Wrong thing to say. “You’re from here!” he said with something that sounded like a snort. “You’re the one with family around here. And you were frightened by stories about Salem?”
“They were different stories, not really about Salem, and certainly not in the historical sense,” she said.
“Oh, right, let’s see, All Hallow’s Eve is coming, and evil is something that grows, that feeds on the atmosphere, and clings to the places where man’s cruelty to man has been strong? Get serious, Megan, consider history, and that would be almost any place on earth.”
“Of course, you’re right,” she said stiffly.
“Ah, but then, a full moon will be rising. And the fog and the mist will swirl, and there are those living today who believe in the dark powers, who mean to raise the dead from their unhallowed graves, and set dark winds of evil free to haunt the world.”
She sat up, suddenly angry. “Finn, contemporary Salem is a lovely place peopled by those who scoff at witchcraft, and those who believe in their pursuit of wicca as a real religion, those who have darling shops and make a nice income off history, and those who run great restaurants and couldn’t really care less.
And yes, sadly, the victims of the persecution here were surely innocent of the crimes attributed to them, but do you know what? There always were—and perhaps still are— those who believed in witchcraft, or not witchcraft, Satanism, or whatever you want to call it, and they do bad things in their belief. Damn, Finn—think about it! Are there still bad people out there? Yes, I think so. So I listened to stories about the evil in men’s hearts, in their belief in the powers of darkness and things that go bump in the night, and I had a bad dream. That’s not so bizarre, or unforgivable.” He lay back down, fingers laced behind his head.
“And you have a cousin who operates a witchcraft shop.”
“There’s nothing evil about Morwenna.”
“I didn’t say there was.”
“It isn’t illegal to be a wiccan now. It was illegal to practice any form of witchcraft in the sixteen hundreds.”
“Morwenna believes in earth and nature, and in doing good things to and for people, especially because any evil thought or deed is supposed to come back at a wiccan threefold.”
“And her freaking tall, dark, and eerie, palm-reading husband, Ethan, is a fucking pillar of the community?” he said sarcastically.
“Why are we fighting about my cousin and her husband?”
“Because I’m starting to think it was a major mistake to come here,” he said.
“You wanted to come,” she reminded him curtly. “This was a good move for your career.”
“I didn’t think you’d come home and turn into a screaming harpy.” She turned her back on him once again, hurt more than she could begin to say. A mistake? Had it all been a mistake?
From the moment she had first seen Finn, her first day of college, she had begun falling for him. She’d never wanted anyone so badly in her life, she had just about chased him shamelessly, but it had been all right, because he had returned her mad obsession. In a matter of days, she’d just about lost all thought of her classes, eager, anxious, desperate, to be with him at any given time. They’d eluded their friends time and time again to spend their precious hours together. At first, there had been no arguments—in truth, they hadn’t talked enough to argue, they’d wanted nothing more than to touch, to be in one another’s arms, naked, making love. The unfailing flame of simple chemistry had been so strong that they’d defied all advice and married one weekend, standing before friends and the priest in a small town in southern Georgia. For a few years, they had lived in the bliss of the young and innocent Finn had graduated, and scholarships and student work programs had ended. Megan had another two years to go, finances grew tight; music equipment was expensive. They’d begun to struggle. There were arguments about what made money, what didn’t, what was good, what wasn’t The differences between them, which had at first seemed so charming, became points of friction. She had hunches and intuitions; he was entirely pragmatic. She was from Massachusetts, and other than her initial, abandoned adoration for him, she tended to a New Englander’s reserve. Finn was from the Deep South, ready to plow into any situation and offer anything they had to anyone. She was close to her parents; his were divorced and remarried, and he made dutiful calls once a month, and sent cards and presents to his little half-siblings, but they seldom visited either of his parents. He loathed his stepfather, barely tolerated his stepmother, and had been on his own from the day he had graduated from high school. Then his father died of a heart attack, and he was torn between resentment that he hadn’t even been remembered in the will, and guilt that he hadn’t made more of an effort to communicate despite his unease about his stepmother. He’d started spending long hours out when Megan thought he should have needed her most. He took more and more out-of-town work. Jealousy, doubt, mistrust ... the little enemies that came together to tear down a relationship began to flourish and grow. Then, slowly, little shadows of doubt and anger began, and then, for Megan, the final, agonizing, hateful straw, the flutist Finn brought into his group. She didn’t leave right away; she was still too desperately in love. And arguments were too easily solved because anger was such a vivid emotion, and fights too easily solved by giving in to the heat and adrenaline of the moment, falling back into bed, and rising later to discover that nothing had been solved. At last, the doubts moved in too deeply, and she had no intention of losing all self-respect, or letting her own hopes for a fulfilling career become crushed by standing in the background, giving way completely.
But there was really no way to leave Finn behind completely. She had always loved the look of him, the feel of him, the deep quality of his voice, the sound of his laughter. The scent of him. Her folks had been living in Maine at the time, and she’d gone home, and taken work with an old friend who was a guitarist, singing light rock and folk music at a coffeeshop. The pay hadn’t been great, but the hours and perks had been wonderful—great coffee, good food, and time to work on the songwriting that was her true love and passion in life— as far as her career went. Living with her parents wasn’t difficult, their home in Maine was large, and she had an entire area of the place to herself, a carriage house that had been beautifully remodeled into an apartment.
But when she should have been working, she spent her time wondering about her estranged husband, and the flutist.
Maybe the flutist was no longer with him. Maybe he had moved on to a keyboard player.
She had been away for six months, wondering whether or not to sign the divorce papers, when he had shown up one night at the coffeeshop. Civil at first, but cold. He had quizzed her about her friend, Harry, with whom she was working. She thought about letting him think what he wanted to think. Harry was handsome. Gorgeous. Dark haired, blue eyed. Really nice. So was his boyfriend. When Finn cast off his mantle of cool detachment, she found herself admitting that Harry would never be more than a friend, though a very good friend. And when they stood in the summer breeze outside the place, he told her very seriously that there had never been anything between him and the flutist, any other musician, or any other woman, period. She had suspected; he had denied, and then been angry that she had suspected, and ... it just hadn’t been a good time. He couldn’t live without her, and he wanted her back.
She could have melted on the spot, and in her way, she did, throwing herself into his arms, practically sobbing, ready to strip him in the street. She didn’t tell her parents he was there that night; she was just grateful that her apartment was an annex, far to the left of the main house.
They’d gone home to New Orleans the next week, where he’d had great work lately, fronting a number of well-known groups at the House of Blues. Many of their friends had been skeptical. Mainly because of the bread episode.
In the midst of one of their arguments, he’d backed her against a table on their balcony, which overlooked the street. She had been about to make sandwiches.
The bread was there, and she had furiously grabbed the loaf by its plastic cover, and struck him over the head. Naturally, they’d been seen. Rumor spread. He’d been pushing her around. She’d struck him not with bread, but a bottle of wine. According to rumor, she’d desperately attacked him with the wine because he’d been about to use violence against her. No matter how many times she’d tried to tell people it had been a loaf of bread, a bottle of wine made a better story. When they’d split, it hadn’t seemed to matter too much. Now, explaining the episode was tiresome.
Friends had called friends ... had called relatives... had called her parents. So naturally now that they were back, her folks were concerned.
It was possible to understand Finn’s anger when she had screamed so ...
But he should have understood as well.
She wished she hadn’t screamed here, in Salem.
She had actually grown up not in Salem, but in close-by Marblehead. And though she was able to see many members of her extended family, they hadn’t come for that reason. Finn had come home one day to tell her that he’d received a really top quality financial offer to entertain at a hotel in Salem for the entire week before Halloween. The money was truly impressive; the prestige of being offered such a solo gig was equally persuasive. First, they were going on a vacation, taking the honeymoon they’d never had before, and spend time in Florida. Sunny Florida, and then spooky old Salem. While they were gone, the workmen could do some of the necessary repairs on their home in the French Quarter, and it would all be perfect Perhaps he hadn’t realized just how far rumors had gone, and that her family members would all stare at him, wondering if he was a wife beater, if Megan shouldn’t have stayed as far away from him as she could.
She turned, wanting then to make amends, wishing she’d never touched that loaf of bread.
To her surprise, he was no longer lying awake. His eyes were closed, lips slightly parted, and he was breathing deeply and evenly.