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Story 1

Maureen Bowden

Maureen Bowden is a frequent contributor to the 4 Star Stories fantasy universe. Her stories are creative, quirky and frankly delightful. We Are Three is the story of three generations of witches whose legacy literally spans the ages. Join them as they advance another generation into the future.

Maureen Bowden is a Liverpudlian, living with her musician husband in North Wales. She has had a hundred and thirty-eight stories and poems accepted for publication by paying markets, she was nominated for the 2015 international Pushcart Prize, and in 2019 an anthology of her stories, Whispers of Magic was published and is available from Hiraeth Books. She also writes song lyrics, mostly comic political satire, set to traditional melodies. Her husband has performed these in folk music clubs throughout England and Wales. In 2013 she obtained a First Class Honours Degree from the Open University. As well as Literature and History, the Degree included modules in Creative Writing and Advanced Creative Writing. She achieved a distinction in both. She doesn't blog, tweet, twitter, or any of that social media stuff. She's just an old-fashioned girl who writes stories. She loves her family and friends, rock ‘n’ roll, Shakespeare, and cats.

 

 

We Are Three

By Maureen Bowden

 

Mother and I stood back as Grandmother confronted the designer suit. He smirked, “Who are you?”

She smiled. “We are three. We are older than the earth and moon. We stride through your folklore, your mythology and your forgotten history.” She pointed a bony finger at him. “Cross us if you dare.”

Mother nudged me. “She’s going off on one.”

Grandmother was steaming into apocalyptical overdrive. “We are the Triple Goddess, the Maiden, the Mother and the Crone, and you, little man, are less than the serpent that squirms beneath our heels.”

“That’s all well and good, madam,” he said, leaning back in the leather armchair behind his polished oak desk, “but the young lady was caught shoplifting, and Hollads’ policy is to prosecute in every case. We don’t make exceptions for mythical goddesses."

Mother sighed. “I’ll handle this.” She shoved Grandmother out of her way, produced a drawstring bag from somewhere beneath her raincoat, and emptied a shower of gold coins onto the suit’s desk. “That should cover it. Keep the change.”

###

“What were you thinking, Annie?” Mother said to me, as we sat on the bus that was making its way back to the southern edge of Epping Forest. “You’re a constant embarrassment."

“If you flung some of that gold in my direction once in a while,” I said, “maybe I wouldn’t need to shoplift.”

“No chance. You’d only waste it on eyeliner and nose studs.”

I sulked. Grandmother winked at me, and we stuck out our tongues at Mother, behind her back. I expect she knew, but she ignored us.

It was late afternoon when we alighted from the bus and hurried into the forest. If we didn’t find the hut before sunset, we’d be, not for the first time, stumbling around in the dark. It wasn’t where we’d left it.

“Oh, no. It’s gone walkabout again,” Mother said. “Why can’t the wretched thing stay put?”

“Don’t fuss, Amber,” Grandmother said. “It has to be true to its nature.” She made clucking noises, and called, “Here, hutty hutty.” We heard a rustling in the trees. The hut emerged, strutted towards us on its chicken legs, and squatted. Mother dragged me inside. Grandmother followed, tugged off her boots, and said, “I’m starving. Let’s eat.”

“You’ll have to make dinner.” Mother said. “I’ll be busy making more gold to replace what it cost us to keep the light-fingered flibbertigibbet out of jail.” She picked up her mortar and pestle and sat in the gold-making corner. Grandmother lit the hotplate in the cookery corner. Our bijou abode was architecturally designed to be bigger on the inside than on the outside, so we had adequate space. Magic was involved, of course, but so was minimalism and staying thin.

“Don’t cook anything for me, Grandmother,” I said. “I’m going out to meet Jango.”

“No, you’re not,” Mother said. “You’re grounded.”

My fury and frustration skidded around my brain, cut the corners through my blood vessels and exploded out of my left foot. I kicked the cat. It screeched, leaped onto Grandmother’s shoulder, narrowly avoiding landing in the wok, and cowered. “I hate my life,” I yelled. “I’m sick of being the Maiden. Why can’t I be a normal girl instead of a goddess, have sleepovers with friends, go to music festivals, get drunk, get arrested, and have some fun?”

Mother glared at Grandmother. “This is your fault,” she said. “She’s living up to her name. You should never have called her Anarchy.”

Grandmother laughed, some might say cackled, and stroked the cat. “It was my privilege to name her. She’s being true to the nature of the Maiden. You can no more stop her than you can stop the hut from wandering off.”

Mother turned to me. “Go, then. I’m tired of fighting with you. Learn for yourself what it means to be an immortal entity.”

I stamped out and slammed the door, but the prickling of my thumbs told me I was being watched. I looked back. Grandmother was standing at the open window. She held up a drawstring bag. “You’ll be needing this.” She tossed it at my feet. I picked it up. The gold was heavier than I’d expected. She’d been generous. I waved to her. She winked and waved back, and then I turned away. I knew I’d never see her again.

###

Jango was a member of ‘The Sons of Chaos’ Motorbike club. He rode a Harley Davidson, had enough facial hair to stuff a cushion, and “Chaos Rules" was tattooed on the back of his neck. Grandmother once told me that the Triple Goddess needs a mortal hero. Jango was mine. I moved into his flat near Leytonstone tube station.

“There’s something I need to tell you,” I said.

“If you mean you’re not human, I already figured that out.”

“How?”

“I followed you home one night and saw the hut.”

“Weird, isn’t it?”

He shrugged. “I’ve seen weirder at the Sons’ clubhouse on Saturday night.”

Next morning we each had the letters J and A entwined with a snake swallowing its own tail, the symbol of eternity, tattooed on our left shoulders. After leaving the tatt shop, we took the bag of gold to a back street jeweller with a handwritten notice in his shop window, “Gold and silver exchanged for cash. ID not required. No questions asked.”

The proprietor bit on one of the coins before placing the bag on his scales. “Funny thing,” he said, “had a dude in a suit here yesterday with a haul just like this. You know him?”

I nodded. “He’s a store detective at Hollads.”

Jango raised his eyebrows. “You shop at Hollads?”

“No. I shoplift.”

“Oh, right.”

After haggling over the gold, we eventually left the shop with enough used banknotes to provide life’s necessities and a few luxuries for at least two years.

###

I was happier than I’d ever been, but I often thought of Grandmother and something nagged at me. Something I ought to have known, but I chose to ignore.

The Triple Goddess and huts on chicken legs seemed like the distant past, but they bounced back into the present a month after I gave birth to our daughter.

Jango answered a knock on the door. He called to me, “You have a visitor, Annie.”

Mother followed him into the living room. “Leave us, young man,” she said. He didn’t argue. He picked up his biker jacket and left.

“Where’s Grandmother?” I said.

“Dead.”

“When?”

She glanced at the baby’s cot. “The night you conceived her.”

I felt dizzy: as if reality were shifting. I sat down to steady myself. “I thought we were supposed to be immortal.”

“We are,” she said, “but we are three. We can only ever be three. Doesn’t your instinct tell you anything, girl? I’m the Crone now, you’re the Mother, and she’s the Maiden.” Of course I knew. This was what I’d tried to ignore.

Mother leaned into the cot and caressed my daughter’s face with her finger, which was bonier than I remembered. “I have the privilege of naming her, and I won’t make the mistake that Grandmother made with you. I shall call her Harmony.”

I sensed my destiny closing in around me, but my rebellion flared in its death throes. “Fine. I’ll call her Harm for short, and she’ll be true to her nature.”

Mother smiled. Becoming the Crone had made her wise. “I know,” she said. “She’ll be true to the nature of the Triple Goddess, just as we are.”

“Why were you named Amber?” I asked.

“It’s short for Ambiguity.”

“What was Grandmother’s name?”

“Sissy, short for Nemesis. I’m relieved that you’re finally taking an interest. Now, come. The hut’s waiting for us. We have to leave.”

“Where are we going?”

“Where we always go. To another forest in another time.”

“What about Jango? I won’t leave him.”

“Take care, Annie,” she said. “When humans attach themselves to immortals, it rarely ends well, but if he’s meant to be with us, he’ll find us.”

I strapped the baby into her MacLaren Globetrotter, and we three set off for home. “I suppose we’ll be trekking around looking for the hut, as usual,” I said.

“No. I’ve solved that problem. I tied it to a tree.”

We found it. Jango was sitting beside it, with the cat curled up in his lap. His Harley was leaning against the tree. “I’m coming with you,” he said.

“You may regret it,” Mother said.

“I know,” he replied, “but I have to be true to my nature, right?” He reached for his daughter, and I placed Harm in his arms. She turned towards me, and I saw Grandmother’s eyes in her infant face. I could have sworn that she winked.

Mother cut the rope that bound the hut to the tree. She picked up the cat and led us inside. Jango passed Harm back to me and wheeled in the Harley. The hut rose up on its chicken legs, spun around three times, and took us to another forest, in another time.

 

End

 

 

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