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Monday, Monday, Back to Work
For two days I did something I’ve never done in the four years I’ve owned and operated Soup’s On, I closed the shop for two days. The thought occurred to me that I could just never open again, not here anyway. I could take the shop to another small town where no one knows my family or me, change my name to something like Meg, and just cook soups and make people happy. I could find a good enough baker to make breads to accompany my soups. I could find a nice place for me and Moira to live, somewhere along the water, maybe on the Eastern Shore. It sounds so much like paradise and what I think I want right now that I search the internet for hours trying to determine if this miracle of a town exists and where it is.
I ignore my cell phone with its constant barrage of messages and finally just turn it off. While I know that my family cares and is worried about me, I just need time to think about everything that’s happened and not to be around the people who knew it might.
A knock at the front door rouses me from my internet search.
“It’s the witch slayer,” Moira says.
“Sophia, can I talk to you? I guess that’s a stupid thing to say. I know you’re in there and you can hear me fine. I’d like to see you when you’re ready so that we can get through this together. I know you’re frightened…”
Leaning back against the door, I fold my arms over my chest and close my eyes. I do want to see him, and then I don’t. At least he understands that I’m frightened; maybe he is too.
“It will be easier if we try to work together. Is it time you need? I can do that, but something like this doesn’t go away. I’m sliding my number in the door crack here. I’ll be waiting for your call.”
I turn, press my palm against the door and it’s as if I’m pressing in the same place he is for the door seems to glow in that spot with a golden light.
“Be safe,” he whispers.
And then six am on Monday morning, I dress, feed Moira chicken breast with dog food, which is a compromise because she just wants to eat French toast and chicken and then I quickly fry up an egg sandwich, which I chew on while sipping ginger tea, and flipping through the various messages on my phone.
Isla is missing. Mom thinks I should reach out to Isla and forgive her. For almost burning me alive. Shaking my head, I turn off my phone and finish getting ready for work.
The moment I stand out on the front step of my home, inhale the fragrances of white pine, wood smoke drifting over from a neighbor’s log stove, and see a deer swish its white tail as it struts by the side of the house, I wonder if I can leave. I feel like this place, especially my little cottage in the big woods, is a part of me now. But maybe a new place can be a part of me as well.
Rose’s creations fill the shop with the smell of yeast and rosemary and garlic. She smiles warmly when I enter and toss my scarf over the coat rack while Moira dashes to her bed in the storage room. She wipes her hands on her red and green Christmas apron.
“Are you okay?” she asks.
Tears fills my eyes and my bottom lip trembles, and I try to turn away before she can see, but I feel her hands on my shoulder and then she hugs me, pressing her head against mine. “It’s okay to cry, Soph. It’s okay to let it all out, because I know you’re hurting. It’s all a bit shit,” she says. And this is from my sister who never says “shit” or even “damn” for that matter.
I don’t nod. I don’t say anything because what can I say? That on Sunday I should have had my usually regular period and that it didn’t come, and that after one rather strange but magnificent sexual interaction with a Swede built like a Greek god, I may be pregnant with a child who will have more powers than the world has ever know…I think? I still don’t know if there’s ever been a child born from a Light Union. Ha. Light Union. What kind of misnomer is that?
Rose rubs her palm over my back. “Are you sure you should be here?”
I shake my head. I’m not sure of anything right now. Me who doesn’t cry is about to start sobbing.
“Back in the day, I used to be a soup queen,” Aunt Lea says as she places her camel wool coat over the coat rack. “I bet I can still make a mean black soup with lots of cumin.”
She stands in front of me using a tissue to dab at my tears. “I’m here for you, kiddo. I could feel your pain for your entire drive into town. I’ve always had your back. You know that, right?”
I nod. It’s true. Even when Mom went AWOL, Aunt Lea was there for Rose, Isla and me.
“I can’t just put this on you,” I say, feeling so guilty at even the thought.
“Listen, your Mom might tell you that you can never run away from your troubles, but, my dear girl, she’s wrong. Sometimes you need to get away. In her book that would be running. In my book that would be finding yourself, making yourself stronger, doing what you have to do to will yourself to face things. So, you want to go to the Eastern Shore?”
My head jerks up. She winks. How could she know that was what I was thinking?
“You have a distant cousin in a small town on the Eastern Shore. Her name is Phoebe, and she’s married to a rock star, if you can believe that. I’ve already spoken to her. She’d be happy if you could stay with her. She’s pregnant with her first child and trying to run an herbal shop and lives right on the beach in a very small town.”
“I’m still running away…”
“When was the last time you took a vacation, Soph?” Rose asks.
I shrug. I don’t think I’ve taken a vacation except for the past two days.
Aunt Lea rubs my shoulder. “We’ve got this, Soph. I won’t let your shop down. I promise.”
For the first time this week, I feel hope.
The instant Moira and I step out of the car and smell the salty breeze I can feel all of my worries slide from my shoulders. In the near distance, I hear what sounds like traffic but know it’s the ocean. Moira seems to dance and skip as she circles me, practically herding me toward the path.
I could live here, I think, as I walk up toward Cousin Phoebe’s cottage. Her herb garden borders the house, huge rosemary bushes are delicately trimmed. Between the flagstoned path to the doorway, thyme acts as a groundcover. Each footfall releases the fragrance. The scents are heady, homey, welcoming.
The rhythmic pull of the ocean, its ebbs and flow, embraces me. Yes, I could live here.
The door opens even before I reach out to press the doorbell. Cousin Phoebe is tiny, except for the watermelon extending in front of her. I gulp, recognizing that that could be me in six months. Phoebe has purple hair and big brown liquid eyes that smile. Her skin is porcelain and her lips are vivid red and if I ever imagined meeting the life embodiment of Snow White, it would be Phoebe. She’s transcendently beautiful.
“Cousin Sophie?” she asks, in a rich alto voice that makes me think she could probably sing blues songs for a living.
I nod. She pulls me in for a hug, and I smell honeysuckle.
“Your hair,” she says. “That beautiful red with silver! How on earth did you do that? It’s breathtaking.”
“A long story,” I supply.
She grins. “I’ve got the time.”
Her hands settle on her belly. “Is that beautiful girl, Moira?”
Moira wags her tail, sits, and offers her paw to Phoebe who shakes it gently.
“She’s brilliant,” Phoebe says. “Well, come on in you two. I’m so glad for some company. Kaden’s on tour, which was planned well before this happened,” she says pointing to her swollen belly.
Phoebe’s house is exquisite. I have a sudden Tardis feel. From the outside it looks small, but once you enter there are so many dimensions. The foyer leads to a hallway with the sunroom as its destination. Like my home, Phoebe has also brought the outside in, but hers leads to an English cottage garden where, even now in November, flowers still bloom, bright purple mums dance with blue asters, and herbs, like yellow tansy, are vibrant. I look at her wondering if its magic. A garden shouldn’t look this lively in late November, even here.
She catches my eye and shrugs. “Some seasons are gentler than others.”
After showing me to my room, a loft with a queen sized bed, a window with a view of the ocean and a bathroom with a sunken tub, she leads me back downstairs.
“I’m going to make some tea, would you like some? A cup of ginger and cherry? It’s very soothing,” she says.
I nod. I feel more comfortable and genuinely stress-free than I’ve felt in two months. Except my thoughts frequently encompass Anton. I dream about him every night, remember how our bodies fit, except for the slideshow of images of centuries of our deaths, which awaken me, the nightmare constant.
“Who is he?” she asks, her voice sweet and gentle.
In embarrassment I laugh at a non-laughing matter. “A witch slayer.”
Her dark eyes dance. “Hmm. Really? I’ve never met a witch slayer and don’t really know much about them, except for the highlights.” Her index finger dances over the silver streak in my hair and awareness crosses her face. “The Light Union? Are you pregnant?”
My spirit falls. Her light expression falls just as easily.
“Oh, my, Sophie, I didn’t know. Is this why you’re here?”
I look at her, not quite understanding.
“Are you going to ask my aunts for help in getting rid of the baby?”
Getting rid of the baby? My baby? I shake my head vigorously. That is the last thing in this world I’d want to do. It might not have been planned, but it won’t be rejected or gotten rid of. “No. My Aunt sent me here because she thought I needed a break.”
Phoebe goes with the flow and nods. “Perfectly understandable,” she says although she doesn’t know the half of it.
Over tea as if understanding that I need some time before I can talk easily, she tells me about Kaden and how he came to be bespelled by two witches. “I can laugh now, but then? Nope. Frightening stuff. I was terrified for days. There were freaky thunderstorms and the threat of zombies. I was possessed when I was in California by another witch. She took my body right over. But Kaden and I came out alright. Better than alright,” she says, her palms resting on her belly. She glows the glow you always hear about, but I’ve never actually seen in person.