Margaret peered out behind the curtains for the fifth time in as many minutes.
“Keep that up and they’ll know you’re staring,” Crissy said as she sipped a cup of tea. “You’re being nosy.”
“I am not,” Margaret said. “It’s not everyday you see new neighbours, it’s not like this neighbourhood sees much traffic.”
“Did the Brewster’s place finally sell?” Crissy asked obviously indulging her.
Margaret sighed and stepped back from the window and plopped into the seat across from her sister. “It did, three weeks ago, but I haven’t seen hide nor hair of the new family.” She leaned in closer to her sister and lowered her voice. “Rumour has it they’re human.”
Crissy coughed on her tea. “Human? In this neighbourhood? You can’t be serious.”
Margaret hmmed and took up her cup. “I am, I heard it from Martin Hornespeck, he lives next door to Brodie Hammerfist, the realtor. And he said, all Human, all smooth skinned and no horns to speak of. Barely six feet at the tallest.”
“Well that just won’t do,” Crissy said. “I’ve finally gotten my gardenia to blossom properly this year. I’ll not be driven out of another neighbourhood because of bloody humans.”
Margaret waved a green hand. “Don’t you start. They might be nice.”
Crissy snorted. “Sure they even invite you in for tea before they chop your head off and stick it on a pike in their front yard.” She pointed her perfectly manicured finger at Margaret. “They used to do that you know. Professional Troll Hunters. Don’t care if the laws changed to protect us. That’s just for the pretty folk, the pixies and the elves. Humans don’t trust ugly magick folk.”
“Speak for yourself, I’m bloody gorgeous.”
Crissy shook with laughter. “Says the ugly sister. What are you bringing to the guild potluck at the end of week. I’m not going upstaged by your blueberry muffins again.”
Margaret held the pie in one hand and straightened the hem of her shirt nervously. Damn it all, she was a warrior raised, former High Witch of Grabthar the Honourable, and here she was, terrified of one human. Get ahold of yourself, she thought. She knocked on the door, four quick jabs against the wood, shaking the door in it’s frame. Damn strength.
A few minutes later the door opened enough to see the chain lock still in place and a small human staring through the opening. It was dark out, the sun had long since set and only the small light above the door shone, mostly obliterated by Margaret’s shadow.
“Hi, just wanted to welcome you to the neighbourhood. I baked you a pie! No, no need to come out please didn’t mean to frighten you. I’ll be on my way.” She said in a rush leaving the pie on the stoop. She did not flee back to her house. She walked purposefully. She wasn’t afraid of a human.
Three days later, Margaret opened her front door to find her pie plate, cleaned with a gingerbread cake on top and small card. She took the cake into the house and set it on the counter. The card was miniscule in her hand with a hastily scratched, “Thank you, the pie was delicious. -H”
And so it went.
The gingerbread was delicious. Too delicious. She was the best baker on the street, she wasn’t going to let someone tip her from the top spot. She returned H’s cake plate and included her package of her best chocolate chip cookies.
The following day a lemon loaf arrived on her step with a small note. “Is this a baking war ;)? Would be better if I knew your name. -Harriet.”
Margaret cut off a large piece of lemon loaf and took a bite. “Fuck,” She moaned. Not fair, definitely not fair. She grabbed her baking bible off the shelf and flipped through her recipe index. “This means war, Harriet.”
Chocolate espresso cake with a raspberry chocolate ganache.
The next day only a note arrived. “You fight dirty, Peggy. Keep this up and I’ll have to invite you to dinner.”
Margaret cackled. She loved winning.
Harriett’s date squares were perfect.
Margaret left a cherry kirsch cake the next day.
Millionaire bars were countered with rice Krispie squares with home made marshmallow.
The war of the fruit cakes lasted for two weeks and Margaret didn’t care a whit that she was the source of the rumours. It was the most fun she’d had in months. The notes had turned to letters, long hand written things in dainty envelopes. She should tell Harriett not to give so much away in a letter to a witch, and Margaret felt a twinge of guilt each time she held back. She didn’t wish to scare her new friend, but the arrival of a deep dish apple pie with butter crust and the accompanying letter now with a spot of blood in the corner forced her hand.
She sent across a small note with a batch of oatmeal raisin cookies.
“Full disclosure, I’m a witch and you’ve managed to send me hair and now blood. I’ve burnt them so they can’t be used against you, but be careful. I’d like for you to retain your free will when I get the courage to ask you out. 😉 “
No baked good for five days.
Not a crumb.
Not a candy.
Margaret tried to ignore it, but she’d been having fun. Had she said too much in the last note? She tried to concentrate on other things, her loom was languishing in the studio and she had several orders backing up, but each time she sat down she kept thinking about baking goods, or that she heard someone on the stoop.
This was ridiculous.
Another three days passed and she was getting rather tired of her own behaviour. She was so discombobulated even her magic was getting out of hand. Her plants were dying for fucks sake and she was a hedge witch. That never happened.
A timid knock sounded on the door and Margaret startled, breaking her favourite tea-cup with a crackle of magic. “Fucking hells, Peg, get a hold of yourself.”
The knock came again, louder this time, but still… small. Like it was coming from a small fist. Margaret hurried to the door, adjusted her bright blue hair in the mirror, took a deep breath, and opened it cautiously, the sun still enough of a pest to cause issues if she wasn’t careful.
“Hi, Peggy, it’s me, Harriet,” A small dark woman woman said lifting a picnic basket half her size in both hands. “May I come in? I don’t wish to intrude, but you didn’t seem to be getting that courage to ask me out… So I thought I would bring dinner to you. and I think you’ll agree I’ve won the baking war.”
Margaret snorted and stepped back from the door. “Pride goeth before the fall, Harry, or so they say. I can’t open the door, not without stone damage, but come in.”
“Oh dear me! I’m so sorry,” Harriet squeaked. She opened the door just wide enough to slip through and shut it quickly behind her. “I didn’t even think.”
Margaret closed the front door and turned to look down at the human in her home. She was tall for a human, dark hair pinned into a bun, dark brown skin and a bright blue smile. She carried a picnic basket that she had to have purchased at a troll supply store given its size.
“I’m fine, and you know for next time. I usually have a few more protections on the front door, but they’ve been on the fritz lately. Here, let me take that basket and we can go into the kitchen.”
Harriet handed the basket over. “Thanks,” she said following Margaret.
She set the child size basket on the counter and unpacked a full course meal, dark blue eyebrows raising as she pulled out each new dish. Steamed root vegetables in garlic butter, four different dishes showcasing a different kind of squash. A fresh salad with walnuts, pecans, and fresh berries. Pastry that smelled of brie and cranberries, and a large box of french macarons in a rainbow of colours.
Margaret stared at the feast and looked to Harriet who blushed from her hairline on down. Margaret was in so much trouble. Margaret cleared her throat.
“This is lovely.”
“I wasn’t sure if it was true, but I heard that trolls were vegetarian. The macarons are because I’m a sore loser.” She said and Margaret wasn’t sure, didn’t know Harriet well enough yet, but if there wasn’t mischief in Harriet’s eyes, she’d eat her pearls.
“I am, we are, thank you,” she stuttered, “this looks wonderful.” She took two plates down and turned the kettle on. “But if you think I’m giving up just because you claim these are the best, you haven’t met me.”
Harriet grinned and hopped onto the seat across from Margaret. “I love a good competition.”