SF Benson  

“The Glass Watch” by SF Benson Excerpt

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Currently, I’m drafting All Things Dark & Magickal: Bitter Fruit. If you haven’t read All Things Dark & Magickal: The Glass Watch, here’s a little sneak peek into it.

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Some things shouldn’t be wished for…

Hard work, hunger, utter exhaustion are Trevor Cuthbert’s reality. Wishes can’t bring back the free and easy life he once enjoyed. It’s lost, the day his father, a Celestine Spelltwister, dies in a suspicious hunting accident. He practiced magick right under the noses of the Abra Guild—the organization charged with monitoring magick—but didn’t foresee the incident.

Sixteen is the age when magickal abilities arise, but without training Trevor will never use them. If it weren’t for his wicked stepmother, Eleanora, Trevor could enter the Institute of Prodigious Arts (IPA) and earn a certificate to practice. Instead, he wastes away as housekeeper, errand boy, and the family’s only source of income—working odd jobs for a few shillings. His lazy stepsister and selfish half-brother, Arabella and Lance, only care about school and cotillions.

 A magickal glass pocket watch and an unintended wish send Trevor to the twenty-first century. It’s an alternate universe where wishcraft rules and everyone loves Trevor. Finally, he has all that he desires—a loving family, a carefree existence, and the girl next door. 

 But nothing is that simple. Wishes unfortunately have a tendency to rebound. When a jealous girl casts hers, Trevor has to make a critical choice. Is it possible to be happy and have the love of his life?

 All Things Dark & Magickal is a young adult series featuring time travel and retold fairy tales.

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Chapter One

Opening the front door, a dark and empty foyer greets me. It’s just as cold inside as it is outside. Eleanora never remembers to light a fire in the hearth, and there’s no way Lance would dirty his hands to do so. When I start toward the stairs, I notice that Father’s drawing-room door is slightly ajar. Since his passing, I’ve kept the study locked. I thought I was the only one with the key.

I cross the room, grab a box of matches over the fireplace, and light the gas sconce on the wall. Father’s desk drawer is open, and the bank account register is on top. Scanning the entries on the page, I find a series of withdrawals scribbled in the far-right column. The last one is dated today. It’s the rest of Father’s funds—my savings for the IPA. This has to be Eleanora’s handiwork.

A cold breeze snakes around my shoulder. I turn as the front door slams.

“Trevor Cuthbert!” Eleanora exclaims. “What in Heaven’s name are you doing in there?”

My stepmother’s bombazine and crepe skirt and petticoat swish loudly as she enters the study. The woman still wears her widow’s weeds, a full black ensemble, as required by tradition, but I seriously doubt if Eleanora truly mourns my father. She pulls off her leather gloves and tosses them on the desk.

“Where have you been, Eleanora?” I ask, my hands gripping the registry’s gilt edge.

“Not that it is any of your concern, but I was attending to business.” Her thin, pink lips turn down. “I need you to light all the fireplaces. I’m expecting a gentleman caller.”

Entertaining a gentleman caller? Two years is the required mourning time. She can’t be serious. Her action is not that of a grieving widow. What did Father ever see in this vain, dissident woman? Since his death, her beauty fades like the sun—graying blonde hair, a scrawny physique, and wrinkles creeping across her pale skin.

“Eleanora, you can’t allow this. Father has only been gone for—”

“Six months. I don’t need you reminding me. Do you expect me to live out my days as a spinster? Besides, if I don’t find an adequate suitor, this family will be destitute.” Eleanora’s eyes travel down to my bulging jacket pocket. “So, Pritchett paid you early this week? I’ll take that. Our account is dreadfully low, and it’s time for me to pay the tuition for Arabella and Lance.”

Like I said, a bloodhound with money. “I’ll count it out and bring you your portion later.”

“My portion?” Eleanora snaps. Her pale-blue eyes narrow. “Do not play games with me, Trevor. I can make your life a living hell.”

What more could she do to me? All of my decent clothing has been given to Lance. The day after Father died, Eleanora divvied up all my valuable belongings between my siblings. Then, she moved me from the bedroom I shared with my half-brother to the attic. A space I share with spiders and the occasional mouse. Making matters worse, I’m not allowed to eat my meals with the family, but I am expected to clean behind them.

I tuck the registry beneath my arm and head for the door. If I show a barrister the numbers, he could form a case against Eleanora. I might not get Father’s fortune back, but it won’t matter as long as my stepmother is punished for her crime.

“That is mine.” Eleanora rips the book from me. “Our coppers should expand with the new job I secured for you today.”

“Another one? When am I to study?” My stepmother insisted I drop out of regular school and study from home. I’ve fallen behind since I began working for Old Man Pritchett. The long hours leave me too tired to crack open my books at night.

“You’re a smart boy. I’m sure you’ll figure it out.” She reaches into the chatelaine purse dangling from her waist and removes a small white card. “Report here in the morning.”

I take the calling card from her and rub my finger over the raised texture. Emblazoned in gold calligraphy are the words:

J. L. Wigglesby, Chimney Sweeping Services

5 Abramelin Street

My eyes widen. “Eleanora, you can’t be serious. You volunteered me to be a chimney sweep!”

Sweeping chimneys has to be one of the lowest paying, most dangerous jobs in all of Crowley. Primarily young boys perform the task with the occasional adult carrying out the job. Some have suffocated climbing into soot-filled chimneys. Disease and deformity have plagued others. I have heard tales of sweepers being burnt alive because the fireplace was unknowingly lit while the boy was inside the chimney. No caring parent would subject their children to such treacherous work.

“Trust me. It’s not voluntary. Mr. Wigglesby assured me there will be enough work for you to earn more than the one pound Pritchett pays.”

“So, I’m quitting the stables?” Personally, I’d rather spend my day wading through manure than inhaling soot.

A shrill laugh comes out of her twisted mouth. “Heavens no! You’ll do them both. Now hurry along and light those fires. Mr. Wigglesby will be here in an hour.”

I start for the door again, my mind contemplating how to steal back the registry. Suddenly Eleanora’s bony fingers latch on to my elbow. Her hand, like that of a pence-pinching organ grinder, slides into my jacket. She rips the pocket and pilfers my wages.

My brown eyes lock onto hers. Nothing but contempt shines in that pale-blue sea.

“Remember, Trevor, I am your stepmother. You shall do as I say, or it’s life on the streets for you.”

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