Short Story: Ill-Met By Candlelight

The remaining members of the coven met one more time by the canal that evening. Their meal was lit by candles brought across to their table by the restaurant owner. Their warm glow, a bubble of light in the darkened street, cast rippling reflections on the walls around them and across their animated shadows.

They were safe for now, and as they relaxed, their chatter echoed in the night air; but not so much that it drowned out the slap of water against the canal wall, or the occasional knock of the gondola against its mooring. The smell of tomato and basil, garlic and other herbs was already beginning to waft from the open restaurant door.

Cecilia had rescued most of the book from the fire, and she placed it with care beside her for all to see. She had wrapped it in twine to try and keep it from losing any more pages, and brushed off the worst of the charring and soot. It drew all their eyes, even in its diminished state.

Josie flicked the feather in her bonnet away from her eyes and coloured a little. Louisa shifted her position a little, adjusting the hem of her skirt and sitting even more straight-backed than usual. Neither of them said anything. They left that to Margaret.

“I suppose it was too much to hope that it would have gone up with everything else. Why on earth did you rescue it Cecilia? More trouble than it was ever worth, I say.” She shook her head and began to butter one of the little rolls that Guiseppe had left for them while he prepared their meal.

“Everything was going perfectly well until the candle fell over. The writing in it is very difficult to read.” Cecilia knew how defensive she sounded, but couldn’t stop a plaintive note entering her voice.

“Some of us do stop to ask the difference between cursed and cursive.” Josie said. Louisa scowled and slapped the table, making the cutlery jump.

“That’s enough of that Josie. Just because you mistook the word lemon for demon.” Louisa addressed Josie directly rather than favouring the ‘sarcastic comment to the air’ approach of her coven-sister. Josie tried to kick her under the table.

“If the three of you could act like the grown-ups you pretend to be?” Margaret said. She lifted her glass in a toast. “It’s been a notably crap couple of days ladies. A thought for those who didn’t make it this far. Absent friends.”

“Absent friends.” They all joined in and clinked glasses. Just then Guiseppe and one of his waiters appeared with their food. They paused while the correct plates were positioned before each of them, and posed for a photo together. Guiseppe cajoled smiles from them as he took the souvenir photo, and then retreated back into the warmth of his kitchen while the waiter topped up their wine.

“Where do you think everyone else is?” Cecilia asked.

“Well, last I saw, Emma had run off into the night, so we may see her before the evening’s finished. Phillipa and Eleanor were dragging those sailors out of the bar so good luck with that; oh and Katie was trying to get back into the club.” Margaret ticked off the names on her fingers. “Laura and Jen took Mel and Kerry to the hospital. Did anyone see Sophie?”

“Yes,” said Louisa. “The Police put her in the back of their van. It’s the drunk tank for her.” She tried not to laugh, failed, and hiccuped wine.

“Best Hen Night weekend, ever!” The witches agreed.