The hint of a smile grew, curling the corners of Miss White’s lips. “Your powers will only strengthen with the use of the malus.”
She placed the apple on the counter. Miss White turned the stem clockwise, and the entire structure opened like a flower spreading its petals. Instead of edible fruit and seeds, there were tiny gears inside along with small glass capsules.
“What are those?”
Miss White fingered one of the accoutrements. Clicking noises came from the bad apple followed by a sucking pop as she removed a vial. “Each of these departments can be filled.”
“The souls of evil men.” When I flinched, she continued, “Do you not agree that it is men who keep women downtrodden?”
“And don’t you agree that men only want what’s best for them? They misuse women or disavow our strengths.”
I nodded. Sadly, her words were true. In Crowley, women weren’t allowed to do much. We married early. Had babies early. Died early. Few of us were permitted to work. It was why Miss White concocted the story about a dead husband so that she could run her shop. Honestly, it was an unfair world we lived in, but what she was suggesting reeked of dark magick.
She returned the capsule to the mechanical apple. “I thought you wanted respect.”
“Then stop doubting me. Men would use this device against us,” she spat. “They’d find a way to use it to trap women forever.”
The knot in my stomach tightened.
“Are you ready to set yourself free? Are you prepared to do whatever is necessary to become the powerful, respected Spelltwister that is your destiny?”
Images of Mother deferring to my decisions filled my mind. Instead of being at the mercy of men like Mr. Wigglesby, they would come to me for help. I could be instrumental in placing women on the board of the Abra Guild. Life would change in Crowley. For the better.
“Yes!” I said eagerly. “I’m ready.”
“Good.” She placed the device inside of the box. “We’ll start tomorrow. I’ll need to study the grimoire this evening. Your stepfather documented how the malus works.”
Nonsense. I could study the book instead of cleaning. “Let me go over the book. I can tell you—”
Miss White laughed. “If you could do that, you wouldn’t have come to me. Run along and take care of your chores. At the end of the day, I’ll give you your wages for supper.”
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