I inspected my mauve nail polish chipped from a hard day’s work in the vineyard. That wouldn’t do, I had to look presentable for work at the Cauldron. I imagined a beautiful new set of nails, strong, healthy and a glossy aubergine. As the vision formed, neurons fired in my brain, signals travelled down my spine, my arms and hit my nails, reshaping them before my eyes. The tips grew to perfect curves, the colour darkened and spread to cover the entire nail bed. I smiled, that was more like it. Witchcraft wasn’t so bad, if you ignore the part where being caught would mean a death sentence. I touched the probation collar at my neck. I wasn’t out of the woods, yet.
I curled my fingers into fists and punched the air, ready to take my future into my own hands. Now or never. I rounded the corner to the kitchen and planted my feet squarely in front of Aunt Lucy.
‘I’m moving out,’ I said, the tone of my voice higher than usual. We lived just outside the country town of Margaret River, and the scenery surrounding the Manor was picturesque, but I was over living at the Urser Estate Winery.
She turned, eyes blinking and pulled her arms out of the sudsy sink to tap her gloved fingers on the porcelain bowl. She removed her second skin, one finger at a time, and grabbed a tea towel to dab her hands. ‘Don’t be ridiculous,’ she said through gritted teeth.
It took me three attempts to swallow and that’s how long it took for her to throw the tea towel over a shoulder and place her hands on her hips. She wore colourless clothing, never used makeup or dyed her grey hair and she never argued. She wanted to go unnoticed – in public. Here with me, she liked to cause waves. I seethed at her hypocrisy. Despite her careful charade, thoughts collided behind her steely eyes.
I took a step back, held my breath, and darted a glance at my sister as she sat at the grand table reading the newspaper. The ghost of a smile danced across Leila’s delicate features but she covered it with a sip of coffee. Her eyebrows quirked as she flicked her dark hair over a shoulder and turned the page. ‘Oh, look at this one.’ She picked up a pair of scissors with her left hand and snipped awkwardly, with her right she drank coffee.
‘I’m not being ridiculous.’ I held up my key. ‘Kitty’s leasing one of her apartments and I can move in tomorrow. I’m all packed.’
Leila spat coffee everywhere and grimaced at her accident. ‘Now, look what you’ve made me do,’ she whined, slamming her mug down. ‘I wish I had a normal sister.’
‘Yeah, well I wish my sister didn’t hate my guts for something I can’t control—’
‘Uh, uh.’ Aunt Lucy cut me off. She raised a finger, then turned her back on me to help Leila mop off her precious clippings. ‘What did you find today, Darl?’
My jaw dropped. I’d given her monumental news and she’d turned her back on me.
‘Look at this one,’ Leila said, swiping a drop from a clipping. ‘The Church is recalling their latest safeguard against witch possession. Apparently, there was a faulty part in the device or something. It would be nice for them to finally get one invention right, don’t you think? And this one, see?’ She held up another clipping. ‘The DNA test used to identify maleficent victims isn’t accurate because there haven’t been enough cases of witch possession over the last four years – you know, since the Purge.’
‘Tsk, tsk, such a shame.’ Aunt Lucy rubbed Leila’s shoulder. ‘Never mind, Darl, it could be a good thing. Only a few possessions in four years isn’t bad. But just in case, we’ll continue to go to church and take confession like they told us. It’s worked so far, right? We’ve never seen a witch around here.’ Leila hummed in agreement.
How dare they ignore me? I waved the key in the air. ‘Um hello? Did you hear what I said? I’m moving out.’
A woman moving out of home was not to be taken lightly these days. Witches only attacked females – it had something to do with higher oestrogen levels. But like Leila said, since they’d burned half the female population in the Purge, there hadn’t been many cases of possession. The world had relaxed and being a woman wasn’t so bad anymore.
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