A bad day only lasts twenty-four hours unless you’re a witch like me.
The floor sinks under my feet. My lungs fill with this putrid smell of cherry punch and, like in the room of crooked mirrors, the space around me shrinks. My ears split from this chit-chat noise, advancing on all sides of me, and this archaic sound of the dusty phonograph in the corner. Again, whose idea was it to put O, FORTUNA on loop tonight? Because it does nothing but drive me crazy. It definitely doesn’t help me feel more witch, if that was the intention.
While fortune spins her wheel, who will lose and who will win, I try my best to regain my strength to peel my knees off the floor. But how long can a witch like myself stay without air before the unpleasantness of fainting finds its way in? A rhetorical question, really, but hopefully Balfor’s right and witches do have a special share of luck. Otherwise, I’m totally and irrevocably screwed.
I crawl up, securing a grip on the sleek curve of the banister, but I’m fighting a losing battle here. No matter what I do it’s just a matter of time before I slip away. I never know where. But it’s a place I hate the most—a place with no windows, and no doors, and no simple ways out.
And what about the Gathering? Today is supposed to be my starting point into the world of powerful witchery, whatever that means. Not a ride into hell. Dying in this whimsical corset dress with this orange tulle skirt around my knees tonight would definitely piss me off more than anything else, even the dying itself. Swearing on life to never trust Aili’s idea of witch fashion ever again. That is if I make it through tonight.
Just then another round of voices flurries through my head and I squeeze my eyes shut, bracing myself for the pain they’re about to bring. Hungry, they bite into every thought that enters my head, tearing them apart till there is nothing but a pile of useless shreds left in their place. I know what’s to come next. Soon I’ll be empty, deprived of voice, thoughts, and will. Just a shell.
But luck must have finally taken pity on me because the moment I feel like it’s my last, the crowd of over-dressed witches finally steers to the door. I’ve never felt so relieved in my entire life from just being able to part my lips to allow the burn of air to escape my lungs.
Just then the room swings from all the movement and I fall on my hands. A spark of light tangles in the coral red of my hair before it dashes back across the room. I look up, following the trail, and watch it sinking into the monochrome gleam of black eyes.
Like a Lucifer match, the eyes flare up at the sight of me.
Purely out of instinct, I recoil back but the space behind me shudders when a pair of wintry hands firmly wrap around my shoulders.
“Are you drunk?” She asks.
I shake my head. I wish I were, and though what’s happening to me now is some kind of intoxication too, I can’t possibly explain the chemistry behind it.
At first it sounds like a joke, so I just dismiss it. But for a brief moment there it feels like she understands what it’s like. But then, how can she when my own mother is still convinced that I can just turn it off. Like I’m imposing this hell, which I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy, on myself intentionally.
For a moment the music goes quiet. I lift my head, just now realizing that I’m clinging to her hands like my life depends on it. Well, in a way, it actually does.
Witches, with their infectious presence, are right inside me, needling though my cells and weaving their vicious essence in. I can’t run. I can’t hide. All I can do is to trust myself up to the mercy of this stranger, this chilly winter on my skin, which brings me so close to believing that it is that special share of luck Balfor’s been preaching about all this time. Luck that has eyes the color of deep opaque dusk, a shade of somber skies. Just looking into them feels like staring into the abyss. But then red orbs flash around her irises, dispelling the night when she stares back at me.
While I debate what exactly I just saw, a flood of dark heads slips out through the door, leaving us behind in the room. The space grows weary but it’s what happens when you host that many witches on the most powerful day of the solar year. It exhausts everything around. But then Cora’s head, the color of white sand, pops out in the departing crowd, and I panic again. She’s the third witch in our small trio that Balfor’s taken under his wing to teach magic and if she sees me like this… well, to put it mildly, she would rather rot in hell than miss the opportunity to have me kicked out and destroy my chance at becoming a practicing witch.
The thing is if I want to stay in, no one should know about my powers. You’d think active power is what should be celebrated among witches, but since the majority, if not all of them, don’t possess any real magic, having active power is a one way ticket to exile.
I shake my head, which becomes a kind of language between us. She seems to understand it perfectly. She allows me to lean on her while we make our way across the room and to the door. Once we are outside, I get the chance to replace the stiffness in my lungs with fresh air. It makes my eyes sting when I feel the grass tingling my toes.
“Thank you.” It’s the first time I manage to speak but the sound of my voice, like a creaky chair, makes me wince.
#430 in Fantasy
#181 in Romantic fantasy
#2001 in Romance
#61 in LGBT