Legend has it that an heirloom in our family made by our great-great-grandfather for one of his beloved three daughters went missing. He was a goldsmith and the necklace was his finest work. When my mother tucked me into bed as a young child, my two older sisters sitting alongside my bed with her, she would tell us the story about the heart-shaped locket that contained within it a spell written by my great-great-grandmother. The spell was to protect her daughter from the ills of jealousy and evil eyes.
She was said to be very beautiful—the most beautiful out of the three—with wavy long raven hair, the blackest iris in all of the town, and skin as glowing and as soft as silk. With an unconventional temperament yet equally stunning, men were quickly taken by her. The women called her a witch, saying she used witchcraft to beguile men and drive women mad with jealousy. The children, curious as they were, were told to steer clear lest they wanted to be turned into demons. Pregnant women feared that she would sneak into their rooms at night to rip out their babies from their stomachs, eating them, turning her irises blacker than ink.
When she wore the locket with the spell inside, the children would come and ask her to play and women would smile at her, at times even striking up a conversation. Quiet as she was, she liked making friends and relaxing in the creek with the other women on warm days.
On one afternoon after heavy rain, as she, her sisters, and other women were wading in the creek with only their long hair to cover their naked breasts, the locket disappeared from around her lithe neck. Just as soon, the other women except for her sisters, seemed to forget who she was. The friends she had made suddenly felt repulsed by her as if they had never spoken. They suddenly disliked her, making vile faces at her. She put her dress on and quickly ran home to her mother, crying to her about what had happened and how the necklace was lost.
“What happened after?” I asked my mother, intrigued about my distant relative.
“They killed her because they thought she was a witch. But,” my mother paused, caressing my forehead gently as my sisters leaned on her. “Grandma said that we don’t know for sure if she really was killed and that she may have escaped with another accused witch!”
“Auntie said that if the locket is found and returned to our family, the curse will be lifted,” said my oldest sister.
“Wait, what curse? We have a curse?!” I asked, now wide awake.
“Have you ever noticed how your aunts and I don’t have any friends who are women? Just men, who are really your father’s and uncles' friends, not ours? It’s because their wives don’t like your aunts and me,” my mother said. “Grandma never had any girlfriends outside of the family either. We think it’s because the necklace is missing from our family.”
“It’s not really a curse. At least, not a serious one,” interjected my eldest sister. “Why should we care if other girls don’t want to be friends with us. It’s their loss! Besides, we have each other.”
“Grandma said whoever stole the locket will pay,” said my older sister. “That they’ll get the curse too.”
Mother chuckled. “Don’t listen to what grandma says about it too much, girls. The truth is we just don’t aren’t sure. Maybe it’s just a story. You know grandma—she loves to tell elaborate stories.”
After a long, sad pause, I finally said, “So the women hate us? What about girls my age?”
“Do you have any friends?” asked my older sister.
“Well, no…” I replied. “But that’s because I just haven’t made any…”
“Maybe you’re right sweetie,” Mother said. “We’ll see.”
“I just haven’t clicked with any of the girls is all.”
“Okay darling, I hope you’re right. Goodnight,” Mother said, kissing my cheek and walking out the room with my sisters.
It seemed the legend has some truth to it. That, or I’m just unlikeable. Other girls have smiled at me but you can tell it’s fake. You know the smile that doesn’t come from the inside? Where the eyes are squinted and feels forced, as if a nuisance to do? That’s how the other sixteen-year-old girls smile at me. Most days I eat lunch in the bathroom, usually with tears in my eyes, at the last and biggest stall. It’s disgusting now that I think about it but it’s better than the feeling I get sitting at the edge of the communal table of the loud lunchroom alone.
It’s like I don’t exist—like they can’t see me. If I go and never come back, they’ll never notice. I grab my backpack off the bench, sling it around my shoulder, and toss the garbage into the bin, headed to my car. As I passed the double doors of the lunchroom into the hallway, a couple of teachers standing by the exit were talking about the most recent witch persecutions at the town square.
“I’m just so glad that those witches can’t hurt anybody anymore,” one of them said.
“Yeah. Did you hear about the new test they developed? Called the infant test or something…” said the other.
I’ll go to grandma’s, she’ll understand why I couldn’t stay. As I opened the doors to the back of the school toward the parking lot, sharp, cold air blew my hair in all directions and stung my flesh, turning my nose and cheeks pink. I threw my backpack on the cracking leather of the passenger’s seat and hurried over to start the car. Although not a manual transmission, turning the ignition whilst pressing the breaks and revving the gas simultaneously was the secret to starting the old car. On it goes! The engine’s low rumbling and grinding grew louder as the car accelerated, alarming a group of students huddled by the exit ramp. As I passed them, I turned my head to hide my face.
“Grandma? You there?” I called. “I had to leave school, I couldn’t stay there… everyone was talking about the witch trials.” She didn’t respond. Dropping my bag on the floor and placing my keys on the table, I walked to the kitchen hoping to find her. Breadcrumbs were on her round glass breakfast table as well as an empty glass. The kitchen door was open, its screen shut, but she wasn’t in the garden. “Grandma!” I shouted again. A loud thud emanated from above.
“I’m upstairs! You scared the crap out of me! Get me a broom and dustpan on your way, I broke the…” I couldn’t hear the last part of what she said. Out of the downstairs closet, I grabbed the wooden broom and dustpan that hung on the wall right by the door. If someone were to see me holding this broom, they might think I’m a witch, I mused. I hurried upstairs.
Grandmother was kneeling on the wooden floor; a folded towel cushion her knees. “What happened? Are you okay?” I asked, handing her the broom.
“You startled me that’s what, I dropped my plant on the drawer while it was opened and it dislodged from the vanity,” she explained, as she grabbed handfuls of dirt from the drawer which now covered her makeup. “What’s going on, don’t you have school?”
“I do but I couldn’t stay. Everybody was talking about the witch trials at town hall…” I said, looking down at my feet. “I just couldn’t take it. I needed to talk to someone.”
“I don’t blame you, honey. Come and help me with this then we can talk,” she said, reaching for a hug. “Thank goodness the pot didn’t break…”
I started to dust soil off her blushes, eyeshadows, lipsticks, and powdered compacts—two of which were gorgeous bejeweled—and setting them to the side. When the wooden drawer was empty, I put the dustpan inside and began removing the last bit of dirt inside.
“Careful darling,” Grandmother said, putting her hand on my arm. “That’s a James Moore, handed down to me by your great-grandpa. Don’t scratch it, it’ll be worth a lot of money by the time it ends up with you or your sisters. Hang on, I’ll get a towel from the bathroom and you can use that.”
Grandma handed me a damp cloth. I began to wipe the oak drawer. On the back panel, at the corner of the left side, I noticed a rectangular cutting, as if a piece of wood had been cut out and placed back in. With my fingernail, I coaxed the small wooden piece to pop out. Nearly there, using the assistance of my other fingernail, the hollow wooden block finally plopped out onto the drawer, making a soft thumping sound.
“What happened to the drawer?” Grandmother asked, perturbed.
“I found a cut out in the back—“ I turned the block over. It was hollow and inside of it was a small blue velvet bag fastened with a silk indigo string. I pulled the pouch from the crevice and unfastened it.
“Oh my god…” gasped Grandmother. “Is that what I think it is…”
The golden heart-shaped locket made by our great-great-grandfather, the goldsmith, was real. Our family name was engraved on the back, followed by 1 denominated by 1. At a loss of words, I wedged my thumbnail in between the gold heart-shaped pieces, popping the well-persevered locket open. A small antique beige paper was folded neatly inside.
Elements of the sun,
Elements of the day,
Come this way,
Powers of night and day,
I summon thee,
I call upon thee,
To protect me.
So shall it be.