Fawn was regaling Mattie with stories about Tim Horton regulars when they arrived home. As she drove down the access road approaching the house, she saw Simon and Florence in the meadow at the front of the property. Simon was sitting in center of the small circle of concentric paving stones used as a funeral pyre to cremate birds. Grandmother stood beside him. Mattie stopped the vehicle and Fawn fell silent as they both watched.
Thin wisps of smoke were rising from an earthen container at Simon’s feet. As it wafted up, he used an eagle feather to fan it over his face and head while Grandmother beat a hand drum, her plaintive chant echoing eerily in the deepening twilight.
“What are they doing?”
“Smudging,” Fawn said. “It’s a ceremony to remove negative energy, promote healing, connect with the spirit world, that sort of stuff. In this case, it’s probably about removing negative energy.”
“What negative energy?”
“Grandma thinks you’re a witch and you’ve put a spell on Simon.” Fawn rolled her eyes. “I heard her talking to Mom.”
“And what did your mother say?”
“Mom and Grandma don’t agree on a lot of things. You’re one of them.”
“Florence thinks I’m a witch?”
“She’s not the only one,” Fawn said. “Ellwyn tweeted you have special powers too.”
“The way you can communicate with birds.”
Was this what Sonya meant when she referred to “all the crazy shit that gets posted on social media about you and your fucking dead birds?”
“I think it’s cool,” Fawn said.
“You don’t believe it, do you?”
Fawn hugged her new leather bucket bag. “I’d say you’re more of a fairy godmother.”
Mattie decided it was time to talk to Ellwyn and since her concert was tomorrow, she was likely staying in a hotel in Vancouver.
By the time she got off the telephone, the guests had gone to bed and Simon was at the kitchen table eating the sushi she’d brought back for him.
“This salmon roll is delicious.”
“I went to the new place in Tsawwassen.”
“It’s way better,” Simon said. “Thanks for taking Fawn shopping.”
“We had fun.” Mattie sat down at the table and waited.
Simon put his dishes in the dishwasher. “Would you like some herb tea?”
“No.” Simon was stalling, not a good sign. “Are you cleansed of negative energy?”
“Did you think I’d been emitting any?”
“What was the smudging all about then?”
“Focusing, getting centered.”
“For your work on Wendy Walter’s campaign?”
Simon returned to the table. “When we come back from vacation. It will only be for three weeks.”
“What will you be doing?”
“I’m not sure. She wants me there to discuss issues as they come up.”
“Is it full time?”
“Raj is okay with it. The job’s winding down.”
“I hope she’s paying you. Your portion of the rent is seventeen hundred and fifty dollars.”
Simon raised his eyebrows. “We need to find a new place to live.”
Mattie got up. “I’m going to bed.”
“Mattie, I need to do this. It’s an opportunity to try a different approach, to make a difference.”
“Once the campaign’s over, we’ll look for a new home. Maybe get some land up the valley?”
“Did you forget I work at the university?”
Simon walked over and took her in his arms. “This will be okay, Mattie. I’ll be home every night and it’s only three weeks. No big deal.”
“Sure.” Mattie tried to smile and failed. Simon was slipping away. She could feel it. She thought the longer they were together the less likely they’d be to separate. How stupid was that when all the evidence proved otherwise? Fate was also conspiring against them. And then there was Grandmother. It was a good thing for Florence Mattie wasn’t a witch.
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