The Witch hits the fan in these episodes of “A Cold Spring.”
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Stately stewards carried in the main course on silver platters—a savory roast seasoned with rosemary and thyme. The sumptuous fragrance drew oohs and ahhs from the assemblage. Cutlery clinked on the fine china, crystal goblets glittered, and the hall filled with laughter.
Conversation bubbled throughout the room, ebullient as the champagne. Even the older relatives seemed to relax. Though the La Croixs sat on one side of the table and the Darkmores on the other, they chatted across the steaming plates and sparkling glasses as if the two families had forgotten centuries of uneasy alliances before Lucia blasted them apart.
With a flourish, the steward refilled Maddock’s glass with champagne and mine with sparkling apple juice. Maddock touched my glass with his and nodded toward the gabbling, laughing crowd.
“Am I mistaken, or does this seem to be working?”
“As Lord of the Manor, it’s is impossible for you to be mistaken. You are automatically correct in word and action by weight of tradition.”
He nodded in the self-satisfied manner that could infuriate or amuse. “I’m going to like this.”
He leaned closer and I closed my eyes in anticipation of a sweet kiss that never came.
The air grew stifling hot. Conversation silenced. A buzz intensified from a mosquito’s whine to an ear-splitting shriek. Goblets crashed to the floor and chairs scraped on the wooden floor as guests leapt to their feet.
A hot gale blasted through the foyer
Maddock was the first to realize what was happening. He kicked his chair aside and pulled me up with him. He drug me to the door, pushed me out.
“Get out of the castle? Hurry!” No time for even a kiss.
He bolted back to the dining room. Those closer to the exit were already running. I gathered as many together as I could and spread a protective spell around us. A hot gale blasted through the foyer from the dining room, pushing the castle doors wide open. I shepherded my charges through the foyer, afraid to look back. The massive oaken staircase burst into flames. Waves of heat rose to the heights of New Castle Highmoor, tinkling the crystals of the chandelier.
This time she intended to finish us all.
By the time we crossed the foyer and scrambled down the steps of the veranda into the courtyard, smoke billowed from the turrets and flames licked the windows. I sent them scurrying toward gates but I couldn’t make myself go with them.
Lucia had returned to Castle Highmoor and this time she intended to finish us all. Her screech echoed from the stone walls and the fortified gates. If Maddock hadn’t appeared atop the gate tower, I would have run back inside—would have tried to help.
Eight months later, I sit alone in the garden mud and wish I had.
Episode 14: Now I Wait
Squelching footsteps in the muddy garden pull my thoughts from the past. Old Castle Highmoor and New Castle Highmoor meld into one blur of ice and fire. Maddock’s voice cries to me from the edge of the Universe—but only in my visions. In the eight months since he disappeared, I’ve grown slow and sluggish as the child grows inside me, but I’ve neither seen, heard, nor felt Maddock’s presence. He’s gone and my visions and my common sense give me no hope he will ever come back.
“Another vision?” Maybelle La Croix’s raspy voice blends with the harsh calls of a dozen crows who live in the Rowan trees at the edge of the garden.
She presses her scarred lips together, a wistful gleam in her one blue eye.
Maybelle doesn’t have visions anymore.
Whatever magical ability she enjoyed in the Time Before lies buried. Her twisted left side and the scars on her face attest to how close she came to death the night Lucia’s scourge of the Darkmore and La Croix families began.
Aunt Clarissa found her half frozen just outside the gates of Old Castle Highmore and took her to safety. A recluse since, scarred in body and mind, she did not attend my wedding at New Castle Highmoor even though Maddock begged her to do so. He’d been annoyed with her then, saying it was ridiculous to let the past destroy the future.
But if she’d been in New Castle Highmoor when it disappeared, I would have had no one to turn to. She paid her debt to the Darkmores by keeping me safe since. As far as we know, we two are the only ones left. The few who fled with me either turned back or fled to the ends of the earth. The entire Darkmore and La Croix families are gone.
A solid kick jars my internal organs and reminds me of the third survivor. She kicks like a Spanish mule and will not be ignored.
“The visions are coming faster now. That must mean something.” Mayebelle avoids the worst of the mud by hopping from one tussock of brittle grass to the next.
“It means I’m closer to madness, I think.”
“It may.” She helps me rise, tugging my rumpled skirt and blouse snuggly over my bulging belly. “No use feeling sorry for yourself. The equinox is nearly here. Before long, birds will be singing and the tomatoes will be ready to pick. Just wait and see.”
I’m trapped in limbo—waiting for the baby, waiting for Maddock, waiting for some nameless thing to right a skewed world.
“I hope so, Maybelle. I hope so.” I trudge behind her, not bothering to avoid the mud.