From acclaimed author Cathy Lamb comes a warm and poignant story about mothers and sons, family and forgiveness—and loving someone enough to let them be true to themselves…
Jaden Bruxelle knows that life is precious. She sees it in her work as a hospice nurse, a job filled with compassion and humor even on the saddest days. And she sees it in Tate, the boy she has raised as her son ever since her sister gave him up at birth. Tate is seventeen, academically brilliant, funny, and loving. He’s also a talented basketball player despite having been born with an abnormally large head—something Jaden’s mother blames on a family curse. Jaden dismisses that as nonsense, just as she ignores the legends about witches and magic in the family.
Over the years, Jaden has focused all her energy on her job and on sheltering Tate from the world. Tate, for his part, just wants to be a regular kid. Through his blog, he’s slowly reaching out, finding his voice. He wants to try out for the Varsity basketball team. He wants his mom to focus on her own life for a change, maybe even date again.
Jaden knows she needs to let go—of Tate, of her fears and anger, and of the responsibilities she uses as a shield. And through a series of unexpected events and revelations, she’s about to learn how. Because as dear as life may be, its only real value comes when we are willing to live it fully, even if that means risking it all.
Beautifully written, tender and true, A Different Kind of Normal is a story about embracing love and adventure, and learning to look ahead for the first time…
My mother told me all about the witches in our family.
She heard the stories from her mother, who heard them
from her mother, and so on, all the way back to the mid-1800s,
in London, where the twins, Henrietta and Elizabeth, started
Henrietta and Elizabeth were inseparable from the time they
reached across their mother’s bosom for the other’s hand. Their
mother was considered to be the best witch of them all, whatever
that silly statement means, and she taught the twins. They
practiced their spells in the forest behind the fountains and statues
on the manicured estate their mother’s wealthy, titled family
The twins eventually, reluctantly, agreed to marry wealthy, titled
men. They did not feel it necessary to tell their husbands of
a few wild years, sins committed and sins omitted, handsome
men here and there, and their mother agreed, she of a colorful
past herself. “It’s our secret, dears,” she told her daughters, a
pinky tilted up as she drank her tea. “Husbands don’t need to
The twins’ elegant estates, with lands adjacent to each other,
soon held all the herbs they needed for their spells, plus Canterbury
bells, hollyhocks, lilies, irises, sweet peas, cosmos, red poppies,
peonies, and rows of roses, which is what their mother and
grandmother grew, too.
Together Henrietta and Elizabeth had eight children who
would later prove to be both saints and raucous sinners, especially
the girls, as is often the case in witch families, or so I’m
Sadly, though, in their late thirties the twins’ friendship fell
apart because of a fight over, of all things, a tea set. At least
that’s what started it. Henrietta bought the delicate white
teacups, pitcher, and creamer with the pink flowers, knowing
Elizabeth loved it, coveted it, but Henrietta could not resist.
They were elegant, from India, hand painted, and the flowers
looked as if they could talk if let loose for but a moment. There
was only that one set and when Elizabeth found out what Henrietta
had done, so sneakily, she was overcome with anger.
Other rigid resentments and prickly problems, built over decades
of twinship started to explode, as if the teapot had cracked
in half and exposed the fine fissures between the two women.
They stopped speaking to each other entirely, despite their children’s
pleas that they reconcile, until one pleasant Sunday in
front of the church.
It wasn’t hot that morning, which was fortunate, as the heat
could spread such rancid diseases, like scarlet fever and tuberculosis,
and it wasn’t cold, which could cause a plain cough to become
pneumonia in no time. There was a bit of wind, which
carried off the natural odors of raw sewage, animals, rot,
refuge, defecation, moldy vegetables, decaying meat, dead bodies,
vagrant children, and people who had rarely bathed in their
It was a perfect sunny day with no warning of the generational
damage to come.
Henrietta and Elizabeth wore their whalebone corsets, white
petticoats, beribboned hats, and elaborate, heavy dresses. They
reached out white gloved hands to their proper husbands as
they debarked from their horse-drawn carriages. Both couples
and well-polished children were ready to show off their devoutness
to the Lord, though church bored Henrietta and Elizabeth
into an almost comatose state, the vicar droning on and on endlessly until both women thought they were perched on a shelf in
The twins caught a glimpse of each other on the cobblestone
path, each with a hand in the crook of their husbands’ elbows.
Their husbands had been chosen for their kindness, business
success, and knuckleheadedness, which would allow the twins
to carry on their usual witchery and spells with no interference
from an observant male.
Henrietta thought Elizabeth made a face at her. Elizabeth
thought Henrietta was haughty and, as if they’d been swept up
by the devil’s tail and smashed together, it all began.
They left the clueless, cultured husbands, locked elbows with
each other to pretend friendship and deflect attention, and a
quiet, but intense fight broke out, their fake smiles plastered
hard on their furious faces.
Accusations were made about “stealing my precious tea set, I
told you I wanted it . . .” But then things escalated viciously, as
fights between sisters often will. “You’re always flirting with
men like a peacock . . . you are way too prideful about your children
. . . why you should get Maria married off immediately before
she sleeps with another stable lad . . . what about your son,
Michael? Is there any girl he hasn’t tumbled through the hay
with? Your gowns are too low cut . . . you talk incessantly . . . always
competing with me . . . you think your herb garden is better
than mine, it never has been . . . you have to be joking, my
herbs are always better than yours, stronger, that’s why we use
them in the spells all the time. . . .”
And then, the source of true bitterness and jealousy, “I should
have been married to Oliver, not you, he was interested in me
before you wore your purple dress with almost your entire
bosom hanging out. . . . My bosom was not out. . . . Oliver
would never have been interested in you with that nose. . . . My
nose? Dear, a big nose can be hidden with powder, but big buttocks,
horse buttocks, balls and tarnation, that’s not hideable,
Henrietta started to mutter and Elizabeth, knowing a spell
was coming forth, slapped a hand over Henrietta’s mouth. Henrietta
grabbed Elizabeth’s flowered hat and Elizabeth clutched a
handful of Henrietta’s heavy skirt. Soon they toppled to the
ground, rolling, whispered curses tossed through the air, uncaring
about the lace petticoats flying up, the tearing silks and
satins. They were quiet in their fury, because they had no desire
to advertise their witchliness. Neither wanted to be burned alive
at the stake or flogged or drowned or have their clitorises
checked for being too pointy, one irrefutable indication of a true
And they didn’t want it for the other, either, despite the delicate
tea set with the pink painted flowers and their mutual love
The deadly dull vicar sprinted out of the church, black cassock
flying. He was young and naïve, and hadn’t a clue how to
handle two women locked in a combative fight whispering to
each other. My heavens, and praise the Lord, this would not do!
Especially on the Lord’s Day! He had an important sermon
planned, too, about how women must submit to their husbands!
Submit to your master!
Their husbands, chatting the pompous chat of self-satisfied,
privileged men nearby, rushed over, shock pounding all the way
around their lace collars and past their white underthings. What
had happened to their demure, lovely wives? What on earth
were they doing? This was church, and yes, it was tiresome to
be told you were going straight to hell to burn as a sinner, but
still! No fighting on the front lawn, surely they knew that?
Their children watched, surprised but highly amused, especially
the teenage girls, who had already joyfully learned how to
quietly rebel and not get caught. Look at their fighting mothers!
Pulling hair and slapping, their dresses flipped over their knees!
The witches’ last, frantic roll together marked the beginning
of decades of tragedy that affected someone in each generation
of one of the witch’s families. In the ensuing struggle one witch
hissed out a spiraling curse, and before the other witch could
deflect it by shooting off a defensive spell, the husbands and
vicar were forcibly separating them, their feet kicking, skirts
“What has gotten into you, Elizabeth?” Philip Compton
loved his family, but he was brought up around royalty and
pompous, unearned titles, and this behavior was unseemly, improper!
What was his wife doing on top of her twin sister? This
“For God’s sake, Henrietta!” Oliver Platts was handsome,
but dense like cheese, and he could hardly believe what he was
seeing! He was running for political office, too. Didn’t Henrietta
know they had appearances to keep up?
“Ladies, let’s take a moment to pray,” the vicar said, shaking,
the women’s perky hats long gone, their thick, auburn hair curling
wildly over heaving bosoms. He felt himself growing hot at
the sight of the bosoms, and the hair, and the red cheeks! Oh,
shame to him! Those bosoms were enough to make him forget
his vows and certainly his chastity. He dropped his head, his
pale white hands clasped together tight. Oh, deliver us, Lord!
Save us from the devil and devilish thoughts about bosoms!
“Lord, we ask for your forgiveness today . . .” His voice trembled
as bosoms frolicked through his prayer. “We are all sinners,
unworthy of you. . . .”
Henrietta and Elizabeth were having none of that droning,
praying stuff. As everyone else bent their heads, they leaped at
each other again with guttural cries, but their husbands, on
alert, grabbed them midflight and shoved them back into their
carriages, dresses askew, gloves gone.
In bed that night, the husbands, to their immense relief, had
their docile, fawning wives back again. The witches pretended
they had been overtaken by the stifling heat; perhaps it was the
tomatoes they had both eaten the day before? Maybe the porridge
had been poisoned? Could the devil had crawled inside of
them? It took a few well-placed caresses, some dewy eyes, long
kisses, a lifting of the nightgown, and soon their husbands, who
saw only what they wished to see, rolled off to their side of the
But in the pitch, thick blackness of the night, one witch shook
with shame and guilt, and the other shook in complete and absolute
terror. Both clutched the necklaces they always wore, the
same necklaces they had given to their daughters. There were
three charms: a cross, a heart, and a star. A cross for Jesus, a
heart for family, and a star to represent the power of witchcraft.
Henrietta and Elizabeth were never friends again. How could
they be with spells like that flying around recklessly? But they
missed each other desperately and cried harsh, lonely tears, in
The Curse began immediately, afflicting the baby the witch
didn’t even know she was pregnant with yet. He was born with
only one arm. Henrietta cried over him, cursing her twin.
Elizabeth cried, too. She had never meant for the spell to be
so strong, so insidious, and within ten years, her guilt killed her.
She toppled over in her summer garden, right between the
thyme and mint.
Her sister witch cried for a year. Henrietta became an attentive
second mother to Elizabeth’s children. When she died at
seventy-six years old, right before her eyes went blank, she sat
straight up in bed, stared into a corner, her wrinkled face transformed
with an illuminating smile. She held up a hand, as if she
was reaching out to hold another’s, and said, “Elizabeth, I have
missed you, sister. . . .”
At least, that’s the story I was told by my mother.
Her mother told her.
Her mother told her, and so on, who heard it from the daughter
of one of the witches, who stood close by and listened with
increasing fright as her mother and her mother’s twin sister
spewed out intricate, menacing spells. The daughter recognized
the final spell and clasped a hand over her mouth. The other
witch’s daughter did the same.
Their mothers had taught them all they needed to know.
And that spell, well, that one was a doozer. On that pleasant
Sunday morning, in London, in front of a church and a vicar
who was fascinated by heaving bosoms, the damage was done.
In each generation, The Curse reappears.
But I don’t believe in witches, or curses, or spells.
No, I don’t.
I really don’t.
It’s a legend. A story. A colorful history to laugh and chuckle
about in our family line.
It is a fanciful tale. I am sure of it.
I am, at least, 90 percent sure.