After covering a nightmarish Friday afternoon free period with the eighth graders, Abbie wanted nothing more than to just go home, wash her face, and change into her pajamas before her scheduled FaceTime with Dan. But she had promised her third graders that she’d have the Halloween decorations up in her classroom on Monday, which meant she had a very long weekend of crafting ahead of her. On her way home from work, she got off the subway early and stopped at Michaels to buy supplies. She was deep in the seasonal aisle, deciding whether she should stick to the autumnal wreath project she’d seen on Pinterest or go with a more time-consuming pumpkin carving idea, when she heard a voice behind her.
“Oh my gosh!” Abbie turned to face a tall, round-cheeked girl clutching a garland of plastic orange leaves. “Are you Abbie from Crafting & Coconut Oil?”
“Oh,” Abbie said. She took a step back, surprised. When she’d started her DIY crafting and natural hair blog the summer before senior year, she hadn’t really thought anyone would care about the things she whipped up for her classroom and her edges, but she’d been pleased by the response she’d gotten. She wasn’t an internet celeb by any means—she certainly had never been recognized IRL before—but she gained a handful of new followers every time she posted a new project or hair pudding on Instagram, and averaged a few hundred unique visitors to her blog every month. After Dan left for Nairobi, and before she got her classroom assignment, Abbie had posted way more than usual out of boredom, leading to a bit of an uptick. She’d assumed things had returned to normal by now: she hadn’t finished anything blog-worthy since before school had started up nearly a month ago.
“Yeah,” Abbie said finally, realizing she hadn’t responded. “That’s me.”
“Ah, that’s so dope,” the girl said. She dropped the garland in her basket. “I loved the Elmer’s glue face mask! Totally unclogged my pores.”
“Thanks,” Abbie said, practically beaming. Her smashed avocado, Aztec Clay, and glue facemask was the first time she realized she could combine her love of crafting with her DIY beauty obsession. “That’s one of my faves, too.”
“I’m Vanessa,” the girl said, extending one hand as she reached into her purse with the other.
“Nice to meet you.” Abbie swept her hair off her forehead, feeling a little dazed. Even though she checked the C&C social media accounts every once in a while, she had never thought about the people those numbers represented. She liked knowing that someone with lilac box braids and holographic creepers read her little blog—it gave her the same bubbly feeling she got whenever Brit + Co launched a new class, or an organic lip balm recipe had the perfect texture.
“I’ve been thinking about starting my own blog for-ev-er,” Vanessa said, pulling out an iPhone in a furry blue case. “Selfie?”
“Uh...sure,” Abbie said, but Vanessa had already tilted her chin down, turned her neck to catch the best light, and snapped a pic of the two of them.
Vanessa slipped her phone back into her purse and continued as though she hadn’t stopped midway to take a picture. “...But I have no idea how to like, get people interested in my stuff. How’d you build your following?”
“Oh.” Abbie paused to think about it. “Just posting stuff that I’m passionate about? And trying to take high quality pictures.” She shrugged. “I don’t know really. I always have a ton of ideas, but I only ever post when I have the time.”
“No way,” Vanessa said. “I totally would have thought you were a full-time blogger.” Abbie laughed. “No, seriously. All my friends are totally obsessed with your Mod Podge and oatmeal hair mask.”
“No way,” Abbie said, laughing awkwardly. She always got weird when someone complimented her, even though she knew she should just say thank you. She was just about to ask Vanessa her Instagram handle when her phone buzzed in the front pocket of her bright red J.Crew chinos. “Crap,” she said under her breath. An alert that said DAN, followed by two heart eyes emojis, had popped up—a reminder that their fifth FaceTime call of the week was in fifteen minutes. “I gotta go,” she said, looking up at Vanessa. “But thank you so much for reading.”
“No problem.” Vanessa gave Abbie a wide smile. “Just keep posting.”
“Heyyyy,” Abbie said breathlessly. She tried to keep her face within the view of her phone’s front-facing camera, turn her key, and push her way inside her apartment all at the same time. “I’m so, so, so, so sorry I’m late.” Abbie nudged her way into her apartment with her shoulder, dropping her bags to the floor before flipping the lights on.
Dan gave her a sleepy, affectionate smile. He was in bed—Abbie could see his leather headboard behind him, and she felt guilty that she was keeping him up past his usually strict 11 p.m. bedtime. “No worries,” he said. “I was running a bit late too.” He yawned and grinned at once. “How’s school?”
“Insane, honestly,” Abbie said as she retrieved a tupperware of honeydew from her fridge and popped a cube into her mouth. “Middle school kids are a nightmare. But oh my God, literally the craziest thing in the world just happened to me.” Abbie padded into the living room and collapsed onto her shitty West Elm couch, accidentally knocking off yet another button in the process. She lay on her side and Dan did the same. It was almost like they were lying beside each other—almost. “I met this girl who recognized me from my blog. She said she loved it. Isn’t that crazy?” On the subway ride home, Abbie couldn’t stop thinking about how real people took time out of their days to look at the craft and hair tutorials she thought up. If they were doing it now, when it occupied the smallest possible part of her brain and time, how many more readers could she get if she actually made an effort?
“Oh, wow,” Dan said listlessly.
Abbie clamped down on her excitement. “I mean, yeah, I thought it was cool,” she said. “I was thinking about maybe putting more time into it.” She played with one of her pearl earrings. “I don’t know, maybe it could grow into a full-time job or something.”
“Seriously?” Dan stifled a laugh.
Abbie rolled into a sitting position, crossing her legs beneath her. “Yeah,” she said. “You don’t think I could do it?”
“Whoa.” Dan sat up as well. “I didn’t say that. Of course you could. It’s just, like, I didn’t know you were still crafting and posting to your blog. And besides, do you really want to be, like, a career blogger?” he asked with a chuckle.
“Sorry, Abs,” Dan said finally. “I didn’t mean it like that.”
“Yeah,” Abbie said. She opened a Word document to jot down some of the ideas she’d thought of on the train. “No worries.”
A week after presenting her proposal, Charlotte entered the Council’s Hollow with calm, quiet certainty. Over the last few days, she’d fantasized incessantly about the successful vote and the admiration it would win her in the Sphere. She even allowed herself to imagine the additional swell of goodwill she’d receive when Camille’s agents found whichever witches were running around New York putting the Sphere in danger. It was only when she’d taken her seat in the Hollow that doubt crept into her mind— what if Natasha and Stella had found a way to sway the Council in their favor? When everyone settled, she spoke of the motion immediately, anxious for the result.
“Last week I proposed we reinstate The Gathering,” she said. “I now invite you all to present your questions and comments, so we may proceed to the vote.” The room was quiet, even Natasha and Stella refraining from their usual disruptions. It was clear the Council was eager for the results, so Charlotte continued. “All in favor of the reinstatement?” She raised her hand immediately, and was soon joined by Fabiana Soto, Thea Routledge, and Candice Thompson, the three loyal supporters whose votes Charlotte had counted on. She held her hand up higher, the room perfectly silent. She needed only two more votes to carry a simple majority, and she was certain she’d get them—even though Natasha and Stella, she knew, would remain firm holdouts. But now, as the same four arms remained up, she began to quietly panic. If the motion failed, the news would surely travel through the Witch Sphere, and when it did, Charlotte’s reputation would be damaged irreparably. But then Dr. Diop slowly raised her hand, and Charlotte bit her tongue to stop herself from thanking her. They had reached a tie. Another long moment passed before Natasha slowly raised her hand. She turned to first Nadine and then Stella, and both of their arms shot up in short order.
Charlotte let out a sharp, surprised breath before she could restrain herself.
“It’s time,” Natasha said simply, and Stella nodded beside her. Charlotte looked around the table, counting the votes in favor even though the outcome was clear. “The motion passes,” she said, her voice muffled with surprise. A surge of unrestrained glee coursed through Charlotte, surprising her with its force. A subdued murmur passed through the Council, but Charlotte didn’t pay it any mind. She was too preoccupied with the simple fact that she’d won.
“Wonderful,” she said to the room. “Today we will proceed with a presentation from the newly appointed Gathering Reinstatement Committee, and in October we will return to our usual monthly meetings.” She stood and waved the agents in, just as she had last time. Several members of the Council looked to each other excitedly, Natasha and Stella among them. As Charlotte watched them, fear slid down her spine. Suddenly Natasha’s uncharacteristic decision to vote for reinstatement seemed more dangerous than her expected vote against. But Charlotte forced the thought aside— there was no witch in the Sphere who could find a downside to a revived Gathering, not even Natasha Nox.
MJ had been hesitant when she’d first seen the girls in a restaurant called Miss Lily’s 7A. She’d never seen it before, and the decorations and excessive noise flooding onto the street told her it wasn’t exactly the kind of place she’d have brunch with her girlfriends. But, when she stepped inside, she realized the raucousness of the restaurant was the perfect cover for what she planned to do—spy on the group of girls she suspected were witches. Though there was no foolproof way to spot a witch just by looking at her, many carried themselves with an almost supernatural elegance. However, she didn’t expect that kind of grace from these girls. From what she’d seen from the roof across from The Bar that night, the girls’ act of magic wasn’t entirely intentional. They’d looked surprised by the light that lassoed the phone, reacting the way a typic might. So today she looked not for poise or elegance, but confirmation. She hoped to catch the girls either practicing or discussing their magic in the crude, amateur manner a new witch might. MJ chose a table by the bathroom and waited, propping a drink menu against the table centerpiece to obscure her distinguished face.
“Hi, welcome to Miss Lily’s 7A. What can I get you?”
MJ looked up at the towering waitress. “Ah.” She scanned the menu. She’d been so focused on watching the restaurant’s entrance for the girls’ arrival that she’d forgotten where she was. “I’ll get...the fish sandwich.” MJ had already eaten her breakfast of course, a Greek yogurt parfait with organic granola and browned apples, but she needed to order something to keep up appearances.
The waitress scribbled onto her notepad. “Anything to drink?” Her accent carried a St. Kittian lilt.
“No, no. I’ll keep this, for now,” MJ said, nodding toward the drink menu. She gave the waitress a gracious smile before she left, leaving MJ alone to watch the doorway over the tops of her tortoiseshell YSL sunglasses. Various groups streamed in, gathering at the hostess stand or breezing to their reserved tables. But the three girls MJ had been following didn’t appear. The waitress came with MJ’s sandwich. Several parties that had arrived after MJ had already finished their meals and left, and she began to feel foolish. Perhaps she couldn’t trust her visions anymore. She hadn’t had one in so long that when the image of The Bar first swam before her eyes four weeks ago, she’d ignored it, thinking it was simply a vivid daydream. But the vision had come again three days later, and after that it returned more frequently and vividly as the future decided on itself.
When it came time to plan her monthly dinner with friends, she was careful to choose a rooftop restaurant across from The Bar. She’d been vague when rebuffing her friends’ suggestions—and even less straightforward in her reasons for staying after they finished eating. After her friends left, she leaned over the wall of the roof, staring out at the bar across the street, the one she’d seen in her vision. As she did, three seemingly unremarkable girls left The Bar. Then, for the first time in longer than she could remember, MJ viewed an unmistakable act of magic.
But now, after over an hour and a half at Miss Lily’s, MJ was faltering again, wondering whether she’d gotten worse at interpreting visions in her old age or if she’d imagined what she saw that night. She was just about to take a bite of her sandwich when she saw one of the girls at the hostess booth. It was the square girl with the lovely twist-out, who MJ had learned worked at PS 391. MJ closed her mouth tentatively around the sandwich, and watched as the girl followed the hostess to a table set for three. She chewed as the brusque one with the backpack arrived and fell into her seat like she weighed ten tons. The prissy one who had dropped the phone came last, strolling into the restaurant in jeans and a camo utility jacket.
Since the night she had seen the girls at The Bar, MJ had taken to following them, sometimes staking out The Bar, other times following the girls to work or school and back. Despite all her effort, she hadn’t seen anything out of the ordinary, or even remotely magical. The girls appeared to live normal—if boring—twentysomething lives. But today was the first time MJ had seen all the girls together since that first night. As they sat, she could tell this wasn’t their first time meeting since then—they were familiar with each other.
The girls were a safe distance away, sitting by one of the enormous, open windows that faced Avenue A. From what MJ could see, they weren't discussing anything particularly serious; they simply seemed like a group of friends having brunch. They laughed, tried each others’ food, and leaned in conspiratorially to exchange secrets and comments about other diners.
MJ watched the girls intently for nearly an hour, eyes trained on their every movement, before she realized with a pang of embarrassment that there was nothing magical happening here and she had wasted her time. The girls were not witches—and if they were, they were certainly putting on a successful show of being three ordinary girlfriends. MJ began to turn away from the girls to signal the waitress for her check, but as she moved, she saw something that made her pause mid-turn. The prissy one’s glass was full, glittering with sickly red liquid. When she’d looked away just now, it had been empty; she’d just finished her drink with a gulp. One of the girls had to have filled it with her powers. This was standard witch activity, and MJ remembered playing the same trick when she was younger. The prissy girl caught her eye, and when she did, MJ knew for certain she was the one who’d done it. MJ cut her eyes away and pretended to be completely focused on fetching her wallet from her purse, gathering her thoughts before the other girls saw her.
“You need to chill,” Delali hissed. She sat up straighter and looked around to make sure no one had seen Vic refill her drink.
Vic downed half her glass in a long sip. “You need to chill,” she said, beginning to slur. “No one’s watching us. Besides,” she gestured to the restaurant and the noisy sidewalk beside them. “If you haven’t noticed, everyone here is totally wasted. If they see a girl magically filling up her drink, they’re going to think they hallucinated it.” Vic traced the curve of her punch glass, moving her finger from stem to rim, and the glass refilled again with frozen red liquid. “I know from experience,” she said dryly.
Delali shot Vic a look but didn’t say anything. It was risky for Vic to use her powers so brazenly, but Delali couldn’t deny she was also somewhat salty about how easily Vic had taken to her powers. While Abbie and Vic seemed to get better at them every day, Delali’s powers remained resolutely out of her control. After finishing her first rum punch in record time, Vic decided to try refilling the glass on a whim. “I mean, why the fuck not?” She’d quipped, pushing her Miu Miu sunglasses into her hair—and then she had, concentrating sharply for all of two seconds as she moved her finger with an intuition Delali wasn’t sure she possessed. She wouldn’t attempt such a maneuver. She was sure she’d fail, especially with the threat of random voices poking into her head and ruining her concentration.
Her days were still mostly quiet—her thoughts were hers alone—but other peoples’ still merged with hers at times. She’d be in an elevator with a wholesome-looking yoga mom and suddenly see her scrolling through memories of her affair. Or she’d be studying peacefully in the library when a barrage of anxious thoughts collided in her brain so aggressively she wanted to scream. She had, a few times, quieted the intruding voices when it was just too much to handle, but that was through sheer force of will— her mindreading wasn't yet something she could consciously turn on and off. Most frustratingly, she couldn’t selectively block out voices to hear the thoughts of people she actually wanted to mentally eavesdrop on. Of course, Delali didn’t know if she would ever be able to do that with her powers—but she hoped she would, eventually. If not, what was the point of them? As the thought crossed her mind, Delali remembered the reason she’d texted the other girls last night and invited them to brunch.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about what we’re supposed to be doing with our powers,” she said, lowering her voice. “I mean, it can’t just be to get free drinks, obviously.” She threw a quick look at Vic, who rolled her eyes before taking another sip of her punch.
“Why do they have to mean something?” Vic asked. “Can’t we just have them?” After working late last night, all Vic wanted to do was get drunk, flirt with their hot waitress, and dig into a heaping plate of jerk chicken and waffles before going home to take a post-drunch nap.
Delali snorted. “Ok, that’s kind of a one-eighty coming from the girl who basically had a nervous breakdown when we first got them.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” asked Vic. “Are you saying it’s not weird as fuck that we suddenly developed ‘abilities?’”
“No, I’m saying that it is,” Delali replied. “Which is why I’m pretty sure there has to be something attached to them. Why would they just pop up out of nowhere?”
Vic threw a handful of Brazilian body wave over her shoulder. “I don’t know,” she said. “But neither do you,” she added pointedly.
Delali ignored Vic and turned to face Abbie. “What do you think?”
Abbie didn’t hear her; she hadn’t been paying attention. She tended to tune out when Delali and Vic were in a bickering mood, which was maybe half of the time they spent together. More importantly, she and Dan hadn’t spoken since last night—no texts or anything—but in that time he’d posted two pictures to Instagram. The first was a routine rooftop bar cityscape with no caption, but the second, posted just twenty minutes ago, was a dark, low-exposure club pic. In it, Dan was sandwiched between two of the other English teachers at his school: a burly, dark-haired guy and a narrow-featured girl whose perfect blowout was draped over Dan’s shoulder—Kim. Her arm was slung around Dan’s neck and she was sticking out her Orochimaru-ass lizard tongue so far it was almost touching Dan’s cheek.
“Abbie?” Delali said. Abbie looked up.
“What?” she asked. “Sorry.”
“Our powers,” Delali said impatiently. “What do you think they mean?”
“Oh.” Abbie put her phone, screen down, on the table. “Honestly, I haven’t really thought about it.”
Delali sighed in frustration. “Of course,” she grumbled.
“Must’ve been too busy zooming in on your boyfriend’s Insta pics and diagramming his tweets,” Vic muttered before stuffing a forkful of waffles into her mouth.
“Wait,” said Abbie. “You can zoom?”
“Yeah,” Vic said. “It was a new update a while ago.”
“Whaaaat, I didn’t know that.” Abbie picked up her phone again.
“Oh my God!” Delali exclaimed in annoyance. Vic and Abbie turned to look at her. “Can you guys be serious for like ten seconds?”
“What’s the big deal?” Abbie said as she tapped away on her phone. “It’s not like we’re hurting anybody.”
“Ex-act-ly,” Vic said, and then, taunting Delali, she refilled her glass with another slow slide of her finger. She looked up from the glass to throw Delali a look, but instead Vic’s eyes landed just behind her. Her jaw slackened. “Fuck,” she muttered. “Fuck, fuck, fuck.”
“What?” Abbie asked, whipping around.
“Don’t look!” Vic said. Abbie turned back to face her.
“What is it?” Delali urged.
“I think that woman just saw me refill my glass.” Vic ducked her head down.
“What?” Delali demanded, struggling to keep herself from turning to look. “Well, what about all that shit you were talking five seconds ago? ‘Everyone here is wasted, they’ll think they hallucinated it,” she repeated in a nasal imitation of Vic’s voice.
Vic ignored her. “Shit, she’s like staring at us.” Vic threw her sunglasses case into her purse. “We need to leave?” Her voice tilted upward as though she was asking a question, but she was already waving down their waitress for the check and packing up her things.
“Are you serious?” Delali asked. She turned and was struck when she saw the woman Vic must’ve been talking about: a smallish, brown-skinned woman with a round blonde afro, her dark eyes trained piercingly on their table. She could see why Vic was startled by the woman—there was something kind of unsettling about her unwavering gaze.
“Come on,” Vic whispered, pulling Delali’s arm. But Delali stayed seated. The longer she looked at the woman, the more her feeling changed. It was as if the woman had taken ahold of her, the same way Abbie had described herself doing with that man on the sidewalk. There was something knowing about the woman’s stare, something almost soothing. Perhaps it was her tiny frame, or the pastel pink shift dress and matching paisley scarf that reminded Delali of a particularly chic grandma, but more likely it was the broad smile playing at her lips. I’ve found them, the look seemed to say, and then Delali came to a realization. That wasn’t what the woman’s expression said; it was what she had thought—and Delali had just, for the very first time, read a mind on purpose.
By the time the girls paid for their brunch, Abbie was the only one who wasn’t having a full-blown freak-out. Delali practically pushed her onto the sidewalk and Vic was frantically fanning herself, even though they had just left a fully air-conditioned restaurant. They took a couple of steps before Vic leaned against the side of Miss Lily’s, as if she needed the physical support. Abbie zipped up her crossbody Dooney & Bourke bag with a loud sigh, frustrated. It was so rude that she was going through a relationship crisis and neither Delali nor Vic could even pretend to care.
“Jesus, what is wrong with you two? Get a freaking grip. If that lady did see you refill your glass, what is she gonna do? Call the cops?”
Vic smiled reluctantly and then took a few deep, calming breaths. “Yeah, you’re right,” she said. “She probably didn’t even see anything anyway.”
Delali didn’t respond. She was pacing silently up and down the sidewalk.
“Chill, Delali, you look like someone just told you you got an A minus in one of your little math classes. I’m sure it’s fine,” Vic reasoned. “And if anyone has the right to freak out, it’s me. I’m the one who had to look into that woman’s creepy, x-ray eyes.” She faked a chill and Abbie laughed.
“Guys,” Delali said, cutting off their laughter. “I think I just read that woman’s mind.”
“Oh, here she goes,” Vic said. “Weren’t you just complaining that you can barely even tell what your power is? And now you read that woman’s mind?”
“Vic,” Abbie said sternly. She turned her attention to Delali. “What did she say?”
“I think she said—or thought—‘I found them.’”
Vic pretended not to feel her heart lurch. “Well, that’s convenient.”
“Why would I lie about this?” Delali asked.
“Because you wish you were on an episode of Misfits or something, I don’t know!”
“Guys!” Abbie looked around, making awkward eye contact with a white guy with dreads, who she was pretty sure was eavesdropping on them. “Maybe we can discuss this somewhere that’s not the sidewalk outside a popular brunch establishment? Like Tompkins maybe?” She gestured toward the park.
Vic rolled her eyes dramatically. She had been looking forward to watching reruns of The Real Housewives of Atlanta in bed and using her powers to adjust the thermostat without getting up. But then she looked at Delali, whose perfectly shaped eyebrows (probably courtesy of some Hollywood guru she’d never deign to tell them about) were furrowed so deeply it made Vic worry she might actually get forehead wrinkles before her fifties.
“Fine,” Vic said, turning toward the park. “Let’s go.”
As the girls walked from the restaurant, Delali tried to think of something to say. Obviously she had to respond to Vic’s Misfits comment, but she was too pissed to think of something that didn't sound childish and petty. She seethed at the thought of Vic flashing her powers so carelessly, mocking Delali’s concerns, and still forcing their panicked escape from the restaurant when she realized they’d been seen.
“I don't know,” Delali said as they approached the park. “Obvi that woman’s not going to call the police or something, but I also don't think that’s an argument for being reckl—” she broke off abruptly and stopped short. She felt rooted to the spot where she stood, as though someone had bound her feet to the sidewalk; she barely even felt it when Abbie, head bent toward her phone, walked into her back and let out a surprised yelp.
“What—” Abbie started, but then she stopped when she saw what Delali was staring at. The woman from Miss Lily’s was sitting on a bench in the park—their bench—and staring directly at them. Not looking generally in their direction, but focused on the park’s entrance as though she’d known to expect them, as though she was waiting for them.
“Oh my God,” Vic whispered. The sharp points of Vic’s stiletto nails dug into Delali’s forearm. “Let’s leave,” she hissed.
“Yeah,” Abbie added. “I'm getting seriously freaked out.”
Delali pulled her arm from Vic’s grasp. “I'm gonna talk to her,” she said, and started toward the woman. She was vaguely aware of Vic and Abbie’s protests, but she had stopped feeling in control of her body as soon as she read the woman’s mind. It wasn't until Delali stood in front of the petite older woman, looming over her, that she realized she hadn't thought of what to say. They looked at each other for a long time before the woman flashed her an encouraging smile. It was so quick that, a few weeks ago, Delali would've thought she imagined it. But Delali was beginning to realize the reality of her life was far beyond anything she could've made up.
“I thought,” Delali said hoarsely. She cleared her throat and tried again. “I thought I heard you say something to me and my friends,” she finished lamely, gesturing to Vic and Abbie somewhere behind her. It was vague enough that the woman could easily throw a look at Delali and dismiss her as crazy—their tables had been so far apart—but the woman didn't do that. Instead, she broke into a smile. Delali recognized that smile: it was the expression of someone trying to mask their true level of excitement, just like Georgia in Episode 6x06, where she pretends she doesn’t want to go to The Great Barrier Reef-themed homecoming dance with Tony because she’s scared her feelings are deeper than his.
“I didn’t,” said the woman. “But I suspect something else happened. I think you read my mind.”
Delali took a step back and let out a long exhale. Of course, she’d known that’s what happened in the restaurant—it felt so different from the times when voices randomly poked into her head—but she hadn’t anticipated how good it would feel to have someone else confirm.
“I think so too,” Delali said.
The woman sat back and crossed her legs, pensive. “So, you can’t control what you hear?”
“Should I—should I be able to?” Delali asked. She couldn’t believe she could finally voice the concerns that had been nibbling away at her ever since she’d started hearing other people’s thoughts, and especially ever since Abbie and Vic had taken to their powers as easily as learning to ride a bike.
“Well, it takes some witches longer than others,” the woman replied. “But with the proper training you should be able to effectively filter. Most importantly,” she paused, giving Delali a knowing smile. “You’ll learn how to keep your head yours, and yours alone.”
“He-ey,” Abbie said carefully, appearing at Delali’s side. Delali hadn’t noticed when Abbie walked over to her, but in the next second she felt the warmth of Vic on her other side. “Let’s talk.” Abbie took hold of Delali’s arm and gently started leading her away. “Just a moment,” she said in a detached, high-pitched voice to the woman. She gave Abbie a placid smile and waved her away, as if to say take all the time you need.
Delali let herself be guided from the bench, still lingering on the woman’s words. Some witches, she’d said, as though it were the easiest, most natural thing in the world. As though Delali should’ve known that all along.
“Um, what the fuck?” Vic hissed once they were out of earshot. “What are you doing?”
“You guys,” Delali said, ignoring Vic’s angry questions. “We’re witches.”
Vic let out a choking laugh.
“That woman pretty much just said it, and,” she said forcefully, continuing before Vic could interrupt her. “It wasn’t like she thought it was crazy or scary or anything. She said it like she was one too. A witch,” she clarified, mostly because she wanted to say the word witch again.
Vic pressed her hand to her forehead as the world tilted sharply around her, a reaction to both Delali’s words and her many glasses of rum punch. A witch? Yeah, she read Chani Nicholas and sometimes captioned her Saturday night Instagram posts with the crystal ball and magic wand emojis, but the idea of calling herself a witch had never crossed her mind, not even as she’d gotten used to cleaning up the wings of her eyeliner by simply staring at them in the mirror and concentrating.
Abbie looked from Delali to Vic and back again before pulling her phone out from her back pocket. She’d caved and commented on one of Dan’s pictures—just the heart eyes emoji on the club pic, nothing too crazy—and he hadn’t commented back, DM’ed her, or even liked the comment.
“That’s it from you?” Vic asked. “A blank stare and another scroll through your boyfriend’s social media? Don’t you ever get tired?”
Abbie looked up from her phone, biting her tongue. If you don’t have anything nice to say…, she thought to herself as she chose her words.
“I guess I’m just not that shocked,” Abbie said finally. She pretended not to notice the look Delali and Vic exchanged, turning her attention back to her phone and checking Dan’s Instagram again. (Still nothing from him, but Jana, her BFF from high school, had just liked something on the C&C account.)
Vic had just opened her mouth to respond—something venomous on the tip of her tongue, Abbie was sure—when she closed it again. Abbie followed her gaze. The woman had stood from the bench and was walking toward them, rummaging in the depths of her bucket bag.
As she reached them, she pulled out a small white card. “I’m sure you all have a lot of questions,” she said, handing it to Delali. “This can answer all of them.” When the paper made contact with Delali’s palm, fine purple lines bloomed and swirled across its surface until they settled into the shape of letters and numbers: an address, a date, and a time. Delali traced the words with her finger before flipping the card over. The letters ‘MJ’ looped across the back of the card in the same broad cursive.
“I hope to see you again,” the woman said, and then she drifted away and out of the park, the “don’t walk” light changing just as she arrived at the corner.