Knocking on the door gave her the same sensation as hitting the ground after being thrown from a horse. It wasn’t often that a door knocked you in return. But then most doors didn’t belong to Carlotta Guillory.
Rachelle gritted her teeth and raised her knuckles again. This time it wasn’t like getting thrown from a horse, it was like being kicked by one. The impact had her flat on her behind, attempting to breathe through the sudden block in her belly.
It took Rachelle a long time staring between her knees before she could set her hand against the porch boards and get back up. The door was still closed, no sounds from within. The old wood looked like any other door, nothing special in the old thick oak or green paint peeling at the corners. Rachelle shifted her feet, fingers going from fist to loose over and over again. “Miss Guillory?” She said loud, but took care not to shout.
The cloyingly warm breeze pressed her skirt against her legs and swayed the long willow branches down the overgrown front path. Far beyond the willows Rachelle’s rusted sedan waited in the mud. She could leave, no one would ever know she’d been here.
Rachelle’s jaw tightened and she stepped up to the door again. Her knuckles were almost to the painted wood again when she winced, unsure if she wanted another trip to the floorboards. The wind livened again, setting the yellow lace of the window’s curtains flowing in an out. The window was open, Rachelle realized, wide open.
She looked back down the path, she was alone with the willows and wind. Closed door, open window, Rachelle recalled an anecdote mentioning something like that. First she bent, looking inside. The foyer was dingy white tiles, grey in the dim light. Other than a few sunken armchairs, the interior was taken up by water rumpled stacks of magazines, lazily spinning fans, and potted plants with verdant overly plump leaves.
“Miss Guillory!” Rachelle was close to desperate, but she still kept her voice as firmly polite as she could. Nothing but the sound of wind and the fans spinning answered her. Rachelle didn’t straighten. The window was open, the door was not. It was an idiotic thought, and also a temptingly logical one. No one seemed to be home anyway.
Rachelle straitened. If she was smart, she wouldn’t be here in the first place yelling for a witch. If she was smart she’d take the gift as it’d been intended and return to the loving family waiting for her. She’d never considered herself smart. But she also wasn’t rude, and had been raised proper enough not to break into people’s homes, even if those people were old hags who put curses on babies.
She grimaced and walked over to the door again. This was going to hurt. She rapped her knuckles against the door again.
The floorboards rushed to greet her. She barely felt the crack as she hit the ground. Rachelle sucked in air, gaping like a caught fish. Behind her, someone clucked their tongue.
Rachelle wheezed as she twisted to the sound. Carlotta Guillory was standing off the side of the porch shaking her head. The old woman’s frizzy storm of grey hair was squashed under a wide brimmed hat and her knees were stained with mud.
The witch gestured with a hand, still holding a bucket of dirty weeds. The wings of fat under her arms shook with the motion. “Rachelle Soule, your ass hurt enough yet?”
Rachelle, once again, managed to push herself to her feet. “Miss Guillory, sorry ma’am, I was just trying to be polite.”
Carlotta Guillory shook her head. “Polite, if a little dumb. But then your family doesn’t make em’ smart.” The old woman stepped up onto the high porch without difficulty. The wood groaned under her weight. For a woman her size she moved with grace. Rachelle was reminded of a tiger, beautiful and deadly with swinging flesh and fur. “What do you want girl?”
Her words faltered for a moment too long. The witch snorted. “You already got your gift. I don’t give seconds, this isn’t your dinner table.” Carlotta dropped the bucket of weeds on the porch and began stripping off her gloves.
Rachelle forced her eyes up from Carlotta’s rubber gardening shoes. “I don’t want my gift. It isn’t a gift.” Rachelle tightened her jaw. “It’s a curse, and you knew it when my mama asked for it, and you gave it to me anyway.”
Carlotta Guillory raised an eyebrow. “Now, that wasn’t so polite Miss. Soule. But we can talk. Come in.” The witch turned the doorknob on the front door and walked in. Rachelle follow her through the door.