“What are you doing?” her mother practically hissed with rage. “He is a Tremaine! He was willing to propose to you! He could have proposed to you at the Crystal Ball, in front of everyone! Do you have any idea the humiliation that I’ve suffered year after year, listening to the other mothers talk about the matches their daughters made? How will I marry off your younger sister when you’re practically an old maid?”
“I’m sure it’s been terrible for you,” Fiona said between clenched teeth.
“It has. It has.” Good sarcasm was always wasted on Desdemona. At best, she misunderstood completely, and at worst, it infuriated her.
Desdemona dabbed at her eyes with a handkerchief, overwrought. “He is very interested in making a good political match. You can still turn this around. Now I demand that you go after him immediately, apologize profusely, tell him you were joking, and – “ Fiona moved around her mother so that she was standing by the doorway.
“You can’t demand a thing, mother. I am over 21, no longer under your control, and I have no intention of marrying that humorless dishrag. You realize the only reason he’d want to propose to me is because he’s so socially repellent that no decent witch will have him?”
“Well, of course! That’s why he’s a perfect choice! After all, no decent warlock would have you when you insist on looking like – like this!” She waved her hand at Fiona’s size eighteen frame. “But he’ll take you, because everyone else has turned him down, and he’s desperate!”
Renoir sucked in a sharp intake of breath.
A wave of anger and humiliation and sorrow washed over Desdemona, and blinking back tears, she turned and ran out of the store, rushing south down Grimoire Boulevard. “Fiona, get back here! I’m not done with you!” her mother called out.
But Fiona was done with her mother. And she knew that Desdemona wouldn’t follow her south, so even though the sun was melting into the horizon now and drawing the cloak of night behind it, she kept moving, plunging into the depths of the Graveyard, blinded by tears.
It was weak of her to let her mother’s vicious verbal lashings hurt her like this. She should be used to it by now. She’d endured it her entire life, her mother’s constant reminders of how her rolls, her curves, were horribly unbecoming to a witch, and the terrible pain she caused her mother by not subjecting herself to weight loss herbs.
She’d tried the treatments, couldn’t bear them. She’d starved herself until she was sick and weak. But finally, much to her mother’s disgust, she gave up and accepted that she was a big-boned girl and that she’d look the way she was supposed to.
Darkness fell quickly, and the silence was eerie. Fiona’s was the last street in the neighborhood where streetlamps crackled with spellectricity, bathing the street in white faerie light. She and the other merchants paid for that privilege, as well as the protection runes on their storefronts, but there was no light here. Here were abandoned buildings inhabited by ghouls and lone werewolves and rogue vampires and human gangs who’d sold their souls to dark magic, and other denizens of the night.
Suddenly she stopped in her tracks. She heard a snuffling sound from the alley just behind her. Immediately behind her. In between her and the store.
She was deep in the heart of the Graveyard now, and darkness had swallowed her. She’d been in such a hurry to get away from her mother that she’d rushed out without her pocketbook. Her wand, all of her charms, all of her weapons, were in her pocketbook.
It was beyond foolish of her to be in this part of the Graveyard without any defenses; it was suicidal. Her powerful plant magic was virtually useless here, caged in by concrete as she was. The nearest trees, sickly and small, that she could sense, were blocks away.