Cooling (Continued)

by Elizabeth Genco

"Well, well, well," said Anna as she opened the door. "If it isn’t more proof of my psychic powers."

"Nice to see you too," I smiled, stepping past her into the kitchen. A heavy glass flask, its narrow top plugged with clay but for a single hole, smoldered on the stove. A thick brown paste gurgled inside.

"No, really, I was just thinking about you." Then she noticed my shirt. "Girl, what have you been up to? You’re soaked."

"It’s raining," I said. "Got anything to eat?"

"In the fridge. Help yourself," said Anna. She scooped up stacks of books from the two chairs at the kitchen table then sank into one.

Anna doesn’t call herself a witch. She doesn’t call herself an alchemist, either. But I think if someone lost (besides me, of course) stumbled on Anna’s place and let themselves in when nobody was home, they might take one look at the dried herbs alongthe counter and the tools all neatly lined up near the kitchen sink and turn around again. Or they might take one whiff of the smell — high grade sulfur laced with compost and cigarettes — hanging in the air and decide that there was nothingin the refrigerator that they wanted to eat and that they really weren’t all that hungry after all. By now, I barely noticed.

I opened the cabinet marked "For Human Consumption Only" and leafed through Anna’s meager collection of dishes, looking for the red clay bowl expressly reserved for my snacks. Anna rarely ate anything; when she did, it was always takeout.The bowl lurked behind canning jars and Anna’s beat up old silver flask."My emergency quicksilver," she claimed. She never let me have any.

I dumped the nearly full carton of coleslaw from the fridge into my bowl. Anna lit a fresh cigarette.

"So the rain must be getting to you," she said, blowing smoke towards the ceiling. I knew what she meant, and she knew that I knew that she knew.

"It’s okay." Anna knew that burning my mother’s house down wasn’t right, but she understood why I had to do it and didn’t give me flack for it. I doubted that even she would understand Old Man Hibbs’ shed.

"Everything all right at home?"

"Same old, same old."

"Well, just as long as you’re not killing each other. Any news?"

I wanted to tell Anna about the boy, but I didn’t know where to begin. Anna understood a lot of things; she knew me better than anyone. But I wasn’t sure that she’d understand boys who kissed me for no reason at all before literally melting into a puddle.I didn’t understand those things,and I didn’t like it when people understood things involving me before I did.

"Same shit, different day," I said, taking a bite.

"You sure about that?" Anna took another drag and looked at me out of narrowed eyes that made me wonder if I was made of cellophane. "C’mon, girl, something’s not right here. My spider sense is tingling. You can always talk to me, you know that."

"There’s nothing to talk about." I said coldly. "I’m fine." What did she expect me to say? Anna, I’ll be okay once I find some wood that catches, but there’s this guy — okay, hot guy — who shows up at the crucial moment, and then it mysteriously rains, and oh, by the way, he’s a great kisserand I’ve never been kissed before, so I can’t even be all mad at this. The words hung on my lips like a firecracker with the wick running down.

"Remember I said I was thinking about you? This new deck came in the mail today. You up for it?"

When I was in juvie, Anna would visit me once a week, like clockwork. And she would always bring her cards. Technically it’s against the rules to read cards for a dozen girls when you visit a juvenile detention center, but Anna has a way with security guards. She read for them, too.Instead of giving me a hard time after she left, they’d ask me when she was coming back.

Anna’s readings were always dead–on, but they always uncovered more than I bargained for, too. "I guess," I said.