Ms. Spellman’s been staring at her.
Both of them.
One gaze is like a broadsword, glinting and blunt and striking the breath from her solar plexus in its violent effects.
One gaze is soft and dewy, like Mother America gazing over harbors and homecomings and holiday fireworks.
The gazes don’t match the girls.
That’s not the point.
The point is that she, Ms. Mary Wardwell — VP of confusion and suddenly P of Baxter High — is shivering in a sweltering school gymnasium because the Spellman women won’t stop staring.
Also, her closet is different. Is daring.
The only sweater dress left had been this one, and it’s gray and it’s bulky and it’s hot.
And she’s shivering in her spectacles.
She used to love “Meet the Parents” Day.
Not sure why these particular parents are peering at her the way they are.
Something deep inside, below the gut and down into instinct pushes her closer to the duo.
She doesn’t understand.
She’s always been so shy.
At least deciding which one to talk to is easy.
She chooses the one with the moon in her eyes, because the burning sun in the other sister’s eyes might make her singe.
“Ms. Spellman, if I might have a word?”
She leads her to a quieter corner, where the squeaks of tennis shoes on wood floors won’t grate the nerves quite so badly.
She needs her nerves. Or she doesn’t.
Bloody hell — this is stupid. Why is she nervous?
“Is something the matter with Sabrina? I know she took sabbatical, but you suggested it yourself and —"
“It’s about your sister.”
A Spellman pause.
“What about my sister?”
“She’s been staring at me.”
The laugh should be offensive, it’s at her expense, but it only costs her a flush high in her cheeks.
“Of course she was. We both were.”
“But what have I done to earn such animosity? I thought she liked me.”
“She did. She does. We both do.”
There’s a step taken, and then there’s honeyed breath coming her way.
Perfume wafts heady.
She swallows on a dry throat.
Another laugh. Another flush.
This one spreads from her cheeks to her neck and collarbones. She can feel how that moon-beamed gaze follows the marbled pink trail of it.
“Please, Ms. Spellman, just tell me — what have I done to upset Hilda so?”
She shakes her head and those gingering curls bounce.
Inside her shoes, Mary’s toes curl.
“You haven’t done a thing.” Ms. Spellman says, and the moon is back in her billowing gaze.
“You just remind us of a girlfriend we very recently gained but very recently lost. It’s hard for Hilda to reconcile.”
The load of information hits her harder than a broadsword. If she’s left gaping, surely Ms. Spellman will understand.
Ms. Spellman doesn’t look understanding. She looks amused.
Mary won’t give her the satisfaction of being scandalized. She closes her mouth quickly, but quietly, and is still left stunned.
“I don’t understand.”
A hand on her elbow, perhaps to comfort, perhaps to set her on fire. It is deliciously nothing but platonic but anything but.
“I’ll explain it to you later. Dr. Cerberus’s at 6?”
Somehow, she cannot picture Zelda Spellman, this paragon of poise and starlet noise, in a shop so neon-lit and plastic-covered as Dr. Cerberus’s.
It must color her face, because Zelda’s laughing a third time and it is so delectably haughty.
“It isn’t my preferred place, but Hilda’s boyfriend works there, and I like to make him squirm.”
And then she’s sashaying away, the only way a woman in a pencil skirt can sashay away, and Mary watches.
She watches as Zelda sidles up to Hilda.
She watches as Zelda curls her arm around the bent crutch of her sister’s elbow.
She watches as Zelda leads Hilda away from the displays and dioramas and out the gymnasium doors.
They leave, and with them, that stifling heat that makes her shiver in her spectacles and respectable shoes.
It’s still quite warm in here.
Mary needs to sit down.
She needs it to be six already.
The plastic would hit tacky if her thighs weren’t wool-skirted and green-tighted. She won’t take the risk of sticking.
Dr. Cerberus smiles at her.
He smiles wider at Zelda. Cartoon and puppyish, vying hard for approval.
She just smiles, in hinted danger and dark lipstick and only deigns looking at him once.
She orders nothing off the menu.
Mary wants a whiskey.
She orders a Diet Coke.
“That’s,” she wets her lips. Tries again.
“That’s Hilda’s boyfriend?”
“Tragic, isn’t it.”
This merry-go-round of relationships and reminiscing is making her head go dizzy.
“I thought you said you both recently got girlfriends.”
Zelda looks at her, almost daring her to be a prude.
She simply looks back.
The back of her collar is starting to itch.
“I see.” Is all she says.
There’s so much challenge. She doesn’t even know the game they’re playing.
“Not really. You don’t look the type to share.”
“Oh Mary...” Zelda’s tone is familiar and intimate and familiarly intimate. She leans forward, and she really shouldn’t do that because Mary’s seeing a whole lot of her and it is indeed quite a lot.
And then Zelda’s talking and when Zelda’s talking there’s really nothing to do but stare and stare and gulp.
“Contrary to popular belief and according to the correct circumstances, you’ll find I’m prepared to share quite a lot.”
“From the way you two look at me...” she falters.
It’s so dry in here. Where in god’s name is that Diet Coke?
“It begs the question...”
She gulps more air, throat working overtime in this little shop that apparently has no hydration. And now it’s Zelda’s turn to stare.
“Who’s been sharing me?”
“Only when rankled, but I wouldn’t say that to her face.”
“But I’m not a wi... I mean, I’ve got no magi... I — I’m a woman!”
“Yes, you are.”
The amusement makes her feel less woman, more child.
Her next outburst is really an inburst of denial, delirium, and if she’s being honest, quite a bit of desire.
“And you still want me?”
Zelda’s eyes roll. She feels it must be habit, not harshness.
It shouldn’t be a surprise, what with the way she’s toeing Zelda’s shoes and Zelda’s toeing back.
If Zelda asks an explanation, Mary won’t be able to give it.
Because she’s lost months and a fiancé and all sense of reality.
Because she could at least gain a good shag in return.
But also because the back of Zelda’s heel has caught the back of her tighted calves, and she’s ready to moan right here in this dingy ex-girlfriend’s current boyfriend’s restaurant.
The very thought makes her brain ache.
Other places too.
She sucks the inside of her cheek very hard and says nothing.
“Well,” Zelda drawls, letting her foot drop (much to Mary’s dismay) and gliding her way out of the plastic booth.
And she actually is gliding.
Apparently, Zelda Spellman does not scoot.
“We should go then. It will take a while if you want to convince Hilda by tonight. You drive.”
Zelda taking command, imperious and imposing and Mary hastening to comply.
She never gets her Diet Coke.
Neither she nor Zelda pays.
“Have you put a spell on me?”
It’s easier to be honest with an open road ahead of them.
Mary stares straight and doesn’t glance at her passenger.
She tries not to remember the last stranger she let ride in her car.
“I would never.”
So much fervency in so few words.
She wonders why. Won’t ask.
“Is this the part where I’m supposed to joke and say you’ve bewitched me anyway?”
A finger ghosts the shell of her ear. She blinks twice very fast and watches harder for deer.
“I wouldn’t want anything so tacky. But Hilda might like it.”
There are three fingers now. Pads soft and trailing the side expanse of her neck.
She blinks three times.
“You said it will take a while to convince Hilda,” she looks in the rear-view mirror, almost fearfully.
However, no Adams or Eves or slendermen look back at her, and the mind goes free to wander.
“Yes. She always takes more convincing than me.”
Mary grips the wheel tighter.
“Why?” Zelda’s drawling again.
It’s a tempt for her to let the wheel go, let them coast for a while.
“Because I’m easy.”
The car swerves.
Then speeds up.
There is something about the crackling fire, tea, and cookies set out in the parlor that feels oddly ominous.
Mary keeps her shoes on and stays in the hall.
Zelda sashays to the kitchen the way she’d sashayed in the gymnasium, and Mary listens the way she’d watched.
“It’s not the same.”
Hilda, a British hiss.
“She still wants us.”
Zelda, a transatlantic cajole.
“She’s not the same.”
“More same than different.”
It’s so much quieter.
Mary strains and pretends she isn’t straining.
“Why do you want this so bad?”
“Because we miss her.”
A deep sigh.
Mary hears Zelda try again.
“At least let us cook dinner for you.”
“I thought you ate at Cee’s?”
“Contrary to you, sister mine, there’s nothing he could offer me that I want. I won’t have anything of his inside of me.”
Mary chokes too.
And then Zelda’s sashaying back, and her grin is devious and mischievous, and Mary is very wary of what’s to come.
“What do you know how to cook?”
“I’ve been told I make some mean almond cookies.”
A snort shared by both sisters.
It’s the first words Hilda’s said to her.
“You’ll find my cookies a lot meaner.”
They settle on 8 o’clock omelets, with coffee and tea because Zelda insists they caffeinate.
Mary blushes and makes a macchiato.
Hilda glowers and sips americano.
Zelda eats dinner-breakfast and hides a smirk behind her fork.
She gets up and makes some excuse, the backs of her knuckles brushing against the fine wisps of hair on Mary’s neck, and then there’s just two.
Hilda sips her coffee and says nothing.
“I’m sorry.” Mary blurts out from behind her teacup.
Hilda not liking her hurts harder, the way Zelda liking her hits headier.
The opposing sisters’ personalities feel special and terrible all at once, because she’s singled out as unique, and it’s good and bad and divine and scary.
“No need to be sorry, lamb.”
Hilda is softer in an instant. Standoffishness stands off into Hilda standing and holding her hand.
There’s hurt in that broadsword gaze.
“I’m the one who should be apologizing.”
The hand lets go to fiddle with a button on the mustard seed cardigan.
“I just miss you — I mean her — but it’s you and I don’t...” she bites her lip and there’s a need pooling in Mary’s pooled skirts, so similar and vastly different than before with Zelda.
She clutches Hilda’s hands again, is the pursuer when she’d just been pursued an hour ago.
“You can miss people and still want them too.”
Hilda ducks her head, gold curls gleaming, and Mary looks up and her head swims anew.
Hilda’s lips are cherry pink and ripe for picking and Mary blushes at such euphemism her own brain created.
“I kind of just want you out of my system.” Hilda confesses, that lower lip pinched enough to burst between those sharp white teeth.
“I can help with that.”
Hilda’s lips are soft and light on hers, her body solid and comforting as it leans down against Mary’s form.
Mary’s glad for her long torso, even with her sitting down, Hilda is still so short.
She tastes like coffee and celestial sparks. And probably vanilla.
Mary gathers up the cotton of her dress in her hands, fisting on the small of her back and under the cable-knit cardigan.
Their breath is hot and coming in gasps as Hilda plunders her mouth.
They pull away pink-cheeked and red-lipped as a cough is coughing.
Zelda’s in a deep blue nightgown and a deeper red lipstick, and she’s looking at them like dinner never happened.
“Come now, ladies,” and her voice is hot syrup. “Not in the kitchen. We only eat food in here.”
And Hilda is snorting and tugging Mary’s hand and whispering under her breath as they hurry upstairs.
“No we don’t.”
It’s not till they’re on beds pushed together and sheets turned down that Mary is hit with a real reality of this surreal situation.
“I’ve never done this before.”
Sisters share worried looks, Mary corrects herself.
“Well, you know what I mean.”
“Do you want to stop?”
Hilda and Zelda keep their hands to themselves and Mary aches.
“Slow?” Hilda suggests, and Mary can only nod a breathless yes.
Zelda sits back at the top of the bed, leans back against the headboard and spreads her legs.
Blue silk parts like the Red Sea.
Mary blinks and shoves bible stories out of her head.
Zelda pats the space between open thighs, Hilda gently nudges her shoulders forward.
Mary mouths me? in dumbfounded readiness and feels both Spellmans roll their eyes in tandem.
Opposite sisters still so similar.
Mary crawls to her assigned seating, feels a bit ridiculous without shoes but still tights on. Zelda turns her so her back sits flush against silk, and then Hilda’s sandwiched her in, comfortable and close.
“Okay?” There’s a giggle of hysteria or anticipation in Hilda’s question, and Mary can only nod yes again.
And Hilda’s kissing her again, and it’s heavenly, or hellishly, or whatever earthly delight there is, that’s it. Hilda’s mouth on hers.
There is magic to it, but one witches and mortals can share and share alike.
And then there’s a second pair of lips at the nape of her neck, she shivers into Hilda, leans forward for more and more access and more everything.
Her pulse line is nibbled in reward.
Hilda’s hands are rubbing her shoulders, Zelda’s on her rib cage.
There is a moan building deep inside her body, someplace she didn’t know existed, and it is loud and satisfactory.
“Please,” she mutters against Hilda, a hand reaching for a pillowy cheek, the other reaching back and tangling into long hair.
Twice for effect.
Too many hands to count reach for her sweater, she shrugs out of it for added benefit. The skirt is unzipped, hips cant forward and lips sigh loud as she’s divested of wool.
Hilda’s fingers hesitate on the waistband of her tights.
She cranes her head to kiss Zelda.
It’s crackly and electric, a storm in it and a hint of caffeine, and then she’s tucking her face to the cream of Zelda’s neck and nodding fiercely.
The tights go lightly, and slow.
She peeks one eye at the scene, feels flung up and ascending at the way Hilda’s staring at her.
And she’s still got her knickers on.
She wriggles her hips against Zelda’s. Those pale hands on her rib cage go higher, cold fingers skating along the bottom wire of her bra.
Hilda’s got warm palms on her kneecaps.
She could honestly just melt right here.
And she’s demanding, arms nearly akimbo at her sides because she’s so needy and dizzy with want.
Those cold, deft fingers unhook her bra and she can’t help the squeak as they skitter along a pebbling nipple.
“You have ice cubes for fingers.”
Zelda’s laugh reverberates into her chest, and Hilda’s massaging her calves.
“You could always sit on them,” Hilda suggests, and she’s laughing too. “I’m sure that would warm them right up.”
She arches and whines and Zelda calls her a baby.
It sends delicious thrills down her spine, she grinds down on nothing as her cunt throbs.
“Don’t tempt me.”
She gasps loud as Hilda kisses her sternum.
There’s a cold hand and a warm hand on her breast and honestly, she likes it so much.
She feels a medium between two extremes.
It could pull her apart or keep her together, and she wants both more than anything.
She’s still got her knickers on.
Zelda bites the muscle between shoulder blade and neck, she gasps into Hilda’s open mouth.
There are double fingers counting the ribs on her left side, and somehow she’s lost one, but nothing hurts and nothing feels wrong. She’s just an inferno of wanting.
“No more teasing,” she breathes, wiggling against Zelda and feeling wetness in return on the cotton of her backside. “Or I swear I’m gonna die.”
And then both sisters are muttering something into her skin, snippets of Cain and dirt and shovel conversation incanted into her own hot flesh, but she doesn’t care at all because Hilda’s sliding that soaked cotton down her thighs and Zelda’s freezing hands are on her sharp hipbones and Zelda tastes so much like lightning.
She leans back further, silk so decadent on her naked back, and she realizes her Spellman sisters are still entirely clothed.
She’s about to voice how unfair that is but seizes up because a tongue is lathing at her entrance and those celestial sparks are lighting up behind closed eyelids.
“No,” she hears in unison.
She doesn’t question, because she’s gripping Zelda’s forearm so tight she’s sure to leave dent marks, but it’s all she can do to not buck up into that talented tongue.
Zelda flicks her nipple and she bucks up anyway.
She shouts and comes and clamps down as reality shatters around her.
She pulses to twin beats and feels her own combine.
There is a symphony, and she just knows. There are no delights, not heavenly nor hellishly nor earthly so — nothing so divine as this.
And then warm fingers plunge into her depths, cold fingers on her clit, and she is coming again.
She’s not ashamed to say she moaned when Hilda took off that mustard seed cardigan.
She is a little ashamed (and strictly will not say) she squeaked when Zelda opened the nightstand drawer.
They go again.
Because everything is better in threes.
She wakes to the sun and moon staring down at her.
She stares up and smiles.
Coupling (or throupling) gives her confidence enough to wink.
“Got me out of your system yet?”
And Hilda’s biting her sunshine lips and Zelda’s laughing that haughty laugh and Mary’s so warm she could light this entire house on fire.
“The system is stuck, it seems.” Zelds says, looking at her sister.
Hilda nods in confirmation.
“We might need a couple more tries to get it working right.”
Mary grins and suddenly craves caffeine.
“I can help with that.”