Hello friends and welcome back to my newest installment of The Witch. Once again, it you haven’t yet, check out the beginning of the story in Part 1. If you only just missed the last chunk, I recommend Part 3.
Now, relax and enjoy another part in my story about witches, magic, and two people who are more than what they seem.
In the past ten hours, I have done many things: cleaned up every spot and stain in the kitchen, cleansed the bathroom of its sins, dodged flames as I turned on Madame Renoir’s furnace, watered many plants with collected rainwater Renoir keeps in the basement, and made a quite frankly subpar loaf of stuffed bread. I even tried to clean the witch’s own bedroom, though the door was locked and I couldn’t get in. The only thing that I haven’t done is address the legions of household cleaning objects moving by themselves throughout the house, doing my chores for me.
I came to the conclusion that they were the product of some sort of divine intervention, perhaps my mother saving me in my time of need. After all, it couldn’t be me doing all this, could it?
I brushed away the thought. I couldn’t dwell on the magic. Otherwise, it might stop.
I stared at the dagger clutched in my hand, blocking out the noise of the broom sweeping behind me and the fears rolling through my head that they wouldn’t stop by the time Madame returned. The dagger was beautiful, with dark blue gemstones decorating the hilt and reflective, silver metal showing my face back to me.
In the metal, I saw a girl with fear in her eyes, a girl forced to grow up much too quickly who just wanted to go home. I looked away from the steel and glanced at the pot.
Three drops of blood.
I did not dwell on the shape of the black cauldron or the odd smell and smoke bubbling from inside. I only moved the knife to the pad of my index finger and pricked myself, a dark pinch rising to meet me with a bubble of blood. Biting back a grimace, I drew my finger above the pot and squeezed until three tiny drops of ruby blood splashed in. At the intrusion of the blood, the pot shook and the house seemed to hold a breath. The pot smoked bright red and smelled of a terrible iron, like rusted shackles and stained blades. I pulled back in fear and gripped my cut finger tight. In the quaking, all of the household objects fell dead, scattering across the floor as the glow of power dimmed within them. When all had fallen, the house grew silent, and all, including I, was still.
In the moments before dusk, I picked up all of my supplies, making sure to leave everything where it belonged before the witch returned. Unfortunately, my mother or whoever moved the brooms and brushes did no such thing before the power was drained. By the time everything was in its own cupboard or closet, the sun had just sunk below the horizon, and I heard the door creak open.
“Hello Madame Renoir,” I sighed before she stepped through the threshold.
“Everything better be clea—” The witch stopped when she looked around at the spotless house. I took pleasure in the distress in the witch’s face, but before I could indulge a little longer in the fury in her eyes, the witch stormed upstairs. I didn’t have to check to know it was spotless. She checked the kitchen. Clean. The furnace. On. Everything was done, and when she came back to me, breathing hard, she strained to say, “Well done. I guess I’ll have to kill you tomorrow instead.”
I tried to keep from rolling my eyes at the threat. It was still scary, don’t get me wrong, but there was something about Renoir’s breathing pattern or stance, or perhaps the memory of her leaning against a pile of her mess that kept me from adding much merit to her words.
“I’m sure you already know, but I have dinner ready in the kitchen once you’ve composed yourself.”
Renoir gave me a sour look. “I am already composed, peasant girl.”
I turned my back on her, rolling my eyes for-real this time, and led the way to the kitchen.
“I will admit, it is no match to your own food, but it is a meal on the table.” I pointed at the loaf on the now-clean kitchen island, the one I did not know until a couple of hours ago was a pale pink.
“I didn’t realize you were into such feminine decor. The pink is not very witchy of you,” I commented, cutting a slice of the beef-and-vegetable-stuffed bread. I didn’t know why I was getting so comfortable in the flow of conversation. I should be quieter. She could eat me after all.
“Not witchy enough? What do you want me to do: sleep in a coffin and decorate with bats and grave-dirt?”
“Those are vampires, Madame. But also, you should take a look in the mirror. You’re not exactly all bubbles and rainbows.”
Renoir glanced down at her crimson gown and looked at me, taking a spiteful bite of her dinner. “Touché. You know, you can eat too, right? It’s weird eating alone when there’s someone right there.”
I started at the comment. It was so sudden, a quick snap in my direction. “I… I assumed I was just cooking for you.”
The witch sighed and reached to slice out another piece of the bread and in a moment, there was a second plate next to me, where she slid the food. “Eat.”
I looked down at the food and back at the witch. “Alright…”
We bickered and ate until there was nothing left to eat. Then, out of nowhere, while wiping her face with a handkerchief, Renoir commented, “So. When were you going to tell me that you had magic?”
Manon nearly spit out her drink.
“What? I don’t have magic. Why do you think I have magic?” She squealed, her voice rising multiple octaves.
“Darling, I’m not a fool. I can practically smell the residual magic lingering in my house. It practically coats my floors.”
I was bluffing. I couldn’t smell magic. Some people could. I wasn’t one of them. I just refused to acknowledge that I was watching her for a time, regardless of my intentions.
Manon squinted her eyes at me for a moment, analyzing me outwardly for the first time since she got here. Shocked by the sudden intrusion, I just stared back at her, hoping she did not see what I did not want her to see.
“You’re lying,” Manon mumbled, leaning against the table. Suddenly, her face flashed, indignant. “You were watching me, weren’t you!”
It was my turn for a raise in pitch. “What? Of course not.”
“Yes you were. You may not be a fool, but I’m not some peasant girl who you can just lie to willy-nilly.”
“‘Willy-nilly?’ What are you, an old woman yelling at her neighbors? Anyway, bold words for the girl that lied first.”
“I wasn’t lying. That magic wasn’t mine!” She yelled, panting. “It can’t be mine.”
“What do you mean it wasn’t yours? Didn’t you feel it?”
“No. Because it wasn’t mine. If you’re going to keep interrogating me, I’ll just go back to my room. You can tell me about my fate in the morning.”
Manon rose from her stool, a scowl plastered on her face when a jolt of urgency flooded through me. She needs to stay.
“Wait!” I reached out to stop her.
Before I could touch her arm, she turned back to me, her eyes steely and her soul glimmering with a familiar fear. Her words did not match that fear. “Do you have something to say, Renoir?”
This was the first time she hadn’t used any title for me, though I have to say my surname was starting to feel odd in the air, wrong. I took a deep breath, forcing the anger coiled tightly in my gut to loosen its grip. “I’m sorry. I got too heated and I feel we both ought to explain ourselves. It seems we have reached a little bit of a misunderstanding.”
“Yeah,” she scoffed. “A bit.” She did not get back in her seat, but stood near me. I took my chance.
“Yes, I watched you earlier today, but only to see if you were actually doing your job, or if you were going to cheat. I saw when you were cleaning my floor and when you whispered to the brush. Then, I saw you brighten in the way that only wizards and witches do. You were glowing with magic, Chevalier, untapped magic, and I think it is my responsibility as a fellow magic-user to train you.”
I saw Manon’s face change from anger to confusion to softness and suspicion. She believed me. I was sure of that. But there was something else there…
She took a step back, holding herself tighter. “That’s impossible. If I already had magic, I would know by now. I wouldn’t have come here, risked my life, if I had magic to give my village.”
“Magic manifests in mysterious ways Manon. I won’t ask you why you thought there was divine intervention involved. I can see there is something that you are keeping from me and that’s fine. I’m the witch. I’m not exactly the most trustworthy person. Just let me train you.”
“And why would I do that? Like you just said, you are not to be trusted,” Manon argued, though her voice had significantly softened.
“Because then you could help your village yourself, not just this time, but every time. My magic is a one time deal. Next time anyone, including you, comes from Montaron to beg for my help, they will be eaten or killed on the spot. You, on the other hand, seem very eager to help this village, though I don’t completely understand why.”
I paused for dramatic effect and continued.
“Let me train you starting tomorrow and you can be your village’s savior, the new witch of Montaron. Or, of course, you can continue cooking and cleaning and doing silly chores until you lose your mind and your life. Really, it’s your call.” I stuck out my hand. “Now, I will not ask again. Will you let me train you?”
Manon looked at the hand, then looked at me. I stared deep into the ridges of the coil that is her soul. It was wound tight, glowing in hues of gray, gold, and red. I could not completely guess the meanings of those colors in the moment, but I did not need to dig into her soul to know that she would stretch out her hand and strike a deal.
Her hand wrapped around mine and shook it firmly. “Teach me how to use my magic, Madame Renoir and I and Montaron will leave you alone forever.”