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
“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
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
“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
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
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
“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
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.”
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.
She glanced at the baby’s cot. “The night you conceived
I felt dizzy: as if reality were shifting. I sat down to
steady myself. “I thought we were supposed to be
“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
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.