I got up from the tattered recliner, the one my grandfather used to sit in like a throne, and went to my grandmother.
“It’s time dear. Time for me to tell you a story, one I’m sure you haven’t heard yet.”
“Yes, Grandmother, of course.” I was certain I had heard all her stories before; brief, vivid glimpses into long ago, her once upon a time.
She grabbed my hand tightly, I couldn’t help but notice the contrast of our skin. Hers, soft and delicate holding mine, barely touched by age.
“Kate, I need to you listen to me closely. You can ask me anything when I am done but just listen for now. Can you do that?”
I smiled, she knew me so well, this woman who raised me when my own mother couldn’t. Wouldn’t. She knew that my curiosity stopped stories mid-sentence, only to lead to more stories. I am a writer, after all, my need-to-know can never be turned off.
“Yes, Grandmother. I promise.” I mimed the lock and key over my mouth and pressed my lips tightly together. Grandmothers eyes wrinkled in the corners and a broad smile bared aged teeth.
“I’ve never told you the truth and for that, my darling Katie, I am so sorry. You need to know some things, important things, before I am gone.”
I nodded, allowing her to continue.
“It’s time to meet your mother, my dear Katie. You probably don’t remember her, do you?”
I didn’t remember her, I was only 2 when she left me with my grandparents 14 years ago. No matter how hard I tried when I was younger, I couldn’t conjure up any faded memory of time spent with the woman who didn’t want me, the woman who selfishly chose to run away from her duty as mother.
“She was young when she found out she was pregnant with you, much younger than I was when I had her. Let’s see, she is about 35 now so that puts her at 19 when she gave birth to you. Much too young to be a mother but what happened happened.” She squeezed my hand gently and smiled at me, so lovingly.
“We never knew who your father was, she wouldn’t tell us and she never put the paternal name on your birth certificate. We just assumed it was a brief affair, one that resulted in pregnancy. But, we were wrong, your grandfather and I. So very wrong.”
I drew in a deep breath when I realized I was about to find out exactly what I had been wondering for these past years and I wasn’t sure if I was ready to face the truth.
“Grandmother, I don’t care, I had a happy childhood with you and grandfather. You gave me everything I could have ever needed or wanted and so much more.” I felt that I needed to say that, despite the request of silence.
“Yes, of course, my darling. We love you, you have always been our blessing. I only wish I hadn’t been so old when I gave birth to your mother because then I wouldn’t have been so old when I was raising you.”
My grandparents had tried for the first twenty years of their marriage to have a child, only to be met with many heartbreaks. Finally, when my grandmother was in her mid-forties, after they had all but given up, she found herself pregnant with my mother.
“Your mother was never an easy child, even during pregnancy she gave us a run filled with complications and drama. That was precedence for the way her life was to be and I knew it in my heart that she was headed for disaster, even during my pregnancy. She was a beautiful child though and when she smiled, you couldn’t do anything else other than forgive her.” Grandmother reached for her water and took a large sip before continuing.
“She was dark, though. Evil. Your grandfather and I both saw it and tried our hardest to…well, cure it. But, our efforts were to no avail, the darkness spread like a virus and she became one of them.” The look in her eyes showed she was somewhere far away, watching movie-like memories that only she could see.
“Them?” Her story was suddenly starting to make no sense, at least, not to me.
“Yes, dear. Them. The Dark Ones. The ones your grandfather and I fled from many years ago. But, they found us and cursed my only child while she was still in my womb.” She looked at me, still faraway. “The village was damned, cursed by a Dark One, killing many of the coven. Only me, your grandfather and a few others were able to escape. Oh, but my, I never told you, did I?”
“Told me what, grandmother?”
“Oh my darling Katie, we are witches originally from a lost village in the shadow of the Stonehenge, decimated by the darkest of powers, leaving not a trace. Oh how we were so naive to think that the powers protecting us, the village, could keep us safe from something so dark, so sinister. Your grandfather and I were able to flee to America, long before your mother was born. But the Dark curse, a powerful curse used to change good into evil, was repelled off of very few of us. Well, I thought it had been repelled but I was so mistaken, it sat in my womb, waiting.”
“I really don’t understand what you’re telling me, Grandmother.”
“You fancy yourself a writer, dear. Open your mind. Stories of witches, vampires, werewolves, they had to originally stem from somewhere. In every story, in every myth, there is some large bits of truth. And you, my love, are a part of that truth. As is your mother, your grandfather and myself. Your mother left you with us when the dark took over her. She fought it as long as she could, long enough to bring you safely here to us, before she was gone to us forever.”
I couldn’t do anything except try to process what my grandmother was saying to me. This woman who always forced me to look at the truth, could she be telling the truth?
The room was dark, the daylight swallowed for supper by evening. I wrapped the ancient crocheted blanket around me, shivering from the information.
Grandmother looked at me and snapped her fingers, suddenly candles were lit casting dancing shadows. I think my jaw hit my lap causing my Grandmother to chuckle softly.
“Just a little bit of proof, dear.”
“Think about it, Katie. If you really think about it, you’ll realize that you’ve known this all along. Dinners being made rather quickly, despite no ovens being turned on. Chants you’ve heard, probably thinking they were old songs. Little signs throughout your life, hinting at what is real.”
She was right, I remember too many times meals just appearing or the house suddenly clean. There was that time, the summer before my seventh grade year, when the entire house was remodeled yet no decorator, painter or upholsterer had ever been hired. And yet, I never questioned it because these going-ons were what I knew. I just figured it was what everyone knew.
“Do I have these powers, Grandmother?”
“The necklace you have always worn keeps them away. The powers. Both the Good and Dark Your mother fashioned it when you were born, she knew what was happening to her and wanted to keep you safe. And safe it’s kept you. But, you are 16 now. That’s when our powers come in strong, when we can’t avoid or ignore them any longer.”
And then it shook me, the realization that I did know the truth.
“So, you’re telling me this now, the story of our family, because we don’t know which powers I’ll have, good or evil, right?”
“We don’t know. And the relic you wear on your neck, its powers are almost gone, the stone is dying.”
I looked down at my necklace. I had gotten so used to wearing it that I never paid much attention to it, it was always there, like my arm or my eyes.
Holding the stone up to inspect it, I noticed that the red had dulled to almost black. It did, in fact, look as though it was dying.
“So, what happens when this stone dies? What will I become?” I was scared because I realized that, if my grandmothers story was true, there was a chance that I could become dark like my mother.
“This is why I’m telling you this now, my beloved granddaughter. So that we can find a way to prepare for the unknown. Because, the truth is, even I have no way to know which force will take hold of you.”
She took both my hands and turned me to face her directly.
“But, whatever happens, you won’t have to do this alone.” Her strength wavered a little, showing that she was worried. Very worried.
She placed a hand over the stone and chanted a few words in a language I’d heard very few times while growing up. The stone quivered on my chest. A warmth came from it and it glowed dimly in the candlelit room.
“I gave us a little more time so that I might still be able to find a spell that will keep an evil away from you.”
“Will that work?” I asked, my voice shaking. The thought of becoming something dark just didn’t fit in my life goals.
“I don’t know. I just don’t know.” She said quietly. “Well, all we can do right now is hope, wait and,” she snapped her fingers again causing delicious smells to waft in from the kitchen, “have some dinner.”
“Who is my father?”
She sighed and I could have sworn, a shadow swept over her face.
“That, my love, is a story for another time.”
And with that, she went into the kitchen and snapped to set the table.