La bruja stared out at the pink-orange sky that began to blend away into darker colors. The city that was caught like a painting from the view in her apartment began to quiet down. It was Sunday, and even the sinners knew to venerate it in some way. Or maybe they just felt the consequences of living wear them down, shut their eyelids, and tuck them into something akin to rest.
She could taste the nicotine of her cigarette even before she raised it to her lips and took a long drag. The apartment was damp as always, the air heavy with myrrh that it clogged her senses. Her mind was in that haze that allowed her to think clearly but made her body hesitate, lingering as it awaited the whispers of the world beyond the physical realm.
The dying sunlight cast long shadows over her silhouette and those of the many plants she kept littered around her kitchen and her reading table. Vines grew on her walls, wild and unkept, giving the entire place the sense that a jungle had taken claim on the tiny apartment. On one of the vines, La bruja spotted the tiny, darting form of a gecko made its way to her reading table. It climbed up the antique velvet armchair and onto the scratched wooden table that she’d crammed in the corner between her living room and kitchen. The leopard gecko’s tongue darted out.
You behave. We have a guest.
The tiny thing never replied to her message, but it did blink at her, tongue darting out one last time before it climbed onto her arms, the ticklish patter of the gecko’s feet prickling her skin.
The nena, clutching a sleek black suitcase with white knuckles, stood at the old door with the paint peeling off it, eyes searching the room like she was expecting to find a dead body hidden between the potted plants. La bruja let the smoke out through her lips. The girl’s mouth gaped as she watched the smoke from the cigarette curl up and form into shapes, daggers and skulls that danced in the smoke. Then they thinned out and disappeared.
“So,” she said to the girl, because she really was just a girl, all doe-eyed and pink-lipped with a pastel blue dress than reached her ankles, looking like some Latina barbie doll fresh out of the package. Or she would, if it weren’t for the dark welts littering her neck and shoulders. The make-up did a piss poor job of hiding them. “He wants me to cast a protection charm, yes?”
“He has the money,” the girl whispered, as if worried a monster would barrel down the hall and break down the apartment door. “Are you sure this’ll work? He wants to make sure no other man can touch me. A protection spell, no matter the cost.”
La bruja noticed a band aid on the collarbone, the only real attempt to cover the wounds. An unpleasant taste rolled around her tongue like a poison. She turned away from the girl and took another drag from her cigarette. “I remember the email, I don’t need you repeating it. Did you bring your object?”
The nena showed her a locket, pure rose gold with a small diamond in the middle of the round heart, the kind of trinket that would get you jumped in this neighborhood.
La bruja’s fingers twitched. Already she could imagine the kind of deal she could get from the pawn shop across the street, maybe she’d even cast a duplicate spell to get an even better deal. It’d wear off after a day, but the store owner wouldn’t dare go after her…
No. There is work to be done.
“He’ll only pay after he gets my text that I’m out of this apartment,” said the girl, as if reading La bruja’s mind.
“I don’t steal from my clients, nena,” the woman snapped as she crushed the butt of her cigarette, fixing her client with a sharp glare that made the girl cast her attention to her feet. “Give me the locket. We’ll make sure you’re…protected.”
The girl extended her arm, clutching the delicate golden chain. La bruja practically had to pry it from her hand.
“Do you read poetry?” asked the old woman.
The girl blinked like a newborn kitten that opened its eyes for the first time. “No…”
“Why am I not surprised?”
Ignoring the wounded expression on the girl’s face, she pulled out a small book with a worn spine that barely held the pages together. “Pick one. It doesn’t matter which. Just read it aloud with your back turned to me. No matter what, you cannot look back. When you finish reading…the spell will be done.”
By: Angela Orozco