It was a wet Tuesday morning when the taxi pulled up outside. A girl got out, long dark hair reaching down to a skinny waist. Nicola wasn’t expecting anyone, but she wasn’t so busy she couldn’t tell the girl’s fortune. Especially if she paid for a taxi to take her all the way out. She didn’t look familiar, so Nicola supposed she had come from further away than Rathgormack, the local village.
The doorbell rang and Nicola opened the door. She found it unnerved people too much if they thought she had been watching them from upstairs.
“Are you Nicola Walsh?” the girl asked, standing back from the door.
“I am. You’re looking for me?” Nicola kept her voice upbeat and her face as friendly as possible. The girl chewed on her bottom lip as she nodded. Her hair rustled when her head moved.
“Come in,” Nicola said, standing back and waving her in. “Do you drink tea? I have some made.”
Without waiting for an answer she walked to the kitchen and pulled a chair out from the table.
“I don’t mean to interrupt.”
“You’re grand. I was just about to have tea myself anyway. It’s nice to have some company.”
The girl sat on the edge of the chair. Nicola moved around the kitchen, rattling cups and crinkling biscuit wrappers. Tom came in looking for a hand out and a pet.
“There you are,” Nicola said to him. “As soon as there’s biscuits going you appear. Do you have any cats yourself?” she asked the girl.
The girl shook her head but smiled down at Tom when he rubbed against her leg. Tom put on his nicest purr and was eventually rewarded with a gentle head rub. By the time Nicola sat down with the teapot the girl had relaxed a little, and Tom was happy to sit in his bed by the Stanley.
“I’ll wait for the tea to settle a little before pouring,” Nicola said. “You got a taxi out.”
“He’s me mam’s neighbour. I didn’t know where you were and he said he did so he drove me out.”
“Sounds like a good neighbour.”
“Yea, he used to bring us for spins down the town when we were little.”
“Sorry, what’s your name?”
“Oh, yea. Kelly, it’s Kelly.”
“Hi Kelly, nice to meet you.”
“I should have said that earlier. Sorry.”
Nicola poured the tea and pushed the biscuits towards Kelly after taking one for herself. The thaw had started and Nicola didn’t want to scare her away with formality. “How can I help you Kelly?”
Kelly swallowed the bite of the biscuit she had taken. “Mrs. Quinlan in the herbal shop in town gave me your name. She said you’d be able to help me.”
Nicola tried to keep the uneasiness from showing on her face. Kelly must want something more than just a love spell.
“I want to get rid of somebody.”
Nicola waited to see if she would add anything else. Banishment was not a simple spell.
“Not kill him or anything. Just gone. Away. Somewhere else other than here.” Her bottom lip started to shake and she tightened her hold on the cup. Nicola turned away to get the box of tissues. When she turned back Kelly was using her fingers to dab at her eyes. She took a tissue gratefully.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to get upset.”
“It means a lot to you,” Nicola said and Kelly nodded.
“It’s my son’s father. He’s back from Limerick prison and doing drugs. Not hash or anything. Heroin. And that’s his business. We’re not together anymore and he’s accepted that. He can do what he wants with his life. It’s his life,” Kelly paused for breath and to stop the mascara filled tears from rolling down her cheeks. “But the other day, he collected Jack from school. He’s allowed. He’s the father. It’s his name on the birth cert and all. He got picked up by the Guards. I had to go down to the station to get him. He had a needle and gear in his pockets.”
“Your son’s father?”
“Jack. Jack had the gear in his pockets. Slatts had gave it him so the Guards wouldn’t find it.”
Fresh tears rolled down Kelly’s face. Nicola handed her another tissue.
“Did you tell the Guards?”
Kelly shook her head frantically.
“No. He’d kill me. I hid it. He doesn’t know I have it yet. But he’ll come looking for it.”
“You want Slatts out of your life?”
Kelly nodded, her hands squeezing the tissues against the cup.
“Have you thought about moving away?”
“To where? He’d follow us. Jack loves his school. All his friends are here. I don’t have the money to go anywhere else.” The often repeated phrases spilled out of her lips.
Nicola looked out of the kitchen window. The Comeragh Mountains were hidden by mist and raindrops were dripping off the daffodils in the garden.
“You want your son’s father out of your life?” Nicola asked again.
“Or just to forget about him. If he didn’t care he’d leave us alone.”
“I need to think about it.”
Kelly’s shoulders slumped as her eyes dropped to the floor. Nicola felt a heart string twang.
“There’s a lot involved and it’s not something I do regularly. I need to look into it a bit more.”
“I have some money and me mam says she can give me some more,” Kelly said.
“It’s not the money. The spell would need to be done properly for it to be effective. And even then they don’t always work. You would need to be part of it too.”
Kelly nodded lifting her head to look at Nicola. “I’ll do it. Whatever it is, I’ll do it.”
“I’ll look into it and let you know.”
“Thanks,” Kelly said.
Nicola stood on Kelly’s doorstep and listened to the chimes of the doorbell fading away. They were replaced by Kelly’s footsteps as she walked towards the door. Her face lit up with a smile when she saw Nicola.
“Hi, come in.”
She directed Nicola into the small sitting room overflowing with toys.
“I’ll get the tea.”
Nicola looked around the room. The picture above the fireplace was of Kelly in her pink debs dress with a baby in her arms. He was wearing a suit with a matching pink cravat. She was smiling down at him as he was reaching up for one of the curls of hair loosely arranged on her head.
Kelly returned with two cups and handed one to Nicola. They sat down on the two seater couch opposite the fireplace and television.
“That’s a lovely photograph.”
“Me mam picked that one. I was thinking of framing another one but it was me mam paying for it.”
“Yea, the dressmaker made the tie with the same material as my dress. I was so afraid the suit wouldn’t fit him. He grows so fast.”
“How old was he there?”
“Eleven months. I had to feed him just before we got the photos took. It was the only way to keep him happy.”
“You don’t look like you just had a baby.”
“I went walking every day with Jack in the buggy. I made sure I lost the weight in time for the debs.”
“And what do you do with yourself now when Jack is in school.”
“I’ll call over to me mam’s most days and keep her company.”
“Have you thought of doing a course or anything?”
Kelly shook her head. “Nah, not really. I was never any good at school. I could never sit still for long enough. I was always getting shouted at.”
Nicola left it and put the cup of tea down on the floor beside her. “I have been doing some looking around and I have worked out how to create the spells.”
Kelly held herself very still as she waited for Nicola to continue.
“What you’re looking for is not easy. Banishing someone is not straightforward. I can do part of it on my own but I will need you to help me with the rest.”
“I’ll do it. Whatever it takes. Me mam said she can loan me the money.”
“It’s not money, Kelly,” Nicola paused before she went on. “You’ll need to cut your hair.”
Kelly said nothing. Her fingers twisted around the lengths of hair spilling over her shoulders.
“Hair holds onto emotions. Cutting the hair will get rid of those old emotions and associations. We’ll use it for the knot spell.”
“All of it?” Kelly said.
“Yes. All of it.”
“Mam, mam, look what I got.”
Kelly turned round as Jack burst in the front door waving a toy gun. “A gun. Jack you have loads of toys.”
“Seán got it for me.”
“He can never have enough toys.” Seán Slattery said as he crowded into the sitting room. He filled the doorway as he looked down at them.
“I told you, he doesn’t need anything.”
“He’s a boy. He should be playing with guns. Stop fussing.” He said, bemused by Kelly’s concern.
Jack started to hit the toy gun against the door frame.
“Mind the door Jack, you’ll dent it.”
“He’s only playing. Don’t be at him.”
Seán Slattery smiled at Nicola, taking her in with a glance.
Nicola stood up. “I’ll head off Kelly. I’ll talk to you later.”
“Don’t leave ‘cos of me,” Seán said as she passed him.
The bright midday sun was shining through the window of Kelly’s sitting room. Dust motes danced in the sunbeams as Nicola placed four candles on the floor in front of Kelly. Black for banishment, red for fast action, white for protection, and green for healing.
Nicola repeated a calming mantra to help her focus and concentrated on keeping her breathing steady.
“Calm and still. Still and calm.”
She changed to a fire mantra as she lit the wick of the first candle.
“Spark the ember. Kindle the flame.”
When she had all four candles lit she looked up and saw the shocked look on Kelly’s face. Then she realized she had forgotten to use a match. Full of the magical energy that was flowing through her, Nicola started the first spell before Kelly could change her mind. She handed her a black permanent marker.
“Draw an X on the photograph of Seán and say the lines on the sheet with me as you hold the photograph in the flame.”
Kelly drew a slightly wobbly X over her ex boyfriend’s face. The flame from the black candle flickered greedily around the photo as she joined in with Nicola.
“Oh Mighty Goddess Nemesis,
Bring Seán Paul Slattery to justice.
Let him receive his just rewards.
What goes out comes back three times three.
This is my will, so let it be.”
Kelly dropped the last fragment into the bright flame before it burned her fingers. There was a strong smell from the basil and frankincense oil that Nicola had anointed the candle with.
For the second spell Nicola handed Kelly large metal scissors. Kelly slowly reached out her hand to take them. Her shoulders rose and fell as she took a deep breath. Then she took one of the many small plaits in her hair and cut it close to her scalp. Nicola nodded and smiled at her.
“You’re doing fine. Now think about what you want to change as you tie a knot and then hold it over the black candle.”
Kelly stared at the plait in her hand and then tied it in a tight knot. Once again, there was an aroma of basil and frankincense as the flames from the black candle began to consume Kelly’s knotted hair. The intense smell of burning hair mixed with the smell from the black candle.
“This is what was, not what will be. This is what was, not what will be.”
Kelly’s firm voice joined in with Nicola’s calm recitation. Her voice became louder as she fed her plaited hair to the flame of the black candle. There was a loud sizzle as the flame rose up to take the end of the plait.
Kelly’s hands moved quickly to cut the next plait and tie a knot. But before she could burn it in the black candle Nicola moved her hand to the red candle beside it.
“This is for fast action, for quick results. This is for fast action, for quick results.”
Kelly paused as she listened to the words Nicola was chanting. She joined in as the second plait sizzled in the flame from the candle.
Following the sequence Kelly held the third plait over the next candle, the white one. Nicola nodded and started to speak again.
“This is for protection, to prevent harm. This is for protection, to prevent harm.”
When the flames from the green candle began to melt Kelly’s hair the smell of eucalyptus and rosemary filled the room.
“This is to heal the soul and protect the spirit. This is to heal the soul and protect the spirit.”
Kelly repeated the action with each of the candles until all of her plaits were gone. The hair on her head stood up and stuck out at odd angles. The smoke from the candles filled the sitting room. It curled and spun lazily in the warm sunlight.
Kelly stared at the flames dancing on the candles as Nicola lit the oil burner on the mantelpiece. Soon, the healing smells of rosemary and sandalwood mingled with the other smells in the room.
“That’s the hard part done now Kelly. I’ll tidy up down here while you have a shower.”
When Jack came home from school, he was greeted by a large white page, two paintbrushes and two pots of paint. For the third spell, Kelly and Jack worked together to paint a picture to hang on the wall of Jack’s bedroom. The page was soon filled with peaceful blues and soothing greens. Kelly’s small, careful strokes and Jack’s larger, more exuberant ones. A few of his strokes continued onto the wooden floor which made Nicola smile. She had mixed the paint carefully, filling it with positive affirmations and good intentions.
Kelly’s newly cut hair bounced as the two heads bent together. It tickled Jack’s ear and he giggled loudly. Kelly had washed and dried it and attempted to style it. She hadn’t said anything but Nicola had seen her checking her reflection in the mirror. Her fingers continually tried to tuck the too short strands behind her ear.
“…The Gardaí arrested a local man who was remanded in custody to Limerick prison. Seán Slattery with an address at Ballylynch, Carrick on Suir will await trial for possession with intent to supply. Judge Hartnett refused bail based on previous convictions for possession and assault. If sentenced Mr. Slattery is facing ten years imprisonment. That’s all from the newsroom here at WLR fm. Back to the studio.”