The Witch Bridle

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Chapter 41

Thankful was sound asleep in the car when KC arrived home. The house seemed tired and dreary in spite of the Christmas lighting. There was snow around the edges of the yard and a smoking chimney stood against the moonlit sky. KC carried her “baby” inside, careful not to smear the girl’s face paint onto her favorite woolen coat. It was late enough, so proper daily hygienics were not so critical. KC managed to put her semi-conscious five year old to bed after she washed the girl’s hands and lightly put a tooth brush to her mouth. Thankful’s face paint was left for the next morning. With the Lucia horror gone for a week, it was still too soon for Thankful to re-occupy her own bedroom.

Morning came fast and furious. When Thankful rose for school on Monday morning, she headed straight for the bathroom before she planned to head downstairs for breakfast and maybe some TV. The girl noticed her image in the mirror and, with a dampened cloth she rubbed her cheek. Thankful had a tough time trying to get the face paint off so she stepped into the shower. And by the time she appeared downstairs in the kitchen she was totally flustered. Her brothers complimented her “face job” and then absent-mindedly went about their own business. Oona noticed the crispness of the painted colors on Thankful’s face. She drew closer and did her best to focus.

Incredible job; not a single imperfection.

Then KC approached her daughter and looked closely at her face. By this time Oona brought over a warm and moist wash cloth and set about wiping the girl’s face. Oona wiped and wiped away, but there was nothing at all on the cloth. There was no change. Nothing!

“Uh, honey, why don’t we go into the bathroom, shall we?” offered KC who quickly swept over her little girl’s body with her eyes. “Louis and Charley: be ready to leave by 7:15,” she called out calmly to the boys and also to Trixi who was not in view. KC drew in a deep breath and looked helplessly into Oona’s eyes. She headed into the bathroom with her daughter and Oona.

“Oona, something is wrong?” KC said anxiously. She set about to scrape and wash, and scrub and buff relentlessly, and after a few minutes of work which endured the shrill sounds of Thankful’s discomfort, Oona and KC paused.

“Honey, I think you’re gonna be a little late for school,” KC said calmly. “Oona, once Trixi leaves for school with the boys, I’ll head into work.” Thankful cried with sustained severity. Her face hurt from all the rubbing.

’No problem,” Oona said with a tired smile. “I am not going anywhere. We will take care of it.” She turned to the girl and said, “I think I should stay with you darling.” And Oona silently led KC away from the young girl.

“This is no ordinary paint,” Oona whispered.

“So it’s like stage make-up?” KC hoped for a positive response. “Just hard to remove?”

Oona did not say a word and looked very serious. She knew the curse. It was “The Forever Face.” Her visage had been magically tattooed by the innocent strokes of an artist’s brush. Oona was certain that it was Lucia who was responsible for this outrageous act. And what was remarkable, was how Lucia’s powers reached all the way to Westport, more than 30 miles from Westbridge.

Had Lucia returned, or had she never left? Or has Lucia simply gone somewhere else?

“Things can be quite serious,” Oona said as she looked directly into KC’s horrified eyes. “Lucia’s perverse magic, with her twisted usurpation of the Great Book and which threatens my own guardianship of Gran Liv, is responsible for this outrage.” Then Oona said most sadly, “I fear I am not up to the task.”

Trixi burst in on their intimate conversation. She appeared as if from nowhere. “I’ll take the boys to school in a few minutes and I’ll return home after that,” she innocently offered.

Both KC and Oona nodded for Trixi. Neither said a word. KC was in a silent panic.

“Oona, please do something.” She raised her voice ever so slightly. “Please!” she demanded.

Oona still did not say a word.

KC noticed the over-riding weariness which had visibly taken such a burdensome toll on her friend. KC surmised that Oona preferred for her to leave the house before she got to work on Thankful’s face. So she left the master bedroom and entered her garage where she pulled her Toyota out into the driveway. In the freezing cold of the morning, KC stood now between the house and her car and searched her iPhone for numbers to call: mainly parents of kids at the party. Maybe they had trouble too? And maybe they knew how to get the stuff off.

While it was cold outside, it looked like it would be a sunny day. KC finally decided she could not go to work in her mental state and needed to return to the house. She’d give it a few more minutes before making any calls to anyone. She craved a cigarette, though she hadn’t smoked in years. She had to do something and she changed her mind. There was plenty of time to catch the Commuter Rail and she’d sit in her car for a while in the parking lot in case she changed her mind again.

KC watched her train leave for Boston, and then returned home. When she entered the master suite, nothing had changed.

Oona studied Thankful’s face and held the girl’s hand gently and deliberately. I must reverse this curse. And I am so weak. She leaned back on the bed and waited a long moment for the little strength in her to return.

“Thankful, let us get into the shower, shall we? Get ready darling and I’ll be right back.”

“I am going downstairs for a minute,” she said to KC. How will I remove this spell when feeling so weak?

Thankful went into the master bath with her mother while Oona fetched supplies from her suite.

Thankful was in a full panic by the time Oona returned to the bathroom, with her great book in one hand and conjure bags in the other. Thankful kicked and screamed on the wet floor and Oona managed to wrap the girl in a large bath towel.

“No. No! No!” the girl cried, terrified. With her tattooed face and the sight of her arms and legs flailing about, the little girl looked like some evil creature in a low budget horror film.

“Stay calm child. Please stay calm.” Oona needed to do the same. And so weak. “I have consulted my precious and beloved Gran Liv. Please child: be calm.”

Oona’s appeals were ignored and Thankful continued unabated and totally unresponsive. Oona and KC both tried to calm the girl for many minutes before Thankful finally passed into a state of exhaustion.

“I must do a quick trick and establish calm.” She asked KC to carry the girl downstairs to her room where she drew additional items from her vast array of bottles, bags, and vials. A touch of lavender mixed with holy water and thyme, and after some struggles, Oona successfully cast a calming sleep spell on the girl. As if it were a magical epi-pen. The young girl had quite the strong will, stronger than her own it seemed. Careful not to touch the potion myself. Oona silently prayed for Erzulie’s good graces. She feverishly scanned through Pi Gran Liv and instinctively she felt helpless. Oona looked very closely into Thankful’s suppliant eyes. She studied the girl and held her hand. Silently Oona spoke:

“Sleep ma chère and I shall remove these stains on your body.”

But Gran Liv had been no help. There seemed nothing suitable to remedy the malady, and Oona’s weaknesses hinted at something even graver.

“Is there something you need to tell me?” Oona finally asked in a whisper. “Is there anything you can say about the dress?”

Thankful stirred in her sleep and Oona lay beside her to gather her strength. The face paint would only be removed by powerful magic. Of this she was certain. Oona painted a very grim picture of the situation for KC. Oona needed time (and strength) to remove the curse.

KC did not know what to say. She was greatly distressed over everything and struggled to maintain some semblance of control and process. At the same time KC was angry, mainly at herself, for allowing this whole thing to happen in the first place. KC was frantic now to get the child to the ER.

“I wish it were so simple, ma –.” Oona plainly stated. Her face had no expression.

Then, with a mixture of hope and anger KC looked pleadingly at Oona.

“Somehow you have to conquer the day for me.” KC knew from the look on Oona’s face that this would take some time indeed. She hoped Oona’s supposed love for her would know no limits.

“Thankful needs to be kept calm and kept out of sight. And she cannot leave the house until the girl’s face is once again clean.”

KC nodded in agreement. A few minutes later Trixi returned home.

“I shall destroy this thing that plagues us. I promise you both,” Oona vowed. Privately she thought of her own failure to stand in the way of this darkness when it first descended upon the house. Through a thickening haze, Oona casually recounted a favorite story of KC’s when a good family’s expectations went unmet. “Years passed and one day they destroyed a tall tree which blocked the sun. And there standing behind the fresh stump of the tree that fell, an even greater tree stood.”

“Oona I have a real problem here. I get the analogy easily enough. Are you saying we should continue to expect these types of challenges?” KC was livid with grief and anger.

“Had I not become part of this family,” Oona began, “the blood which runs in your children’s veins flows sufficiently strong to bring similar challenges. With or without me, KC, you will always be the mother of a child-witch daughter and a seer son.”

“I suppose I didn’t help things when I asked for the séances,” KC conceded.

“Life has many challenges. And when challenges end, so then does life itself.” Oona smiled softly and thought of what she wanted to say next. In desperation she said, “I love you KC.”

Trixi heard the words very sadly, as if a dagger had passed through her own heart. To the young woman madly in love with her, Oona looked tired and challenged, wounded and confused. Her lover must have felt quite needy. Still she was devastated by the words Oona spoke to another.

Oona feared Lucia greatly and knew more about the Great Witch than she cared to admit. She knew her story well. How she wanted to crawl into a cave and cry like a lunatic. It was rumored that Lucia herself was once the Guardian of Pi Gran Liv itself! Still, greatly fatigued as if on life support, Oona somehow kept her wits. Now she had to battle the demon and reverse another curse on Thankful. She even aspired to resume her household duties, resume her ontology practice, and conquer her libido, and maintain some social life with it. Oona would rely more on spells to achieve her aims, though it would prove most difficult when her beloved Gran Liv continued to express almost nothing for her. The book had been blank for her lately, like a rejecting lover to whom she gave no cause. Fortunately Gran Liv was not always like a cold stone. Its textured and diverse compilation of all kinds of spells spanned from smooth spells to rough. There were Bright, Din, and Dark powers, all which required great strength and mastery to cast. Entries of her own, as was typical of its Guardians to transcribe their own spells onto its empty, yellowed pages, were notable in Pi Gran Liv Maji. Yet she feared even every day charms and spells would be increasingly difficult to achieve.

Oona sat silently beside the child who was asleep on her own bed. KC and Trixi looked as helpless to do anything. Suddenly the child-witch arose from what had been a deep spell-cast slumber.

Thankful said timidly. “A lady was dead at old Harrison’s Funeral Home.”

KC looked deeply concerned.

“Yes,” said Oona with an air of hopeful desperation.

And the five year old recounted the story of the stolen dress:

“I stole – I mean I took the dress, without permission, and went over to Harrison’s Funeral place with Little Andrew when everybody else was downstairs in the séance. We put the dress on Mrs. Colburn…or Miss Colburn. She was like ninety years old.”

KC made the sign of the cross and moved her mouth as if she spoke interiorly.

“This was three weeks ago, child. We need to find out where they buried that lady. This is urgent!” Pleadingly Oona turned and asked, “Can you find out that KC?”

Trixi meanwhile was on her laptop and brought up the obituaries in the local news.

And there it was. Trixi reported, “They buried Miss Colburn at the Elm Street Cemetery, where the Colburns of Massachusetts have always buried their dead.”

With her eyes Oona begged the girl to continue her story.

“We ripped your dress. I’m sorry Oona, really I’m sorry. It was because the lady was so fat. But we got it on, and then we had to put her old dress over it. And we did it!” Thankful said with pride. “And then we rode the bike back home. And you were still downstairs.”

And careful not to leave any hint of criminal mischief.

“I can’t believe Little Andrew kept the secret. I told him about Krampus and it scared him a lot.”

Oona nodded angrily. The five year old is quite a bitch already.

“I will destroy Lucia and her black magic!” Oona vowed. “I need to get my dress back. It has seduced me with great weariness and is leaching away my life.” Oona was measured and deliberate with her words, careful to say exactly what was needed to be said. “I have no choice but to face this challenge, my crucible. And by the saints and spirits of those who watch over me, and by God Himself, I shall defeat this demon, Lucia, at all costs. I freely vow my own life to defeat Lucia and send her back to hell. If I fail, I shall die, and quite possibly you will die as well. And I am truly sorry for trouble I have brought upon this fine house.”

“Oona: we need you,” KC pleaded. “You’re gonna do it.” Thankful was silent and fidgeted her body nervously. Trixi nodded in somewhat of a tense agreement. The whole affair was incredibly unreal to her.

“Finding the location of the corpse will not be a problem.” Trixi said.

“Had that ‘fat lady’ been cremated in my dress, I would have turned, painfully, to dust,” said Oona. A deal with the devil. The Evil One made a deal with the devil. “The tricks of the devil come in all shapes and sizes. And Gran Liv – to which all witches: Thankful, myself, and Lucia are drawn – makes no distinction between good spells and bad spells. It makes no judgment of right versus wrong. The Evil One, the Great Witch Lucia, has perverted Pi Gran Liv and is killing me with its magic. We must retrieve my dress.”

Oona was ready for bed, and it was still morning. The Great Witch was robbing her of her life-energy and spirit. And quite possibly my soul. “Lucia: all-powerful one and great witch,” she called. “May you be damned to the coldest mountain graveyard in the Universe.”

Thankful silently offered to show Oona the pages in Gran Liv that flew open for her when she performed her conjuring. The house rumbled gently. Trixi grasped the arms of her chair.

KC observed the open pages were both beautiful and ugly; clean and dirty; creepy and quieting.

“Only witches may touch the book and for all others to keep a safe distance from the cherished one,” Oona cautioned KC and Trixi. KC saw some pages were finely crafted and resembled the illuminated manuscripts of the Dark and Middle Ages. Other pages looked more like shorthand or the scribbling of a child or perhaps an adult; a maniac.

Tired as she was, Oona plainly saw KC’s intensified interest in the treasure book and she was buoyed by it. “Throughout the great book are written words and glyphs,” she said. All anonymously entered over the centuries – mostly in Creole and French, with Spanish and English in places, a little Dutch, and even some German. All missives are legible in the universal language of witchcraft. There are even ancient runes and all types of symbols, and illustrations showing workers of magic. There are instructions for casting spells and concocting potions or poisons, and performing clandestine rituals and illicit rites using strange objects. The book is a great treasure trove of mixed blessings and magical superstitions, with short hand and pictures of potions and herbs and various mixtures of countless things to achieve desired effects – from pure to purely evil.” Oona changed her tired pose and sat back on the bed from which she had briefly arose. She further professed her undying love for Gran Liv. “I am familiar, as few others have been, with every spell in this great book, truly a treasure of mixed blessings.”

Once the book rested on Page 666, Thankful proceeded to describe the rituals she performed from it. And she pointed.

“This helps tremendously,” Oona softly said, as if she spoke to herself and not to the others. And it did help her enormously. “We need to have Charley and Louis once they get home from school. And we will also need Frank.”

“Okay. Done!” cried KC. “I’ll get you whatever you need,” she vowed.

“Let’s not go there darling,” Oona said with a tired smile on her face. “We would never leave the house.”

Trixi found no humor in the comment, and rose from her seat.

KC found no humor in the comment either, and was befuddled by Oona’s pathetic obsession with sex and bad jokes, even in a time like this. And whether or not that was part of another spell cast down on her by Lucia, KC needed to overlook all that now and get her baby and her house both back to normal. The sad truth was that KC probably would do anything for everything to get back to where they were.

And with ghastly encouragement, Oona tiredly said, “Once we find the corpse, the tattoo will begin to fade.”

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