Home: Figments: A Hint of Rosemary
She scooped up the pile of diced vegetables, and dumped them into the hot fat. The sound seemed to sear the deep scowl into the lines of her face. As she stirred the mixture, the browned bits loosened from the bottom, mingling with the tender, young vegetables. At the same time, her anxiety over the stranger loosened from her heart, and mingled with her lonely vulnerabilities. Do I have control over things? Over anything? I can’t even control my legacy, or make m’self someone who’ll be remembered… I can’t make folks fall in love… I can’t save ‘em from misfortune... I don’t even know if I’m free to choose my own fortune. She sighed heavily.
The old woman turned to reach for a bottle of wine from a dusty rack in a dark, musty corner, opposite the stove. As she did, she noticed the stranger was studying her, seemingly puzzled by the sudden change of mood. The girl caught her eye for a moment, but the old crone turned away, pretending to search for something else, (perhaps the corkscrew, already in her hand.)
“Did I say something wrong?” the girl asked. “I mean… I didn’t mean to pry. I’ve just… been curious. I don’t know…” She turned to the window, and seemed to look far beyond the trees. “I feel lost. Like I should be a part of something… I don’t know… more important.” She looked back to the old woman, her eyes now reflecting the troubled sadness. “I thought if I came here… that you could show me… you know. How you do it.”
With a muffled pop, the crone pulled the cork from the bottle and set it aside. Hon, I’m no better off than you. She set the wine on the counter, and then sat down across from the girl. With determined calculation, she began. “I’m not sure what to be tellin’ ye. I suppose I could show you how to read them cards, what they mean and all, brewin’ potions and ingredients and that sort of thing, throwing hexes… but I’m willin’ ta bet that’s not what yer lookin’ fer, is it?” She raised a quizzical eyebrow at the young girl, as if challenging her to disagree.
The girl shrugged timidly. “Guess I didn’t think it’d be easy.”
Damn right, it ain’t easy. Think you know what’s goin’ to happen next, think you know every possible variation… Only to find there’s sumtin’ you missed. Sumtin’ you knew was there, but caint see it till it was too late. You think you’ve got control… but you don’t. I’m not any better at controllin’ anything, just better at faking it. She wanted to shout all of this at the girl, but knew she was too ashamed to admit it. She should have control… shouldn’t she?
The vegetables had softened considerably, and some were beginning to brown at the edges. The old crone sensed this, and returned to the stove. Stirring gently, she returned the scraps of meat to the pan. She then grabbed the bottle of wine, and took a few swigs before pouring the entire contents into the pan. For a single moment, there was a loud sizzle, before a cloud of heavenly aroma escaped the pan, engulfing them both. Oh, lovely wine… spirits, as they say, she thought, drinking in the heavy scent.
Spirits, indeed. The smell of the wine seemed to transport the old woman, as if through a dream, to days long past and some recent. Those happy nights, spent by the side of the fire, as the wind glued wet snow to the walls outside... The nights spent, sipping wine, reading tales of long dead heroes by long since dead writers... Nights where she willingly gave up control, to live in the shoes of some other person, to escape in someone else’s dreams... These nights returned to her now, with the smell of wine and fire. How all of those spirits… in the wine, in the stories… how they must have changed me… how they must all be waitin’ inside of me, to change my mind, when I think I have control… She chuckled to herself, this time. Control again. I wonder if those old dead authors had control. Probably not. Well… maybe.
The stew was bubbling now, so she pushed it to the back burner, set a heavy lid on top, and turned away from the stove. Beads of sweat were beginning to drip down her face, she realized as she stepped away. Whether this flushing was from the heat in the kitchen, the flood of memory, or from her anxiety, she was not sure. She pulled a clean towel from a drawer, and used it to blot her face. Then, sitting at the table, she again faced the stranger. “I don’t really know what you want to hear.” She chuckled slightly, mostly to herself. “It’d be a lot easier for me if you just wanted a reading,” she finished, nodding at the cards perched at the altar.