duwinter


DuWinter's Muse

'Life IS Risk!'


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Black Water Hattie (8 of I'm not even going to hazard a guess.)
duwinter

Title: Black Water Hattie (Chapter 8)
Author: duwinter
Fandom: DWP
Pairings: Miranda/Andy, Emily/Serena
Rating: PG-13

Dedication: This story is dedicated to two members of our community, the Raven a.k.a. unfortunateggs who has repeatedly asked for a sequel to my story No Swimmin. (Sorry, It started out to be, but this ain't it.) and mxrolkr, whose wonderful story Cerulean Blue (even though it's not finished, if you haven't read it go do so now) midwifed the concept of this story. The other thing responsible for this story is the random occurrence of three songs that I happened hear back-to-back on my iPod one morning while walking my two dogs in the local dog park. The Charlie Daniel's Band's The Legend of Wooly Swamp Jim Stafford's The Last Chant and Swamp Witch

Setting: AU. This takes place around the time of the film, but as AU's go this one is a bit out there.

Summary: A film Miranda and an AU Andy.

Disclaimer: The Devil Wears Prada and it's characters do not belong to me. No profit being made here. I'm just playing with the characters for a short while and I promise to put them away neatly when I'm through.

Author's Note: I am attempting to write Andrea's character as speaking a rural central Florida dialect. I hope you, as my audience, can tolerate my poor efforts in this direction and try to read it as it is intended to sound without my attempt at this literary device driving you crazy.

Comment: Comments feed the muse and the Muse is always hungry. Remember, a fat muse is a happy and productive muse. Comments and constructive criticism eagerly encouraged.

Credit where credit is due: All hail the mighty and all knowing jazwriter, beta Goddess extraordinaire. Offer sacrifice, bow and pay proper homage. Also humble thanks to a patient and exceptionally kind editor who puts up with the fact that I still struggle with writing my native language in any comprehensible manner.

Previous Installments Here:
Black Water Hattie, Chapter 1
Black Water Hattie, Chapter 2
Black Water Hattie, Chapter 3
Black Water Hattie, Chapter 4
Black Water Hattie, Chapter 5
Black Water Hattie, Chapter 6
Black Water Hattie, Chapter 7


Mid-morning on Friday Cassidy had a free period between her geography and civics classes. She took the time to borrow one of the bicycles that students at the school had available for them. She rode to town and bought a bouquet of mixed flowers at the local supermarket before riding to the cemetery where she'd had her adventure. Entering was easier this time, as during the day the gates to the place were open so that people of the town could visit the resting places of their loved ones.

The graveyard looked very different in the light of day, and it took a bit of doing for Cassidy to find the grave where she'd collected the soil. If she hadn't deduced which tree she'd used both entering and escaping the cemetery, she wouldn't have managed to find what she was looking for in the limited time she had. Knowing where she had entered the graveyard, she retraced her steps and found the small hole she had dug into the earth. She glanced up and saw the stone she'd promised to place flowers on. The stone was old, weathered, and begrimed with years of neglect. A sad, forgotten grave. She knelt beside it, and it took her tracing the faded carving with her finger to allow her to read what it said.

Maxine Jewell Lovelace

Born September 12th, 1916 Died September 12th, 1929

An Angel, Too Soon Gone to Heaven.


Cassidy did some quick calculations in her head and then sighed softly. “You were just older than me,” she said sadly. “Just turned thirteen, and you died on your birthday.” She shook her head and carefully placed the flowers she brought against the stone. “I just wanted to say thank you. You really saved my butt,” she all but whispered to the mossy stone. Looking around from where she squatted, she reached out to pick up a small stick and, using it as a makeshift tool, cleaned out the inscription on the stone. “Next time I come, I'll bring some stuff and clean up your grave properly,” she said to the empty cemetery. “You shouldn't be all alone and forgotten here. And you won't be anymore.” Finishing her self-appointed task of removing the concealing accumulation of grime from the engraving, she set the stick down next to the hole she had dug. Looking down she noticed something in the hole. A glint of something metallic. Picking up the stick she had just put down, she inserted its end into the hole beside the grave and gently pried at what she saw there.

*****
Oliver Trumbleson had not gone quietly to his death. That is not to say that he did not die peacefully. The fact of the matter was that once he'd met the woman he knew as Miss Hattie and taken steps to do as she had suggested, he had laid his burdens down and for the first time in many a year he'd found peace and a quiet, dignified acceptance of that which he couldn't change. He took steps to complete tasks that had weighed on him. He also took the time to say his goodbyes to friends. These goodbyes took the form of one last pleasant encounter or telephone call so each of those people had a good memory of their last association. It was such an encounter that had brought Margaret Taylor, another board member of Elias-Clarke Publishing, to stand at the front door of Miranda Priestly's townhouse. Her last encounter with Oliver had been of him excitedly telling her of an unusual woman he had encountered and how her mystical gifts had lifted his spirits.

Margaret and Miranda were not friends. They often exchanged tense words in the boardroom. Over the ten years Margaret had been on the board, they had locked horns more than once, but professionally they respected each other. They both understood that they saw the needs of their areas of responsibility quite differently. Their disagreements were rooted in Miranda's focus on the continued market dominance of the magazine she was responsible for and Margaret's on balancing the needs of the publishing giant as a whole.

Margaret had been born and raised in New Orleans, and her beliefs and spirituality had been shaped by that raucous city. She had sent her assistant to Miranda's office this morning to make sure that Miranda was, in fact, there. And more importantly, due to stay there long enough for Margaret to complete her mission. She had no wish for anyone to know that she was here to consult with a witch. She reached out her finger to ring the doorbell when the door unexpectedly swung open. “I been waitin' on ya, Miss Margaret,” the young brunette woman in the doorway said. “The cards told me ya was comin'. Most folks call me Hattie, but I s'pect ya already knows that. I s'pect Mr. Oliver done told ya so.”

*****

Irv Ravitz was furious. Virtually absolute power at Elias-Clarke Publishing was within his grasp. The last piece of the puzzle was within reach, and Oliver Trumbleson had managed to lock it away so that for the moment the CEO couldn't realize his dream. Irv had known for a year about Trumbleson's terminal illness. He felt that he had waited patiently for the stubborn old man to get on with dying, even if he had fantasized about what he'd do as soon as the old man died nearly every day. Now that Trumbleson was gone, he should be on top and running the show. Trumbleson, however, had spent his last hours on Earth calling in a career's worth of favors owed. He'd contacted the other board members and informed them of his illness, telling them that he was fighting it but that the chemotherapy and radiation treatments were taking their toll on his abilities to meet his professional responsibilities. At his recommendation, the board members had agreed to appoint an interim board member to temporarily replace him. The board had made the proviso of a tenure of six months. As soon as it was discovered that Trumbleson had passed on, Irv had called an emergency board meeting. Unfortunately, he found the members of the board resolute. They had agreed on a six-month tenure for the man that Trumbleson had recommended, and even though Trumbleson had died virtually immediately after arranging the ridiculous situation, the board felt duty-bound to honor their agreement with a dead man. Irv was just going to have to wait another six months to realize his ambition of running the publishing powerhouse and finally getting his revenge on Miranda Priestly.

*****

Caroline again examined her bandaged finger. It was a small injury but a painful one, the tips of the digit being full of nerve endings. She had been surprised that the pretty gray lizard with red spots could bite as hard as it had. She supposed she had deserved the reprimand from the foot-long creature, seeing she had teased it to the point that it had dropped its tail. The most repugnant part of the exercise had been that the tank's agitated inhabitant had chosen to strike at the exact moment she had been picking up the still flopping and squirming tail; so, not only did Caroline end up with a disgusting piece of squiggling flesh in her hand, she also ended up with a pound and a half of angry reptile hanging from one of her fingers, jaws clamped firmly shut.

She sighed softly. Cassidy had asked her to retrieve the lizard's tail, using the reasoning that since she, Cassidy, had been asking about whether tails would grow back and felt she needed plausible deniability and an airtight alibi when one of the biology department's specimens suddenly became tailless, therefore, she reasoned, Caro needed to do the deed. Meanwhile, Cass had been meeting with her French teacher about what theme to use on the paper she would be writing over the weekend during the time that Caroline was injured.

Looking out the train window, Caroline saw that they were pulling into Penn Station. She gathered her things and roused her sister, who was dozing in the seat beside her. She stepped from the train car and, looking around for Roy, saw Andy's smile as she stood there beside their driver. Something warmed inside her. She was unsure about Andy being a witch. She simple didn't believe in that sort of stuff like Cassidy did. But the woman had come to the train station to meet them, which was an unusual act for the adults in their lives; they were usually too busy to be there when she and Cass arrived. Andy, however, seemed to want to be there for them. Wanted to listen to them and to help them with the difficulties involved in growing up in this very confusing time. Caroline knew that Andy wanted to be her friend, and she was now certain that she wanted to be Andy's friend, too.

*****

Miranda sat in her office and stared out the window. She had canceled all her meetings for the afternoon. She needed time to think, to plot, and to plan. Oliver's death had given Irv Ravitz the upper hand. Oliver had bought her some time, six months in fact, by arranging to have an interim board member appointed in his place. Six months, however, was not a terribly long time in the greater scheme of things. In six months Irv would likely manage to get another one of his cronies elected to the board, and the balance of power would shift against her. She had six months to find a way to secure her position and her legacy as editor-in-chief of Runway or else she could very possibly lose everything she had spent her professional career building. In the meantime, she resolved to play nice, hoping to throw Irv off balance and allay any suspicions that he might have that she was on to his plans.

*****

Margaret Taylor had gone to see a witch, and she'd gotten the answer she had been seeking. She had been aware for some time that her husband had been leaving his office each day at lunchtime in the company of a younger woman. She feared she was losing him, so she had hired a private investigator and had them followed. Her husband and his companion had not gone anywhere near a restaurant each day, nor had they gone to a hotel. They had instead gone to a private, rented space in an office complex, and although the private eye had gained access to the virtually empty, concrete-floored room, he had been unable to determine what they were using the space for. Hattie had looked at her deeply with compassion in her eyes and said, “Yer man loves ya. The woman ain't such a good 'un. She's after his money and 'ud bed yer man in a minute iffin' he was interested, but he ain't. He's just usin' her ta learn ta dance so's he c'n take ya dancin' fer your anniversary. Knows ya luvs ta dance and knows he gots two left feet.”

Margaret had looked at Hattie askance and then offered to pay for the reading. Hattie had looked offended at the offer. Margaret had left immediately to go to her husband's office, deciding to test the validity of her new mystic's pronouncement. Some of those in that line of work were, after all, charlatans. As she suspected, she found her husband out of the office for lunch. It had only taken a little bullying of his executive assistant to get a look at her husband's day planner. Reservations for the dinner and dancing cruise aboard the World Yacht sailing along the Hudson River had already been inked in on their anniversary date. She wouldn't say a word to him about it, would never let on that it wasn't a complete surprise, but she also resolved that she was going to find ways to make his life more pleasant in the immediate future. The afternoon wasn't half over before Margaret was on the telephone with one of her friends, singing the praises of the new psychic she had discovered.

*****

As Caroline stood nearby watching the exchange, Cassidy nervously held out the plastic bag containing the lizard's tail. She had already given Andy the bag containing the soil she had collected in the graveyard. Andy looked at the young girl, cocked an eyebrow, and grinned a knowing grin. “Somethin' ya wants ta ask me, lil bird?” she inquired softly.

“Teach me,” Cassidy almost whispered, her tone reverent. “I want to learn to do what you do. I want to learn to be a wise-woman.”

Andy closed her eyes and stood silently for a long moment before nodding. “Ye has the gift. The cards already done told me so. They ain't so forthcomin' on what shape yer gift ul take, sos we're gonna have ta be watchin' fer that." Andy looked down at the girl, “Iffin' learnnin' ta follow the old ways is what ya wants, then I'll help ya. There's gonna be rules though. Yer schoolin' comes first and foremost. Yer Mama 'ud have a conniption twere otherwise. Ye works double hard at yer formal schoolin', or I'll stops teachin' ya witchin' faster than ye says 'ow' when ya gets burned.”

Then the wise-woman opened the bag and, without even flinching, pulled out the tail to inspect it. “Ain't never seen no lizard gray with red spots,” Andy stated, raising the limp piece of sinew and bone and sniffing it. Then to Caroline's shock and disgust, the woman's pink tongue appeared between her lips, and she tasted the tip of the flaccid piece of disembodied flesh.

“Gross!” Caroline asserted emphatically.

“Just meat,” Andy replied offhandedly. “Iffin' I'd caught this lizard in th' swamp, th' tail 'ud go inta the potion caldron, and the rest 'ud go inta the stew pot.”

“You'd eat lizard?!" Caroline asked, her voice rising.

Andy chuckled, “Sometime's it ain't easy ta gets by where I comes from, lil' bird. Iffin' ya don't wants ta go hungry, ya eats what ya catch. I've e't worse.”

“Worse than lizard?!” Caroline exclaimed.

Andy nodded. “Ate grass and bugs when I was a bit younger than you. It was what I could catch. Somethin' like lizard or snake was a treat then. Or what was left of somethin' that some other animal had done kil't."

Cassidy looked at the woman sadly. “We've really had it easy all our lives, haven't we?” she asked.

Andy looked at the girls intently. “Your Mama takes care o' you like it's sapposed ta be,” she answers. “You gots a good Mama, and she loves ya and 'ud do anythin fer ya. Ya should be grateful fer that. And ya should let her know that ya are.”

Andy left both girls sitting in the kitchen looking thoughtful.

*****

Cassidy dug around under the kitchen sink, piling bottles of cleaners, soaps, and sponges on the floor. Every so often she would stop and read a label.

“What are you looking for?” her twin asked, sitting at the kitchen island and watching her sister's search with curiosity.

“The housekeeper keeps all the cleaning stuff down here. I need something that will polish metal to clean a piece of jewelry I found,” her sister answered, continuing to root though the cabinet.

“Jewelry? Caroline asked, “What jewelry?”

Cassidy reached below the neckline of her blouse and pulled out a small locket so tarnished that it was almost black, hanging from an equally tarnished chain. “I washed the dirt off it, but soap and water didn't do anything for the oxidation. I want to polish it up, see what color the metal is.”

“Where did you find it?” Caroline asked curiously.

Cassidy paused for a moment. "At school," she answered, for the first time in her life lying to her other self. Finding the squat can of metal polish and a rag, she moved to the island next to her sister. She read the instructions on the can and, after opening it, dabbed a little of the cream onto the rag before rubbing it on the tarnished metal.

*****

“So's, tamorra night 'Randa goes ta some big fancy shindig. She'll be gone fer hours. Plenty o' time fer brewin' a potion,” Andy said into the telephone.

Serena's breath caught at the other end of the call. “What about the lizard's tail and the graveyard earth?” she asked, excitedly. She was trembling with anticipation, the thought of finally having Emily's affections overwhelming her.

“Seem's a lil' bird done took a fancy ta yer plight. Took some risk and brought home what ya needs,” Andy answered. “So iffin' ya brings the stuff ya gathered, we should have everythin' fer ta make th' potion.”

Serena noted her increased heart rate and quickened breathing. “Is there anything else I need to bring?” she asked, feeling at that moment as if tomorrow evening couldn't come soon enough.

“Well, th' last part o' yer potion comes from you," Andy answered. “A lock o' hair or nail clippings, fer love o' th' body. A drop o' blood fer love from the heart, or the liqueur from yer nether lips when ya touches yerself, iffin' it's her lust that ya seek,” Andy answered, sounding almost clinical about the matter.

Serena blushed scarlet on the other end of the phone. Her mind spun with the idea of Emily lusting after her. “Blood,” she answered quickly. “Blood for love from the heart.”

“Then all we'll need is a needle ta prick yer finger with. A drop or two o' blood inta th' caldron 'll do er, and th' potion 'll be complete. Soon as it's cooled down, ya can gives it ta her,” Andy added.

“I'll be there tomorrow evening then,” Serena answered. “But I'll make sure I wait until Miranda's gone. We don't want to press our luck.”

*****

Serena sat back on her bed as she hung up the telephone. She closed her eyes, and the vision she carried of the beautiful, red-headed woman she loved again played behind her shut eyelids. Tomorrow, Serena thought. Tomorrow Andy will make me a love potion, and Emily's heart will be mine.

She thought for a moment about what Andy had said about the last ingredients for the potion. A drop of blood for love from the heart was a must. Serena already knew that Emily was infatuated with the way she looked, making a lock of hair or a nail pairing unnecessary in the potion. She knew that Emily envied her beautiful, lithe body while the Englishwoman considered herself a fat cow, so unlike the "beautiful swans" she dealt with each day at Runway. Serena shook her head. If only Emily could see herself through Serena's eyes. Serena was certain that as Emily worshiped at the altar of the size-zero Runway aesthetic, so she found Emily's feminine curves far more appealing that the stick-thin models and clackers that the two women worked with each day.

Emily's lust, however, was another matter to be considered. Serena had lusted after Emily for months, but she knew Emily was an almost stereotypical staid and proper Englishwoman, and Serena suspected, somewhat prudish in her ideas about sex. Serena allowed herself to image the beautiful redhead coming on to her, pressing up against her, hands roaming, fingers nimbly undoing clothing, of touches and tongues. Serena's hand found its way down the fleece pajama pants she wore as her at-home lounging wear, and she began to touch herself. Liqueur from yer nether lips from when ya touches yerself, Andy had said. Serena began to masturbate in earnest, her breathing coming quicker.

I'll add a little something extra to the potion, she thought, visions of Emily doing to her what she was doing to herself flowing through her mind's eye. There won't be any harm, her thoughts continued as she increased her tempo and her breath quickened. Emily and I will be together from now on, and this little addition will just insure a hot sex life. Her orgasm was intense, and after resting a long moment she reached for a tissue from the box at her bedside. Cleaning herself up by dabbing at her sex, she knew she'd harvest a small piece of the soft, absorbent paper for inclusion in the witch's brew.

*****

The twins followed along at some distance behind Serena, who followed Andy into Miranda's kitchen. Serena told them in an excited voice how she had lurked down the street from Miranda's home and hidden when she had seen the town car pull up to whisk their mom off to whatever fabulous event that the Icon was attending that evening. Then, she had waited another ten minutes before approaching the front door, just to be sure that Miranda was, indeed, gone for the evening.

Once Cassidy saw the two women enter the kitchen, she glanced to her sister. “I'll keep them busy; you look in Serena's purse,” she hissed quietly.

“What is it I'm looking for?” Caroline whispered in return, as the two hung back.

“Hairbrush or a comb,” Cassidy answered. “See if there isn't some hair caught in it. All we need is a single strand.”

Caroline looked confused. “I thought she was going to add a drop of blood to the potion. The whole love-from-the-heart thing,” she breathed.

Cassidy nodded. “Yeah, but you know how much of a stuffy tight-ass Emily is,” she answered sotto-voce. “If we add the hair too, she'll have Emily loving the way she looks along with the love from Emily's heart." She smiled wickedly. “This will help loosen Emily up. It'll better Serena's odds. All we have to do is to drop it into the pot when nobody's looking.”

“You really believe in this stuff, don't you?” Caroline asked her mirror image.

Cassidy reached up and clasped her hand tightly around the antique locket she now wore. “Sis,” she answered seriously, “you have no idea.”

*****

Clear, clean water, blessed with the smoke from a smoldering bundle of sage and a cleansing spell Andy had spoken, steamed in the witch's small copper potion caldron over a low gas flame on one of the stovetop burners. It waited for the botanical components that Andy was preparing. With a sure hand, she used one of Miranda's super sharp ceramic knives to chop each ingredient into a fine powder on one of the cutting boards. Before Serena's arrival, Andy had cooked the graveyard earth in the oven long enough that it crumbled to a fine dust when rubbed between the witch's fingers.

Serena and Cassidy stood watching, fascinated, as Caroline, seemingly less invested in the proceedings, wandered, apparently aimlessly, from room to room. This gave her the opportunity to stealthily look through the contents of Serena's handbag and, spying a travel hairbrush, she carefully harvested several strands of hair. Wandering back through the kitchen, she subtly passed off her prize to her sister.

One by one Andy stirred the different plant-based elements into the simmering liquid. As each finely chopped item was immersed into the gently bubbling caldron, fragrant steam rose, scenting the kitchen with the smell of herbs. Andy then added a pinch of the graveyard earth and unceremoniously plopped the lizard's tail into the pot.

Turning to Serena, Andy smiled. “Give it a minute ta brew 'n we'll prick yer finger. A drop o' blood inta the pot, an' the heart of ya true love 'll be yourn.”

Serena nodded as she watched the shimmering liquid. “Andy,” she asked, “do you think I might have a glass of wine?”

Caroline watched as Andy nodded. “ 'M sorry,” the woman from rural Florida answered. “I gits so wrapped up in witchin' that I forgets ta be hospitable.” She turned, crossed the kitchen to the wine cooler, and opened it, rummaging around inside. “I don't know nothin' 'bout wine, 'cept it comes 'n red and white,” she said as she pulled out a bottle of rosè and glared at it suspiciously. “Which kind ya want?”

“Either will be fine. If there's one you like better, open it, and we'll both have a glass," Serena answered.

Caroline watched the beautiful Brazilian out of the corner of her eye, the woman's behavior somehow suddenly suspicious. Caroline had a strong intuition that something sub rosa was occurring here.

“Red then.” Andy answered, “'Randa likes red, and iffin' I'm gonna stays with her, I should tries ta like it too. Cassidy,” she asked, “whichin o' these is the one yer Mama likes so much? The one she takes a glass o' ta the bathtub with her?”

Cassidy moved over beside Andy and glanced into the wine cooler, pulling out one of several identical bottles. “This is the one that Mom likes to drink,” she said, offering the bottle to Andy. “Can I have some?”

Andy busied herself with opening the bottle and readying two glasses. “Ya an' yer sister can have a sip o' mine,” she answered, "but just a sip, mind. I don't wants yer Mama pinnin' m' ears back 'cause I lets ya have more 'n a sip.”

Caroline watched as Serena took the momentary distraction to surreptitiously drop a small square of something resembling tissue paper into the bubbling brew. The caldron suddenly hissed, and Caroline watched as the color of the liquid changed from a muddy green-brown hue to a violent, bubbling red. Aware that neither Andy nor Cassidy had seen what she'd seen, she glanced at her sister who was watching Andy carefully pour two glasses of wine and excitedly waiting for a sip of the forbidden liquid. Catching her sister's eye, she received a patented Priestly glare and a slight motion of her sister's head, indicating that her twin expected her to carry out the next part of their plan. As prearranged, Caroline drifted out of the kitchen again and to a window at the front of the house. She quickly counted to one hundred, and then she called out with urgency in her voice. “Andy! Serena! I think Mom's home!” As the twins had suspected they would, the two adults rushed out to join Caroline by the window.

A dark car pulled away up the street, and the three figures at the window relaxed. “Guess I was wrong,” Caroline said easily after Cassidy shot her a thumb's up sign to let her know she had taken the opportunity provided and successfully added their extra ingredient to the mixture brewing on the stove while Andy and Serena had been otherwise occupied.

Returning to the kitchen, Caroline watched as Andy completed the task of pouring two glasses of wine and then offered one of them to Serena with a smile. "Have a sip o' yourn wine ta calm yerself, and then we'll prick yourn finger.”

Serena drained off about half the glass she'd been given, and after carefully setting the delicate crystal down, she moved up beside the small caldron on the stove and offered her hand, index finger outstretched, to Andy. Serena winced as Andy stuck her with a needle that the swamp witch had heated over one of the gas burners until it had glowed a brilliant orange and then had set aside to cool before she had ever put the kettle that now contained the brewing potion on the fire.

“By the pricking of my thumb...” Caroline offered from where she stood near the doorway to the kitchen. She smiled at Serena, “That's from Shakespeare. A witch says it. We studied the play last semester.”

"Yeah," Cassidy said. “It's from Macbeth, but nothing wicked is going to come from this. This is a love potion!" she added enthusiastically.


*****

“Love magic is the most dangerous and unpredictable kind of magic,” Serena answered hollowly, parroting what Andy had told her. Suddenly she was having grave doubts about the wisdom of this course of action.

Andy squeezed the tip of Serena's finger over the pot. A single ruby drop fell into the pot. As soon as it hit the surface of the softly boiling liquid, the top of the kettle erupted in a thick vaporous cloud. Andy quickly let go of Serena's hand and grabbed her wooden spoon. She stirred the liquid, and the dense fog hanging over the caldron dissipated. Andy glanced into the pot. “Now all we has ta do is wait fer it ta cool,” she said softly to Serena and the twins where they stood and watched. “See? It's already gone clear; gonna be a powerful potion. Faster a potion goes clear, more powerful it's gonna be. This un is gonna be a doozy.”

Fifteen minutes and two glasses of wine later, Andy carefully decanted the cooled potion through a funnel lined with a paper coffee filter. Cassidy had suggested the filter when she saw the stained, ragged square of linen Andy was going to use. Andy was amazed that there were such paper items and vowed to obtain some for her potion-making in the future. She then carefully wiped the ornate, leaded glass perfume bottle that Serena had brought to carry the potion in. The small glass container was three quarters full of a clear, amber liquid. Glancing at the amount in the bottle, Andy smiled. "You gots enough in that bottle ta give yourn Emily three times over.” She grasped Serena's hand as the blonde woman reached for the bottle. “You remembers all that was said? You remembers that once ya does this, there ain't no turnin' back. She'll be yourn and yourn alone frum now 'til the day ya or she dies.” Serena nodded, and Andy pressed the bottle into her friend's hand. “Yer life is 'bout ta change, Miss Serena. Ya is 'bout ta gets just what yer heart's been dreamin' of 'n what ya deserves.”

Serena sniffed the bottle. “This smells disgusting!” she said, making a face. She quickly sealed the small bottle with its heavy ornate glass stopper.

Andy nodded and smiled. “It's not meant fer ya. Fer who it's meant fer, it'll smell and taste like th' thing they loves best in the world.” She picked up the small caldron from where it sat cooling beside the stove. Turning to Cassidy she smiled. “Iffin' yer fer sure and true set on learin' ta be a wise-woman, then yer first lesson is always ta clean up as soon as yer done potion-making. Ya don't want no one getting' some o' what's left over, accidental-like.”

Cassidy moved quickly to take the small caldron. With the focused concentration of a chemist working with volatile chemicals, she carried the small pot to the sink and rinsed it thoroughly. Then with a strange kind of reverence, she began washing it with dish soap.

Andy smiled at the girl. “Don't knows how yer Mama's gonna feel 'bout you wantin' ta be a wise-woman, but ya gots the touch. Now we's gonna have ta look fer what yer gift is.”

*****

Just before eleven that night, Serena stood before the front door of Emily's apartment. The thirty-minute transit time via a bus and a subway line from Miranda's townhouse to the redhead's apartment in Greenwich Village had been spent in an intense moral quandary. Do I have the right to do this? Serena wondered again and again. I know that Emily is unhappy. That she struggles each day to put on a brave face and not let anyone know how inferior she feels. I know that she's lonely, but she doesn't know how to reach out and make friends. All I want is to love her and take care of her for the rest of our lives. But do I have the right to give her a potion which will take the choice from her? The thoughts circled in her head again and again, and she was still motionless in front of the portal struggling with the dilemma when Emily suddenly opened it from the inside, a bag of trash in hand.

“Serena!” Emily squeaked.

Serena looked at the woman she loved in a condition she'd never seen her in before. Sans make-up, barefoot, dressed in yoga pants and an old T-shirt, casual, at home, domestic. She had never been more beautiful to Serena.

The moment was awkward as Serena stood before the redhead while clutching the small, colorful perfume bottle . “What are you doing here?!” asked the flustered Brit.

Suddenly being faced with the object of her fantasies and still uncertain of the ethical morality of her mission, Serena hemmed and hawed for a moment before wordlessly showing the woman before her the small, cut crystal bottle in her hand.

“You've brought me perfume?” Emily asked, her tone surprised.

“It's not...perfume. It's a potion....a potion that Andy made for me...for me to give to you," Serena spluttered.

“A potion?” Emily asked as she took the heavy crystal perfume bottle from Serena's hand .”As in a 'double, double toil and trouble, fire burn and caldron bubble' potion?"she continued after a brief pause, her tone a mix between disbelieving and amused. “What went in to it? Snips and snails and puppy dog tails?”

Serena wordlessly waved at the bottle. “Herbs and blessed water, graveyard earth and lizard's ...” She paused for a moment and, shaking her head, continued, “this was a mistake," while struggling to keep the tears she felt burning behind her eyes from coloring her voice and an embarrassed blush from flaming her cheeks. “I have no right to do this...You should just pour it down the sink.” She shook her head and took a step backward, fear making her flight response strong. “Just pour it down the drain,” she reiterated.

“If it's a potion, what is it supposed to do?” Emily asked, her eyes narrowing as her suspicious nature became evident in her tone. “Make me prettier so you and the others at Runway don't have to look at my fat, disgusting self?” she added, her voice rising at the imagined offense.

“No!” Serena exclaimed. “You couldn't be more beautiful, Emily! I'd never imply such a thing about you!” She hesitated for another moment. “It's...” she stammered. "It's a love potion. I've loved you for a long time, and I just wanted you to love me too...”

Emily's shock at the admission was clearly evident from the expression on her face, and not being able to take the Englishwoman's rejection at that moment, Serena turned and fled from the apartment building.

*****

Andy had helped the girls get ready for bed. She had already tucked Caroline in and was tucking Cassidy in when the younger girl steeled her nerves to ask the question that had been plaguing her all evening. “Andy, what would happen if you added extra stuff to that potion you made tonight?”

“Depends on what kind 'o stuff yer takin' 'bout,” the girl from rural Florida said, tucking the comforter up around Cassidy's neck.

“Well,” she said slowly. "What if you added, oh,...I don't know, some hair or a nail cutting to the pot?"

It 'ud depend on whose hair or whatever it was ya added. If twern't Miss Serena's then it 'ud break the magic, and th' potion wouldn't ever go clear. If it was somthin' of Miss Serena's...,” Andy's eyes narrowed as she continued, “it 'ud make th' potion a whole mess stronger. What was in that lil' bottle 'ud be enough for nine doses instead 'o three."

Cassidy's eyes widened. “And if someone took three times what they were supposed to?”

Andy shook her head “Love magic is the most dangerous and unpredictable kind o' magic. It'd likely make Miss Emily crazy for Miss Serena. Could be crazy jealous an willin' to hurt anybody that looks at Miss Serena sideways. Is there somthin' ya needs ta tell me, lil' bird?"

Cassidy looked up from her bed with scared eyes. “I was only trying to help Serena. Emily is such a mean stick-in-the-mud. I though putting some of Serena's hair in the pot would help Emily loosen up and love Serena more!” she exclaimed, her voice on the edge of tears.

Andy nodded. “I knows ya was just tryin' ta help, but ya were also messin' with somthin' that ya don't understand yet. It's somethin' we all do once or twice when we're learnin' ta be a wise-woman. I'll call Miss Serena an' see iffin' I can't fix this right quick. You an' I are gonna talk about this some more 'cause you needs ta know that you has a lots more ta learn afore you start fiddlin' with another witch's brew.”

Cassidy looked at the fey woman as she turned to leave the room. “Does this mean you're still going to teach me to be a wise-woman?”

Andy turned back to Cassidy, who was holding her breath anxiously, and nodded resolutely. “Someone's gotta, or you'll be spillin' your gift without knowin' how ta control it. That c'n make fer a hard life. Accidental-like hurt th' people ya love. I figure that teachin' you is part o' the reason I had ta come here rather than stayin' at the flower pool where your Mama and me 'ud be happy. Right now I's gotta go call Miss Serena afore somethin' bad happens."

****

Serena stood on the subway, head down, angry at herself for this evening. She'd seen the easy way out of her predicament and tried to take it. It had seemed so simple at the time, and she'd been caught up in the supposed magic of the thing. The truth, though, was that now she'd ruined everything. She could see in Emily's eyes that the thought of Serena loving her had never entered the Englishwoman's mind. At least she could take some small comfort in the fact that she'd done the right thing by telling Emily to dump the content of the perfume bottle down the nearest drain. Hearing her cell phone ring, Serena reached into her bag and withdrew the device. “Hello?”

“Miss Serena, it's Andy. Have you done give Miss Emily th' potion yet?” Andy asked from the other end of the call.

“I....” Serena hesitated, after all Andy had gone to some trouble to help her, and she had decided not to go through with their plan. “I told her to pour it down the drain,” she divulged quietly. “When I was face to face with her, it just didn't seem right to force her to do something she doesn't want to do.”

“It's a good thing ya did as ya did,” Andy replied. “A lil' bird done tol' me that someone added somethin' ta' tha brew, an' that 'ud make what it would 'a done a whole different kettle o' fish.”

Serena swallowed hard. “I didn't mean to do anything wrong!” she blurted into the phone. “You said that if I touched myself and added...it would...make her lust after me....I thought it would guarantee us a hot sex life!...” Serena suddenly wondered when she took up stammering as her speaking style.

“You added somethin' to it too?!" Andy exclaimed. “Ya needs ta go back right now and make sure she done as ya told her. Cause what's in that bottle has all three parts of ya in it. It's liquid dynamite iffin' she were ta swallow so much as a drop o' it. Ya needs ta get that bottle back, pour the potion down the nearest drain, an' boil the bottle 'cause even the leavins in it could make Miss Emily plumb crazy fer ya!”

Serena sighed. “I can't go back there tonight. You didn't see her face when I told her I loved her and had for a long time. I couldn't face that...face her again right now.”

“Then ya has ta take responsibility fer whatever comes,” Andy replied ominously. ”A year-and-a-day. That's how long the madness 'll last iffin' Miss Emily should even sip o' that bottle. After that year-and-a-day, the potion will work as it was sapposed ta. But if Miss Emily tastes of it, ye'll have lil, peace fer that year-and-a-day."

With a heavy heart, Serena disconnected the call. She had told Emily what had gone into the bottle. Told her to pour it down the nearest sink. There was no way that the Englishwoman would drink it. It smelled horrible. Comforted that there was no danger of Emily partaking of the potion, she changed her thoughts to how she could spin what had occurred between them and convince Emily that all she wanted was her friendship. Brokenhearted and feeling foolish, Serena went home alone.

*****

An Englishwoman's prerogative was a glass of sherry when she was upset. Emily's grandmother and mother had both indulged in sherry during emotionally stressful times. After retrieving a sherry glass from her kitchen cabinet, Emily was less than pleased to discover that the bottle of sherry she kept for such occasions was empty from her last indulgence when she was sure that Miranda was going to fire her for gaining so much weight so suddenly. She had intended to replace the bottle but hadn't gotten around to it.

Sighing, she moved toward the kitchen sink and un-stoppered the cut crystal perfume bottle, intending to follow Serena's instructions and pour its contents down the sink. A sweet, rich alcohol smell tickled her nose, and moving the neck of the bottle under her nostrils, she inhaled deeply. She recognized the smell immediately. Irish Mist, a fifty/fifty mixture of fine Irish whiskey and honey. She had been introduced to the expensive liqueur the Christmas before last when Miranda had received a bottle from a minor designer as a Christmas gift. The fashion icon unexpectedly called her into the office and poured her a glass. It had been the high point of her year, standing nervously in Miranda's office and sharing a glass of the best thing she'd ever tasted with her employer while receiving holiday wishes from the fashion goddess.

You little fraud, she thought to herself, considering the woman from rural Florida. Pretending to be a witch, and when Serena came to you for a love potion, you raided Miranda's liquor cabinet and filled a bottle to give to her. Of course you'd tell her that all sorts of witchy things went into it.

She glanced from the heavy crystal bottle sitting by the sink to her sherry glass. Why not? she thought, tears beginning to run down her cheeks. She emptied the small bottle into the glass. She was entitled, after all. Something to ease her emotional distress. How could Serena?! she thought. I thought she liked me enough to at least be honest and not to play cruel tricks! I work so hard just to try and fit in at Runway, and I'm always on the periphery. I'm not one of the beautiful swans. I try, I try so very hard, but I'm just not and never will be!

Lifting the glass to her lips, she savored the sweet warmth of the liqueur on her lips and tongue. It was as smooth as she remembered, and it tingled differently down the back of her throat. The first sip made her sigh softly, her thoughts suddenly languid. Serena, she thought, now there is a beautiful swan. She's perfect, just perfect. She should model for Runway. I should suggest that to Miranda. She lifted the glass to her nose and inhaled the warm sweet fragrance. No, I should insist on it!

She again brought the glass to her lips and sipped. This draught tickled her nose and warmed her stomach. She paused for a long moment, sadly considering her past. I haven't had a date since I went to work for Miranda and Runway. There simply hasn’t been any time to date with my work schedule. I've been alone for so long now, I can't even really imagine being with anyone. Every relationship I've ever tried to be in before I came to America was a complete disaster. Every lover always told me that I was self-centered and emotionally unavailable. Let's face it; I just don't know how to love or be loved.

Emily carried her glass with one more mouthful of the wonderful amber liquid in it as she moved from her kitchen to her sofa. She considered the earlier encounter with her co-worker. Serena isn't like the other clackers, she thought. She's never been petty or vindictive or cruel. She's never been anything but there for me. I've run to her any time I've had any kind of breakdown, and she's been there for me every time. She always has nice things to say about the way I look, and she's always encouraging me to do things to better myself. For a moment a guilty twinge went through her. I've never reciprocated her caring. I'm always telling her my problems, and I've never been there for her. That needs to change.

Emily paused for a long moment, replaying what Serena had said. She said she loved me. She said she has for a long time. Her heart made a funny little double beat, and she felt warmth suffuse her chest. She said that she'd gone to that little fraud witch to get a love potion so I'd return her feelings. SHE SAID SHE LOVES ME!! The voice in her head shouted. The warmth she was feeling flowed into her extremities. She felt a little lightheaded and giddy. For the first time in a long time she felt valued, really valued beyond the tasks she accomplished in the workplace. She closed her eyes and smiled, letting her imagination play with the thought of she and Serena as a couple. We might dine out late after we leave Runway for the day. On the weekend perhaps a walk through Manhattan, stopping for a coffee and then for a visit to the Met. It would be so nice to have someone to care about. Then Sunday mornings, perhaps the paper in bed with a hot pot of tea...

She lifted the last sip to her lips and swallowed the sweetness found there. It was like there was an explosion of fire behind her eyes. Suddenly it was that imaginary Sunday morning, and she clearly saw Serena kneeling, naked, straddled over her face. In her mind Emily was looking up the front of Serena's magnificent body, the Brazilian beauty's back arched, her breasts prominent, her head thrown back in pleasure. Emily's mouth was on Serena's sex, her tongue teasing the delicate bundle of nerves at the center of her lover's pleasure. She could taste Serena's nectar on her tongue, and she had to have more. She'd simply die if she didn't have more. Serena rose up and away from Emily's urgent ministrations. Emily saw her arms snake up over Serena's thighs and grasp her about the waist pulling the wonderful source of nectar back down to her hungry tongue. Serena moaned and called out Emily's name as she came for the fourth time.

Emily's eyes snapped open as she experienced the greatest epiphany of her life. She wanted Serena. She needed her. She was deeply in love with the beautiful Brazilian. Now she had to figure out how to undo the damage she had done by not responding when Serena had confessed her feelings, causing Serena to flee. She had to fix this. Everything that mattered to her depended on it. Sleep wasn't on the horizon either near or far so there was no point in going to bed. Runway waited. The office where Serena had said earlier in the week she would be spending the usually quiet time of the coming Saturday morning catching up on some paperwork. Emily had much planning to do between now and when she saw Serena at work tomorrow. Such planning, however, could be accomplished in the closet at Runway while she searched for the prefect thing to wear for when she confronted her soon to be lover and took possession of her heart.

*****

Andy sat at the kitchen table and laid the last card into position in the Tarot reading she was building. She went back over the results again with a frown. The message had not changed from the one the reading had disclosed as she'd laid the cards down in sequence. “Ya done it ta yerself, Miss Serena,” she sighed and shook her head. “I warned ya. Now ya done sown the wind an' ye'll reap the whirlwind. I hope yer ready fer what's comin yer way,” she whispered. She allowed herself a small wicked smile. “'Randa said don't poison Miss Emily. She didn't say nothin' 'bout Miss Emily's mind bein' on things other than her job,” she chuckled to herself.

Andy carefully gathered up her precious Tarot cards and reassembling the deck, she kissed them and reverently placed them in their silk bag. Glancing around the room, she allowed her mind to wander for a moment. An image of Miss Emily and Miss Serena sparkin' came clearly to her mind's eye. Don't seem fair, she thought to herself. Miss Serena and Miss Emily getting' what they want, and 'Randa and my bed's cold and lonely. An idea struck her, and she set about making it a reality.

*****

Miranda had stayed longer at the event than she had intended. The winds among the corporate lords of Elias-Clarke were blowing against her, and she knew that such circumstances required her to do things she would not usually do, including spending hours at a corporate function that she would normally only have deigned to appear at for fifteen minutes. She had been horribly bored by the plebeian individuals, and she had been severely aggravated when she had noticed Irv Ravitz's smirking at her from across the room.

She entered her home, certain that both her daughters and the fey woman she had welcomed into her life would be sound asleep. She discovered a candle burning on the small table at the side of the foyer and the start of a trail of rose petals leading deeper into the house. Removing her wrap, she followed curiously. The trail led into the kitchen where she was surprised to follow it up from the floor onto one of the kitchen island stools and to the island itself. There in a circle of rose petals a chilled glass of wine beading twinkling jewels of condensation sat beside another burning candle. Miranda lifted the glass of cold wine and gratefully took a sip.

Taking the glass with her, she continued her investigation. The trail of rose petals continued on the other side of the island, leading Miranda to the stairs. There, yet another candle gently glowed, lighting her way. She followed the delicate trail up the steps to her bedroom where the door stood welcomingly open, emitting a gentle glow. Entering her bedroom she found her Andrea, dressed only in a simple white cotton shift, sitting on the edge of her bed.

Andy immediately rose as Miranda arrived. “Yer bath is ready, burnin' hot, just as ya likes it and with yer favorite good smellin' oils in th' tub. Once yer bath relaxes ya some, I'll rub some o' th' herbal ointment I made fer ya inta yer back, and after ye'll sleep like a newborn babe."

Miranda was patently not used to others offering her help and comfort, and she was inherently distrustful of those that did so because in her experience it always meant that whoever was offering wanted something from her. This wisp of a girl from the Florida swamp, however, had asked for nothing save the occasional kiss. Miranda nodded silently to her guest, and immediately the young woman began gently to help Miranda out of her evening gown. Before Miranda knew what was happening, she had been undressed, draped in a silk robe, and assisted into a scalding hot tub of water. Miranda had been a guest at some of the best spas in the world, and all of the care at those expensive resorts paled in comparison to Andrea's care while bathing her and washing her hair.

As she stepped out of the bath, she allowed Andrea to dry her and wrap her naked body in one of the luxuriously thick bath sheets. Miranda could not remember a time when she had felt more relaxed. As Andrea led her to the bed, Miranda experienced a fleeting fear that her daughters were in the house and that they might catch the two women in bed together.

Andrea pushed her gently down onto the bed and took hold of the edge of the towel covering the older woman's body. “They's asleep, 'Randa, and I'll be long back in my room afore they wake,” the fey woman said softly, seemingly reading her mind. "Let me finish relaxin' ya. A nice massage with th' ointment I made fer ya.”

Miranda nodded and turned onto her stomach as Andrea drew the bath sheet away. Miranda felt her last concerns slip away as the younger woman straddled her. The ointment smelled fresh and was warmed by Andrea's hands as she spread it on Miranda's back. Miranda dozed pleasantly for a moment as the herbal ointment was worked into the bath-relaxed muscles. She awoke to Andrea nibbling on her ear lobe. “Teach me how ta love ya, 'Randa. Teach me how ta touch ya, ta please ya,” the young woman whispered hotly into her ear.

Miranda turned over beneath the woman straddling her body. All cares gone, she reached up and pulled her young, soon-to-be lover to her and into a searing kiss.

*****

The halls of Runway were fairly empty on a this particular Saturday morning. Serena hurried down the hallway toward her office, unsure whether she wished to encounter the red-headed Englishwoman she had lost her heart to. Last night had been emotionally taxing, and even after tossing and turning all last night, she still didn't have a clue as how to undo the damage to whatever relationship she had with Emily. Head down, she slunk into her office and walked around the desk. She looked up quickly as she heard the office door close.

Emily stood at the door with her back to her. Serena clearly heard the lock on the office door click home. Emily, dressed provocatively, turned around with what could only be called naked hunger in her gaze. “I've been waiting for you,” the Englishwoman purred as she stalked predatorily toward the Brazilian woman. “I thought about you all last night,” Emily continued. “Thought about how you've teased me with the way you look, the way you dress, and how you move. Thought about all the times I should have kissed you. All the times I should have taken you home and made love to you."

The British woman was just on the far side of the desk, her eyes fixed on Serena, who could feel her heart nearly beating out of her chest. She watched as Emily carelessly swept the top of the desk clear of the things on it, scattering items across the length and breadth of the room. “It's not a bed,” she husked, “but it will do.” Her eyes came up hungrily. “You can strip, or I can rip your clothes off you,” she offered helpfully.

“Oh my God! You drank it! You drank the potion!” Serena screeched.

Emily continued her advance, and Serena realized she was quickly running out of room to escape. Not that she really wanted to, but this seemed wrong.

“Oh your little fraud witch,” the Brit laughed licentiously. “She's cute enough, I suppose, with her country bumpkin act, but she's not the woman for you, Serena. I am. I always have been. It's just taken me this long to see it.”

Serena froze, the words she'd so longed to hear now spoken aloud out of the mouth of the woman she loved.

Emily's arms were about her in a heartbeat, and the Englishwoman's lips were just as soft as Serena had always imagined. She felt Emily guide her to the desk and press her back onto the desktop as the Brit's clever fingers unbuttoned Serena's blouse. Her last coherent thought before yielding to Emily's hunger was that although she knew making love in the Runway offices was a bad precedent, she just couldn't bring herself to care.

On to Chapter 9


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What a wonderful way to end the year. Thank you! I love this fix and the fun twist you have given to the genre. I look forward to seeing what havoc this potion will cause and what wonders our witch from the wetlands will work on them all.

Me? Create havoc? Well...I'll do my best. Thank you for the kind words! Happy New Year!

Yes, finally! I love this story and I was bummed when I thought it had been abandonned. Please update again soon.

I promise I will not abandon Hattie. This is one of the few stories that I knew the ending prior to writing the first word. It may take longer than I would like, but this tale will see its end. Thank you for reading and letting me know you took some pleasure in my poor attempt to entertain.

Wonderful update! Looking forward to more. Happy New Year!

More coming, and soon I hope, although two other Mirandy stories are also demanding my attention along with another I haven't yet started on but I strongly suspect will not allow me to ignore it much longer. Thank you for the kind words and for reading me.

I realy love it and will patently wait for more.
Thanx

Great chapter. I hope Serena survives. Whirlwind indeed.
Thanks for the read.

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