~Book of Mirrors~
Today, on this cool and dark late August night, I will die. I will be killed in the usual way, by burning at the stake for my sin of being a witch. I ask myself, as I have done so many times in my short life: why? Why did I do this to myself? I could have easily revoked my blood line. I could have chosen never to take the oath. No one ever made me practice witchcraft. So…why? Why did I do it?
I suppose you could liken that to asking a squirrel why they chose to have a tail. They could pretend it doesn’t exist, they could tell people they were born without it, but what does it change? Down to the little animal’s core, they know what they are and what they have. And no amount of pretending will ever change that.
So I suppose that leads us to another question: why am I here? What have I done to deserve my early death?
I suppose it all began, my story that is, before I was even born. To tell my story, I have to tell the story of my family, and that all began with the marriage of Frances Rice and Leonard Green.
They didn’t have a big wedding, I have been told. Simple, quite, but pretty. They were the perfect couple for their time. Or so everyone assumed…
It was the same old story of the abusive husband, the subservient wife, and the pretty little middle class life they lived. She got pregnant with my Aunt, Karen. The story continued its common story, simply adding another person for him to abusive in private and smile at in public. Life was how it was meant to be, it was how fate saw their future.
And then she was born.
My mother, Mary, was a child never conceived. Mr. Green stopped having sex with his wife after Karen was born, as was common for their time. Sex was vulgar and barbaric, apparently. And so, when little Miss Francey Green was told of her pregnancy, she was righteously fearful, for two reasons. One, where had the baby come from? This was a time when oddities where explained with myths, superstitions, and regarded in fear. What she carried must be something evil, something horrible. This, of course, led her to her second fear. What would her loving husband think? Obviously, the child couldn’t be his. Therefore, she would either be accused of in with adultery, or be charged as a witch.
Either one was a death sentence for young Miss Francey.
Even through her fear, she knew she couldn’t hide her pregnancy. So, she trusted her husband and told him. He promptly attempted to beat the illegitimate child out of her. He almost killed her…almost. Something kept her from the brink of death, even when Mr. Green was certain he had killed her. After realizing his attempt at killing her had failed, Mr. Green became frightened and confused. No women could be that strong, surely!
And so Mr. Green came to the conclusion that his pathetic mess of a wife could be only one thing: a witch.
Miss Francey was locked up in a dark underground cellar to await her cruel fate, while Mr. Green conversed with the Church. Mr. Green wanted his wife dead as soon as possible, so that he may find another wife quickly. A young man with a young daughter and no wife was a blemish on society that no one would tolerate for long! Unfortunately for Mr. Green, but I suppose rather fortunate for the oddity growing inside of Miss Francey, the Church refused to kill an innocent, unborn child. Their ruling was simple: in 9 months, when the Thing was born, Miss Francey would die for her witchy sins.
And true to their word, they killed my grandmother not 10 minutes after she gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. My mother would have to grow up without the women who died for her to be born.
Mr. Green wanted nothing to do with the child, and so the Church sent her away. They named her Mary, for obvious reasons, and gave her to the orphanage in the next town over. Mary went without a middle or last name, due to her lack of any family. After all, a witch was by no means ever considered family.
The orphanage was small and dirty, packed with far too many children and far too little food. It was strictly for little girls, as the mixing of boys and girls was to be considered very vulgar. Each child was given one set of clothing; a simple grey dress, a frayed grey shawl, grey stockings with holes in them, and worn old grey shoes for the winter. Every Wednesday was wash day, when all the children would walk down to the creek behind the orphanage and wash their clothes. Each child was allowed one meal a day, which was given around noon. A small bowl filled with thin, watery oatmeal, and a glass of cloudy water. They slept in small rooms filled with rickety bunk-beds. It was cold at best, freezing at worst, but at least it was something.
There were very few children that would dare disobey the women in charge of the orphanage, for fear of being turned out. Mary was one of the few who got caught up in childhood excitement and did so many stupid things. She was a troublesome young thing, always causing someone grief, but everyone more or less liked her. She was just a likeable child, I suppose.
Mary was 17 when the orphanage burned down, which killed most everyone. The fire department or whatsoever they called it then, had much more important things to do than save a bunch of left behind kids. Mary survived, barely. She never was one to sleep at night, due to random bouts of insomnia, so she saw the signs of fire much quicker than the rest. For whatever reason, little Mary had always had an incredible fear of fire. Some said it was linked to her mother’s death, some said it was because she was a witch at heart, and some said it was because she was demon spawn. All of these were, of course, seen as completely ridiculous to Mary. Unfortunately, the fear was very real. She didn’t spare a single backwards glance to the many, many children and their horrible fate as she escaped from the burning building, saving only herself.
Mary was never one to regret her actions, no matter how foolish or cruel they were. The way she saw it: what was done was done, there was no sense in hopeless wishing.
She had never been outside of the orphanage, besides playing in the field behind it. She honestly didn’t even know what lay beyond the orphanage. Where was she to go?
She started running down the street, with no real goal in mind. At least she was moving; that was something. She made it a few blocks before someone stopped her, a very handsome someone dressed in very fine clothing.
He had dark hair and pale skin; his clothes made of the finest silk and edged in gold. His eyes were of the clearest, lightest blue. His smile was honest and full, tinged with amusement that most likely never left his face, and ringed with concern for the child who he had run into.
“Child, are you alright? You like rather frightened.”
My mother, scared senseless by the fire, barely managed an audible squeak in response. The man chuckled, obviously assuming she was some wayward farmer’s daughter or something of the sort.
“Why don’t you come with me, yes? I can get you some food and a nice bed, and then you can offer me some answers. Sound good?”
Mary, having never been in the presence of a man, had no idea how to judge honesty. Her decision was made quickly; she had no place to go, or any idea of what to do. So she nodded her head, and allowed the stranger to lead her back to his home.
Book of Mirrors
His name was Philip, and that’s all she was told. He was a cruel man; always drunk, always abusive. He didn’t care who she was. Mary fell in love, against her conscience’s best wishes. I, being a young women who has yet to find love, have no idea why she would fall for a man who was so horrible, but she did. I suppose it’s a hereditary trait, one I’m glad I won’t have to worry about.
She lived with him in a small, drab, ugly little house somewhere on the outskirts of town. He couldn’t keep down a job, so he kept a meager living thriving off of robbery and thievery. She was happy, nonetheless. It was a step down from the orphanage, but a step up from living on the streets, so she didn’t complain.
And then something rather odd happened. She got pregnant, in the same fashion as her mother. Philip went away for a while, doing God knows what to earn money. He had been gone for about 6 months when Mary recognized the early signs of what couldn’t be possible. She laughed at her foolish thoughts, but remained concerned. Just to ease her mind, she visited the town midwife. The midwife did far from easy her mind, though.
Mary was pregnant with a child that she never conceived.
She knew her mother’s story, but had always just assumed her mother had slept with another man and was too cowardly to admit it. Though with this newfound knowledge, she had to wonder…had her mother really been a witch? And, if so, was she herself?
She had never committed to anything witchy, nor had she even given it much thought, but she did in fact carry witch blood. She knew there was no way she could hide her pregnancy, and Philip was due to come back home any day, so she did the only thing she could think to do. She ran.
She went to the only place that could possibly have someone who might understand. She went back to the house her mother once called home. She went to find her sister, Karen.
After spending a few days asking random people questions, she found the house my aunt currently lived in. It was quint, upper middle class. It was the picture of how life was supposed to be lived, a life Mary had been shut out from sense birth.
Nervously ringing the bell, millions of thoughts ran through her head. She had never met these people, what if they were horrible? What if she was wrong? What if they didn’t like her? What if they accused her of being a witch, and put her to death?
“Miss? Can I help you?” In the doorway, garbed in a white dress, pearls, and small white heels stood a beautiful woman. She had hair as dark as night, and eyes to match. Her lips where set in a curious but friendly smile, ruby red against her stark white skin. Not a wrinkle lined her face, though, by Mary’s calculations, she had to be at least 47.
“Uh, yes! Are you, perchance, Miss Karen Green?”
“Why, yes, I most certainly am. And you would be?”
“I…my name is Mary. No middle or last name graces me, for I have no family.” At my mother’s words, Karen’s smile froze in place. Her eyes registered shock, and a healthy amount of fear. There was no question to it; Karen most certainly knew who stood on her door step.
“Yes, yes, of course. I knew you would come eventually. I am sure you have many questions for me…would you come in?”
Book of Mirrors
“So…Mother really was a witch?” In the span of perhaps an hour, Karen had filled my mother in completely on everything she had missed. To say Mary’s head was overloading was an understatement!
“Yes.” Karen responded with quick and precise words, adding just the faintest sharp edge to everything she said. She was all business, all the time.
“And she didn’t know about it?”
“So that means…I am a witch? And you, your one to?”
“Yes, we are both of witch blood. I myself have embraced Wicca.” At this, my aunt twisted around her hand to show Mary her wrist. Tattooed onto the skin was a simple pentagram, the mark of a witch.
“You don’t have to take this on, you know. You can turn away from your blood; you can turn it down. That child in you is the result of years of denying your blood informally. It is nature’s way of making sure your blood goes on, that it won’t die with you. If you wanted it to die with you, you would have had to formally renounce it. Sense you failed to do so; the child will absorb every ounce of your witch ability. The most you can do know is to follow the Wiccan religion. You will never be the powerful witch you were destined to be.” Karen’s face looked grim and sad. She truly thought Mary had come because she had realized her blood and had embraced it. She was disappointed that my mother had failed to figure it out on her own. By doing this, she would never be the sister Karen had pined for.
“I…don’t know what I will do. I have no wish to be a witch of any kind. I am perfectly happy with the life I live now. Your life and mine have nothing to do with each other, and I wish it to stay exactly that way.” The words were cruel, but it didn’t faze my aunt. She knew my mother was simply confused.
Mary stayed with Karen for the duration of her pregnancy, indulging in a lifestyle completely different from any she had ever known. Karen was the town’s wise women. She made her living making natural medicines and cures for the people, acting as the midwife occasionally, and offering words of wisdom to those who ask it. Something to the lifestyle seemed…honest. There was always food to eat; the house was always clean and warm. She had soft, sturdy clothes to wear. When she felt ill, Karen always had something to make her feel better. It was the kind of life Mary had always dreamed of. But it didn’t make her happy; it made her feel as though life was laughing at her choices.
Exactly 9 months after she had arrived at my aunt’s house, she gave birth to a pretty little baby girl. It was during the night that she gave birth, during the full moon’s peak. Karen declared that this baby was a lunar witch, and had potential to be a very powerful witch indeed. She asked Mary what she wanted to name her child.
“I…don’t care. She is your child, not mine. I didn’t ask for her, I didn’t want her. She isn’t mine.”
Without a single regret, my mother left me in the arms of my aunt. She didn’t even care enough to name me, her only child. She left that night, leaving me behind. She told Karen she was going back to where she belonged, with the man who loved her.