“There was a story my father used to sing to us at night, but I can’t remember it. I try every night…but I can’t remember.”
-Doreen, The Witch of Auchi
“I can’t believe you’ve never been to a club before,” Lydia was telling Chichi as she put her hoops on.
Chichi looked at herself in the mirror. This was the tightest, shortest, most scandalous dress she had ever worn, and she felt…naked.
“Do you think this is too much?” Chichi asked. “I feel like it’s too much.”
“It’s a beautiful black dress,” Lydia said, coming over to her as she looked at them both in the mirror. “And you’re a beautiful woman.”
“It’s short,” Chichi said. “And I’m eighteen.”
Lydia rolled her eyes. “Okay, it’s a beautiful short dress, and you’re a beautiful young woman.” She touched a stray braid on Chichi’s head and put a gold cowry on it. “Happy?”
Chichi shrugged. “I don’t know. I mean, I was always too young to go…”
“But now…” Lydia prodded, her head on Chichi’s shoulder.
Chichi spun around and looked at Lydia, then she spun around and looked back at the mirror.
Her face, which she had known for so long, was now getting older. Her cheekbones were becoming more defined, and she was finally filling into her frame. The dress made the S shape when it dipped into her hips. She just couldn’t recognize herself in it. Not really. Not anymore.
She looked at Lydia’s reflection, Lydia who was so confident and boisterous and so…cool.
She took a deep breath. “Guy…I get nervous sometimes when people are around. I get jittery and all, and since the initiation,” she looked down at her fingers that were the same and different, “my powers have been more attuned to my mood than ever.”
“Isn’t that a good thing, though?” Lydia said, turning Chichi to face her. “Now, you can have more control over your magic.”
Chichi looked at Lydia. “But it also means I can lose more control. I can feel it sometimes, Lydia.”
Lydia cupped Chichi’s face in her hands. “Feel what, dear?”
Doreen walked into the room and into the sea of underwear and dresses and makeup, and paused.
“Oh,” she said.
Lydia waved and smiled. “Good evening, Doreen.”
Chichi also smiled shyly as she greeted. “Good…evening.”
Then, Doreen’s eyes travelled to Chichi and her eyes widened a fraction. “Oh.” She said again.
Lydia pointed at Chichi. “We’re going out tonight, to Fifty-Seven. It’s Chichi’s first night out.”
Doreen nodded. “Mhm.”
“Is that…” Chichi managed, “is that okay?”
Doreen nodded again, looked her up and down, and nodded again. “Fine. Yes. Fine. Definitely.”
“Great.” Lydia said with a thumbs-up.
“Great.” Doreen said slowly as she backed out of the room.
Chichi turned to Lydia. “Do you think she hates it?” She asked, her eyes wide. “I think she hates it.”
Lydia grabbed Chichi by her shoulders and slapped her across the cheek.
“Ow!” Chichi said. “Why did you do that?”
Lydia thought about it for a moment. “To be honest, I’m not sure anymore,” she said. “But you’re in your head a lot, and Doreen doesn’t hate it. Your mum is just…She’s strange.”
Chichi went back to the mirror and looked at herself in her pretty, short black dress. “She’s not my mother,” she said. “She’s just…Doreen.”
Lydia looked at her for a moment. “I get that,” was all she said.
Chichi spun around, and there was a light in her eyes now. She flashed a grin that made even Lydia shudder.
“I’m ready,” she said.
“Let’s go to the club!”
Doreen fell on the couch beside Tẹni who was reading a newspaper. Ever since Doreen had threatened the last boy who used to come around, she had found a nice old man who passed the house on his route. Yes, he was a mad man. Yes, his route was also a trail of terror. But, then again, who wasn’t a mad person nowadays?
Weren’t we all, on some level, insane?
The newspaper he had brought was from ten days ago, but better late than never.
Doreen sighed heavily as she fell, and Tẹni sighed too. Doreen sighed because she was stressed. Tẹni sighed because she was about to know why. It was a system that worked well for everyone involved.
Doreen sighed again and this time, Tẹni put down the newspaper and looked at her. “Okay,” she said. “I’ll bite. What’s up?”
“It’s Chichi,” Doreen said, looking at the stone wall in front of them. The couch they were sitting on was the only piece of furniture in the Witch’s inner sanctum. After that, it split into everyone’s private chambers, the inventory, the spell room, the armory, the bounce room, the kitchen, and the blue door.
“She’s,” Doreen said, “becoming…. I don’t know how to explain it. She’s wearing less, going out more…”
“I knew I shouldn’t have introduced you to Drake,” muttered Tẹni.
“She’s changing,” Doreen said. “She’s becoming different.”
Tẹni looked at Doreen. “So,” she said, “basically, you’re saying she’s growing up.”
Lydia and Chichi danced in the club along the whirlwind of people, their bodies bouncing and whirling with the music that was now a part of them. Or, maybe they were a part of the music. Chichi saw a guy dressed in white, and their eyes locked. She could suddenly feel her heart thundering. She hadn’t yet met a guy she was attracted to. Not really. All she had known was the coven.
All she had known was the witches.
“Are you surprised, though?” Tẹni said. “It was bound to happen sooner or later. Her growing up.”
“Yes,” Doreen said. “But I didn’t think it would happen now. She’s a peculiar soul. I was giving her maybe fifty, or even a hundred years tops. Oh gods, what if she starts talking to boys?”
Lydia followed Chichi’s line of sight and smiled. Chichi wondered why she was smiling, but her thoughts stopped when Lydia grabbed her by the waist and they were grinding on each other, moving to the music, through the air, like killer ballerinas. And when Chichi turned around, the bald guy in white was right behind her.
“You’re welcome,” Lydia whispered into her ear and left in a flurry of blue and perfume before Chichi could curse her out. Literally.
She looked at the guy, and he looked at her.
And then, their eyes and bodies aligned.
And then, they began to dance.
“It’ll be fine,” Tẹni said. “I’m sure she’ll be safe and not do anything stupid.”
Chichi and the guy were close now, so close she could smell his perfume and his sweat. So close that they shared the same breath. So close that it felt like they were one body.
She looked up at his dark brown eyes that reflected every single strobe light in the club. They were beautiful eyes, and she wanted to be closer to them.
They danced and danced and suddenly her lips were crashing into his. She could feel his breath in her and hers in his. He cupped her breasts in his palm, she scratched his neck. He looked at her and smiled. So she did it again. Harder this time.
“But then again,” Tẹni said, thinking, “she is her mother’s daughter after all.”
Doreen looked at the stone wall that had been carved centuries before her, centuries before any of them. “Chichi isn’t my daughter,” she said. “Chichi is…Chichi.”
Tẹni looked at her and moved to say something, but stopped.
They danced and kissed, and she bit his lip, and he grabbed her harder, and they were in a tornado of lust.
That was when the first scream came and the world stopped.
“You should’ve known this was going to happen, D,” Tẹni said. “Sooner or later. You knew she was going to grow up and maybe even one day…leave the coven.”
There were voices and then shouts and then suddenly the club wasn’t so fun.
Suddenly it was scary.
There were men who had appeared, they were wearing police uniforms.
She looked at Lydia from across the room. She was in the middle with a guy and a girl. She shot her a look. They had to leave.
Doreen shot her a look.
“It’s sad,” Tẹni said, “I know. But it could happen, D.”
Deep Auchi magic is based on possibilities, truly. That is the secret.
Only the Witches of Night can control shadows. The Witches of Feud have emotions in their arsenal. The Witches of Blood and Tears can bend blood to their will, and the Witches of Sun have the powers of the heavenly body in their hands.
But the magic of the Witches of Auchi, at its core, thrives on the many streams of the present that lead to the future, and when it manifests physically, it is always blue. Though, nobody knows why.
And Chichi imagined a present where Lydia and her where gone, and she directed all her energy to that.
“I know,” Doreen said. “I know.”
“Then, what’s the problem?”
The problem was she couldn’t feel her magic.
“I just keep trying to reach her, you know?” Doreen said. “Again, and again.”
She tried again, and again, but it wasn’t working. She looked at Lydia and from her look of frustration and the beads of sweat on her brow, she was thinking the same thing.
“That’s just how it is,” Tẹni said. “Nothing is wrong.”
Everything was wrong.
“I just…I just wish I could tell her,” Doreen said. “Reach her somehow.”
She wished she could call Doreen, but the more she tried to reach her, the harder it was. All her magical abilities were scrambled somehow. And the witches didn’t use phones. Or at least most of them didn’t. Lydia hastily sent a text before a big man came forward and smashed it on the wall.
“I’m just…” Doreen breathed in a way she only could around Teni. “I’m just… scared.”
She hadn’t felt it in a while. But she was scared.
“It’ll be okay,” Tẹni said, wrapping her arm around her and kissing her forehead.
And as all the women in the club were taken in handcuffs that bit their wrists and drew blood, Chichi kept alive the possibility in her heart that she’d be okay. She knew she’d be okay. She knew it.
“The thing, though,” Doreen said, “is that just because I know it, doesn’t make it better.”
But somehow, that thought didn’t comfort her as doors of the police van slammed in her face, shutting out the light of the night in Lagos.
There was a man leading the operation. He was bald with a stupid mustache. She instantly hated him. But there was something familiar about him, somehow…
She caught a last glimpse of the guy in white that she danced with as he looked at her with eyes that didn’t know how to express horror enough, and in an eyeblink, he was gone, like all the light in the world. She reached to Lydia beside her. They held hands in the darkness, on the way to the unknown.