The next hour passed in blissful—well, not silence, but close enough for me. Children were so suggestible. Since I couldn’t exactly leave to run errands like investigating the powerful players here on the dead side while I was meant to be supervising the children, I went outside to do a little work on the garden. Assuming we ever got seeds, they wouldn’t do us much good while the entire plot was choked up with dead plants, dying plants, and a few still-living weeds.
Hmm, that was interesting. If the dying plants represented the short-lived dead like zombies and ghosts, and the dead plants represented the long-lived ones like the vampires, who did the weeds represent? The banshees and the spriggans, rejected by the living side? Well, that was hardly a helpful comparison. Now I felt bad for pulling out weeds.
“That’s a big job there.”
I looked up. “Jane. Hello again.”
“Margot.” She nodded to me. “Planning to do something with the space, or just working out your frustrations? I know my children can be a bit of a handful.”
I smiled. If it was a tad smug, well… “Norene and I are hoping to get some seeds so we can make a proper garden.”
“I hope you can.” Jane looked wistful. “I was told there wouldn’t be much space for growing things in the city, but I never thought it would be because we were stuck living on the dead side.”
“There are community gardens on the living side. But you’re right, space is definitely an issue. I suppose that’s one advantage to living here.”
Jane smiled. “Looking on the bright side, then. I suppose that’s really the only sensible way to manage things.” She peered up at the house, brow creasing in confusion. “Did Hugo and Merry run off on you? Usually I can hear them from several houses away.”
My self-satisfied smile returned. “Had you been here an hour ago, that would have been true. But I talked them into playing quietly.”
“Well.” Jane looked startled. “That is a first. How did you pull it off?”
“Let’s just say I learned a few tricks from looking after a gaggle of witch cousins. In comparison, your children are charmingly well behaved.” I paused. “And rather suggestible.”
“I invoked my great aunt Marianne, a powerful witch.”
Jane frowned. “But your caste mark—you were human, before.”
“I was.” I shrugged. “My immediate family’s all human, but after my mom died, my dad remarried into a rather…prolific family of witches, and they decided to adopt the lot of us. Witches put a lot of stock in family and bloodlines and all that, I guess.”
“So you could say you’re an honorary witch.”
“Fascinating. You know, I’d never actually met a witch before coming here.”
I started to nod, then frowned. “Wait, Sarai said you came to the wrong gate and were turned as soon as you got here. When would you have met a witch? They’re all on the living side.”
Jane blinked at me. “I haven’t. Isn’t that what I just said?”
Well, no. She’d said before. “Oh, I see.” Probably just a slip of the tongue. “Anyway, you’re kids are inside, if you’d like to come in?”
Jane smiled. “Certainly.”
I stood, brushed my hands off on my now rather soiled trousers, and led the way to the door.