This piece is one in a chronological series.
Feel free to find the others here, and to browse through any companion piece, set in the same universe.
1. Three Frenemies 2. Fall Coven Meet 3. BeingLovedAgain 4. The Fourth Witch
6. The Three Questions 7. Seed 8. Garden Graveyard Heart 9. The Cook
10. River Witch 11. Rage
5. Memory Elephant 12. Reincarnation
May 22 – Part 1 Stone Lady Paper Boots Dredge Half Yours, Half His Flower Seller
When You Must End Love Talk Scorpio Rising Pretty Men, Stone Lady
From The Olive Pit to Gratitude Reliability dead girl Soft Witch
my heart is a strange thing.venus flytrap.hair triggers.death.graveyard.more tombstones than i can count.in the corner, she is sitting.young.hair made of the night.eyes before they knew betrayal, treachery, the loss of hope.sometimes she plays in her open grave.i have tried to bury her many times.i’m never successful but some days she is quiet.a grave for a cradle.
She is a young witch. a child. a powerful awful horrifying child. when i approach her, the air around me cools. my fingers are icicles. i feel strange, instantly. i gave her a grave. tried to bury her in my garden. She laughed in the way children do – hurtfully, and continued to play in her grave. i wonder where my garden went. why is it a graveyard today.
She does this sometimes with her tricks and powerful magic.i’ve never really talked to her.i suppose it’s silly that i’ve tried to kill her without hearing what she has to say. Fear taught me a long time ago to face her. (and through that, the magic of faces. of looking. of seeing. i have never been well practiced in this art.)
“What do you want?” i ask her. She is very still.there is fog around us. i suppose children tease in this way. they are quiet when we want them to speak. they speak when we want them to be quiet.
i try again. “What are you playing with?” She looks up.i look away. it’s face magic and I am not good at that kind of thing especially when dealing with people experienced with it. out of the corner of my eye, i see something in her hand, shining, red. silver. She giggles, delighted that i’ve noticed but am unable to look. i feel i am an unwilling participant in reverse peekaboo. of course a child would be adept at this game of look, see, touch, it’s me! i am not a child.i refuse to look. She is annoyed, and suddenly everything tightens until i’m there beside her; i am small tightened closed into myself a little puff of winter air a little whisper left on a window ready to melt by midday my voice is small unnoticeable “let me go” my voice is measured and calm.and still small.”please” i add, a single note of slight panic breaking the word into two syllables.
it’s a rose. i see that now.roses in the grave.ok.i can live with that.i think.they are huge because i am tiny, Alice without a wonderland.there are no cakes.there is no tea. i see her knees, bloodied. a thorn has gotten in. she does not cry or at least, is not crying right now – she does sometimes though i never approach her when she is wailing. it will scar when she’s older. she does not mind. the scar will fade. she does not mind that either.
the thorn is as big as my hands. i touch her leg lightly “does that hurt?” i ask. my voice feels tinny but somehow she hears and is still. her giant child head shakes. no. ok. well that’s great. i’m here sitting in a grave in relative comfort. the air is also not so chilly anymore. “you don’t talk much, do you?” i try to joke. i see what she is doing. hands in the earth. sifting… gently, she starts to pull something out of the soil. I step away to give her more room. “i garden too” i say. like she doesn’t know. “i try to just have beautiful things and grow beautiful…” there is nothing beautiful here except these roses. it’s a graveyard. and of course she is beautiful in the way all children and all witches are beautifully terrifying and terrifyingly beautiful. “it’s… I decluttered this place a long while ago. or so i thought.”
“Why Again?” she asks.
her voice… is my voice. younger. a nonsense voice. i can’t pinpoint it. i hate it instantly in the way anyone hates their own voice on audio recording. she means her name. she means what I have named her. i swallow and hug myself.
“Have you ever been loved before?”
“Ok. so change your name. look, i don’t know, i named you what i named you – do you want to change your name fine change it then.”
“Have you ever been loved before?”
“Ok so call yourself BeingLoved. what the hell do i care. look can you make me at least your size – ” and I am. exactly her size. I am child sized. and in her grave. she is pulling a rose out of the ground, fully formed. red with silver thorns. a dark stem. as she pulls the thorns cut into her hand. Blood falls. “be careful!” I blurt out.
she pauses, the hand still holding the stem very tightly. she does not seem to be in pain.
“Have you ever been loved before?”
something twitches in my tongue. there is a sudden imbalance to my face. if there was a mirror here, I’m sure I would crack it. she does not ask cruelly but it is a cruel question.
My voice is a roar. a horrifying thing. i am a witch too and while i don’t have face magic, i do have voice magic. i scream it in her face, willing her to turn to stone as i just have, and she is of course completely unfazed. and silent. i hate this awful creature. i hate her awful games. (but i admire her resilience.) when my breathing calms, I say it quietly. calmly. i am slightly ashamed. maybe i can fix this.”Ok. your name is BeingLoved. is that… your point? i got your name wrong. ok i get it i underst-“
“My name is BeingLovedAgain”
she says it in that completely dismissive way that children have. i am instantly and completely furious with her. mommy why is the sky blue. mommy why do you have a moustache. mommy i dont care dont care dont care not listeninnning not listeninnng.
and she cut me off. a rude witch demon child thing.
“Your name…” i start slowly, a raw low anger in my voice at her insolence. it’s the kind of voice that has driven men out of my house without being able to close the door, the kind of voice that has reduced men who have wronged me to tears, the kind of anger that pulls stone walls out of the earth. the kind of voice that reduces conflict to nothing, that takes everything and turns it to nothing. it’s the voice that creates a rip in space-time, that pushes people to a different dimension, dead in one, alive in another. “Your name…”
“is BeingLovedAgain! BeingLovedAgaiinnBeingLovedAgaaainBeingLovedAgaaain”
She cuts me off easily and cheerfully in a sing-song voice, pulling roses to the rhythm of her (my) off key notes.
“i think we’re done here,” I say coolly, getting up to leave. This was miserable. but also fun in a completely disarming way. and insulting.
It’s a different voice now. older. still me. and she is still a child. how utterly unnerving.
And of course i do wait. she hesitates – no. she pauses. looks at me. a child is teaching me gravitas. how to make a moment matter. face magic. and she hands me the flower she has just pulled up.
“You’ll need this tonight”
i swallow hard. “i really don’t think i – “
“not for him. for you.”
she giggles triumphantly like a grandma who has just played a prank. yes yes, you’ve put one over me, very good, i think to myself. She laughs louder, hearing my thoughts resonate around us. I carefully touch the stem where there is no silver spike to take it without looking at her or it. she tilts her head, then motions with her chin.
and then she is gone, and so am i.