The stars ruled the sky and the waves of enchantment that crashed between us ruled the forest. Four of us sat round the plant pot that we had stolen from Anya’s mother. We had been planning this meticulously for weeks. In the plant pot laid a concoction to make the boys fall in love with us. We had all drunk a cup of it. Hettie was chanting over and over again, but at some point I stopped being able to hear her. The trees started to spin around me and my throat began to close up. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t speak, but I could still see Hettie’s mouth forming the same chant over and over and over again…
It had all started the summer that Hettie came back from Cornwall. Her parents had sent her there to live with her aunt and uncle for a while because they believed that the country air would help her get better. She phoned me at two in the morning to tell me that she was finally home, after five and a half weeks away.
“I’m home!” she squealed.
“How are you?” I asked, rubbing my eyes, half awake.
“Never been better. It was a dream and I have so much to tell you,” Hettie said, “But first come on a walk with me now and I’ll tell you everything then.”
“Now?” I asked, squinting at the clock beside my bed, “I was sleeping.”
“I’m outside. You can sleep when you’re dead.” Hettie hung up.
I knew better than to not do what she said, and it was true that I had missed her terribly, so I slipped on some tights, threw my leopard print coat over my pyjama top, slid my feet into my loafers and entered the cold starry night.
“Hi!” Hettie grinned in the dark, pulling me into one of her breath-stealing hugs.
“Hiya,” I said once she had released me.
“I have sooooo much to tell you!” she exclaimed excitedly.
“Right. What’s so urgent that you couldn’t tell me about tomorrow?” I asked still vaguely pissed off at being dragged from the comfort of my bed, even by her.
“Oh but we could be dead by tomorrow,” Hettie gasped, “Don’t ask me how we’d die, I don’t know that, but we could die and it would not be fair on you, Effie if you died without knowing these secrets of the soul that I discovered from a psychic lady in Cornwall.”
I turned to her and her penetrating stare burned into me. I knew that once Hettie got transfixed on something, there was no mollifying her until the obsession had naturally run its course and she had moved onto something else.
“Let’s walk,” she said, taking my hand. We walked down the middle of my road, as no cars were passing at this time of night.
“So, the first week in this godforsaken village was dull dull dull. The second week I decided to stop moping and go into town. I stayed there all day, went to a café, went into a few crappy clothes shops, then I still had an hour left til someone could come and pick me up, so I went into this shop and walked through this narrow corridor at the back where someone can read your palm for cheap price. There was this small room with crystal balls and dream catchers and tarot cards. I sat in front of a woman who read my palm first of all and told me that there would be a lot of love in my life and I said That’s impossible, because no one could love me and I can’t love and she said I know but you will find out. I left thinking it was all bullshit, but I went back again the next day because I had to get out of the house. This time I stayed longer and I explained why no one could ever love me and I ended up telling her all about my entire life so far. She then told me all about this theory she has. She said that the Earth works in patterns and those patterns are finite. So, she proposed that it is possible to control the patterns for some people. She also said that everyone is reincarnated and we all need to try and get in touch with our past lives. She told me that I needed to get back in control and she could help me see my patterns more vividly. She said that not everyone can do it but I seem like I might be gifted. Y’know the usual crap people say when they want your money. But, she said she could prove it by saying that I would fall in love with someone before the end of the week. I shrugged and said We’ll see. Then I left. And I did fall in love, Effie. For the first time ever! With Rick.”
Her face turned solemn and I asked, “What happened?”
She sighed, “He died.”
“I’m so sorry,” I said, and I waited a while before asking, “How?”
“He was into surfing,” Hettie explained, “And one day he drowned.” Neither of us spoke for a while, then she continued, “I was distraught, of course. My aunt and uncle didn’t know what to do with me. They were on the phone to my parents constantly for a week or so because I wouldn’t move or eat or wash. Then one day I got out of bed and went to tell the psychic lady what had happened. I blamed her, because she had predicted Rick. She hadn’t told me he was gonna die though. I went to her and I said he died and now I don’t know what to do, and she said I know but it’s okay because he’s in a better place now and at least you got to experience being in love with him. She told me that boys and men are supposed to die and die young and that’s why they’re always the ones to go to war and drive fast cars and drink too much. And I thought she was just saying this to make me feel better, but she started talking about patterns again and she said that she could see the souls of the dead and the souls of dead boys were so clean and souls of dead boys who had fallen in love were like pearls from the ocean and that was the most desirable state to die in. She said that teenage girls have the most power on Earth because they can make souls pearly and beautiful and clean. I asked What about my own soul? And she said If you make someone fall in love with you and then they die then your soul will be elevated to the highest level and people will be able to tell from your aura. Now this might sound ridiculous to you, Effie, but the way this woman phrased it, the way her murky blue eyes surveyed me. It can’t be untrue. Her words were the truest I have ever heard from anybody ever.”
“Right,” I frowned. It seemed like she was in pretty deep.
“I know what you’re thinking,” Hettie explained, “You think I’m crazy. Well, maybe I am. That is why my parents sent me to Cornwall in the first place after all.”
“I think maybe we should talk about this again in the morning,” I suggested.
“No,” Hettie almost shouted, grabbing my arm, “I’m telling you now. You have to believe me because I have a plan. The psychic woman told me her secrets of and it’s my duty to pass that on. Now I know I can’t not act on this knowledge. We need to make sure that we cleanse the souls of the ones we love; the young ones at least. I know how you can make Joey fall in love with you.”
At this, I must admit shamefully that my attention was now fully on Hettie. I would eagerly try any route to Joey’s heart and I was already aware of how stupid that made me, so believing in spiritual magic was not taking things that much further. I frowned again though, not wanting to be disappointed, “How?”
“I’ll prove to you that what I’m saying is true. We need to make a love potion. You can leave that part to me,” Hettie said, “Just tell me you’ll let me do it.”
“Who drinks the potion?” I asked.
“You do,” Hettie said, “It’s to do with your aura.”
“Right. Whatever. I’ll try it,” I resigned, “Now let me go back to bed.”
“Okay,” Hettie said, “But I’m gonna get started straight away. Kat and Anya are taking part too. I phoned them earlier, and I must say, they were a lot more open to the idea than you seem to be.”
“I’m just tired, Hettie,” I told her.
“I’ll let you go home now then,” she said, “I’ll tell you more about it tomorrow.”
“Goodnight Hettie,” I said, “I’m glad you’re back.”
I went back inside as quietly as I could and fell asleep soundly; giving little thought to what Hettie had explained to me. The last face I saw before I fell asleep was Joey’s. It’s always the same. I could never have precipitated what was going to happen.
Three weeks after the meeting with Hettie in the small hours of the morning I found myself on a foliage decorated footpath to meet her, Kat and Anya. Night had fallen, but we were guided by the moonlight. It was strangely bright that evening. We clambered through the overgrown weeds and plants, over the sundried mud, avoiding the thorns. When we reached an opening away from the footpath Anya put down the plant pot that she was holding.
Hettie saw me glance at it quizzically so she said, “We stole it from Anya’s parents. We needed something to put the potion in.”
I nodded. Of course. The potion.
We all sat around the pot like we had sat on my patio smoking cigarettes the first night I ever met Hettie. She had been wearing glitter around her eyes and told me she liked my favourite band.
I looked across at Hettie and her blood stained sleeve caught my eye. I thought she had stopped hurting her wrists months ago. I shuffled over to her and looked at her in what I hoped was an understanding manner. I reached my hand out and placed the sleeve between my finger and thumb before she flinched away. A shadow fell across us as the sky darkened. A shiver ran through me. I was certain that on Hettie’s sleeve was someone else’s blood. Then I looked round and I don’t know how I hadn’t noticed the glassy bloodshot look in Kat and Anya’s eyes before. They had been crying.
“Whose blood is that?” I had to ask.
Hettie shook her head. “Some people will never understand. They think that they’re perfect so they send you away and,” I shook my head, “I had to, Effie. Their souls would just keep getting more and more rotten if I let them live.”
“But they’re your-,” I began.
“Yes. Yes. I know they’re my parents, but it was for the best,” she moved closer to me again and took my hand in hers, “You do trust me, don’t you?”
She turned her bewitching eyes to me and I remembered why I had fallen in love with her that night when she gave me my first ever cigarette, and then it didn’t matter whether or not she had murdered her parents. Poor, poor Hettie, I thought. She’s always been trying to figure something out. For all I knew, this witchcraft thing could be what we had all been waiting for. I sighed and smiled, “Of course I trust you.”
“Good” Hettie smiled back, “And when you drink this, Joey will love you.”
I nodded. She picked up the pot. Her arms shook. Then she took a drink from it. Some spilled on her clothes. She passed it onto Kat.
The stars ruled the sky and the waves of enchantment that crashed between us ruled the forest. The four of us sat round the plant pot that we had stolen from Anya’s mother. We had been meticulously planning this for weeks. In the plant pot laid a concoction to make the boys fall in love with us. We had all drunk a cup of it. Hettie was chanting over and over again, but at some point I stopped being able to hear her. The trees started to spin around me and my throat began to close up. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t speak, but I could still see Hettie’s mouth forming the same chant over and over and over again.
I woke up the next morning with bits of twig stuck to my cheek. Kat and Anya lay down opposite me, but I couldn’t see Hettie anywhere. I got up to search for her, but the piece of paper pinned to the tree caught my eye first. I hadn’t noticed it the night before. My eyes scanned the writing quickly, then I started it over again to make sure it was real.
Hettie confessed that she didn’t believe in love potions and souls and auras. She had been going to poison the potion so that we would all die together, like her parents had done earlier that evening, but she realised at the last minute that none of us deserved that. She said that only she had deserved that, so she had wandered off when we were asleep and by the time I found the note she would be dead.
I woke up Kat and Anya and showed them the note. We three were too stunned to say anything so we left the plant pot in the isolated forest and walked home in a trance.