So…Halloween is fast approaching. This flash fiction story was originally written for a Creative Writing course assessment, last year. As one of the characters will be popping up again in a new tale on Mari Wells‘s blog later this month, I thought I’d remind you about our precocious Lochie Witch… ;-)
The shop bell rang, jangling her aching bones as well as her ears. Abigail narrowed her eyes, assessing the girl as she entered. Her customer was pretty, but unlike many, had taken no particular care with her appearance. Fair hair scraped up into a messy bun, no make-up, no jewellery, yet she carried herself with immense confidence. This young lady was good at something, and knew it. Abigail wondered what it was.
The girl approached, pulling a piece of paper from her bag. She regarded Abigail the way they all did: not seeing her, just a person behind a counter.
“I need these.” The girl held out the paper. “Do you stock them?” Abigail slid her glasses down from where they were holding her frizz of hair back. She took the list and peered at the tiny writing, then turned to the shelves behind her. “We have them all,” she answered over her shoulder. “I’ll just be one moment”. Might as well get the hard-to-reach one out of the way first. Pulling the ladder towards her, she climbed painfully onto the first step.
“Umm…” Her customer sounded less sure of herself. “Can I give you a hand?”
“I can manage,” Abigail snapped, then winced. Mother wouldn’t be pleased if she lost a customer due to being touchy about her – condition. “Sorry.” As she reached for the jar, she couldn’t help thinking: my hands work fine, thank you very much!
“So does your sarcasm.” Abigail fumbled the container in shock, then caught it. Dismounting the ladder as fast as she dared, she faced the young woman. “How did you hear that?”
“You might as well have screamed it.” The girl was looking at Abigail properly now, her mouth twisting in amusement. She held out her hand, an old-fashioned gesture. “I’m Evie.”
“Abigail.” They shook hands. Abigail placed the jar in front of Evie. “Do you want to check this?”
Evie removed the lid, and the scent of roses filled the air. “Mmm, wonderful. Yes, that’ll do nicely. You said you had the other ingredients?”
“I do.” Abigail collected the other two jars. Evie sniffed the second one in approval. The third one, she opened and dipped a finger towards. A single drop rose from the jar and landed on her finger, like a raindrop falling the wrong way. Evie blew on the liquid, and Abigail watched it dissolve into a million sparkling fragments, blue-black like the sky of a storm, before they disappeared. Now she knew what her customer was.
“You’re a witch.” Abigail could scarcely believe it. “A real one. But you’re so…”
“Young?” Evie’s eyes seemed to look right inside Abigail. For the first time, someone saw her. “You’re an apothecary. A real one. And you’re too young.”
“I’m sixteen!” Her voice was defensive. It always was. “Mother can’t manage anymore…and I’m better than her, anyway. At making…stuff. I just can’t get around the shop as fast.”
“What’s wrong with your legs?” Evie asked bluntly. Abigail liked her for that. No pussyfooting around the subject.
“Spina bifida. They thought I might never walk at all.”
“My grandmother told me about this place. She said it was the best. I think she knew your mum well – back in the day. Gran said, if the daughter’s half as good as her mum you’ll be all right. Looks like that’s true.” Evie replaced the lid on jar number three. “Why are you so surprised to see a real witch? I thought you’d get loads of us in here.”
“No,” snorted Abigail. “Lots of people who think they are – or want to be. Girls – women – wearing pentagrams or moon symbols and carrying tarot cards. Or the ones who want to know how to stay beautiful or catch some man…” She trailed off, knowing what was in the jars in front of her. The makings of a bona-fide love potion.
“It’s not what you think.” Evie reached for her purse as Abigail measured the ingredients into stoppered vials. “You know what next Thursday is? Sorry, of course you do!” She amended as Abigail glared. “Well…the coven’s going to have another go. I think this is what’s been missing. This is the first year I’ve been allowed to read the books, but I’m really good at doing this – stuff.” They shared a conspiratorial glance.
“The sisters sent me here to get the missing ingredients. I’m glad they did. You know your stuff – like what these are for. Hopefully, this time we’ll succeed.”
Abigail stared at her, then the penny dropped.
“The Sisters?” she exclaimed. “You’re one of the Lochie coven? Then that means you’re going to…”
Evie nodded. “On Samhain. At the Old Kirk. This year we’ll do it.” Her face took on a wistful expression.
“We’ll conjure – him.”
If you’ve read The Summoning (if you haven’t, why not? Go and read it now!) you’ll know who Evie is trying to conjure, and in what form. Will she succeed? Wait and see…
The Old Apothecary Shop by Olivier le Queinec