Five weeks before Kelly arrives in Wales.
The older Italian woman placed the tray in front of me on the table and I eyed it warily. An espresso sounded nice in theory, but I was from Seattle. I liked strong coffee, but lots of it, a carafe’s worth. Espresso woke you up, but you couldn’t hold it in your hands and whisper sweet things to it, it wouldn’t be around for that long.
Regardless, she had brought me a tray full of pastries and granita with some miniature roses in a vase on the side. It was the most Mediterranean thing I had ever seen.
The older housekeeper returned my smile before patting me on the head.
She turned away and started to walk back to the old stone house across the courtyard. The sound of an ax swinging and chopping wood could be heard and in response from inside the house, baby Deedee started to cry in her room. Mari looked across the expanse of the yard and yelled out something to the olive tree grove spanning down the hill before moving quickly back to the house.
A male voice answered and out of the grove came Arawn and a shirtless young man with a saw in his hand. The young man caught my eye with the way he gleamed with sweat and his long dark curly dark hair, reminding me of Will and the sex dream I had again last night.
Keeping my gaze on the virile, young Italian, I asked my mother, sitting across the table from me still sipping her coffee.
“So, Iona? Did you ever meet her?”
Jolene followed my gaze to the attractive men and smiled.
“No, I only knew of her because your father once asked me to send her a letter through the spell ‘Door to Door’, since her mail was being checked in the local town. He never showed me what was in the letter, but he said it was something about wanting to see her again.”
My eyes turned back to her, still looking across the courtyard to her husband in the olive grove. He and the other man were pruning trees and collecting firewood, stacking them in a large pile ready to be taken into the large stone house. Arawn, or ‘David’, had on a wife-beater singlet in the Italian Springtime heat, but he might as well had taken it off for everything it already showed through the sweat.
She was looking at him with a look of amusement, maybe even affection. It was the oddest coupling I could think of, and I had to know.
“So, what’s his deal?”
She didn’t need to ask to whom I was referring, I had been wary of the man, though he had been nothing but kind and maybe even loving to me in the last few days that we had been here. He swung the ax up and brought it down swiftly on the log.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, you are a witch from a very long line of witches and he is a…”
“Witch Hunter?” She finished.
I blinked, “Well, I assume he would kill anything ‘unnatural’. How did you guys even meet?”
Jolene turned back to the table and picked up her juice, her eyes glazed over as she was remembering.
“Not long after your father was murdered, and I was... recovered, I needed to do something with all the anger and hurt, but I also needed to be away from the commune. So I got it into my head to go and find the people that started him on the road to his death. David was on the same path for his own family and we met under the cover of darkness one night.” She paused and laughed suddenly,
“He thought I was a Hunter as well, searching for an ‘in’ to the same pack of Weres. It finally took him a few days before he realized what I was, and by that time… I had found him attractive enough to spend my time with, and he was certainly resourceful enough to help with the big picture.”
She paused again and started to eat her fruit salad. I waited there, perplexed, thinking she would finish.
“But, mom,..” I gestured between the groves where David was and herself, “...you’re a witch.”
She smiled into her glass of juice as if I missed something completely obvious.
“Yes, and I handled him like a witch.”
I fell back into my chair, stumped. I looked between the two again, Arawn noticing me from across the wide courtyard and giving me a great smile, he pointed at me and said something to the young man. He was so in love with Jolene he even loved me, her daughter, by association. Holy fuck. I shook my head in amazement.
“You put him under a compulsion spell.”
She nodded, and I continued,
“...for ten years. He’s been under a love spell for ten years?”
She gave me a mischievous smile like she was so clever for thinking of it. I looked over to the man, now happily chopping wood again. The irony of it all and what I had thought of my father and mother. Arawn looked so content, but who knew what was happening underneath the facade?
“Are you ever going to let him go?”
From the end of the table, Jolene picked up an opened bottle of champagne and added it to her juice. She sipped some and confidently met my eyes.
“No, I don’t think so.” Turning, she waved at the two men and gestured to the mimosa, signaling that they should come to get one.
“He would probably try to kill me if he ever woke up and could remember.”
I stared at her in wonder. On paper, she stopped a witch hunter from killing her by imprisoning him for ten years in his own mind. She stopped someone from killing her. That sounded reasonable. But the reality seemed too cruel to be justified.
We had been on her little farm in Southern Italy for nearly a week and I had only scratched the surface on Jolene’s answers. Why she had left the commune instead of confronting Gran, why she never came back for me, why she never even sent word. They had all seemed like reasonable answers. She was scared, I was better off and safe with Franny, how would she even start the conversation, and so on.
But now we were starting to get into deeper waters. Her more recent business. Business that ended up with many witches dead, including her own sister.
Seeing the men starting to walk over though, I held off the question that was itching to take over my tongue and instead, tried to focus on what bonded my mother and I, Ewan Jones. She beat me to a question though,
“You know, he is single.”
My eyebrows furrowed,
Her head tilted over to the pair walking over. “Giuseppe, he’s single.”
I shook my head, frustrated at her.
“Mom, no. Stop.” I let out an exasperated sigh, trying to remember my question. “You said dad was in an accident, and that caused him to leave Wales and his home?”
She scooted over for David and the Italian who was now shucking on a shirt. He sat down next to me and gave a brief smile my way.
Jolene nodded, acknowledging the brief conversation we had prior and set her drink down.
“He never spoke of it, but after, our company did its own investigation. He caused an accident, a big one, some Weres died. He did the honorable thing and made appropriate restitution to the family. But after he made them, the family wanted more. More than he was willing to give.”
I leaned back into my chair, knowing the answer,
Jolene nodded while Arawn reached across her for the champagne.
“Well, what did he give before they asked for… more?”
“Everything. The pack, his land, the fishing business, the fleet of trawlers. Everything except the Jones ancestral home.”
I whistled into my mimosa. “Must have been a terrible accident…”
“...and your father was a very noble man. He had a lot of guilt over it”
Leaning my head in my hands on the table, I squelched the oncoming headache.
“That’s…a lot. It doesn’t make sense. Why would they want a daughter that might never be born?”
Jolene flicked her eyes over to Arawn, who in turn, put his drink down like he was asked a question.
“Oh, we have no idea. Your father didn’t transform after he left Wales, and it has only ever been one son in the family for a few generations. I don’t think it’s a secret, just the Wales’ Joneses are rare. It's hard to get that information if you're not ‘in the club’.”
I frowned, what was different about the Welsh Joneses? Picking up one of the miniature roses from the vase, I twirled it between my fingers, the wheels in my head turning. My mother had been absent for the last thirteen years, never sent word, never tried to see me. Not until I had a quarter life crisis and triggered the sleeping wolf in my DNA to wake up. The wolf. That’s all she wanted. A bargaining chip to bring to the table. I was angry at the realization that my mother might not actually want me, her daughter, but rather the animal inside.
“So, that’s why I’m here? Is that why you stole Deedee, to get me to follow you? Just because I am half a Were now?”
From across the table, my mother gave me a hard glare and put her fork down on her plate, the men at the table holding their breath at my harsh tone.
Jolene leaned across the table to me and silently plucked the rose from my hand, meeting my glare. Holding it between us and eye level, the pink rose started to wither, turning brown to black, and then it burst into flames.
She let it drop to the table, where she snapped her fingers and the flame was doused. Our eyes never dropped.
“I took the baby because she is my family, and I think I can give her a better life.” Her eyes teared up and I forced myself to watch as the emotion poured out of them and my own welled. “And...yes. I didn’t think you would choose me over that wolf if you didn’t have some incentive to come.” She wiped her eyes and the feelings left her face.
“But you’re here, because you weren’t ready to learn before. Are you now?”
I stared down at the burnt and shriveled rose. That was serious magic. She diverted the energy out of that rose, where did it go? She just...absorbed it? God, I wanted in on that, just the idea that anything was available for use seemed so...infinite.
I slowly nodded and leaned back in my chair, motioning to Giuseppe if he could pour me a glass of champagne. I thought about what we were previously speaking of, my paternal grandmother.
“So, I-O-Na, huh?” I glanced suspiciously at my mother. “Is she anything like Gran?”
Halfway through a sip of her drink, her eyebrows raised and she ended up downing the whole glass.
“Oh fuck, I hope not.”