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
BeingLovedAgain is not in her grave. I don’t know where she went. The graveyard is quiet. Her grave is empty. Open. She is nowhere to be seen. On the other side of course is the garden. The flowers are doing well. It is quiet here too. At first, I cannot see her grave – the wormhole to the other side of my heart. And then, when I do – it’s covered, the earth looks fresh, though there are already flowers growing from it.Dark red roses with silver stems.
There is a tiny tombstone. I close my eyes, swallow, open them again.
I killed her after all.
I sit by the grave, arms around my knees. Some roses have more thorns than others. I still have the one she gave me from a while ago. Here they all are, on the garden side of things. There is an uneasy peace. I really did just want to talk to you. Are you really gone? I wish I’d known you better. I feel you didn’t mean to do harm.
I know I was unkind to you.
I’m sorry I didn’t know how to talk to you.
There is silence for a long time. I feel in some sense I have always been here. I lean closer to see the tombstone, and the tombstone is blank.
When she puts her arms around me, from behind, tiny arms locking around my neck and my chest, soft breath against my neck – that is when my tears flow.
“Just kidding,” she whispers in my ear, voice like mine when I was a child, and giggles while I shake. A leaf. A petal. A stupid-
“No.” She says, voice sharp and gentle, a butter knife excising moldy thoughts.
“No.” She says again, still holding me. She will not leave. I cry and laugh. She has never left, though I have tried to make her leave.
Slowly she moves her hand to my chest, the hollow heart. Nothing is beating yet, but I am used to this.
“There’s nothing there,” I say. “I’m waiting for it to grow back. It always does.”
“But this time, it will grow back differently,” she says, her hand is soft, warm. “Because I am here. You did… things a bit backwards. A harder way. You’ve always done things the hard way. But that’s ok. Do you understand? Many people do not understand me.”
I nod. I do.
“All the Love in the world, my own love for myself, won’t be enough if I don’t know how to live with you,” I say quietly. I can feel her smile and she kisses my neck, like a small child would. “I understand that now.”
She continues: “I have… another name for most people, but it makes sense why you would call me BeingLovedAgain. You met my mother, Love – and you know, she loves to say yes to things. She’s very good at saying yes. She is very good at what she does after all. And you love so well! You say yes too! So well! You love other people well. You love your own heart well – you do you know, and yes, I see the obvious question: If you love your own heart well why does it never land like…. love should land? Like love should feel? And I’m coming to it. We’ll get there.
And my aunties say No, often. There is the No of Fear. The No of Loneliness. But there is another No. There’s my No. There is my Never, and my Never is the same as my Always. The reason you never feel the love you give – whether you give to others or yourself – is this particular problem, this particularly puzzling problem you have…had…with…me!”
She chuckles, and then her voice turns razor thin, sharp in my ear, strong like a needle.
“No, I am not the sadgirl. No, I am not the angrygirl. No, I am not the needy clingy bonkers crazy bitch girl. And yet, I can be all these things sometimes, without shame. Tell me, quick!: what is my name?”
The word flies out of my mouth, pulled from a nest in my lungs. A bee, buzzing. It hovers in front of my face, for a second and then flies around the garden. I hiccup, suddenly confused. Suddenly aware. Suddenly strange. Suddenly younger and older all at once.
“Your name is Respect.” I say it again, feel the wings fluttering in my throat, waiting for release, and out they tumble. Bees upon bees. A bee for every word.
“Your name is Self Worth.” I try, and yes, there they are again, fluttering, wings catching my lips and pulling a smile.
“They think your mouth is a rose!” BeingLovedAgain shouts, her voice is childlike and a little loud in my ear but so pure, so lovely. “Keep going!” She yells.
“Your name is Fuck Up Anything That Harms You.”
I laugh, and she giggles too. But there are no bees. I cough, and one pokes its leg out. “Iiiiiis it?” She asks slyly. I feel it buzzing against my tongue.
“Wait no, your name is Protect Yourself.” She laughs, a cackle like the witch she is, and out they tumble.
“Your name is…I Deserve Better Than Recovery And Will Find It And Already Have It” The bees are finding their way to the grave, covered in dirt.
“Your name is I Will Treat Myself as I Treat Others”
She laughs uproariously and screams like a 3 year old, excited for candy “You always were so backwards! Most people find me before my mother, Love, I’m just a little kid! How’d you find Mom before me?!” They buzz, and I feel lighter, as though I am emptying years and years of bees. I laugh too.
“Your name is I Will *Demand* Others Treat Me As I Treat Them” She claps her hands, snaps her fingers, her arms still held tightly around me.
“Your name is Receiving Love.” The words are easy, true, a new truth, a very old very ancient very obvious truth.
And there they find the flowers, those beautifully difficult roses filled with memories instead of nectar.
“Your name is BeingLovedAgain” I say, softly, finally, throat the fullest it’s been since we started talking. The last bee falls from my lips. She is huge. At least as large as my whole mouth.
BeingLovedAgain holds me tightly. “it’s…the…queeeeeeeeeeeeeen!” she says in childlike awe.
I turn to hug her, this child, this precious presence in my life and as I shift, she stops me.
“Wait.” she says, her tongue is an old woman’s rasp. I am very still. The crone voice in a young body is one you must take notice of. “Wait. It has been a very long time since you and I have talked properly. There are things you must do before you face me. I am not Aunty Fear. I am not Aunty Loneliness. I am not even Love, though we are related. Mom doesn’t get along with her sisters, but I am a total and complete brat. They have not been kind to me. They made you unkind to me too for a little while. You did, after all, try to kill me. Many times. Mom has her way of doing things. I have mine. Those three like confrontation a lot, even mom. Mom and I fight too like all mothers and daughters but we both need each other a lot. See Love is about what you bring to people and to yourself. I am all about how any of that lands right here, along with what people bring to you. Shh it’s ok: Feel my arms. Don’t turn around.
There are two things you must understand before you see my face again. Before you face me again. The last time we talked, you saw a thorn in my knee. If you turn around right now, right this minute, you will see other thorns. Many thorns.”
She is speaking carefully and gently. No fear. No loneliness. She gives me a soft kiss on my neck, like a child but it is unusually wet. Were they always wet. What did she look like when I saw her last. Child, mute. A flash of a broken tongue, ripped. Copper scents in the air. Bald patches. Hair ripped out. A memory of bruises. A child unharmed playing with roses. A child, mutilated in a pre-made grave barely breathing. I swallow, dizzy. I touch my nape and my fingers come away red.
BeingLovedAgain continues, and I hear a blood filled gurgle in her throat that I had not really paid attention to before. “Don’t turn around. It will…not be pleasant. There will be a time to remove the thorns. I want to remind you today that there is more than recovery, and more than healing: if you turn around now, all you will see are many wounds needing recovery and healing.
The other thing you should know is that I do not always look or sound like a child, but I understand why that worked for you: it worked for you because children, particularly young children are worthy of everything good in the whole world and no one can question it.
Now I’m going to tell you what my rules are – they are simple: wait for me. From now on, if I’m not there right away, look for me. And if you cannot find me, leave. And if you find me, if I’m there, stay. Wait, look, listen, stay or leave. Those are the only rules. Yes, you will have to leave many people again, but this is not the way Fear or Loneliness made you leave, though sometimes even then I was there whispering through them. And yes you will sometimes stay, and you have stayed before, first when Fear and Loneliness told you to and you listened, and later when Love let you stay even though I argued with her long and hard – you see Love is still the most powerful witch. But now you understand, there may be times when Love will want you to stay but I will not be there. So how you stay will change. And how you leave will change. You see, I’m different from them. Love is still more powerful than me – she is immortal; she is the most powerful witch for a reason, but I am the witch that is the most needed. When Love dies, you can resurrect her, always. And she can resurrect herself. She will come back. She has come back many times, over and over and over again.
When I die, you die.
And that is the difference.
But I am strong, little witch, oh yes, nearly as strong as my mother – I have after all, survived you, and your many plots to murder me – yes you. Because you are powerful too. You are powerful in what you give, whether it’s love or pain to others or to yourself.
Love has told you you are powerful too, but she is the face of that coin, and I am its tail. And when I tell you you are powerful, you believe it differently now or suddenly in pairing with what my mother has taught you, is teaching you: you are not just about what you give to the world. You are what you choose to receive from it too. You have everything to offer – Love taught you this better than I will, go to her for those lessons.
What I am here to tell you is you have everything to gain, too, that there is an abundance in the world that equals the abundance of your regenerative miracle garden heart, but to find it you will need me.
Imagine, little witch, what you could do, who you could be with both of us.”
She is still holding me, and she plays with her fingers, draws a magic coin out of thin air, and hands it to me. It is gold on one side, heavy, the side I see first – my face, radiant and like a queen, a smile that promises good faith. I turn it and the other side is silver, lighter a creature, a girl, a child, still my face but different, with owl eyes that stare into my own, a hawk beak, a scorpion tail, a forked tongue hanging from a razor thin smile. I shiver. I have seen her before. or felt her before. but I’ve never really listened to her before.
“And finally, before you turn around to look at me, there are three questions you must answer, little witch:
First, yes, good, you’ve emptied yourself of bees. The bees will nourish these roses – but why, what for, what is the point?
Second, if I am here, holding you, who is in the grave?
Third, what must you give back that does not belong to you, and what must you take back because it does belong to you?”