When she returned to the house early Thursday morning, Oona sensed something was not right. She entered the first floor kitchen and went to check on the kids who were still all asleep. KC was already up and out of the house. She was evidently confident of Oona’s imminent return and wrote to say she was at the market to pick up a few things before work. Oona was breathless from the pace of her transition back north, particularly after last night, and she would call KC shortly to make sure there was no need for an explanation. She had not exactly told KC she planned to be out all night. She checked into her private quarters and the fragrance of jasmine was unmistakable. And though there was nothing obviously out of place, Oona knew Thankful had some explaining to do. Oona paced through her suite and then ascended first to the main floor and then to the second. Once she entered Thankful’s room, she loudly declared, “Dear girl: You have disappointed me greatly.” The woman quickly found the young girl’s gray eyes and locked onto them. “How dare you enter my quarters without my permission? I trust you and your brothers will do what is right and proper in this house, and especially – especially – when both adults are away!”
“I was only playing downstairs.” The five year old nodded innocently as she wriggled to sit up in her bed. “I’m really sorry I went into your room, Oona.” Though her words sounded sincere, Thankful pulled her eyes away from Oona’s. She would not, or could not, face her.
“You should not be anywhere down there without my explicit permission!”
“I’m sorry Oona. I won’t do it again.” The young girl’s eyes darted about evasively.
“And you CANNOT play with matches.”
“It was a lighter.” Thankful responded calmly. Then she rose from her bed to stand a few feet from Oona, who remained stationary in the middle of the room.
“You CANNOT play with fire! Do you understand me?”
“Don’t tell mommy,” Thankful pleaded. “Please don’t tell Mommy.”
“Do you promise these things to me: no trespassing and no fires?”
“Yes. I’m really sorry.” Thankful looked straight up now, right into Oona’s eyes. She knew at this point the risk of not doing so was far greater than the benefit of continued avoidance.
Oona looked down at Thankful, sternly. Her young charge was teary eyed and appeared extremely remorseful. “I will not tell anyone of this, Thankful, if you explicitly promise me these two things.”
“I promise,” she said softly, just as a girl of her age would say.
“Well, alright then.” Oona smiled slightly at the corners of her full mouth. “Respect your elders and the things that belong to them.” Oona quickly winked at the child and then bent down to be at eye-level with her. Although mind-reading was never Oona’s specialty, the girl had always been hard to read. And with all the distractions and self-deceptions Oona dismissed the goings on as nothing more than a child-witch engaged in innocent child’s play. “You will one day be great and powerful. Of that I have no doubt, Thankful. You must not rush out of your childhood, child. Be a ‘kid’ for a while longer, like your brothers.” Oona rose.
“But Louis does things.” Thankful was determined to take Oona’s mind off of herself.
“In a way, ‘yes,’ girl,” Oona conceded. “However, Louis’ gifts are not like your own child. Louis is a seer of ghosts and spirits; a medium between the worlds. But you child, you are a witch! You surmise. You see events, occurrences, things. You are a doer! You will one day use your powers to command! And the blood that flows through your veins is quite potent.”
“But Louis’ blood flows through his veins too.”
“Yes, and he can manipulate unseen forces. But your powers far exceed your brother’s. Louis is a seer; you are a doer. So shall you command the spirits which your brother only sees, control the forces which he cannot.” Oona paused with a smile which adorned her well defined jawline.
“Okay, but Louis says he’s been seeing ghosts since he could talk.”
“Even before that, child.”
Again, Thankful nodded innocently. She looked to Oona to continue.
“You both share a family tree, child; a tree with very prominent roots in the vast acreage of history. You have heard of the Salem witches?”
Thankful nodded as Oona looked deeply into her innocent gray eyes. “Perhaps you have heard of the famous witch trials of 1692?”
Again, Thankful nodded. She put her eyes into the distance and did not say a word. She thought of the number: one six nine two.
“Dozens of these people are of your flesh and blood, child,” continued Oona.
The girl clearly heard what Oona said. She swayed slightly and in apparent agreement.
“You will one day use your powers to great advantage, if only you do what you are told, starting now!”
Thankful smiled slightly and looked up to her nanny. Her innocence shined in her deep gray eyes.
Oona felt much more at ease. Thankful’s eyes – the windows to the girl’s soul – revealed only goodness within.
“Yes, you have powers and in time I shall teach you how to use them. Be a good child; be obedient and be good in school. Do what you are expected to do as a little girl, and the time will come for you to make good use of your powers.” Oona flashed her broad, rich smile. “Trust me.”
“I trust you, Oona.”
“All right then.” Oona felt trusted and needed, or she wanted to be. And she needed to qualify her remark. “And I do wish to trust you, in spite of all that has transpired.” So much is going on. Oona blandly looked out the window. There lingered some sense of doubt, some bits of confusion, even a dullness to her customary wits and judgment.
“I’ll be good, Oona.”
“All right then.” Oona took the girl in her arms and said, “Be good and I shall teach you things of which you have never dreamed.”
“Like casting spells?” the child-witch asked. And as quickly as she had said it, Thankful regretted her remark, lest she give away her newly discovered secrets.
“Yes. One day we shall cast and throw spells together,” Oona assured. “We will star gaze and crystal gaze…together. We shall séance with candles and incense, and do all the things you wish to do. I shall help you sharpen your skills, child, and to learn you must first be a good child.”
“Good morning,” Louis suddenly announced, as he entered his sister’s room and lined up behind Oona. “What’s going on?”
Thankful opened her mouth to speak but Oona playfully interrupted. “I am the great mambo priestess named Oona. I am ready to sacrifice a sanctified chicken to the exalted Loa, Erzulie who awaits our arrival downstairs in the kitchen.” Though Oona’s long night out on the town had barely passed, her sheer beauty remained and was plain for both children to see in the natural light of Thankful’s bedroom.
Thankful thought back to the last night with the beautiful black woman of her imagination. Messages from the Spirits’ World. She froze in fear.
Oona could see she had frightened the child, and quickly changed the subject to the more pleasant category of witches. Suddenly, Oona spun around like a top, and quickly turned from one child to another. “I am a teasing witch,” Oona playfully declared.
And it never occurred to Oona that the danger posed to Pi Gran Liv had passed undetected.
“Witches can’t cross running water, can they?” asked Louis sarcastically. Then he smiled as if that revelation were something of newly discovered value and significance.
“What?” exclaimed Thankful. She gestured with her hands and arms toward Oona and claimed, “You can so cross running water.” A quick moment later, she added, “Can’t you?”
“Then so can you,” Louis snapped at his sister.
With a smile and a glint from her small diamond nose stud, Oona said plainly, “Have you ever seen me cross water?”
Louis thought for a moment and he finally said, “I don’t think so.”
“And what about you, Thankful?” Oona inquired. “Have you ever seen me cross water?”
“Uh, no, I don’t think so.”
“Well there you have it children.” Oona suddenly spun around on her feet and grabbed Louis by the shoulders. She declared, “Or have you?”
Louis yelped and then he laughed for a long while. It was the first time Oona had heard the boy laugh – really laugh – since she moved in.
“No. I don’t think so,” Louis finally said.
With the banter subsided, Oona added, “I believe you mean elves, my dear boy. An elfish spirit is forbidden to cross a running stream.”
“Okay,” he said quietly, and his sister just as quietly moved over to her brother’s side. Thankful was timid and careful with her next question:
“So can you cross water?”
“Either do not believe these folktales, Thankful, or be certain that I am too powerful to be restricted in this way.”
“What about me then?”
Oona playfully lunged at the girl who shrieked.
“Okay, okay,” the girl pleaded. Now Thankful seemed remorseful and it perfectly exhibited the innocence of her age.
Oona looked down at the gray-eyed girl before her. There was something about the child-witch she could not surmise. And Oona’s mind was far too cluttered with other matters; things of far greater concern than the mischievous deeds of one little girl. Oona rued the challenges of settling in to a new life and, with it the entire unsettledness of the relocation. There was her former practice, her former business, her life’s work, or so she once thought. Now, Oona Neeci, the great doctor of ontology, was a common housekeeper for three children plus their mother; children she hoped would serve as Cupid’s arrows to capture the mother, the prize for whom she was hopelessly obsessed. There was so much going on, so fast, and she was too busy with too many thoughts. And not to forget the séancing for KC’s dear departed husband. Even that task required much more care than she had imagined. Mercifully there was last night with Alexi, Oona reflected. Finally there had been some relief, though already it was little more than a brief distraction from all the other troubles and unmet challenges. Yes, Thankful’s mysteries could wait a while longer.