Crimson, Clover, and Genevieve

Submitted into Contest #179 in response to: Start your story with someone making a vision board.... view prompt


Fiction Fantasy LGBTQ+

No. No. No. Clara’s fingers snarled through the roots of her hair as her legs hurried her bare feet over the lengths of the floorboards. The lantern’s light wavered and brought her to a halt. It stayed on, in the end. She stopped at the desk. Madness. She knew it. She sliced a calloused finger through the flame. Back again, a second, third, and fourth time, Clara figured she must be pushing her luck. 

She glared, spiteful, at her pile of stuff. Madness, yes. But she needed to do what the old witch said. “Argh!” She cried out, “why can’t just one thing be easy?!” As the sound thudded and nestled in the thick walls of the shack, she regretted the thought. “Don’t be so flimsy, Clara.” She swept the pile into her hand and took the longest-burning candle into the other. 

A sprig of evergreen – Adam’s Needle, to be precise. A drip of wax. Onto the wall it went. 

The petal of a rose. Drip of wax. Onto the wall. 

Elderberry. Wax. Wall. 

Ivy. Wall. 

Portrait of her. “Genevieve,” Clara whispered as she stared at the picture and ran her rough, nimble fingers over its surface. “I am so sorry.”

Everything was there, splayed out before her. The portrait still in her hand, she fished a scrap of parchment - the one with the instructions – out of her sack. Three finger widths North the Elderberry, South the Rose, West Adam’s Needle and East the Ivy. Centered just so, not a hair off. Hair. Right. Clara remembered another instruction. The longest lock of her own, braided in five, was necessary for the connection between the elements. Between her and Genevieve. She scooped that, pre-prepared by the witch herself, off of the desk. 

She paused and peered at the Zinnias plant on the small table in the corner. Its coloring remained white. If she did everything right, it would soon turn yellow, and within a sun cycle it would be scarlet. Only then would it be time to go and get her. She was meant to envision the color change, images of her reunification with Genevieve. She would be waiting beneath the Willow. But not yet. Not until everything was in place. 

Clara took the candle again and dripped the melted wax along one side of the braid, then arranged it in a Sinneas spiral. One end touching the photograph, she wormed it around until it touched each herb, ending due North at the Elderberry. 

She glanced back at the list. Douse thyself in Witch Hazel entirely. Position the beet-dyed candles to mirror the spiral. One palm to the wall, the other over the heart. Visualize. 

She went back to the desk and did not find the bottle of tincture there. She rummaged through the sack. Not there. She rummaged through the entire shack. 

“No, no, NO!” Clara raged. “It has to be TONIGHT!” 

Clara pulled back the curtain and saw the sun was beginning to set. The pressure in her chest had risen and hardened in her throat as it burned behind her eyes. She tore a path from the window to the door, swung her wool cloak over her shoulders and her satchel across her chest. Her boots had not yet dried out at the fireplace. She would be quick, she was sure. She stole two pairs of sturdy stockings – one of woven wool, the other, Mother’s knitting – from the rack by the door. “I will be quick,” Clara recited to herself. 

The earth of a wet January in New England laughed at her. Silly, stupid girl, it squawked and hissed with the squish of her steps. It was loud without the wind, in the ominous absence of air currents fitting about. Clara knew she shouldn’t have been out in such conditions, but it had to be that night. So, she ran. 

The old witch’s hut was just far enough to take all of Clara’s breath, but just close enough that she could return before sundown. Her fist pounded against the arched wooden door. 

“It’s Clara!” She bellowed. “Please! Please open up! I’ve lost the Witch Hazel!”

A soft glow erupted just inside the hut’s one window. The fireplace. It must have been.

“Yes,” Clara whispered. “Please!” She cried. 

Nothing else happened. Clara waited and whimpered out a final “please,” before she took a flat hand to the door and smacked it thrice. The door jolted open, just a crack. She pushed it further with her fingertips.

“Hello?” Clara called out into the dim room. With no answer, she stepped in anyway and went towards the flames. She took a girthy candle from the basket on the mantle and used the fire to light it. She thrusted it through the air into every direction, but the old witch did not reveal herself. 

Clara spotted the rack of potions and tinctures and went to it without thought. The Witch Hazel was right there. One last bottle. She grabbed it and stowed it away in her bag. It wasn’t a choice. It dawned on Clara that the fire had lit itself, and as she prepared to mull over the possible explanations, given the old witch’s absence, she remembered that dusk was approaching.

The shack was just the way she left it, though perhaps warmer. She removed her cloak and peeled off her stockings. Her feet prickled as they thawed and she tiptoed back to her envisioning wall. She wasted no time and went right forth in lighting the candles. She set them in a spiral around herself and poured the stolen liquid over her hair. Hands in position, her mind’s eye called forth images of the Zinnias, interspersed with flashes of Genevieve and her fingertips. 

And her salt streams.

And her screams. 

The young witch chanting, casting her away. 

Clara’s own cries. Her mother’s voice. They’ll have you both hung, Clara! It echoed. 

Clara squeezed her shut eyes tighter and forced in thoughts of the brook in the gully, from back before anyone knew. She sighed at the thought of Genevieve’s cheeks and yearned to stroke the hairline at her temple. The creek babbled in the background. The grass tickled their legs.

She took a gasping breath in as a foreign energy, icy-hot, overtook her and cranked her eyelids apart. She panted and blinked, taking herself in, her return to reality, her arms and her fingers. 

The Zinnias. 

Clara’s eyes flew to the corner. Scarlet. Already? She must have done it right, then.

There was a banging at the door. Muffled, indiscernible pleas vibrated from the other side. Clara leapt to her feet and stumbled back a few steps. The banging continued. Had the old witch come for her? She crept closer to the door. It couldn’t be. But she recognized the voice. She must have misunderstood. 

She yanked at the door handle. 

“Clara?” Genevieve was filthy with dirt. Her feet were bare. 

Clara stood petrified, unable to process the sight before her. It was the goal. But what was to happen next? Within a sun cycle, she recalled. Perhaps she misheard the words of the old witch. Perhaps it was meant to be within this sun cycle. 

“Clara!” Genevieve’s expression changed from one of confusion to desperation. She pushed Clara aside and shut the door behind her. Her chest rose and fell. She began to cry.

Clara snapped out of her paralysis. “Genevieve!” She rushed to her. “Gen, it worked! I did it!” She placed her hands on each of Gen’s shoulders

Gen looked up at Clara, her eyes dark and haunted. “They’re coming.”


“They’re coming. To kill me.” She burst into tears a second time. 

“No, no, Gen.” Clara took Gen into her arms. “You’re here, with me. I fixed it. I brought you back.”




Clara nodded. “You’re safe.” She placed her forehead against Gen’s cheek. Home. 

Gen sniffled and took several long breaths. 

“I missed you,” said Clara, as she nuzzled into Gen’s neck. She smelled different. A very damp and musky version of herself. It didn’t matter. Nothing did. 

“What about your mother?”

“She’s gone until the morning.”

For the first time since her banishment, Genevieve felt herself smile. It was a slight and taxing pull of her muscles. The tension in her shoulders melted and slid off onto the ground. 

“It’s very warm in here.”

“I’ve had the fire on all day. I was busy preparing.” 

“Was it a spell?”

“Yes. From the–”

“–old witch.”

Clara nodded, Genevieve shook her head. Her forehead creased.

“I hope that you were careful.”

“I was–”

“They sentenced me to death for exactly that.”

“Over there, you mean?”


“Oh, Gen.” Clara reached her hand up to cup her face. “I promise I was careful.”

“You smell of Witch Hazel.”

Clara smiled. “I am drowning in the substance.”

Gen smiled, too, her lips spread wider this time. 

“Are you ready to enjoy the evening now?” asked Clara, now beaming.

Gen nodded. “Thank you for bringing me back.”

They moseyed to the rug in front of the fireplace, fingers interlocked, and did not let go until sunrise. 

And the sun did eventually rise. 

Genevieve woke, hacking. She shoved Clara in the arm to wake her. “Clara!” She croaked. “Clara, something’s wrong. Wake up!”

The cough caught Clara’s lungs and stirred her awake. The air was thick. It hurt to take it in. Clara could barely see. 

“The windows! Open the windows!”

They scrambled and cranked them open. More smoke rolled in.

“It’s worse!” Gen shrieked. “How is it worse?!” 

Clara saw, then, the flames raging outdoors. She stuck her head out the window. The fire circled the shack. It wasn’t an accident. 

“You shouldn’t have done that spell, Clara.”


“Why can’t you ever just do as you’re told?” Mother whined as she emerged from the smog. 

“Mother, what is going on?”

“You weren’t supposed to remember her. How do you remember her?”

A hand stuck out from another angle and yanked the chain hung around Clara’s neck.

“Agh!” The metal burned as it dragged over her skin and revealed the vile she’d kept close to her chest, hidden under her garments. 

“Crimson Clover,” the young witch sneered. 

Genevieve coughed in the background, like she couldn’t catch her breath.

“Gen?!” Clara turned back to search for her. The young witch’s fistful of necklace held her by the throat. It dragged out a choking noise. 

The young witch spoke again. “Your mother had me watch over you while she was away. I saw you, scavenging for your supplies, stealing from the old witch. Silly, stupid girl.” She yanked harder at the chain until it broke. Clara cried out in pain. 


“I am sorry, Clara, but I have to save you from yourself.” Her voice was strained, stretched. She believed each one of her own words. “Just get it over with, witch!”

When Clara woke up, the smog had lifted. She couldn’t remember how she’d gotten out of it or what had been the cause. She recalled the racket of coughing, like it had been someone else there with her, but she came to assume that it must have been herself, and the nature of it being a memory was what brought on its distant-sounding character. 

She rose from the couch and clutched at a hard object in her hand. Her necklace with the vile of Crimson Clover. She wore it for protection, that much she knew. Protection from what? She wasn’t sure. The chain looked new, but it must have been the illusion of new, rested eyes. She looped it over her head, back in its rightful place. 

She came carefully to her feet and peered around the shack. The sun gleamed in from the East window. Logs crackled in the fireplace, where her mother sat, knitting a new pair of stockings. They looked about Clara’s size. 

“Did you just get back in?” Clara asked her mother.

Her mother nodded. “About an hour ago.”

A new frame was perched upon the mantle. Clara walked up to it. 

“Did you bring this back with you?” She inquired. 

“Yes. Do you like it?”

“The frame is very pretty. And so is she.” There was something familiar about the portrait, but she couldn’t quite place it. “Who is she?”

“Oh.” Mother produced a little smile and explained, “an old friend.” She looped some yarn over her needles. “Her name was Genevieve.”

January 06, 2023 16:08

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