Cook: A short story.

For this instalment of the Inspired series, I have collaborated with the very talented Lee Harris.  I have placed his wonderful image, at the perfect point in my story below.  Lee is from South Shields, and earned a BA in Fine Art back in 2007 from Sunderland University.  He has had his work exhibited by the Samling Foundation, and has an upcoming group exhibition with the Customs House in South Shields.  He currently works in advertising.  If you like his work as much as I do, you can check out more on his Instagram.  He will also have his own website up and running soon, so keep an eye out!  If you are an artist, photographer, musician or generally creative soul, and you would like to collaborate, then get in touch!  In the mean time, happy reading…

Cook

She wiped the sweat from her brow, steam hitting her like a wall. Her kitchen was too small for this kind of cooking, but she had no other options. She considered the recipe carefully, checking and rechecking the quantity or weight of each ingredient. This was a delicate process. One wrong move, and the entire thing would be ruined. Some of the essential components were rare, and expensive. It would take months to reacquire them, time she dd not have. She had promised to host her group that evening, and she was determined for it to go well.

She would have five guests this evening, all as exacting as each other. They always met once a month, to discuss and work on whatever problems each was facing or struggling with; a difficult boss, a cheating husband, a noisy neighbour. She had come to rely on them over the years, they always knew what to do to make it better.

Her eyes began to water, adding the last of the ingredients. She hoped they’d like it strong. She had just finished when the door bell rang. Wiping her hands with a polka dot tea towel, she made her way down the hall to the front door.

“Something smells perfect.”

It was Edith, the oldest and wisest of their group. Whatever your problem, she had been there, whatever story you had, she had one better. She had lived a hundred lives, and had been quite wild back in the day. Behind her was Brenda, a school teacher and book lover. She was the font of all facts and knowledge for the group; very handy for a pub quiz.

“Hey Beth, nice evening for it.”

“It is indeed.”

Then came the others, one after the other, all nodding their heads and exchanging pleasantries. There was Jane, who swore like a sailor and fought like one too, Cheryl, who must have been the most fertile woman in the country with seven kids and counting, and finally Sandra, who owned the local green grocers and sourced most of the things they needed for these little gatherings. She had contacts everywhere, and always knew someone who knew someone who could get you what you needed, no matter how rare. She was a handy person to know.

“Beth honey, I’m afraid I don’t have long. Three of the kids have a vomiting bug, and Peter was already pulling his hair out when I left. I’m sorry. I’ll stay as long as I can.”

Cheryl was always the hardest to pin down, with her brood and their many extra curricular activities and sports teams. It was a wonder she knew what day it was given how many dates and times were floating round her head.

“Of course, I’ve finished in the kitchen, so we can get stuck right in.”

Edith, nodded, and automatically led us all out onto the patio. I grabbed the pot on the way past, along with a bottle of wine. Everything else we would need was already out there. It was me who had called for this little gathering, me who had the problem to solve.

It was a clear, mild evening in May, with a full moon casting white light over the motionless trees. The women gathered around the table, each pouring themselves a glass of wine, passing the bottle from person to person until it was drained.

“I called you here, because I need your help. Jack, well, not content with being a cheating scum bag, he is now being a lying, cheating, thieving scum bag. He has solicitors claiming all sorts of assets which were mine before our marriage; my house, my book collection. Hell, he’s even trying to get at my rare wines. Bastard doesn’t even drink it, he’s a beer man. I have tried to be civil, to be mature and talk it out, but he’s just impossible. It’s pay back for kicking him out, as if I should have believed his pathetic apologies after I caught him humping his secretary on his desk, like some dog who needs fixed. I’m at the end of my rope ladies. I…”

She trailed off, memories of happier times with Jack flashing inside her mind’s eye, muddying her hatred and anger with regret.

“Right,” Edith clipped,”I think we know what needs done, and since we only have Cheryl for a short time, I suggest we get stuck in.”

sketch-1498767735789They silently pulled up the hoods of their black cloaks, and placed the pentagrams dangling around their neck in their left hands, their right hands touching the pot before them. In unison, quietly at first, but building in volume, they repeated the spell:

Moon of white, and souls of black,

We call to you to punish Jack,

To bring ill fortune, illness and sorrow,

To chip at him until he’s hollow,

To make him fear and fret tomorrow,

To cripple, break, beat and attack.

We call to you to punish Jack.

As they spoke, their words building into a crescendo, the pot’s sticky black contents began to bubble and boil, smoke rising from it’s belly, surrounding them like a fog. When the spell was cast, and the deed done, the smoke cleared and the pot’s contents had boiled into a thick and tar like paste, stuck to the bottom of the pan. Edith, using a wooden spoon, scooped a large dollop of the paste into a small glass jar, and handed it to Beth.

“You know what to do; smear it on him, and the curse shall be complete.”

“I should go, I have six missed calls from Peter.”

Cheryl kissed Beth, and hurried out, the others milling behind her, each saying their goodbyes. Edith hung back, until Beth and her were alone. Beth stared at the jar in her hand. She was angry with Jack, that was true, but did she really hate him that much?

“He betrayed you.”

Edith had always been able to read the others like books, their feelings and fears displayed like words on a page.

“He betrayed you, your marriage, your vows. Worst of all, he took your love and discarded it like a piece of rubbish. Now, he tortures you, for what? Profit? Fun? Revenge? None of these prospects paint him in a decent light. He cursed himself with his deeds. You are merely finalising the details.”

She smiled before glugging the last of her wine, a red drop running down her chin, like a vampire who had just fed. She kissed her on the cheek and hugged her, before heading into the house to leave. Beth stood a moment, going over the details of her life with Jack. How they had met and fallen in love, their wedding, their marriage, the affairs, ignored, then forgiven, then too many to carry the weight of any longer. The fights, the break ups, the harsh words, the tears. She clasped the jar tight in her right hand, the glass warming from the contents within. This home was ancestral and had been in her family for generations, passed from mother to daughter. She had grown up here. It was her only place of solace, and she loved it with all her heart, and now he threatened to have it sold, divided like it was nothing, just bricks and mortar forming a financial gain. No, she would never let that happen, not just for her, but for the women who came before her, and who loved and cried within it’s walls just as she had. He would pay. He would pay for what he did to her, to all the women he used and discarded like garbage, to everyone he ever trampled on and hurt. He would pay and he deserved every bit of his punishment. What happens in life comes back on you three fold, this she knew, and on this occasion, she was happy to give karma a helping hand.

She placed the jar inside her cloak pocket, and began to gather the glasses to be washed. She would call him tomorrow, tell him she missed him, appeal to his ego, ask for a lunch. She would kiss him, one last time, and use that moment to place the potion on him and curse his life and world until he had paid for all his sins three fold. She smiled at this. Hell hath no fury like a witch scorned.

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