If only I had never met him.
I knelt in the damp grass at the edge of the little creek backing our property. Usually, this was a place of peace and refuge for me. Today, there was no refuge and no peace.
Today was the day I found out that the man I married was a lie.
The full moon rose over the horizon, impossibly large and bright. A super moon, I remembered in spite of myself. I had been looking forward to it. We had been looking forward to it. Jason was going to try to take some silhouette photos in the local cemetery with the full moon as backdrop.
A snort broke out of my nose, fighting its way past the snot bubbles I had not been able to remove with the maple-leaf-cum-tissue after my tears ran dry.
Not Jason, I reminded myself. There was no Jason. Jason was a persona, a façade made up to manipulate me, just a means to an end -
- and the end was now.
I glanced back up the hill at the cozy home we had shared for the last four years. Every memory we had made there came crashing back.
The homecomings, when I would bury my face in his dirty man-smell, relaxing into his arms.
A knife tore through the thought, shattering the sense of cozy safeness. If I had known where he went each day, known what kind of work he did, I would have run screaming until he could no longer find me.
I wanted to run now. I couldn't bring myself to go inside, to relive all those soured reunions. That house was filthy, cursed. It was tainted. I couldn't just walk in and enjoy its warmth and shelter and pretend it wasn't a metaphor for my collapsed marriage, my fraudulent life.
I caught a beam of moonlight, wrapping its faint warmth around my shoulders. Another knife stabbed through my heart.
Magic. I had told Jason - or whatever his real name was - about magic. I had told him I was a witch. I had told him about our coven.
I had trusted him. I knew it wasn't exactly my fault - he was specifically trying to earn my trust, after all - but the shame still settled low in my lungs, and a new fear began to grow.
The magic. The coven. What if - what if I had told him enough that he could find my sisters? What if some night, snuggled up in bed after making sweet (gag!) love, I had let something significant slip?
I would never have let myself fall in love with a Restorationist. He had deceived me, on purpose. I had to remember that. I had done nothing wrong here. HE had.
Behind me a truck door slammed.
Fuck. I didn't think he was coming home tonight.
I really had thought I had another day to sort this all out. Not that I would have been better equipped to do it tomorrow. There was no guidebook for sorting out whatever this was.
Finding out your husband would like to destroy all that is nearest and dearest to your heart, and that he might have only married you to get close enough to accomplish his goal.
Dear Abby, I composed in my head, is it considered betrayal if your spouse meant to betray you all along?
Goddess knew I felt betrayed enough.
"Henny, honey, are you out here?" My erstwhile husband's voice rang across the yard from the back deck. I froze in place, wrapping the moonbeam tighter.
"I'm taking a walk," I breathed. "Tea at Sylvie's."
"Huh," he muttered. "She must have taken a walk and ended up taking tea with Sylvie. That old hag never stops talking."
Thank goodness he didn't realize what magic could do. I might still be able to get out of this.
My stomach growled, and the baby, which had been sleeping quietly, woke. A tiny elbow tucked itself under my ribs as my swollen belly heaved and shifted.
And there we were: the reason I wasn't running down the road screaming.
If I had only known, oh, eight months ago, what I knew today. Then I would have made sure that there was nothing at all linking me to the man who wanted me dead.
Me, and my culture, and my people. Dead.
It was not illegal for him to want us dead. It was, however, illegal for me to flee without informing him of his child's whereabouts.
Sudden clarity broke in my mind. It wasn't too late to redeem this. Maybe.
A few minutes later I was actually at Sylvie's kitchen table. I had called home to let "Jason" know that I had gotten talking, but would head home soon.
"I'll bake you a chocolate cake tomorrow to make it up to you, babe. Yes, I'll be along as soon as - ok, you too."
"What is it?" Sylvie's deeply furrowed brow furrowed deeper. "Nothing good ever comes of lying to your man, young lady."
I sank into a kitchen chair.
"He's not my man, Sylvie."
Something in my tone must have alerted her. She stopped bustling and sat across from me.
"What is it?" she asked again, her voice low and imperious.
"Sylvie," I started, "please don't freak out."
One white eyebrow shot up.
"Today I was doing the laundry and I came across a shirt Jason had never worn. It was a really nice shirt, so I checked to see if by chance there was anything identifying in the pocket. Instead I found a business card."
"A business card with only a website on it. Restoration Crew or something. I looked it up and Sylvie, it's bad..."
A tear rolled down my left cheek. Great, now with the tears again. I took a deep breath and tried to focus on getting the important words out.
"Jason - is not - Jason - it - he's..."
Sylvie laid a wrinkled hand over mine.
"I know what the Restoration Crew is, Henny dear. What do you need from me?"
Her calm practicality centered me. I took a deep breath.
"I need your Chocolate Bliss Cake recipe, and I need a good divorce lawyer. I - I told him about my magic."
The light dimmed overhead.
"I'm so sorry - " I started, but she shook her head.
"You can't hide your magic from a spouse, dearie. Of course you told him. Will you need a place to live until you can get on your feet?"
I nodded, tears pricking my eyes again.
Somehow I made it through the evening. I saw "Jason" off to work the next day. Then I began preparations.
First, the Chocolate Bliss cake. Sylvie was tight with the recipe for good reason - a slice of this cake could make you forget everything you had ever learned about math, or even make you forget your own mother.
"Jason" would not be forgetting about me, but he would be forgetting about everything I had ever said or done that had to do with magic.
It was almost a normal cake recipe. But after you had mixed up the batter and before you folded in the stiff egg whites you tucked in three additional steps.
First, the herbal blend. There was a reason this had to be a decadently chocolate cake; anything less overwhelming and the herbs would have surely shone through. Lavender, valerian, chamomile, white tea, ashwagandha, a sprinkle of gold dust - the list of powerful memory and illusion ingredients went on.
The concoction had to be heated to body temperature, then slowly reduced until it was the consistency and color of vanilla extract. Then the real magic started.
I took six drops of the concentrated potion, one for each year we had known each other, and added them one by one to the cake batter.
"As this one has shown to me just what I was meant to see, so remove each secret thing that might to his memory cling."
It was lucky that he had lied to me about almost everything. It made balancing the spell that much easier.
"The trust that once between us lay, return to me by end of day."
Anything I had told him in confidence, even if I couldn't remember the details, would be affected.
"Where I might have welcomed danger, make me to this man a stranger."
I nearly leapt out of my socks. I did leap out of the kitchen as I flew to the front entryway, where Jason was shrugging off his coat.
"I left my phone here, so thought I'd stop by and grab a kiss!" he grinned, opening his arms to me.
I hugged him gingerly and offered my cheek.
"Sorry, morning-sickness says no mouth kisses today," I apologized. Goddess, this was harder than I had imagined.
"What's that smell?" Jason asked suddenly, wrinkling his nose and stepping toward the kitchen.
"Chocolate cake, remember, silly?" I darted around him, steering him toward the bedroom and his phone. "Secret ingredient, trust the process, surprise, you can't see a thing until tonight!"
I whipped his phone off of the nightstand and offered it to him with a flourish.
"Your means of communication, my lord."
He looked at me, bemused.
"Are you ok today, Hens?"
"Yeah," I grinned forcefully. "Just, pregnancy hormones making me a bit weird, y'know?"
"Unghuh," he muttered, scrolling through his notifications.
I sighed in relief as he drove away. Back to the cake.
The final step in spelling the cake was to give it the essence of the thing to be forgotten. That was easy - all I needed to do was to fold a portion of my magic into it with the beaten egg whites. I did so by enchanting the whisk to make everything taste twice as chocolatey.
The cake baked perfectly.
Now, it was time to prepare to ask for a divorce. I felt almost bad springing it on Jason so unexpectedly - but what did he expect? That I would never find out he was a plant, a spy, a hoax in a trench coat?
I packed up all my things in a magically-expanded suitcase. I packed half of the baby things I had collected.
Sylvie's nephew came over in the afternoon and took my cases, and my witch's trunk, to the safehouse where I would be staying for a few nights.
Then I wrote the note. I didn't explain anything, just told him I wanted a divorce and didn't want to fight, and my lawyer would be serving papers on him within a week.
I put it on my pillow for him to find.
By the time evening rolled around I was exhausted. Sylvie's nephew awaited my signal around the corner. The cake was sliced. I put the biggest piece on Jason's favorite plate.
I was sitting at the table when the front door opened.
"Henny, honey, you home?" Jason called.
"In the kitchen," I yelled. "With chocolate cake!"
This would be the last time. The last time I welcomed him home.
The last time he thought I thought he loved me.
"I thought we could have dessert first tonight," I smiled, looking up as he entered the room.
"Then why is there only one piece of chocolate cake on the table?" he asked, teasing. "Did you get hungry and eat yours before I got home?"
I tried to laugh. If he noticed I failed, he gave no sign.
"I cooked the cake, honey. Morning sickness says no eating anything I cooked today."
He shrugged. "More for me."
The audacity of the man, to trust me when he was chock full of danger and lies. To assume my innocence and naivete - to assume I was harmless. Any sadness I had felt evaporated.
I pushed the plate of cake toward him.
"Go on," I said, smiling, this time for real. "Sit and eat! I made it specially for you."
So he sat, and he ate.