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Witches Brewer

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It was when she was in kindergarten that Marcy first heard her grandmother was a witch. Her friend Pammy told her, “My mom says your grandmother is a witch and lives in the woods.”

“She is not.” Her grandmother did not have green skin, a wart on her nose, or a black pointy hat. She did live in the woods, though.

Marcy thought about it all day. “Mom, is Nana a witch?” she asked when she got home.

“No,” her mom said. “There’s no such thing as witches.”

“Pammy said she was.”

“Pammy is repeating gossip. Don’t say things like that.”

Her mother was always saying that. Don’t say things like that. We don’t talk about that. It was hard to remember all the things they weren’t supposed to talk about, but Marcy tried.

So Marcy didn’t ask Nana either, but she started noticing things. When she went to town with grandmother, no one talked to her. They even crossed the street to avoid her. The cashier in the store would ring her up with her eyes cast down.

But then those same people would come to Nana’s back door, and whisper something, and she would give them a little bottle, or a little bag tied with a string, or a cookie or small cake, and they’d take it and get away as fast as they could.

Even her mother, when she got sick, sent Marcy up to ask for “the thing” from her grandmother. And by then Marcy understood she was supposed to go ask for the thing and come back and give it to her mother, and never say a word about it.

*

Her mother worked at a grocery store. Marcy went to Nana’s every afternoon after school, and her mom picked her up, brought her home and then made dinner. It was a long day. That was what her mother said. It’s a long day, Marcy.

Nana said, “Let me make Marcy dinner, Gracie. Let me make you both dinner.”

“No, absolutely not,” her mom said. “You know why.”

As she got older, Marcy noticed that her Nana and her mom never fought, but their faces always looked like they were about to. Her mom’s face always looked like there were a million things she was saying inside, and Nana’s face got cold and stiff like it never did with Marcy.

When she was twelve, Marcy offered to start making dinner herself. Her mom objected, saying it wasn’t fair to her, but at the same time she smiled such a grateful smile, that Marcy knew that was her way of saying yes. And Marcy found she liked cooking. A lot. She was good at it too. Her fingers tingled in a pleasant way while she cooked, especially when she baked. It made her happy, and she thought it made her mom happy too.

*

One day when Marcy was fourteen, she walked into Nana’s kitchen as usual, and Nana wasn’t there. A black pot was bubbling on the stove, and a very old, very tattered book lay on the kitchen counter.

Marcy crept over to it. She was sure this is something she wasn’t supposed to see. She picked up the book carefully and looked at the cover, which was so old and worn that she couldn’t make out a title.

She paged through it slowly. It was like a recipe book but all in some language she couldn’t understand. Some of the pages had little pictures and doodles on them, or notes in her Nana’s handwriting, like Keep hot! or Only use fresh.

The book made her fingers tingle like they did when she was baking. This was a book of magic. A book of spells. It had to be.

She stopped on one page and began whispering the words out loud, just to hear them. “Enchi mort gron ist.” Suddenly her hands were burning hot. She gave a little scream and dropped the book.

Nana came in. “Are you all right?”

Marcy shook out her hands. They were still burning. Nana came over and took her hands in hers, rubbing them gently. The painful heat slowly ebbed. “Feel better?”

“Are you a witch?” Marcy blurted, and then tensed up, waiting to hear we don’t talk about that.

Instead, Nana squeezed her hands and smiled. She said, “What do you think?”

“You don’t have a pointy black hat. Or green skin.”

Nana sighed. “One witch has a skin condition and suddenly it’s what witches look like everywhere.”

“Is that a cauldron?” Marcy asked, pointing to the pot bubbling on the stove.

“It’s a dutch oven,” Nana said.

“But you can do spells. And potions. And probably other stuff. Witchy stuff.”

Nana said, “Let’s say I can do things that make people call me a witch. Me, I don’t like labels.”

Marcy’s heart was beating fast. After years of not talking about it, they were just… talking about it.

Nana picked up the spell book where Marcy had dropped it. She laughed. “That was quite a spell you chose, child.”

“What does it do?”

“It kills weevils.”

“What are those?”

“Little wormy things that get in flour.”

Marcy made a face. “Ew.”

“Well, isn’t it good to have a way to get rid of them, then?”

“I guess so. Why did my fingers burn like that?”

Nana looked like she was weighing her answer. “I don’t know, child.”

“Does it mean I’m a witch?”

Nana shrugged. “You are who you are. What does it matter what you call it?”

“That’s not an answer.”

“It’s the only answer I have.”

“I think it’s your way of saying yes,” Marcy said boldly.

Nana sighed. “Your mom—”

Marcy felt the door shutting. We don’t talk about that.

“Please, Nana."

Nana got up abruptly. She stirred the cauldron. The dutch oven. She stirred furiously, her fingers tight around the spoon. Finally she spoke. “When you cook, do you ever feel a tingly feeling in your fingers?”

Marcy nodded eagerly. “Yes. Like a buzzing feeling, but—happy.”

Nana looked up. “I’m going to show you some kitchen magic. But it will be our secret, all right?”

“I’m good at keeping secrets.”

Nana looked a little sad at that. But then she stood up and got a thick book from the shelf.

“Is that another spell book?”

“No. Betty Crocker.”

Marcy laughed, and kept laughing. She felt so light, like a weight she didn’t even know was there had been lifted. Nana looked at her and laughed too.

Nana had Marcy mix up some cookie dough. Then she opened up the spell book.

“All right, what do you want to do, and who do you want to do it for?”

Marcy’s brain swam with possibility. “Anything?”

“No, not anything. Spells are very specific. Something small.”

“Like getting an A on a test? I have a math test tomorrow.”

Nana laughed. “You can’t use it on yourself. Other people only.”

Marcy thought. She was studying with her friend Pamela tonight, for the test tomorrow. Pamela was rotten at math. “How about for my friend, so she does well on the test?”

Nana nodded. “That’s good. I’m going to teach you an achievement spell, but it’s mostly a good luck spell. It won’t put knowledge in your friend’s head. It just smooths things out, helps her do her best. This is a very basic magic, so if you mess up, nothing much happens. Magic isn’t something to do lightly, child.”

Marcy scooped out a ball of cookie dough and looked at the book and said the words Nana showed her, as she rolled the ball of dough in her hands. The tingling in her fingers intensified, but didn’t burn. She thought about Pamela and the test, visualized her taking the test, answering the questions confidently, pictured her smile when she got it back and it was an A.

That night, Pamela came over. They studied together and Marcy gave her the cookie. “For luck,” she said.

Pamela got an A.

*

“Magic is fun,” Marcy told Nana.

“I’m glad you think so, child.” Nana really did look glad. She didn’t usually smile much, but she was smiling now.

“Why does my mom want to keep me from this?”

Nana’s smile disappeared.

“I’m sorry,” Marcy said quickly.

Nana said, “Your mom blames me for your father leaving.”

Marcy’s eyes grew big. Her father, who she didn’t remember, was definitely on the list of things we don’t talk about.

“Why?”

“Because he was a fool. Now, let me show you another one. This one helps your houseplants grow.”

Being good at magic really wasn’t that different than being good at cooking. There was following the directions but also knowing when it felt right. When she paid attention, the ingredients told her what they wanted. Magic was like that too.

It was too good to last, of course.

She shouldn’t have told Pamela about it. But she couldn’t help it. She was bursting to talk about it. So she told her about the cookie, the one that had gotten her A. Pamela was excited.

She wanted more. She asked for a cookie for the next test, and the next. Cookies to clear up her skin, improve her handwriting, get rid of her stage fright, get Molly to invite her to her slumber party.

“I can’t do that. It doesn’t work that way.”

Pamela got mad and didn’t talk to her for two days. Marcy ate lunch alone, while Pamela sat at the table with Molly and her friends. Leaning close, smiling and laughing at whatever stupid thing she said.

On the third day, Pamela met Marcy as usual when she walked in. She was as nice and friendly as could be. She said, “Can you do a cookie for Molly, too? She wants to get the part of Sandy when she tries out for Grease.”

“It doesn’t work that way, Pamela. And everyone knows Anita is going to get it.”

“But can you make her the cookie, before the tryouts? I told Molly you’d do it. Please, Marcy. She told me I could come to her slumber party, Marcy, if I could get this for her! Please.”

So Marcy did it, telling Pamela to swear Molly to secrecy. And on the day before the tryouts Anita got mono and Molly got the part.

Marcy was stunned. It was a coincidence. Marcy couldn’t make anyone sick. Could she?

Then the whispering started. No one sat with her at lunch, not Pamela, not anyone. Marcy was miserable.

The next day after school, her mom was waiting for her.

*

They drove to the house in silence.

When they got home, her mom went into the kitchen and started pulling out ingredients.

“Don’t you want me to make dinner?” Marcy said timidly.

“What do you think?” her mom said, and her sarcasm cut Marcy to the bone.

Marcy watched while her mother peeled an onion. She didn’t do it right. An onion didn’t like to be peeled like that. She got out a cutting board and a knife.

“We’re moving to Toronto,” her mom said. “I’ve been thinking about it for awhile, and you’re old enough so I don’t need your Nana’s child care help.”

Marcy was aghast. “I don’t want to move.”

Her mom laid the onion on the cutting board and sliced it in half. Thwack.

“You’re just mad that I—that I know how to—that Nana—” Marcy stopped at the look on her mom’s face.

“Marcy,” her mom said. “Do you want to have friends? Have a life, have a family?”

“I have friends!” Marcy said. “Pamela’s my friend.”

Her mom started chopping the onion in steady strokes. Doing it wrong. “Pamela has been using you and talking about you with all the other girls. Is that what you want? People whispering about you, never talking to you except when they have a problem, when they go to the witch for help.”

Marcy would never forget the way her mom said the word witch, like it was a curse word, like the other word that sounded like witch. Worse than that.

“Do you want to spend your whole life alone?” her mom said.

Marcy shook her head.

*

In Toronto, Marcy started playing women’s hockey, and she was good at it. She joined choir. She started going on dates. She still talked to Nana every week on the phone. They were close, even. They talked about everything.

Almost everything.

*

She graduated high school and went to university, where she majored in accounting. When she graduated she got a job at a big accounting company. She moved out of her mom’s house and got her own apartment.

She never cooked. She lived on fast food and prepared dinners.

She wanted to. It was an itch under her skin, wanting to. Wanting to cook, wanting to do magic.

She tried to think about it like what she’d heard about alcoholics and not drinking. Just get through one day at a time. Sometimes it was easy, sometimes it was hard. Sometimes she had dreams where she was cooking and doing magic—much more advanced than she’d ever done in real life—and she’d wake up sweaty and her hands would be numb.

She kept busy. She liked being an accountant. It was interesting. She worked long hours and played baseball in the summer and hockey in the winter.

One Saturday in the summer, her baseball game was rained out. She drove around for awhile, not wanting to go home, and finally went to the library.

She sat by the window, staring out.

“Can I recommend a book for you?”

She turned and saw a man looking at her. He was handsome in a quiet sort of way, with curly hair and blue eyes.

“Oh I’m not really here for a book.” She didn’t read much. She’d rather be doing something.

“I’d still like to try.” He pointed to himself. “Librarian. Books are kind of my thing.”

She smiled unwillingly. “All right, librarian. Bring me a book.”

He brought her Ball Four, which she’d never heard of. He signed her up for a library card, and told her his name was Clint.

Of course, the book was perfect. She loved it, and she went back for another one, and he gave her Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and she loved that too, and then Play it as it Lays, which she also loved, and by the seventh book she’d fallen in love with the librarian.

The first time they went to bed together, she wasn’t prepared. She’d been to bed with people before. But not like this. She felt sparks were shooting around inside her body, everywhere he touched her, until she was writhing and making sounds she’d never made in bed before, and when he finally bent his head between her legs the sparks built and built until she could do nothing but cling to him and hang on for the ride.

“Sorry,” she said, when she got her breath back. Her hands were clenched in his hair. She was pretty sure she’d been pulling it.

“Sorry? God, Marcy, you’re incredible,” he said, and climbed up her body to press his face into her neck.

“I’m not usually—I’m not like that.”

He lifted his head. “Then I’m lucky,” he said. And he looked like he believed it.

When he asked her to marry him, two years later, it was like a bucket of ice dumped over her head. She stared at the ring, which was perfect, and then looked at his perfect, stupid face.

“You don’t want to marry me,” she said.

“I do, actually.”

“I’d be a terrible wife.”

“I disagree.”

“I don’t cook. Ever.”

“That’s fine. I can cook.”

She started crying. “Stop being perfect.”

He put his arms around her. “Will you think about it?”

She nodded into his chest. She loved him too much, it was ridiculous.

*

She went home and paced. She couldn’t marry him. Obviously.

The phone rang, interrupting her thoughts. It was Nana. “I need you to come see me.”

When Marcy arrived, Nana was on the couch, covered in blankets. She looked old and frail and sick, and Marcy was seized with guilt.

Marcy said, “We should get you to a hospital.”

Nana shook her head. “No need. I’m dying, child.”

“What?”

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

“You sound like Mom.”

“We’re more alike than you think.”

“Does Mom know?”

“She’s coming tomorrow. I wanted to talk to you first. Are you happy?”

Marcy wanted to ask her more about I’m dying but she knew how stubborn Nana was.

“Yes, I’m doing all right.”

“What’s wrong? I can tell something’s wrong.”

“Clint asked me to marry him,” she said. "But I don't think I should."

Nana said, “Why? Don’t you want to marry him? You sure talk about him enough.”

“I do, but—I can’t.”

“Why not?”

She covered her face with her hands. She didn’t want to say why. What if he finds out what I am—whatever I am? Whatever you are. What if he leaves me?

Nana answered as if she had spoken. “If he leaves you, he’s a cad.”

“Was my father a cad?”

“That man,” Nana said. “Yes. And a coward.”

“What happened, Nana?”

Nana shook her head. “Your mother should tell you. Why’d you stop doing magic?”

Marcy said, “Oh.”

Nana raised her eyebrows.

“It was easier, with mom. And at school—the reason we moved.”

“What happened?”

“Didn’t mom tell you?”

“What do you think?”

Marcy laughed a little, even though she felt like crying. “Right. Well, I made a cookie for a girl at school, to get a part in a play. And the girl who usually got those parts, she got sick the day of tryouts. Really sick.”

Nana scoffed. “That’s why you gave up magic? Obviously unrelated.”

“How do you know?”

“I know. So, a girl can’t sing in a silly musical and you just give up.”

Marcy was nettled. “I didn’t give up. I realized I shouldn’t… mess with people’s lives like that.”

“We all mess with people’s lives. That’s called living life, child.”

Marcy was angry. That wasn’t it at all. But she didn’t want to say anything else.

Nana cackled. “Ah ha, you can’t argue with a dying woman! That’s good, because I’m right. Tell me about Clint. Is he good to you?”

“Yes,” Marcy said.

“And you love him?”

Marcy nodded. “I love him.”

“Then marry him. That’s why people get married. So I’m told.”

“I don’t know! I’m all tied up in knots.” She could feel tears coming. She looked up and widened her eyes, trying to keep them from spilling.

She felt Nana studying her. “Will you let me do something, Marcy?”

“What?”

“A little happiness spell.”

“You should rest.”

Nana scoffed. “I’ll be resting soon enough. Humor an old woman.”

She started struggling to get off the couch, and Marcy helped her and supported her as she walked to the kitchen. The kitchen was a mess, and Marcy felt guilt seize her again. How long had Nana been living like this?

“Don’t judge me, child.”

“I’m not. I just wish I’d come sooner. To help you.”

“What could you do?” Nana opened a drawer and took out the spell book. It was a jolt, seeing it again. Marcy felt a rush of longing, a tingle in her fingers.

“Nana,” she said. “Can’t I do a get well spell for you?”

Nana looked at her with kind eyes. “Not with what I’ve got, child.”

“But I could do something, surely? A pain relief spell?”

“Maybe. I don’t know what it feels like.”

A sudden thought occurred to her. “Have you never had someone do a spell for you?”

Nana gave her a funny look. “No, I told you, remember. Magic is only for others.”

Marcy felt her stomach clench, but she tried to smile. “Then let me do it for you now.”

Nana waved a hand dismissively, but Marcy thought she looked pleased. “All right, we’ll do it together. I'll do mine for you, you'll do mine for me. We’ll make tea. Nice and simple.”

Nana put the kettle on. She scooped some loose leaf tea into a tea bag, and then Marcy stood up to do the same.

“Does it matter what kind of tea?”

“Not really. This is Earl Grey.”

Nana pointed out a spell near the front of the book. “Pain relief,” she said. Marcy held the teabag in her hand and whispered the words on the page. Her fingers tingled on the tea bag. She hadn’t done magic in so long. Her fingers burned a little, but it felt good, too.

"Now for you." Nana flipped to the back of the book, to the more advanced spells. Marcy peeked at the page. There were little doodled hearts and stars in the margins. Somehow those doodles were comforting. Surely a spell with little hearts drawn on it couldn’t be dangerous.

Nana began whispering the words, holding the teabag in her hands. Marcy felt their power. She shivered.

When the water was hot, Nana poured it over the tea bag in Marcy's cup, then gave it to Marcy to do the same for hers. They waited for the tea to steep, and then added milk and sugar.

They traded cups.

Marcy held hers up. “To you, Nana.”

“To you, Marcy.”

They clinked their teacups together. Marcy took a sip and then set hers down to watch Nana drink. Nana’s face grew calm, the lines on her face seemed to smooth out. “Ah, that’s nice. Thank you.”

I could have been doing this all along, she thought. She thought of her grandmother, all her life doing this for others, and no one had ever done this for her. Her stomach clenched again.

Nana gestured to Marcy to drink. She took a sip, then another. It tasted like ordinary tea.

"Drink up, child."

She drained the cup and set it down.

“What do I do now?” she said nervously.

Nana smiled. “Just go find a quiet spot, and let your mind wander.”

Marcy looked around the messy kitchen. “Can I clean up? I want to help you.”

Nana struggled to her feet. “Gracie is coming tomorrow and will help me with all of that. Go, child.”

Marcy helped Nana back to the couch. “Are you sure you’re all right for tonight?”

“Yes, dear. Thank you for the tea. I knew that spell was a good one, but it’s nice to feel it.”

“Can I come see you tomorrow?”

“Tomorrow is for your mother. Now go. Don’t let my last spell go to waste.”

Marcy hugged her fiercely. “Goodbye,” she whispered.

She went back to her hotel room. She lay down on her bed. Her heart ached for her grandmother.

She felt the spell begin working on her, making her feel pleasantly comfortable. She let her mind wander, like Nana had said. She saw little flashes of things, feelings more than visions. A sense of being in a house, Clint’s warm presence beside her. A feeling of a warm weight in her arms, and she knew it was her baby. Their baby. She could smell baking scents, cinnamon and nutmeg and cloves, and it was her baking.

And through it all, she felt Clint’s love for her, as steady as a beating heart.

*

The next day, her mother arrived.

Her mother was a different person now. She lived in a senior living apartment complex, and she played bridge and canasta, knit endless scarves and hats and sweaters, and took salsa dancing classes.

But here, her mother was tense and white-faced again, like Marcy remembered so well from when she was a child. She went up to see Nana and stayed there all day.

The next day, Nana died. At the funeral, Marcy’s mother held tight to Marcy’s hand. Marcy wondered how she was feeling, if she and Nana had made peace. She wanted to ask her. But a lifetime of not talking about things was too strong.

After the funeral, her mother said, “Nana asked me to give you this.”

She held it out. It was the spell book. Marcy took it gingerly. “Are you sure?”

“Well, the truth is I wasn’t going to. But, I don’t know anymore.”

“Thank you,” Marcy said faintly.

Her mother hugged her, and she was crying, and Marcy was crying, and she thought her mother said I’m sorry but she wasn’t sure.

*

When she finally got back to Toronto, she called Clint. “I need to talk to you.”

She drove to his house and kissed him and kissed him.

When she finally pulled back, he said, “I thought you were going to break up with me.”

“I’m sorry. I’m not. I just need to tell you something,” she said.

“What is it?”

She looked into his kind eyes and her courage failed her.

“Can we have sex first?” she said.

He brought her into his bedroom and undressed her slowly, and touched her all over, and instead of sparks it was like a slowly burning fire, heating her up from inside.

Afterwards he held her against him, her back to his front.

She said. “My grandmother died. That’s where I was this week.”

He held her more tightly. “I’m so sorry,” he said.

That made her cry, thinking of Nana, and how much she loved her, and how Nana was the only one who had ever known her completely.

Do you want to be alone your whole life?

She took a deep breath. “She was a witch.”

He stilled. “Go on,” he said.

She explained about the spell book, the way everyone in town bought her charms and potions and magic cookies. Then she said, “She taught me some things too. I can do—some of the things she can do. I’m not trained. I’ve been trying to get away from it. But I have some… magic, too. And I’ve been worrying you won’t be okay with that.”

She stopped. And waited.

His hand stroked down her side, her hip. He said, “Marcy, if it’s a part of you, then I love it. Because I love you.”

She closed her eyes.

“And I have so many books I need to read now,” he said with relish.

She laughed, and then she cried some more, and she couldn't believe how lucky she was.

*

“I’d like to cook for you,” she told Clint.

She made pasta primavera, and it was so good to be in the kitchen again, with the different scents and flavors, with the way the ingredients felt in her hands, telling her how to make them.

She spooned up the pasta and set it down in front of Clint. He looked at it. “Is this… magic?”

“No, it’s just really fucking good.”

He laughed, and ate it, and had to agree. It was really fucking good.

They got married, and she still made Clint cook half the time because she had a full-time job too. She kept the little spell book tucked away.

But then one day, when they’d been married a few years, Clint was up for a promotion. Then could really use the extra money for the house they were saving up for. She got out the spell book, and she made up some cookie dough and whispered the words Nana had taught her, letting the tingles fly out of her fingers, visualizing Clint at the interview, answering questions calmly, confidently. She visualized Clint telling her he got it. It felt so good to use magic again she wanted to weep.

When he got ready to leave for the interview, she gave him the cookie. “For luck,” she said, and he gave her a questioning look.

She nodded, and his answering smile was dazzling.

He got the promotion.

So she did it again. She started doing it regularly. Clint called them her good luck cookies, and it was just a part of their lives. When their son was born, when he was old enough, she made them for him too, before a baseball game, a spelling test, a birthday party.

Good luck cookies; nothing strange about that.

But she never looked beyond the first few pages, the kindergarten spells Nana had shown her. She’d watched enough movies to know that experimenting with magic, when you didn’t know what you were doing, was a recipe for disaster.

*

Patrick was a beautiful, curly-headed baby. Smart, active, and affectionate.

She watched him closely for any signs, especially when she taught him to cook. “Do you feel anything?” she said.

“Like what?” he asked.

She relaxed, little by little. Patrick was blessedly normal. He played sports and did well in school and always had plenty of friends; he was competitive and cried when he lost and brought her tea in the morning and beat himself up if he ever let anyone down. He was logical and level-headed and giving and compassionate and generous.

She had the usual mother’s worries. But nothing more.

All of this made his… thing with Rachel all the more strange.

Rachel, as far as Marcy could tell, was pretty and sweet and she obviously loved Patrick. The pieces all seemed to be there. And yet—the pieces could never come together for long without falling apart again.

What was wrong?

Do you want to spend your whole life alone?

When they finally got engaged, she was relieved, so relieved. Surely meant they had finally figured it out. But Patrick seemed tense, worried, nervous. He reminded her vividly of herself, right before she married Clint.

“What’s wrong, honey?” she asked him. “Are things okay with Rachel?”

“Yes,” he said immediately. “Things are great. She’s great. I’m just—nervous. I’m tied up in knots.”

She caught her breath. She heard herself telling Nana, I’m all tied up in knots.

When he went home, she dug out the spell book, and found the page she remembered, with the doodled hearts in the corners. She made up the batter, she said the incantation, and the tingling in her fingers intensified, almost like burning but not quite. It was electrifying, actually, like pure happiness flowing through her fingers. Nothing bad could come from this, she was sure.

She gave the cookie to Patrick when he came over that night. “I know you’re stressed out,” she said. “This might help.”

“One of your good luck cookies?” he said, smiling.

“Yes,” she said.

He shook his head at her, but he ate it. She said, “Now go home, have a quiet night, and I promise you’ll feel better.”

He said, “Okay, Mom,” indulgently. He kissed her goodbye.

She didn’t see him again for two years.

*

Those first days, after he left, with just a brief goodbye text, she was paralyzed with regret.

Clint said, “Don’t take it so hard. He just needs some space. And, I hate to say it, but it’s not like he and Rachel haven’t broken up before.”

She said, “I know. I’m just worried this time is different.”

“Why?”

“I cast a spell on Patrick.”

Clint looked confused. “When?”

“Right before he left.”

Clint just looked puzzled. “You mean a good luck cookie?”

“No, this was—different. My Nana did it for me back when we were engaged—after you proposed, when I was a nervous wreck about everything. And it helped. Suddenly I wasn’t nervous anymore. I was just happy to be marrying you. I thought I would do the same for Patrick. But I did it wrong, obviously.”

“I’ve never known you able to do anything but good things with your—your powers.”

“This was way beyond my usual level.”

Clint said, “Maybe the cookie made him realize he shouldn’t marry her.”

“Maybe.” Marcy said. That would be a relief. But her guilt told her differently.

“Remember, they broke up plenty on their own, without magical interference.”

“I still shouldn’t have done it.”

Clint said, “Probably not. But, try not to worry about it. He obviously needs space right now. We’ll give him space, and when he calls, you can talk to him.”

Marcy nodded.

Patrick didn’t call, though—not for four, long, agonizing months.

When he finally did, he apologized for how long it had been, and sounded almost the same as usual. Marcy cried on the phone, but she tried not to let on.

He wanted to talk, he wanted to tell him about his life. They talked for over an hour, and it was wonderful. He talked enthusiastically about the business he was helping to start, and the friends he was making, and, with obvious admiration and liking in his voice, his business partner, David Rose. He seemed upbeat, not tense or irritable like he’d been the months before he left.

After that, he called once a week. Gradually, she grew certain that she hadn’t ruined his life. He was happier now, she was sure of it. Maybe he really had needed a fresh start.

“Maybe I shouldn’t tell him,” she told Clint. “He’s happy now. Why should I dredge it up again?”

Clint gave her a look she knew well, the one that called her on her bullshit. She thought about her mother, a lifetime of secrets.

She wasn’t like that. She didn’t want to be like that. She was going to tell him, definitely. Soon.

*

Somehow, a year and a half slipped by.

Their talks were warm and friendly, always. But he didn’t come home for Christmas. He didn’t come home at all.

Something still wasn’t quite right. There was a distance, a barrier between them, and she grew convinced it was because of her secret. What she had done, certainly, but also, who she was. She thought of the distance between her and her own mother, and an ache grew in her heart. 

She liked looking at the Instagram for his business. She loved talking with his business partner, David, who was always so warm and chatty. She was as cheerful as she could possibly be on the phone with Patrick, trying to make everything okay. While they were talking, sometimes it felt like the distance was gone, but when she hung up, it was always there.

The ache in Marcy’s chest lodged itself there, dug in its claws, and stayed.

*

Then David called to invite them to a surprise party for Patrick’s birthday, and she was ecstatic at the prospect of seeing her son again. She also knew it was time to tell him the truth. She rehearsed the speech, the apology. She took Nana’s spell book with her, as proof.

When they got there, she found out she wasn’t the only one who had been keeping a secret.

Patrick’s shy confession that he and David were partners in more than just business was a revelation. At the same time it made perfect sense. It explained Rachel, it explained everything.

Late in the party, after meeting David’s very interesting family and all the people on Patrick’s baseball team, and seeing that Patrick had truly built a life here, she pulled Clint into one of the cafe booths.

“You asked earlier if it was something we did, the reason Patrick didn’t tell us.”

Clint looked sad. “I know.”

“It’s me. I know it’s me. I’ve made so many mistakes,” Marcy said.

Clint rubbed her hand. “It’s not too late. We found that out today, right?”

“You’re right,” Marcy said. “Patrick was brave, I can be brave too.”

“Tonight?"

“Oh, Clint, I can’t possibly burden him with this now—”

Clint raised one eyebrow, and she laughed and covered her face. “All right, all right. I’ll tell him. But, truly, not tonight. Tomorrow. Tomorrow, I will tell him.”

A young woman—Twyla, her name tag said—approached them. “You’re Patrick’s parents, aren’t you?”

“Yes,” Marcy said, smiling.

“As soon as I saw you, it all made sense.”

“Why? What all made sense?” Marcy said.

“Well, just that, you’re a witch.”

Marcy was shocked. “How do you know that?”

“Oh, I can usually tell. And as soon as I saw you, I realized that’s where Patrick gets it from!”

“What? Patrick’s not a witch!”

Twyla looked at her face. “Oh. I’m sorry,” she said. She gave a nervous laugh. “I could be wrong. I’m wrong all the time.”

“You’re definitely wrong about Patrick. But you’re not wrong—about me.” She cleared her throat. “I am a witch.” It was the first time she’d said it out loud.

Twyla said, “I am too! It’s nice to meet you.”

Marcy stared. “You… are… too.”

She looked at Clint, then back at Twyla.

“I’ll let you two ladies get acquainted,” Clint said. He squeezed Marcy’s hand and got up.

“Will you sit down for a minute?”

Twyla slid into the booth.

Marcy said, “I’ve never met another witch before. Other than my grandmother.”

“Really?” Twyla looked shocked. “I’ll send a link to the Zoom meetings!”

Marcy was momentarily diverted at the idea of Zoom meetings for witches, but she pressed on.

“I don’t know. I’m not much of a witch. I really don’t know how to do anything. The one time I tried a more advanced spell, I did it wrong.”

“Oh, I do spells wrong all the time. That’s how you learn! What happened?”

“It was a happiness spell. My Nana did it for me, and it worked really well,” she said. “I tried to do it for Patrick, and something went wrong.”

“Show me the spell.”

Marcy opened her purse and took out the book. She flipped through it and found the page with the little doodled hearts. She showed it to Twyla.

Twyla studied the page. “Well, first of all, this is not a happiness spell.”

“What? What is it then?”

“It’s a decision-making spell. I guess you could call it a finding happiness spell? It kind of—lights up the right path.”

“Oh.”

Twyla gave the book back. “I need to get back to work. But give me your number. I can’t believe you’ve been alone all this time.”

Marcy felt tears prick her eyes. “All right.” Twyla took out her phone and punched in the number Marcy dictated.

“I’ll send you that Zoom invite.” She gave Marcy one last sunny smile and slipped out of the booth.

Marcy looked down again at the spell book. A finding happiness spell.

She peeked over to where Patrick and David were talking by the counter. The lines of Patrick’s body were loose and comfortable, and his eyes were all lit up as he said something to David. David made a face, like he was being teased—which she could easily believe—while at the same time his hands came up and danced over Patrick’s shoulders. Patrick laughed and slipped an arm around David’s waist, and they shared a look that made Marcy catch her breath. The look on David’s face reminded her of the one he’d had that afternoon, when he’d come to their motel room bearing a gift basket and a fierce love and protectiveness shining through every word he said. And Patrick was looking back with a soft, tender expression that spoke directly to her mother’s heart: I am happy. I am loved. I am where I want to be.

Maybe she’d done the spell right, after all.