Jun 9, 2024

Cigarettes and Strawberry Incense

Wearing a summer dress and carrying a bottle of prosecco, I knocked on her front door around 5.

A few hours before I moved into my cabin, her friend helped me clean crap out that the previous owners had left behind. We had a few good laughs, and she invited me to join a bunch of them for a BBQ and a few games of ping-pong over at her friend’s place. Not knowing a single soul on Hornby, I summoned some courage and decided it was time to loosen up my armour. 

The front door opened. There she stood. Her ice-cold blue eyes were emotionless, save for the aura of hatred that pierced me. I introduced myself and tried handing her the bottle of prosecco—which she ignored. I waited for a hello, an introduction, a thank you, or for her to invite me in. Nothing. 
I stood there feeling like a deer mouse, an asshole, a loser. 
She stood defiant. 
Should I stay, or should I go? 

A shadow approached from behind her: a handsome man in his early 50s with black hair and the same ice-cold blue eyes. He smiled graciously and invited me in. I followed him down a dark hallway, and she followed me. Her stare burned the back of my heels and between my shoulder blades. 

The house was a haphazard array of dusty knickknacks, faded photos, and dried-up plants. Every pot, pan, dish, and utensil was caked with week-old food and strategically stacked on the kitchen counter like a game of Tetris. Strawberry incense and cigarette smoke hung heavy off the air. Within three steps, I knew that, absolutely, this was a witch's house. 

The man summoned me to a worn-out cushioned bench alongside a massive old oak table littered with half-empty red wine glasses, overturned bottles and bags of weed the size of throw cushions. I tried again to give her the bottle of prosecco, but she turned her back on me. Her friend who I shared the laughs with a few hours before, was nowhere to be seen. Smoke and dust obscured a figure sitting in a high back chair at the head of the table. Still holding the bottle of prosecco, I slid along the bench until I was beside the figure. A woman in her 60s with waist-long blond hair smiled, held out her hand and introduced herself. 

The man I gathered was her son. He accepted the bottle from me, passed it to his mother, whose eyes still hadn’t left me, and asked her to open it. He slid along the bench and sat beside me. I was sandwiched between two strangers in a strange home on a strange island in the middle of nowhere. 

I attempted small talk as the matriarch opened the bottle of prosecco. She poured some into her glass, still holding remnants of red wine, and took a sip, 
“Who drinks this shit?” 
She poured the entire bottle of prosecco over the sink full of dirty dishes. 

I’d had enough of her. 
I stepped out of my armour. 
The sun broke through the dank house, and I saw her clearly. 
Her ice-blue eyes held the faintest flecks of what once was. 
A powerful woman beat down by booze and abuse. 
She steadied herself against the counter, dropped her eyes and let me look at her. 

I felt the strength of the woman beside me and the gentle power of her son. 
Outside the windows, the earth buzzed. Inside, all had stopped. 
She raised her eyes to mine, pulled herself over to the table, sat down across from me and lit a cigarette. 

When my cat died, she brought over a bouquet of white hydrangeas from her garden she brought back to life.

The Satanic Majesty's Request