back off the edge of her seat and sat up bone straight. She didn’t speak immediately, and I was
happy to wait. I charged by the hour
for certain charms and rituals, after all. My schedule for that day—and the next, for that matter—was clear as a saint’s conscience. So
I let Sophie sit there and fill the easy silence, fiddling with her thumb ring for as long as she wanted.
She pulled it off, then on, then off once more before she set it on the table.
Finally, she met
my eyes. I was surprised by the intensity of this little wisp of a girl’s gaze. “I need a poppet, a spirit doll,”
she said and then added, “I think.”
lovesick child. A young woman wearing the pitiful expres-
sion Sophie wore always meant a love spell. I withheld the sigh that wanted badly to escape my throat. “Tell me
what you’re looking for, and I’ll tell
you if you need a poppet or something else.”
around the room, and I got the distinct impression she was trying
to decide how much of her story to tell me. “This room feels, I don’t know . . .” She rubbed
her hands up and down her arms. “Spiritual. I can feel it
more here than . . .”
finish her sentence. More spiritual than the shop down- stairs from where she lived, perhaps? Was that why she’d chosen to come
me? I guessed if the boyfriend or husband lived there, too, it might have been
a little too close to home.
“It’s my boyfriend.” She placed her hands flat on the tablecloth. Her short nails were painted a bright red.
Sophie was a study in contrasts. “I need him to love me. To stay with me.”
degree crammed in a box at the back of my closet
pro- claimed me an expert
in marketing, but to my clientele I was a seasoned psychotherapist, training be damned.
“‘Need’ is a strong word. Since you’re
here, I’m guessing something has happened that has given you the
inclination that your feelings for him aren’t mutual.
Sometimes, endings are just the beginning you need. Toying with the natural order of things
can have unexpected conse- quences. You sure that’s
what you want?”
Typically, at this point, there would be tears. Some denials. A fit or tantrum. Sophie
Thibault smiled. A wicked sight,
more a tooth baring than anything. And the goddess Erzulie roiled, tugging at the water in my body, turning
it ice cold. She didn’t trust the girl. Goose bumps erupted along my arms. I needed a sweater, maybe a pair of gloves, but didn’t dare get up in the middle of the consultation. That would’ve been untoward.
“Men don’t know what they want.” Sophie suddenly sounded twenty years
older. And people said I had an old
soul. “We have to show them. Guide them. Only problem is, other women always
get in the way of the work you’re trying to put in.”
I didn’t point
out that I, too, was a woman. Or that perhaps the other woman who was interfering with her boyfriend may have had the same thoughts about her. But that other
woman wasn’t paying for the andouille sausage that would go into tonight’s
jambalaya. “The question you have to ask yourself,” I said, “is if this man wants to be somewhere else,
do you truly want to compel him—”
said without hesitation.
“You have to
consider how you’ll feel.” Little Sophie was going to get the speech
whether she wanted
it or not. “Compelling a man to stay
with you sounds
good until you realize
that without the compulsion, he might
be somewhere else. I’ve got to tell you that many of my clients feel that it isn’t worth
it in the end. As long as you’re paying
me, I have the right to
give you my advice. Far as I’m concerned, sitting in that chair, you’ve already
solicited it. And if you want my advice, I’d say let the man move on if he wants.”
her nails, then thrummed her fingers against the table. She’d still have to pay my consultation fee, even without
the poppet. That would at least get
me some whitefish. When she finally answered, I wasn’t
“What do I need for
“The Law of Contact
dictates that we need something connected to your boyfriend. I construct the poppet from simple fabric.”
I indicated the bales of cloth that I used for such
things poking out of a basket in the corner.
“That is, if you want me to construct it from scratch. Or you can buy one of the premade and I can fill it in later.”
traveled to the wall on her right that held rows of premade poppets. She turned back to me and shook her head. “No,
I want to have one made
Smart girl. “We’ll make a follow-up
appointment. I need a personal article from your boyfriend. Hair, a nail clipping, or something like that.”
her head and watched me for a moment. Had she changed her mind? Then she pulled her purse over her head, rummaged around
inside, and removed
a small silken pouch. She pushed it over
toward me with the tip of her index finger. She’d already known.
I undid the tie
and looked inside. A few strands of straight blond hair sat nestled atop a pile of dirt. My heart raced, but
outwardly I remained calm. What
type of spell was this girl hoping for?
I asked to see if she’d tell me.
“It’s from his plant.
It’s about the only thing he tends to in the
apartment. He loves that plant more than me. Waters it, clips back the leaves, even sings to it when he plays his guitar. Figured you needed
personal, and for him, it doesn’t get much more personal than his snake
From a plant,
huh? I didn’t voice my suspicion that she wanted something more nefarious. Hell, maybe I shouldn’t have even been suspicious. “You want to wait or come back?”
her phone from her purse.
That there was more to this girl than met the eye
was a given. That it was none of my business allowed me to cast the thought out of my mind and focus on my work. I took the emerald-green fabric
Sophie had selected,
retreated to my workspace, and drew the blue curtain
Poppets could run the gamut from straightforward to convoluted. The variety my new client needed fell on
the relatively simple end of that spectrum.
Everything began with the initial
construction. Some in the priesthood
used wax, or clay. Unless specifically requested, however, I preferred
the natural feel of a hardy quilting fabric.
I premade poppet
husks in what could only be called a vaguely
human shape: a head and torso, two arms and two legs. I stitched the two halves together, leaving one side open
so that the doll could be customized according to need.
Next came the stuffing. My go-to was Spanish moss, but
cotton would do in a pinch. In a
small glass bowl, I tossed in ground Adam and
Eve root, a teaspoon or so of crushed rose petal, and a pinch of sugar. After mixing this up with my fingers, I added the hair that Sophie had given me. I left out the dirt. Could have been from a grave for all I knew. As I sprinkled
the mixture onto the moss, I searched my mind for just the right psalm and whispered
the words: For the director of music. With stringed instruments. A psalm.
A song. May God be gracious to us and bless
us and make his face shine on us.