Jigs and Reels/Class of 81

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Class of 81

/ first wrote this story for an anthology to raise money for the Magic Million appeal, in aid of one-parent families. ] was supposed to write a story about magic, but it ended up being more to do with what happens when the magic runs out . . .

  • изначально эта история была написана для сборника в рамках акции Волшебный Миллион, чтобы помочь собрать деньги в помощь семьям с одним кормильцем. Я должна была написать историю про волшебство, но в результате вышла история о том, что случается, когда волшебства больше не остается...


  • В 81 выпуске нас было всего двенадцать. Вот мы все на одной фотографии, справа налево,как всегда:Ханна Малкин,Клара Корриган, Анна Вурд, Жанна Белдам, Глория Крон, Изабелла Фай. В нижнем ряду: я, собственной персоны, не могу поверить что была такой молодой, дальше Морвена Вед, Джудит Вайз, Кэрол Бруми, Диззи МакКкельпи, с ее огромными очками, непослушной рыжей шевелюрой, ниспадающей на форменный воротничок. Крайний слева Пол (Мелок) Уайт, бессменный лучший студент класса и единственный мальчик. Вот вам и чудеса: девочек в начале всегда больше чем мальчиков, а все высокие должности в результате заняты мужчинами. Я не знала насколько это актуально в отношении Пола Уайта , а если так, то был ли он все еще один.

they are in the photo, from right to left as usual: Hannah Malkin, Claire Corrigan, Anne Wyrd, Jane Beldame, Gloria Krone, Isabella Faye. Bottom row: myself, looking impossibly young, then Morwenna Hagge, Judith Weisz, Carole Broome, Dizzy McKelpie, in those Coke-bottle glasses with her messy red hair spilling over the collar of her uniform. Far left: Paul (Chalky) Wight, perennial top of the class and the only boy. But that's witchcraft for you: the girls outnumber the boys to begin with, although the high-flying jobs always seem to go to the men in the end. I wondered if this was the case with Paul Wight, and if so, whether he was still single.

50 �class or si

  • Я уже чувствовала себя не в своей тарелке. Мы дали обещание двадцать лет назад, невообразимый срок, когда тебе восемнадцать. Я слышала сплетни, читала пару статей в газетах, а в остальном я почти не общалась своим бывшими одноклассниками, за исключением поздравительных открыток на Ламмас или святки. По некоторым слуахам Кэрол примкнула к шабашу где-то в Уэльсе, Ханна вышла замуж за астрального лекаря из Милтон-Кинс, а Изабелла работала кем-то вроде консультанта в городе. Все это звучало достаточно удобно. Но с чужих слов невозможно определить главное: кто растолстел, кто утратил свою магию(или еще хуже - обратился в хаос), ну и, наконец, кто прибег к помощи плотификации и отрицает это.

Already I was feeliftg ^ little nervous. We'd made the promise twenty years ago, an unimaginable distance away to our eighteen-year-old selves. Since then I'd heard rumours, read a couple of pieces in the paper, but otherwise I'd had little contact with any of my old school friends, except for the occasional greetings card at Lammas or Yule. On the grapevine I'd heard that Carole had joined a coven in Wales somewhere, that Hannah had married an astral healer from Milton Keynes, and that Isabella was some kind of consultant in the City. It all sounded conventional enough. But secondhand accounts don't answer the real questions: who got fat, who lost their magic (or worse, dabbled with Kaos), who had a body job and lied about it afterwards.

  • Диззи, конечно же, была исключением. Кто смог бы признаться что не слышал о Диззи МакКельпи? Она была практически воплощением бренда. Ее лицо глядело на нас с обложек журналов, рекламных щитов, экранов телевизоров в течение последних пятнадцати лет. Она разрабатывала любовные заклинания для членов королевской семьи и Голливудских звезд. Мы знали о ее увлечениях, разводах, мы вздыхали над ее нарядами и обсуждали ее талию.

Dizzy was the exception, of course. Who could fail to be familiar with Desiree McKelpie? She was practically a brand name - her face had looked out at us for the past fifteen years from tabloid newspapers, billboards, television screens. She worked love spells for Royals and Hollywood film stars. We knew her romances, her divorces; we sighed over her frocks and speculated over her diminishing waistline.

With a frown, I considered my own. Even at school I'd never been thin; not like Anne or Dizzy or Gloria. I'd skipped puddings in vain, but in spite of my efforts, thinness had always eluded me. Twenty years later, it still did. I wondered, rather petulantly, whose stupid idea it had been to hold our twenty-year reunion at Bella Pasta anyway.

I arrived too early. The note had said twelve-thirty and it was barely ten past. For a few minutes I lingered in the

51 �JIG? & REEL?

draughty doorway trying to look cool and confident, but people kept pushing past me to get in and I finally decided to take a seat at the big table at the back with the RESERVED sign and the little place-cards. Two girls sniggered as I squeezed past them, and I felt my face grow red. It wasn't my fault the aisle was so narrow. I clutched at my handbag for security and my hip brushed against a flower vase, almost knocking it over. The girls sniggered again. It was going to be a nightmare.

I found my place (the name spelt wrong). There were four bottles of wine already laid out, and four of mineral water. I poured a glass of red and drank it straightaway, then moved the bottle to the opposite side of the table, hoping no-one would notice. Come to think of it, it was exactly the kind of thing a little sneak like Gloria Krone would notice, and draw attention to. I moved the bottle back.

Twenty years. Unimaginable time. I glanced at the photo again. There I was, demure in my little black uniform, holding my first broom proudly in my right hand. Of course the broom's mainly symbolic nowadays. No adult witch would ever choose to squander their dm. on making a broom fly. Why bother, when you can get pampered in Business Class? Not that I ever have, of course. Alex says it's a waste of money. He even worked it out once: how you could buy three seats in Economy, a half-bottle of champagne, two Pret-a-Manger sandwiches, a pashmina and a selection of toiletries and still pay less than you would for a Business Class ticket. Not that he ever does buy any of those things. He thinks they're a waste of money, too. Come to think of


it, the last time we flew "afiy where was a budget trip to the Algarve in 1994, and he complained all the way because he said I was taking up too much space. Maybe a broom would have been better, after all.

I poured myself another glass of wine. It wasn't that I was dissatisfied with my life, I told myself. Who needs magic when you can have security? Thirty-eight; housewife; married to a management consultant; house in Croydon; two boys, fifteen and twelve, and a familiar (for old times' sake). Deliriously happy. Well, happy, anyway. Well, some of the time.

Now the bottle looked three-quarters empty. It wasn't, of course; it's just the way bottles are made, so narrow at the top so that the moment you pour even a small glass it looks as if you've drunk half of it already. Now when the others came they'd all notice, and Gloria Krone would look at me with her long blue eyes and whisper something behind her hand to Isabella Faye - always her best friend in the old days - and the two of them would watch me like Siamese cats, purring with malice and sly speculation. 'Darling, do you think she's hitting the bottle? How grotesque!'

So I disposed of the evidence, hiding the bottle under a chair some distance from where I was sitting. Not a moment too soon; as I emerged from under the tablecloth I saw a woman - a witch - making her way towards me, and was seized with a prickly panic. Standing up, wiping my mouth hastily with the back of my hand, I recognized Anne Wyrd.

She hadn't changed. Tall, elegant, blonde, wearing a black trouser suit over what looked suspiciously like nothing

53 �J! O S & R E H I.

at all. I'd never liked her; she'd been part of a sporty threesome, all very well-bred and jolly broomsticks. A second later, the other two arrived: Morwenna Hagge and Claire Corrigan, also in elegant black. I noticed in a moment's sly satisfaction that Morwenna had begun to colour her hair; then, with disappointment, that it suited her.

'Darling,' said Anne. 'You haven't changed a bit.' Her brilliant smile did not falter as she glanced down at the place-card in front of me. I mumbled something inane about how stylish she looked, and sat down again. 'Well, one has to make an effort, sweetheart,' said Anne, pouring herself a glass of sparkling mineral water. 'We're none of us eighteen any more, are we?'

The others were beginning to arrive now. In a burst of embraces and exclamations I saw Gloria and Isabella, more like Siamese cats than ever now, with matching blonde bobs and sleepy eyes, and Carole Broome, who I greeted with more warmth than I'd ever felt for her in the old days. 'Thank God, Carole,' I said fervently. 'I thought I was going to be the only one of us not wearing black.'

Carole had been a studious young witch in the old days, plump and lank-haired and earnest, more interested in herb lore than pyrotechnics, always the last to be picked in a game of Brooms. She was much thinner now, her hair had been braided and coiled, and she was wearing a long purple velvet skirt with an abundance of silver jewellery. I remembered the rumour that Carole had joined some kind of a radical Welsh coven, and felt suddenly uncomfortable. I

54 �C! A Q S OF 'SI

hoped she wasn't going-to bend my ear all lunchtime about pentacles and athames and going skyclad. I noticed, with a faint sinking feeling, that her place-setting was next to mine.

'Your aura looks terrible,' said Carole, sitting down and pouring water into her glass. 'Ugh! This water's carbonated! Waitress, please, some natural water, and can I talk to you about this menu?'

The waitress, a harassed-looking girl with a ponytail, approached with understandable reluctance. Carole's voice was loud and flat and carrying. 'I notice there isn't a vegetarian option here,' she said accusingly.

Uh-oh. 1 flinched guiltily over the menu. I'd been thinking about getting the steak.

'Well, you could have the mushroom omelette or the fusilli--' began the waitress.

'I don't eat eggs,' snapped Carole, 'and neither would you if you had any idea what it did to your karma. As for the fusilli - ' she peered more closely at the menu, her eyes magnified by her glasses so that they looked like big green marbles, 'is it wheat pasta? ... I can't possibly eat wheat pasta,' she explained to me as the waitress went off resentfully to talk to the chef. 'It's far too yin for my body type. Too much yin can cloud your aura. I think I'll be happier with just fresh, unfluorinated water and an organic green salad.'

Rather wistfully, I pushed the menu to one side. The steak and chips seemed to be receding into the distance. Fortunately, I could see some other witches arriving, and I


greeted them with ill-concealed relief. I'd always rather liked Hannah Malkin; and here was Jane Beldame, brisk and rather mannish now in a tweed skirt and jacket. 'Terrific to see you, old girl!' she exclaimed, engulfing me for a moment in a scent of wool and mothballs. 'Where's the boozei" She plumped down in the chair next to me (it was labelled 'Judith Weisz') and poured a hefty slug of red wine, ignoring Carole's squeak of disapproval. 'After all these years, eh? What larks we had!' Now Jane was here, I remembered them: midnight feasts in the dorm, with a glyph on the door to warn us if Matron was approaching; broom races along the Top Corridor; the time we sneaked Professor LeMage's pornographic Tarot cards and divined everyone's private fetishes . . . For the first time, I began to think that maybe this reunion wasn't such a bad idea.

Judith Weisz came next, a colourless witch with bad skin who'd been less popular even than Carole, now looking much older than the rest of us, and making no protest when she found Jane occupying her place.

'Oh no, it's that creepy Weisz girl,' whispered Gloria to Isabella. 'Quick, push up so she won't sit here.' Although Judith must have heard, she made no comment. Instead she made her way to the free place next to Hannah and sat down quietly, hands folded in her lap. I felt rather sorry for her, although we'd never been friends, and wondered why she had come.

At a quarter to one, there were still only ten of us at table. Jane had drunk three more glasses of red wine, Hannah was teaching me how to separate my astral arm

56 �class or 'si

from my corporeal orte,* Isabella was discussing body jobs with Claire Corrigan ('it's not black magic any more, sweetheart, absolutely everyone does it nowadays, there's no stigma at all'), Gloria and Morwenna were comparing love charms, Anne was interpreting the future from the dregs of Jane's wineglass, Carole was arguing with the chef ('How would you feel, if you were a tomato?') and Judith had just discovered a half-empty bottle of red wine under her chair when everyone fell silent as, fully conscious of the effect she was creating, Dizzy McKelpie made her entrance.

I remembered her as a small thing, pale and rather skinny, with quantities of red hair and ugly black-rimmed glasses. Now the glasses were gone, revealing huge eyes and lashes like moths' wings, the hair was artfully sleek, and her graceful figure was barely contained in clinging black jersey above a pair of scarlet, impossible heels. She commanded attention immediately - the other diners gaped; Dizzy pretended not to notice. Across the table I heard Gloria whisper to Isabella, 'Body job.' From the corner of my eye I saw Carole flick her fingers in the sign against evil; even Jane was watching open-mouthed. Apparently oblivious to all the attention, Dizzy walked to our table as if she were on a catwalk, and folded herself elegantly into the chair next to Judith. 'I'm so sorry I'm late,' she said sweetly. 'I had a meeting with a very special client who's been having the most ghastly trouble with the media.'

'Who?' said Gloria, wide-eyed.

'I couldn't possibly tell you. It's very sensitive,' purred Dizzy. 'I know you'll understand if I don't say any more.' She

57 �1IOS & REEL?

looked around the table. 'Isn't there someone missing?' she asked.

Everyone scanned the table. 'It's Paul Wight,' said Anne finally. 'I forgot about him completely.' Easy to do, I suppose; Paul had been a brilliant student, completely devoted to his work and cautious of our female exuberance. This was generally taken to be a ploy on his part to intrigue and seduce us, but in spite of many efforts to enchant him, no-one had ever managed. I now suspected that he'd been genuinely ambitious; girls had played no part in his studies. I doubted he would come today.

'Well, it's nearly one,' said Dizzy. 'If he isn't here by now, 1 think we should order. I've got a meeting at two-fifteen.'

Everyone agreed that no-one should be expected to wait for Paul Wight, except Carole, who said that lunch, if taken at all, should never last more than half an hour, and Judith, who said nothing.

So we ordered. Carole had a special salad of karmically neutral vegetables ('Roots in general are too yang, and radishes have souls'), Gloria and Isabella had the soup and ciabatta, Hannah the seafood tagliatelle, Claire, Morwenna and Anne the fusilli. Jane ordered the steak, very rare, and a double portion of chips - I looked at her enviously, wishing I was brave enough to do the same, though under Carole Broome's excoriating gaze I finally opted for a vegetarian pizza, which, though potentially dangerous ('Carbohydrates throw your chakras out of balance'), at least had the advantage of being karmically sound.

58 �ri a s^ of 'r i

Only Jane had any dessert. Anne, Gloria and Isabella all seemed to be on permanent diets, Dizzy kept looking at her watch, and I suppose Carole's disapproving comments had done the rest. Instead, we talked. Someone (I thought it was Dizzy) made sure that the wine never quite ran out (much to the waitress's bewilderment), and conversation, hesitant at first, began to flow more freely. Perhaps a little too freely - now came what I had been dreading: the questions, the boasting, the lies. Dizzy led the conversation at first with anecdotes of media witchcraft, soon to be rivalled by Anne, who was a house expert specializing in cleansing and banishing rituals ('Feng-shui's just so last millennium, darling, shamanism's the thing now'); then Isabella, who worked with pyramids; Claire, who was a crystal-healer, married to an Odinist with two raven familiars and a wolf; Gloria, who had been divorced three times and was currently teaching a course on tantric sex and meditation at the University of Warwick; even Hannah, who (to everyone's disgust but mine) had given up her job to devote herself to her husband and her little girl, already a budding witch at the age of four, whom she obviously adored.

'You've been very quiet,' observed Carole, who had been watching me. 'How about you? Where have your studies led you?'

It was the moment I had feared. Explaining about Alex and the boys was easy enough (if uninspiring), but if she somehow discovered the real secret, the terrible, unmentionable thing ... I said something flippant about motherhood being a full-time job, and wished Carole would


choose someone else to cross-examine. But Carole was tenacious as bogwort. 'Your aura's very muddy,' she insisted. 'You haven't been letting your magic slip, have you?'

I muttered something about being a little out of shape.

'That doesn't sound good,' said Carole. 'Let's try a few simple exercises, shall we? How about a basic cantrip to begin with?'

'I don't think so,' I said, horrified, wishing she would lower her voice.

'Go on,' insisted Carole. 'Just a little one. No-one's going to laugh at you, for Goddess's sake.'

Now everyone was looking at me. Gloria's eyes were narrowed and shining. 'Really, Carole,' I said feebly.

'You can manage a little one,' urged Dizzy, joining the game. 'How about a little levitation? Or a summoning?' That was a laugh. If I could have summoned anything after all these years, it would have been a nice, deep hole to hide in. 'All right then,' she said, taking a candlestick from the table and pushing it towards me. 'Just light this candle. Simplest trick in the world. It's like riding a broom. You never forget how to do it.'

Easy for her to say. I'd never been much good at brooms, even when I was in practice. I began to feel sweat beading my forehead. 'Go on,' said Dizzy. 'Show us how. Light the candle.'

'Light it. Light it.' The others continued the chant, and I felt myself beginning to shake. The terrible secret -- the thing no witch can ever admit - was about to be revealed. It was Alex's fault, I told myself, taking the candlestick in my

60 �CLASS OF '81

hand and frowning hard af the cold wick. Being married to a non-witch is a bit like being married to a non-smoker; a daily clash of interests. Eventually someone has to give. And I was the one who gave; for the sake of our marriage and our children. Even the familiar - a black cat called Mr Tibbs - belongs principally to our boys (who don't have a spark of natural magic between them, being mostly devoted to football and cyberbabes), and spends more of his time shedding hair on the carpets and torturing mice than contemplating mysteries. All the same, I thought desperately, feeling my eyes begin to water with the effort of concentration, you'd have thought there was something left - some little squib I could use now. I could hear Gloria whispering to Isabella; from the corner of my eye I saw Dizzy watching me with that hungry, amused look, like Mr Tibbs outside a mousehole.

'Darling, I don't think she can.'

'She can't have--'

'She's lost it.'


Not even a cantrip - the smallest, most basic of spells. My face was scarlet; my armpits prickled with nervous heat. Not a glow, not a flame, not a spark. In desperation I looked up, hoping to see even one sympathetic pair of eyes, but Hannah was looking uncomfortable, Judith seemed half asleep and Jane was far too occupied with her second slice of chocolate cake to take any notice of my plight. Dully I saw myself as the rest saw me: a fat, unfulfilled drone who couldn't even light a candle.

61 �JIGS & REEL<=

Then, suddenly, there was a flash between my fingers, followed almost instantaneously by a smell of burning. I jerked my head away just in time; flames were streaming from the candlestick, the candle itself almost consumed in blue and green fire. Half a second later, the candle shot right out of the candlestick and exploded in a spray of coloured sparks over our heads. No-one else seemed to notice at all - someone had cast a magical shield over the table.

Gloria, who had been leaning forward rapaciously, leapt back with an undignified squeal. Carole stared at the blackened candlestick in amazement. "I thought you said you were out of shape!' she said at last.

I thought quickly and hard. Someone had helped me, that was certain; someone who didn't want to see me humiliated. I glanced up, but could see nothing more than spite, curiosity, outrage or surprise in the faces around me. Dizzy was frantically brushing sparks out of her long hair. A cinder had fallen into Isabella's glass, splashing her with wine. 'Golly!' said Jane, impressed. 'What happened there?'

I tried to smile. 'Joke,' I said weakly.

'Some joke,' grumbled Gloria. 'You nearly burnt my eyebrows off.'

'More power than I thought,' I muttered.

Relieved beyond words, I poured myself a glass of wine. For once, Carole didn't comment. I could see she was awed in spite of herself. I spent some time evading her questions: where had I done my advanced training; had I achieved spiritual illumination; who had been my mentor. 'You

62 �CLASS OF '81

haven't been dabbling ia-anything you shouldn't, have you?' she asked suspiciously, when I modestly declined to answer.

'You mean Kaos? Don't be silly.' 1 almost laughed. It takes a lot of work to become a Kaos illuminata, and I'd never even understood the principles twenty years ago. Carole continued to look at me suspiciously for a while, then, to my relief, the conversation turned to other things. Old quarrels revived, small sillinesses remembered, practical jokes relived. The noise escalated gradually; at times I could hardly hear what was being said on the far side of the table. Even I, cheered by the wine and the unexpected miracle of the rocketing candle, felt my inhibitions begin to leave me. Maybe the wine was stronger than I'd thought. Or maybe it was just the company.

But it was when Anne, Morwenna and Dizzy began a violent argument about a disparaging comment Dizzy had once supposedly made to Anne about the shape of Morwenna's calves, Judith was apparently asleep, Isabella was explaining the finer points of sex magic to Jane (with the aid of diagrams drawn onto the tablecloth in biro), and Gloria was trying to demonstrate how to change a saltcellar into a hamster, that I realized what had happened. This was not simply a case of good cheer gone slightly out of hand. Someone had magically spiked the mineral water.

'It's disgusting, that's what it is,' said Carole, who seemed the only one unaffected. 'Cavorting about like a gaggle of goblins. I thought this was going to be a meeting of minds, an opportunity to share the experiences of twenty years' travel on the Path of the Wise.'

63 �JIG? & REELS

'Oh, put a sock in it, Carrie,' said Anne, whose hair had come down in the course of the argument. 'You always were a most frightful little bleater. No wonder you ended up in a commune full of sheep.'

'Now look here,' said Carole, losing much of her smug self-satisfaction. 'Just because you were coven captain three years running--'

'Girls, girls,' said Dizzy. 'Is this any way to behave?'

'You can shut up as well,' said Carole. 'You and your media magic. And if you really believe that body job of yours looks anything other than grotesque--'

'Body job!' squeaked Dizzy, outraged. Till have you know my body's perfectly natural! 1 take care of myself! I work out!'

'Come off it, darling,' said Morwenna sweetly. 'It's nothing to be ashamed of nowadays. Lots of witches have a little cantrip or two set by for when things begin to sag.'

'Well, it'd take a hell of a lot more than a cantrip to fix those fat calves of yours.'

I tried to intervene. I could feel an accumulation of static in the air which raised the hairs on my arms and made my skin prickle. Powerful magic was building. And quickly. I wondered what exactly had been added to the drinks. A truth spell? Something worse?

'I say--' I began. But it was too late. They were engaged. Morwenna made a grab for Dizzy's hair; Dizzy's hand shot out at Morwenna, and ropes of magic were suddenly swarming and hissing over both of them. The two witches jumped apart like doused cats, their hair standing on end.

64 �CLASS OF '81

'What did you do?' sn^rleyd Dizzy, her poise gone completely.

'Nothing!' wailed Morwenna, shaking her numbed fingers. 'What did you do?'

I was just happy that the shield spell over our table was still holding. Beyond it, the other diners munched on, oblivious.

'What larks,' commented Jane happily, finishing her second piece of chocolate cake. 'Just like the old days.'

'Precisely,' said Judith with a hint of sarcasm. I'd almost forgotten about her; she had seemed half-asleep during most of the meal, and as far as I knew, had hardly spoken a word. She'd been no different twenty years before: a silent, unattractive young witch who was excused from sports for some medical reason; who never seemed to get any letters from home and spent every Yuletide holiday at school. I'd had to stay myself once; my parents had had to go to an occult conference in New Zealand and I was left at school feeling thoroughly miserable, in spite of the trunkful of presents they had sent me. All my friends had gone home for the holidays, and only Judith had remained. I'd already known she never went home for Yule, of course, but I'd never really thought about it before. Now I did. If she had been more approachable, and less devoted to her studies, we might have used the opportunity to become friends. But I quickly found out that Judith alone was as drab and monosyllabic as Judith in a crowd. She did not seek me out, seeming quite content to spend her days alone in the library, or in the herbarium or the observatory. All the

65 �The F O <? & R F F f ^

same, she was the only company around, except for a tew Masters and their familiars, and one night the two of us had shared the last of my Yule log and a bottle of elderberry wine. I'd almost forgotten about that until now; afterwards we had gone on with our studies as before, and the following year had been our last. I looked at her now. 'What did you do after school, Judith?' I asked.

She shrugged. 'Nothing much,' she said. 'I got married.' I hoped my surprise didn't show on my face. 'He's a psychonaut,' went on Judith in her cool, quiet voice. 'He lectures in Morphic Field Theory and the Chaoetheric Paradigm.'

'Really?' 1 barely knew the terms; those theories had been far beyond even our most advanced courses. 'How about you?'

Judith gave a chilly smile. 'I became a metamorphosist. A shaper, if you like. Specializing in body jobs for the karmically unconcerned.'

'Goddess,' breathed Carole, who had been listening. 'You're a Kaoist.'

'Someone has to do it,' said Judith. 'And if people want to pay for my services rather than studying the arts for themselves--'

'Pay with karma taken from their next lives!'

Judith shrugged. 'Who cares?' she said. 'If Dizzy wants to spend her next life as a radish, who am I to criticize?' Everyone was staring at us now. Dizzy's face was white. 'You always looked down on me,' said Judith in the same colourless voice. 'I was always the coven joke.'

66 �CLASS OF '81

'Judith--' I said uneorafortably. It had occurred to me that with her resources it would be child's play now for Judith to use her powers of metamorphosis to change us all into cockroaches, if she chose to do it. Now I understood who had helped me light the candle; my throat felt suddenly rather dry.

'None of you have changed much since then,' went on Judith calmly. 'Gloria's still a little sneak, Dizzy a silly attention-grabber, Anne a snob, Carole a talentless phoney. None of you are real witches at all.' (Carole gave a squeak at this, but changed it hastily into a cough.) Judith turned to me. 'Except for you,' she told me with half a smile. 'I haven't forgotten that Yuletide when you shared your cake with me in the dorm. Fortunately, I can keep a secret,' said Judith, looking at Dizzy, though I felt maybe she was speaking to me. 'And I don't believe in revenge.'

She had stood up during this little speech, and I noticed for the first time how tall she was. I wondered, too, why I had thought she looked old; now she looked young, clear skinned, almost beautiful. 'Well,' she said in a lighter tone, 'I think that's all I wanted to say. My husband said he'd call for me about now, and I don't want to keep him waiting.'

We watched her go in silence; for once, there were no whisperings between Gloria and Isabella, and even Carole had no comment to make. Then, when we were sure she had gone, we all ran to the window. We saw them then for a moment, the real witches, walking away hand-in hand. The man was tall and fair-haired; for a second I thought I recognized Paul Wight, though there was no way


of knowing for sure. He and Judith walked slowly down the street, and 1 wondered how it was possible for two people to look so free and calm and so sure of themselves and the future. 1 watched them into the distance, as around me the other witches slunk back one by one to the table and conversation slowly returned. 1 thought maybe the pavement shimmered a little in their wake, but I could not be certain of that, either.