As she sat on the train, Leona couldn’t stop thinking about how her life made this sudden sharp turn. Everything was moving at a blinding pace that she just couldn’t keep up. Staring out the window, watching the trees and lakes roll on by, she realized how much she was leaving behind. Along the way, she kept asking herself these same questions.
Why did this happen? What did I do to deserve this? Could I have prevented this somehow? Do Mom and Michael hate me for what I did? Is this is why she sent me away?
The never ending questions were making her feel so frustrated and confused. However, Leona had a feeling that she had this coming for a while.
Ever since she was a child she knew she was different. By the time she reached her thirteenth birthday, she discovered her “gifts”, as her aunt called them. Honestly, it surprised her. Leona’s father didn’t come to her party because of work, but she knew the truth. Deep down she knew he favored Michael over her but by the time she hit puberty, it became blatantly obvious. As she locked herself up in her room crying, she wished that she was a boy. Maybe then her father would love her.
Little did she realize that her wish came true. Leona’s long and wild hair became short and her developing chest was flat. When she looked in the mirror to see what was going on, she screamed. Her mother, Aunt Darcey and Michael came into the room to see what was happening. Leona’s mom and younger brother were just as freaked out as Leona was. Fortunately, her Aunt kept a cool head since she knew what was happening to her beloved niece. After all, Aunt Darcey went through the same thing that Leona did.
So apparently, Leona was a Salem descendant, a witch, just like her aunt. From what she was told, when her ancestors on her father’s side migrated from France to the new world, they settled in Salem for a while. However, by the time the Salem witch trials began, Leona’s ancestor witch realized that her and her family wouldn't be safe as long as she remained in that village. So, she got the hell out of dodge along with her sister witches and headed down south.
This information was overwhelming for Leona, especially for her mother. At first she couldn’t believe that there were such things as witches, but Darcey assured that it was all true and even demonstrated some of her powers. That was enough to convince her and Michael that witches were real. Even though Leona was still scared and confused by this, she was relieved. Her whole life she convinced herself that something was wrong with her, but her Aunt told her she was perfectly fine and that she was special. That little word was enough to put that smile back on Leona’s face.
However, once Leona turned back into her old self, her mother and Aunt made her promise not to tell anyone that she was a witch. Leona wondered why, but Darcey warned her that Salem witches were slowly becoming extinct and they are always a target for witch hunters. At first Leona couldn’t believe that there would still be witch hunters in this day and age. But then again, she couldn’t believe that there were actual witches walking the earth, so of course there would still be witch hunters.
But the most important rule that her Aunt Darcey made her keep, Leona was to never tell her father about her new powers.
For as long as she could remember, her father and aunt always had an unstable relationship. She couldn’t understand why her dad hated Darcey so much. Every time she came to visit he would get absolutely livid. Now that everything was out in the open, Leona understood why his contempt for his younger sister was so strong. That was so like him. Just the thought of a woman having more power than him was enough to make him disgusted.
Leona was reluctant to keep her promise. She really did think that if she were to change herself into a boy thanks to her new transfiguration ability, her dad would finally like her. But, after a few comforting words from her family, she finally gave in. Aunt Darcey reassured Leona that even if she didn’t have her father’s love, she would still have her Auntie’s. That was enough for her to keep her promise.
As the years passed, Leona’s life went on as normal as possible. She never did tell her father about the incident. However, she always went to her aunt’s place in secret for guidance. When Leona’s powers emerged after her thirteenth birthday, Darcey became her mentor. Over the years, Leona was able to learn more about herself and family history. She found the stories of the witches that came before her and her aunt truly fascinating. Who would have thought that transfiguration was her family’s bailiwick?
Darcey taught her about how some witches were born at least every other generation. However, in Leona’s case she was the rare exception. Apparently, she is the only witch in the family who was born right after her aunt’s generation. She even learned that not every girl was born a witch. At least five men in her family tree were born as warlocks. This was very amazing to Leona. Even though she was closer to her Mother’s family, she was more than glad to know more about her father’s side.
She asked her aunt why her father never spoke of this. The question made Darcey uncomfortable. She simply said that Leona’s father was just ashamed and embarrassed of his family history. While she wasn’t wrong in her answer, it was only half of the truth. It was for the best that Leona should wait until she was ready to fully understand.
By the time Leona was in college, she had fully mastered transfiguration. She could change herself into any animal or person that she desired. While it wasn’t entirely useful, it was still a fun power to have. She would spend hours entertaining her younger brother with impressions of famous people and their bullies from school. However, there were a few times she almost got caught by their dad. The one time she changed herself into her father to make fun of him behind his back was a very close call. The siblings made a promise to only do that when their father was working late at the hospital. But even so, life was still pretty good for Leona.
However, that would all change by the time she turned twenty-one.
Ever since Michael was born, he’d always been sickly and weak. Not long after he became a teenager, his illness took away the use of his legs and he became permanently disabled. Even though it was hard on the family to come to terms that Michael would never be on his feet again, Michael told everyone that he was okay with it and that he was still the same Michael. However, Leona and Michael’s father wouldn’t accept it. One way or another, he was going to have his favorite child walking again.
Their father tried every treatment in the book. From physical therapy, to even considering having his legs amputated for prosthetics. The thought of that terrified Michael to no end. He told his dad that enough was enough and to just get over it. However, his father was too stubborn to give up. He then got an idea. If there wasn’t a hospital in the country that could cure his son, he knew the one place that could.
When Leona was nineteen years old, a phenomenal and terrifying event shook up the entire nation and the world. Right in the heart of New York City, an inter-dimensional sinkhole opened up and the human and alter worlds have collided. That was when the Great Collapse had happened. Through the chaos and confusion, the city was rearranged and the number of fatalities was high. However, thanks to the help of the brave castor team, they were able to suspend the collapse and the city was saved. But, New York City would never be the same again.
When the chaos died down, New York City was renamed Hellsalem’s Lot. While there was a lot of tension, humans and beyondians found solid ground and coexisted peacefully. Well, peacefully enough anyway. Within a year, abnormal became the new normal in the land of Hellsalem’s Lot and people went on to live their lives in the newly constructed haven of the supernatural.
Since Hellsalem’s Lot was considered to be a place of miracles, Charles Watch dragged his family to the outskirts of the city. Even though Leona’s mother and brother knew what he was up to, they decided to just treat it like an adventurous family weekend. However, Leona wasn’t buying any of it. The whole trip she was irritable and she was angry at her father for putting his own family at risk for some magical cure that didn’t even exist. Actually, Leona found out just how desperate her father was through Aunt Darcey. Charles was even willing to go to his sister whom he hated so much for help. However, her answer was the same as the doctor’s who tried to to treat Michael. There was nothing she could do.
In anger, he told Darcey they would go to Hellsalem’s lot for a cure. Finding his plan to be completely idiotic, she begged him not to go. Darcey told him that he would only put his and his family’s life in danger if they went there. But, being the stubborn and ignorant man that he was, defied his sister’s warning.
However, little did Leona know that the trip she had been dreading to go on, would change her life forever.
It all happened so fast… Leona and her family were standing near the statue of liberty when that… thing appeared. Everyone except for her and Michael were standing before the frightening specter. She tried to scream, but her voice was stuck in her throat and she was literally shaking in her boots.
The deity held up a pair of glass eyes in front of her and said, “ YOU MUST CHOOSE… WHICH ONE OF YOU TWO WILL BARE WITNESS?”
Even though Leona was frozen in fear, she could sort of understood what it meant. The one who would choose not to bare witness… they would no longer need their eyesight. For a moment there, it looked like the deity would take away her sight.
But then, her brother spoke up. “If you must, then take it from me… If you must, then take my sight from me!”
Leona tried to say something to stop what was about to happen, but it was too late. The monster had begun to implant her new eyes into her sockets and had taken away her brother’s sight, leaving him completely blind. When the deity disappeared and time began to move again, Leona was on her knees screaming and sobbing hysterically. Her new eyesight had left her very sensitive and it felt like her eyes were burning. However, her brother was completely calm. The Watch’s trip was cut short after that event.
After they got home, Charles true colors began to show. He was absolutely furious with Leona. He kept calling her a coward, worthless, spineless. That she should have been the one who have gone blind instead of Michael. Better yet… It should have been Leona that was born ill and left disabled… Her mother and brother tried to calm her father down, but it was no use. Every single insult was equivalent to being stabbed in the heart.
However, it was his last words were what really did it… “You’re mother should have never given birth to you…”
Leona’s mind completely shut down after that. Subconsciously, she took off the bandages covering her eyes, raised her hand… then she…. She……
“Leona… Dear… It’s time to wake up.”
She woke up with a start when she felt a hand on her shoulder. That’s right, Leona was on the train heading straight for New Orleans. The woman accompanying her, a redheaded woman by the name of Myrtle Snow, sat back in her seat.
“There we are. Did you have a good rest?”
Leona almost chuckled bitterly but held back. Myrtle really was being sincere. “Not really…”
The middle-aged woman nodded. “I figured as much. The way you were whimpering in your sleep, I knew you were having a nightmare. Forgive me for not waking you up sooner, but it’s bad luck to interrupt a dream in some cultures. I didn’t want to risk it.”
“It’s fine.” Leona said. “Are we almost at the station?”
“We’ll be arriving in about fifteen minutes. From then on, it will be a thirty minute drive to Miss Robichaux's Academy.”
Leona winced when Myrtle said the name of the school. She couldn’t believe it. She had just turned twenty-one and she was to be sent to boarding school. She was rather bitter about it since she was too old for the whole thing and had no desire to return to the nightmarish hell of teenage drama.
“I can sense you’re still apprehensive about this. It’s written all over your face, dear.”
Leona was about to retort, but sighed in frustration. “To be honest, I can’t help but feel like I’m being punished.”
The redhead smiled sympathetically. “I know how you feel, Leona. Believe me, I along with your aunt and every single one of our kind had went through the same thing you’re going through now. You’re not being punished, little bird. Your family just want you safe, that’s all.”
“I get that. I just don’t understand why I have to be sent away. I would never tell a soul about what happened.”
“Neighborhood gossip can still spread like wildfire, my girl.” The elder said with honesty. “On top of the incident that happened in your parent’s house, you possess one of the most rare artifacts crafted by the very gods themselves. You might as well have a bullseye on your back.”
She had a point. Leona didn’t have the right to argue with her. Anyone could be a hunter and her life could be in danger at any moment. She really didn’t have that much of a choice anymore.
“Still, I wish I had more time to pack. I didn’t even have time to bring my guitar with me. Did those guys really have to manhandle me like that?”
Leona was referring to the two pale men in black suits in the compartment next to them.
“A necessary evil I’m afraid.” Myrtle said with a sigh. “We thought that you would refuse to go along with us. We needed the man power to take you to the station if you decided to go the stubborn route.”
“I see… well, good thing I still have my camera since I never leave home without it anyway.”
She took out her digital camera and went through the pictures that she saved. She couldn’t take any pictures since she obtained the all-seeing-eyes. While Leona was still a bit perturbed about moving to a place and without her say in the matter, she may as well do some sight seeing and get some neat pictures of the “Big Easy”.
“Of course, your aunt told me about your passion for photography in her phone call. Rather than think of this turn of events as a punishment, think of it as an adventure. There are numerous photogenic places in the city just dying to be captured on film. Also, the next time I visit, I will take you to the most splendid seafood restaurant in the French Quarter. They cook a blackened barracuda so divine, it will send you to heaven after the first bite!”
Leona chuckled warmly. Aunt Darcey did mention that her old mentor was a bit on the eccentric side. But, she understood why she spoke so fondly of the redhead. Myrtle really was trying to help put the young witch’s mind at ease. It’s true that Myrtle was a bit weird, but she also had the familiar warmth and wisdom of her aunt.
“I’ll be looking forward to it. Thank you, Ms. Snow.”
“Anytime, dear.” She said with a rose colored smile.
Soon enough, they arrived at Union Passenger Terminal shortly after their conversation. Leona was fine with carrying the little luggage she had, but Myrtle insisted that the bodyguards take care of them. They had a car waiting for them outside the station. The two women sat in the back as the two men got up front and drove them to their destination. As they got closer to the school, the butterflies in Leona’s stomach kept bothering her. New places always made her nervous and despite Ms. Snow’s comforting words on the train, she still felt like she was gonna throw up. Of course she would try to aim as far away from Myrtles outfit as possible. It really was a great ensemble and it would be a shame to ruin it with her own puke.
However, before she could even think about telling the driver to pull over so she could empty the contents of her stomach, the car slowed down to a halt.
“We’re here.” Said Myrtle.
That sick feeling that Leona had turned into an icy chill in her stomach. She took a deep breath then opened the car door. In front of her stood a beautiful colonial style mansion, painted pristine white with Greek wooden pillars surrounding the exterior of the school. The house was surrounded by lush greenery with two weeping willow trees on each side of the mansion. Beautifully decorated fences and an iron gate with a plaque reading, Miss Robichaux’s Academy for exceptional young ladies on the front.
Leona was completely taken aback by the overwhelming yet elegant presence of the school. She began to wonder how many students would be able to fit in a place like this.
“Beautiful, isn’t it?”
“Yeah…” Leona answered breathfully, still in awe of its beauty.
The gate then opened by itself. She figured it was probably the redhead’s doing. As Leona was still shocked by the size of the mansion, Myrtle took a piece of paper from her pocket and placed it in her hands.
“If you’re ever in need of my assistance, please reach me at this number. Welcome to your new home, Leona.”
“Thank you, Ms. Snow. I-”
However, just as she was about to face her companion, Myrtle Snow, along with the two guards and the car completely vanished! She didn’t even hear the car start! The only other witch Leona had known was her aunt. Apparently, there was much about this world she had been thrown into that she did not know about.
Trying to shake off that past weirdness, Leona took her small suitcase, and walked up the stairs to the front door. She rang the doorbell and waited patiently for someone to answer. After a few minutes, the door opened up. Leona was welcomed by a tall and lanky man in his mid forties to early fifties. He was wearing a butler’s uniform, that looked neatly cleaned and pressed. However, his appearance was less than what a butler would look like. His hair was long and scraggly. He had a short beard, his cheekbones and eyes were sunken in, and his fingernails were long overdue for a much needed manicure. But what made him very unsettling was how silent he was. He didn’t say hello or even made the guess that she was going to be a new tenant.
She suspected the man may have been mute because of a physical or mental disability, but the overall silence and they way he was just kept staring at her with his beady eyes made her feel on edge. Desperate to make the awkwardness between them go away, Leona figured it was best to introduce herself.
“Um, hello! My name is Leona Watch. I’ll be living here starting today.”
The butler blinked a few times, but just kept staring at her. “Uh… I was told I’m supposed to meet with Mrs. Cordelia Foxx upon my arrival. She probably told you I’d be coming.”
There was some more silence for beat, but then the man nodded and stood to the side to let her in.
“Thank you.” Leona said politely.
When she crossed the threshold, she entered a long hallway leading to a grand staicase. On both sides of the hall lead to two big, separate, rooms of the house. One of them was the dining room. With a long table meant for ten people. An old fireplace was in the back of the room and it’s mantle had two candles on each side and an antique mirror was held above it. A crystal chandelier was hanging above the table. It wasn’t lit because it was the early afternoon of course, but Leona could only imagine what it looked like when it was.
As she was still peering into the dining room, the butler tapped her shoulder. He pointed straight into the parlor across from it.
“Oh, should I wait in there?” she asked.
The lanky man nodded in response. Leona took her suitcase and set it beside her as she settled in the middle of the sofa as he went to retrieve his employer from her office. As she waited, she looked around the room. Aside from the luxurious Victorian furniture, there were painted portraits covering almost every bit of the walls in the parlor.
“I wonder if all of these women were past teachers here at the academy?”
Leona got up from her seat and walked about the room, wanting to take a closer look at the portraits. Each and every one of the women were from a different time period and all of them were beautiful. However, Leona couldn’t understand why, but she noticed that all of their faces held an underlying sadness, even those who were smiling. It’s almost as if they had all lost someone or something very dear to them.
But, there was this one portrait that really caught her attention. She was a tall and thin woman with a dark French bob haircut and a black flapper dress. Leona suspected that the portrait was done around the 1920s or early 1930s. It truly was uncanny. The hairstyle, the physique, the ruby red lips. This woman looked exactly like…
“ Mimi DeLongpre, she was the reigning supreme of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and the successor of Marianne Wharton.”
Surprised, Leona turned around to face a tall and elegant looking woman in her early thirties with blonde shoulder length hair. She stood gracefully as she held her hands in front of her. The young witch suspected her to be the headmistress Ms. Snow told her about on the train.
“Oh! I see. I mean, I knew she must have been an important witch. It’s just that she looks a lot like-”
“Darcey Watch.” The woman said with a warm smile. “Yes, she was heavily inspired by Delongpre back when we were students here at the academy. You’re Aunt called me this morning and said you were on your way. My name is Cordelia Foxx. I’m the headmistress here at the school. It’s a pleasure to finally meet you, Leona.”
She took The headmistress’ hand and shook it firmly. She certainly seemed friendly. From what Leona was told, Aunt Darcey and Cordelia Fox were close friends during their days at the academy. They still maintained that friendship even after they graduated. When Darcey called Cordelia about her niece’s situation, she was more than happy to take the young witch in.
“It’s nice to meet you as well, Mrs. Foxx. Aunt Darcey told me all about you.”
Cordelia smiled a bit and blushed. “Yes well… um, shall we have a seat in my office? We have a lot to talk about.”
“Sure, no problem.”
“Wonderful, right this way please.”
Before the two women moved to her reception room, she stopped at the butler.
“Spalding, could you take Leona’s bags up to her room please?”
The silent servant nodded and took her backpack along with her carry on bag and headed up the stairs. As they went to Cordelia’s office they continued their conversation.
“I’m sorry you had to bring so little on such short notice. However, your aunt will be stopping by at the end of the week with the rest of your things. I trust you brought at least the necessities with you?”
“Yeah, I have my electronics, toiletries, and clothes to last the week.”
“That’s good to hear. Please, have a seat.”
Leona sat down in the antique chair, facing Cordelia’s desk. It had a bunch of different plants on it along with some files and some other assorted supplies. The headmistress brought a tea tray and sat it down in front of her new charge.
“Care for a cup? I’m sure the long journey has made you parched.”
“Now that you mentioned it, I am a little thirsty. Thanks.”
As Cordelia was pouring the tea, Leona couldn’t keep her eyes off of her. It’s true she was very pretty, but there was more to her than that. From the moment she stepped foot in the parlor, Cordelia stood and moved about the room with the grace of a queen. Not only that, she seemed to have this glowing aura about her. Ever since Leona got used to her new eyes, she gained the ability to see the auras of all humans and creatures. A lot of them weren’t extraordinary, but some of them had very unique qualities that said a lot about its owner. Cordelia’s was one of those auras. It glittered and shone as if she was surrounded by a crown of jewels.
“I beg your pardon?”
Leona was brought out of her trance with Cordelia’s question. She immediately felt her face heat up. This was not how she wanted to start her face day in her new home.
‘I’ve been here for like, what, fifteen minutes and I’m already making things awkward? Pull yourself together, Leo!'
Uh! Umm… what I meant was, this house is so beautiful! Really, I never get to see old colonials like these too often. Hehe…”
“Oh! Yes, it is very beautiful. Miss Robichaux's Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies was a finishing school built in 1790. During the Civil War, the school was shut down and converted into a military hospital. In 1868, Marianne Wharton, a prominent socialite, early suffragette, children’s book author and the reigning Supreme at the time, bought the academy and converted it into a safe haven for young witches, like yourself.”
While this was all very fascinating, Leona was confused.
“So, this isn’t boarding school?”
“It is, but as you can already tell, we are not your average school. Of course, we do offer a K-12 program here and give our students the option of learning basic subjects. However, our student’s primary source of education is learning more about themselves, the gifts they possess and how to control them.”
Now it was starting to make sense. The whole boarding school thing was just a front to keep the public at bay. Although, she wondered why it still was. Ever since the Great Collapse of New York, everything about the supernatural was out in the open. They shouldn’t have to keep up the ruse, shouldn’t they?
“But Ms. Cordelia, why keep up the front? It’s been three years since the Great Collapse. Surely, people must be settled with the idea of the supernatural by now?”
Cordelia’s smile faltered as she twiddled her thumbs. “Not everyone is so opened minded, Leona. People here on the outside are as terrified as ever. If anything, our kind is in more danger than it has ever been… But, enough about that right now. Let’s talk more about you, shall we?”
The headmistress put on her reading glasses as she took out a Manila folder. Leona suspected Darcey must have sent those files after the accident.
“From what I understand, Darcey has been your mentor since you were thirteen.”
“That’s correct, Ma’am.”
“And that’s when your powers first emerged?”
Leona still remembered that day like it was yesterday. “Yeah… it was my birthday party and my dad didn’t show up. I was upset and kept thinking things would be better if I was his son rather than his daughter. Next thing I knew, I was turning into a male version of myself. But, thanks to Aunt Darcey’s tutelage I’ve managed to perfect it.”
Cordelia smiled at her explanation. “That’s good to hear. I remember Darcey loved playing pranks on the girls with that power, especially my mother when she came on her rare visits. But hopefully, you haven’t followed in her footsteps?”
“Well, I wouldn’t call them pranks per se. I would often entertain my brother by mimicking our parents behind their backs. But, I almost got caught when dad came home early that one time.”
Cordelia chuckled at this. Despite Leona’s polite and timid nature described by her friend, she really wasn’t too different from Darcey. However, while this was all very amusing, her transfiguration ability wasn’t the reason why Darcey wanted her niece to live here.
“Let’s talk about your other abilities now. You discovered this one just recently, correct? Your Aunt told me about what happened, but I’d rather hear it from you. Can you tell me about the incident with your father?”
Leona felt the blood drain from her face. It had been a week since then and her wounds were still fresh. She knew she would have to open up about what she did eventually, but she didn’t expect it to be so soon. The young witch felt her throat tighten up as she took her long mane of brown hair and tugged at it.
“I…” Leona managed to choke out. “I can’t… not right now… I just can’t.”
The headmistress smiled sympathetically. “I understand. We can talk about it when you feel ready. But remember Leona, your powers are nothing to be ashamed of. We’ve all done something with them that we’re not proud of. The important thing is that we learn to control them and you will in time. Things will get better for you soon Leona, you’ll see.”
While Leona didn’t entirely believe her life will get better for her with those powers. She felt relieved knowing that she wouldn’t have to face her demons alone.
“Thanks, Ms. Cordelia. I really appreciate hearing that. It’s been a very difficult week for me and my family. We appreciate all that your doing for us.”
“No problem. Besides, we’re always happy to welcome a new witch here. However, before I give you a tour of the house, I would like to discuss the circumstances concerning your eyes. Can I take a quick look, please?”
She knew that this was going to come up as well, and just like the accident, she wasn’t ready to talk about what happened. However, she didn’t entirely mind showing them to Cordelia.
With some hesitation, she slowly opened her eyes to her.
The young teacher was amazed by them. She stood up from her desk and walked in front of Leona. Placing her hands on The girl’s cheeks, she turned her head from side to side to observe the godly artifacts up close. They had a delicate shade of blue and looked as fragile as glass. The runes etched into the eyes were unlike anything she’s ever read in books. They truly were a wonder to behold.
“Incredible… There’s no doubt about it. Those are the genuine all-seeing-eyes of the gods. At first I couldn’t believe it when Darcey told me you were in possession of them. But, here they are.”
“Do you know anything about them?” Asked Leona. She was willing to accept anything since they were still so new to her.
“I’m afraid any knowledge I have on them is limited. All I know is that since the beginning of time, men and women from each generation came to possess the eyes. Basically, those people were meant to be the overseers of history. But, that’s all I know. Those eyes are pretty much a complete mystery to me as it is to you. Leona, under no circumstances are you to talk about those eyes to anyone outside this coven. I have already told my students about them ahead of time and have sworn them to secrecy and I need you to do the same. Do I make myself clear?”
“Yes Ma’am. I’m well aware about the dangers of my situation. Trust me, the last thing I want to do is cause more trouble for my family and I definitely don’t want to cause any more for you too.”
“I’m glad to hear that, Leona.” Cordelia said with a smile. “Now then, shall I give you a tour? After that I can show you to your room. You can unpack your stuff and rest there until we start our midday gathering. I’ve sent the girls out to get some groceries, but once they come back I’ll introduce you to them at the gathering.”
“That sounds great. Thank you.” Leona got up from her seat and followed the teacher out of the office.
During the tour, Cordelia told Leona more about the coven’s history. Back in the day, the school was absolutely thriving. There were at least sixty student witches living at Miss Robichaux's, that there were at least four bunk beds to a room. However, over time those numbers have dwindled. Now with Leona’s arrival, there were only four. This really surprised Leona. How could a once great haven had lost so many students?
“What happened to cause the student population to dwindle so badly?” She asked out of curiosity.
“As you probably already know, we’re a dying breed, Leona. Many families who knew they carried the blood of our kind made the choice not to reproduce.”
“Is that the only reason, Ma’am?”
“No.” Said Cordelia. “Like I said before, not everyone is tolerant of us. Since the days of Salem we have been hunted for religious persecution. This world is still fairly new to you, but trust me, the danger is real.”
Leona kept quiet after that. She knew that life for a which could be trouble, but she didn’t know it was this bad. At the time Darcey told her about witch hunters, she thought it was all just an exaggeration. But, it had to be true if Salem witches really were dying out. It was rather disheartening, now that Leona thought about it…
The headmistress showed Leona everything in the house. She’s already seen the ancestral room and the dining room, of course. But, she also showed her the kitchen, the library, the greenhouse and a few of the bedrooms. Since there were very few living at Miss Robichaux's, each girl was given their own boudoir. By the end of the tour, she saved Leona’s room for last.
“This will be your new room. I’ve made sure everything was cleaned and it has all the essentials for all your needs.”
When Cordelia opened the door, Leona was greeted with a small yet charming white bedroom. There was a white, colonial, twin bed settled in the right side of the door, with a night stand on the far wall. A vanity was on the left side of the door. An antique desk was on the far left wall right across from the bed. A walk-in closet was also on the left. In it, there was plenty of space for her clothes and bags. There was also a full body mirror in the corner of the closet and a door that lead out into the hall. The door at the end of the bedroom was Leona’s own private bathroom, complete with a shower/bathtub, vanity and toilet. In the corner next to the bathroom was a little reading nook. And last but certainly not least, the door near the foot of the bed lead out onto the balcony. Leona was a tad overwhelmed by how luxurious the room was. If anything, she was surprised she would get her own bathroom there!
“I hope the room is to your liking.” Said Cordelia sincerely.
“It’s perfect! It really is a great room.”
“I’m very glad to hear that, Leona. Now then, I’m sure you would like to unpack and get settled in. When the girls come back from their errands, I’ll come and get you.”
The girl smiled and nodded at the headmistress. “Thank you, Ms. Cordelia. Oh, and please, call me Leo.”
“Of course. Welcome to Miss Robichaux's, Leo.” And with that, Cordelia gave her another welcoming smile and shut the door to leave her to her unpacking.
Leona noticed her luggage that Spalding had left on her bed. Because she was forced to bring the stuff her mother packed before she was forced out of her home, Leona really didn’t have much to unpack. She did place her good clothes on the hangers in the walk-in closet. Her jeans, t-shirts and underwear were placed in the drawers. Last was her electronics. Once her Laptop was plugged in and hooked up to the Wi-Fi, she was all set.
After all of that was done, she went out to the balcony to get some fresh air. Leona leaned on the railing and observed the neighborhood. Now that she was actually in New Orleans, an overwhelming feeling came over her. Everything really did happen so fast. First the incident with that… thing in Hellsalem’s Lot, then the accident with her father, being forced out of her childhood house and into a place completely alien to her made her feel completely drained. She reached into her pocket to take out her smartphone, thinking about giving her mom and brother a call. However, she wondered if they really wanted to talk to her after everything that happened. In the end, she put her phone back. It was probably for the best to give them their space for a while.
“Well, Ms. Snow did say I should think of this new experience as an adventure. Might as well make the most of it I guess. Hmph, welcome to your new home, Leona Watch…”
When it was time for midday gathering, Cordelia came to fetch Leona from her room to meet the students. On their way down the stairs, the young witch was feeling very anxious. Because she wasn’t a normal girl, making new friends was not her forte. However, she tried to remain optimistic. Since these girls were witches themselves, surely they most know what it’s like to be in her shoes… right?
By the time they finally made it to the parlor, the three students all had their eyes on her. One was an African American girl probably around seventeen or eighteen, who was rather on the heavy side. She had a look of indifference on her face the moment Leona walked into the room. While she was a bit intimidating, Leona hoped they would get along during her stay.
The other witch was sitting in the antique chair, just sipping her tea. She was a bit on the short side and had long, straight, brown hair. The girl was probably around her age maybe a year younger. She smiled at Leona and gave a short wave at her and Leona waved back to be polite. The brunette certainly seemed friendly, but there was a hint of mystery about her that made Leona feel nervous. Leona was certainly willing to get along with her too, but she thought it was best not to keep her guard down either.
Lastly, there was the blond haired witch. She was lounging on the couch as if she was a queen. Her designer clothes, jewelry, bejeweled smartphone, and hair extensions were practically screaming “spoiled rich girl”. However, Leona could have sworn she’d seen her before. She always found celebrity gossip a bore, but she may have seen her in a few teen dramedies or on the cover of People magazine at the super markets. Leona figured becoming besties with this one was going to be too much of a stretch. But, still she saw no reason to quarrel with her. It was for the best to leave her alone and in turn she will do the same.
Cordelia took her seat in the antique chair facing both the couch and the two other chairs. Leona sat in the one next to the brunette.
“Everyone, I would like to introduce you to Leona Watch.” Cordelia said to her students. “Due to unforeseen circumstances, she will be staying with us for the indefinite future. Leona, this is Queenie. She came to join us just a few years ago.”
“Hey…” she said with a neutral expression. Leona knew it, Queenie really couldn’t care less that she was the new girl or not.
Cordelia just went on with her introductions. “The witch sitting next to you is Nan. She’s been here for a while now.”
“It’s nice to meet you, Leo.” She said holding out her hand.
Leona warmly took Nan’s hand and shook it. “It’s nice to meet you too. How did you know I liked being called Leo?”
“I’m clairvoyant.” she said bluntly.
Now Leona knew the reason why she felt a bit uneasy around her. Nan was a mind reader. She took a mental note that she needed to keep her mind blank as much as possible. Although, that would be close to impossible. Leona tended to have a racing mind when she was in an anxious state.
“And lastly we have-”
“Madison Montgomery… movie star. I'm sure you've heard of me.” The blonde said after interrupting the teacher. Clearly, she didn’t like someone else do the introductions for her.
Leona was able to understood why Madison looked so familiar to her. From what she had heard, Madison Montgomery has been in movies and TV shows since she learned how to speak. The young witch had seen a few of her movies but she was never a fan of them. She always thought teen romantic comedies were stupid and poorly written. Personally, she was more into the artistic and Gothic horrors, as well as 2D animated movies and anime. However, and she’s only heard this from gossip, Madison’s career was on hiatus due to her out of control drinking and partying habits. When Leona thought of celebrity rehab, this was not what she had pictured it to be.
Queenie just snickered. “Please, I’m still wondering when was the last time you were in a movie.”
Madison turned her head and sneered from her comment. “Do you really want to go at this again?”
Queenie quickly got up from her seat. “Bitch, you know I have.”
“Girls!” Cordelia got in between the two of them before they went for each other's throats. “Is this any way to act in front of a new witch?”
Not wanting to be lectured, the two rivals sat down in their respective seats. It was clear as day that Queenie and Madison did not get along. They were just about to go at each other like stray cats in an alleyway. Leona really hoped she’d never be the mediator between them. But, it was probably unavoidable.
After Cordelia was able to settle her students, she turned back to the new witch. “Leo, would you like to tell us a little bit about yourself?”
Leona blushed when the headmistress asked that question. This really was the first day of school all over again! As far as she could tell, none of them seemed interested since her story of how she came to be at the academy. probably because her story wasn’t too different from theirs. However, not wanting to appear stuck up, she sat up straight in her chair and cleared her throat.
“Well, um… My name is Leona Watch… I’m a witch! Of course, that goes without saying... Uh… I lived in Vermont and I was a photography student before I came here… and um-”
Madison scoffed as Leona kept babbling. “Is New Girl here for real?”
Cordelia glared at the blonde. “Madison, we all know what it’s like to be nervous on our first day in a new place.”
She just rolled her eyes. “Please, we’re all thinking it. So New Girl, what did you do to wind up in a place like this?”
Leona twiddled her fingers. Cordelia was sympathetic enough to give her time to explain her situation. But, she knew Madison’s kind all too well. Spoiled and a total gossip to boot. She wasn’t willing to give this brat the satisfaction.
“I told Ms. Cordelia I wasn’t ready yet.” She said firmly.
“Killjoy…” Madison sneered.
“Is it true you have the all-seeing-eyes of the gods?” Leona were surprised when Nan piped up for that question. Soon, she was bombarded by Madison and Queenie.
“Yeah, are they actually real?” The blonde asked as she got up from her seat and moved towards Leona.
“I’m curious too.” Said Queenie. “When Ms. Cordelia told us a witch with the eyes of the gods was going to stay with us, I didn’t want to believe it. Now that you’re here, you can show us if she was telling the truth.
This was getting out of hand. Of course, Cordelia did tell her students ahead of time before she came here. However, she didn’t think her students would be this brash in asking all these questions. Not wanting to have her new charge feel more uneasy than she already has, thought it was best to defuse the situation before Leona had a nervous breakdown.
“Girls, please! Leona, you don’t have to do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable. We understand that you need time before you feel ready to talk with us.” She turned her head and glared at her students. “And I trust you girls have the patience to wait until she is emotionally ready.”
Even though she was touched Cordelia came to her rescue, Leona knew the badgering wouldn’t stop. They would only get more curious the longer she waited. She was going to have to show everyone eventually. It was for the best to just get it over with right then and there.
“It’s fine, Ms. Cordelia. You got to see my eyes, it’s only fair they get a chance to see them too.”
As soon as Leona gave her permission, the students quickly got in her face to see the eyes up close. Slowly, she opened her eyes for them to see. They couldn’t believe it. Those eyes really were the genuine article. Even Queenie admitted that those glass eyes couldn’t have been made with human hands. Glass eye makers wouldn’t even be able to master the delicacy of the glowing runes.
“Holy shit.” said Madison breathlessly.
“They’re actually real…” said Queenie.
Tired of all the staring, Leona closed her eyes as soon as her fellow witches had gotten their fill of them. When everyone went back to their seats, Cordelia went on with the ground rules concerning Leona’s stay.
“Alright, now that we’ve all seen the eyes of the gods, you all know that they are of indescribable value. This puts Leona’s life in great danger. I must remind all of you that you are sworn to secrecy. Not one word about her eyes is allowed to leave the walls of this house. Is that understood?”
All of them nodded in silence, still stunned by what they had just witnessed.
“Good. Now Leo, there are a few house rules that I need to go over with you. Everyday, except on the weekends, we have morning gathering at 8:30 AM and midday gathering at 12:30 PM. We all sit down here in the ancestral room for an hour, and talk more about ourselves and our abilities. I do give private lessons to help you identify your powers as well. But, you can schedule those lessons on your own time. All you have to do is come to me for guidance.”
Queenie rolled her eyes. However, this wasn’t new to Cordelia. Her students thought she was only teaching them to suppress their abilities but that wasn’t the case. Salem witches were nearly on the verge of extinction. She was willing to do whatever it took to protect her students and prevent more witches from senseless deaths.
The headmistress went on with her lecture. “There is no specific schedule here, besides our gatherings. You are free to plan your own meals, but breakfast is prepared at 7:30 AM, Lunch is at 11:30 AM, and dinner is at 7:00 PM if you wish to partake. If you have anything specific you want prepared, or would like a snack with some tea, feel free to ask for Spalding. You are also able to go out at your leisure. However, if you are staying out later than 11:45 PM please text me ASAP. That’s pretty much all you need to know. Do you have any questions about some of the house rules?”
“No, I think I got most of it.” Leona said honestly.
“Alright then, that will be all for today. Class dismissed.”
After the gathering was finished for the day, everyone scattered about the house to do their own thing. Leona was about to go back to her room, before Cordelia placed a hand on her shoulder.
“I’m sorry if my students’ brashness made you feel uncomfortable. Because of her clairvoyance, Nan has a bad habit of blurting out people’s thoughts without their consent. However, she’s been working on it. Madison and Queenie have been going at it since the moment they got here. But at heart, they really are good students and making great progress.”
The young witch figured that she was only trying to cover for their behavior. Honestly, This woman was a saint for putting up with three rowdy teenagers for so long. And rowdy teenagers with powers no less! It couldn’t have been easy for the young headmistress.
“It’s cool. I mean, being teenagers and witches on top of that, it must have been difficult for all of them growing up. I may not know their stories now, but I understand what they must be going through since I’ve been where they're at.”
Cordelia smiled. Her old friend did mention that Leona was a very sweet and understanding girl. It was good to know that she was right.
“I’m glad you’re empathetic about their situations. But remember Leo, this place is your safe haven as well as your new home. No one has the right to make you feel scared or uncomfortable here. I may not be your Aunt Darcey, but I hope I will become a mentor to you in time. I really do think you'll learn to like it here.”
“I’ll remember that Ms. Cordelia, thank you.” Leona said with a smile.
“You’re very welcome, Leona. Now, I’m sure you must be tired after your long trip. Why don’t you get some rest before supper?”
Now that Leona thought about it, she was feeling pretty exhausted. After that long train ride and less-than graceful introduction, she could use a well deserved nap.
“I may just do that.” She said with a yawn.
“Very good. If you need anything, I’ll be in the greenhouse.”
The two women parted ways as Leona dragged her legs upstairs to her room. The moment she opened the door, she kicked off her shoes and flopped down on the bed. However, she wouldn’t be able to sleep in her new environment this way. She needed some music. She took her smartphone off the nightstand and plugged in her earbuds. Leona picked out some relaxing tunes from her playlist and just let the music lull her straight into dreamland.
Leona woke up to the sound of a loud knocking on her door. Quickly, she got out of bed to see who it was. To her shock, it was Spalding just standing in the doorway. It wasn’t his fault, but damn, he was really creepy…
“Oh! Is it dinner time already?”
She checked her phone and it read 7:05. Leona immediately went to take her nap at around 1:30.
‘ I must have been more tired than I thought.’
“Ah, so it is… um, I’ll be downstairs in a few minutes.”
The gangly servant nodded then headed downstairs. She figured that dinner would be pretty informal, so she just decided to stay in the clothes she slept in and just brush her hair. After Leona did a once over on her appearance, she rushed down the stairs and into the dining room.
She was greeted with only three of the students.
“Good evening everyone.” Leona said shyly.
She only got a few curt responses from Queenie and Nan. Madison didn’t even acknowledge Leona was there and just kept scrolling down her smartphone. The young witch decided to sit in the empty chair next to the blonde and across from Queenie.
Spalding set down a bowl of consommé soup for her. “Thank you, Spalding.”
For a dining room meant to serve a dozen people, it sure seemed empty with just the four of them sitting at the table. Speaking of which, Cordelia should have showed up for dinner too.
Out of curiosity Leona asked, “Is Ms. Cordelia not joining us tonight?”
“She only eats with us on rare occasions these days.” said Queenie. “She actually hasn’t been feeling too good lately.”
“Really?” Leona didn’t know that the headmistress was ill. She seemed fine that afternoon. A little pale perhaps, but she didn’t indicate that she was feeling unwell.
“I hope she’s alright. Is it a chronic condition?”
“Fertility treatments.” Nan blurted out. “She and her husband have been trying for a baby for a while.”
Leona knew that her new mentor was married. However, she hadn’t seen any sign of him all day. On the other hand, she had been sleeping in her room for half of the day. “Oh… Is he around? I haven’t had the chance to say hello yet.”
“He’s out of town for a job.” Queenie said. “He won’t be back for another few weeks from what I heard.”
“Ugh! Enough about Cordelia and her baby issues already! That’s yesterday’s news!”
Madison turned her head towards Leona. “New Girl, you still haven’t told us what you did to get into this place. So, are you gonna dish or what?”
Leona was really starting to get irritated with this stuck up brat. Madison really wasn’t going to let this go wasn’t she? Not wanting to lose her cool, she took a deep breath and looked at her provoker in the eye.
“It’s exactly like what Ms. Cordelia said this afternoon. I was brought here for my own protection because of my new eyes.”
The blonde witch wasn’t buying that. “Please, that can’t be the only reason why. I mean, yeah, the eyes of the gods are a big deal. But, you and your family could have kept quiet about those eyes and no one would know. Clearly you did something bad enough that you had to be dragged down here. So, come on, spill it. What’d ya do?”
Annoyed, Queenie slammed her hand on the table. “Bitch, did you not hear her? Besides, she clearly doesn’t want to talk about it!”
“Oh come on, Queenie! I know you’re just as curious as the rest of us! Besides, Cordelia isn’t here and she’s going to have to fess up eventually-”
The room immediately went quiet after Nan spoke up. The only sound was the spoon that Leona dropped into her soup. Her blood had completely drained from her face. She started shaking and felt like she was going to be sick. A twisted smile began to form on Madison’s face.
“Wait… did you kill your dad?”
Queenie sighed as she facepalmed. “I swear, it’s like talking to a fucking brick wall…”
“I…” Leona sputtered. “I didn’t mean to-”
“But you did…” said Nan. “you wanted him gone.”
She couldn’t believe this was happening. Her Aunt told her that things would be different here! Leona felt like she was going to have a panic attack and these girls didn’t even care. Why did they feel the need to pick on her like this? After such a shitty week, she really didn’t need this on her first night at the academy.
However, Madison continued to find her biggest secret very amusing. “Wow! Who would have thought we would finally get a witch with daddy issues in this place. Hahaha!”
Finally having enough, she loudly stood up from her chair. Tears were starting to form at the corners of Leona’s eyes.
Madison was surprised. “Geeze Leo, no need to get your panties in a bunch.”
“Why…” Leona whispered. “Why is it that people want to butt into my personal life all of a sudden!? Do you think I want this kind of attention? Because I don’t!”
Her anger was starting to freak the girls out. “Jesus, can’t you take a joke?”
However, Leona couldn’t even hear Madison anymore. “I never asked to be a witch, you know. I never wanted to come to this place. Hell, I never even asked for these fucking eyes! Ms. Snow said that I would be surrounded by a community who would understand how I feel. I guess… it was all just a lie.”
After a brief moment of silence, Leona pushed her chair in and headed back upstairs to her room.
Queenie tried to stop her. “Leona, wait-”
“Tell Spalding I lost my appetite…”
She was already down the hall before the concerned witch could catch up to her. Leona slammed the door and locked it. The sad and anxious girl grabbed her phone and immediately dialed for her Aunt Darcey.
‘What the hell was she thinking!?’ Leona thought. ‘Did she really think keeping me here with a group of insensitive teenagers would really be a safe haven for me? Fat chance!’
The phone kept ringing for a few more minutes, but then someone on the other line finally managed to pick up.
“Hey, Leo!” Her aunt called excitedly. “I was actually gonna call you just now. So, what do you think of the place-”
“I want to go home.” Leona said, cutting her aunt off.
“What?” Aunt Darcey did not expect this kind of answer at all.
“I don’t like it here, Auntie. I want to go back home to Vermont.”
Her aunt sighed on the other end of the line. “What happened?”
“Why do they want to know so badly of what I did to dad?! Why can’t they respect that I just don’t want to talk about it!?”
Darcey was thrown aback by Leona’s fit. She clearly told Cordelia to respect whatever wishes her niece may have! “Did Cordelia start pushing for answers?”
“Well, no.” She said more calmly. “She did ask about my father at first, but I told her I wasn’t ready and she respected my decision. It’s her students that are the problem. They’re the ones who kept pressing me for answers.”
“Ah, now I see… Seriously, do teenagers have nothing better to do these days? Did you tell them about what happened to your father? That it was all just an accident and that you didn't know what you were doing?”
“I tried... but one the girls who's clairvoyant said that I really wanted to do it. That I actually wanted my own father dead... And then this other witch, Madison I think her name was, just found the whole thing amusing. After that, I had a breakdown and ran back to my room.”
“Shit..." Darcey suspected something like this would happen eventually, but not on the first fucking day! "Yeah, Delia told me her students were problem children. I did suspect the clairvoyant and the actress would cause problems for you. But, I didn't suspect it would happen so soon... Delia also mentioned having a third student. Did she say anything to you?"
"I think she tried to calm me down and bring me back to the table." Leona said honestly. "But I was too upset to listen to her."
"I see... okay, so, your first day in New Orleans was off to a bit of a rocky start." Her aunt really didn't know what to say. Darcey hated that her beloved niece was having such a difficult time, but she didn't have much of a choice. "However, I still think we made the right decision for you to stay at the Academy. You'll be under the protection of the coven, but you'll still have your independence. I know your struggling to adjust right now, but after a week it will feel like home."
Her niece was getting really tired the excuses. “But this place isn't home, Auntie! Like I told Myrtle, I said I would keep my mouth shut!”
“I understand, but the thing is, the gossip has been spreading around like butter on toast. Some of the neighbors and your father's old co-workers are still buying the official report. But, you know how nosy these bored, suburban housewives can be, right?”
“I guess… But, I don’t know why I can’t just stay with you?”
“People in this neighborhood say enough about me as it is. I don’t want to cause you any more trouble because of me.”
Leona scoffed. “Sounds like you got it backwards.”
“You know what I mean, Leona. Besides, I’ll be staying with your mom and brother for a little bit to take care of them and to deter the gossip away. But after that, I'll be busy traveling over the next few months preparing for the fall show.”
“I could be your assistant.” Leona was desperate to get out. Being in a house with bratty teens was a less-than-ideal living environment for her.
“I know you could, Sweetie.” Said Darcey lovingly. “But even so, we need to play it safe until this whole thing with your father blows over. I know this isn’t what you want to hear, but you do understand why we can't let you go back to Vermont yet, don't you?”
Leona sighed. “I do… and I guess I could learn to adapt.”
“That’s my girl. And on the bright side, I’ll be stopping by in a week to check up on you and to bring the rest of your stuff. We can talk more then, okay?”
“Great!” Darcey said. “Shoot! I gotta run. I’ll see you in a week, Leo.”
“See you then, Auntie. I love you.”
“Love you too. Oh! And Leo?”
“Yes?” She asked.
“Try not to let what those girls say get to you. They may act like this now, but they really do understand what you’re going through. Just give them some time to get to know you and things will fall into place.”
“Of course. Take care, Aunt Darcey.”
“You too, Sweetie. Ciao!” And with that, her aunt hung up.
Leona laid back in her bed with her phone clutched to her chest. She did try to think her aunt and mother really did have her best interest at heart. However, she hated that she was being treated like a little kid in all of this. Even though she had just turned twenty-one, they still thought she was “too young” to handle this situation by herself. Then again, Leona never really had that much independence in her life. It’s true, she did work a few part time jobs back at home, but after a few months, her father would always make her quit. On top of that, she didn’t even move into the dorms since the campus was only a fifteen minute drive from her neighborhood.
But now that she was in New Orleans maybe things could be different? Yes, she was under supervision by Cordelia. However, as long as she followed the house rules and attended the morning and afternoon gatherings, she was technically a free woman. Perhaps things would blow over in a couple of months and she’d be able to return home. At least, that’s what she hoped for. But really… well who knows?
Leona took out her digital camera from her bedside drawer and looked over her pictures. While a lot of them were mostly nature pics, she kept a few special moments with her family in their. As she looked over the ones with her mom and brother, she couldn’t stop thinking about them. She knew she would have to call them soon, but things just felt so awkward. Michael definitely didn’t want his sister to leave, but unfortunately he didn’t have a say in the matter. Leona hoped that she never meant to leave him on purpose. Perhaps, it was for the best to be separated from her family. Honestly, she didn't know what to think anymore.
She stopped at a picture of her and her aunt at their last family barbecue. Both of them with glasses of wine in their hands and smiling like fools.
Leona sighed as she turned off her camera. “I really do hope you know what you’re doing, Auntie.”
She put on her favorite playlist again, desperate to fall into a dreamless sleep and wanting to forget the whole day ever happened.
“So much for hoping for a peaceful sleep.” Leona says as she takes out her earbuds.
After her playlist had gone through all of her favorite songs, Leona just kept staring at the ceiling for hours. She couldn’t stop thinking about what’s happened thus far. First, encountering that monster that fucked up her and her brother’s eyes. Second, the incident involving her father. Third, being taken away from her own home by these albino men in black suits and Myrtle Snow. Fourth was the two day, train ride with only the redhead as her traveling companion. Third, her less than graceful introduction to her new life at the academy and meeting her “sister witches”. And Lastly, her emotional meltdown in front of said “sister witches”. Going through all of the events in her head, she realized that any hope of maintaining a normal life was all but gone.
Even though Leona’s life was not exactly normal to begin with, she did try to act normal when she wasn’t with her aunt. But still, she wished she could go back to the life she had with Michael and her mother. Leona wanted it so badly it hurt. More than anything, she desperately wanted to give her brother back his eyesight. The guilt of her doing nothing to prevent him from sacrificing his sight weighed heavily on her heart. There had to be something she could do to give back the eyes of the gods? However, she knew going back to Hellsalem’s Lot was out of the question. It wasn’t that Leona was afraid to go back there. But, she knew that her aunt would forbid her from leaving New Orleans.
There weren’t any other options that Leona could think of. She knew if she tried to leave, Darcey would have Ms. Snow’s men drag her back to the academy. Leona did love her aunt dearly, but even she found her overprotective nature tiring. Actually, she found the restrictive laws of the coven to be a huge pain. Now that the human and alter worlds are connected through Hellsalem’s Lot, they shouldn’t have to worry about hiding anymore! If it wasn’t for the castors, the whole world would have perished! But then again, Darcey and Cordelia had a point. A lot of people on the outside did not take the Great Collapse of New York well. Even though it’s been three years since the apocalyptic event happened, people outside the fog shrouded city were still living in fear and ignorance. Despite the brave deeds of the castors, they weren’t given much fanfare outside Hellsalem’s Lot. In fact, castors who were on the outside lived in isolation out of fear of those who didn’t understand them. Aunt Darcey was right. Witches on the outside were at risk more than they’ve ever been.
For the time being, Leona had no choice but to stay in New Orleans. She hoped that things would eventually get better and she could call the coven her home. However with Madison and Nan living there, that seemed like too much of a stretch. Queenie seemed pretty okay, but even she was a bit hard to figure out. But still, Leona supposed it was probably for the best to make the most of her new living situation. She did have this beautiful room and she was staying in a very interesting city. It may not be as interesting as the relatively new Hellsalem’s Lot, but historically New Orleans is a fascinating place. And since it’s the weekend, she had all the time she needed to explore her new surroundings.
“What could go wrong?”
“Except that.” Leona groaned.
Now that she thought about it, she really didn’t have much to eat that day. All Leona had was a light breakfast on the train and a few sips of the consommé at dinner. Other than that, she was running on empty. Leona knew that she would never get to sleep with her stomach rumbling the rest of the night. She figured a sandwich with some chips would be satisfying enough until breakfast. After getting out of bed and putting on her slippers, she walked quietly down the stairs and made her way into the kitchen. Since it was two in the morning, there was no doubt in her mind that everyone was asleep. As long as Leona was quiet, nobody would be disturbed by her late night excursion.
However, right when she entered the kitchen, the refrigerator door was wide open with someone getting a late night snack of their own. It would seem Leona wasn’t the only one feeling hungry that night. Not wanting to interrupt them, she decided to wait until they were finished. But when she took a step back, her heel landed on a loose floorboard. It let out a loud squeak and it startled both Leona and her fellow two AM snacker. To her surprise, The face that popped up behind the refrigerator door was actually Queenie.
“Who’s there?” The plus-sized witch whispered.
Not knowing where to go, Leona stood awkwardly in her place. ‘Busted…’ She thought to herself.
When her eyes adjusted to the darkness, Queenie was able to recognize her intruder. “Oh, it’s you.” She closed the door and crossed her arms over her chest. Leona guessed she probably came at a bad time.
“What are you doing in here?” Queenie asked authoritatively
Leona twiddled her thumbs. She didn’t mean to interrupt her neighbor. “I’m sorry, I didn’t think anyone would be down here. It’s just that-”
However, before she could get a word in edgewise, her stomach decided to answer for her. Queenie stared at Leona’s middle and chuckled. “Well that explains everything.”
Embarrassed, she covered her tummy with her hands. It didn’t help to keep it quiet. “I didn’t have much to eat yesterday.” Leona said sheepishly.
“Yeah, no shit, considering you only had a few spoonfuls of soup at dinner.” Queenie was certainly a blunt witch. However, Leona admired that trait. To a degree at least.
“Did you come down for something to eat too?” The new witch asked.
“Hmph, unfortunately for the both of us, there’s nothing worth eating in that fridge.”
“I thought Cordelia said you guys went out and got groceries?”
“Didn’t say we got anything good. Welp, there’s only one thing to do at a time like this.”
The large witch walked out of the kitchen. But she turned around when Leona was still standing there like a confused deer in headlights.
“Well, you coming or what?” Queenie asked impatiently.
“Oh! Um, coming!”
Honestly, Leona wondered if she was making the right choice following her. She really didn’t know Queenie well enough yet. And after that display at dinnertime, Leona didn’t blame her if she didn’t want to associate with her. But before she could even think about going back to her room, the two witches were already out the door. Around the back there were two cars. One was Cordelia’s, obviously. But the other was a minivan meant for the girl’s use. When they got in the car, Leona was getting nervous. Queenie only asked if she was coming, but didn’t say where their destination was.
“Um… Where are we going?” she asked.
Queenie smirked. “You’ll see…”
Once they were out of the driveway, the two of them were off to God knows where. This was starting to stress Leona out. She really hoped this wasn’t some kind of hazing prank. After the horrendous first day she had, that was the last thing she needed. However, after ten nerve wracking minutes of driving, the pair finally got to their destination. To her amazement and pleasure, this was a building that Leona knew very well. It was a Jack & Rockets burger joint.
“You up for some burgers and fries, Leo?” Queenie asked.
This really was a pleasant surprise. Perhaps Queenie was different from Nan and Madison?
The new witch smiled brightly and said, “Yeah, totally!”
They got up to the drive through and looked over the menu. It didn’t take long to know what they both wanted.
“Welcome to Jack & Rockets. May I take your order?” Said the cashier.
“Yeah, we’ll have two Jack Cheese Rocket Burgers, two large fries and two large diet Peps, please?”
“Do you want to supersize your order for a $1.99 extra?” asked the cashier.
Queenie gave Leona a daring look. “You game?”
She didn’t even have to ask. “Let’s do it!”
Once the girls finally got their food, they parked the car in the back of the restaurant. The two witches didn’t waste any time digging into their late night snack. Leona was practically having an orgasm after she took the first bite of her burger.
“Mmmmm! Good God, I needed this! After the hectic week I’ve had, I haven’t had time for my number one comfort food.”
Queenie chuckled. “Figured as much. Me, I’ve been craving a Jack & Rocket burger all day!”
“But, I don’t understand.” Leona said as she swallowed her food. “Why did you offer to let me come with you?”
Her late night companion put her food in her lap. “I guess… this is my way of apologizing to you. We haven’t had a new witch in a while and we just wanted to mess with you. But I have to admit, we may have taken things too far. We tend to forget that every witch’s situation is different from our own. You weren’t comfortable with talking about yourself and we just treated you like shit. That wasn't right. So, can we start over?”
The plus-sized witch held out her hand to Leona. She was really touched. Unlike her fellow students, Queenie was putting in the effort to make her new sister witch feel welcome. Maybe, the coven wasn’t so bad after all.
Leona smiled and grabbed Queenie’s hand in a hearty handshake. “I’d like that very much, Queenie. Thanks.”
“Sweet. Oh and, try not take what Nan said too personally. She just doesn’t know when to shut her yap in certain situations. Trust me, I’ve been trying to keep that girl out of my head since I got here. But deep down, she really isn’t a bad person.”
Leona looked down at her burger and gripped the wrapping paper. What the clairvoyant said still made her feel uneasy. She felt that if she didn’t clear this up, then the rest of the witches would never fully grasp her situation.
“Well, she wasn’t entirely wrong…”
Queenie stared at her with a skeptical look in her eye. “What do you mean?”
“Nan was only half right. Yes, I did hate my father and yes, I did want him to go away. But I never, EVER wished for him to die. You understand, don’t you Queenie?”
Her companion was quiet for a minute. It looked like she was contemplating on whether or not to trust Leona’s words. She really hoped Queenie wouldn’t write her off after what she said. But after the awkward silence had passed, Queenie simply nodded her head.
“Yeah, I get it. I mean, wanting someone gone and wishing them to drop dead don’t always mean the same thing, right? Besides, you don’t seem like the kind of girl who would go on a random killing spree.”
Leona sighed in relief. “Thanks, Queenie. I think you and Cordelia are the only ones here who understand my condition.”
“Heh! Believe me, after what happened at dinner, there’s no doubt that Nan and Madison get the picture now.”
She started to blush. Leona still felt embarrassed over what happened during the evening meal. “I’m really sorry about that. I may have been a little too sensitive.”
“Nah, we were just being bitches. Plain and simple. You don’t have to apologize for anything, girl.”
“I’d like to believe Nan will think twice before blathering about my personal life. But, what about Madison?” Leona felt like she had to ask. She thought that Nan could be a potential ally once she got to know her better. But Madison Montgomery was a different story.
Queenie just snorted. “I wouldn’t count on it, Leo. I’ve only been in New Orleans for a few years, but as you can already tell, we’re not exactly besties.”
“She’s really that bad, huh?” The shapeshifter frowned.
“Madison is a stone cold bitch who only loves herself, big dicks and getting wasted. That’s pretty much all there is to her.”
Queenie really didn’t hold herself back. Leona suspected this was the case. However, she didn’t want to believe that Madison was a completely rotten human being. Maybe deep down, she was just as insecure and frightened of what she’s capable of just like Leona, Queenie and Nan. Perhaps all Madison needed was to be shown a little kindness and someone to lend an ear. Besides, they’re all witches. Instead of arguing and fighting, they should learn to have each other’s backs. However, Leona felt she may be asking for too much. She was still new to the academy. It was for the best to take one step at a time.
“You’re probably right.” Said Leona. “Still, it wouldn’t hurt to at least try to get along with Madison. We are living under the same roof after all.”
“Knock yourself out. But, proceed with caution okay? You’re a nice girl, Leo and I wouldn’t want you to get hurt because of her.”
“I’ll keep that in mind. Thanks, Queenie.”
Her new friend smiled as she finished off the rest of her burger. Once she set the wrapper aside, Queenie looked at Leona with a cheeky grin on her face.
“Now that we’ve got that out of the way, wanna show me your main power?”
Leona looked at her with a confused look. “Main power?”
“Well, a lot of us has an ability that we’re especially good at. Some of these gifts are uncommon, while some of them are one of the seven wonders. At least, that’s what Cordelia told us anyway.”
“Do you have a power that’s all your own?” Leona asked out of curiosity.
“I’ll show ya.”
Queenie rolled up her sleeve, leaving her right forearm exposed. She began to pinch her skin hard. It looked like it hurt. But all of a sudden, Leona felt a sharp pain in her own arm.
“Ow! Ow, ow ow! What the?! How did you do that?”
She chuckled as she rolled her sleeve down. “I’m a human voodoo doll. Any pain that’s inflicted on me, is transferred to another person.”
That truly was an impressive power! “Incredible! And only you can do that?”
“Yep! I’ve found out that I’m an heir to Tituba. She practiced voodoo before she became a house slave in Salem. She was also the first to be accused of witchcraft during the trials. Technically, I’m a half breed of the voodoo and Salem tribes.”
“That’s amazing! I mean, the only witch I’ve ever known was my aunt and I always thought she was the coolest witch in the universe. But still, this is the first time I’ve ever seen a witch outside my family doing magic! Not only that a witch who is capable of doing both witch and voodoo magic! This is so cool!”
Queenie felt her face getting hot. For most of her life, she was punished for having that kind of ability. Heck, she was often reprimanded for it whenever she lashed out at someone who made fun of her weight. However, Leona was different. Instead of feeling intimidated, she was fangirling like a dork about how cool Queenie was. This was so new to the human voodoo doll, she didn’t really know how to feel about it.
Wanting the weird feeling to go away, she turned back to Leona. “Well, I showed you my power. Care to show me what you can do?”
Leona was a little nervous about that. The only people who knew about her transfiguration ability was her mom, brother and of course, Darcey. And after what happened to her father, she had no desire to use that other power ever again. However, since she was among her sister witch, showing Queenie her accomplished ability wouldn’t hurt.
“Okay, here I go…”
She closed her eyes. Leona focused her mind into what shape she wished to take. Soon enough, her body began to change into a different person. Queenie’s eyes began to bug out of her skull the moment Leona began to change. However, the girl sitting next to her, wasn’t Leona anymore… It was uncanny! It was like looking into a mirror! Leona transformed herself into Queenie!
“Holy shit…” the flabbergasted witch whispered. “I’ve never seen a witch perform something like this before. This power is very rare. Does it run in your family?”
“Yes.” She even sounded like Queenie!
Not wanting to freak her new friend out more than she had, she changed back into her original form. “According to my Aunt Darcey, every single witch in our family was a shapeshifter.”
“No kidding? You mention your aunt a lot. Was she, like, your mentor or something?”
The maroon headed witch beamed when she mentioned her aunt. “Indeed she was! When my powers first emerged when I turned thirteen, she took me under her wing. Taught me everything she knew about our family’s history and how to perfect my ability. She's kinda been a second mother to me over the years. I love auntie, she’s so awesome!”
Despite how cute Leona was as she praised her aunt, Queenie was getting a little jealous of her. Cordelia was nice and all, but she was rather weak-willed both as a teacher and a witch. And while she did go to her for advice from time to time, Queenie knew that Cordelia was just as clueless about her powers as she was. It would be nice to have that kind of special mentor/pupil bond like Leo had with her Aunt Darcey.
“I gotta say, you’re pretty lucky.” Queenie said sadly.
Leona almost took it as a joke. After everything she went through, she wouldn’t exactly call herself lucky.
Not wanting to offend Queenie, she asked out of curiosity. “Why do you say that?”
“I’ve never really had anyone in my life who would understand me or my abilities. Maybe it’s my fault since I do tend to keep people at arms length. I don’t know. But after dragging my ass here to New Orleans, I wonder if I really do belong in the coven.”
“Really? You seem to be friends with Nan. Sort of.”
Queenie huffed. “You’re kind of right. But even she gets on my nerves when she goes inside my head without permission. No, I’m talking about a more emotional connection. Like the one you have with your Aunt. But each time I try, I always end up lashing out or vice versa. Plus, being the only black girl in the academy doesn’t make things any easier.”
Leona began to empathize with the human voodoo doll. While her situation was different from Queenie’s, she knew what it’s like to be a fish out of water.
“Queenie, I… I know how you feel.”
The plus sized witch was skeptical. “How so?”
“It’s true, I do love my Aunt Darcey a lot. But, even she doesn’t entirely understand me. Even though I’m twenty-one now, she’s still treating me like a child. It gets pretty old. Plus, growing up with a narcissistic father doesn’t exactly do wonders for your self esteem. Heck, the closest thing I have to a best friend is my brother, Michael.”
“Wow… Not even a boyfriend?”
Leona chuckled bitterly. “Especially not a boyfriend. Well, there was this one guy I had a crush on that I asked to the senior prom. He did accept my proposal, but… it didn’t work out. Trust me, that’s a whole other emotional can of worms you don’t want to get into.”
“Yikes… perhaps you and I aren’t so different after all.”
“Exactly. Plus, even if the other girls won’t try to understand you, I will.”
“Honestly…” Queenie started. “I don’t know why you want to bother with me. I’m not the easiest to get along with. Besides, I also bugged you about your eyes today, remember?”
Leona twirled a French fry in between her fingers, trying to come up with the answer. “I’m not gonna lie, Queenie… this past week was absolute shit. My brother is blind because of me. And while I’m stuck here there’s nothing I can do to help him. On top of that, I have a new frightening power I don’t know how to control and know absolutely nothing about. And I was dragged to a city I've never been to before, surrounded by strangers. Its true, Madison and Nan did hurt my feelings and I really did want to go back to Vermont after that. But you… you went out of your way to take me out for burgers and fries to make me feel more at home here. It may seem insignificant to you, but… I needed this act of kindness. So really, thanks again, Queenie.
Her new friend was left speechless. Throughout her life, Queenie was never given any amount of respect. In the eyes of her peers and former co-workers she was as insignificant as an ant. But, here she was. Being thanked for her kindness and being praised for her powers. And all over something as simple as a few burgers. How the hell did that happen?
In the end Queenie smiled and said, “You know, for a spazzy white chick, you’re pretty cool yourself.”
Leona chuckled. “I’ll take that as a complement.”
“Welp, I don’t know about you, but that burger is starting to give me a food coma. Wanna head back?”
Leona checked the clock on the dashboard. It was already 3:30! They’ve been out there for that longer than she had thought.
“Yeah, we should go. We don’t want Cordelia to find out that we’re gone.”
“Don’t worry, I’ve done this a bunch of times and she’s never caught me once.”
Soon enough, The two young witches got out of the restaurant parking lot and back to the school. It only took them fifteen minutes to get there. Once Queenie parked the car in the back, they quietly got inside the house and to their respective rooms.
But before They went back to bed, Leona thanked her again for the late night snack. “I had a lot of fun tonight. Next time I’ll treat you to some late night pizza.”
“I’ll hold you to that. Goodnight, Leo.”
Leona went to her room and quickly got into bed. Thanks to the heavy meal, she was finally able to drift off to sleep. But this time, she was happy. With people like Queenie in the coven, maybe New Orleans wouldn’t be so bad after all. The young witch closed her eyes. Excited for what the day would bring.
As the sun began to shine through the gossamer curtains and on Leona’s face, she turned her head slowly and opened her eyes. When she reached for her phone, she was surprised it was only 8:30 AM. Considering her lack of sleep and her little adventure with Queenie, Leona thought she would have slept in a little longer. However, she felt completely rested! Was it the late night hamburgers or her heart to heart with Queenie? She didn’t know. Being more bright eyed and bushy tailed than she had anticipated, she figured she might as well get up and get ready for the day.
Since it was the weekend, Leona wanted to use this time to do some much needed sightseeing. This was her first time in New Orleans and she wanted to see everything the city had to offer. She went out onto the balcony to check the weather and it was absolutely gorgeous. Nice and warm for the unofficial start of summer. A perfect day for a tour of the Big Easy!
Leona went to her bathroom to wash her face and brush her teeth. She put on a navy blue tank top, a light cardigan sweater, a pair of jean shorts, black thigh-high stockings, and some comfortable sneakers. Good thing too, since she figured she would be doing a lot of walking that day. After brushing her hair and doing a once over at the mirror, Leona was ready to head out. But before she wanted to start her walking tour, she thought it was best to grab a quick breakfast first. Also, she needed to check in with Cordelia before she headed out too. The headmistress was pretty adamant about keeping in contact with her if she was going out by herself. She found this to be a minor annoyance because of her age. However, since life for a witch is filled with uncertainty, it was better to be safe than sorry.
Once Leona locked up her room, she quickly went downstairs and then straight to the kitchen. The halls were oddly quiet. Considering it was already mid-morning, she thought everyone would be up by now. On the other hand, it was a Saturday. Her sister witches were probably sleeping in some more. When she entered the kitchen she was surprised to see at least one of the residents up and about. Unsurprisingly, it was Cordelia. The headmistress was dressed in a silk white bathrobe, pouring herself a cup of tea. She had a faint smell of water lilies about her. Leona knew Cordelia was a beautiful woman when she met her the day before, but she looked very radiant in the morning. For someone suffering from fertility troubles, she certainly did a decent job at hiding that sad fact.
The teacher turned around to find Leona standing in the archway. She smiled and went to the breakfast nook and sat herself down.
“Good morning, Leona. Did you sleep well last night?”
Realizing she hasn’t snapped out of her trance, Leona lightly shook her head and blushed. “Oh! Yes, yes I did. The room is very comfortable.”
“That’s good to hear. Please, take whatever you like from the counter. Judging by your attire, I’m guessing you’ll be heading out soon?”
Leona went to grab a pastry and a fruit, then sat down across from her teacher. “Yeah, I wanted to take a tour of New Orleans today. Is that alright?”
“Of course, that’s perfectly fine. It’s just…” Cordelia seemed a little hesitant for some reason.
“Is something wrong?” She asked.
“No, no! Like I said it’s fine. It’s just that I would feel more at ease if you had one of the girls accompany you. But, since you are the eldest of my girls, I’m probably worrying too much. Just keep in touch with me if you’re going to come home late, okay?”
Leona was a bit miffed. She knew that Cordelia meant well but she really didn’t like to be treated as a teenager with a curfew. And when the headmistress said the word “home”, it just made her feel uneasy. This place didn’t exactly feel like home. Well, Queenie being there would certainly help keep her sane during her indefinite stay. However, with Nan and Madison pushing her buttons like that, it reminded her of all those days during high school when Leona wished graduation would just come already.
Swallowing her annoyance, Leona took a deep breath and smiled. “Sure, that won’t be a problem.”
“Excellent.” She said as she sipped her tea. “Oh, and one other thing before you go. It’s about what happened at dinner last night.”
Leona felt her stomach drop. She nervously swirled her spoon in her coffee cup, trying hard not to make eye contact. “Ah… you heard that, huh?”
“Not in so many words. But, I had a pretty good idea on what it was about. I tried asking what happened but… no one was willing to come forward. I’m sorry you’re first night got off to a bad start Leona, I really am. But don’t worry, I already gave them a stern talking to.”
“You have?” Leona was surprised.
“I did. I simply told them they all knew what it’s like to be your shoes and they should do their part to help you feel welcome. I’m sure their attitudes will change by now.”
What the headmistress's made Leona’s head fill with doubt. She wondered if Queenie really did intend to make peace with her of her own accord? Or did she do it because Cordelia guilt tripped her into making nice with the new witch? Queenie did seem genuinely sorry for her and her sister witches behavior at dinner. But, what if it was just a one time thing and would just continue to apathetic towards her like she did during introductions? Even though Cordelia was trying to help Leona feel better with comforting words, she was only making her feel more confused and anxious than she needed to be. She wanted to get out of that house as soon as possible. Leona decided to continue to trust Queenie. She did owe her new friend a late night pizza run, it was the least she could do.
“I see… But, that’s good! Thanks, that’ll be a big help. Well, I don’t want to waste anymore daylight just sitting here. I should get going to avoid the crowds. I’ll be back by around six, I think.”
“Oh! Then please, don’t let me keep you. Remember, if you’re going to be late, just let me know ahead of time. Have fun and be careful out there.”
Leona gave her a lackluster smile. Still, feeling troubled by what Cordelia told her. “Right… But, do you have a suggestion on where I should go first?”
“Hmm… I highly recommend visiting the French Quarter first. There are plenty of shops, restaurants and historical sights that you might be interested in.”
“Sweet! I guess that’s where I’m headed. Well, See ya later!”
Before Cordelia could say her goodbyes, Leona rushed out the front door. She thought she would never leave! Despite claiming that the academy would become her home in time, Darcey forgot to mention about Cordelia having an overprotective nature. But then again, Darcey was kind of the same way. No wonder those two got along so well. However, Leona was free from those hallowed halls until the evening! Not wanting to waste anymore time, she began to walk to her first destination. But before she could get away from the property, Leona couldn’t help but feel that someone was watching her. She looked up at the house and saw Nan on the balcony. The clairvoyant was just… watching her. Feeling unnerved, she ran as far away from that place as quickly as possible.
‘ Seriously, what’s that girl’s damage?!’ She thought to herself.
It was bad enough Nan blurted out the incident with her dad, so now she decided to be her personal stalker? Despite being on edge, Leona didn’t want to upset herself anymore than she had. She figured it was to ignore it and just enjoy the day like she planned. On the other hand, Leona dreaded the fact she would eventually have to go back.
‘ Maybe I should stay out later than six…’
Despite the rough start Leona had that morning, she was having a wonderful time on her tour of the city. Bourbon Street really was a big hotspot in New Orleans. Jazz Bands filled the air with their music and the smells of delicious seafood could be found in every other eatery in the Quarter. Leona splurged a bit on some tasty crawfish when it was time for lunch. She was never a big seafood eater, but she had to admit that it was pretty good. Next time she was in town, she would have to give that shrimp gumbo a try.
Before she decided to go to her next location, Leona thought it would be cool to go on a tour of the Lalaurie Mansion. Might as well visit a haunted tourist sight or two while she was in the area. It was an interesting tour, but she figured some of the information was exaggerated just to gain more tourists. But, the fact that Madame Delphine LaLaurie was a complete monster in life was all too true. You didn’t even had to go to the museum to figure that out. However, when the tour group went out to the garden, something was… off. Maybe her new eyes were just playing tricks on her, but she could have sworn she saw the aura of a person just six feet under ground. It was located just beneath the fountain. Leona was a bit unnerved by this, but tried to chalk it up to some glitch. There was no way any human could still be alive under that much concrete and rubble. Could they?
After the tour, she decided to head over to Jackson Square. The calm elegance of the park was quite a change of pace after the bustling energy of Bourbon Street. Leona wanted to take a quick break before going on the move again. She bought herself an ice cream and found a nice cool spot in the grass, enjoying her treat she watched the people go by and admired the view of St. Louis Cathedral. It looked more like a fairy tale castle rather than a cathedral. Of course, she managed to take plenty of photos of the square and the cathedral. Leona thought about going in for a tour, but she wanted to move on to her next spot. She could always do it another time. After finishing her ice cream, she got her stuff together and got on a bus headed a little further out of the city. If Leona knew one thing, you can’t visit Louisiana without visiting the bayous!
“Stupid mosquitos!” Leona yelled as she slapped another of those pests off of her shoulder. “Damnit, I knew I should have packed a bug spray. What’s worse, I think I’m officially lost.”
When Leona got to the swamps stayed on the walkways to help guide her through the area. She decided to go off the path to take some better pictures of the forests near the river. However, the witch somehow got lost and was having a difficult time trying to find her way back. The bayou forests were like a maze. She tried to use her phone to find her way back, but the reception wasn’t good. This was making Leona feel very anxious. It was almost evening and she only had half full water bottle. Her feet were getting sore and it was hotter than hell in those swamps. The tour was was fun at first, but now all she wanted to do was go back to the academy and take a cool shower.
However, before Leona started to panic, she came across a clearing. Not only that, it looked like a camp had been set up there. The young witch let out a sigh of relief. Someone had to know the layout of the swamp to help her get back on the trail. She walked at a brisk pace to the clearing. But when she got a closer look, it didn’t look like your typical your typical campsite. Dead alligators were strung up on the tree branches and a few rifles were scattered on a picnic table. Two scruffy looking men were sitting on their fold out chairs drinking some beers. Judging by their poorly groomed facial hair, and gnarly looking teeth, they didn’t care much for personal hygiene. The icing on the cake was the confederate flag on the man’s baseball hat. These were the kind of people Leona wanted to avoid, rednecks.
Even though their unwelcome appearance already gave her a bad first impression, something in her mind was telling her to get away. It may have been some kind of sixth sense due to her being a witch. But, she knew deep in her bones that these guys were nothing but trouble. Leona backed away slowly to avoid their attention. However, she accidentally stepped on a twig that snapped loudly beneath her heel.
Now alert, the two men faced the direction of the noise. Their eyes were locked on Leona as she stared back at them like a deer in headlights. They got up from their chairs and walked slowly towards her.
“How can we help ya, missy?” asked the scrawny looking redneck.
Leona backed away slowly. “I, um… I was just passing through.” She tried to control her voice, but she could tell they could sense her unease.
“Looks to me you’re a tad lost.” said the one with the beard.
They were getting too close now. The smell of alcohol and their rancid body odor nearly made Leona gag. The skinny one was looking a little too hard at her chest. She placed her arms across her breasts to make him stop staring, but it didn’t help.
“No, I just wanted to go off the path to take some pictures. Now that I got what came here for, I was just about to head back.”
“Now now, there’s no need to be all defensive. Me and Lurve will be more than happy to escort ya back.”
“Yeah, we’ll be nice n’ gentle like…”
Even though they were acting like gentlemen, Leona could see right through them. They’ve been eyeing her body the entire time. It was clear that they had less than pure intentions and they weren’t going to let her go without a fight. However, Leona wasn’t going to stick around to find out what they had planned for her. she just needed to back away to buy her some time, then she could sprint to build some distance. The fat one with the beard was probably slow, but the skinny one could be a problem. She was in track and field back in highschool for a few years, so she wasn’t a bad runner. She might be able to outrun the skinny redneck and possibly hide. Not only that, she had her pepper spray. Leona was hesitant to use it on a person, but it was her best chance for her to get away safely.
She took a deep breath to try and control the fear in her voice. “It’s okay, I can find the walkway myself.”
“C’mon, unlike these gators, we don’t bite.” The scrawny one said while showing off his yellow teeth.
The redneck’s hand slid up her arm like an eel as his fingers brushed up against the side of her breast. This sent her over the edge. There was no way that he did not intend to do that.
“I said no!” Leona stomped on the skinny man’s foot and elbowed him in the chest.
She reached into her bag and found the little container of pepper spray. It was aimed directly at both of them. However, because the canister was small and pink, the rednecks just laughed at it. Those idiots really underestimated how powerful that stuff could be.
“Hahaha! Hoo-wee! That’s real cute! But seriously, don’t make this more difficult than it has to be, girly.” The fat redneck was just about to grab her, but Leona pressed the release button just in time. As soon as the spray hit his face he immediately fell to his knees and screamed in bloody agony.
“AAAAHHHHGH!!!! Oh fuck it burns! You stupid cunt!”
While the skinny one went to attend his companion, Leona ran as fast as she could from the campsite. However, after the little stunt she pulled, those rednecks weren’t done with her.
“Don’t just stand there, Lurve! Find the bitch n’ drag her ass back here.”
Leona managed to get at least five start away from their camp. However, because everything in the forest looked the same, she had no idea where she was going! It didn’t matter though. She knew one of those guys would be coming after her soon. She needed as much distance from them as possible. It felt like Leona was running forever. Her legs were starting to get sore and the blisters she had formed on her feet from walking all day didn’t help either. But, she felt she was near a path. All she had to do was keep a brisk pace and she’d be out of those woods. However, she forgot to acknowledge any of the overgrown roots while she was running. Leona accidently tripped and fell over one of the roots. Fortunately, she didn’t twist her ankle. But her left hand and right shin were all scratched up. When she got up she tried to run again, her leg started to sting badly. Her shin felt like it was on fire. Leona had to think fast. That tree had a hollow at the base of it’s trunk. It was small, but it looked like she could squeeze herself in and she could hide long enough for her chaser to give up on her.
Leona sucked in her stomach and crawled her way inside the hole. She settled herself in the far side of the hollow and held her legs against her body. Footsteps could be heard just a few feet away from the tree. She held her hands against her mouth and nose to conceal her breathing. It was difficult, Leona was so scared her breathing and heartbeat were completely erratic. Those rednecks were stupid, but they would probably figure out that a tree hollow would be a perfect spot to hide. On the other hand, he was pretty drunk. He’d probably think she was too big to fit through the hole depending on his perspective.
The man’s feet were right next to the opening. Leona stayed absolutely still, trying not to move a single muscle.
“Dammit… Fuck! Where that fuckin bitch go!? Aagh! I know you’re out here! You’ve nowhere to hide!”
In his frustration he kicked the side of the bark. It scared her but she didn’t make a sound. Soon enough, Leona heard his footsteps getting further and further away from the tree. She didn’t want to leave that spot until she was 110% sure that her pursuer had given up and gone away.
“You can come out now.”
Leona was shocked to hear another voice near the tree. Only this time, it didn’t sound like one of those rednecks. It sounded like a woman’s. Her southern accent was thick but smooth and very gentle. As much as Leona wanted to trust the voice, she was to scared to leave her hovel. Footsteps came slowly towards the hollow. The stranger kneeled by the entrance of the hole as she held out her hand.
“It’s okay. He ain’t gonna bother you anymore.”
She certainly seemed pretty genuine. Reluctantly, Leona held onto the strangers hand and crawled her way out of the hollow. When she looked at the woman up close, she had long curly hair the color of sunshine. She wore a cream colored sundress and a floral lace shawl around her shoulders. Leona was surprised she was wearing a pair of boots. If she’s been wandering around the forest her feet must have been killing her! But overall, this girl was so pretty, she almost looked like a fairy. She probably wasn’t much older than Leona was.
“You alright, Hun?” She asked with concern.
Leona was still shaken up by what happened. She tried to say something, but the pain in her hand and shin became more intense after the adrenaline rush wore off. The stranger took her hand and got a look at her leg through her torn thigh-high.
She shook her head and clicked her tongue. “Yeah, that’s gonna get infected if it’s not taken care of. C’mon, I’ve got just the thing that will fix you right up back at my place.”
The curly haired woman tried to take her hand but Leona retracted it quickly. She didn’t even know this girl and she expected her to just follow her to who knows where? The stranger sensed Leona’s unease and tried again to persuade her to come along.
“Hey, I’m not gonna hurt ya. Besides, you’re hurtin’ real bad and you need a place to rest for a little while. The commune I’m stayin’ at isn’t far from here. You’ll feel better in no time, promise.”
As much as Leona wanted to turn her down and just ask for directions to the bus station, she didn’t have the strength to argue. Leona nodded her head and agreed to follow the woman back to her home. She smiled as she placed an arm around Leona’s shoulder to help keep her steady.
“Sweet. The name’s Misty Day in case you’re wondering. What’s yours?”
Misty lead the exhausted witch back to her place. She was right when she said it wasn’t that far from the forest. It took them about fifteen minutes on foot to get to her home. Apparently, Misty was a part of a religious commune just outside the city. Leona was a bit nervous once she entered the community. Fortunately, she was only a stranger and no one knew of her status as a witch. But even so, the neighbors were staring at her with great intensity. She supposed that they weren’t too keen on outsiders.
One of the members of the commune saw the two women together and approached them. “Misty, we’re about to evenin’ prayer soon. Who’s your little friend there?”
Leona tried to avoid eye contact and turned to Misty if she could come up with an excuse.
“Sorry Reverend, she got hurt while wondering the bayou. So, I thought I should take her inside and patch her up.”
The leader of the commune eyed the girl’s injured hand and leg through her torn stocking. “That so?” He sighed but nodded his head in approval. “Very well, go and help your friend. But y’all mind yourselves in there, understand?”
“Thank you, Reverend.”
Misty took Leona’s hand took her to the far end of the row houses. Well, they weren’t really row houses they were little bungalows very close to one another. They looked like they could barely fit two people. Misty’s Bungalow was akin to a studio apartment. The house had a kitchenette, a small bathroom, a closet, a woodburning stove, a breakfast nook and a twin-sized cott. Overall it was a rustic looking home, but still charming.
“You can take a seat on the bed over there while I get my stuff ready. Also, mind if I turn on my radio?”
“It’s fine, go right ahead.” Said Leona as she sat on the cott.
Misty smiled as she turned on the radio. When the song started to play, she went over to the cabinet to get some gauze and a bucket filled with god knows what. All the while, she was singing along with radio.
The artist sounded very familiar to Leona. Once the song got to the first verse, she understood who it was. “I know this voice. This is Stevie Nicks, isn’t it?”
The curly haired girl beamed once Leona got the name right. She ran over to the bed with her first aid supplies and gripped her hand. “Yes! Oh, isn’t she amazing? The moment she heard the name Rhiannon, she wrote this song. It’s been her anthem ever since. She’s one of us, actually.”
Leona felt confused for a moment. “Pardon?”
“Stevie Nicks is more than just a singer, Leona. She’s a witch, just like you and me!”
Her eyes opened wide. Misty was a witch too?! Leona checked out her aura, and it was surrounded by an overwhelming energy, so she wasn’t lying. She kind of suspected this woman wasn’t entirely normal. Misty did know where Leona was hiding after all.
“I don’t understand.” She said with caution in her voice. “How could you tell that I’m a witch?”
Misty sat cross-legged on the bed and faced her. “The other day I felt something strange. It started with goosebumps on my arms and a tingling sensation up n’ down my spine. Then today while I was out getting some swamp mud from the Bayou, that feeling became stronger. I could sense that you were in trouble because your magic lead me to you.”
Now it all made sense. “Ah, so that’s how you were able to find me. Still, I’m glad you did. I would have been wandering around those woods for ages. And who knows what those rednecks would have done to me if I didn’t find that hollow?”
“They’re idiots.” Misty said bluntly. “I may not be educated either, but those guys are the worst kind of stupid. But enough about them. Let’s take a look at those scratches. Could you lower your stocking for me, please?”
“Oh! Sure thing.” Leona pulled down the sock, revealing the injury. It looked as bad as it felt, the same with her hand.
“Don’t worry, this stuff will heal you in no time.”
Misty got off of the bed and pulled the bucket towards her. She grabbed a handful of mushy moss-green stuff and started rubbing it on her shin and hand. Leona wasn’t sure if she wanted to know what it was, but she decided to ask anyway.
“What is that stuff, Misty?”
“Swamp mud. This stuff right here is the literal shit. The mud is the main part of it but it also contains Spanish moss and alligator doung. As gross as it may appear, it has a bunch of healing properties. Since the Bayous are a breeding ground for mosquitoes and other pests, I was always getting bit. This mud healed them right up. It’s also good for other injuries too, like scratches, burns and bruises.”
While Leona didn’t really know how to feel about her injuries being healed with actual gattor shit, it did help cool down the burning sensation of the scratches. “It’s kind of stinky, but I do feel like my cuts are feeling better.”
“That’s good to hear.” Once she was done applying the mud, she wrapped the gauze around her leg and hand to keep it from dripping. “Just keep the bandages on overnight and you’ll be as good as new in the morning.”
“Thanks Misty, I appreciate it.”
“A shame about the tear in your stocking though. They look expensive.”
Leona just laughed it off. “Heh, not really. It’s not that big a deal anyway, I’m practically rich in thigh-highs.”
“I could patch it up for you.”
“Oh, you don’t have to do that! You’ve already done so much for me with taking care of my scratches.”
Misty smiled as she gently took the damaged thigh-high from Leona. “It’s fine. It’ll only take a few minutes and I’m sure you’re still tired from walking all day.”
She was right. Leona’s feet were killing her and a few more minutes of rest wouldn’t hurt.
“Atta girl. Now where did I put that sewing kit?”
While Misty was rummaging through her cabinets, Leona took a closer look at the bungalow. It was decorated with handcrafted pieces. A red and black shawl hung right above the bed. But what stood out more, were the Stevie Nicks posters hanging on the walls. Misty was definitely more than just a fan. She practically worshiped her! Even though Leona wasn’t a hardcore fan like her new friend, she liked listening to her songs every once in a while.
“You must really idolize, Stevie Nicks, huh Misty?”
The curly haired girl flinched when she found the sewing kit. “I do… But, we’re not allowed to worship false idols here. Every time someone knocks on my door, I have to quickly put the posters away. Promise me you won’t tell anyone I have these?”
“It’ll just be between us.”
Misty smiled as she got to work on the torn garment. “I’m really glad we met today, Leona. I’ve always known there were others like me in this world. But, it feels good meeting one of my own face to face. We have so much to teach each other.”
Leona rubbed her arm as stared at her. feet “I’d be a lousy teacher. There’s still so much about myself that I don’t know. Even though I’ve had eight years to learn about my abilities, a part of me is afraid to know more.”
The curly haired witch put down the stocking and gripped Leona’s hands. “I felt the exact same way, Leona. People mocked me for my gifts for years and I always felt the pressure to hide em’. But, now that I’ve met you, I know I’m not alone anymore. And neither are you. We can still learn from one another. You don’t have to be afraid. From the moment I looked into those beautiful blue eyes of yours, I knew that I have found my sister witch.”
Leona felt a lump form in her throat. That hit her right where she lived. She felt like she was going to cry. This was the kind of ressaurance that she needed. Even though Cordelia did her best at trying to understand her, Misty was different. She didn’t treat her like a kid, or told her that her powers needed to be hidden from the world. Most of all, she didn’t bombard Leona with insensitive questions. But, if Misty knew about what she had done to her father and what happened to her brother in order to get these eyes, would she still feel the same way?
‘ Oh Misty, if you only knew.’
Leona squeezed her hands tightly. “Misty, I-” RING! RING! RING!
Leona’s smartphone went off at the most inconvenient time. She stuffed her hand into her bag and saw that the caller was Cordelia. “I’m sorry Misty, but I do need to take this.”
“No, no, It’s okay! You can answer it.”
Leona scrolled her finger across the bar and held the device to her ear. “Hello? Yes, I know I said I’d be back by six and I know I was supposed to contact you if I was going to stay out later… Yes Ms. Cordelia, I do know what time it is… I just got a little sidetracked, that’s all… I’m near the Bayou, just outside the city… * sigh* You really didn’t have to do that… Look, I should be back in a few hours… 9:00 maybe 9:30 perhaps? … Okay, I’ll see you then… Right… uh, sorry.”
Leona sighed as she put her phone back. Misty looked at her new friend with concern. “Is everything okay?”
“Apparently, my teacher set out a search party for me. Even though I’m only five minutes late! Listen Misty, I’m sorry but I really have to get back have to go home now. I know you haven’t finished fixing my stockings yet, but can I come back tomorrow for them?”
Misty’s smile faltered a bit, but she tried to fake it for Leona’s sake. “Of course, you’re welcome here anytime. Oh! But before I take you to the bus station, take this with you.” Misty handed Leona a small mason jar. “It’s some of that leftover mud. You can use it on your bug bites and the blisters on your feet.”
Leona smiled as she held the jar in her hand. “Thanks Misty.”
Once she put on her shoes and got her stuff together, the two women walked out of the house and down to the station. It was only a few blocks away from the path and since Misty knew the forest well, she knew how to get to and from the station.
“The bus should be coming soon to take you back to the inner city. It runs every hour on the hour so it should be here in about ten minutes. Be safe on you’re way home, okay Leona?”
The young witch gave Misty hug. “I can’t thank you enough for helping me. Oh, and please, call me Leo.”
“You’re more than welcome, Leo. I’ll be looking forward to seeing you again.”
The bus came right on time. After Misty hugged her new friend back, Leona hopped aboard the train and found an empty seat. She waved at her new friend through the window as she faded away in the distance.. As tired as she was, she was quite ecstatic. This was the first witch Leona had met outside of the academy that wasn’t her aunt. Misty was so kind to her and she really seemed really happy in meeting another witch too. Even though Leona was glad that Queenie was nice to her as well, Misty was different. She didn’t have to help her, nor was told she had to be nice to her. But Misty did and out of the goodness of her heart. Perhaps Aunt Darcey was right. Maybe there were witches who could understand her.
After the three hour bus ride, Leona got an Uber to take her back to the academy. She wasn’t looking forward to going inside. She knew she was going to get an earful from Cordelia. The headmistress sounded really pissed off on the phone. Leona only forgot to contact Cordelia after five minutes! Cordelia really did take their safety way too seriously.
The moment she walked in the door, Cordelia was already waiting in the hall. She was tightlipped and her brows were arched inward. “Jesus Leona, We were all worried sick!”
Leona tried to sympathize with the worried teacher, but she did kind of blew the whole thing out of proportion. “I’m sorry, Ms. Cordelia. But it really was only five minutes.”
“A lot can happen in five minutes, Leona. I gave you specific instructions to contact me, if you were unable to come back at the original time. And what happened to your leg and hand?”
This was really starting to get on Leona’s nerves. Couldn’t a witch make a mistake? “I accidentally tripped on a root while I was walking near the swamp.”
“I’m still wondering what you were doing out there in the first place!”
“I just wanted to see more of Louisiana! I thought you said I was free to come and go as I please?”
Cordelia sighed. “I thought you were going to stay within the city limits. Honestly Leona, I don’t think you fully comprehend the situation you’re in.”
This was really starting to piss Leona off. The headmistress was treating her like she was fifteen, for crying out loud! “What? What is it that I don’t comprehend?”
“You’re not like the other girls here! Don’t forget, You’ve been given the most valuable artifacts in the known universe. People would literally kill to get those eyes. Not only that, you have little to know control over your new ability. I promised your aunt that I would look after you. What would she say if something were to happen-”
In her anger, Leona slammed her fist into the wall. It was loud enough to wake the dead. The act alone was enough to startle the headmistress. She couldn’t stop shaking. All Cordelia was running her mouth, scolding her like some stupid teenager! This woman didn’t know anything about the burdons Leona had to carry!
Slowly, she removed her fist from the wall. Leona’s eyes pierced into Cordelia’s soul. “Just so you know Ms. Cordelia, these eyes weren’t “given to me”. My brother and I were forced to make a choice. He offered to give up his sight, while I have to deal with these things in my sockets. I would gladly gouge them out if it meant my brother got to see again! As for my new powers, I never want to use them again. Now, if you don’t mind. I am tired, I stink like shit, my feet are fucking killing me and I want to go back to my room. Thank you and goodnight!”
Leona walked passed Cordelia in a huff. The headmistress just stood in the hallway shocked and confused. She was used to the girls being rebellious but this girl was on a whole other level! Spalding came down to see what was up. Cordelia felt his presence and faced him.
She just started laughing. “She really is Darcey’s niece, isn’t she?”
Leona sat in the tub while the cool water sprinkled on her skin, washing away the sweat. She was mortified. Yelling at Cordelia was uncalled for. The woman was only doing her job. But still, she didn’t being treated as a special case just because she had the all-seeing-eyes of the gods. However, despite being tired and irritable, it wasn’t really a bad day. Yes, Leona did have a rough time dealing with those rednecks, but she met a new witch that day! Even though she was a tad skeptical that the mud would heal her scratches, Misty showed wisdom beyond her years. Perhaps being friends with a witch like her, would make living in New Orleans all worth the while?
After some much needed sleep, Leona got up bright and early. That swamp mud Misty gave her really helped heal her wounds. When she took off the gauze, both her shin and left hand were completely healed! There weren’t any scars either! On top of that, her mosquito bites and blisters also went away thanks to the mud. Leona was so grateful for all she’d done for her, she wanted to give Misty something special as a token of her gratitude. Now, she didn’t have any magical mud. But, she did know how to make a simple yet scrumptious Italian dinner!
Leona didn’t know whether or not Misty was vegetarian. So, she figured a meatless baked ziti with garlic bread would suffice. All of the ingredients needed to make the dish were all in the kitchen. She was using a very simple recipe, and would be ready in about forty minutes. Plus, it was Spalding’s day off so she had the whole kitchen to herself without anyone distracting her.
However, this baked ziti wasn’t just for Misty. Leona decided to give each of the students and Cordelia a serving as an apology. While everyone at the academy had their faults, the young witch realized she hadn’t been the easiest to get along with either. An especially big serving would go to the headmistress. Leona was still embarrassed her anger got the better of her when she came home late that night. Although, she still believed Cordelia was being too overprotective, Leona realized she could have handled the situation better than she did. Cordelia was technically her guardian for the indefinite future, and was only doing what she was tasked with. Plus, her little outburst didn’t help make the teacher’s job any easier. As the eldest, Leona wanted to set a better example for the younger witches of the academy. Making a nice and hearty meal was a good enough start to earn their trust.
The pasta dish was almost ready to come out of the oven. All that was left were the garlic rolls and then she’d be ready to go! Everything certainly smelled delicious. Leona’s mother did say that sharing a delicious meal was a 100% guarantee to help make new friends. What better way to do that than with baked ziti!
As Leona took her culinary triumph out of the oven and into the serving bowls, Nan and Queenie came into the kitchen to see what was up.
“Ooo! Something smells good in here! What’re you cooking?”
Leona smiled as she prepared the servings. “Meatless baked ziti with garlic bread!”
“For breakfast?” asked Nan.
“Well no, I planned to make individual servings for everyone to heat up and eat later.”
Queenie sat down at the table while Leona continued with the meal. “But why did you decide to make this so early in the morning?”
Leona cracked a smile when she asked. “While I was out touring the swamps yesterday, I tripped and scratched up my leg and hand. But, this really cool hippie girl helped me out and gave me this weird mud stuff. It totally healed up my injuries!”
She showed the two teenagers her hand and leg. They weren’t too impressed, since they didn’t see her at all last night. So, the girls had a bit of trouble believing her. But still, Leona wasn’t the type of person to lie.
“It looks exactly like it did when we met.” Queenie said with a look of skepticism. “Can you prove it?”
“Do any of you currently have any cuts or bruises?”
“Actually…” Nan spoke up. “I did accidentally bump my hand against the bedpost.”
The clairvoyant showed Leona and queenie her right hand with a particularly nasty looking bruise. She must have hit it pretty hard. The new witch got up from the table “Wait right here.”
Leona went to go fetch the remaining swamp mud from her room and a big band-aid from the first-aid kit. She placed a dab of the stuff on Nan’s hand and placed the bandage over it. “You can take off the band-aid tomorrow and you’ll find that bruise completely gone.”
They were still a little skeptical, but they decided to go along with it until the next day. Queenie decided to go back to the topic of the pasta dish. “So, you’re making baked ziti to thank her for the mud?”
“Well yeah, and to thank her for patching up my ripped stocking. She said she’d finish it today, so I’ll be going back to the swamp this afternoon.”
Queenie and Nan looked at each other then back at Leona. “Are you sure want to go back there, Leo?” Nan asked with concern in her voice.
“Yeah, Cordelia was kinda pissed you didn’t contact her. Also, we heard your shouting match from upstairs last night. To be honest, I’m rather impressed. You’re the first of us to actually cuss at her.”
Leona felt her cheeks get hot. She didn’t think she was that loud. Well, she did hit the wall pretty hard and their argument wasn’t exactly pleasant.
She fiddled with her thumbs, trying to find the right words. “I know… and I really do feel bad about the whole thing. I mean, yes, I do think Ms. Cordelia was being a little too strict with the rules, but it’s only because she cares. I should have handled the situation better than just snap at her. It’s just that everything’s been so frustrating lately. But, I shouldn’t have taken that out on her. Or any of you, for that matter. So, this baked ziti isn’t just for the girl I’m meeting with. This is a peace offering for all of you too. I haven’t been the easiest to get along with these past few days and I want to make it right.”
Queenie cracked a smile. The human voodoo doll knew that Leona didn’t have to go through all that trouble. However, she thought it was cool that the new girl wanted to put in the effort to get along with everyone. Queenie had always looked out for herself and never really forgave the people who hurt her. Because of her tendency of holding grudges, it made it hard for her to make any friends. Leona was different though. If she felt that she had wronged someone, she did her best to apologize and make amends.
“That’s sweet, Leo. Thanks.”
“Does Madison get a serving too?” Nan asked
Leona didn’t have any intentions of becoming best friends with her. But still, it wouldn’t do anyone good if they were just fighting all the time. “She does indeed. Where is she anyway?”
“She went out last night to some party after you called Cordelia.” Queenie added. “No doubt she’s sleeping off one of her legendary hangovers.”
“I see.” Leona tried to stay calm but her eye started to twitch.
This news irked her quite a bit. So it was okay for Madison, a seventeen year old girl, to wander off into the night partying? But Gods forbid a grown woman like Leona to go off on her own and be out too late! Leona thought about reducing Cordelia’s portion than she originally thought. However, she still felt that she owed her that apology. Even though she knew she was making excuses for Cordelia, it can’t be easy looking after a rehabilitating celebrity like Madison.
Leona got up from her seat and went back to the counter. “In that case, she gets a smaller portion.”
Queenie started to chuckle. “Damn Leo, you kinda suck when it comes to getting back at people.”
“I know.” she laughed as she put the bowls of food away in the fridge. “But, it’s not really in my nature to hold a grudge. It just makes me feel worse. Still, isn’t Madison supposed to be cleaning up her act? What’ll happen if she gets caught?”
“Haven’t been caught yet, New Girl.”
Leona turned around to find the infamous party girl standing in the archway. She had her hair in a side ponytail and wearing nothing but a camisole top and a pair of short shorts that may as well have been panties. The blonde haired witch strolled over to the coffee machine to pour herself a cup.
“Ugh! why does it smell like a vampire hunter’s bachelor pad in here?” she asked with a disgusted look on her face.
The strong fragrance of the garlic bread was pretty strong. Not only that, Leona also put garlic in the tomato sauce for flavor. She realized she should have cracked a window before she started cooking. The smell of garlic never bothered her, but tends to forget that other people aren’t as fond of it.
Leona felt sheepish as the other students were beginning to notice the potency of the vegetable. “Sorry about that. I’ll open a window to let the air in.”
“That still doesn’t answer my question.” Madison sipped her coffee then sat down at the table.
“She was cooking baked ziti this morning.” Nan answered.
“So what, is she Julia Child now or something?”
“C’mon, Leo’s just trying to be friendly.” Queenie understood how hard her new friend was doing her best to be a good housemate. There was no way she was going to let Madison ruin it for her. “At least one of us is putting in the effort to be.”
“Aw, does she think if we all eat her vampire poison, we’ll all be BFFs or something?”
“Bitch, I swear to God!” Before Queenie was about to call out Madison on her bitchy attitude, Leona stepped in. It was about time these girls had a mature role model in their group.
“No, I don’t expect us to be best friends after one meal, Madison. The reason why I’m making this for you guys is because I want to start over. It was wrong of me to lash out at you guys like that. As the oldest, I should have set a better example. Just because I’m currently dealing with these issues, doesn’t mean I should take my frustrations out on you. Cooking for everyone is my way of apologizing for my behavior. If you would like some, your portion is in the fridge if you want to eat it later.”
The kitchen was silent. Queenie and Nan practically had their jaws on the floor. They didn’t expect this at all! Instead of getting into a typical teen cat fight, Leona spoke to her like a mother trying to reason with her child. Madison was also speechless. However, her pride wouldn’t let her admit that Leona had won.
She looked at the new witch and smirked. “I’m on a no carb diet, so no thanks. Besides, this place still reeks of garlic so I’m going to Starbucks. Later, Julia.”
Madison strutted out of the kitchen. The two witches got up from the table and stood beside Leona. Queenie put a hand on her shoulder. “Don’t let her get to you. She just doesn’t want to admit that she made herself sound like more of a bitch than usual.”
“How were you able to to do that?” Nan asked. “There wasn’t any name calling or anything.”
“I was over this teenage bullshit the moment I graduated high school.” She said bluntly. “If I had gotten into a shouting match, I would have given her what she wanted. Common sense was my best weapon of choice.”
“Well, it worked. Besides, if Madison won’t eat her portion, I will.”
“I appreciate it Queenie. But, it’s best to leave it alone. Who knows? Perhaps she’ll change her mind.”
The human voodoo doll decided to back off. Seeing the look on Madison’s dumb face was good enough for her. Once Leona was done putting everyone portions away, she put the rest of the food in a basket. It would be easy to carry on her long trip to the swamps.
“Welp, looks like I have everything ready. Oh! But, before I go…” Leona went over to the counter and fetched a piece of paper. She wanted to apologize to the headmistress for her behavior, but she still felt awkward about the whole thing. “Could one of you give this to Ms. Cordelia for me? I’d talk to her myself, but…”
Queenie took the note from Leona’s hand. “We get it. I’ll make sure that she gets it.”
“Thanks a bunch! I’ll see you guys tonight.”
And with that out of the way, Leona was off to the Bayou. Her little mishap with Madison was unfortunate, but it wasn’t that big a deal. She was just happy to see Misty again. Even though they met through odd circumstances, she was a very fascinating witch. Her knowledge of plant life and their healing properties were astounding for someone who only had a fourth grade education. But that wasn’t important. Misty made Leona feel more at home than anyone else did. Even though Queenie did her best, Leona wasn’t sure if it was truly out of the goodness of her heart, or if it was to just get Cordelia off her back. She didn’t want to think about that now. All that mattered was her day with her new found friend.
When Leona found the commune in the Bayou, she asked one of the residents if Misty was in that afternoon. With a begrudging look in their eyes, they pointed out her bungalow on the far end. There was no doubt that they didn’t take too kindly to outsiders. But, of course they couldn’t refuse an outsider who was pure enough to bring lunch for their friend. On top of that, they knew Misty helped Leona when she was lost and hurt in those woods. It was only natural she wanted to show her gratitude to the kind hearted woman.
Leona approached Misty’s little house and knocked on the door. She could hear Stevie Nicks from the inside. However, it was quickly turned off as soon as her knuckles hit the door. Sounds of footsteps quickly came to the entrance.
As soon as Misty opened up for her, she immediately smiled. “Leo! You made it! Come in, come in, don’t be a stranger. I have your stockings right there on the table.”
Leona took her stockings and looked them over. The stitching was so small the garment looked like it was never torn. “Wow! They look as good as new! Thank you so much, Misty. Oh! And thanks for the swamp mud. You were right, my scratches are all healed up now. It even worked wonders for my bugbites and blisters! You really know your stuff.”
The swamp witch blushed as she played with one of her curls. “I do what I can. Besides, it’s all just basic knowledge really.”
“Yeah, knowledge that no other witch knows about! You’re incredible, Misty.”
“Oh stop, you’re making me blush, Leo.”
Humble and talented to boot, Leona didn’t know why someone like Misty wasn’t living at the academy. Honestly, she would be safer there than at a religious commune. However, she didn’t want to press that question so soon. Leona just wanted to give Misty her thank you gift.
“Oh yeah, if you’re not doing anything right now, I made this for you.”
Leona took the baked ziti and garlic bread from the basket. Misty took a whiff of the food she could practically taste how delicious it was.
“Mmmm… I thought I smelled something good from that basket.”
The new witch chuckled. “You were right! I wanted to thank you for all you’ve done for me yesterday. It’s not all-healing mud, but I figured an Italian brunch would be good enough. I didn’t know whether or not you were vegetarian, so I made a meatless baked ziti. Is that okay?”
“Well aren’t you sweet?” Misty said as she smiled brightly at her new friend. “I’m sure it will taste absolutely amazin’. I’ll go grab us some plates and utensils. If you could get the ice tea from the fridge, that would be great.”
Once they set up the table, the two witches immediately dug into their meal. Misty foodgamsed at the first bite. “Mmmmmm! This baked ziti is heaven! You’re a really good cook, Leona.”
She blushed after being praised for her food. “Oh it’s nothing really. It’s a simple dish that anyone could make. I’ll give you the recipe if you’re interested.”
“What else can you cook?”
“I’ve gotten pretty good with Italian cuisine thanks to my mom and her many relatives. Let’s see, I can make spaghetti and meatballs, obviously. Um, lasagna with meat sauce, linguine bolognese, chicken parmigiana, cheesecake and apple pie. Oh! And I can cook simple American dishes too.”
Misty was practically drooling. Leona wondered what on earth was this commune feeding her? “Wow! And you said you learned all that from your mama and her relatives, right? Are they all Italian?”
“Yep! Her family is very close. Me, my brother, our mom, and Aunt Darcey visit them every year for Easter. We have a big potluck dinner and everyone brings something special for brunch after church is over. It’s fun!”
“Aunt Darcey?” Misty asked. “What, is she not related to your mother?”
“She’s my mom’s sister-in-law. Aunt Darcey is… was my father’s younger sister.”
Misty frowned as she placed her knife and fork on her plate. “Was?”
Leona flinched, she probably should have stuck with the present tense but it was too late. Better to be honest that her father was no longer around. “He passed away last week… accident.”
“I’m sorry for your loss, Leo.” Misty gently took her hand. “I know how hard it is to lose a daddy.”
Leona clenched her fist in Misty’s palm. She probably thought that her father was a loving man in life. However, her “daddy” was a narcissistic monster. He never even bothered to raise her. The only two people who raised Leona into the woman she was, was her mother and Aunt Darcey. All he did was put her down, belittled and patronized her. Whenever Leona found the smallest bit of happiness in her life, her father saw to it to take it away from her. Instead, he focused all of his love and attention on her brother, Michael. However, she doubted it was love in the first place. Michael hated the attention he received from their father. Charles Watch only wanted a son, so he could live vicariously through him. Leona still remembered how furious their dad was when Michael announced he wanted to study to be an illustrator instead of a neurosurgeon like Charles was. And by furious, it meant her father would act passive-aggressively towards his own family if something didn’t go his way. If Leona was being honest, her father didn’t know how to love anyone or anything other than himself. He certainly knew how to act the part of a loving father in public. But in private… He couldn’t care less about her.
A twisted part of Leona felt glad that her father was gone. Especially after everything he did to make her and her family suffer. But as always, Leona’s morality would snap her out of it. No one deserved to die the way Charles did. Even though she did hate him, he was still her father.
Leona’s bangs covered her eyes as she stared down at the stray ziti noodles. “Yeah…”
Her voice sounded so strained. Despite Misty’s lack of intelligence, she knew very well how to read a room. Deep down, the swamp witch knew that her friend’s situation with her father was more complicated than she wanted people to realize. However, Misty didn’t want to drive her new friend off with any questions that would make her feel uncomfortable. It was for the best that she changed the subject.
“Well anyway, care to tell me more about the dinners you’ve had with your family? They sound like a hoot.”
Leona lifted her head up. There were a few small tears in the corners of her eyes, but she blinked them out of the way. She was more than willing to talk about anything other than her dad at that point.
Despite the somber tone regarding her father, it soon melted away. The moment Leona started chatting about the numerous family reunions and potlucks she’d been too over the years, she couldn’t stop! Misty listened to her like a child hearing a bedtime story.
“Now don’t get me wrong, My Aunt Carmen is a beautiful woman. She even taught me how to make a decent Chicago-style cheesecake. However, her lasagna is so dense, you could anchor a boat with it!”
“Holy crap! Haha! I’m guessing she’s not the one who taught you how to make that one.” Misty said while eating a piece of garlic bread.
“No, that was my grandmother. But, here’s what went down. I think I was around fifteen at the time. All of our family’s spring breaks aligned with each other, so we all decided to go to the old homestead in Tuscany for Easter. Everyone brought their signature dishes to brunch that day. Including, Aunt Carmen’s infamous lasagna. Now, the family didn’t want to hurt her feelings so they never told her how bad it was. However, the moment everyone took a bite and swallowed that lasagna, all of the dining chairs simultaneously broke! All of us fell flat on our asses after eating that thing!”
The two women howled with laughter. Misty never heard something so funny in all her life! “Hahahaha! Oh man, that was a goodin, Leo! But, nobody got hurt, I hope?”
“No, we were all fine.” Leona said while wiping away a tear. “But, poor Auntie Carmen was so embarrassed though. She never cooked another lasagna again after that and just brings her cheesecake instead. Fortunately, she got over it and we all have a good laugh whenever we bring up this story.”
“That’s good to hear.” Misty said while chuckling. “You know, I haven’t had a good laugh like that in a long time. You’re a really sweet and funny girl, Leo. I’m so glad we found each other.”
Leona felt her heart skip a beat the moment her hand touched hers. Misty really did look pretty when she smiled at her like that. Feeling a blush creep across her face, she bent her head down and fiddled with the rest of the stray pasta.
“Uh, me too, Misty.”
“Now don’t get me wrong, your pasta was excellent. However…” The swamp witch placed her hands over her belly as she leaned back in her chair. “I think my own chairs will break if I eat anymore.”
Leona laughed since she felt her tummy was getting full too. “We don’t want that, now do we? But, I’m glad you enjoyed it.”
“You’re very welcome, Leona. You know, it’s such a beautiful day out. Why don’t we go out for a walk around the bayou?”
She checked her phone for the time. It was still pretty early, so Leona had plenty of time before the three o’clock bus. As long as she kept track of time, she didn’t see any harm in a little walk to help burn off brunch.
“Sure, that sounds great.”
When the two of them walked out of the house, eyes filled with distrust were piercing through Leona. Once they were away from the community, they were free to talk. “I get the feeling these people don’t like me that much.”
“Yeah, they don’t take too kindly to outsiders.”
“Hmm, maybe it’s for the best to hang out outside the commune. Either we just stay in the Bayou, the nearby town, or you can come see me in the city.”
Misty seemed hesitant for a minute. She really didn’t like leaving her bungalow or the swamp areas. However, she didn’t want to cause Leona any trouble if the commune wasn’t going to be welcoming to her.
“You might be right.”
“Do you have a phone, so I can contact you?” Leona asked.
“We aren’t allowed to have mobiles. There is the landline at the main house, but we’re only allowed to use it once a day.”
“That’s fine. Here, let me just…” Leona reached into her bag. She tore out a piece of paper from her notepad and started scribbling her cell number on it. “Since it would probably an issue if I called the landline, you can contact me instead. This number will lead directly to my smartphone. Whenever you feel like you want to talk or hang out, just call me. However, the place I’m staying at requires me to participate in morning and afternoon lessons. So, the best time to contact me is after 1:30 PM. Also, considering we both have a bit of a journey to see each other, it’s better to meet halfway and spend time together at a nearby town.”
Misty took the scrap of paper and placed it in her little drawstring bag. “All of that’s fine, as long as we get to see each other.”
Leona smiled. “Sweet! Well, lead the way Misty.”
Misty and Leona walked around the swamp area for about an hour. Fortunately, there weren’t any perverted rednecks to bother them. The pair spent their time away from the forest and near the parks instead. The grounds had absolutely luscious weeping willows, people would sit under them to rest their feet. They even bumped into a few members from Misty’s commune. Even though the ones within the community didn’t warm up to Leona, some of them were pretty friendly. As it turns out, some of them really adored Misty. Whenever someone got hurt, she would lend her mud to them and they’d feel all better. This fact made Leona a little concerned. There was no doubt that some of the people from the commune found this to be a work of god. However, this could also be taken the wrong way if rumors started to spread. This commune really wasn’t the best place for her new friend. Perhaps, Misty would be safer at the academy? However, Leona didn’t know how the swamp witch would feel about it. Sure, Misty would be among her sister witches, but she didn’t know how she would feel about living with a bunch of nosey teenagers. As much as she wanted to ask Misty about moving into the academy, Leona thought it was best to keep the question tabled. For the time being at least.
When it was time to head back, Misty stopped in her tracks. Leona turned back to see what was wrong. Her friend was completely still. Misty’s eyes darting around as if she was looking for something.
“What’s the matter, Misty?” Leona asked
“Do you smell that?”
Leona took a whiff about the air, but didn’t smell anything out of the ordinary. “I’m sorry, no. Why, do you smell something? Do you think someone left a campfire burning somewhere?”
“No, no that.” Misty said with a hint of caution in her voice. “It smells like death.”
This information was really starting to freak Leona out. “Misty, you’re kind of scaring me right now. Should we just keep walking?”
The swamp witch didn’t respond. Instead, she kept walking ahead of Leona. This didn’t make any sense. If there was trouble brewing, they should get the hell out of that forest. But, Misty was perfectly calm as she walked quickly towards the big tree.
“Misty, where are you going? Hey, wait up!”
As the pair approached the tree, Misty looked down at the bottom of the trunk. Leona followed Misty’s gaze and was disturbed and saddened by what she saw. A little grey warbler laid at the foot of the tree completely still and lifeless. That’s what Misty must have smelled. They continued staring at the dead creature for a few more minutes.
“Poor thing.” Leona said sadly.
Misty didn’t say anything. Instead, she did something Leona didn’t expect. The swamp witch bent down and scooped up the bird in her hands. Leona was a little grossed out that her new friend was picking up a dead animal without any gloves on.
“Oh, Misty you shouldn’t pick it up like that. You might get sick.”
Still remaining quiet, Misty enfolded the creature within her palms and closed her eyes. In that moment, Leona felt a strange energy in the air. The hairs on her arms and neck began to stand on end as a tingle ran down her spine. Misty’s eyes opened, and a small chirping could be heard within her hands. Leona couldn’t believe her eyes. She knew knew that bird was dead. But now, it’s little aura was softly glowing around its body. Leona didn’t know how she did it, but… she did. Misty brought that little warbler back to life!
The swamp witch raised her hand as the bird flew away out of sight. Leona’s glass eyes were about to pop out of their sockets, as she continued staring a hole through Misty. She still couldn’t believe what she saw! Leona knew that miracles did exist in this world, but she never thought this could be one of them. Could it be that Misty was something more than a witch? She didn’t know. But it was clear as day that Misty was truly something special.
When the bird was out of sight, Misty’s body began to sway back and forth. Before she could hit the ground, Leona caught her just in time.
“Are you okay, Misty?”
The swamp witch rubbed her forehead. “I’m feelin’ a bit woozy.”
Leona helped get Misty off the ground. She put her arm around her waist to keep her friend steady. “Come on, let’s get you to the bungalow.”
Once they got back, Leona helped Misty to her and cott and placed a blanket over her. As she sat by her side, so many questions were running through her mind. She still couldn’t find the words to express how beguiled she was.
“Okay, that was… wow. Just, wow! Misty, how on earth were you able to do that?”
“I’ve had that power for as long as I can remember. I just can’t stand the thought of animals suffering a cruel death like that. Some people and animals just aren’t meant to die yet.”
Misty might as well have been the Messiah. This kind of power really is incredible. “You really are amazing, you know that?”
The swamp witch smiled a bit, but then it faltered. “Not everyone feels that way about me. People still think I’m a freak.”
“They’re crazy!” Leona shouted. “Think of how many lives you could save with that power? Misty, you have a truly astounding gift. While mine, they… they just cause my family trouble.”
Leona’s friend got from her bed. “That’s not true. You may not realize it, but you’re special too. You have the power to take on any form you want. And you have a precious artifact from the gods themselves! That's very incredible, Leo.”
She blushed at Misty’s words. She didn’t really feel all that incredible. “It’s not exactly a useful power. Besides, these eyes came at the price of my brother’s sight. I would do anything to give it back to him.”
For some witches, the grass seems greener on the other side. There are some powers that witches desired and some to have taken away. Heck, some wished they weren’t a witch at all. Even though Leona saw how amazing the power to bring people back from the dead was, Misty didn’t entirely feel the same way. Just like Leona, her powers have caused trouble for her family as well. That was the reason why she was constantly moving from place to place about Louisiana. The swamp witch envied her friend’s powers, but understood, her life wasn’t easy either. Even though Misty didn’t know Leona well enough yet, she hoped that in time, she would open up about herself.
Before Leona could say another word, the alarm on her phone went off. It was to catch the next bus back to the city.
“Shoot, it’s late. Sorry Misty, but I have to leave now. The bus will be coming soon.”
“Do you have to leave now?”
Poor Misty looked so sad when she asked that. As much as hated to go, she really didn’t want to cause any more trouble for the headmistress. “I’m afraid so. My teacher was really really pissed when I came home late last night. So, I have to go home before six. But remember, you can always call me on my cell whenever you want to talk or hang out. I’ll answer no matter what.”
Leona held her hand. “I promise.”
“Thanks Leo. Now go on, you don’t want to miss your bus.”
“I won’t, but thanks again for the stockings. I had a lot of fun today. I’ll give you my baked ziti recipe the next time we see each other.”
“I’ll look forward to that.” Misty said with a smile. “Take care now.”
When Leona’s bus got to the inner city, she walked straight back to the academy. However, she was a little reluctant to go inside. But she knew she couldn’t avoid Cordelia forever. The headmistress was busy attending to her plants and potions in the greenhouse. Leona felt so awkward, being there, but she needed to apologize for her behavior.
The teacher turned away from her work table and saw her new charge standing uncomfortably in at the door. “Ah, you’re back! Did you have a good afternoon, Leo.”
“I did, thanks.”
She rubbed the back of her neck, trying to figure out what to say next. “Um… listen, I’m really sorry about last night. I was really tired and sore, but I shouldn’t have yelled at you like that.”
Cordelia put her sheers away and walked towards her student. “You said as much in your note. However, I need to apologize too. I forget that you’re the oldest of my girls and yet I’ve been treating you like you’re their age. You have every right to do as you please while you’re staying with us, but I still get nervous when you guys stay out too late. We still have enemies outside this academy and I just want to make sure you’re all safe.
Leona looked down as she twiddled her thumbs. “I know, and I’m sorry I’ve been making things more difficult for you.”
“Don’t be. You’ve had a very difficult week and you have every right to feel frustrated. But like I said before, this place will feel more like home to you in time.”
“I want to believe that Ma’am, I really do.”
Cordelia smiled as she took her student by the hand and lead her to the work table. “You know, as strange as it may sound, our argument made me feel a bit nostalgic.”
Leona gave her teacher a confused expression. “You’re right it does sound weird. Why do you say that?”
“Your Aunt Darcey used to have the occasional outburst too when we were students here at the academy. She had a tendency of keeping her feelings bottled up, and would lash out when someone rubbed her the wrong way.”
Leona was very surprised. She knew her Aunt was a tad snarky, but she never saw her angry in her life. It was kind of hard to imagine her intelligent and composed Aunt blowing up at someone who upset her. “She really did that as a teenager?”
“Indeed she did. Just like last night, she would hit walls, say some choice words, and slam doors.”
“Jesus.” Leona said breathlessly. “Did she throw these tantrums often?”
“No, they happened once in a blue moon. Of course, Darcey would feel terrible about it the next day and would try to make it up to us.”
“Just like I did this morning with the baked ziti.”
Cordelia chuckled. “Yes, but unlike her, you’re a better cook. She always made cupcakes for me, Myrtle, and the rest of our class. They tasted like crap every time she baked those things, but it’s the thought that counts.”
“Oh yeah, even to this day she isn’t a great cook. Haha, Aunt Darcey tried to bake cookies for me and my brother when we were kids and one of them broke Michael’s baby teeth. From then on, she decided to just buy baked goods instead.”
“It’s good to know she finally realized she shouldn’t be around an oven.”
Cordelia and Leona laughed out loud. She was glad she was finally getting along with the headmistress. “Say, were you two close when you attended the academy?”
“Very.” The headmistress said matter of factly. “I arrived five months after she did and I wasn’t emotionally ready to go to boarding school. The transition was tough but it was all thanks to Myrtle and your Aunt that I was able to get through my first year. Darcey was a few years older than me, but we became fast friends not long afterwards. We both had issues with our families and Myrtle Snow treated us as her own adopted daughters. None of us could go home during the holidays, so we would spend them with her. I remember those fun time with your Aunt rather fondly.”
“Family issues, huh…”
Leona knew that her aunt wasn’t particularly close to her parents. And her relationship with her elder brother was particularly bad. However, Darcey never really explained what caused the relationship with Leona’s paternal grandparents to be so strained. Could it have something to do with Charles? Every time she came to visit her sister-in-law, niece, and nephew, she always looked uncomfortable when Leona’s father was in the room. And of course, having a normal conversation with one another was impossible since it would always end up in a huge fight. Leona hated seeing that as a child. There was no doubt in her mind that her father hated his sister because of her status as a witch. But what could have caused Darcey to stay away from her family, and why did she come back when Charles announced he was engaged?
Despite all the questions going through Leona’s mind, she figured having strained familial relationships was all part of being a witch. As sad as that was. “Must run in the family I guess.”
“All families of witches are different, Leona.” Cordelia said while pruning some of her herbs. “While some are supportive and want their child protected, some live in fear of their child being a witch and want nothing to do with them. That’s why most families choose not to have children when they discover they carry the bloodline.”
“I get it now. However, did Aunt Darcey ever tell you why she never visited her family, even after she graduated?”
The headmistress gripped her sheers tightly. “I… I’m not free to say. I know you two are family and you have every right to know. However, this is something you need to ask her yourself. You understand?”
As irritated as she was because of the endless secrets, Leona realized Cordelia had a point. She was only trying to protect her friend, and it really was up to Leona to ask Darcey about her past.
“I do, Thanks for talking with me and again, I’m sorry about my behavior last night.”
“Don’t worry, all is forgiven. I’ll see you at dinner.”
Just as Leona was about to walk back to her room, she stopped in her tracks. On top of her apology, she thought it was fair to give a proper explain why it took her so long to get hope that night. Not only that, Cordelia needed to know about her new swamp witch friend, Misty Day. She turned around to face the headmistress again.
Leona rubbed her neck. “Actually… there’s one more thing I need to talk to you about.”
“So, what you’re telling me, is that you saw this girl bring a dead bird back from the dead?” Cordelia asked.
“Yes, and she’s also the reason why my scratches healed overnight thanks to the swamp mud Misty gave me.”
Leona told the headmistress everything that happened while she was in the Louisiana Swamp. From getting lost, her encounter with the rednecks, and meeting the swamp witch, Misty Day. Because of her fight with Cordelia she was too vague as to why she was late. But, more importantly, there was another witch in Louisiana, and Cordelia had to know about her. Misty was truly a special witch and there was no doubt that Leona’s teacher would not turn a sister away.
After Leona said her piece about her new friend, Cordelia was speechless. She was glad to know there were still witches out there, but she was greatly concerned. “So… she has been blessed with the gift of resurgence.”
“The power of resurgence is a very rare ability. In fact, it has been inaccessible to a majority of past supremes.”
Leona was confused. “I don’t understand, is there more to this power than just bringing people and animals back to life?”
“Tell me something, Leona.” Cordelia said with a stern voice. “Did this bird looked like it was dead for a while?”
“Well yeah… it looked like it’s been dead for at least a week. Plus, it’s wing was broken. So, I guess it must have died from starvation. But, when Misty brought it back, it’s wing was completely healed and was able to fly again.”
“That’s what makes this power so special, Leo. Not only does it bring living things back from the dead, it also has the ability to cure past ailments and restore the body to its natural state if there were any noticeable injuries.”
“Woah…” Leona knew that her friend was powerful, but this was a whole new level! “Do you think her power can make people immortal too?”
“No. All living things die eventually. They may live longer than expected, but even those who were touched by the power of resurgence will die when their time is up. But, back to the matter at hand. You also mentioned that Misty is currently residing with a Pentecostal Commune, correct?”
“Yeah, that’s right. What do you want to know?”
Cordelia sat back down on her stool. She was quiet for a minute as she placed her face in her hands. Soon enough, the headmistress looked directly into her pupil’s eyes. “Misty needs to get the hell out of there, Leo. If people within her community found out about her ability, they’re going to hurt her.”
Leona had a feeling they would. However, did Cordelia really believe that a bunch of god fearing Christains would actually think of commiting murder against one of their own?
“Probably, but I did meet a few people in the commune who are really nice to her. What if they think her gift was something given to her from God or something?”
“Some of them might.” Cordelia started. “However, there are also plenty who will believe her to be a necromancer. And trust me, Leona, they would gladly burn her alive for the sake of their religion.”
The very thought made Leona feel sick. If these people really are twisted enough to kill Misty just because of what she was born with, she was in more danger than she originally realized.
“What should we do?” she asked.
“The best thing to do, is to bring her here. Not only will she be under the protection of the coven, she will be able to learn how to control her powers better. Did you give her your contact info?”
“I did, but she isn’t allowed to have any technology with her. Her only source of communication with the outside world is the commune’s landline in their main building.”
“Hmm… This does complicate things.” Cordelia contemplated the situation thoroughly. “But no matter. We will try everything in our power to bring her over to us. Our kind is already headed for extinction, and we can’t let another one of us die.”
“What do you want me to do?”
“What you’ve been doing these past few days. Continue meeting and talking with her. Gain her trust. From what you’ve told me, Misty’s already taken a liking to you. So, it shouldn’t be to hard. But please, try and stay away from that commune as much as you possibly can. They’ll end up suspicious if you keep going there. When you’ve built a strong friendship with Misty, bring her to the academy immediately.”
This was pretty overwhelming. Leona had every intention of getting close to Misty, since she felt that woman understood her more than anyone else at the academy. However, the way Cordelia was saying all these things, made it seem like she was using Misty somehow. Of course, she wanted her new friend to be safe, but she didn’t want to trick her either. However, would it really be called tricking? Misty would be among other witches and on top of that, would be closer to her new friend. It wasn’t a bad idea at all really. Plus, Misty’s presence would make Leona’s indefinite stay at the academy more bearable. Maybe it was all for the best.
Leona sighed as she made her decision.
“I’ll do it.”
A full week had passed since Leona’s arrival to New Orleans. However, she felt that so much had happened within her first three days living at Miss Robichaux's Academy. First, was her less-than graceful introduction to the headmistress and students. Second, her encounter with the swamp witch, Misty Day. And now, she is being tasked to convince her new friend to come join the coven. Even though Leona knew this was for Misty’s protection, she wondered if she would even like living with Cordelia and the girls.
There wasn’t any doubt that Queenie and Nan would try to do their part to make her feel welcome. Madison on the other hand, was a different story. However, Leona would defend Misty if Madison was ever mean to her. Besides, having her new friend living at the academy would not be a bad thing. Far from it actually. Heck, she wouldn’t even mind sharing a room with the swamp witch if need be. Leona’s indefinite stay would certainly be more tolerable as long as Misty was by her side.
But, there was something else that was on Leona’s mind. That Sunday when she went to visit Misty, she couldn’t help but feel… something, for the enchanting swamp witch. Leona had figured out her attraction to both men and women since middle school. Of course, because of her status as a witch, this made dating a challenge for her. However, Misty was different. She treated the new witch with such kindness and compassion. She wasn’t spoiled like Madison, distant like Queenie or intrusive like Nan. Just the thought of Misty touching her hand was enough to get her heart racing. It could have been a simple crush. But, Leona wanted to cherish some hope that Misty may feel something for her too.
However, Leona’s own feelings were going to have to wait. For the time being she needed to get closer to Misty and convince her to live at Miss Robichaux's. Hopefully, it wouldn’t be too hard to do. She figured a few weeks would be enough time to build a solid friendship with her. At first she was worried the morning and afternoon gatherings would interfere with her task. Fortunately, Cordelia exempted Leona from attending the midday sessions when Leona’s meetups were planned. That way she could spend the rest of her afternoons with Misty. However, since Leona couldn’t call her directly out of fear of the commune, it was all up to Misty.
The swamp witch called Leona that Tuesday. Because they couldn’t go hang out at Misty’s bungalow too often, they had to meet outside the swamp or halfway from their respective homes. And of course, they couldn’t meet up everyday of the week. Otherwise, the puritan community would become suspicious of their activities. They made their distrust of outsiders abundantly clear since Misty let her into the commune.
However, the two witches didn’t let that spoil their fun. Misty was always thrilled when Leona hung out with her. She also learned a little bit more about her swamp witch friend. Apparently, Misty have been raised from hillbilly stock her whole life. She had discovered her resurgence ability from a very early age. When she was only eight years old, Misty had brought back the lives of insects and small animals. For a while she had kept her powers to herself. But that all changed when she was ten years old.
Her powers were discovered after she had brought a dead frog back to life in her fifth grade biology class. At first the teacher thought she brought in a live one as a prank. He forced the poor girl to dissect it alive. When Misty brought the amphibian back a second time, her parents were called. They were far from impressed by what they had just heard. She was taken out of school shortly after that.
After her parents forced her to drop out of school, Misty was forced to endure the abuse from her family on a constant basis. They tried everything to get her powers out of her through prayer, exorcisms, and beatings. Life had become a nightmare for the poor swamp witch. And all of this happened because Misty was born with powers she didn’t even ask for.
By the time she turned fifteen, she had enough of her parent’s abuse and became a runaway. Misty had gone through every homeless shelter and youth hostel in Louisiana. She had to work menial jobs just to make ends meet. But because of her powers, people became wary of her. She would usually get fired or kicked out of her place of lodging after a few months or so.
When she was eighteen, she had been wandering the swamps of Louisiana for months. She had been kicked out of nearly every shelter at that point and didn’t have anywhere to go. Misty had stumbled upon the puritan commune by chance when she passed out from starvation and exhaustion. After a few weeks of helping the swamp witch get her strength back, they offered her a place to stay. She was a bit reluctant at first because of fear of the community finding out about her powers. However, she didn’t really have a choice. It was either the commune or be homeless again. Misty had been living in that community ever since.
Leona was surprised Misty was able to last that long. After what she said about being kicked out of the local shelters in a short amount of time, she figured the swamp witch would have been out on her ear by now. Fortunately, by the time she turned nineteen she had mastered her abilities and kept them sacred from the puritan community. As impressed as she was, Leona knew that her days at the commune were numbered. The cracks were starting to show and it was only a matter of time before one of the puritans found out about Misty’s status as a witch. Leona needed to get her friend out of that place as soon as possible.
When Leona went to visit Misty on Thursday, she had to tell her that they would have to put off their next meetup until the following Monday. The swamp witch was rather put off by this news.
“I don’t understand.” She said in a confused tone. It almost sounded like she was going to cry. “Was it something I did? Why can’t we see each other this weekend?”
Leona was surprised by Misty’s sudden mood swing. By the time she arrived, Misty was absolutely beaming. Why the sudden change in behavior?
“What? No, you didn’t do anything. It’s just that my Aunt is coming to visit this weekend to check up on me and bring the rest of my stuff. I told you about my Aunt Darcey, remember?”
“Well yeah, but… but… Can’t you visit on Sunday? You know, when she leaves?”
Now she was starting to get concerned. Misty had always been reluctant to let Leona go when she had to be back at the academy before nightfall. However, the swamp witch was being more pushy than usual.
“I wish I could, but she won’t be leaving until late Sunday afternoon. Besides, the bus rides to the swamps are long and I don’t want to miss curfew again.”
As Leona was getting her stuff ready to go, Misty was becoming visibly distressed. She kept scratching at her arm and tapping her heel on the wooden floor of the bungalow. However, the swamp witch’s friend didn’t notice and kept talking.
“Also, I was thinking of changing our visits from every other day to two days. I’ve noticed that the people around here have been more aware of our meetups and I just want to take necessary precautions so that-”
Out of nowhere, Misty grabbed her friend’s knapsack and threw it across the room. “NO!”
Leona stared at Misty like a deer in the headlights, dumbfounded by what had transpired. This was the first time she ever saw her friend so upset. Her shoulders were shaking and fat tears were rolling down her cheeks. Misty immediately broke down as she placed her head into Leona’s lap. She wrapped her arms around her waist with no intention of letting go.
“Please… please…” The swamp witch sobbed. “Please don’t leave me alone… I don’t want to be alone again! I don’t know what I did, but I’m sorry!”
Leona’s chest felt tight as Misty was choking on her words through heart wrenching cries. She was completely mortified.
“I’m such an idiot.” She bitterly thought to herself.
This poor girl had been abandoned by everyone she cared about her whole life. Then all of a sudden, she meets a witch who finally understands and likes her for who she is… Of course Misty would develop separation anxiety after all those years of neglect. Who wouldn’t in that situation? The two witches grew up with different circumstances but, Misty’s story resonated with her own. Just like the swamp witch, Leona knew what it was like to be abandoned by a member of her own family. She never had to live a life on the run and had a great support group in her aunt, mother and brother. But even so, there were times she felt like a stranger in her own home. Her father was mostly to blame for that, but sometimes she would notice her mother being on edge around her when they were alone. Even if her mom never meant to her hurt her feelings, it still stung regardless. Misty and Leona were different, but they knew how lonely a witch’s life could be.
Leona caressed Misty’s curly blonde to help calm her down. She wondered if she should stay with the vulnerable witch a little while longer. Surely, Cordelia would approve considering the circumstances? However, deep down Leona knew that pacifying her friend wouldn’t solve her problems. If anything, it would only make things worse. She needed to talk to Misty and reassure her that she wouldn’t abandon her. Misty probably would have a hard time accepting it at first, but still, it was the right thing to do.
Once Misty’s sobs turned into quiet whimpers, Leona gently lifted her head off of her lap. She got down on her knees and held her friend's face in her hands as she wiped away any stray tears. It tore her up inside to see Misty this way.
“Misty…” Leona started. “I’m so sorry. All of the signs were there every time I needed to go home, but… I just couldn’t see them. Here I am with the all-seeing-eyes of the gods and yet I’m blind to the suffering of my friend.”
“Leo… you wouldn’t have known.”
“ No.” She choked. “I should have known your anxiety would boil over the more time I spent with you. But believe me, I would never abandon you! Unlike the students at the academy, you actually care about your sister witches. You don’t judge me, or make fun of my problems. You’re the first witch outside my family I’ve ever gotten close with. And I don’t want to give that up. So, will you forgive me for being insensitive?”
Misty looked into her friend’s mysterious, blue, glass eyes. Leona said she was being insensitive to her feelings. But, she was the exact opposite of that. During their last few visits, her friend was the most attentive listener she’d ever known. On top of that, Leona had never missed a visit since their first meeting. Deep down, Misty knew Leona wouldn’t abandon her so easily. Even though she’s only known the holder of the eyes for a short amount of time, Leona already had become a soul sister to her. Maybe… maybe things could be different this time?
Misty sighed and lifted her and Leona off the floor. “There’s no need to apologize, Leo. I know you meant well. And you’re right. Everyone’s been more on edge lately and we do need to be careful. It’s just that I’ve felt so alone for a long time and then you came around… I was scared you were getting tired of me or thought I was bein’ too clingy. So, I freaked out.”
Leona gave a half smile. “I know how that feels. Anxiety’s a bitch.”
“Heh, that she is.”
The girls were able to get a laugh out of that. She was glad that Misty was feeling a little better after her breakdown. “But still, I shouldn’t have brought that on you all at once. We’ve only hung out together for a few days. It was probably too soon to bring it up.”
“Yeah, perhaps…” There was dead silence for a moment, but it didn’t take long for Misty to speak up. “ Maybe we could just take it one step at a time? Then I’ll feel ready to go along with your two day plan?”
“That’s fine, whatever makes you feel comfortable. However, I still need this weekend to spend time with my aunt. She’ll be busy with her fall collection these next few months and I won’t be able to see her for a while.”
“I understand.” Misty said sadly. She knew her friend needed to be with her aunt for the weekend, but she was still bummed about not seeing her. Fortunately, Leona had a perfect remedy for this.
“I’ll tell you what, How about I ask Ms. Cordelia to give me Monday off to spend time with you?”
Misty smiled for a bit, but then faltered. “Do you think she’ll be okay with that? I don’t want to impose or nothin’.”
“I think it’ll be fine. If I explain the circumstances, I’m sure she’ll understand. Also, I’ve been thinking…” Leona smiled impishly and took Misty’s hands. “Since I always come to visit you, why don’t you come to the city to see me?”
Misty was surprised. She hadn’t been to New Orleans since she was a little kid. Also, she was very worried about being away from the commune for too long. “I dunno, Leo…”
“It’ll be fun! We’ll go sight-seeing, have some lunch, do some shopping. Everything will be awesome. And I promise we’ll get you back home before anyone suspects anything.”
Misty was still a little nervous about going. She didn’t want to get in trouble with the commune. If she did, they probably would forbid her from seeing Leona again and she didn’t want that. However, perhaps if she came up with an excuse, like running some errands in town, then it shouldn’t be too much of a hassle. Just as long as she made it back in time for evening prayer, one day trip shouldn’t do them any harm. Still, there were many reasons why she shouldn’t go too. This was tough.
Leona could tell Misty was still a little hesitant. However, she knew the best offer that would make it impossible for her friend to refuse.
“Also, there’s this neat little record store right by the French Quarter. I believe we might be able to find some albums by Stevie Nicks while we’re there.”
The moment Leona said the words Stevie and Nicks, Misty was immediately sold on the day trip. “You really think think we’ll find Stevie?”
“Totally! I’ve been in that store a few times and I remember seeing a few of her records on sale.”
Despite her fear of getting into trouble, she knew it would be worth it if she got some Stevie Nicks related souvenirs from the trip. “Okay, okay, you’ve twisted my arm, Leo. I’ll come to New Orleans!”
The two friends hugged, elated that they would spend the whole day together on Monday. Leona was happy that she was able to alleviate the drama that had transpired a few minutes ago. However, she couldn’t help but wonder if she was making the right choice? Misty had every right to feel wary. This day trip could cause some serious problems regarding future meetups. The swamp witch was already making her community feel more and more suspicious of her activities since Leona came into her life. If these people really were puritan fanatics, they would probably force Misty to never see her friend again. On the other hand, if they were as Cordelia described, they could seriously hurt her or worse. The very thought caused a lump to form in Leona’s throat. It would break her heart if she couldn’t be with Misty or if she got hurt because of her own reckless ideas.
However, Leona knew that all was not lost yet. Perhaps, the visit could inspire Misty to leave the commune? After getting a taste of freedom of the big city, Leona could convince her to come live at the academy. The eyes user could tell that Misty would absolutely love everything that the city had to offer. She could listen to Stevie Nicks to her heart’s content and hang all the posters up in her room without getting in trouble. On top of that, she will be in a community of witches just like her and will be under the protection of the coven. Was it a perfect community? No. But still, it was better than living in fear with the commune. One thing Leona knew for certain was that time was running out. And the last thing she wanted was for Misty to suffer the consequences if they waited to long. The day trip was a bit of a long shot, but it was the best hope Leona had in order to persuade her friend into joining the coven.
She would just have to wait and see until then.
For as long as Leona could remember, Aunt Darcey has always been the most glamorous and outgoing woman she’s ever met. She figured Myrtle Snow had something to do with her eccentric personality and sense of style. However, that never fazed the young witch one bit. If anything, Leona wished to be more like her. Darcey was basically one of those well put-together women on TV that she envied. Tall, elegant, charismatic and completely comfortable with herself. Everything that Leona wasn’t.
But what made her aunt so great in her eyes, was that she always tried to make time for her. Leona was Darcey’s protege after all. She’d always been like a second mother to her ever since she was born. It was because she knew that Leona needed someone from their unique world to look up to. It was all thanks to her that Leona was able to master her shapeshifting ability and learn more about her heritage as a witch. Well, as much as she could anyway.
Since her encounter with the deity that bestowed her the all-seeing eyes and the incident that killed her father, Leona felt more unsure of herself than ever. She hoped that Aunt Darcey found out more of her strange new power. The fashion designer told her niece she would research the family archives and see what she could find out. But, she didn’t make any promises. To Darcey, she never expected her niece of all people to inherit one of the seven wonders. There have been ancestors who manifested at least two or three of the wonders, Darcey included. However, she always thought that Leona’s generation would be skipped. Never in all her years of being that girl’s teacher would she suspect that her niece would possess the most destructive of the seven wonders. Fortunately, Darcey managed to find something that would shed some light on her niece’s situation. At least, she hoped she did.
Cordelia was in her office filling out some paperwork, until she heard a knock on the door. Without, turning herself away from her files she curtly told them to come in.
“Now is that anyway to greet an old friend?”
The headmistress quickly turned to the voice that called her name. It really was quite a surprise, albeit a pleasant one. Cordelia smiled as she took off her glasses and went to the tall woman standing in the doorway.
“Darcey!” she cried.
The dark haired witch laughed as she embraced her old school mate. “It’s so good to see you, Delia. I’ve missed you!”
“When did your flight get in? I thought you weren’t coming until three?”
Darcey smiled impishly. “Well, I wanted to surprise you and Leona and who doesn’t love a good surprise? Speaking of which, where is Leo?”
“I think she’s still in her room. I take it those are the rest of her things?” Cordelia was referring to the suitcase and guitar case. Leona came to the academy on such short notice, she had very few belongings with her. All she needed was more of her clothes and her trusty guitar.
“I’m sure Spalding could have taken them upstairs for you.”
“Nah, I wanted to give them to her myself. Besides, my suitcase is already a burden to carry around. I wanted to spare the old man the trouble.”
“Are you sure that’s all of her clothes?” Cordelia asked. The baggage was pretty small.
“Sort of.” Darcey said nonchalantly. “I brought her favorite outfits, but I plan to take Leo shopping after lunch today.”
“Aw, how lovely. I’m sure she’ll have fun.”
Darcey sighed. “Well you know, she’s in a whole new place so, why not give her a whole new wardrobe to help boost her confidence?”
Cordelia understood what her old friend was trying to do. However, despite her good intentions, a new wardrobe was the last thing that girl needed. Leona had so many questions and Darcey was the only one to answer them. In fact, Cordelia had a few questions for her too.
“You mentioned in our last phone call you managed to find something about where her abilities may have come from. Do you think it will help set her mind at ease?”
Darcey sighed. Just because one of their ancestors had this particular power, doesn’t mean it would make her niece less anxious than she already was. “To be honest, I don’t know. I mean, maybe, a little. But, I fear this will only confuse her more.”
“Let’s hope for all our sakes it will.” Said an exasperated Cordelia. “Don’t get me wrong, she’s been well behaved these past few days, but I can definitely see where she gets her temper from.”
“Heh! A girl after my own heart!”
Even though Darcey found this amusing, Cordelia didn’t find the situation at all funny. Sure, Leona was feeling calm now, but she worried that her new powers could cause some serious damage if her new charge didn’t get it under control. Not only that, she could be a great risk to the coven if her new powers were discovered by their enemies outside the school. She hoped by the end of this visit, Darcey would be able to persuade her niece into trusting her more.
“Come on, I’ll take you to her room. However, this isn’t over Darcey. You still owe me some answers.”
Darcey calmly smiled at her old friend. She really did care about her niece’s situation even if she didn’t show it. “I know I do, Delia. And you’ll get them, I promise. I’ll tell you tonight when we get back. But for now, I really do think Leo needs a proper girl’s day out. Once things quiet down in Vermont, I’ll be in Paris the whole season and my visits will be few and far between. It’ll probably be three months before I see her again.”
Perhaps the worried headmistress was criticizing her friend to harshly. Deep down, she really did have Leona’s best interests at heart. Darcey did place her in Cordelia’s care afterall.
Leona was surfing the web until she heard a faint knock on her door. She took out her earbuds and told whoever was out there to come in.
“Did you miss me?” Darcey said as she walked in the room.
“Auntie!” Leona put her laptop aside and jumped off the bed to give her favorite relative a hug.
Cordelia walked in behind her friend. She smiled as she witnessed their happy reunion. Not wanting to feel like a third wheel, she decided to go back to her office and finish up her paperwork.
“I’ll leave you two alone to catch up.”
“Thanks Delia, see you tonight.”
Once the headmistress shut the door behind her, Darcey took the case from behind her and gave it to Leona. She smiled brightly as she hugged it to her chest. “My guitar! You remembered!”
“Well, of course I did!” Darcey said with a laugh. “What kind of aunt would I be if I forgot my favorite niece’s prized possession?”
Her niece smirked at her reply. “Okay first of all, I’m your only nice. Second, my prized possession happens to be my trusty camera.”
“Aw, what?” Darcey pouted. Leona really was related to her.
She laughed as she hugged her aunt. “But, my guitar does tie in pretty close with my camera. And I’m so glad you came to see me!”
Darcey’s pouted quickly turned into a grin as she returned her relatives affection. “Oh, I know you were just pulling my leg, funny thing.” She kissed Leona’s forehead and caressed a strand of her wild, burgundy, mane. The fashion designer knew that her niece was all grown up, but she still couldn’t help but see the twenty-one year old witch as her little girl. Even though Leona wasn’t her daughter, Darcey still loved her as one.
“Oh! Before I forget.” Darcey took the suitcase with the rest of Leona’s things and placed them on the bed. “Here’s the rest of your clothes. I made sure that I packed all of your favorite tops, bottoms, and dresses in there.”
“Thanks Aunt Darcey, but…” Leona looked over the size of the bag. It looked like it wouldn't hold a year’s worth of clothes. “Are you sure it’ll be enough for me to wear? We still don’t know how long I’m going to stay here.”
“I know it won’t.” Darcey said casually. “That’s because I’m taking you on a little shopping spree in the French Quarter this afternoon.”
Leona smiled for a moment, but it faltered. “You really don’t have to do that, Auntie.”
“Of course I do! After everything you’ve gone through, you deserve a day of pampering.”
Now she was beginning to understand why her aunt was so insistent on this girl’s day out. Leona’s first week in New Orleans was pretty hectic, no doubt about that. However, the memories of what happened in Hellsalem’s Lot and the incident with her father still left a huge impact on her psyche. Darcey was trying her best to lift that weight off of her shoulders. It was very sweet of her aunt to do that for her. But deep down, Leona knew that a shopping spree wouldn’t make her forget what happened so easily. Even though Aunt Darcey was in the room with her, Leona could feel her father’s icy presence behind her. Like a vengeful spirit just waiting to take his revenge on the person who screwed him over in life. She knew he wasn’t there, but every time something good was happening, she could hear his condescending voice in her mind. Still telling her that, she’ll never be good enough and that she doesn’t deserve all the nice things that life had to offer. Even in the afterlife, Charles Watch still had a way of fucking with Leona’s head.
Darcey saw the distressed look on her nieces face. Fortunately, she knew how to turn this around. “Besides, it’s almost summer and you were in desperate need of a new sundress and a pair of capri shorts.”
That helped to get Leona to snap out of it. Darcey did have a point. Leona realized that her summer wardrobe was seriously lacking. She did plan to do some shopping once she completed her finals but of course, she never got around to it. “I guess you’re right. Plus, I kinda needed a new halter top anyway.”
“That’s the spirit! But before we do that, I got us a lunch reservation at Criollo in the Hotel Monteleone for one o’clock this afternoon. We should probably head out now so we don’t miss our table.”
Leona thought that her aunt was probably going a little too over the moon to cheer her up. But, she couldn’t say no to a good steak and a free shopping spree. Plus, she wouldn’t be seeing Darcey for a while after this visit. In the end, she was glad Aunt Darcey was making this special for her.
Once the pair arrived at the restaurant and ordered their food and drinks, they were able to relax and talk for awhile. Darcey haven't heard from Leona since she received her distressing call from her niece, begging her to come home. She hoped that her reassuring words helped Leona settle in her new environment better. However, the whole week she was frantic with worry. Just one day after her niece’s arrival, Cordelia messaged her about Leona’s outburst when she came home later than she said she would. Honestly, she was surprised. Yes, Leona became a bit rebellious as she entered young adulthood. But, slamming her fist in walls and straight up cursing at her elders? That didn’t sound like Leona at all.
Cordelia also mentioned Leona meeting with a witch who just so happens to have the power of resurgence. Not only that, she enlisted Leona into getting the swamp witch out of this puritan cult and join the coven. Darcey wasn’t exactly a happy camper when her old friend mentioned that bit. While she did care that one of their own was away from the commune as soon as possible, she didn’t like how Leona was the only one doing the rescuing and was in the most danger of getting caught. Especially when Darcey specifically requested Cordelia to house Leona and keep her out of said danger!
This wasn’t turning out like Darcey had hoped. She desperately wanted to believe Leona knew what she was doing. However, she doubted whatever her niece had to say would make her feel any less worried. Darcey took a gulp of her Martini to help calm her nerves.
“So Leo, how was your first week here in New Orleans?”
After taking a sip of her Diet Peps, Leona fiddled with her hair. This felt so awkward. What exactly was she supposed to tell her? That she threw a tantrum on her second night at the academy and was tasked with a dangerous mission to rescue a witch from an Evangelical cult? That certainly wasn’t the best way to start off the conversation about her first week in the city. In the end, she decided to be coy. Hopefully Darcey wouldn’t ask too many questions.
“It was fine, I guess.” She stuffed a piece of bread in her mouth so she wouldn’t talk anymore.
“Really?” Darcey said with a hint of skepticism.
Leona clearly wasn’t going to confide in her that easily. In the end, Darcey decided, ‘to heck with it’ and to go with the direct approach instead. Playing coy wasn’t her style anyway. “Because from I heard from Cordelia, you had quite an interesting week actually.”
Leona nearly choked on her bread. Did Cordelia tell her aunt everything that’s been going on? She wasn’t entirely surprised since they were best friends and all. However, this still pissed off Leona to a degree. Some things really should be kept confidential, especially since she was a full grown adult.
Leona took another sip of her soda to wash down the bread. “What did she tell you, exactly?”
“Oh, nothing much. Just that you threw a bit of a temper tantrum, even though you were out past curfew. And that you’ve met a pretty strong witch out in the swamp and you’ve been entrusted to convince her to join the coven. However, that was Cordelia’s side of the story. Care to explain, Leona?”
Leona felt mortified. Of course, Cordelia would tell her everything! She hoped that the headmistress would keep the last bit a secret until Misty was safely at the academy. At least Darcey was understanding enough to hear her niece’s perspective on the matter. But it still didn’t make this conversation any easier.
“Okay, about my little ‘tantrum’, I think it was justifiable.”
Darcey crossed her arms. “I’m listening.”
“Yes, I did say that I would be back by around six, but being late was out of my control. I got lost while I was on a tour of the swamp. I tripped and hurt my leg while I was running away from horny rednecks and I was getting patched up by Misty. Also, I didn’t miss curfew. I may have heard Ms. Cordelia wrong, but I know she said the actual curfew was 11:45 PM. If anything, she was more in the wrong than I was!”
Her aunt let out a frustrated sigh as she pinched the bridge of her nose. “I had a feeling Delia was overreacting. But still Leo, you really should have been more careful. I know things were out of your control, but you should have texted her once you were out of trouble.”
“How!?” Leona stood up from her seat. People were starting to stare. Darcey understood her niece was upset, but she thought Leona had more class than this.
“Please calm down, Leona. Your disturbing the other patrons.”
Leona sat back down. She took a deep breath and smoothed out her hair. “Sorry. What I meant was, I couldn’t have texted her because there wasn’t any signal near the Bayou. When Cordelia called there was only one bar on my phone.”
“Okay, that makes sense. But, I hope you won’t judge Delia too harshly. These are dangerous times, Leona and we have to look out for each other now more than ever.”
“I know that.” The troubled witch took another piece of bread and stared out the window. “I just don’t like being treated like I’m some sort of special case, when everyone’s situation isn’t that different from mine. I never asked for these stupid eyes, Auntie.”
Despite Darcey’s best intentions for her niece, she did understand how frustrated Leona was. It wasn’t her fault that destiny had chosen her to become a witch. Every witch’s life is filled with struggle and turmoil. However, even though Leona didn’t like being treated as one, she was a special case. The all-seeing-eyes of the gods were extremely rare commodities that have overseen countless historic events over the past centuries. Why her and Michael were the ones given the choice as to who would receive the gifts, she didn’t know. It could have been a wrong place, wrong time scenario. Darcey realized this as a fact, the gods worked in mysterious ways. There had to be a reason why Leona was chosen?
However, she understood this wouldn’t give her niece any comfort. “I know you didn’t, Hon. But trust me, we only want you to be safe.”
Leona scowled. Her aunt didn’t get the whole picture. “If anything, her students should be put on a tighter leash, not me.”
Her Aunt looked confused. “I don’t understand, I thought Cordelia told me you were getting along well with Queenie and Nan.”
“I am. I mean yeah, they’re difficult in their own way but they’re nice enough. I was referring to Madison in particular. She’s kind of the reason I’m still upset that Cordelia chewed me out when I came home that night.”
Darcey took another sip of her drink. She had a feeling this was going to be an interesting story. “Go on.”
“Queenie and Nan told me that after Ms. Cordelia called off the search for me, Madison, who is barely eighteen mind you, went out partying all night and sleeping off a hangover the next morning!”
Darcey’s eyes opened wide. This really was unfair. However, Leona wasn’t finished yet. She leaned over the table and whispered.
“But, that’s not all. This past week, I found out some pretty disturbing information as to why she was staying at the school thanks to Nan. Apparently, while she was working on a show, the director was killed on set because of a falling stage light. However, Madison was the one who unscrewed the bolt with her telekinesis. In the public eye, it was an accident, but her manger knows she’s a witch and that she killed him on purpose. All because she wouldn’t hit her mark!”
Her aunt felt like they were going to need a full bottle of wine after hearing that. This was more than unfair, this was completely unsettling. Even though Leona’s actions against her father were disturbing, she didn’t know what she was doing and she felt great remorse afterward. Madison Montgomery had no conscience at all. Darcey had known that Cordelia’s charges were troubled but she didn’t expect this at all. Apparently, her old friend was having more difficulties than what she was leading on.
Darcey placed her face in her hands, still reeling from what her niece told her. “I… I don’t know what to say, Leo. I really don’t. I’ll talk to Cordelia about it tonight. But enough about that for now. Can you tell me more about the situation with Misty?”
Leona was actually pretty relieved when her aunt brought up her friend. She’s been wanting to talk about her for a while. However, she wanted to talk about her in person once Darcey came down to New Orleans. “Honestly, I thought I’d never meet one of our kind outside the academy. It was kind of odd how we met, really. I was hiding in the hollow of an old tree from those rednecks but she knew where I was. She told me that my magic lead her to me.”
“It’s actually not that surprising. Many of us can detect the life force of another witch within a certain radius. When she said your magic was what helped her find you, she was actually detecting your life force.”
“Wow, I didn’t know we could do that.” Leona wondered why she wasn’t able to detect the magical energy of her sister witches. It could have been because she wasn’t a particularly strong witch. Or, it could be that she can see the overwhelming auras surrounding the witches around her, thanks to her new eyes. The realm of witches never ceased to make Leona more and more confused.
“Anyway, she’s been living in this religious commune for a while now. And I can’t understand why, but I have a feeling that her days living there are numbered. Auntie, I have to know… do you believe that those people would really kill Misty just because she’s a witch?”
Darcey knew the answer to that. She took off her glasses and looked at her niece directly in the eyes. “Yes, I do.”
The young witch felt her heart sink down to her stomach. “Ms. Cordelia said as much. Misty did tell me that the elders of the commune have become more suspicious as to why she is constantly absent. Although, I’m not sure if they believe she’s a witch. That’s why I wanted to believe for a best case scenario that they just kick her out. However, I guess that’s impossible to hope for now. They’re definitely going to find out about her abilities sooner or later.”
“They might, yes. If I’m being honest Leo, I’m not in love with the idea of you being the one taking on this rescue mission by yourself. I need you to answer me honestly, do you think you’ll be able to get Misty away from that cult as soon as possible?
This was a pretty loaded question. There was a lot of pressure on Leona to get her new friend to safety as quickly as she can. However, she was fairly confident she would be able to persuade Misty into joining the coven. After what happened with Misty the day before her aunt arrived, the swamp witch was lonely even within the commune. She liked Leona enough that she didn’t want to let her go. Leona was sure that after their tour of New Orleans, Misty would love to stay at the academy with her.
“I know I can, Auntie.” The young witch said assuredly. “Misty’s really taken a liking to me this past week, and I think she knows that she’s wearing out her welcome in the commune. Actually, she’s going to spend the day with me here in the city on Monday. I’m certain once she’s seen how great this place is and I tell her about the academy, she’ll want to leave the commune of her own accord.”
Darcey sighed. She was glad that her niece had a plan, but there was still a chance that Misty would still be hesitant to join the coven right away. Not only that, there was a big risk that Leona could get hurt by the people of the commune, not just Misty. However, Darcey knew she didn’t have the power to stop her. She took her niece’s hand and squeezed it tightly. “I want to believe that everything will turn out okay, I really do. However, you know that I’m not going to stop worrying about this. So, I need you to promise me something… please, please, please be very careful. These people are crazy and they won’t hesitate to kill you and Misty if they get the chance. Promise me you won’t give them that chance.”
The direness of the situation began to weigh heavily on Leona’s shoulders. Even her aunt believed that those people would kill her and her friend if they found about who the were. She honestly wasn’t sure if she could make this promise. Yes, Misty had gotten closer to her and there was a big chance she was willing to leave the cult on her own. It was a matter of getting her out that was a big issue. She didn’t have much to carry, but there was a possibility that the elders would try to stop her and maybe even hurt her just to keep Misty in line. The very thought of those people killing them both made her want to chicken out. However, deep down Leona knew she could never leave a friend hanging like that. Especially if they are living in a toxic environment.
Leona was still unsure that they would get out of this unscathed. But nonetheless, she didn’t want her aunt to worry anymore than she had to. She squeezed her aunt’s hand in return. “I promise.”
Darcey let out a sigh of relief. “That’s all I needed to hear.”
Her aunt was still worried, of course but she trusted Leona not to be reckless. Now that they finally went over all of Leona’s current events, it was Darcey’s turn to talk. Not only did she want to know more about where her new power came from, she wanted to get an update on her family. Even though she hadn’t contacted her family since her arrival, she didn’t receive anything from them either. That was very disconcerting.
“So um, now that that’s out of the way, did you find anything about… you know?”
The fashion designer put on her glasses and pushed them up her nose. “I did. However, it would seem that only one of ancestors possessed the ability that you have now. On top of that, he was a warlock.”
“You’re kidding me!” Leona didn’t expect this at all. Out of all of their relatives from the past, only one of them mastered this kind of power. To make matters more confusing, the owner of that ability was a man! “What can you tell me about him?”
“His name was Demetre Emile Watch.” She started. “He was born in 1889 and died in 1927. Even though Demetre was born here in the United States he spent a majority of his life in France. Just like all of our ancestors, he was a shapeshifter. However, he was also able to master just one of the seven wonders. The very same power that you inherited.”
“Really? Out of all of the seven wonders, that was the only one he possessed?” Leona asked.
“Don’t forget, he was a warlock and they are the weakest among us. Anyway, while he wasn’t powerful he did spent a great deal of his life studying our kind. He wanted to know the answers behind our… ‘condition’ as he put it. Why some families carried the bloodline, why we possessed specific abilities and why these fanatic religions wanted to kill us off. Honestly, I think he wanted to know why witches existed in the first place.”
Throughout her adolescence, Leona’s aunt had told her about their ancestors, but Demetre was the most fascinating by far. Unlike her other relatives, he wanted to know more about his kind. Maybe he wanted to find a way to protect them?
“Hmmm… Maybe he discovered that witches are a rare, but evolved species of humanity? Except that some humans have become more evolved than others. However, because women were the majority who possessed these powers, religious men feared that this would break the status quo. They were scared that women would hold more power than they would and tried to prevent that from happening by killing us off. Am I making any sense, Auntie?”
Darcey pondered for a bit. “You might not be that far from the truth. Witches are something of a superhuman race and we may be higher on the evolutionary scale than the human majority. However, it’s like what you said. Some people are still living in the dark ages and refuse to accept people who are different from them despite their genders. Poor Demetre knew first hand what it was like to be an outcast, and not just because he was a witch.”
“What do you mean?” She asked.
“He never married or had children of his own. I found out in a journal that he kept that he was in love with a young French man by the name of Henri. And of course, the times being what they were… he couldn’t go back home.”
Leona looked downcast. She knew many of their relatives must have suffered the same loneliness she had, but her heart ached for Demetre in particular. At least he had Henri, but it must have sucked to never see his family again. “So, he never contacted any members of his family?”
“Not necessarily true. He did have a sister, who was his oldest fraternal twin, that he kept in contact with. However, they had to be written in secret away from their authoritarian father.”
“Witches having shitty fathers seems to be a recurring theme here.” She said with a deadpan voice.
“It gets better, don’t worry. His sister Charlotte did get married and not long afterward, got pregnant with her first born daughter named Bella. That child grew up to become a witch.”
Leona’s eyes opened wide. She was told that witches didn’t appear in every generation of her family. More often than not, generations were skipped. However, Demetre’s niece was born right after her uncle’s generation. Just like how Leona was a witch born right after her Aunt’s!
“Oh my god! Did Demetre become a mentor to his niece, just like you did with me?”
Darcey’s smile faltered. “Sadly, that never came to pass. He was able to meet Bella as soon as she was born and held her in his arms for the first time. But unfortunately, he succumbed to syphilis shortly afterward.”
“Oh…” Leona hoped that this story had a happier outcome than that. But, Darcey wasn’t finished yet.
“However, just before he wrote his final journal entry, Demetre requested Charlotte to give Bella his journal once she was old enough. His last entry was a farewell message addressed to his niece. She kept her uncle’s journal up until her death, Leo. And now…” Darcey reached into her purse and pulled out a hardcover book. “It’s your turn to have it. I don’t know a lot about your new power. But, maybe Great Great Uncle Demetre can help you. His journal was originally in French, but I had a translated copy made just for you. I hope it will help shed some light on your situation, Leona. I really do.”
Leona’s aunt handed the book to her. It was a plain burgundy hardcover with no title. She flipped through its pages from front to back. Darcey really did turn their relative’s journal into a novel just for her niece to read. Even though she was mildly disappointed her aunt was just as clueless as she was about her new ability, Darcey had a point. Only Demetre had this sort of power and he was the only one who could help Leona to understand it. Who knows? Perhaps he managed to find a solution on how to control it?
She held the book close to her chest and smiled. “Thanks, Auntie. I’ll take good care of it.”
“I know you will, hon.”
“But, I’m curious.” Leona said out of the blue. “Did you get a chance to read his journal yourself?”
Darcey shifted in her seat. “I only read the important parts about his studies, how he managed to control his powers and I skimmed over his farewell letter to his niece. I’m not gonna lie, some of the stuff that he wrote hit a little too close to home…”
Leona’s aunt had trouble finding the words. She wanted to tell her everything. About her family life, her strained relationship with her parents and especially her hatred for her deceased older brother. Darcey wanted Leona to know every horrible thing that her father did in the past. She knew Leona would understand since her brother made his beloved niece suffer in silence too. However, her voice was still caught in her throat. Even though she was very close to Leona, this wasn’t the easiest topic to talk about. Plus, Darcey knew that this wasn’t the right discussion to have in a public place. There would most definitely be tears involved, and she hated crying in public. She had to tell Leona everything, just not in that moment.
Darcey took a gulp of her drink and took a deep breath. “That’s a story for another day. But, enough about that right now. Is there anything else you want to know?”
Leona pouted. Of course there would be more secrets. However, she knew better than to press for answers when someone isn’t ready to talk about their problems. Instead, she decided to ask about her family. She was wondering how her brother Michael was holding up. “How’s everyone back home? Is Michael doing okay without me?”
Darcey let out a frustrated sigh. “If you must know, he’s been giving me the silent treatment ever since you left.”
“Pfft! Is that so? Haha!” It was hard to contain her laughter.
Despite Leona’s brother being sickly since they were kids, he was known in the family to be very strong willed. On top of that, he would act all moody but say everything was fine. Despite being as thick as thieves, Michael would get mad once in a blue moon for no reason at all. Leona always thought this attitude only applied to girls. But, she supposed some guys feel this way too once in a while. Even so, it drove her family nuts when Michael pulled out his silent treatment card.
Darcey continued to pout. “Apparently, having his big sister spirited away by my mentor and her strapping bodyguards in black suits is enough to get me on his bad side.”
“Well, when you put it like that, can you really blame him?”
“No.” She sighed. “But he hasn’t talked to me in a week, Leona! How could he do this to his favorite Auntie?”
“Actually…” Leona started to snicker. “I hate to disappoint you, but your not his favorite aunt. Michael’s favorite is Aunt Bianca.”
“Seriously!? How could she be his favorite-” Darcey stopped to think for a moment. Her face turned neutral when she faced Leona. “It’s the cannolis isn’t it?”
“Aunt Bianca does make a pretty damn good cannoli.” Even though she wasn’t Leona’s number one favorite relative, even she had to admit her pastries were to die for.
“So all I have to do to earn his trust back is to buy him a bunch of Italian pastries?”
“Nope, you’d have to make them yourself. But only Aunt Bianca knows the recipe.”
“At least it’s good to know he’s doing okay.” Leona said while trying to calm her laughter. “However, I’m surprised that he hasn’t called.”
“Well, despite his attitude towards me at the moment. Deep down, he does know that your situation is serious. He was probably worried about causing you trouble and that’s why he hasn’t contacted you yet. I’m sure it’ll be fine if you call Michael and let him know your okay.”
Even though she was happy she got the green light to call her brother, Leona was still reluctant to act on that. Ever since Hellsalem’s Lot and their father’s death. It’s been awkward between the two siblings. Leona didn’t know about how Michael felt about the whole situation. Unlike Leona who was in hysterics when she gained the all-seeing-eyes of the gods, Michael was completely calm. He was the one who made the choice for his sister to have the eyes, so of course he was content living with the consequences. However, Charles’ death was another story. Michael’s relationship with his father was rocky but not as intense like Leona’s. But she still didn’t know what he was feeling regarding their father’s early demise. They never had the chance to actually talk about it. Honestly, she’d prefer to talk about with him face to face rather than over the phone. In the end, it was probably for the best to give it a little more time.
“Yeah, I guess…” Leona wanted to change the topic as soon as possible. “How’s Mom?”
“She was pretty shaken up after you were taken away, but she’s calmed down since then.”
It was good to hear that her mother was doing alright. However… “Did she say anything about wanting to come with you on this trip? To check up on me in person?”
“No, she didn’t say anything about wanting to come with me. She just wanted an update on how you were settling in.”
Leona slumped into her seat. That wasn’t what she wanted to hear. But then again, she wasn’t surprised. “Figures.”
“She always does this!” Leona exasperated. “Every time the subject of witches and magic comes up, she always changes the subject or suddenly has to run off to do some errand! Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if she was secretly glad that I’m gone.”
“Leona!” Darcey looked at her niece with a stern expression. She understood what her niece was going through but she felt like Leona was selling her mother short. “Now you know that’s not true. This whole situation has been hard on all of us, especially your mother. She was really worried about you fitting in your new environment and she wants you to be safe.”
“Then why couldn’t she come down here and tell me all this herself?”
“She needed to stay behind to look after your brother. Plus, I’m still doing damage control. People talk, Leona and the gossip train isn’t stopping anytime soon.”
Okay, taking care of Michael was a good reason to stay behind. However, the way Darcey was saying how their community was still talking about what happened, it made Leona feel more of an embarrassment.
“I didn’t mean to do it, you know…” Leona said sadly.
“I know you didn’t.”
Leona didn’t want to talk anymore. She didn’t want to think about how much of a liability she was to her family. She was glad she was finally going to get some answers thanks to her relative’s journal. However, the feeling of shame didn’t leave her. It ate at her while the image of her father continued mocking her behind her back. Fortunately, their food had finally arrived. The pair ate their meals in silence the rest of the afternoon.
Once Cordelia managed to get through her paperwork, she spent the rest of the day in the greenhouse. The whole time she was wondering how Darcey and Leona’s lunch and shopping trip went. She hoped her friend was able to tell her troubled niece what she needed to know about her new powers. On top of that, the headmistress was worried about how Darcey would react to Leona’s task to retrieve Misty Day. Cordelia said as much over the phone with her. She could tell that her old schoolmate wasn’t happy about it, but she assured her that Leona could handle this mission with little to no hardship. However, Darcey wasn’t convinced that Leona would get out of this completely unscathed and the troubled headmistress didn’t blame her. Cordelia’s mother always said that she lacked charisma. She hoped that Leona was able to put her aunt’s mind at ease.
Cordelia was about to move on to another plant pot, until Darcey showed up in the doorway. “Still have that green thumb like you did back in school, eh? Color me impressed, Delia. The greenhouse looks wonderful!”
The headmistress put down her sheers to face her friend. “You’re back a little later than I expected. Did you two have a good time today?”
“We did indeed.” Darcey said with the familiar flair that Cordelia was so fond of. “We had lunch, we went shopping, did a little sightseeing, took her to a lovely dinner at August tonight and…” The fashion designer removed her hands behind her back to reveal a bottle of rosé, Cordelia’s favorite wine.
The headmistress smiled as she took the bottle from her friend. “Oh Darcey, you didn’t have to do this! I know you like to buy the good stuff, but this must have been expensive.”
“Don’t worry about it! Besides, I wanted to go into town and get you a present anyway. Now, why don’t you put your sheers away and take a break? The night’s still young and it’s nice and warm outside.”
As much as Cordelia wanted to finish her remedy, she was getting pretty tired. On top of that, she could use a drink. “Okay, if you’re going to twist my arm. I’ll go get the wine glasses and the bottle opener. Why don’t you prepare some snacks? There’s some Italian bread and olive oil and I think the girls bought a cheese plate the other day.”
“Sounds good to me!”
Once the two witches got everything together, they set up their little wine party on the patio in the back of the house. The evening was pleasantly warm and the crickets were chirping softly. Fireflies flickered about the back lawn, indicating summer’s fast arrival. Once Darcey got the bottle opened, the two friends immediately dug into their late night treat.
“Oh yeah, this is definitely the good stuff.” Said Cordelia as she sipped her wine with glee.
“Only the best for my best friend.”
“Wow, you guys must have had a really good day if you’re in a good mood! Remember when Myrtle would take the two of us out on the town when we were students here?”
Her old friend laughed, reminiscing about the good old days back at the academy. “Haha! I do indeed.”
Myrtle Snow was the fun auntie that both of them always wanted. Actually… no, it was more than that. She was the mother they wished they had. Because of Cordelia and Darcey’s complex relationships with their own mothers, Myrtle was always there to fill in the void. However, the eccentric redhead wasn’t just a surrogate mother to Cordelia and Darcey. She was also an excellent teacher. Before Myrtle became the head of the council, she was the former headmistress of Miss Robichaux's Academy. She taught them everything they needed to know about magic. Myrtle even showed them how to hone their new abilities as they got older. Despite being an eccentric, she was very wise and helped Darcey and Cordelia reach their full potential as much as she could.
Darcey sighed as she remembered the tail end of her youth. “God, I love that crazy redhead. I really do owe her a lot. It’s all thanks to her that I managed to get my start in the fashion industry.”
“Did you ever imagine you would be running one of the biggest fashion empires in the country?” Cordelia asked her friend.
“Honestly, I didn’t. I mean, yeah I thought it would be semi successful. However, I didn’t expect it to get this huge.”
“Well, at least one of us managed to find their potential.” She said with a hint of bitterness in her voice.
Darcey put her glass down and looked at her friend. “What do you mean? You’re the headmistress of an elite boarding school, training the next generation of witches! I thought you would be proud of that?”
“I only have four students who are all rebellious and don’t trust my teaching philosophy at all.”
The designer felt sympathetic towards the troubled headmistress. Darcey knew that Cordelia was struggling to keep the school afloat, but she didn’t know she was having this much trouble. “Maybe you should consider a new teaching method?”
“I don’t even know anymore. They think I’m trying to suppress their powers. Perhaps they’re right. I just don’t want anymore of us to die out. Our numbers are dwindling enough as it is.”
Darcey took her friend’s hand. “Delia, I don’t believe we’re a dying breed. If our kind was clever enough to escape Salem, then our kind is clever enough to face the challenges we are in now. They’re just scared is all. But, try not to lose heart okay. Our luck will come around eventually, you’ll see.”
Fortunately, that managed to get a smile out of Cordelia. Darcey always did have a way with words. “Good to know that you believe in me. Glad to hear that I’m not a total failure for once.”
“Oh come on, Delia! Don’t tell me you believe everything that old crone says?”
The headmistress chuckled. She hadn’t heard Darcey call her mother a crone in ages. “You know my mother would kill you if she heard you say that, right?”
“Pft! I’d like to see her try. Supreme my ass… from what I’ve heard from Myrtle, Fiona’s missed yet another yearly summit gathering. On top of that, two winter petitions have gone unsigned and she believes that the one for next winter will also remain blank.”
Darcey sighed in frustration. “Let’s face it Delia, we may as well have been without a supreme for the last forty years.”
Cordelia wanted to say something to defend Fiona. Despite being the selfish woman that she is, she was still her mother. However, she couldn’t deny that her friend and Auntie Myrtle was wrong. Over the past several years Fiona Goode has been gallivanting around the world. Even though she held the title of Supreme, she certainly didn’t act like one.
“Well, you’re not wrong.” Cordelia said with a hint of sadness.
“Where is she now, if you don’t mind me asking?”
“Last I heard she's been staying in Europe for the past year.”
This was something Darcey did not want to hear. “Oh god, she’s not going to be in Paris in time for the fall show, is she?”
The headmistress pondered for a bit. “I don’t know. It could be possible she might want to see the fall collection. Plus, she has the ability to sneak into the event even if she is uninvited.”
“Ugh… I swear, if I see her there, it’s going to take a lot of willpower not to throw my champagne at her!”
Cordelia laughed. Darcey was probably the only one besides Myrtle Snow to have such unadulterated loathing for her mother. But then again, Cordelia hated Fiona too. Well, to an extent at least.
“Ha! I’d pay to see that. But enough about Fiona right now. Tell me more about your afternoon with Leona. Did you manage to tell her more about her powers?”
Darcey stopped her wine glass at her lips when her friend asked that question. Cordelia still had some questions for her and she did promise her friend that she would tell her what she knew about her new charge. She sighed as she put down her glass on the table. “Actually, I wasn’t being entirely honest with you. Yes, our girls day out ended on a good note but lunch was kind of a rocky start.”
The headmistress put her own drink down and gave her friend a doubtful look. “I don’t understand. You were able to find out more about her ability, right?”
“Well, sort of… I did tell Leo about the warlock whom she inherited her power from and gave her his journal. But, that’s pretty much it. I tried to make sense out of his writings but to no avail. Since I don’t possess that power I couldn’t really relate. So, I thought it was for the best to just give Leona the translated copy of Demetre’s journal and she could learn from that.”
“Hmm… She probably would have felt better to know more from you, rather than some old journal.”
The fashion designer knew that her friend had a point. But still, she knew that Demetre was the only one who could give Leona any clarity on her new power. “You’re probably right. But, Leona accepted the journal without any reservations. However, that’s not the reason why lunch ended on such a sour note.”
“When Leo asked about how her mother was doing, she was upset that Isabella didn’t ask to come along with me to see her. The poor girl thinks that her mother is glad that she’s been sent away.”
“Can’t say that I blame her.” Cordelia said as she stared at her reflection in the wine. “I felt the same way when Fiona dropped me off here.”
“Don’t get me wrong, Isabella’s great and all but she’s still clueless about our world. That’s pretty much why I needed to step up and be Leo’s second mother.”
“Right…” Her old friend’s words reminded her of their graduation day. She remembered how Darcey said she wanted to leave her family and past behind her. To start a new beginning for herself and never look back. However, she did go back to her family and Cordelia never understood why. After everything her devil of a brother had done to make her life miserable, why go back to the home and people she despised?
“Darcey, I have to know… the night of our graduation, you told me you wanted absolutely nothing to do with your family ever again. You wanted to leave the memories of the abuse behind and live a free and successful life. But years later, you went back… why? After everything your brother put you through, why did you decide to go back home? Was it because of Leona? Did you always know she was destined to become one of us?”
Darcey looked out into the night sky, feeling wistful. It was hard to explain why she opted to go back home so many times, but she was willing to try.
“At first, I didn’t know why I felt the need to go home. When Dad told me that Charles was getting married and wanted me to come home to attend the wedding, I refused without any hesitation. However, he told me that he’d changed and that his fiance made him a better person than he was in the past. I didn’t believe him of course, but he pulled the ‘we miss you’ and ‘we haven’t seen you in years’ guilt cards. So, I reluctantly agreed to come home but only for that weekend. The morning after the wedding, I planned to get away as quickly as possible. Or, so I thought…”
“What made you decide to stay?” Cordelia asked.
“Before I arrived, I had misconceived notions about the bride. I thought that she was probably a gold digger and was only marrying Charles for his money. If that was the case, then they definitely deserved each other. However, when I finally met my future sister-in-law, she wasn’t like I had imagined her at all. Unlike my brother, who hadn’t changed much, she was warm, open and kind. I didn’t know why at the time, but something was telling me that I needed to stick around. I stayed home longer than I thought I would. We got along just fine and I grew to love Isabella like she was my own. But for the life of me, I didn’t know why I needed to be around her.”
“It must have been painful, being around Charles I mean.” The headmistress admitted. She knew how much Darcey loathed her brother and that it must have been torment whenever they crossed paths.
“It wasn’t easy, that's for sure. Charles wasn’t so keen on me hanging around his wife. He even accused me of trying to seduce his wife behind his back.”
“Pft! Well, can you blame him?”
“What can I say, I can’t help it if I have that kind of affect over women! Anyway we’re getting off topic. Soon, I began to understand why I couldn’t leave Isabella’s side. Just a year after they were married, she was pregnant with Leona. The feeling I had as to why I needed to stay became stronger than ever. When she was born and Isabella let me hold my niece for the first time… I knew… I knew she was destined to become a witch. That was the reason why I needed to stay. Not for Isabella, but for her daughter.”
Cordelia’s eyes opened wide. “You could really tell that Leona was one of us just by holder her in your arms?”
“While it’s true that a witch’s abilities emerge during early adolescence, babies who will become witches give off very small bursts of magical energy. When I held her, that feeling was so strong that there wasn’t any doubt in my mind that she was a part of our kind. I knew that Charles was going to make that girl’s life a living hell. Like I said, Isabella is a great mom, but she wasn’t strong enough to stand up to her husband completely. I needed to be the one to protect her.”
“Jesus…” Cordelia said breathlessly. “Wait, you told me that Leona’s powers emerged when she was thirteen, right? Have you thought about sending her here?”
“At first, no.” Darcey admitted. “For the first two years I decided to take on the role as her mentor. Being family and all, I figured it would help transition her into her powers easier. However, with the growing success of my company, I couldn’t always be there for her. So, when Leo was just about to enter high school, I brought up the idea of sending her to Miss Robichaux's to her mother. She rejected the idea immediately. Isabella was raised on how family is sacred and she hated the idea of being separated from her kids before they turned eighteen. Besides, she trusted me enough to continue to be her mentor whenever I was back home. So, the thought of sending Leona here was pretty much off the table. Looking back on it now, I should have pushed harder. Maybe then, all of the strife Leona is going through might have been avoided.”
“It must have been hard to believe when you found out that Leo had gained possession of the all-seeing-eyes, huh?”
“Are you kidding?” Darcey exasperated. “I didn’t expect that at all! When Michael lost the use of his legs, Charles was desperate to find a cure. I was surprised when he came to me to help his son walk again. But, I told them that I wasn’t a miracle worker and that he’d just have to deal with it.”
“I’m guessing he didn’t take it that well.”
“Nope… He immediately called me useless and said that if I couldn’t cure his son, then he’d look for help elsewhere. I could feel it in my bones that he was planning on taking his family to Hellsalem’s Lot. Dammit! I told the idiot that he would be putting his family in danger if he went through with his plan! But of course, the selfish bastard did it anyway and in the end his children paid the price…”
Cordelia shook her head. She’d heard this story before, but it was still hard to believe that this turn of events had happened. “Then when they got home, that was when Leona…”
Darcey gripped her glass so tightly that her friend was worried she would break it and cut her hand in the process. “Tch! Lucky girl beat me to it!”
The timid headmistress stared at the peeved ravenette in shock. “You… you don’t really mean that… Do you?”
The features around Darcey’s face softened a bit. Replaced by a look of deep sadness. “No, I mean, not entirely. It’s just, * sigh* when your own brother tricks you into doing… something like that… especially when you’re a naive teenager, a closeted lesbian and a witch on top of that… It’s not exactly forgivable.”
Cordelia felt her heart break for her friend. She remembered the one gathering when Darcey finally opened up about the incident that took place when she was only fifteen. Myrtle was absolutely furious. Not at Darcey, but at her family for letting Charles get away with it while the poor, young, witch had to be sent away for something that wasn’t her fault. Myrtle Snow was usually a pretty calm woman but when something got her angry enough, her temper was more fiery than her red hair.
The headmistress held her friend’s hand tightly. “I can’t even imagine what that must feel like… But Darcey, have you told Leona about this?”
She sighed. “I wanted to. But, even if she is my closest family member… it’s not that simple.”
“I know. But, Leo’s all grown up now and she had to live with the man for twenty-one years. I’m sure she of all people knows what kind of snake Charles Watch was.”
Snake? Oh no… being called a snake was putting it mildly. The man was fucking Lucifer incarnate! When Darcey moved back to Vermont she kept a very close eye on her older brother. Sure, he acted like the perfect family man in public. But behind closed doors, she knew how much he was making his own family suffer. Now, he never placed a hand on his family. However, he was always good at gaslighting and emotional manipulation.
Darcey knew that Charles was cheating on sweet Isabella with one of the nurses at his hospital. Deep down Isabella probably knew it too, but because of her familial beliefs, she didn’t have the courage to leave him. His son Michael was his golden child and it would seem that he really did love him. But of course, that’s only scratching the surface. Michael was nothing more than his marionette. To him, Michael was just a new RPG player, to live his life through his son. But when he got sick and lost the use of his legs, he became yet another failure child in Charles’ eyes.
And Leona? Poor Leona had suffered the most of his abuse. Again, he never laid a finger on his daughter. However, when something didn’t go right, he always took it out on her. Even when things were going wonderfully for her, Charles always found a way to ruin it. For instance, when she got the lead role in the fall musical of her junior year, he deliberately missed it to fool around with his mistress. When she got second place in the school’s photography contest, he simply told her that second place meant she was a second rate photographer. And the third time… oh, this one made Darcey’s blood boil every time she thought about it.
Leona finally found a date to her senior prom and her sweet niece was beaming with joy. Darcey even went as far as to design and make Leona’s gown for her as a birthday gift. However, when the night of the dance arrived, her date called at the last minute saying he was going to prom with someone else. The poor girl was absolutely devastated. The entire evening, Leona locked herself up in her room just crying her eyes out. Darcey was just as upset as well as dumbfounded. She didn’t know Leona’s date too well, but he seemed decent enough. So, what went wrong? Unfortunately, her niece found out the hard way. Later that night, Leona went downstairs to get herself some ice cream when she passed by her father’s study and overheard her father talking on the phone. She didn’t hear much of the conversation, but she heard enough to fully understand why her date stood her up. Apparently, Charles paid the daughter of one of his co-workers to seduce Leona’s boyfriend the day before prom. He called to tell the seductress that Leona had no idea he was behind it, and that he would wire her the money soon. This didn’t surprise Darcey in the slightest. She knew first hand how manipulative and cruel her brother was. It’s just… she didn’t expect he would pull this sort of trick on his own daughter. But looking back on her own past relationship with Charles, she should have known he would do something like that, even to his own family.
Darcey took her glasses off to wipe away a few stray tears. “I should have pushed harder. At least Leona would have been as far away from her monster of a father as possible. Better yet, I should have taken all of them away from that house, even if I had to use my own magic to make it happen.”
“You shouldn’t blame yourself, Darcey.” Cordelia tried to console her friend as much as she could. “You’ve done everything you could to protect your family. I know how much you love Isabella and her children and that you would do anything for them.”
“The problem is that I didn’t do enough.” She said, the guilt still weighing heavily on her chest.
“But you’re doing everything now! Thanks to your quick thinking, Leona will be safe here. And Charles can no longer hurt you or your family.”
Darcey smiled a bit, but then it faltered. There were still some reservations that she had about sending her niece to the academy. “To be honest Delia, a part of me wonders if I’ve made the right choice in sending her here.”
“I don’t understand, what do you mean?”
Darcey took a sip of her wine to calm her nerves. “During lunch, Leo told me some pretty disturbing things about one of your students. Madison Montgomery I think her name is.”
Cordelia knew this would come up sooner or later. She let out a frustrated sigh and gulped her rosé down. “What about her?”
“Apparently, one of your charges told Leona about how she wound up here in the first place. That she killed the director of a new show with her telekinesis all because he was giving her an order to hit her mark correctly. If she’s that volatile, I’m worried Leo’s safety could be compromised if she’s caught in the crossfire.”
The headmistress understood that her friend had every right to be worried. However, Madison wasn’t as bad as she appeared to be. “I understand your concerns but you have nothing to worry about. Madison is a very spirited and willful girl, it’s true. However, I don’t think she would ever hurt your niece. Out of all the rehabilitation facilities she’s been too, this is the longest she’s lasted. Besides, Leo’s proven she can handle her own with Madison. Queenie told me how Leona was able to push her down a peg with just a stern talking to. No fists were involved, no mean words were said, and no magic was used. Out of all my girls Leona is the most mature enough to handle her.”
The fashion designer felt a little sheepish. Perhaps she did underestimate niece? Despite Leona also being a very willful person, she was very in tune with her maternal instincts and was a pacifist at heart. No doubt she got that from her mother. However, while her worries about Madison had gone down to green, her other worries were still in the red. “There’s one more thing… it’s this whole Misty Day rescue mission. I just… I don’t know, maybe I should just put everything on hold and step in to help. Leona told me she has things under control, but I have this feeling in my gut that something’s gonna go wrong”
Of course Darcey would still be reluctant to have her niece go through with the plan. Cordelia didn’t blame her though. If she had a close relative on a dangerous assignment, she would be reluctant to let them go it alone too. But fortunately, Leona wouldn’t be completely alone. On top of that, her new charge pretty much had everything well in hand.
“Again, I understand. But, Leona has this taken care of. From what we both heard, Misty Day absolutely adores her and Leo has gained more than enough of her trust. I’m sure that within a week, Misty will be out of that commune and in our care.”
Darcey was about to reply but her friend stopped her. “Plus, I know you’re finishing up damage control in Vermont. Also, you also have a strict deadline for the fall collection. What are you going to say to your sponsors when you don’t finish in time for Paris Fashion Week?”
As much as she hated to admit it, Cordelia was right. She really did want to stay behind and help her niece, that’s for certain. But it’s like what her friend said, she just didn’t have any time to spare. She was already on a very tight schedule and she couldn’t afford to get behind on her couture projects.
“Damn it… I know you’re right. But, still-”
“She’s going to be okay! Besides, I’ve already alerted the council about our situation. They’ll be standing by for action and perform their own damage control in case things go awry. Trust me, it’ll turn out just fine.”
Darcey finished up her wine as she stared at the full moon. She didn’t trust her old friend completely, but it was good to know Leona was in good hands. But, still she wished she could stay in New Orleans just in case something went wrong. However, there wasn’t any room for argument. The best thing to do was to sit, wait, and wish for the best.
“I hope so, Delia… for all our sakes.”