Reading: Out of Hiding (Ep. 50)

Today, I'll share some of Out of Hiding's first chapter with you. I'm not one for spoilers, so let me just say that there will be witches, wizards, magic, a war, and a dragon breeder with a drinking problem.

If you want to learn more about how I became a writer, check out Episode 49 where I tell my writing story. Out of Hiding was a long time in the making before it got published, but it is one of my favorites.

Let's dive in. I am not quite sure how much of the story I'll share today, because I don't want this to be super long, so I might create multiple episodes from this one and release them over time. They'll make perfect buffer episodes for weeks when I can't produce a new one.

Chapter 01: The ruined dinner

I am completely useless. The smell of smoke fills my small kitchen as I run around like a headless chicken. Despite my best efforts to extinguish the burning remains of dinner, the flames grow in the pan. I focus all my willpower on the fiasco. Flames flicker slightly, just to regain momentum after. The fire consumes any hope to solve this with magic. Fuck.

One of the flames licks at my sweater, and I throw the burning pan into the sink, where it hisses away the drops of water at the bottom. A small voice at the back of my head remembers something about burning oil and water, and I swear again. I open the patio door and throw the pan onto the gravel outside. I grab the lid from the closet and manage to maneuver it onto the pan without burning myself further. Slowly, the flames inside the pan die.

I watch the smoke dance through the glass and wallow at the fact that I’ll have cereal for dinner—again. That pan is probably ruined on top of that. It’s been eleven years since I moved out of my parent’s house, and I still can’t manage basic nutrition. The recipe sounded so easy and only included elemental magic most first-graders would have little trouble with. Yet, I managed to fuck it up again. I should really learn how to cook, or I’ll starve to death. That would give my mother some satisfaction, wouldn’t it?

I raise my palms and push the smoke out of the kitchen through the patio doors and into the small backyard—if you can call the gravel patch and a couple of square feet of grass a yard. At least I can manage enough magic to prevent the whole place from smelling like fire.

With a sigh, I leave the pan outside to deal with later. The mess I made, despite the one-pan recipe, is astounding. If only magic was as easy as books make it sound. Just wave a stick of wood, mumble a few words, maybe add a flick. Tadaa! Magic. In reality, magic is more or less a mind game, and I’m not very good at it. Who am I kidding? I suck at it, get distracted too easily. Useless.

A knock at the door interrupts my endless self-pity. I shake my head to gain some resemblance of composure and rush to the door. It must be the landlord. Here to yell at me for the intrusion on the neighbors my cooking experiment poses—smoke in the hallway or something.

“Sorry, sorry,” I mumble apologetically as I open the door. It’s not the landlord.

I pull my best friend into a hug, almost knocking the bowl she’s holding out of her hand. With a graceful motion, she balances the bowl on her palm and raises an eyebrow.

“Did you try to cook again?” she asks unnecessarily. A barely suppresses grin fights its way onto her freckled face. I grimace at her and gesture her in with a grunt.

When a delicious smell overpowers the burnt food and smoke, I lift the foil off the bowl in her hand. It’s a perfect lasagna. Neat. “You are a lifesaver!”

Jenn smiles knowingly before her eyes fall onto the battlefield that should be my kitchen. With a frown, she hands me the bowl. “Think you can heat this without starting another fire?”

She reaches over and inspects a patch of blackened mess at the end of my deep red curls. “You actually managed to put yourself on fire this time, Cass?” There’s honest concern underneath the mockery.

“Not funny!” I say but break out into laughter. Making fun of myself is the only way I can cope with this embarrassment. I place the bowl in the oven and get some matches to light it. I’m too nervous to even attempt a simple spark. Gosh, I’m pathetic.

My friend looks around in exasperation, then starts cleaning up some of the mess I made. She throws away one of my kitchen towels (that is more black now than anything else) with two fingers. She wrinkles her nose.

Her help in cleaning up makes me even more aware of just how helpless I am. I know I am a loser in the kitchen, of course. After all, my whole family keeps reminding me every chance they get. It’s an unwritten rule in the Everett family to keep me away from anything even remotely resembling a kitchen. Can’t blame them.

I let myself fall onto the couch, arms spread wide, look up at the ceiling. At least the fire alarm didn’t go off to add acoustic embarrassment to olfactory. Sometimes, it’s actually pretty helpful that magic makes these annoying beeping things utterly useless.

“Why do you even have a kitchen?” Jenn asks for what I think is the millionth time when she sinks onto the sofa next to my head. I decide not to answer. I’m not much for words right now. Inadequacies. Self-doubt. My head buzzes. Jenn strokes hair out of my face in sisterly affection.

The scent of Jenn’s lasagna overpowers that of the disaster I made, and my stomach gives a low rumble. Jenn pronounces the lasagna finished. I place a gigantic piece onto a plate and sit down on the couch. I own a dining room table. Don’t feel like pretending to be an adult right now. The sofa will do.

This story will be continued soon. If you like it, consider buying the full book or checking out my books page.

Kate Hildenbrand

Kate Hildenbrand

Kate Hildenbrand is the writer behind the essays here, author of fiction novels, the creator of the Kate Hildenbrand podcast, and a student of marine ecology. At least, that's her on the surface.