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In Which Sophie Gets Lost And There Is A Fuss About Hair Dye
It started out as a perfectly ordinary afternoon. Following a morning full of whispered arguments with her dear husband Howl (they were trying to keep their quarreling out of earshot of Morgan, for he was now two years old and quite impressionable), Sophie decided to visit Lettie, Ben, two-year-old Nora, and their month-old infant, Annalee after lunch. Sophie gathered up her cloak and shouted a last minute reminder to Howl to give their son something healthy for his afternoon snack.
She turned the knob Kingsbury side down, opened the door, and made her way out into the streets of the capital city. After a few minutes of walking in what she believed to be the right direction, Sophie realized that she was not going the right way at all. She had just passed a fountain with a rather ridiculous looking statue of an angel spouting water from its mouth, which she knew for a fact was not near Lettie’s home.
“Oh, blast it all! I can never find my way around this dratted city! I suppose I shall have to go ask someone for directions,” Sophie burst out with a stamp of her foot. She looked down in surprise. She never stamped her foot when she got frustrated. She must be picking up more habits from Howl than she thought. Sophie approached the nearest person to her, who happened to be a young errand boy. He was supposed to be cleaning the windows of a shop front, but was instead staring open-mouthed at the woman who was apparently having a small tantrum.
“You there! Hello! Do you think you could point me in the direction of Wizard Suliman’s house? I seem to have turned myself around somewhere,” Sophie inquired of the boy. “I just don’t understand it. I know I started off in the right direction… Maybe there’s some sort of misdirection placed on the entire flaming city,” she mumbled distractedly, running her hands through her already frazzled red-gold hair.
“Erm, well, I, uh, I don’t, um…” the boy responded intelligently. He wasn’t sure what to make of the lady. He hoped her last muttered words were not aimed at him because he hadn’t the faintest idea what she was talking about.
“So do you? Know where he lives, I mean.”
“Oh! Er,” Sophie’s question startled the boy out of his thoughts. “Yes, miss, if you just go back down the street for about ten blocks and turn left, the Wizard’s house is on the corner.”
“Thank you! I would give you something for your trouble, but my silly husband will keep spending all our money on his extravagant wardrobe. I’ll be sure to visit, erm,” Sophie squinted at the fancy lettering on the front window of the shop. “Flinney’s Finest Flamingos, is it? Well, I’ll stop in when I can.”
With that, Sophie turned away from the slightly bewildered boy and walked back the way she came, grumbling to herself all the way. “Really, Sophie, you’ve lived with a door to Kingsbury for nearly five years now. You ought to know how to get to your own sister’s house. And I didn’t even have anything to give that poor boy for his help! I shall have to speak with Howl about how much he’s allowed to spend on his clothes again. Ha! That should be an interesting conversation. What was it that store was selling? Flamingos? What the devil is a flamingo, anyway? It sounds exotic. I wonder if they’re imported from Zanzib? I promised that boy I would come back, so I suppose I’ll find out what they are soon enough. Oh! There’s the house!”
She walked up the steps and knocked loudly on the door. It was opened by Ben’s apprentice, Elliott, who no sooner showed her in than was bowled over by little Nora in her efforts to hug her aunt. “There’s my girl! How are you doing, dear? Do you like being a big sister?” Nora scrunched up her small face.
“Annalee thtinky. Morgan came?” she asked, hoping for a playmate.
“No, sweetie. Morgan stayed home with Uncle Howl. He had to take his nap,” Sophie told the girl wriggling in her arms. Lettie came down the stairs at this moment exclaiming that she didn’t know Sophie would be dropping by.
“Oh, I didn’t know I would be coming either, until just after lunch. Sorry for being so unexpected. I just had to get out for a few hours. Morgan’s been conjuring all sorts of messes, Howl’s been shopping again, and I’ve not seen you for a while, so I thought, why not go for a visit? And then I got lost trying to get here. I simply can’t understand why that always happens to me in Kingsbury!” Sophie said in explanation. The two sisters then spent a lovely afternoon chatting about the trials of motherhood, magic, the King’s latest problem, and finding the best bargain for cleaning supplies.
“Well, I must be going,” Sophie sighed. “Morgan’s probably turned himself into a cat again, and I can count on Howl not to do anything about it. I do hope the next one isn’t as difficult as that boy.”
“Next one?! Sophie, do you mean –”
“Don’t get so excited, Lettie,” Sophie rolled her eyes. “I don’t know what you think I mean. I really must go, though. It was so good to see you! Tell Ben I’m sorry I missed him!” Sophie opened the door and started down the steps. Lettie just shook her head and watched her leave. Her sister could slither out with the best of them. Sophie suddenly stopped on the last step, turned around, and came back up.
“Lettie, which way is the castle?” Lettie laughed.
Sophie thankfully arrived back home without any incident. She walked in the door and had barely enough time to take off her shoes and cloak before she was bombarded by a small, excited boy yelling, “Mum! Mum! Mum!” at the top of his lungs, as well as a blue fire demon whizzing towards her head crackling, “It’s not my fault, Sophie, I swear! Don’t blame me!”
“Don’t blame you for – Oh,” Sophie said, with a dangerous glint in her eye as she caught sight of her son’s hair. Morgan’s normally dark brown locks had been turned a rather unlikely shade of yellow. She knew just who was responsible for this.
“HOWL! Where are you, you coward? When I get my hands on you, you can expect both green slime AND weed killer!” Sophie fumed. She then sat down and set Morgan in her lap to attempt to undo the damage. “Come on, then, you nasty hair color. You know you don’t really belong there. Get out, please. I want to see his real hair color, not this absurd yellow.”
While Sophie watched the bright tint slowly start to fade away, Howl came down the stairs. He saw what Sophie was doing and gave a shout.
“Sophie! What are you doing? You have to at least wait for the color powder to set before you do anything to it! Now you’ve really bungled it up!”
“How was I supposed to know it hadn’t set yet?” Sophie lifted Morgan to the ground and stood up to face her husband. “I just come home to find Morgan with yellow hair! What did you think you were doing, anyway? He’s only two years old! If, when he’s older, he decides to be vain like his father and dye his hair, I suppose I shall have to live with it. But to dye it now, when he doesn’t even know what the word ‘vain’ means? That’s going a little far, don’t you think?”
“He told me that he wanted to look like Twinkle! What was I supposed to do? Tell him no and make him upset? You know I can’t stand to see him cry! At least he didn’t turn himself into a cat again! It would’ve taken hours to persuade him turn back. It would only have taken seconds to change his hair if you had let it set! But no, Mrs. Jump-the-Gun had to go and spoil it!”
“Now whose fault is it that he always talks about Twinkle in the first place? In fact, whose fault is it that he likes to turn himself into a cat?”
“You know that it was only for your own protection! We’ve argued –” Howl was interrupted by a large chocolate cake appearing out of nowhere in the vicinity of the ceiling and plopping down between the two parents. Both turned to look at the giggling little boy standing by the armchair. His hair was now a pinkish color reminiscent of his father’s when Sophie had tampered with his powders in the bathroom. Howl sighed. In a much calmer tone, he said, “Well, we’re either going to have to dye over it or wait for it to grow out, now.”
“I think it’ll probably be easier to just let it grow out. I don’t think Morgan cares what color his hair is, but he’ll probably wiggle to no end if we attempt to make him sit still for another dyeing session,” Sophie responded.
“I think, perhaps, you’re right,” Howl agreed.
Just then, a loud bang came from outside in the yard. Ryder, Howl’s apprentice since Michael had become a full-fledged wizard, was out there working on a bulky spell for the King.
“I suppose I had better go out and help him,” Howl said. With kiss for his wife and a hair ruffle for his son, Howl strode out to the yard.
“Mum, cake!” Morgan exclaimed. Sophie looked down at the great chocolate mass in front of her.
“Yes, dear, it’s a cake. I assume you want some?” She sliced a small bit off the top for him and threw the rest in the trash. She then proceeded to talk the stubborn chocolate stains out of the rug.