June 6, 2013

The Witches of Dark Root (Excerpt)

What is it about our childhood that makes us want to run from it––and return to it––all in one breath? I had hated Dark Root in my teenage years, tried to escape from it like it was Alcatraz, yet now I was saddened because it no longer felt familiar and safe.

I had spent the night in Harvest Home, lulled into a deep sleep by the warmth of the blankets and the scent of lavender under my pillow, yet I tossed and turned all night with dreams of a past I had hoped to forget. I had been reunited with my sisters, the girls I had grown up with who were both my friends and my rivals. My body and mind were a jumble of emotions.

I was home. For better or worse.

There was one thing I was not ambivalent about––seeing my mother, Miss Sasha Shantay. The woman who had raised me, loved me, taught me, and brainwashed me.

I felt like a horrible human being for even thinking it, but I didn’t want to see her. I wasn’t ready. The thought left me with a chill that went deep into my bones.

I swallowed, scratching at an imaginary itch on my leg as I bumped along in the truck beside Eve and Shane. My sister stared straight ahead, lost in her own thoughts. I wanted to touch her hand, to show her that we were in this together, but we weren’t. Eve would deal with it better than me. She was floaty, breezy, whimsical, shallow. Bad couldn’t penetrate her, because there was nothing to penetrate. I was the one who sucked things in, letting them fester, holding on to them long after they should have been tossed away.

I recalled my conversation with Michael in the grocery store just a week ago.

I had told him that I ‘left Dark Root for a reason.’ Seven days ago I thought there were many reasons: because Ruth Anne had disappeared and nobody talked about her, because Merry had gotten married and not a soul objected, because Eve was going to leave at the first chance she got and I wanted to beat her to it.

But the truth was––and it was clear to me now, as we made our way back to Sister House––the truth was, I had run away from my mother.

My stomach sank as I wrestled with this revelation, braiding and unbraiding the ends of my hair until it was so gummy it held together by itself.

Who runs away from their mother?

Especially my mother, the beloved toast of the town, belle of the ball. People sought her out, flocked to her. I didn’t remember a day going by when we didn’t have a house full of visitors. There would be teas and brunches and salon style discussions. Sometimes we would be invited to join, dressed up like dolls, as Mother and her friends chatted about the weather, the economy, witchery, and their views on men.

“If you want to cast a love spell, all the power to you,” Mother would say, taking a sip from her teacup. “I will point you in the direction, but I won’t participate.”

While she invoked the craft for many reasons, love wasn’t on that list.

“Love is overrated,” she’d say. “Love makes you give up everything, and for what? To be an unappreciated, overworked house-frau, with no life of your own. Just look at what it did to poor Julia.” With that, she would point to the picture of Julia Benbridge, dressed all in black, which hung over our mantle.

“If you ask me,” Mother would continue. “She was much better off after that man passed. Then, and only then, was she free to pursue her real life. No ladies, love has no place in this world. Men are only good for one thing, and when that’s done, you need to move on...”

This didn’t dissuade Merry, who fell madly in love with Frank after just three dates, or Eve, who practiced love spells on her own, in the middle of the night. Pity none of the men she ever cast her spells on were worth the rat’s tails used for the invocations.

As for me, I wanted to believe in love. Despite Mother’s warnings, I had this sense that when your soul finds someone, that right someone, there is a magic created in the universe more powerful than any incantation.

The Witches of Dark Root is available at Amazon
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