I couldn't stop chuckling after reading Charlotte's story, which is why it's my pick for this week. :D Sorry for the late post. Enjoy! I sure did.
When Lydia was fourteen she got a book of spells, badly bound, from a well-meaning aunt. She’d thought the cover was cute, the aunt said, as she handed over the Taiwan-manufactured tome. Besides, it came with a pair of lipstick-pink “Divinity candels” (as it was spelt on the box), and she knew Lydia loved pink.
Lydia didn’t. Lydia hated pink.
The first time she opened the book she cut her finger on page 18, Cursing Your Enemies. Lydia came up with a curse of her own, and shut the book. She never thought about it again.
Until twenty years later. There’d been some trouble with Cat; a girl who was once her bestie at university. They’d had a falling-out, as her mother used to call them. It was over something stupid, of course – some he said, she said bullshit that never got sorted out. Now there was no chance of them ever giggling over lattes or catching a Hugh Jackman movie.
The trouble was, they still worked together.
And the other trouble was, Cat knew Lydia’s secrets.
She didn’t have many secrets, but Cat knew all of them. The time Lydia accidentally peed in the back seat of her boyfriend’s mum’s car (just a little, but you know, it was still pee). How she once took twenty dollars from her grandmother’s purse to buy cigarettes. What she really thought about Jill, their manager, who never seemed to shower (Lydia couldn’t walk into her office without gagging).
And not just that. Bad stuff, too. How she had a one-night stand a week after her boyfriend dumped her, because she thought if she got pregnant he’d think it was his.
When she thought about them all, side by side in Cat’s memory, Lydia had to admit the secrets looked pretty bad. She could sort of see them, lined up in her ex-friend’s brain, slotted in next to each other like diseased ducks at a shooting gallery.
Anyway, Cat was going to spill something, sooner or later. She’d started to have lunch with Jill, though how she could stand the smell was beyond Lydia. It was only a matter of time before Cat shared Lydia’s personal views on hygiene, theft from grandparents, paternity issues; and whatever.
It had to be stopped.
The book, with its cheap cardboard cover, was buried amongst her old school things. God knew why she’d kept it, she thought as she dug through torn history notes and graffitied pencil cases. The spell book was tucked under a school copy of The Great Gatsby which she’d never opened.
It was pretty much still in its original condition, except that page 18 had a fingerprint in blood, dried brown. Two pages after that was what Lydia needed. To stop someone from gossiping, the book advised, name a doll after the person. Take the doll and sew its lips together with thick wool.
Sounded easy enough, and there was a flattened Raggedy Ann doll at the bottom of the next box Lydia looked in. As she sewed black wool in zigzag stitches across its mouth (face pushed in and crumpled from loss of stuffing), Lydia started to hum.
She wasn’t humming three days later when she walked into the lunch room and saw Cat having coffee with Jill. The way they stopped talking when Lydia walked in – suddenly, right in the middle of a sentence – made a mockery of every stitch through Raggedy Ann’s mouth.
There had to be a spell that would work, she thought that night, as she tore the black wool from Raggedy Ann’s non-lips. Raggedy smiled up at her, a line of holes around her puckered mouth.
Stopping a gossipy bitch, Lydia typed into the search bar of her internet browser. After a moment she removed: -y bitch, and hit “Search”.
The problem was that everything required fricking candles. The lipstick-pink ones that had accompanied the book were years gone, and Lydia wasn’t a person who planned for power cuts. Finally she found a spell that only needed a picture of Cat. She wasn’t about to ruin that one from their skiing holiday, because it was sentimental: Lydia had been a lot thinner then and she’d lost those expensive sunglasses in the meantime. Instead she drew a picture of Cat on a piece of refill paper.
She scrunched the lip part of the picture up and chanted If only gossip from your mouth will fall, then nothing will fall from it at all. She felt like an idiot, really.
And it didn’t even work. Two days later Cat and Jill passed her desk as they went out for lunch together. Jill gave Lydia a significant look. Smelly bitch, thought Lydia, and opened up a new internet browser. Silence rumours, she typed.
That night she mixed three drops of blood in a glass of water. It was supposed to be blessed water, but Lydia didn’t know where to get blessed water, so it had come from the purifier. I am as irreproachable and untouchable as this water, were the words. Saying them thirty times was hard because she was coming down with a sore throat. She sipped hot lemon and honey.
Silence my Enemies, she found the next day. She’d seen Cat outside, having a smoke. Cat was alone, but all the same she’d given Lydia a smirk. Shut up shut up shut up, Lydia thought as the spell downloaded. It was seventy-five dollars.
For two days she couldn’t tell if the spell had worked, because she’d woken up with a fever and had to stay in bed. During that time she collected more spells. They were saved in a file named Cat. Raggedy Ann looked on, smiling benignly.
When she got back to work, there was an email from Jill. I would like to speak with you. Lydia went to the bathroom. Shut up shut up shut up, she chanted silently.
“Lydia? Are you OK?” It was Cat, coming out of a stall. “You look terrible,” she added.
Lydia narrowed her eyes. Shut up shut up shut up. But she did feel terrible.
Back at her desk she replied to Jill’s email. I think I have the flu. I’m going home again.
“You’re a very ill young lady,” the doctor said sternly. “I don’t think you should be out of bed.”
She asked him what was wrong with her, voice puffy like a stranger’s.
“Laryngitis, I’d say.” He shook his head. “I wouldn’t be surprised if you lost your voice com-plete-ly.”
Lydia got home. She collapsed on the bed. Reached for her laptop.
Curse on a bad doctor, she typed in the search bar.