January 9, 2022

Through the Looking Glass

Previously: Before

Sunday morning, after a night of no sleep, Rochelle waited until her parents left before getting up. Like always, she showered, fixed her hair, did her makeup, and put on a cute outfit. It was one of the better habits she'd retained from her coven days, only now, she was all dressed up with nowhere to go.

So she went out, and she wandered.

She thought about what she could do with her life next; she needed a social life to start and needed something to do besides school. Joining a church was out of the question. She occasionally had swim meets, but she hated her team and was tired of swimming anyhow. She figured she could join a book club, but then remembered she was only interested one kind of book.

Wait a minute...books.

As if by fate, her feet stopped moving and she looked up. Perhaps by fate, she'd wandered back to the same occult shop she used to go with her former coven.

She knew the shopkeeper, Lirio Santana, probably didn't want to see her, but Rochelle went in anyway. Besides, she had money. The only reason she and Bonnie had learn to shoplift was to make Nancy feel better about always being broke.

The front door opened, the tiny bell at the top rang, and Rochelle heard the rasp of a familiar voice. "You."

Lirio was behind her counter like always, grinding away at some herbs. She was a tall, slender woman from Spain, with long, rippling dark blond hair.

"Me," Rochelle blinked. She was still fired up from her confrontation with Nancy and was ready to argue. "Where are the books on mirror magic?" she drawled, walking through the tables and lightly dragging her fingers across them. After months of heavy collection, she already owned one of almost anything in this store.

"You shouldn't be here." Lirio dusted off her hands and rounded the counter. "I tolerated your stealing before because unlike that other girl, you paid sometimes and you were never rude. But I think we can both agree the Craft is not for you."

"Why is that?" Rochelle blinked, genuinely curious despite her irritation. She stopped strolling and turned around. "It's not like I killed someone. After all, it was your precious Sarah Full-of-Light who put the date rape whammy on a boy who wanted nothing to do with her." She sneered, flashing a razor sharp smile of bright white teeth. "And it was Nancy who put him through that window," she added with a chuckle.

Lirio jaw tightened, her eyes wide with worry. "You mutilated that girl," she said grimly.
"And I'd do it again in a heartbeat," Rochelle nodded confidently.

"That's the problem," Lirio shook her heard slightly. "You girls were granted a gift, and you took it to a dark place. Only Sarah had the wisdom to find the light. You deserve this punishment, to live without power."

Rochelle's brow furrowed in amusement. "Where else would we have taken it, Lirio? Before we met Sarah, Nancy was living in a trailer with a mom who was basically a revolving door for the most disgusting men you can imagine. Bonnie was burn victim, trapped in her disfigured body, shunned by society. And I?" Her tone deepened, darkened, dripped poison as her eyes smoldered. "I was being bullied by racists, Lirio, led by a girl who's literally the poster child for the Third Reich." She tilted her head to the side. "Of course we took our magic to a dark place. We were born in the dark place and left there to rot." She added with a bitter snicker, "We were being punished long before Manon."

Lirio was quiet for a moment, unsure of how to take that. The girls had been coming into her shop for several months, but she'd never actually gotten to know them.

 Rochelle turned back to her casual browsing. "Now...books on mirror magic?"

"Why do you care about mirror magic?" Lirio asked hesitantly.

Rochelle snorted softly, "When Nancy was first committed, she would ramble on a lot, even when sedated. She talked about her powers, and how she could fly, but she said something about Sarah stepping out of a mirror." She turned back to Lirio. "You wouldn't know anything about that, would you?"

"Like you said," came the stiff reply. "She was committed, sedated. What she knew and what she imagined were probably blurring together."

Rochelle flashed her skeptical look.

"What difference does it make?" Lirio bit out. "You're cut off. He won't listen you to now."

"You know, back when I was the poor, lonely, pathetic biracial girl whom everyone confused for Black, I never really questioned Nancy when she told me about witches getting their powers from all-knowing, all-powerful creator who used male pronouns," Rochelle blinked. "But I'm questioning now."

Lirio somehow managed to look both confused and intrigued. "You're wondering if you can tap into another power?"

"I'm wondering if when Sarah went into the mirror, did she actually cross into another world, or was it simply an illusion?"

Lirio paused, mulling the inquiry over whether or not to answer her question.

"Lirio," Rochelle smirked, "answer my question. You're not the only occultist in L.A.--if you don't help me out, someone I don't have history with will, and they might not be as...conscientious as you." She smiled fully now. "We both know how well that'll work out."

"Sarah did briefly cross," Lirio nodded briskly. "Mirrors can be gateways to other worlds, but you can only fully cross over if your counterpart from that world is willing to take your place in this one." She flashed the schoolgirl an urgent look. "The balance must be maintained, Rochelle."

"And what about worlds where I have no counterpart?" Rochelle asked. "If this life is any indication, the universe seems to have it out for me. I don't want to leave my shit behind just so I can pick it right back up somewhere else."

"I have heard of such worlds," Lirio confirmed, "but you were born in this one. You are a creation of Manon. To travel to a world where you never existed is to travel to where he does not exist."

Rochelle's eyes lit up. "Perfect! How soon can I go?"


Armed with a bagful of goodies, Rochelle headed home some time during mid-afternoon. She wanted to move quickly, before she lost her nerve. She was still fired up from the day before, still seething at Nancy and wanting prove she didn't need anybody--not Nancy, not Bonnie, not even Manon.

The thought of being completely free to forge an entirely new path invigorated her. She almost skipped home, wandering through the front door, completely forgetting her mom was having people over for brunch.

"Rochelle," Mrs. Zimmerman blinked, third or fourth mimosa in hand. She glanced around to her guests, looking flushed. "I...I didn't know you'd be here."

"Not for much longer," Rochelle shrugged. Usually, these days, she got very tense around either of her parents. Today, not so much.

She headed for the stairs but her mother rush to intercept. Despite plastering a grin across her face, Mrs. Zimmerman spoke in hushed tones. "Are you meeting up with Bonnie later?"

Rochelle never lied to her parents, but today, it magically came easy. "Sure, Mom."

"And, uh...did you ever work things out with that Sarah girl?"

"Sarah's in France, Mom."

Her mother's eyes lit up. "Well, that's a thought! Have you thought about studying abroad as well? I'm sure I could talk your dad into it."

Of course, you could, Rochelle blinked. You two have wanted me gone for years.

Careful what you wish for.

"Sure thing, Mom."

Her mother straightened up, smiled brightly. "All right, then. I'll leave you to it."

Rochelle climbed the stairs and locked her bedroom door as soon as she was in. Thankfully, she already owned a full-length mirror; the other items needed were just some blue candles, some dried herbs for burning, and lipstick for drawing some new sigils she'd never seen before.

She followed Lirio's instructions to the letter, first by lighting the candles in a large semicircle around the mirror, then by lighting the herbs. As she began to draw the sigils all over the mirror, she invoked the spirit one last time.

"Hail the Guardians of the Watchtowers of the West," Rochelle murmured, curls and necklaces bouncing as she diligently scrawled. "By the powers of water and intuition...hear me."

She stood back and waited, staring at her reflection marred by lipstick drawings. It was a scene similar to several memories from before, when she, Nancy, and Bonnie would try one spell after the other to no avail. In the beginning, Nancy would be devastated, while Rochelle was just happy to be with friends. But as time went on, Rochelle too would get discouraged by their lack of progress.

Normally, she'd be discouraged now, but she refused to back down.

Sarah invoked the spirit all on her own. She didn't need anybody, and neither do I.

"I know you can hear me," she stated bluntly to her own reflection. "You may have cut me off, but I know you can still hear me. Lirio said I was one of your creations, and apparently, not a favorite one, so what does it matter to you if I go somewhere you're not?"

There was silence; the candles flickered briefly as the air conditioning kicked on. Outside, the sun dipped a bit, and she could hear the cars rolling by. As the silence stretched, she Rochelle's newfound confidence finally began to falter, but then....

It was the subtlest of ripples across the mirror, once, twice, then more pronounced as the glass absorbed the sigils. Her reflection gave way to a vision of gray clouds over a distant sea, and lightning flashing across the sky.

Rochelle smiled broadly. "Much better."

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