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Ruined in the Heart of Darkness

Mary gazed up at the night sky. She shifted on the hard rock beneath her, trying to get comfortable, but these ruins were the pits. Nothing comfortable about this retched place, but at least it was remote. Not many tourists bothered to come here anymore. There were other ancient sites much more interesting than this old, abandoned village in the mountains. She sighed heavily and looked at the brilliant splattering of stars above her.

She wondered how long it would take for Meredith to return. Frank wasn’t going to stay under control forever. The hold Mary had on him since the terrible failure in the cabin was growing weaker. Her sister Meredith had promised that a remote jungle tribe would be able to help them, but Mary was starting to grow skeptical.

Meredith had learned of them years ago from no less than that ridiculous troublemaker Florence Bumble. Bumble’s mother, Mayflower, had been a truly gifted Jewel. Maybe if Mayflower had lived longer, had been around instead of her half-wit daughter, Savannah, maybe Mary and Meredith would have learned something valuable instead of the garbage Savannah and Florence tried to teach them. Be loving. Be kind. What you put into the world will return to you.

Garbage! All of it. No one ever loved she and her sister. No one was ever kind to them. No matter. All that mattered now was that Meredith locate these elders and learn how to restore themselves to youth and beauty. It was never Mary and Meredith’s faults.

It was her fault. Tabby Mulligan. The youngest 24-year-old the world ever knew. Mary mused for a moment on her success. Her plan had worked last summer. Sort of. The enchanted ice cream they’d served Tabby the summer before her 12th birthday would have worked perfectly when she awoke on her birthday . . . if the girl had simply chosen a flavor. But the girl couldn’t get it right. She’d mixed the chocolate and vanilla together. And what had she gotten for her idiocy? Stuck in between infancy and old age with the body of an adult and the weak mind of a useless child.

Leaves rustled in a nearby banana tree followed by the caw of a tropical bird. Mary looked up to see red tail feathers flitting out of site into the cloudless blue sky. She cursed under her breath. They’d been so close last summer. So close to fully restoring their youth and beauty. Mary didn’t know how old she was exactly but she guessed about 29. You would never know it though. It’s why she refused to look in mirrors anymore—the lined, sagging face of an elderly old witch stared back at her—eyes a dull green, a shock of white hair, and the burns from last summer. At the thought of this, rage rose up in her. Mary bit her bottom lip so hard it bled.

She reminded herself of the bigger picture here. If their plan with the ice cream, then in the cabin, had worked, Mary was prepared to let the girl, Tabitha, die in peace. She would have served her purpose and all would be well—her hold on her father’s affection would be gone and Frank would be free to dedicate all his love and devotion to Mary and Meredith. But it hadn’t worked.

Mary, tired of sitting on the flat rock that had once served as an altar in the village hundreds of years ago, sprung to her feet. Since the events of the cabin, she had felt so much better. Just that few moments with the strength and renewal of Tabby’s blood, she’d been elevated and transformed. No, she was not beautiful again yet. But even with her burnt left side, at least her aches and pains were gone and she was strong again.

Mary hopped easily over a gap in the stone and headed back to the hut on the edge of the ruins they had been holing up in with Frank. She needed to feed him another dose of potion—as weak as it was—to keep him loyal to her. To keep him from remembering his daughter and the moment in the cabin when he’d put on the amulet and returned to his true self. For that moment, Mary knew the terrible pain of losing him—the only person she’d ever truly loved.

But for now, she’d keep him close and wait for Meredith to return with hope from the heart of darkness.


Ms. Mulligan and the Council of Butterflies is the second book in the award-winning Ms. Mulligan series. It's flying into book stores Summer 2023. Catch up on Tabby's tale today by reading the first book in the series, Ms. Mulligan and the Enchanted Ice Cream, Silver and Bronze Winner Moonbeam Children's Book Awards and Finalist in the National Indie Excellence Awards and NextGen Indie Book Awards. Learn more at

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