Authors: Carly Holmes
Tags: #epub, #ebook, #QuarkXPress
For my lost ones: Luna, Goblin, Moomin
Variation On A Love Spell
Take in your cupped palms
two flaming pieces of fire opal
and two gentling pieces of rose quartz.
Linger a while with sweet thoughts.
Lash each crystal to your chest with a plait of red silk
lined above your heart's beat
and leave them for five days and nights.
Never allow so much as a sliver of breath to separate them from the warmth and touch of your flesh.
Glaze these crystals with your body's sweat.
Paint loving pictures in your mind's eye.
Rise to meet each morning with harmony
and greet your pillow each night with desire.
On the sixth day remove one of each crystal but leave its twin on your skin. While they are still warm from your heart, still wet from your ardour
gift the removed crystals to your lover.
They must be kept as close to your lover's skin as possible.
If this spell is surreptitiously cast then use your wiles to secrete the crystals
where their magics can be felt but not found.
After three days and nights the fire you lit in another's soul will spark
and you will know the heat of true devotion.
The stronger your longings,
The stronger the charge,
The stronger the love.
Take care to never lose the crystals after they have secured your desire.
Keep all four safely wrapped up together where no harm can come to them.
If you wish for your shared love to transcend mortality then ensure that you are both buried with your crystals.
It matters little by this stage whose were originally whose.
Be sure and be true to your love for evermore.
A certain manipulation of their original fate will be your cross to bear.
I was four the first time I attacked my father. My memory of it is sulking behind twenty-odd years of bicycle tumbles and birthday parties, first kisses and fierce heartbreaks, and so I only have my mum's account to rely on. Depending on her mood, and how much she's had to drink, I'm either painted as a strange, difficult child (buoyant, first gin), or an out and out child of Satan, practically gnashing my teeth and straining towards people's throats (weepy, finishing that one too many).
Such an angry little girlâ¦ So embarrassingâ¦ I couldn't take you anywhereâ¦
The fragments I do recall are the smell of sun-scorched leaves and the back of my mum's head. She stood by the window in the front room and shivered from foot to foot, releasing layers of fruity scent with each warm tremble of excitement. Even now, if I dip my face into a bowl of peaches I feel bereft, just for a second.
I knelt behind her and itched to touch my clammy fingers to the filmy hem of her dress. It must have been summertime.
Granny Ivy sat hunched like a raven in a rainstorm and stabbed thick thread violently through one of my dresses, sewing a pocket onto it. She muttered constantly to herself, occasionally pausing to peer at me or to press a thin finger against the dark, cracked book she always kept by her side until the day it disappeared. Her
, she called it, which always made mum snort.
The only ingredients you've got in there are toad's eyeballs and hen's claws.
So, mum stood, and shivered, and glanced over her shoulder but didn't shift from her vigil.
Fern, stop staring at meâ¦ Fern, get up off the floorâ¦
And then she was gone. I blinked and looked away, as instructed, and movement tangled suddenly in the corner of my eye. The front door was wide open and I could still smell her, but she'd disappeared. I leaned over and looked for the puff of smoke, straining after her absence even as she returned, smiling and joyful.
Lawrence is here. I'm off now.
She stood in the centre of the room as if she'd never left it and tapped her feet and crossed her arms. I shuffled backwards, away from those mean looking high heels.
Don't wait up.
Granny Ivy hissed and jerked and the needle slipped deep into her palm. She and mum stared at each other and I watched the blood drip over the brand new pocket of my dress. I'd chosen the pocket myself from old curtain material and I wanted to point at the rusty stain as it ruined the beautiful pink cabbage roses, wanted to shout something at them both to break their concentration. But then a man walked into the room and straight up to me. I hadn't heard a knock at the door.
Mum snapped out of her hard face and into her soft one. She took the man's arm and hugged it to her.
Fern, say hello
I looked at this man being held by my mother. I glanced over at Granny Ivy, then back.
Who are you?
There was silence. Then Granny Ivy sniggered and shot me a look that meant there'd be biscuits before bedtime. Mum laughed brightly, for too long. She bent down and showed me her hard face again, just for a second, just for me.
He's your father. Now stop being silly and say hello.
She straightened up and laughed again, turned to the man with a shrug of hopeless mirth. He grimaced at her and crouched down next to me, legs creaking inside soft grey cloth. I imagined wooden knee joints and wondered if he was a puppet. A huge hand descended onto my head, pressed my hairgrips into my scalp and hurt me. I wriggled and tried to duck away but couldn't slip out from under his palm.
Mum scooped up her handbag and glanced at her watch.
Say hello to your father, Fernâ¦ Fern, say helloâ¦
I dived forward to escape them both and then flung myself onto his chest. Thrust upwards as high and as hard as I could, as if I was a swimmer and he was the water. I grabbed a handful of his hair in each fist. And I pulled.
It took them ages to uncurl my hands and drag me off him. By the time they'd managed it the man was scarlet and breathing noisily through his mouth and my mother was white and stiff. I scuttled to hide under Granny Ivy's long skirt, clutching strands of oily, mousy coloured hair. The man smoothed the front of his jacket, tried to smile, and turned away.
I'll be in the car, Iris.
He hadn't looked at Granny Ivy once in the whole time he'd been inside her home, and she hadn't looked at him.
My mother rushed to follow, pausing to point a finger at the bulge I made under my granny's chair. She mouthed speechless outrage and jabbed the air with menace.
After they'd gone â and this I remember very clearly â Granny Ivy gently removed all of the strands of the man's hair from my hands, untwisted them from my fingers and inspected my palms for any stragglers. Then she tucked the greasy bundle inside the cover of her
and patted my back.
I followed the midnight billow of her skirts through to the kitchen and wondered if she was going to leave the hairs out on the sill for the birds to take away for their nests. I watched her to see if she would but then she placed a tin of biscuits down in front of me â the whole tin â and I was distracted for a while. We sat at the table and I crunched through bitter chocolate and fierce ginger while she watched me and smiled. She brewed tea and then opened her book, flickering through the pages as I reached for another biscuit, and then another. I wondered what she'd be making for supper.
Granny Ivy caught my wrist as it dived once more into the tin. She ran a nail along the knobbled warts that bumped a line down my middle finger. I sat with a biscuit in each fist and another in my cheek and listened as she began to speak.
Search and you will find
a large, smooth sprout
hanging low upon the stalk,
defying the helix,
and paler than its mates.
This is the one.
Sharpen your knife
Two halves. Two wrinkled hearts.
Press firm and hard this wrinkled heart of one half onto the wart.
Press, and count the minutes down from five to one.
Rejoin the halves and bind with string
and bury beside an oak tree.
The sprout now an oyster beneath the earth
cradling your wart in its rotting heart.
Remember not to ever dig around this buried vessel
or expose it to sunlight
as the wart will sense its kin
and cleave with you once more.
She continued to mutter as she stood up and fetched her sharp, wooden-handled knife from the cutlery drawer. I sneaked another biscuit and went to the window to watch as she prowled around the vegetable patch, bending, straightening, shaking her head and bending again.
It was only later, years later, I realised that her
wasn't a recipe book in the strictest sense. At the time, as I listened to her words, I felt only disappointment that we'd be having sprouts for supper.
When mum returned, much later, I was awake in our room and my tummy hurt. I'd been whispering my secrets to the oak tree that loitered outside the window but when I heard her open the door I burrowed under the blankets and closed my eyes. She smelt different now, the fruity scent gone and replaced by an odour that was musky and pungent.
I snatched a peek as she climbed over me to get into bed and saw how swollen her lips were, as if she'd put too much of her red lipstick on without a mirror's guidance. Her neck was a swirl of blotches and she was smiling to herself. She looked happy.
I've borrowed the bones of my mother's recollections and fleshed them out with my own. Are they true? I can remember how mum smelt, both before and after her assignation with my father, and I remember the sting of his hair cutting into the flesh of my hands as I held on for dear life and for Granny Ivy. But was it real?
Because, you see, I can also remember screaming, spinning across the bedroom when I was about six as a spider thrashed around in the knots of my hair. And that didn't actually happen, according to mum. Well, it did happen, but to her when she was a child, not to me. She'd told me about it and I'd internalised the incident and made it my own. Memory's a trickster like that, isn't it? We all have a habit of rewriting our histories, donning and shedding layers as it suits us and believing every version. I'm no different, so consider yourself warned.