Authors: Shauna Granger
Only Jane and
Sherry didn’t have a vocal reaction; there were gasps of shock and outrage,
murmurs of understanding, and one woman even let out a surprised laugh.
Steven’s lips pressed together in a tight line, stealing the red of their
curves and turning white as he glared around the room.
understand,” another woman said. “Why do they need our help? Isn’t that
something they should be able to do on their own?”
“It seems, since
we lost Shayna, they have lost much of their natural abilities,” Deb explained.
Steven dropped his eyes, refusing to meet anyone’s gaze, but Jodi kept her chin
up and her steely blue eyes on Deb.
“If the Mother
has willed it so that they should lose their powers, who are we to work against
her?” one witch said. Others made comments about the sad loss of such great
talents, but many just stood back and listened silently.
what you’re asking is for us to bring your friend back?” Jessica, the
mistrustful one from so many months ago, asked and crossed her arms over her
Steven cried, “
? Like you don’t know her? Her name is Shayna, if you’ve
“No one has
forgotten,” Deb said, trying to soothe him.
have,” he snapped back, lifting halfway out of his seat. “Listen to you,
talking like you don’t even know us or give a damn that Shayna’s gone! I
thought you would want to help us, Deb! What the hell is the matter with all of
you?” Tears sprung to his eyes, as they always did when he became that angry.
Jodi lifted a hand and placed it on his shoulder, guiding him back into his
seat and leaving her hand there in a show of solidarity.
“Do you two
understand that even if we do agree to this,” Jane said, “it won’t really bring
Shayna back? It would just bring her spirit back from wherever you banished
“We know that,”
Jodi said with a nod. “We’d never ask you to do more than that. It wouldn’t be
good,” Sherry said, and I realized they were saying preplanned things to help
persuade some of the others.
“Is it possible
that Shay just moved on? You know, went into the Light or something?” one of
the younger witches asked.
“It is,” Deb
agreed with a nod.
“If Shay was going
to move on, she would’ve done it right away, right after,” Jodi paused and
finally said, “right after the fire.”
said, picking up the argument. “But she chose to stay. My stupidity sent her
off. She was trying to contact me, and I banished her. I have to bring her
stupid,” Jodi whispered to him, squeezing his shoulder.
“Look, every day
that Shayna is gone, Jodi and I fade more and more. It’s not just our powers,”
he said. “We aren’t ourselves without those powers. We can feel it in our
bones, in our blood: something isn’t right. If we don’t get her back…” He let
his words trail off, left them hanging unfinished in the air for the women to
make of them what they would.
I thought about
the shadow I saw lingering over them at my memorial. Because I couldn’t see it
through the looking glass I had almost completely forgotten about it. Just like
Jodi said, it was like a heart attack; sometimes you would recover and
sometimes not. I clutched the looking glass, wishing I could send my will
through the glass and force the coven to help my friends even if they weren’t
willing to help me.
“All right,” Deb
said with a sigh, “we’ve heard what you had to say; now we must discuss it.”
Jane said, coming close to the table and holding out her hand for them, “will
you come with me?”
“Wait, we have
to leave?” Steven asked, his eyebrows shooting up again.
“Yes, this is a family
matter. No outsiders may be present,” Jessica said, cocking her hip out to the
side and arching one perfectly plucked brow as if she was daring them to argue.
I saw the muscle in Jodi’s jaw jump as she gritted her teeth, holding back the
reply just itching to be let loose.
“But, I mean,”
Steven stuttered. Jodi stood up, stepping around the bench seat and taking
Steven’s hand, stopping him from arguing further.
Steven,” she said softly. “Like Deb said, we’ve had our say.” Steven looked up
at her and then turned his wounded eyes on the rest of the room, looking for a
face in the crowd to whom he could offer up another plea. Only Sherry and Jane
returned his pained look. Finally, his shoulders dropping, Steven stood and
followed Jane out of the kitchen, hand in hand with Jodi.
Jane led them
into the family room where a large, flat screen TV was suspended on one wall
with a crescent shaped couch in the middle of the floor. Bookshelves were piled
with DVDs, video games, and board games, all spilling out onto the floor with
some of Trisity’s toys. It was far enough away from the kitchen to keep the coven
from being overheard. With a few words of encouragement, Jane left, closing the
door behind her.
The women took
so long to vote that Steven and Jodi fell asleep on the couch, leaning against
each other. When Jane came back, Sherry was with her. I was a little surprised;
I figured no matter how the vote went, Deb would come tell them. I knew Deb
didn’t agree with what we wanted, afraid it would just get Steven and Jodi’s
hopes up and do more damage than good, but she’d been like a second mother to
us. Shouldn’t she have come to give us the news?
When Jane and
Sherry stood back, watching the two sleeping on the couch and hesitating to
wake them, I knew they had voted against helping us. I wasn’t surprised, really.
I think part of me always knew they would say no, but I couldn’t help hoping
I’d be wrong. Jane eventually woke them with a gentle hand on each of their
shoulders. I couldn’t hear what Jane said over the rush of blood in my ears,
but I knew I was right by the look of betrayal on Steven’s face. Jodi just
nodded, as if she hadn’t expected anything else.
Jodi waved off
Jane and Sherry’s words of condolence and encouragement. She took Steven by the
arm and guided him to the door. Deb waited for them on the front porch when
they stepped out, but Jodi refused to meet her eye or even stop to let her
speak. Continuing resolutely forward, Jodi all but dragged Steven down the
front steps and to the car, giving him only the chance to let Deb see the betrayal
and pain on his face, the tears on his cheeks. She had always been there for us
and tonight, when we needed her help the most, she’d turned her back on us.
Jodi got Steven
into the passenger seat before getting into the driver’s, taking the keys from
Steven and gunning the engine to life. The image in the looking glass began to
fade as she spun them around and took off, disappearing into the trees that
lined Jane’s long, winding driveway. The last thing I saw was Deb’s face and
the smudged mascara under her eyes as she wiped the tears away.
I fell asleep
holding onto the looking glass. At some point, I had slumped to the ground,
curling around the looking glass and crying until I passed out. When I woke, my
shoulder ached and dirt had caked to my cheek in the tracks left by my tears.
Jacob was already up and moving when I pushed myself up to sit. He stirred the
embers back to life, adding some dried leaves and twigs to fuel it, our two
cups full of water on the ground beside him.
“Not much, but
tea helps,” he said, giving no indication he’d realized I had woken and sat up.
I thought about all of the tea cups being passed around back home and smirked,
shaking my head.
“Yeah,” I said,
scrubbing my cheek with the back of my hand. “Not much.” I stood and walked
over to Fearghus, putting the looking glass in his saddle bag before walking
over to the edge of the river and crouching down. The water was cold and
shocking, but it went a long way toward waking me up as I splashed it on my
face, washing away the dirt and grit.
My braid was
long past repair, so I sat on the slope of the riverbank, pulled the ribbon
from the end of my hair, and began to pick apart the braid. It was slow going
and my fingers were stiff with cold, but after a while, I managed to get the
braid undone, however tangled my hair still was. I pulled Jacob’s jacket off,
crawled toward the edge of the water, and dunked my head under. I got my hair
soaking wet and started running my fingers through it to work out the knots
since I didn’t have a comb or brush.
When I could run
my fingers through the length without them getting caught, I whipped my head
back, tossing my hair in a wet arc to land against my back with a slap. I
shivered as my shirt became soaked and stuck to my back. I gathered the length
of my hair in my hands and wrung out the excess water, letting it drip into a
puddle at my feet. I managed to put a simple French braid in my hair starting
at the base of my neck until the ends were too thin to continue and retied it
with Gwyn’s black ribbon. It was nothing like the elaborate masterpiece Gwyn
had done for me, but it would keep my hair out of my face and that was enough. I
picked at the shoulders of my shirt and pulled it away from my back, shaking
it, trying to get it to dry, but it was a vain attempt. When I snatched up the
discarded jacket and started back up the slope, the sight of Jacob’s boots
stopped me, making me look up.
offered, holding out one of the two steaming cups. I could smell mint wafting
up in the white tendrils of steam.
mumbled, reaching out to take the cup. The heat of the cup was almost too much
for my stiff, cold fingers, but I held on until they warmed and the joints
loosened. I followed Jacob to the fire. He’d already started us something to
eat, roasting the few vegetables we had left and the two leftover legs of the
rabbit animals Balor had caught on a flat stone close to the fire like a
I was content to
eat in silence, but as I bit into the charred bit of meat, Jacob cleared his
throat, looking at me over the rim of his cup.
prompted, though I had thought of just keeping my mouth shut to make him start
“Had a bad night
last night?” he asked after he stopped staring at me and finally took a sip of
his cooling tea.
“No worse than
any other night here,” I replied with a one shoulder shrug.
last night was a might bit harder,” he pressed. I refused to meet his eyes,
chewing on one of the root vegetables, telling myself it was a lovely roasted
carrot. I thought, after he was quiet for so long, that he was going to let the
subject drop, but then he cleared his throat again. I took a breath to steel my
nerves, closing my eyes and counting to ten.
“You know, I
came on this,” he searched for the right word, “this quest with you, risking
life and limb to help you. The least you could do is be honest with me.”
“Okay, first of
all,” I said, “you can’t be risking life if you’re dead. Secondly, you didn’t
come to help me; you came to help yourself. If you think you’ve made a mistake,
then I’m sorry, but you’re free to go.” I gestured to the forest at large,
flinging my hand in the air.
“No need to be
sarcastic,” Jacob shot back. “In case you haven’t noticed, it’s perfectly
possible to feel pain here.”
“I know that.”
“So there is
“But you can’t
die here.” I didn’t know why I was clinging to that argument, but I was. He’d
made me feel attacked, like I’d tricked him into coming with me, so I couldn’t
help but correct him.
nearly yelled. “I can’t die, but I am more at risk out here alone with you, and
since I came to help you, if you’re going to ditch me, then I have a right to
“You keep saying
that,” I said, “but you didn’t come to help me, damn it! You wanted to find the
edge every bit as much as I did because you want out of here too. So don’t put
that shit on me!”
“You asked me to
come!” He did yell then, and in the distance, I heard a flock of tiny birds
erupt from the treetops and take flight.
“I did not! I
offered to let you come!” At my yell, Balor bounded back to camp, bursting
through the tree line, with his lips pulled back over his teeth in an angry,
snapping snarl. He spun in the dirt in front of me, a swirl of brown lifting
from the ground as he faced Jacob, a low, warning growl rumbling from deep in
“Hey,” he said,
putting his hands out in front of him to warn the dog off. “Easy, boy, I wasn’t
doing anything to her. Shayna, a little help if you will?”
“Balor, down,” I
said, placing my hand carefully on his back, not too close to his head, afraid
I’d startle him. Balor whined, whipping his head around to me and then back to
Jacob with another growl. “It’s okay,” I said softly, running my hand over his
back, petting him slowly, trying to get his hackles down.
“All right, we
can agree to disagree about all that,” Jacob said, keeping his hands up and his
eyes on Balor, terrified to look away.
nothing to agree to disagree on; you’re wrong, I’m right,” I said, voice not
matching my words as I tried to keep it light, trying to soothe Balor.