves, and lotions. She also made her own eye pillows filled with herbs for different sleep troubles, wraps for sore or injured muscles and tendons, and even satchels to keep under the bearer's pillow or in a pocket or purse. These medicinal treatments were imbued with magic to speed the user's healing, but she kept that to herself. Instead, she showed her credentials as a certified and licensed herbalist and let the clients use their imaginations as to why or how her products and methods worked so well. After all, the magic meant nothing for those people without the herbs it imbued.
She knew all her clients by name, both retail and private, but none of them were friends. She secluded herself from all things social, delving into furthering her herbal studies and strengthening her magic instead.
And then she met David.