Andrea fumbled the heavy old leather bound volume and it thudded onto the table, sending a shock wave across the cherry veneered surface that sloshed orange juice over the rim of Mark's glass. He looked up from his paper and stared at her over his half-framed reading glasses. "High school yearbook?" he asked, a sneer screwing up the corners of his weasely little mouth while an uneven squint reduced his beady eyes to slits. "Good one," she replied, coolly ignoring her husband's latest sarcastic spasm. "For your information, this three hundred year-old Necronomicron is part of my witchcraft research." Dead silence. "My thesis. You rememberů" Mark turned a page and snapped a crease into the paper. "Bitchcraft, huh." He filled a long breath with gall and spewed it at her. "What's to research, Baby? You're a subject matter expert." "You don't know the half of it," she whispered, scanning the brittle parchments. "I'll be out late with the girls tonight, so you'll have to cook for yourself." Andrea closed the book, wedged it into her briefcase, and headed out the door. "At last! A dinner fit for human consumption," chided Mark.
***Moonlight danced through Morgana's raven hair and three silver buckles beamed from the garter on her thigh. Suspended at the hollow of her neck above her bared cleavage, cabochons of amber and jet glowed warmly. Thankful that she had given only passing attention to the question of what to wear, Andrea shed her Levis and flannel shirt, slipped out of her bra and panties, and joined the circle of twelve women who stood naked beneath the full, rising moon. Each greeted her with a kiss. Then, taking up the grail and dagger, Morgana performed the ceremony of purification. Afterward, each woman spoke in turn, revealing the secrets, mysteries and powers cached within her heart. And they danced by the light of the moon. The discreet forest clearing seemed to crackle and the air was full of estrogen and magick, not at all what Andrea had imagined when she accepted Morgana's invitation to participate in the coven's Great Rite. It was gentle, affirming and feminine, yet empowering. The ultimate support group for a codependent Gen Xer. Andrea bared her soul there in the midst of her sisters, and they nodded and whispered to one another, grimaced and shook their heads. When at last she concluded her petition, Morgana spoke. "We honor peace, celebrate harmony, encourage tolerance. We practice our craft for help and healing, and seek to harm no one." Morgana turned and nodded at Lillian, the willowy blonde who'd been the first to welcome Andrea into the circle. Lillian smiled and passed Andrea a weathered book bound with a covering that felt alive as she handled it. "However," Morgana continued, "once in a while we throw all that out the window and kick some butt!" "It's the Book of Shadows," Lillian whispered. Blue lightning flashed in her eyes. "It's moving in my hands!" Andrea shrieked and let the book fall to the ground. Morgana picked it up, kissed it and handed it back to her. "There, there," Morgana breathed. "The Book of Shadows is a living thing," she said to Andrea. "It can feel pain." "And heal it," Lillian added. "But you'll need these, too." The black velvet pouch Lillian gave her contained a candle and two stoppered bottles. Andrea examined them in the moonlight. "Wormwood and graveyard dust," said Morgana. Andrea's eye's widened. "Petoule," Lillian giggled. "You can't work a decent spell without them. It's really simple, almost like baking cookies. Once you decide what you're going to make, just follow the recipe in the Book."
***It had been a year to the day since Andrea's first Great Holloween Rite, and she'd been to 12 more since then, most with Morgana's coven. She'd written her thesis and accepted a position on the faculty at Forest Glen Community College, teaching philosophy. She'd taken up making scented lotions and soaps as a hobby and she sold them at Riverfront Park's summer art fair. And she'd become an accomplished worker of spells, a white witch of the first order. Mark, of course, had complained about her involvement with the coven. He'd complained about the smell of lavender bubbling out of the stockpot that simmered endlessly on the cooktop. Then there was the black satin cape, pointy black hat and red striped knee-high socks he gave her on their wedding anniversary. When she was home, he complained about her cooking; when she wasn't, he complained about his own. The exponential growth of his list of grievances was exceeded only by his willingness to enumerate them for her or anyone else who would listen. But today the house was quiet when Andrea came home from work. "Hi, Honey," she said and laid the Book of Shadows and her black satin pouch on the kitchen table. Mark was silent, though it was obvious he'd heard what she'd said. She walked over to the chair and kissed him, and gave him a playful pat on the butt. "Hungry?" Now she had his attention. He followed her into the kitchen and sat while she opened the pantry door and selected an entree, then scooped the contents onto a plate and set it in front of him. He ate it with relish. "My, you were hungry," she said and patted his back. "That's a nice kitty."
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