Piece of a Piece #3 - Green
This is another story starter of a larger project. As a pagan who has found an obscene lack of quality witch novels (particularly LGTBQ+ friendly), I've been working on a series to fill that gap. This project is close to my heart.
Valerian root, dried, smells like toe jam and belly button funk. It's impossible to get out from under your fingernails. May had washed her hands half a dozen times, but her fingertips still smelled like feet. She sniffed her nailbeds and made a face. She was going to need the world's most rigorous manicure.
The saucepot on the stove hit a rolling boil. May glanced at her watch, then turned the burner down by half. The tea needed to simmer at least five minutes, no more than eight, or the herbs would over-steep and be useless.
She'd have to crush more valerian root if she ruined it.
May scrubbed soap into her cuticles with the bristle-side of a sponge while she waited. She hummed offkey, a half-remembered song about a flying machine. She rinsed her hands and went to keep an eye on the tea. She sniffed her fingers while she watched the saucepot. Her nose wrinkled.
"Ugh, smells like sweaty groin."
She pouted, then glanced over her shoulder at the doorway. It was empty. The staircase beyond was silent. She smiled. Her eyes drifted to the cabinet above the stove. It was almost too tall for her to reach, but the grabbed the bottom edge of the door and levered it open. She stood on her toes to grab a glass canister of something dry, leafy, and unlabeled. The beautiful scent of freshly-mowed grass lifted into the air when she opened it and dusted it over the golden tea in the saucepot.
Sniffing the air, May's mother followed her nose into the kitchen. She looked concerned.
"What did you do the tea?"
May put the canister in her pocket. "Nothing. It's steeping."
"It smells wrong."
May rolled her eyes. "I didn't do anything to your precious tea."
Her mother looked skeptical. "You added something to it, didn't you?"
May was an excellent liar. Her tone was steady, her demeanor casual but tilting slightly toward offended. She made eye contact, but not so much that it was conspicuous. Anyone else would have believed her.
May's mother, however, always knew when she was being lied to. She put her hands on her hips the way mothers do.
"What did you put in the tea?"
May stirred the tea with a wooden spoon and didn't answer. Her mother sighed.
"You know that I support experimentation, May, but not when I have clients waiting. What's in the tea?"
May half-turned toward her mother. "Brahmi."
"Oh, May, you can't put an Ayurvedic herb in a Pagan dream tea."
"Can." May took lifted the tea off the burner. “And did."
"Ayurveda and Paganism are completely different philosophies, May."
Her mother was exasperated, but she got the nice teapot from the hutch and carried it to the kitchen table anyway.
"Magick is magick is magick, mom. There is harmony in all things if you’re smart about how you put them together. Plus, now it won't taste as much like licking an armpit. I’m sure the client will be pleased."
Her mother laughed. It was a throaty, husky sound that May loved. May's voice was higher and she was always louder than she intended. But her mother had a woman's voice, mature and gentle with a depth May wished hers had.
"It's supposed to taste like an armpit. It tastes like an armpit when your grandmother makes it, and it tasted like an armpit when her mother made it. You kids today and your not-wanting-things-to-taste-like-body-odor. You're spoiled is what you are."
May grinned. "Maybe."
She took the brahmi from her pocket and put it back on the herb rack. Her mother rummaged in a drawer for a linen cloth and draped it over and inside the mouth of the teapot. She held the edges in place while May carefully poured the scalding tea through the linen filter.
Her mother hissed, but didn’t flinch.
“It’s fine. Hands of asbestos. You’ll have them when you’re my age.”
She gathered the corners of the cloth together and May used a pair of wooden spoons to squeeze the trapped liquid out of the linen as her mother lifted it from the teapot.
"Teamwork makes the dream work," her mother said, sing-song. "Now let's hope the tea does its duty."
"Not only will it work, but it should increase Ms. Fielding's dream recall once she wakes up."
Her mother looked at her from under her eyelashes, frowning.
"It all comes from the earth, Mom. Ayurvedic or Pagan, it's all green."
Her mother sighed. "Well, it's too late to make more now, anyway." She sniffed the teapot. "It does smell better."
May grabbed a serving tray and a teacup from the hutch. "You worry too much. Even if it doesn't work, Ms. Fielding won't know the difference."