Esme rang the bell and waited. The night was frosted with fog and she shivered under the porchlight. Footsteps approached and the door was opened bathing the stoop in golden light where the mist swirled like fairy dust.
“Can I help you?” The woman who stood in the doorway was not what Esme had expected. When she thought of a witch a number of things came to mind but ‘little old lady’ wasn’t one of them.
“Are you Miss Devlin?” she asked. “I am,” said the lady in an accent that Esme couldn’t quite place. Irish perhaps? “Was there something you needed?” Esme took a breath. “I uh was told you could help me with something um...quite personal.”
“Perhaps you’d like to come in,” said Miss Devlin. She pulled the door open and Esme stepped into the hallway. The fact that there were no newts or frogs lined up in dusty jars was a relief but also a disappointment. Desperation had driven her to this and she hoped that the dear little Miss Devlin was worth her salt.
Especially since she’d pulled her card from a number of others stuck to a board in the entryway of ‘The Craft‘, a local shop specializing in all things pertaining to witchery. She couldn’t say why it had stuck out to her. The card was simple, the font plain and all it said was ‘You Have Only to ask My Dear.’
Miss Devlin led the way down a short hall to a room tucked underneath the bend in the stairs. It was larger than Esme would have expected and set with an oval window. A teapot was steaming on the round table. “I’m sorry if I’ve interrupted you,” Esme said. “I can come back another time.”
“No my dear, there's plenty for both of us. Please, sit down,” Miss Devlin said indicating one of two chairs at the table under the window. Candles glowed in sconces and outside the fog still lingered. Across from Esme was a bookcase lined with books in shades of brown and red.
Here and there bright bowls were placed, their colours mimicking that of a rainbow. “Singing bowls,” Miss Devlin said, though Esme had yet to pose the question. “Now,” said Miss Devlin smiling, “tell me what it is you are looking for.”
The old woman’s sweetness and the gentle way she asked the question had poked Esme in the most tender spot of her heart and to her embarrassment she found herself sobbing. “I’m lonely,” she sniffed. “I’m just so lonely. I don’t know why but every relationship I have ever had has failed.”
Miss Devlin watched Esme patiently without interruption or comment. When Esme had finished sobbing and was gulping like a little child Miss Devlin passed her a tissue and said, “So is it love that you wish for?”
Esme shook her head. “Not just love,” she said. “Real love, undying love, the kind of love that lasts for a lifetime. Beyond it even. I want the kind of love I never thought possible.” Her voice had grown impassioned and desperate. She took a deep breath and continued quietly. “I just want someone to love me best.”
The old woman nodded sympathetically. “I have exactly what you need,” she said. “I’ll just be a moment.” When she returned she held a jar in her hands. “Each night before bed I want you to drink a tea made from these leaves. The next blue moon will bring you a love like no other.”
Esme took the jar. It was tea. She frowned. Was that all there was to it? She’d expected a love potion in a red vial. Something more magical. The old lady sensed her disappointment and laid a hand over Esme’s. “Trust my dear,” she said. “All will be well.”
A few weeks passed. Every night without fail Esme drank a cup of the tea before bed. And then one day out the blue Evan Phillips walked into her life. They met through her friends at the gallery where she worked. He was an emerging artist, she was a curator. They talked about philosophy and existentialism, art of course and poets and the state of the world.
Esme was astonished. Miss Devlin had been right. Here he was. Esme had never been happier. She’d felt the connection with Evan immediately. It was different than anything she’d ever known. There was only one thing that nagged at the back of her mind. Miss Devlin had said something about the blue moon.
If that was the case then it couldn’t be Evan. But when he walked in the door of the gallery and her heart did that little flip, she told herself that Miss Devlin was mistaken. It had to be him. How could it not be? Every day was filled with joy. She loved him and he loved her. Two months passed and all of her doubts faded.
Esme woke one Sunday to the sun streaming through the windows. She rolled over expecting to curl up in the nook of Evan’s shoulder but instead the bed was empty. She called to him. No response. She jumped out of the bed suddenly terrified. There was a note propped up by the sugar bowl.
“Esme, It’s been really fun but I’ve decided to take the offer of the residence in Scotland. All the best, Evan.” All the best?? All the best? What the fuck was that?? Not even, love Evan? All the best?
She sank into the nearest chair and sobbed. Why? Why did this always happen? She looked up and pulled a tissue from the box and blew her nose. How could she have been so gullible? Who would believe that drinking some kind of ginger tea would bring you the love you were destined for?
Somehow she pulled herself together enough to get through the work days. But she knew she wasn’t right and that if she didn’t do something soon she might never get her old self back again. So she made an appointment with her doctor.
She told the doctor about the breakup, that she was grieving and depressed and that her feelings had become a physical illness making her sick and weak. The doctor sent Esme for bloodwork telling her they'd be in touch if they found anything to worry about. Esme got the call in the middle of a grueling day at the gallery.
They were installing the work of a pretentious artist whose claim to fame was putting the wrong tools into the wrong handles. She’d gone an entire day without thinking about Evan so in that regard the artist had done her a favour. “The doctor would like you to come to the office as soon as you are available,” said the receptionist when she answered her phone.
Esme's heart skipped a beat. Oh my god, she thought, I’ve gotten some hideous parasite from that old witch’s tea. Or worse. She made an appointment for the next morning certain of bad news. She waited in the doctor’s office, her hands so clammy, they left marks on her gray jeans.
They called her name and led her to an examining room where she waited again growing more and more anxious until the doctor opened the door. “What is it?” Esme gasped. The doctor smiled. “Well as I suspected, you are severely anemic. But there is a reason for it, you’re about 11 weeks pregnant.”
“What? I’m sorry did you say that I’m...” she looked at the doctor incredulously. “About 11 weeks,” the doctor repeated. “So we need to get you set up for some pre-natal appointments.” The rest of the conversation was about vitamins and health care and what to expect over the next 6 months. Esme couldn’t quite grasp it. In 6 months she would be a mother.
She let herself into the house and dropped into the kitchen chair. A calendar hung on the wall by the stove. Esme plucked it off the wall and brought it back to the table. She was due in six months and five days, on the 31 of March.... the day of the blue moon. Esme let the calendar fall. Tears filled her eyes. She put a hand to her belly.
And thought of the words she had said to the witch, ‘I want a love like no other, love that lasts a lifetime, someone who will love me best’. All at once she was laughing. 'You Have only to ask My Dear.'