“I have never seen anything like this.” He said.
Véronique looked at her doctor and blinked. She had been so certain that he would have answers or that he would know what would know what was happening to her. She had been so certain. Trying to speak, she found that she had no voice for a moment. When she did find her voice, it came out in a hoarse whisper.
“Are you sure?”
“Quite, I’ve never seen anything like this. I could run some tests, but there isn’t any way that I can take a sample; that would involve taking a piece of your skin. I really don’t I would find anything.” He ran his hand over the patch of skin on her arm. “It may be an allergic reaction to something.” He wrote something on a piece of paper and handed it to her. “Here, call this number. They are a naturopath. Her name is Sonia. I sent a lot of my patients who have problems like yours.”
“But…” Véronique tried to make her voice louder but it reflected the worry that she felt. Like her, Véronique’s voice was afraid. “But what about the burning?” She asked. “It hurts so much.” She held out her arm and his gaze was drawn to the marks there.
The doctor gave her a kind look then went to his desk and opened a door. He came back with some packets of Tylenol. “Here, this should help with the pain at the very least.” The doctor gave her a small smile that Véronique knew was supposed to be reassuring and led her from the examination room.
“What will I do if the pain doesn’t stop?” She asked.
“Then we’ll have to see what we can do. In the meantime, go and see the naturopathic practitioner. She’s very good and a lot of my patients have gone to see her.” He gave her hand a reassuring squeeze and that was it. She was dismissed.
Véronique walked back to her car and the frustration built within her. She had been waiting for the appointment for a few weeks and had expected some kind of an answer or a solution, maybe even a pill that would take the burns away and she had ended up with a few packets of fucking Tylenol. She felt cheated. It was her own fault for telling herself that this would all be over today. Véronique was so sure that she would come away from the appointment with a solution. Now all she had was a fucking phone number and she still had to solve the riddle that her life had become.
She drove home and wondered what she was going to do. The pain was getting worse. While she drove, she tried not to look at the marks on her hands or the red welts that had risen on her wrists. If it wasn’t an allergic reaction, what else could it be?
The doctor had almost laughed at her. “No one is allergic to water.” He said.
She knew that there had been cases where people broke out in rashes when they submerged themselves in water, but the doctor has pointed out that they had been allergic to something in the water, not to the water itself. Well, she thought, there was a first time for everything.
Pulling into her driveway, she walked to the front door and let herself in. Her dog Bella and her cat Zoé came running towards her and Véronique felt a moment of joy despite the panic that wanted to take her over. Bella was a rescue dog that she had adopted from the local shelter. She had a multi-coloured coat, with shades of caramel, gold and brown. The people at the shelter couldn’t even tell her what breed Bella was, but Véronique didn’t care. She only knew that Bella belonged to her.
Zoé had found her a year ago. She was an orange and white cat and had reminded Véronique of a creamsicle. She had been sitting on her front step one morning and when she had returned home that evening after work, the cat was still sitting there. Véronique had looked for a collar but hadn’t found one. “Well, you better come in then.” The cat had seemed to understand her and followed her in. She had worried that Bella wouldn’t take to the cat, but they had become fast friends.
It was a joy to come home to them. While she had been dealing with this allergic reaction, she had kept herself contained to her home. She didn’t know if it was spreading or if what she had was contagious. Véronique hadn’t been out of the house for a while now. She had used up some vacation time with work while she tried to figure out what was going on with her skin. Bella and Zoé were her world right now.
She gave them both pets and some treats and took her coat off. She dropped her keys in the bowl by the front door and looked at herself in the mirror. Her dark hair was gathered up into a lose knot on the top of her head. Behind her glasses, her green eyes looked tired. Véronique hadn’t been sleeping well for a few days now as worry over what was causing this was keeping her awake.
Right now, she would love nothing more than to take a bath and read a good book, but she was afraid of the initial pain the water would bring. “Fuck it,” She said out loud. Her voice sounded loud in the silence.
She went about getting a proper bath ready in her bathroom, complete with a glass of red wine and a candle and the book she was currently reading. Turning on the water, she poured in a few drops of lavender oil and while the bathtub was filling up, she went to her room and undressed. Looking at her body, she noticed that the redness had spread since the shower this morning. That’s when it had been really bad. A portion of her wrist and left foot had felt as if they were on fire.
The fire dulled after a time, she just had to wait it out; but the dull throb of pain and redness remained. Though it looked like a rash, it didn’t itch like one. Despite lots of different treatments with calamine and aloe vera lotion, the redness and the throbbing pain remained. Her body looked like it was angry with her, as if she had mistreated it somehow.
Looking at the water filling the tub, the scent of lavender filling the air, she knew that many people would not be taking a bath when the water brought so much pain. Véronique was not most people. She had experienced a lot of pain in her life and she was incredibly stubborn. She would not let whatever was wrong with her take away one of her pleasures. She knew that she could only tolerate a short time in the bath, but it was the principal of the matter. Pain had taken so much from her; she would not let it take this simple pleasure as well.
When the water was done, she took a sip of her wine while she looked at the surface of the water. It looked so calm and welcoming and Véronique wondered how something that looked so soothing could cause her so much pain. She knew that she was being incredibly stubborn now; prior to this, she had only taken quick showers. She went to the bathroom counter and ripped open two packages of Tylonol that the doctor had given her and swallowed the four pills with her wine in preparation for the pain that she knew would come. She set the glass of wine down on the floor beside her book and her towel and took a deep breath. Bracing herself on the edge of the tub, Véronique put one foot gently into the water.
The pain was almost instantaneous. It ran screaming up her leg and she saw the redness begin to slide up to her right thigh as if the water had infected the veins within her skin. Gritting her teeth, she slid her second foot into the water and stood, the pain intensifying. The rash spread across her left leg and she watched it with a fascination that competed with the pain she felt. She stood for a moment, waiting for the intense pain to lessen for a moment, before she lowered herself into the water.
The scream she released didn’t even sound as if it were coming from her. Véronique thought that the scream was being made by a sick dog or a wild animal. Even in her haze of pain, she looked for Bella and Zoé; they were at the doorway watching over her. Bella normally tried to drink the bath water and Zoé loved to walk along the edge of the tub. However, neither of them did that today. They merely stood by the doorway looking in at her, watching and waiting to see what would happen.
The scream continued and Véronique tried to get up, to flee the bath tub, but she could not move and could only feel the pain growing instead of lessening. The redness covered most of her body. She looked down at it as the scream stated to lessen and thought that the rash looked like contour lines from a map, snaking their way along her body.
She let out a sob and though Zoé came to her, Bella remained by the door of the bathroom. Véronique knew why. She had just heard the front door open and close and there was the click clack of high heels on the hardwood floor of her foyer and kitchen area. Then she heard the steps slightly muffled as they made their way upstairs.
Véronique couldn’t have called out if she had wanted to. The pain had temporarily taken her voice from her. She wanted to reach for her wine to chug the rest of it and then to have the glass in hand to throw it at whoever was approaching her bathroom, but she remained frozen in place, the pain making a momentary mockery of her strength.
A woman looked into the bathroom. She had large brown eyes and the were filled with kindness. “Oh now you did do the thing properly, didn’t you?” She said. The woman came further into the bathroom and Véronique saw that the woman had warm honey coloured hair, a gently rounded face and a beautiful smile. “We don’t normally let newbies try this until they are really ready to see what their bodies have to say, but you just went in and did it despite the pain you are in right now. You’re going to be a firecracker, I have no doubt. The light you were giving off, I could see it from a few streets away!”
She held out her hands. “Come on dear, let’s get you out of that water. You’ve put yourself through a lot tonight.”
Still unable to speak, Véronique gratefully took the woman’s hands. Warmth ran through Véronique immediately and though she had been bathing in hot water, the relief that ran through her body was instantaneous. “Th-thank you!” Véronique said. She stepped out of the water and felt calmness take the place of the pain. Her body was rejoicing.
“No thanks needed dear heart.” She smiled at Véronique and turned around to pull Véronique’s robe off of the back of the bathroom door. “Now come on, we have some reading to do.”
Véronique nodded and accepted the robe. “But who are you?” She asked.
“How silly of me! My name’s Sonia. You might have heard of me.”
Shaking her head, Véronique said “I don’t think so.”
“Think now, didn’t that doctor give you a card for a naturopath today?”
A light chill ran down Véronique’s spine. “How did you know about that?”
“Oh, please don’t be afraid!” Sonia said. “No, no, the doctor called me. He recognized the markings for what they were, you see. He called me to alert me to the fact that you were changing. He didn’t have to tell me, I could feel your power beginning to grow. I just wondered what kind you would be.”
“What are you talking about?” Véronique asked. She wasn’t afraid, only very confused and very out of her depth. She felt no malic or ill will from the other woman.
Sonia let out a small laugh. “I’m getting ahead of myself again. Come, lets share a drink together. I brought some honey mead. It’s like wine only sweeter and much more potent. I make it myself in small batches.”
Véronique didn’t have to think about it. “I would love some.”
Pulling a small bottle out of her bag and two glasses. “I never go anywhere empty handed.” Sonia put the glasses on the bathroom counter and poured a generous amount into each of the cups and handed one to Véronique. “Blessed be!” She said.
“Blessed be?” Véronique said and took a sip of the mead. She had never tasted anything like it. It was like drinking liquid sunshine. “This is wonderful. Thank you.” She marvelled at the fact that she was not at all weirded out by a woman who carried mead in her bag and the fact that they were having mead in her bathroom.
“So glad you approve.” Sonia said giving her hand a gentle pat. “Now, let’s have a look at you.”
“You want to look at my rash? Why would you want to do that, I can barely look myself.”
“No dear, not at the rash. I want to look at the words written on your skin.”
“What are you talking about?” Véronique asked. “There are no words written upon my skin. I would have seen those.” She tried to keep the note of panic out of her voice but it snuck out, giving her words a desperate edge.
“You needed to look at them in a different way, dear. Here, this mirror will do find. Just stand in front of it and have a good look at yourself. And don’t worry dear, I was a midwife in a previous life, so it’s nothing I’ve not seen before.” Sonia gave Véronique a warm smile and Véronique felt comforted and warm, much like she had when the woman had helped her out of the bath.
From that smile, Véronique knew that she could trust the other woman. This whole situation is so fucking weird already, she thought. I might as well embrace it completely. She walked toward the large mirror that was above the bathroom counter. Normally, she avoided looking at herself and rushed past the mirror because of the rashes, but now she forced herself to look.
To her surprise, there were words written upon her skin. When she looked down at her arms, she saw only blotches, but in the mirror those blotches were reversed, and she could actually read the words that were written upon her skin in a beautiful cursive script. She leaned in closer to read them but she still couldn’t make them out. “I can’t read them.”
“Close your eyes for a moment.” Sonia said. “These weren’t words a moment ago, were they? You have to let go of how you saw them and resee them as they truly are. Just close your eyes and let go of the image of the rash. Just embrace the idea of the words instead.”
Her voice was kind and comforting. Closing her eyes, Véronique was surprised to find that instead of the blackness that normally waited for her behind her eyes, she could see light that was filled with a million other points of light reflected outward. She hadn’t known that she could contain so much brightness. Opening her eyes, she looked as Sonia and even she looked different; her hair was shinier and her eyes were brighter and there was a blush to her cheeks that she hadn’t noticed before.
Sonia smiled. “There now, the light has cleared your eyes, dear. Things will be easier to see now. Go on, take a look.”
Véronique turned to look into the mirror again. Whereas the words had been unreadable before, a swirl of letters was on her skin. Looking down, she saw the redness on her skin moving in the same way and she could actually feel words brushing against her skin. “What do the words say?” She whispered.
“Only you can decide.” Sonia said. “We are all in charge of our own magic.” She held out her right arm. On her skin were the words ‘I don’t merely walk. I fly’. Then Sonia held out her left arm and written upon it were the words ‘My magic comes from within and no one can take it from me.’ She let her sleeves fall and then she held out the palms of her hands. On the right hand was an open eye and one the left one was a closed eye. “Witches can decide how to use their power.”
“Witches?” This word came out in a whisper. “Is that what I am?”
Sonia let out a soft laugh. “It’s what we all are if we claim our magic. Normally, this process happens over time so that when you start to become sensitive to water, you know what’s happening when the words start to come to the surface of your skin and you can prepare yourself. How you’ve gotten so far on your own is beyond me.” She motioned at the mirror. “So go on now. What do they say?”
Looking at herself in the mirror again, Véronique looked at the words again and they slowed in front of her eyes. The sea of words on her skin slowed and then became still. Véronique looked at them and took in what they said: ‘I do not search for beauty. It is within me.’ Once she had read the words, there was a stinging sensation in her abdomen. It lasted for only a few moments and when it was done, the sea of words they had came from faded from her skin leaving it clear once more. However, those words did not. I do not search for beauty. It is within me…. They were tattooed on her skin in what looked like her own handwriting. She ran her fingers over them and felt a thrum of energy run through her.
“Isn’t that beautiful?” Sonia said, giving Véronique a dazzling smile. “It’s so telling of the witch you will become if your first spell is about self love.”
“These words are spells?” Véronique asked.
“Of course, words are spells. How else could a book take you to another world or carry emotion though it has no physical container.” She helped Véronique pull her robe closed and gave her shoulder a squeeze. “You have much to learn, but there is always time.”
Véronique’s head was spinning, but in a good way. “Would you like a glass of wine?”
“I would love one.”
They heard the click of nails on the bathroom floor and Bella came to sniff at the hem of Sonia’s cloak. Sonia must have passed the test because Bella promptly lay down and showed Sonia her stomach. Sonia bent down to rub Bella’s belly. “Who’s this lovely one?”
“That’s Bella. The cat regarding you from the doorway is Zoé.”
Sonia stood upright again and looked at the cat and gave it a wide smile. “Well, this explains a lot. It all makes sense now. You have familiars.”
“They’re my family.” Véronique said.
“Exactly. As soon a person accepts an animal into their family, a little seed of magic is born within you. It’s always been this way. Were they both rescues?”
“Yes, I adopted Bella and I just kind of took Zoé in.”
“Wonderful!” Sonia smiled. “There is so much to talk about, but good conversation is always done best over a cup of good tea or wine.”
“I’ll lead the way.” Véronique said. “Come on you two.”
As she led the way downstairs to her kitchen and the bottle of wine, Véronique felt like her life was just beginning, that she was at the beginning of her tale and wondered what magic she could create. Bella chased Zoé down the stairs and Sonia let out a laugh that sounded like the soft peal of bells.
For the first time in her life, Véronique felt free and wondered if it was possible to fly.