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Ennui

When Heather was a little girl, her mother took her to nurse a witch doctress in a nearby village. Heather would not have known who this woman was except for the whispers of the working girls in her house; for Heather’s mother said nothing as she walked determinedly through the arid street, Heather’s hand clasped firmly between her cool fingers against the dusty African air.

Heather’s curiosity toward this strange woman grew, for Heather learned from the working girls that this woman was not only a witch doctress but had an infamous reputation as a great seductress who had been the lover of many great men. Heather wondered why her mother would choose to help such a woman, but the intricasies of her parents long ago ceased to be a source of consistent perplexity to Heather. She did not question but obeyed.

Inside the hut Heather worked quietly beside her mother, but was startled in the few moments when the doctress suddenly slipped to consciousness. During these moments the woman stared piercingly at Heather, and seemed not to perceive any other person in the room. Heather trembled, for in her childhood she still sensed a strong and frightening connection between herself and the older woman; something great and terrible in this look that she could not understand.

The witch doctress died that night, and when Heather tottered home beside her mother the sky was very grey.

Heather forgot the witch doctress until ten years later, in her first semester studying at Emmanuel University. At that time the Emmanuel church received a visitor, a woman famous in its circles for her Biblical studies but greatly controversial due to her pastoring her own church.

Heather watched the woman wonderingly, but felt a strange sensation when the woman’s gaze turned to her and seemed to pierce into her soul. The frightening sensation sparked some memory of repetition that Heather could not quite explain.

It was not until Heather lay in bed that evening that she connected the woman pastor’s look and it’s strange sensation to the look of the woman in Africa. Just as she was drifting to slumber the connection came to her, and she knew in her last minutes of consciousness that the looks were the same.

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The Scarlett Letter

Is there any balm in Gilead? Tell me, truly, I implore.

Quoth the Raven, nevermore.

*

“Tomorrow will be a very special day.” Heather informed Penny as she tamed her unruly white curls. The reflection of mother and daughter flickered in the mirror, for Heather preferred light by candles, and the result was an atmosphere continually muted and dimmed.  “Tomorrow is your seventh birthday.”

“It isn’t!” cried Penny, her head quivering indignantly. “It is my four hundredth!”

Heather felt a slight shiver slide down her spine, but she brushed the feeling aside as she brushed Penny’s hair. “What a silly thing to say.” She murmured, her expression fixed and calm. “You were born seven years ago. I was present at your birth, after all.”

“You were not.” Insisted Penny, and her eyes snapped with quizzical excitement. “I sprang five hundred years ago from the blackest forest mud, as a daisy or a white, white rose; and you found me and keep me here for, I don’t know why.”

Heather tilted her head and considered what she ought next to say.

“And you are not my mother.” continued Penny curtly. “Vous n’etez pas ma mere. You also sprang from that black ground, and the dark man on the platform did also. For we are all made of the same dirt on the ground, and came from the same secluded spot, and we all have the same soul.” Penny turned her head round so she could find her mother’s eyes. “But your rose is not white. It is red.”

Heather sternly turned Penny’s head to face the mirror and continued fixing her hair.

“What a silly thing to say.” She murmered lightly, with no strain except in her eyes. “Are you Anaximander, to claim to spring spontaneously from the mud? When you speak such silliness, I doubt that you could be my daughter.”

Vous n’etez pas ma mere.” Penny insisted.

“Cannot you say “Tu n’es pas ma mere?” Heather questioned, giving her daughter a teasing tap. “At any rate, whether you are seven years old or four hundred, tomorrow I would like to play a game.

“We are always playing games.” Penny reminded her tiredly.

“Hush. This is what you must promise: you must be very quiet, well behaved and obedient; essentially entirely different from your normal self. No matter what happens, you must obey mother. The more obedient you are, the more points you receive, and if you get the most points, you will win. But if you are bad and mean and disobedient, you will get no points and you will lose the game miserably. Do you understand?”

Heather knew her daughter’s competitive spirit. Penny determined to win more points than her mother, and Heather knew that she would be well-behaved.

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