By the time I made my way back to Ms. Labelle’s, Melanie knew everything about Larissa and the boy. Ms. Labelle told her, and also, she told her that I had known. When I entered the room, Melanie’s eyes followed me accusingly. I could feel it, her questions, hanging in the air: Why didn’t you tell me? Why did you keep this from me? I didn’t blame Ms. Labelle for spilling the beans. No, things needed to come out. It was better. Let it all go at once.
I went to sit by Melanie on the couch, but she slid away.
Iris sat in the chair curled next to Jessica. She (and everyone else) was dressed again. On her face was a mournful look.
“Veronica,” Ms. Labelle said as she settled next to me on the couch. She slid close. “We’ve already called Larissa and spoken.”
“She wants to meet Iris face to face, tonight. We decided on the bridge at the Public Gardens.”
I glanced at Iris. She burrowed her face against Jessica’s chest.
“That’s fine,” I said.
Ms. Labelle went on, “Melanie is going with her — she insists — ” Which figured. “I’d like you to come too.”
“Me? Why me? I have nothing to do with Iris.”
Ms. Labelle put her hand on my shoulder. “Sweetie, if it comes to a fight, we might need you.”
From across the room, Jessica slowly ran her fingers through Iris’s hair. She looked over and said, “We have your back. Like, you can totally count on us. But now we need you.”
Whatever else happened, I didn’t want to be caught alone versus Andrea. Sure, I was a witch. I could probably bring her down, kill her if I had to. But I didn’t want that. If there was another way, a better way using connections or cunning, those things that Ms. Labelle could provide, then I would rather do that. It would be better for Mom and for me. No, I wanted these witches at my back. I wanted that very much. So I had to be with them.
“Of course,” I said.
Plus, Melanie. Still Melanie.
It was a cold evening. Few birds were left in the city this late in the season, just a family of ducks who lingered, swimming beneath the pedestrian bridge which spanned the old swan lake. They made very little noise. We were in the Public Gardens, a big old park nestled downtown. Behind us an asphalt path ran straight between bare trees, all the way to Charles Street, where we could see scattered people under the bright lights. Cars too. But not here, deep in the shadowy park. Far across the bridge, a man in silhouette played softly on a violin. Its lilting tune seemed to hang in the air.
There were three of us: Iris, Melanie, and me. We stepped from the path onto the bridge. As we walked forward, I sensed them behind us, without even looking: Ms. Labelle and Jessica, who followed us in spirit form.
We were to meet Larissa in the center of the bridge. We had no doubt she’d bring the boy, her demon guardian, who Iris informed us had called himself Orres.
Together we were four witches, for we had taught Iris second sight, which would let her see Orres if he were present. Also, we taught her the power word kieer, which would let her attack anything in spirit form. If this became a fight, she could at least provide some small amount of help.
Could we four witches match Orres in power?
As we neared the center, we saw Larissa approach from the other side. Indeed, Orres drifted along behind her. His arms were outstretched. On his face was an arrogant smile. Iris froze in place and then grabbed Melanie’s hand. I glanced behind me to be sure Ms. Labelle and Jessica were there. They were. Ms. Labelle gave me a slight nod. Jessica peered ahead with a serious look.
I turned back to face Larissa. “Come, Iris,” I said. “Let’s do this.” We advanced.
Larissa wore a thick, downy jacket and her fuzzy boots. Even in the dim light, I could see the glint of her lovely eyes, the perfect curve of her cheeks, her strong chin and shapely nose. She crossed her arms and gazed at us.
Whatever gifts of beauty the goddess had granted to witches, Larissa had received its equal. It was a shame, I thought, that she had not been chosen by our lady, that she was not one of us. Even here, facing her ready to fight, hating her, I was overwhelmed by her.
“Iris,” she said, “come here.”
Iris had shifted position so she stood between Melanie and me. She held our hands and pulled us close.
“Iris is a witch,” I said. “She belongs with us now.”
“Yeah, Larissa,” Melanie added, “leave her be. She needs us to teach her.”
Larissa turned and glanced at Orres. Then she spun back and pointed at Iris. With a loud, ferocious voice, she shouted, “Take her!”
The violinist continued to play. Orres came forward. “Are you sure, my lady? She is well guarded.”
“Take her! She’s mine!”
A sour look crossed Orres’s face. He wiggled his hands, as if he had handled something gross. “I hardly want to touch her.”
“I command it!”
“Larissa!” I said. “Why? We don’t have to fight. Come with us and we can find a way. You can still love Iris. She will forgive you, if you let her learn magic.” I squeezed Iris’s hand. “Yes, Iris?”
Iris nodded. She finally spoke to Larissa. “Please, baby. I like these girls. I want to be friends with them and learn more magic. You have your magic. Let me have mine.”
Larissa stepped forward aggressively. “I know that you’re fucking them! I know you’re fucking Veronica!”
Which, of course, she wasn’t. But then, I was the only one she had not yet fucked, me who she wanted most.
Larissa stopped and clenched her fists. She stared at me with hate. “Please,” I said.
She let out a long, horrid, screeching sound. Then she said, “Kill them. Kill them all!”
Orres blinked. He nodded his head. And for the first time, I saw a look much like sadness cross his face.
Then things happened fast. He raised his hand. He shot me a glance, so brief. Was it kindness? Respect? Then he waved. At the same time, Ms. Labelle, Jessica, Iris, and me all shouted, “Kieer!”
Energy surged. Back and forth it shot between us: we four and Orres. Iris fell fast, shrieking as a bolt of feverish green light tore through her. Next Jessica screamed and was hurled back among the trees. Ms. Labelle and I remained up, weathering the storm. Waves of energy crashed around us, passed over us, and some surged through us, biting deep. I cried out in pain. Ms. Labelle did also. But Orres was not unaffected. I saw one particular wave of power crest and crash into him. He grimaced. Briefly, I saw his power wane.
While this happened, Melanie and Larissa stood oblivious. The waves passed through them and around them without seeming to touch them. They each looked around fearfully.
“What’s happening?” Melanie asked in a frightened voice. She leaned to Iris’s fallen form. “Iris? Are you okay?”
Iris groaned. Another wave of power hit me — and Ms. Labelle — and I cried out again. But I didn’t go down. Again I shouted “Kieer!” As did Ms. Labelle.
This continued several more times, wave upon wave of agony, and desperate attempts to fire back. By now I had dropped to my knees. Ms. Labelle was still up, and still seemed strong, but not as strong as Orres, who seemed gloriously strong. He had risen higher and grown larger. His arms were held wide. His long fingers crackled with seemingly limitless power. He laughed and laughed as wave after wave crashed over us.
Melanie grabbed my hand. “Sweetie, cast. Together.” I looked and she had set a lit candle between us. Had she carried one in her bag? I felt her fumble with my hair, tie the ribbon and bell. Then I felt her slip something into the hem of my jersey — the sewing needle, my cylene, I was sure. “Cast baby, bring me! I can help. I can go deeper than you. He won’t expect me.”
It seemed the most stupid and desperate thing possible. But then, I was dying. Ms. Labelle was dying. Would anything remain? Why not cast? Let us all go together. I spoke the words.
When we split from our bodies, it was as if we had cast ourselves into a maelstrom. Melanie shrieked, as she saw for the first time the power of magic unleashed. I grabbed her. I shielded her, pulled her to my breasts, and let it hit me, tear into me.
“Go deep!” she shouted over the din.
Would going deep help? I didn’t know. But I trusted her. I relaxed and looked around me, and I tried to see the truth behind all things.
I felt the change. I saw Melanie’s brown eyes grow wide, her face grow soft. Soon I saw the tattered threads of my cloth doll. So lovely. Her button eyes blinked. “Oh, sweetie,” I said. “It’s you.” Around me, I felt peace, a sense of floating in an endless space. No more magic struck me.
“Hurry,” she said. “We’re fine here. But our friends need help fast.”
I took a quick glance at my friends. They remained alive, if beleaguered and beaten. Ms. Labelle was herself, the brass goddess with the glowing heart. The storm wore on her. She had fallen to one knee. But her head was still raised. I saw Jessica perched in a tree, thin and gaunt, shivering and afraid. Iris lay curled on the bridge, unconscious. She was a beautiful girl in a white wedding dress. Her train spread out behind her. Her veil hung low.
Then I looked at Larissa, who appeared as a tall queen with an imperious face. She wore a silvery crown with three cruel spikes. Her dress was long, ornate, black and violet, with a billowing cloak that spread out behind her and fluttered in the swirling winds of magic.
Orres was exactly Orres.
“Come,” Melanie said. She approached Orres. I followed. Suddenly distracted, he gazed at her. “Please,” she said. “Please go slow, please don’t kill. Give us a chance.” He arched his brow. “You have to protect Larissa, right? Well, protect her heart, not her rage. Protect her from this error. Look!” She pointed. “See the rip.”
Orres and I both looked, and indeed we saw the rip, a tear in the fabric of everything, a rippling sheet torn between Larissa and Iris.
“Go slow,” Melanie pleaded. She reached for Orres’s hand. “Don’t kill. Give Veronica time to fix the rip.”
Orres cast her a wry smile. He looked around and seemed to think, to judge the value of our lives — the lives of witches, the lives of girls. He blinked. Then he gave a single nod. His energy pulled back and formed a shell around him. I glanced, only briefly, at Ms. Labelle. She had dropped, curled up, with her arms wrapped around her head. When the magic assault ceased, she gazed up and began to rise to her knees. Quickly, I went to the place in the fabric of magic, a place — did places really exist here? — between Larissa and Iris, where there was a long tear. Threads hung loose. The fabric was strained, barely holding. The seams were frayed.
I removed my cylene from the hem of my jersey. Thread appeared. Scissors too. I stitched.
Later, Larissa, Iris, Melanie, and I all sat together on tall chairs around a high table in that very Back Bay restaurant where I had once met Ms. Labelle for lunch. Although we numbered four, we had requested a table for six, as Ms. Labelle and Jessica had returned to their bodies and were rushing to join us.
The mood was strange. I was sitting next to Melanie. Across from me was Larissa with Iris squeezed next to her. They held hands and smiled, and each kept glancing at the other, catching the other’s eyes for brief moments. Then each gaze would drop and each girl would look around confusedly. Sometimes Larissa would shoot a glance my way. It was not a happy look. But neither was it full of hate.
Orres floated above us, just beneath the ceiling, with his arms crossed and a sour expression. Iris more or less refused to look his way. I gave him a shrug and a nod.
The same waiter, Herman, sauntered up to our table, with his trimmed mustache, his stiff back, and his little order pad. “Hello, ladies.”
“Hi, Herman,” I said. “Do you remember me? I’m Ms. Labelle’s friend.” I cocked my head and smiled.
He smiled also. He stood with his shoulders back and stepped close to me. “Indeed, I do. Veronica, yes? It’s very good to see you back.”
“Yep. Awesome! So, Herman, Ms. Labelle will be meeting us here. In the meantime, I think we would all like drinks.”
I held up the cocktail menu and glanced at the girls. Herman tilted his shoulders and winked. “Indeed, any friend of Ms. Labelle’s gets very special treatment here. So, what would you all like?” He stepped to the end of the table so that he faced all of us, with his pad out and pen ready. We passed around the menu and ordered various fruity cocktails, the sort with umbrellas. Herman scribbled down our orders, winked once more, and then drifted away.
“Wow!” Iris said. “It’s like we’re movie stars.”
About a half hour before this, still in the gardens, Orres had decided not to kill us, and I had repaired a tear in the fabric of the world. When Melanie and I returned to our bodies, we awoke to find Larissa on her knees with Iris’s head nested in her lap. She was stroking Iris’s face and begging her to wake. A cop had just arrived, summoned by (I guess) the violinist, who ran for help when the screaming began.
We had quite a time convincing the cop that nothing was wrong, that this was just a teenage lark, and that he did not need to call our parents or take us to the hospital. Fortunately, Iris awoke wide-eyed only moments after he arrived.
Soon the cop left us. We rushed to Iris to check that she was okay. She breathed deep and looked back and forth between Larissa and me, her face full of amazement. When we asked how she felt, she said she was fine. But other than that, she was mostly quiet. Melanie was mostly quiet too.
Ms. Labelle and Jessica were also fine, which they told us when we were alone. They returned to their bodies after agreeing to meet us for food.
What better way to spend a lovely evening with friends — after almost killing each other.
In the restaurant, I watched Herman stand by the bar and assemble our drinks on a small tray. I spoke to Larissa. “Please, now can we find some way. I mean…” I placed my hand on the table before her. “I’ll do what it takes, respect your limits. And for what it’s worth — it hasn’t happened yet, me and Iris.”
Iris squeezed Larissa’s hand. “It’s true baby. Please believe us.”
Larissa looked back and forth at us. She seemed to think. Melanie slid her chair and pressed close to me.
Before Larissa could answer, Herman arrived with the tray and set our drinks before us. Mine was blue with crushed ice. Larissa’s was crimson. Herman said, “Enjoy.” He gave a small bow, held the tray before his chest, and then spun around and sauntered away.
Larissa took a sip of her drink. Then she said, “So, if Iris is gonna learn witchcraft from you, what magic is Melanie gonna learn?”
I swallowed and looked down. I heard Iris breathe in sharply. Pressed close to me, I felt Melanie grow tense.
Larissa went on, “See, the reason I couldn’t teach Iris sorcery was because she’s a witch. So, now that she knows that, she’s gonna go learn from you all. Fine. I have to let her, I guess. But Melanie isn’t a witch. It’s clear she loves magic. I could teach her sorcery. That seems fair, right? You get my girlfriend as your apprentice. I take yours as mine.”
It was fair, obviously. Too fair. I glanced at Melanie, but she looked away.
“It’s up to Mel,” I said. But I knew what she would say. I pulled her close to me. “What do you want, sweetie?”
Larissa spoke again, “Veronica, we keep our girlfriends. This is just magic.” She paused. “And I’ll have sex with Melanie exactly as much as you witchy-girls have sex with Iris.”
Which would be a lot. I mean, I knew that. We were witches. The passion would take hold. And even if I could stop myself, for some agonizing stretch of time while Iris flashed me her blue eyes and sweet smiles, Ms. Labelle and Jessica were now part of my life. I could not keep them apart from Iris. That would not be fair to anyone.
I ran my fingers down Melanie’s arm. I whispered into her ear, “Go ahead, dear. We pretty much have to do this.”
She cast me a few brief, cautious glances. The she looked over at Larissa. “Yes, please. I would like to learn sorcery from you.”
A broad, victorious smile crossed Larissa’s face. She said to Melanie, “Very good. Then, why don’t you come sit by me. Iris, go sit by Veronica.”
Larissa sat upright with her shoulders stiff while the girls switched. Iris hopped onto the chair next to me and smiled huge. She grabbed my hand and squeezed it. Melanie slid into the chair next to Larissa. But she didn’t move close. We sat that way and drank our cocktails silently.
After that long, awkward pause, Melanie asked, “So, Larissa, do sorceresses go into the spirit world like witches do?”
“No,” Larissa said. “At least, not that I know of.” Then, between small sips of her drink, she explained why they did not, that according to sorcery mortals should not command magic directly, but instead call on the assistance of spirits, angels, and demons. It is not given to mortals, she said, to hold the power of the unborn ones. When she said the last part, she glanced over at Iris and me.
Melanie seemed to absorb it all. Then she asked, “But have you ever heard of it? Or, can you ask it of the spirits? I mean, obviously it’s possible. Witches do it.”
Larissa shrugged. “I’ve never tried.”
“You have the book, right? Like, the big one with all the mysterious knowledge? The one that isn’t in English?”
Larissa nodded. Melanie said, “Good. I’ll figure out how to read it.”
Larissa harrumphed. I smiled, and I imagined how soon it would be that Melanie had learned everything there is to learn from Larissa, her book, and her spirits, and herself become a master sorceress. Larissa had no idea what she had taken on.
I took a long swig of my cocktail. Iris kissed my cheek. Moments later Ms. Labelle and Jessica arrived.
As soon as they got settled, Herman stopped by our table and took drink orders for Ms. Labelle and Jessica, and food orders for all of us.
We were now six crowded around the table, with Iris by me and Melanie by Larissa. Ms. Labelle looked around at the arrangements and said, “Did something happen?”
I told her what had happened.
“Hmm,” she said, “well… I mean… this might be for the best, right?”
There was no doubt that Melanie and Iris thought so. That was plain to see on their faces, Iris so eager, Melanie’s intense gaze. But Larissa — I watched her face and tried to read her thoughts. What did she really think of this? Her expression was inscrutable.
“I see,” Ms. Labelle said. “Well, I think we should eat up, have some drinks, get relaxed, and then all head over to my apartment for some — shall we say — recreation. How does that sound?”
Iris squirmed and squealed. Jessica cast us all a hungry look. Melanie nodded. I was fine with it. So we all waited for Larissa to respond.
She put her hand on Melanie’s knee. “Yeah, we can do that.” Then she kissed Melanie’s cheek.
We ate, drank, and chatted. And indeed we began to feel relaxed. There were sweet stories, kind words, and laughter. Iris was so soft against me. Melanie was right there, still near, even if not sitting by me. Then we finished, Ms. Labelle paid, and we slipped out.
We walked along the well-lit greenway on Commonwealth, and then into the Public Gardens, which was on our way. It was darker now than before. Few people were in sight, even along Boylston Street, which was warmly lit off to our right through the trees. When we arrived at the bridge, the very bridge where we had earlier fought for our lives, the violinist was gone. Nor were the ducks visible. I walked along holding Larissa’s hand.
Yes, Larissa’s. When we had left the restaurant, and as we all milled around and decided what route we would take, I stepped up to her and without warning grabbed her hand. She looked at me shocked. But she didn’t pull away.
“Please walk with me,” I said.
She seemed uncertain. But when she saw the gigantic smile cross Iris’s face, and then Iris step over and seize Melanie’s hand, she seemed to relax. She exhaled slowly. Then she ran her gaze up and down my body, over my breasts, to my eyes. “Fine,” she said. “This’ll work.”
We walked close together sharing warmth as we crossed the bridge. Neither of us said anything about the fight, or about Orres, who still followed above with a scornful look. I glanced around at all of my beautiful friends, and I thought of how amazing they all were — even Larissa.
Something occurred to me, about how foolish Andrea Dawlton was. A plan began to form.
“Larissa, I want to talk to Ms. Labelle alone.”
She released my hand and scurried forward between Iris and Melanie, splitting them and taking a hand from each. “Hey sexy girls!” she said. They giggled.
Ms. Labelle and I slowed and let the others draw ahead. As we neared the far side of the bridge, I said, “I think I know how to handle Andrea.”
“Yeah. But first, will you go with me tomorrow and help me buy some super-sexy clothes?”
Her eyes got wide and she nodded. “Oh yes, Veronica. Oh yes.”
“Great. So here’s how I get her.”
I explained my idea.
One week later found me sitting in a plush, padded chair in a posh restaurant with thick white napkins and tablecloths. Before me sat a tall glass of white wine next to a basket of crunchy, cracker-like bread. From around me came the low murmur of voices, the hushed clinks of forks against china, and the soft tread of the aproned wait-staff as they scurried to and fro to satisfy the guests. The food that passed our table smelled terrific, steaks and seafood, pastas and elaborate salads served on square plates. Tonight I wore a lovely, low-cut red dress, the sort that flared out at my waist and hung to my knees. I felt very beautiful, and the sultry glances of Andrea Dawlton, who sat across from me, proved it.
She took a sip of wine. I broke off a piece of crunchy bread and ate.
“I got you something,” she said. Then she placed a small gift-wrapped box on the table between us.
This was my third date with her since I made my plans with Ms. Labelle, and so far everything was splendid. I took the package and said, “Oh, you shouldn’t have.”
She cocked her head and smiled. “Oh, indeed I should. In fact, as soon as I saw it, I thought of you wearing it. And trust me, after that, I really had no choice. Now, go ahead, open it.”
I did. It was a stunning pendant necklace with small, clear, sparkly stones set in silver around the circumference. Hanging from the center was a single deep-red gem not much smaller than my thumb. The little stones were, I was sure, diamonds. The larger one, a ruby! I gasped. She smiled. “Do you like it?”
“Oh my god! Andrea! How much — I mean — I can’t accept this.”
“Nonsense. Put it on. Here, let me help you.” She rose from her chair and circled behind me. Then she reached over my shoulders, took the necklace, and clasped it around my neck. “Do you like?”
It hung down to my pale cleavage and was, I had no doubt, amazing. Andrea returned to her seat, sat, and gazed at me.
“Mmm,” she said. “It’s more beautiful than I imagined.”
I fingered the enormous red gem, felt its weight. My face must have looked ecstatic, because Andrea beamed. “Admit it, you love it!” I could only nod breathlessly.
Soon after that our waiter came around to check on the wine and bread. He noticed the gem. “Oh my! That’s a lovely thing!” He winked at Andrea. “Is this a special occasion?”
Andrea didn’t take her eyes from my breasts. “I certainly hope so.”
Although this was our third date, I had not yet slept with her, not since the first time in her office. After each date so far, I had managed to find some excuse to escape, some emergency at home, or simply a headache. No doubt she knew what I was doing, the game I played. She seemed to enjoy that game.
So far. But unlike her, I knew some rules that she did not. For instance, I knew what witchy lust was like, from one witch to another, how it would overcome her, drive her mad with desire. And that was my plan, to drive her so crazy she became my slave.
I glanced behind Andrea, to where Iris and Jessica floated in spirit form, watching over me to ensure that nothing went wrong. Iris had my camera, to get evidence — if needed. Jessica had only herself.
It was hard for me also, of course, controlling the feelings, sitting face to face, a slow dinner, letting our heat rise and rise. Such delicious lust. But I had another thing she did not, witches on my side, who waited for me at Ms. Labelle’s, so that after my date I could hurry there in desperation, knowing that a long, intense fuck waited for me.
“Come, drink your wine,” Andrea said.
I took a long sip while she did the same, gazing eye to eye. Then our food arrived. Mine was Atlantic Cod pressed flat, served over rice. Hers was a small steak filet wrapped in bleu cheese.
“Mmm. Smells great,” she said.
It did. We grabbed our forks and ate.
Later we strolled hand in hand along Newbury Street, among the crowd, many of whom turned and gawked at two beautiful women so obviously close. Andrea spoke to me. “So, Veronica, can I finally entice you back to my condo?”
I almost stumbled from the effects of lust and wine. “Yeah, after tonight, I think so!”
But I didn’t mean it. I glanced over and shot a wink to Jessica, who was holding up her phone. She rose into the sky, well out of earshot. Then she dialed. Moments later my phone rang.
“Hi Dad,” I answered. “What…? Oh no! No way! Not tonight, you can’t…! I’m with a friend, like, no! It’s important!”
From the corner of my eye I saw a beleaguered look cross Andrea’s face. Above me, Iris and Jessica smiled.
“No Dad! You can’t make me!”
“What is it, Veronica?” Andrea said.
I held my hand over the phone. “It’s my Dad! He says I have to come home right now!”
She shrugged. “Ignore him. I could buy your dad a thousand times over.”
I cast her a panicked look. I glanced at my phone, then back to her, then to the ground, then back to the phone. “Andrea! I can’t… I mean… I want to, I really, really do. But I can’t.”
She grabbed my wrist. I stepped back and said, “Next time. I promise! Next time!”
Around us, people were looking. We were beginning to become a scene.
“Andrea, please. I don’t want to get into that kind of trouble. Plus, he can’t know about this! You get that, right!”
A policeman stopped not too far away and watched us. Andrea glanced at him. I cast her a pleading look. I whispered, “Next time. I promise.”
She released my hand and glanced again at the crowd. “Just come over long enough so I can get a proper kiss. Just that. My condo is just ahead. Just that, Veronica.” Could I say no to that? I stepped back again. “Come on!” she said. She was breathing heavy. “You’ve been stringing me along! This isn’t fair!”
The cop approached. “Ladies,” he said, “is everything okay?”
I grabbed her wrist. “Yes, officer,” I said, “we’re fine. Just a little thing.”
“How old are you?” he asked, eyeing me skeptically.
Andrea’s body language suddenly changed, as if the whole situation suddenly dawned on her. Now it was her eyes that were pleading. “Twenty-two,” I said — instead of the truth, seventeen. “Come on, we’re fine,” I added. Next I released Andrea’s wrist. “We’re going separate ways anyhow.” I stepped back again, getting a nice bit of space between me and Andrea. “Goodnight, sweetie. See you Friday?”
She cast me a harsh look, nodded, then spun around and hurried away. The cop shook his head and left us. I rushed toward Boylston and the subway station, myself growing crazed with lust.
When I arrived twenty minutes later at Ms. Labelle’s, I practically fell through the door. Everyone was here tonight. Melanie sat on the floor by the coffee table with Larissa’s book open in front of her. Next to that was a pile of volumes with titles like Aramaic for Dummies. Iris sat behind her on the couch, making out with Larissa, who wore nothing but one of Ms. Labelle’s long white blouses. Jessica was sitting in the chair with her legs out, seeming to just wait. Ms. Labelle met me by the door and threw her arms around me, kissing me, touching my breasts.
“Oh sweetie, how are you? How was the date? And let me see that chunk of rock she got you!”
It appeared that news of my gift had preceded me. “Yeah, really,” Jessica added. “Show that thing off.”
I walked to the center of the room and swirled about, letting my dress flair out and the necklace sparkle. “Like it?”
Larissa said, “Whooooaaaa!” Melanie glanced up from her book.
“Anyhow,” Ms. Labelle went on, “are we all ready for sex?”
“Yes!” I said. Then I turned and kissed her passionately while pulling her toward the couch. Iris broke from Larissa, rushed to me, and began to squeeze my butt.
Larissa said, “Put the books away, Mel. It’s time to fuck.”
Melanie closed her books and joined Larissa on the couch.
A few hours later, I lay arm in arm with Ms. Labelle on a pile a blankets in front of her huge window. Outside, the city lights stretched out, so beautiful. Melanie was curled up by my feet, sleeping beside a book titled On the Translation of Demotic Scripts, or some such thing. Larissa was also sleepy, spread out on the couch with her eyes half closed. Iris and Jessica had slipped into another room. Their soft moans drifted through the apartment.
“So, things are going well with Andrea?” Ms. Labelle said.
“Yeah. I think pretty soon I’m gonna have to give up a little, or she’ll go completely nuts. But still, she’s definitely crazed now.”
Ms. Labelle let out a small laugh. “Ah, well, she has my sympathy, actually. You can drive a witch mad.”
I closed my eyes and stretched out in her enclosing arms. “She’ll never love me, of course. Actually, I don’t think her sort even can love. Like, it’s this other sort of thing, more like possession.”
“Doesn’t that worry you?” she asked. “Like, that no matter how wrapped up she is, she’ll always be dangerous?”
Would she? Could I ever have her so bad that she became safe? I didn’t need to think long. No, of course not. Ms. Labelle was right. Andrea saw everything as conflict. I could never get her to a place I trusted her. Not hardly. It would always be cat and mouse.
I just wanted to remain the cat. Which reminded me of something else that had bothered me.
“Ms. Labelle… Can I ask something?”
“So, this is kind of a weird question.”
She ran her finger gently down my arm and waited for me to go on.
“Do you, like, think that I’ll fight you someday? Like, is it something you expect?”
She grew stiff and sat up a bit. “What? Why would you ask that?”
“It’s something you once said, that you expected that we would fight someday, and that I would beat you.”
She was quiet for a while. Outside the window, far in the distance, I saw a light drift along in the sky. A plane or a helicopter?
“I don’t remember saying that, but it must have been before we got together.”
“Right. It was. It was back when Jessica had kidnapped Mel.”
“Ah. Well, I didn’t know you very well yet.”
“Right. But is it something that powerful people do? Like, Andrea said that Mr. Hobaugh expected her to try and take him down, like it was some sort of thing.”
“Hmm. Well, did he act like he expected it?”
“Come here, Veronica. Face me.” I turned to her. She softly touched my face and guided me toward her until our noses were tip to tip. We kissed. She pulled me closer. We embraced. “Sweetie, I hope we never fight, and that we’re always close, that we always trust each other. Because I love you.” She cupped my cheeks and looked deeply into my eyes. “And I love Melanie. And Jessica, of course. And I hope that we grow to love Iris and Larissa too, that we’re always together.” I closed my eyes. She continued, “No, Veronica, let’s never, ever, ever fight.”
I clung to her, my sweet friend. Moments later I felt Melanie’s hands on my back — she must have woken up and heard us. She pressed her chest against me. Then kisses on my neck. “I love you too, my sweet Veronica.”
I felt warmth all over me, coursing through me. And I pitied stupid Andrea Dawlton and her empty power.
I knew what magic was, the real magic of girls. “Let’s have sex again,” I whispered. Ms. Labelle and Melanie enthusiastically agreed.