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A Coven of Two

Helen McClory

It’s always been something carried in our blood, the story goes. My sister comes to me in my sleep, and in hers. My red-headed sister, the one dancing lightly over the earth, wrinkling her nose, free of the choices I have made, while I lie burdened with a double dose of hers and my own. It’s a thick stew that feeds nothing. She acrid-yellowing burns a hole in me with her absence, visible only in the dark, when we sleep thousands of miles apart. I like that I am purity and she is slut, and that we are the same person, bound palm to palm. Our great-great grandmother built a house on the bones of her lovers, after escaping a hanging by means of her craft. Of my dead husband, we no longer speak. My sister comes to me in my sleep and in hers and pulls me up from the grey syrup of being alone. I make the mistake of writing it down.

My daughters walk to school like blips in time. I teach them a clove paste or the like is all it takes to numb the body from all taunts. A face that permits no one to take anything from it. I wish, I bless. Decay runs out over the fields. I am trying to peel myself out of the history of our femaleness, constructing a miserable, invisible self, until my sister comes to me while we both sleep and takes me to the window. The moon has a halo around it, which means a curse. Isn’t it too indulgent to be sisters, to be cursed. Well, it just so happens. Indulgence is in our blood. And entwined in blood, our skeletons. Milk-blooded weavers and hungry.

We kill a man twice, we kill a man bloodless and stamp wallowing on his shallow grave with blessed muddy feet. Plant lavender for luck, roses plant themselves. We drink cursed cocktails piss-coloured clumsy things, at midnight. We close a circle. We whisper through chapped lips. We fail. A man comes, holding my letter, but I pull out his one blue eye and one green. We mind narrative drive as a thing for pistons and not for us. We repeat through our pacing, our fancy interiors. My sister falls asleep on my bed. From a vein in her arm to a painted veil over mine, this sleep, this longing stitched up. We close a circle and spit, drive the talkative ash of men clear and far away from our rose-ringed door.

Helen McClory is a writer from Scotland. Her first flash fiction collection, On the Edges of Vision, was published by Queen’s Ferry Press in August 2015 and won the Saltire First Book of the Year. Her debut novel, Flesh of the Peach, will be published by Freight in 2017. She can be found on Twitter at @HelenMcClory. There is a moor and a cold sea in her heart.