I cannot remember how I got here, I just remember I need to get out.
“Disa! Get over here! You’re on the wrong side of the house again, you’re on my side!” Maria screeches.
Complacently, I step back across the threshold. The moment I step through, she closes the curtain dividing the house behind her.
“I’d get a door installed but that damned man won’t let me ‘keep him away from his children.’ What a drama queen. Listen Disa, you are to stay on this side of the house from now on. You are my witch, not his.”
“Sorceress, Madame. I prefer to be called sorceress.”
“Same difference.” Maria waves her hand. “Tonight, I need you to cast a spell, without any weird smells, please.”
“Depends on the spell, Madame. If you need me to track down your sons again, I’m afraid their items are too pungent to not exude any bizarre smells.”
“No, no, no, Disa. Tonight I need you to cast a spell to make me… attractive. I hear that damned man has gotten himself a woman. I don’t want any woman messing with my children’s minds. Leah’s 17, you know! What would she learn from a whore like that! I can’t stand it!” Then, Maria stomps away, wisps of brown hair laced with silver trailing behind her. If she does something about her hair, she could look half her age.
I made Maria’s charm, dyed her hair and sewed a dress for her. All she needs to do now is not talk about her ex-husband to her date, and he will come home with her.
The garden lures me to step out, enjoy the evening. So I do. I push open the screen door and step out into the warm spring air.
Conner and Colin bound about around the pool and finally decide to jump in. They look like two blond lions. Young and playful, but dangerous. Colin laughs manically before he pushes Conner down under. All fun and games until one of them drowns. I cast a spell into the pool to make the one who is unable to breathe stronger. The spell will evaporate by morning, I say to myself, then stroll back to the screen door.
I open the screen door, but the inside is different. There are clothes strewn on the floor, and a radio blasting music sung by pubescent boys. I’m on the wrong side.
“Disa, how many times must I tell you! You’re on the wrong side of the house again.” A middle-aged but striking man strides towards me.
“Apologies sir, it won’t happen again.”
“Papa, stop shouting!”
Her voice tastes like melting chocolate on my tongue. I apologize again and make my exit, being sure to close the curtains. Mr. Doolittle rips open the curtain and glares at me before he leaves.
Maria will be out all night; she won’t notice. I reassure myself as I pack my meagre belongings. I replay Leah’s voice and feel another wave of nausea.
Yes, I must leave tonight.
An express bus arrives, going anywhere but here. I pull out a blank card and make the bus driver think this is a card to ride the bus. Taking a seat, I look out at the line of hideous pink houses on my right. Then, on the other side, the dark ocean.
As we move along, the houses turn beige, but the ocean still dark. I begin nodding and finally fall asleep.
I’m on a motorcycle in the dead of night. All that is visible are what the headlights touch. The road ahead is dark, the ocean and the pink houses are invisible. Someone is holding me, I think she’s asleep. Her hands are soft, and her body leans on mine like mist. We’ll be home soon. Soon we’ll be at the Western Mountains.
The ocean is painted magenta. That voice is far behind me now. They cannot find me this far away. Then I see it.
The ocean is on my right. Soon, the line of hideous pink houses appear. I look around, and realize this is another bus altogether.
Maria’s house appears, and I get off. No point in trying to run, it is nearly dawn. I know I cannot get far, not with this enchantment. There is something drawing me back to the house. I open the door.
“Disa, where have you been all night?” Maria follows me to my room, seething all the way.
The bags go under my makeshift bed, and I speak, “Nowhere Madame, I cannot go anywhere.”
Relief does not wash over me when she looks at me with confusion then steps away. Someone yawns, I know it is a man.
“Hello, sir,” I start to bow, but stop myself. Instead, I smile at him slightly, then move to the kitchen. He’s good-looking enough, maybe enough to make her ex-husband jealous.
“Disa, help me make another spell!” Maria shouts from the bedroom. The sound of her voice leads the way.
Maria and Mr. Doolittle decide to have a groaning contest tonight. Maria is convinced that the higher she screeches, the more jealous her husband will become. I think it is very kind of her to consider her lover’s hearing. Thus, she asked me to make him partially deaf tonight. She must sound gentle and lovely to him. The beds squeak, the house quakes. Mr. Doolittle feels it necessary to declare everything he does with his lover.
“Oh, you’re so soft in my hands!”
“YESYESYES! JASON YESSSSS!”
The ruckus nearly chases me out of bed. If I make them fall asleep, they will continue another night. If I do not make them fall asleep, they will continue another night. Regardless, the children need not hear this, least of all Leah. The boys might get a kick out of it, but I’m not quite comfortable with that thought either.
Nimbly, I step through all the rooms, not a floorboard speaks. I gather the silence around the house and in the houses beside us. I condense it, and stuff them in the walls of the children’s rooms. There, insulation. I leave Leah’s room for last, so I could peek at her gentle sleeping face before I go to sleep myself. But when I get to her door, I realize she might not be asleep thanks to her parents. So I insulate her room and sneak back to mine. Wrapping myself in silence, I finally drift off to Morpheus.
A black cat purrs in my lap. The bus jolts and grinds to a stop.
“We’re here!” Someone announces. I pick up the cat and gently put her aside. She peers up at me, eyes wide and dilated. Petting her one last time, I step off the bus.
My work begins. I remove all the enchantments that may harm us in the city. And when I return, I must have chestnuts, otherwise the cat will hiss at me all day. Jeanette begs me to teach her. Then, she catches my eye. Chocolate brown hair and a high-pitched giggle.
I bolt after her.
“Is it her? D--!”
“Disa! Come out here! It’s breakfast!”
I stumble out of my room, there is still some silence plugged in my ears. When I arrive at the kitchen in my light night-gown, I’m surprised to discover Maria’s lover completely smitten with her. Had my enchantment been so strong?
They finally finish eating. The boys look fed-up with their ogling. If I’m not mistaken, Maria and the boys leave for work first. Before they step out the door, Maria whispers to me, “Leah’s 18th birthday is tonight; you better bake a cake for it.”
Leah’s cake is nearly finished when I remember. I rush to the oven, open it, and is greeted with a wave of heat. Using the cold water as a shield, I hum over it. I sing a song of longing. A song of needing a mother to guide the way fully to womanhood. I sing a song of not understanding, but wanting to. Of boys and college, lust and love, infatuation and heartbreak. I sing a song to draw Leah back to her mother. Then, the cake is pushed back in the oven, until the smell of chocolate fills the house.
Maria instructed me to get her lover to help me with the decorations, since he comes home before Leah does. But it’s another hour until he comes home, so I assume I have time to meditate.
We’re trapped in the washroom, her parents are yelling. I’m sitting on the carpet; it’s pink. I speak to her gently, let her know she is safe.
She seems older now. On the cusp of womanhood. I reach for her, and realize I can’t. The air around her glows azure.
Is this… an illusion? No, it’s a vision. It’s her. The one with endless potential, the one that I must protect.
“Disa!” Maria screeches. I pray that her lover is still partially deaf. “You were supposed to help Jason do the decorations!”
I stumble out of my room and into the other side. The decorations are already done, I look at Maria, cock my head, and tell her so.
“Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have helped!”
“I cannot help something that has already been done, Madame.”
Maria sighs, exasperated, and dismisses me. I drift around the living room, surveying the decoration. Some of the strings are attached precariously to the ceiling, and I whisper to them, ask them gently to hold on tighter.
Slowly, I drift in the washroom. The door closes behind me. I look in the mirror, something stirs in me. This reflection looks unfamiliar. In fact, I cannot remember a time when I looked in the mirror and saw myself. I frown. In fact, I cannot remember anything before I came to this house. Puzzled, I sit down on the carpet; it is pink. Shaking my head, I get up. It’s no use, it’s an illusion –no, an enchantment- and nothing will come to me.
“Disa! Go get the dress from February!”
The door is locked. Simple magic, I think to myself. I deftly pull the string to the lock, and the façade falls. Someone put a spell-to-spell lock on the door. If I do the right one, it will open. I touch the door, and gather darkness around it. The lights go off, I step out.
Why would anyone trap a sorceress in the washroom?
I smooth out the promenade dress I made for Leah. It is a clear azure, resembling for all the world like clear lakes. It will match her watery eyes and chocolate brown hair perfectly. Remembering the taste of her voice, I retch.
The wind blows through me, and the bushes aren’t that comfortable either. From the window, I could see her. Flushed face, eyes dismal, still a child. Her parents scream at each other about something, she’s crying.
I touch the glass, and along it I find the crevices that allows sound to escape.
“There is no way our very son…”
“Tom! Would you listen to me! She said Conner and Colin! They! They!”
“Mama, Papa, please stop shouting. They didn’t mean to hurt me… they didn’t hurt…”
“Tom! Your sons are perverse, perverse creatures! We’re separating, right now! They can’t live together, they can’t!”
Somewhere, two teenage boys are whispering.
A strange sort of silence permeates the house. We are waiting for something.
The door clicks, someone steps through from the other side. I remember whose dress I am holding.
“SURPRISE LEAH! Happy birthday!”
I rush down the staircase and pass the two lions in their den. Why aren’t they at the party?
Crossing to the other side, I present the dress folded in a sweet little box.
“For you, Madame.”
Leah smiles sweetly, then begin opening it. I anticipate her teenage response.
“Disa, I love it!”
My eyes widen as she embraces me. Maria looks on with awe.
“It’s beautiful.” She releases me to look at the dress. Her smile is genuine. Something about her smile makes me remember.
Then, I see it in her eyes. The clear blue lakes of the Western Mountains.
And there, in her hair. The chocolate locks that caught my eye.
There, in her voice. The giggle that drew me to her.
“Leah!” I cry.
“Disa?” Maria whispers.
The thread is pulled, and the enchantment drops.
Leah, my darling Leah.
Leah, whom I’ve been protecting.
Leah, my star pupil.
I look down at my hands, and discover I’m no longer a woman, but a man.
Without warning, the world begins to close in again. The enchantment!
A cat bounds from the washroom and leans against my crumpling body.
“Daniel, you’re getting closer. One more time, don’t give up!”
“Chestnut!” I shout, vision blurring. “It’s too late! It’s too late!” I scream, I sob, but the world keeps fading. “Chestnut don’t leave, please. My Leah…”
“Disa! You’re on the wrong side of the house again!” Maria screeches.
I cannot remember how I got here, I just remember I need to get out.