There is nothing more unfortunate than to be a witch with no powers--or perhaps more accurately, a witch whose powers have yet to manifest.
This was not Summer’s fault. She wasn’t exactly born into it—although her mother said that she had great power that lay just beneath her skin waiting to come out. It made Summer think about an errant hair or stray pimple; waiting to come out.
Mama and her sisters all had the talent—but they were born into it. Mama wasn’t her real mama and Bethsheba, Ona and Marcelle were not her real sisters. Sometimes people gazed upon her with her pale skin and long black hair that cascaded down the center of her back. They would take in her emerald green eyes and wonder why her mother and sisters were black when she was so obviously white.
People were idiots, Summer would think. Why did they think that family was only comprised of flesh and blood? Family was who loved and took care of you when your own family was nowhere to be found.
Summer’s real mother had lived in a small little house on St John’s Island amidst swamp alligators and raccoons that came right up on the porch to eat the dog’s food. Summer remembered the pretty flowers and the thick forest with the little scurrying squirrels and rabbits. What Summer didn’t remember is going to school or having friends. She was six and then seven and then eight and the only people she saw were her mother’s customers.
They would come at dusk with their money clutched in their fist and determined expressions on their face because they knew that the strange white woman that lived in a shack on the water’s edge had a knack to make things happen.
She spoke the ‘gullah’ just like any of them, and knew how to work the best gris gris—maybe because she was disconnected from the rest of the community and didn’t allow her own prejudices to interfere--or maybe her mysterious ways harkened to a darker magic that no one wanted to talk about.
By the time Summer was eight she knew the plants and the magic words and would help her mother with the most rudimentary spells. One morning Summer woke up and her mother wasn’t home. She went to the river and checked the traps and brought back the meat but her mother was still not around. Summer cooked breakfast—at eight she was old enough to make most of the meals.
Her mother did not return and for two terrifying weeks Summer wandered their small house and the surroundings that she so loved. She bathed in the river the way her mother would want her to and took care of the animals. People came for her mother’s magic but Summer hid. But they kept coming and then Mama showed up.
Mama called her little bird. Summer peeked at her from where she was hiding from behind a tree. And Mama stood on the porch and in a beautiful light voice called out for the whereabouts of the pretty little bird. But mama was the pretty one. She was true Creole, a tantalizing mixture of Kiawah Indian, French and African. Her long hair fell in waves down her back and Summer remembered that she wore a long dress but was barefoot—yet no dirt seemed to have settled on her feet.
The song Mama sang began to make Summer sleepy and before she knew it her feet were carrying her to the strange woman that stood singing on her porch. When Mama’s hazel eyes rested upon Summer a broad smile touched her face. She lifted Summer into her arms as if she was a little baby and Mama carried her home where she was to live from that moment forward.
Before that very day, she had never set eyes upon the woman who would raise her. It was a full year later before Summer asked where her real mother was and Mama said that she was with the one that she had no right to call.
And that idea seethed inside of Summer for many years—years in which all those around her were able to cast spells and work magic while she wondered if she was destined to always be different. And then the idea began to sprout from the seedlings of information that she had gathered about her real mother—that the woman could call upon someone stronger to work her magic, a minor demon, something that could easily be controlled.
Summer learned magic from mama—and not hoodoo—which is what her real mother worked. Mama didn’t cotton to that kind of thing. Magic was clean and white and Summer was taught the clear distinction between the two. Her real mother had partaken in the dark rituals of conjuring and root-working—in which it was common to call upon a demon to do ones bidding. When Summer tried to question her mother about it, the topic was swiftly shut-down, her mama snapping at her in uncharacteristic anger. Later mama came into the bedroom that Summer shared with her little sister Ona and explained the best way that she dared.
“You are a vessel, Summer, just waiting to be filled.” And then mama touched her chin and lifted her head until their eyes met. “One day it will be filled—be patient and only offer yourself purity and cleanness. Anything less will darken your soul. Do you understand, little bird?”
And Summer had understood. She had taken pangs to keep her thoughts and actions pure. The boys did not come around—too afraid of her white skin and her powerful Mama, but she didn’t care about boys or physical attraction. She only cared about the one that should not be called upon.
It was Ona who brought the idea to her mind. When Summer was twelve and Ona ten years old, the younger girl had whispered the things that no one dared say aloud.
“Your mother is the plaything of a demon.”
“My mother is your mother …” Summer said, nearly forgetting that the two weren’t the same flesh and blood.
“No. Your white mother—the one who disappeared.”
Summer had looked at Ona with wide eyes. It was not exactly forbidden to speak about Summer’s mother, but such discussions were frowned upon by the family’s matriarch.
Ona continued, her dark eyes serious. “I heard them talking.” Them meant many different things depending on the context—But Summer knew that in this context ‘them’ meant the ladies of the circle; the witches group that they belonged to.
“They didn’t know I was home,” Ona continued. “I was supposed to be outside collecting herbs but I got thirsty. Miss Genevieve said that your mama got her goose cooked, dabbling in things she shouldn’t. And then mama said that no one deserved to be the plaything of a demon…”
Summer frowned images in her head of the many stray cats they sometime took care of that toyed with the captured mice or birds before killing and devouring them.
“Do you think my mother is still alive?”
Ona looked stricken. “Mayhap she is. But if she comes back will that mean you won’t be my sister anymore?”
“I don’t know,” Summer had answered honestly, tossing back one thick black braid. “Can we be sisters even if we don’t live together?”
Ona nodded in relief but then another thought struck her, “What if your mother is living in hell?”
Summer had never thought about that. An uneasy fear began to crawl over her skin.
“What if the demon makes you come and live with him and your mother?” Ona said--her small brown hands clutched in her lap.
Summer shook her head. “Mama won’t let that happen.”
Ona sighed and the tension began to recede from her small body. “You’re right. The circle won’t let anyone take you. But if mama hadn’t come to your house that day, maybe the demon would have come back for you.”
Coming in two days ...