Gwen insists on ‘getting her magick’s worth’ out of Dean, so she allows him to continue tending the garden. But this means he’s usually within eyeshot of Rose. Perhaps if he was of his own mind Rose would feel differently about his attachment to her, but as it stands, his head is empty, and this felt more like accidentally luring a feral stray than attracting an admirer. So when Ben invites the girls to the beach, Rose is happy to go. Esme stays behind, however, wishing to continue working on the amulet with her aunts and grandmother.
Rose flees quickly, not even allowing Ben to get out of his truck. She just hops in and throws a beach towel in the middle.
“I promised my mother I’d help her with the finishing touches on the shop this evening,” she tells Ben.
“Great! That’ll give us enough time to enjoy the beach, grab a bite, then head to the shop.”
The day is glorious, fat clouds skittering across a robin’s egg blue sky. The Sea dances and sways, ever-changing. Ben and Rose put a few towels down and Ben opens the umbrella, then they both open books and sit in silence together for hours until Rose looks over to see her friend has fallen asleep. He’s changed a lot this year. His beard is coming in a little better than the summer before, and his shoulders have broadened, but it’s deeper than that. She senses something internal has shifted - of course he will always be reliable, steady, trustworthy Ben. But now that he’s spent some time away from Crescent Hollow he seems more like a full, real, person, and less like a character in a book. She supposes he’s simply growing up, as is she. She finds herself watching his toned abdomen taking deep breaths. His arm is tucked beneath his head while he dozes, his eyes shut beneath a pair of dark sunglasses. His thighs are tan and toned. The waist of his swimming trunks has ridden down a little to reveal a tan line running horizontally over the muscular lines which run vertically down into his trunks. His warm skin glistens with sweat in the sunshine.
“What’s got you mesmerized?” Ben asks, suddenly.
Rose jumps and snaps her head away, feeling her face color. “What? What do you mean? Just… looking at the ocean…”
When she dares glance back at him he is smiling his little half smirk.
“What?” she laughs. “You look good, Matthews. That’s all!”
“Well you look pretty good yourself, Soricelle.”
She was aware she’d gotten a more even, golden color on her shoulders and arms while at school. She’d soaked up lots of nature too, providing a certain glow witches collect specifically in mountains and forests.
Sure, she and Ben had kissed before, in both platonic and flirtatious manners. They’d flirted and goofed off with PG touching. But was this the first summer they were both completely unattached? And did she want to risk anything more than a flirtation with someone who meant so much to her? All she knew was it was too damn hot to be having these thoughts.
“Should we get in the water?” she asks, standing up and dusting some sand off her butt. She turns her back to him, knowing he’ll watch her walk towards the tide.
“Can’t say no to that,” Ben mutters.
The water is ice cold. They both shiver, and though Rose crosses her arms over her soft breasts Ben can’t help noticing her nipples harden. He looks away, but he can’t stop thinking about her gorgeous figure in that swimsuit - thinking about her as a whole, really. She’s even prettier than he remembered, with her golden curls that always smell like coconut, and her bright eyes, and warm skin, and… She twirls around in the waves, arms outstretched, smiling in the sunshine. Her bikini doesn’t quite cover her ass, and every time she turns her back to him Ben feels a little unwanted blood flow. He quickly moves to waist deep waters, and tries not to brush up against her when she’s near. But she comes very near, playing with him in the way they’ve always done. They splash each other - dunk each other - and then she grabs his jaw and plants a hard, real kiss on his mouth. He leans back for a moment, uncertain. She leans her body against his own, well aware she’s turning him on. She smiles sweetly and kisses him more softly this time. He enjoys the feeling of the intents on either side of her waist, and allows his hands to travel under the water as they kiss. It feels so natural to caress her hips and ass. It feels like this would have happened whether they wanted it to or not, but he did want this. He realized he’d wanted this for a long time.
She’s never kissed him like this before, her tongue taunting his own, her head tilting and leaning, her body pressed so hard against him he can’t help thinking of going further… sneaking off to one of those changing cabanas and just peeling her swimsuit bottoms down from her generous hips…
“What are we doing?” he asks her, stepping back.
“Kissing,” she explains.
“Well, if we keep kissing those kids on the beach are gonna do a lot of growing up today.”
She throws her head back laughing, but takes a step back. She feels it too, the warm expanding sensation of wanting more. What she doesn’t feel is control. She doesn’t feel powerful, or superior, like she did with Dean. Because for whatever reason Ben has never been terribly easy to manipulate.
“We’ve been at this for hours,” Camilla moans. “I highly doubt that little girl could find anyone within a thousand miles to perform this type of magick.”
Selene has left Sasha playing in an upstairs room and is attempting to help her sisters with the enchantments in the attic. She’s a stark contrast to the businesswomen, with tattoos and tank tops, though she herself runs a little empire.
Selene tosses the amulet into the air over and over, then holds it to her violet eye, examining the object. “I still think it’s a good call we sent Esme to talk to this girl. Whoever cast a curse on this obviously doesn’t want to be found, but maybe she remembers hiring someone. She might be more susceptible to uncloaking charms. Did Esme bring Truth Serum with her?”
“She did,” Iris nods. “Did you see anything like this overseas?”
“Sure. I saw loads of weird shit in Scandinavia.”
“So that’s where you’ve been!” Camilla exclaims. “I couldn’t for the life of me recall which postcard came last. High demand for a magickal tattoo artist in Scandinavia, is there?”
“High demand everywhere,” Selene grins, her thin mouth mischievous as ever. “But I was actually commissioned to do a portrait for someone… this eccentric inventor lives all alone in Iceland. Amazing house… levers and buttons and gears everywhere. He flies hot air balloons in his spare time.”
“What sort of portrait did he want? Life Extending?”
“Actually, that’s a story for another day,” Selene laughs. “But it paid well, so I should be able to stay all summer without a hitch. Aren’t we opening the shop tomorrow?”
“We are. And we should be focused on that…” Iris mutters, perplexed.
“What if we try a return spell and slow its motion?” Selene offers.
All the women pause.
“We won’t be able to cast any other spells once it starts in the direction of the original caster,” Iris says.
Camilla contributes, “but if we really can slow its movement we shouldn’t have any trouble following it.”
“If we lose it, we’ve lost it,” Selene says. “But we have to try, don’t we?”
The sisters all agree. While Esme questions Aimee about the amulet they’ve run out of questions for the amulet itself.
Iris shrugs. “Perhaps it’ll still send a message even if we do lose its trail. I’d certainly take it as a hint if something I’d cursed came hurtling through my kitchen window.”
Selene performs the Slowing Spell on the amulet, which now hangs in midair before the women. It hovers with visible lethargy. Iris performs the Return-To-Sender Spell.
“I know not where you lost your way, but return now to whence you came.”
The amulet hung for one long moment in the air, apparently immune to their magick. Then it moved quicker than expected, breaking the glass of one of the attic windows and hurtling towards the road.
“Hurry!” Selene squeaks, peeling out on the carpet in an attempt to get downstairs in time.
Her sisters trail behind her.
Esme knows Aimee’s parents are on vacation, so Aimee should be at home with just her older brother. But when she knocks on the front door no one comes to answer it. She waves her hand over the lock, hearing a click, then enters the house. Aimee’s home is everything Esme’s is not; it is beige, and tan, with big picture frames and crosses on the walls. Aimee’s family is all blonde and blue eyed, and beautiful, with enormous smiles. Aimee’s smile is by far the best though. She stands out in every school photo, her eyebrows thick and darker than her fair hair, her cheerleader uniform fitted perfectly to her short, athletic, hourglass figure.
Esme goes upstairs to Aimee’s room. She’s been here many the time, but this time they aren’t studying. This time she’s attempting to sense some source of magick - or poking around, as a mortal might call it. She looks out the window to see Aimee is sunbathing topless in her yard. Her brother must be gone too. Her breasts are perfect - pale and small and perky. Esme turns away, not wishing to spy on the angelic looking girl. She only wants to know what happened to her amulet. But she can’t help looking again as Aimee turns onto her stomach, her long blond hair falling over her toned shoulders and onto the concrete beneath her beach chair. Esme remembers sitting in those chairs with her, not too long ago, before things changed. She remembers the smell of sunscreen and apple blossom shampoo. She realizes they’ll never sunbathe beside each other again.
Esme goes to the bed and lays down atop the blankets, inhaling the familiar smell and staring at the familiar ceiling. There she waits until Aimee enters her room in a towel, heading to her bathroom to wash off the pool. Aimee lets out a tiny scream when she spots her friend.
“Esme! You scared the shit out of me! What are you doing here?” She wraps her towel more tightly around herself.
“Who cursed my amulet?”
“What? Cursed? You mean your locket?” She isn’t wearing any makeup. Her blue eyes just pop against her tan skin. This is the way she looks prettiest, in Esme’s opinion.
“You’re the witch here. You know full well I don’t know how to curse anything.” Aimee marches to her bathroom and turns on the shower, then proceeds to brush out her tangled, wet hair.
“You brought it to someone to curse it.”
“Esme!” she exclaims, exasperated, from the bathroom doorway. “Why would I do that? I don’t want you to come to harm. That’s ridiculous. I just… I just can’t see you anymore. My parents are baptists and your family are witches. This just doesn’t work.” Her voice softens. “Our friendship… it can’t work.”
But Esme remembers those furtive glances, and the way Aimee always changed clothes with her back to her, and the way she traced Esme’s bra strap that time they were alone in the locker rooms… sending chills up her spine.
“So you didn’t do anything to my necklace?”
“No. God, no. Someone must have cursed it in my locker at school. I couldn’t even look at the damn thing. I left it at school for the summer hoping… hoping to forget.” Aimee stares at the carpet.
Esme stares at Aimee, her stomach turned to knots to hear this. “Is that what you want? You want to forget me?”
Aimee looks up, her blue eyes tearful. “No. But I don’t know how to… do this.”
“I don’t either,” Esme offers, tenderly, standing from the bed.
The girls stare at each other for a long moment, then Aimee goes to Esme with slow, determined steps. “My parents are out of town. My brother’s at a friend’s house…”
“We could… I mean… do you want to stay awhile? We could… talk. Maybe get some closure.”
Esme nods slowly, but she doesn’t want to talk, and she definitely doesn’t want closure. Aimee reaches for Esme’s hand. Aimee’s nails are painted a soft pink, and short, and clean, and she wears a little seahorse ring. She tugs Esme’s hand, urging her to follow her into the bathroom. Then she drops her towel, revealing just a pair of bikini bottoms. Her breasts barely touch her stomach, but they look wonderful on her frame, like a sculptor chiseled them from memory.
Aimee takes a step towards Esme, reaching behind her to shut the door. The bathroom begins to steam. She touches Esme’s shoulders, then face, then leans in to kiss her gently, her lips soft and plump and warm. She tilts her face and kisses her again. Esme’s hands find Aimee’s waist and she holds her there, pulling her close so that she can feel the heat of her skin. Aimee begins peeling Esme’s shirt off, then unbuttoning her shorts. Esme is skinny where Aimee is curvy. She is pale where Aimee is tan. But both girls find each other equally intoxicating.
Esme steps out of her shorts. She’s wearing the type of underwear no one really intends for anyone else to see - just cotton and obviously years old. But Aimee doesn’t seem to mind. She undoes Esme’s bra, revealing large, ivory breasts that sit in two teardrops. Aimee isn’t sure what to do. She’s never done this before. She drops her bikini bottoms, and Esme steps out of her panties, and the girls stand there staring at each other’s naked bodies, both breathing heavily with the realization of what’s about to occur. Aimee opens the sliding door to the shower and steps in, turning the cold tap to balance the temperature. Then she beckons to Esme to join her. Esme does, and the girls stand in the stream of hot water, running their hands over each others arms and brushing hair from faces. Aimee draws her thumbs across Esme’s pronounced collarbone. They lean it at the same moment, melting into a kiss so warm and passionate someone might assume they’ve been lovers in past lives.
Esme gently pushes Aimee against the tiled wall of the shower, and the girl gasps. “It’s cold,” she laughs.
“Oh, I’m sorry!” Esme mutters, stepping back.
“No, don’t be sorry. Please.” Her big blue eyes beg Esme to stay with her in this moment, to take risks and lean in and cross lines. “Please,” she says again, reaching for Esme’s waist and pulling her close.
Aimee glances down between kisses to see Esme’s ample bosom pressed against her own chest, the girls’ nipples just brushing against each other. The water pours over Esme’s shoulders, sliding down her ivory skin, making her look like a glossy painting, too perfect to be real. But she is very real, and soft, and warm, and her tongue is wet and slick in Aimee’s mouth. Their mouths blend and mold in a way neither girl is familiar with, their bodies pressed to each other in perfect harmony.
Aimee feels Esme’s hand traveling down her body hesitantly to find her pussy, so puffy and pink and shaved. Esme meets Aimee’s eyes as she presses on her lips with two fingers, dragging them forward and back, then burrowing inside the plump fleshy bits to find her clitoris. Aimee gasps with pleasure, and smiles at Esme, hoping this moment will last forever. The girls kiss while Esme brushes her fingertips over the outside of Aimee’s plush, smooth vagina. Then she curves a finger and tucks it inside the slick opening, causing Aimee to moan with pleasure, her knee now hiked up on the ledge in the shower to give Esme access. Then Esme surprises her by sliding down her body, to the ground of the shower. Esme sits, leaning her upper back on the seat in the shower and grasping Aimee’s thigh.
“Come here,” she whispers.
Aimee obeys, pushing her foot to the back corner of the shower seat and leaning in towards Esme’s face.
“All the way,” Esme tells her.
“Are you sure…?” Aimee begins, uncertain of how to proceed.
“Let me,” Esme says.
Aimee lets her. She sinks into the lunge position, her pussy close to Esme’s face. Esme grabs Aimee’s ass and gently begins to stroke Aimee’s pussy with her tongue, keeping it broad and flat. Aimee could cum right now, watching the beautiful ivory skinned girl with the generous breasts lapping up her pussy. She’s only seen similar scenes in porn, or read about them in her favorite fan fiction. Never did she dream she’d actually get to experience this. She places a hand on the back of Esme’s head, petting her affectionately.
Esme squeezes two handfuls of impressive fleshy bottom, enjoying all the soft bits of Aimee. She’s fantasized about this for so long - just diving in… And now Aimee’s gasping as Esme juts her tongue out, tilting her neck to dive as deeply as possible into Aimee’s body. Aimee has to stabilize herself against the tile wall with one hand, her breath coming out ragged and uneven. Esme then dives two fingers into Aimee’s vagina, enjoying the quiet squelching noise that just grows louder and louder as she increases her speed and pressure. She feels for Aimee’s G-Spot, confident she’s found it when Aimee begins to convulse.
Aimee is fully riding Esme’s face now, grinding down onto her tongue and fingers, her eyes rolling back. She’s groaning and scratching at the wall, one hand still on Esme’s head, pressing her face into her body like she wants to absorb her. Then Aimee tells Esme she’s found the perfect spot - the perfect pace.
“Fuck, oh fuck! Right there! Don’t move! Right there!”
Esme keeps curling her fingers towards herself, sucking Aimee’s clit with vigor. Then Aimee surprises her by suddenly stopping. She steps back and helps Esme up, leading her, soaking wet, out of the shower and onto the thick bathroom rug. She smiles at Esme, then turns her around, shoving her against the sink. She cups her breasts in her hands, gently squeezing Esme’s nipples with her fingertips. Then she removes one hand and reaches for the drawer under the sink. Esme watches her extract a long purple vibrator, and her eyes widen. She allows Aimee to turn on the toy and rub the tip up and down Esme’s lips, gently brushing the trimmed pubes and revealed clitoris. Esme’s pussy isn’t nearly as puffy and pink as Aimee’s, and Aimee likes this. She can easily see her vagina and clit, so when she presses the vibrator to the other girl’s parts she knows exactly where it’s going. Esme is already gasping by the time Aimee plunges the vibrator into her pussy. It slides in easily, because she’s already saturated.
Aimee and Esme meet each other’s eyes in the mirror, but Aimee keeps getting distracted by the jiggling swinging motion of Esme’s massive tits. Esme is getting close to cumming. Aimee can see her vagina beginning to expand and contract - she can see the girl’s beautiful face contorting into expressions of such a deep pleasure she can’t help but feel it’s residual effects. Esme presses Aimee back at the last moment and the girls crumple on the thick, plush, bathroom rug between the shower and the sink. Esme takes the vibrator from Aimee’s hand and aims to use it on her, but Aimee stops her.
“Now you come here,” she says.
Esme straddles Aimee’s face and dives into Aimee’s pussy once more, using the vibrator on the parts she cannot reach. Both girls devour each other until their thighs are tight on the other’s face.
“I’m close,” Aimee tells Esme. “Oh, fucking hell, I’m so close.”
“Me too,” Esme gasps, her voice just a tight whisper.
Aimee’s vagina has begun to grasp the vibrator, flexing as she twists it in and out, in and out, in and out.
Aimee begins to move her own fingers faster in Esme’s pussy, so Esme begins to pump the vibrator with more speed into Aimee.
“Harder,” Aimee begs, whining and moaning, her back arching.
Esme takes the vibrator out and tosses it aside, diving into Aimee’s pussy like the juices flowing from it are the fountain youth. She grips Aimee’s thighs when she begins to squirm, partially holding her down beneath her. Aimee gasps, her back arching high, then she begins to convulse. But she doesn’t stop twisting her fingers in Esme, moving her hand and mouth with such speed Esme could tell she practiced a similar motion a lot. Esme doesn’t release Aimee’s vagina from the confines of her mouth when her own pussy begins to convulse. Her own back arches, her own hips writhing as if begging for mercy. But Aimee holds Esme steadfast, gripping her ass and pressing the other girl’s hips down upon her own face.
Esme gasps and shudders.
“Fuuuuuuuck!” she growls. “Fuuuuuuck fuuuuuuck! Oh my god!”
Aimee whimpers again, her pussy dripping a clear, shimmering liquid now.
The girls collapse onto each other, both dripping water, sweat, and cum, all over each other. Esme rolls off and they lay side by side, foot to head, sprawled on the bathroom rug, breathless and complete in the best way. They pant and giggle and pant some more.
Aimee says “Holy shit.”
Esme says “Wow.”
They stare at the ceiling for a long moment, lost in their euphoria. Them Aimee comes to lay with her head by Esme, and they embrace, a tangle of arms and legs and belly buttons and slick body parts still hot and throbbing with pleasure.
The girls get back in the shower, wobbly as newborn foals. They wash each other’s bodies, raking fingers through hair and kissing sudsy shoulders. They hold each other in the way lovers do, tight and close and free all at once. Esme thinks to herself this is not like bathing with Rose at all. This is so incredibly different. She wishes every shower could be so warm, despite the cooling water. When the bathing rituals are complete the girls brush each others hair and dress again.
“I should go,” Esme says from Aimee’s bed. She’s holding one of her stuffed animals. “I have to help my family open the shop. And we have to find out who cursed that amulet.”
“How do you know it was cursed? Did it try to hurt you?”
“Sort of… you didn’t take my photo of my parents out of it, did you?”
“I didn’t,” Aimee shakes her head. “Can I do anything to help?”
“I don’t think so. I’ll call you tonight.” Esme stands and Aimee walks her to the front door.
The girls kiss inside the door, then Esme drives home, her head spinning.
She’s smiling to herself all the way up the porch steps and into the house. It isn’t until she’s reached the attic, however, that she realizes no one is there. There’s no sign of the amulet either.
“Hello,” a small voice says, causing Esme to jump and scream, and take a fighting stance. But it’s just her little cousin, Sasha.
Sasha’s black hair is long and straight where her mother’s is short and spiky. Aside from the lack of tattoos on the child they’re identical. Sometimes Esme catches her own mother’s eyes in photographs and thinks what a blessing and curse it is to look so much like a parent.
“Sasha! Are you here alone?”
“Not for long. Mom just left with the aunties but Rose and Ben are almost here.”
Esme sensed that too.
Sasha shrugs her tiny shoulders. “Do we ever know?” She hops off to play by herself.
Esme decides to stay with Sasha and fill in Rose when she returns. Together they’ll decide whether the older generation of Soricelle Women might need backup - whatever it is they’re getting into.
Iris screams and instinctively grasps the handle above the passenger side door while Camilla breezes through a four way stop in her sleek, black jaguar. Selene buckles herself into the middle seat.
“I can just see it! Up ahead!”
“Watch out!” Iris calls to pedestrians while Camilla honks, cackling madly as her tires squeal.
“Nearly there, I think!” Camilla says.
They’d torn down the driveway and chased the thing straight through town, taking turns sharper than anyone would deem safe. They’d definitely caused a fender bender between a minivan and an impala, and an old man shook his cane at them for nearly flattening him in the crosswalk. Iris did not think this was worth dying for, nor worth killing a mortal attempting to enjoy their Friday night, but Camilla lived for these moments.
“You can get away with this type of driving in Italy,” Selene yelled. “Or even Boston! But you’re going to kill someone here!”
“Cool your titties, little sister!” Camilla laughs.
Whoop Whoop! Goes a siren. But Camilla does not stop.
“I swear the clean up process lasts longer every time,” Iris groans, watching the police car in her rearview mirror.
“Yes, but I believe we’ve got a culprit!” Camilla turns sharply around the backside of the B&B. The amulet disappears through an open door, past an employee taking out the trash.
Camilla and Selene fly from the car and chase the necklace inside, despite the employee’s protests that this is not an entrance. Iris follows just in time to see the police vehicle box in the Jag, and to hear poor, confused Officer Alex Lopez calling out to them.
Iris locks the door behind them and follows her sisters.
Camilla watches the amulet soar through the tea room, smashing a pot off a waitress’s tray halfway to a table. Then it tears through an older woman’s enormous hairdo, rearranging her perfect bouffant before pinging off the painting in the lobby. It breaks a vase and bounces up the steps, hitting a gentleman square in the forehead and forcing his eyes to cross.
“Sorry, sorry,” Camilla mutters, shoving past the man.
The amulet breaks the chandelier in the hallway, causing it to swing half hazard over the women as they pass beneath it, then continues in this chaotic dance up the last flight of stairs to the suites. It breaks two more paintings and trips a maid before finding a door it rather likes. It knocks three sharp times in attempts to pass through solid oak. The door opens and a hand catches the amulet with precision. The locket goes limp.
Camilla stands before the man, Selene and Iris spilling in after her.
The man is so distinct looking all the women would remember even the most vague of encounters with him. He has skin the darkest shade of black any of them have ever seen on a person, and eyes the palest blue they could be without actually being white. His nose is long and high bridged, his brow high and sharp, creating a sort of elegant bird-like face. He wears pressed clergy robes and a white tab in his collar. Anyone else might assume they’d gotten the wrong room, for this was a man of god, clearly not someone to dabble in cursing amulets to harm witches. But the Soricelle Women understand there are many deities to worship, and not all of them benevolent.
“Well hello,” the man says, his voice low and silky.
“Hello,” Camilla pants, her eyes bright with the excitement of the chase.
“Can I help you?”
“I think we’d better chat… inside,” Iris tells everyone, nodding towards his room.
He doesn’t seem to mind the women inviting themselves in. He just opens the door and stands aside, dipping his head politely.
The room is immaculate, the bed appearing untouched. There aren’t even suitcases. There are just a few items of pressed black clothing hanging in the closet and an open book on the desk.
“Gideon’s Bible?” Camilla asks, a brow arched, she leans over to catch a glimpse of the book, which is filled with odd symbols, and written in an indiscernible pattern.
The man merely smiles and reaches out a finger, flipping the book closed with a thud.
Selene stays nearest the door, ready to run. She listens to the voices in the hall asking aloud where the women went.
“That doesn’t belong to you,” Iris tells the man, her eyes flicking to the locket.
“Then why did it return to me,” his smile never touches his eyes, which always remain heavily lidded like a resting jaguar.
“That’s what we’re here to find out,” Camilla says. “See, apparently, it returned with a curse upon it. Would you know anything about that?”
“Ah well, there are many great secrets to this grand multiverse in which we live.” He sits down with grace and ease, apparently unbothered by the witches.
“But this is not one of them,” Iris states. “You mean harm upon our family. Why?”
“I do not mean harm upon your family, madam. I have my irons in a different fire entirely.”
All the women exchange a glance, then cast a capturing spell in unison. Ropes appear in midair, and wind themselves around The Priest. But instead of tightening and knotting they just twist around and around a few feet away from his body. He chuckles deep in his throat.
“You witches do not know everything. Your time of magick is reaching an end. There is a new force at play, which will make your powers look like that of infants. I’ll excuse myself now. I trust you’ll do the same.” He turns over his hand, moving his fingers in an elegant twist to reveal something between his thumb and forefinger - something small and black and round, like a little bead. He pops it into his mouth as he stands once more. He bites down one distinct time and suddenly there are only three women in the room and one flapping, sleek raven. The raven seems to tilt his head humorously, giving a barking laugh before slipping through the open window into the night.
Oliver stands in the middle of the shop, admiring his handiwork. He is a youthful forty something with silver in his stylishly floppy hair. He wears his usual bowtie and suspenders, and round, charming glasses. He thinks the new shipment of balms, lotions, and oils looks perfect towards the front door. Everyone can see the reimagined logo on the simple glass containers. Bundles of drying lavender, chamomile, and sage hang from the ceiling fixtures both as decor and as a space saver for Grandma Gwen’s otherwise cluttered kitchen. The women did lots of unpacking the day before but Oliver is proud to finish it up, putting his eye for design to use and creating a space both modern and ancient. He settles himself into a blue velvet armchair in the corner and opens one of the apothecary books nearby.
“It looks perfect,” Iris says.
Oliver jumps to his feet, the book flying into the air and knocking a jar off a shelf.
The jar hangs suspended before nesting back into its original spot.
“Gracious!” Oliver exclaims, a hand pressed to his heart. “I’m no longer a young man, Iris Soricelle! One of these days you’re going to do me in!”
Iris, Selene, and Camilla all stand in the center of the shop, looking slightly disheveled from their high speed chase earlier, but still radiant. The back door beeps and in walks Esme, Rose, and Sasha.
“At least you know we can bring you back to life,” Camilla winks.
The women make quick work of the finishing touches while catching up on the night’s events. Money is put in the register, and the backroom is organized in seconds. It isn’t until Gwen finally arrives, however, that it truly feels complete. The floors glistens with cleanliness and candles light themselves in the windows and upon the shelves and tables. Gwen exclaims what a wonderful job they’ve all done, receiving many the eye-roll. The scent of herbs and whimsy fill the air as the family (plus Oliver, who is close enough) all grasp one another’s hands and form a circle.
It is a Soricelle custom to say a prayer before a big venture, so it makes sense the matriarch, Gwen, should carry the weight of this tradition. She kneels in the middle of the circle, lighting candles at the points of a pentagram they’d drawn with herbs and petals on the floor. Little rocks and gems dot the shape, and the colors of the candles each signify an intent: red for confidence, green for success, yellow for ideas, orange for intellect, and blue for inspiration.
“We give thanks to Spirit, so free. And we cherish the Power of Three. At first light we open our doors, to abundance and all earthly spoils. We keep mortal magick tradition, and we cherish our honored positions. We respect both the dark and the light, and continue to fulfill our rite. Abundance will flow just like water, to the healers, the mothers, and daughters.”
“And Oliver,” Esme whispers.
“And Oliver,” Gwen nods, sagely.
Everyone smiles as Gwen finishes lighting the candles by hand then stands to join the circle.
“Blessed Be,” They all say in unison.
“I’m getting too old for this,” Gwen says, stretching her back.
They allow the candles to burn for awhile, all speaking in reverent tones until Gwen has put them out in reverse order. The shop feels warmer now, but it’s not from the heat of the flames.
“So he’s a priest but… also magickal?” Oliver clarifies later, a glass of wine past too many on the Soricelle porch. “I thought the whole thing about clergy was that they hated magick.”
“I’ve heard of dark priests, of course,” Selene offers. “It’s a western thing for priests to only worship Jesus and Mary and rebuke all magick. I’ve been so many places where the town priest was the scariest dude around…” She holds Sasha on her knee while the child’s head grows heavy. “I’ve just never seen one we couldn’t… touch.”
“It’s not as if he attacked us,” Camilla says. “It’s not as if he could. He couldn’t even make us leave his room.”
“Can’t do it or didn’t try?” Iris offers.
“It did seem as though he couldn’t do much but resist,” Selene muses. “Which, that in itself isn’t something we see every day. We need to do some research before we move forward. Someone could get hurt if we go for him blind.”
“Speaking of getting hurt…” Oliver begins, wine sloshing to the rim of his glass as he gesticulated. “What happened to this yummy police officer who chased you all to the B&B? And Camilla, where is your jaguar?”
“Oh!” Camilla perks up. “I completely forgot it!”
With a hard blink the car returns to the driveway right beside Rose’s jeep.
“Problem solved,” Camilla shrugs, smiling. Then she notices the enormous yellow boot and magicks that away too.
“We might have some deep cleaning to do,” Iris warns her.
“I just swiped the records of the impound,” Camilla says, offended.
“I mean Officer Lopez.”
“He has to catch us before he can accuse us of anything, and that officer isn’t coming back around here anytime soon, is he… sister?” Camilla takes a long drink of wine, a knowing gleam in her eye.
Iris smiles and rolls her eyes. “Sleep. Sleep, everyone. We have a big day tomorrow.”
They give Oliver a spoonful of bitters before bed (to help with the hangover) then put him in a guest room, and everyone says goodnight.