The witch in the supermarket didn’t look like a witch. For a start, she didn’t have a big pointy hat or nose to match. There wasn’t a hairy wart on her chin and her skin wasn’t green. In fact, she had great skin. There was a good reason for her flawless face, and she explained without having to be asked. “I work two jobs,” she said, giving an easy smile while I moved the contents of my trolley through her checkout. “I work here during the week and at the weekend I do Avon. Honey, their Platinum Day Cream SPF 25 Anti-Wrinkle Serum is amazing. It’s the only thing I wear in bed.” She scanned a box of Kellogg’s All Bran, which I’d only started eating. I hate the taste, it’s like swallowing ratty old slippers with milk, but it kept me regular. My IBS (also known as Itchy Butt Syndrome) was a literal pain in the arse. The next item scanned from my trolley is a pack of pee-proof pants. Yes, I’m that woman, like millions of others, the one with IBS and a weak bladder. It was a recent thing. Actually, I used to be a clubber, raver, and party girl – the one with the best outfits, the biggest wardrobes, and the highest heels. But my body broke down after giving birth and I hadn’t managed to get it back in complete working order. I really needed an MOT for MOThers.
Bleep! Bleep! Bleep!
The witch at the checkout was scanning my shopping.
Bleep! Bleep! Bleep!
And the only wand in the supermarket was the kind that scanned barcodes, which it did so very quickly.
The witch was fast and efficient, waving her hand over bottles of bleach, cans of food, alcohol, soap, detergent, chips, chicken, crisps, steak pies. I opened my mouth to ask for another bag, but stopped myself before I said anything. My Bags For Life were on the verge of bursting. Bags For Life? I only bought them a fortnight ago. I felt like one of those shabby shopping bags, ready to burst.
“That’ll be fifty-eight pounds and seventy-two pence.”
“Thank you,” I said absently. Without saying anything else, I slotted my bank card into the reader, put in my PIN, then waited for the transaction to go through, always fearful something would go wrong in public.
While I waited, the witch asked me a question.
“Are you okay, love?”
I thought, ‘what an odd question for a stranger to ask another stranger.’
Odder than that, though, was the fact I answered her question honestly.
“No,” I told her. “I don’t like my husband very much.”
“Honey, dear, if your husband is who I think he is…then I don’t like him very much either.”
The witch tore off the receipt for my weekly shop and handed me it. As she passed it over, I considered telling her to mind her own business, to keep her opinions of my husband to herself. Instead, I found myself telling her everything. There was no queue behind me, so we had time to talk.
“He’s changed since the election,” I explained warily.
“Or perhaps he’s finally showing his real self to the world?”
“Does he know you’re unhappy?”
“Why should he? He only needs me for photo-ops.”
I didn’t mean that to sound so bitter, yet a tightness in me suddenly loosened as I said it aloud, that simple action of telling a stranger how I felt. Speaking the truth meant hearing it in my own voice – and that made it impossible to ignore. “Do you still love him?”
The witch nodded in sympathy.
“Love isn’t always sensible,” she said glumly.
“Why are you so interested anyway?”
“You have…a look about you.”
“Oh my God,” I gasped. “Is it because I didn’t brush my hair this morning?”
The witch laughed. It was a loud and happy laugh.
“I know these things. I’m very sensitive.”
I went to hoist my shopping into the trolley by the checkout point when I suddenly realised something wasn’t right. Once again, I spoke my deepest thoughts aloud, putting them in earshot.
“I don’t know why I’m telling you so much.”
The witch at the checkout grinned, revealing neatly settled teeth, perfect pearls.
“It’s an old trick I learned. I put a glamour on myself, one that made you want to tell me everything. But it only works if the recipient isn’t aware of it. Now that you know about it, I can’t do it anymore.”
Not one word she said made the slightest bit of sense to me.
Understanding my confusion, the witch tried again.
“I cast a spell on you.”
At last, she explained everything in three words.
“I’m a witch.”
Looking around conspiratorially, she leaned forward until her work ID dangled underneath her neck, an inch from the counter. It wasn’t quite the pentagram of power I’d expected to see on a real life witch. The name on the card was written in bold black font – MARY KERSHAW.
“Would you like me to cast a spell for you?”
“No,” I said, though the idea definitely held some appeal. Ever since I was a child, I’d been fascinated by witches, magic, and things that knocked on the door late at night. The only time someone knocked on my door was when they were trying to sell me some insurance.
“Are you sure? I could do one for you right now.”
“Honestly, no thanks. I need to go.”
She took the hint and told me how much I owed. Placing my card against the reader, I finished up and headed outside into a gale force wind, which felt something like a blessing, a lungful of breath blowing me towards my car. There weren’t many people at the supermarket, which was slightly less busy that normal. A football match had made it quiet, I assumed. Or a bomb scare. It didn’t matter, I was almost away in my own world, thinking of the witch in the supermarket. Only the squeaky sound of unoiled trolley wheels a reminder that I had to keep pushing my way to the edge of the parking lot. Once there, I got the boot of my car open, then threw the bags into the back, trying to get it done before the rain really tore down. It was when I got to the driver’s side of the car that something nearby caught my attention.
Cars in a row, not many, but enough to make me look.
Something was parked in one of the spaces that wasn’t a car.
Peering through the rain, I suddenly laughed. A few metres in front of me was a broomstick, floating in the space designated for one of the cars. A stick with long bristles of straw tied to the base with a strap, parked by and waiting for a witch while she worked her shift at the supermarket. Feeling slightly jealous, I nonetheless got into my car, inserted the key, turned it, and took the wheel in both hands, my eye on the road and my thoughts on magic.