Beulah considered the spell that had been the work of the last decade.
She considered young woman now leaving the property a young woman who attended the property – an 85 year old Widow. Valise in hand, she was headed off to a new life, away from whispers of what she’d done when she was twenty (the story originally had been what they did when they were twenty, but as more and more of the children of the original miscreants told the story, rather than the people who had been there, they didn’t wish to impugn their own parents, and so one by one the party shrank until it was only the woman leaving now and Beulah – and nobody made whispers like that about Beulah where she might be some day hear them); she left behind two dead husbands, three dead children, eight grandchildrens and at least four great-grandchildren, one of whom was Beulah’s great-grand-niece.
She left behind the whispers about her mysteriously dead first husband and her second marriage, suspiciously only a year after that death. (Neither were suspicious or mysterious to Beulah, who had gotten her own hands dirty with the ox of a first husband so that Isaiah, the second, didn’t need to.)
She took with her enough money in her valise to set her up comfortably anywhere, enough clothing to make her look as a fashionable woman if her new apparent age ought to, and enough wisdom to hopefully not make the same mistakes twice.
She had been Beulah’s third test subject — fourth, but the first had been on her deathbed already and had known there was only a slim chance of success.
Beaulah considered the power. The family power, her legacy as the Aunt, the head of the family, wrapped around her like an overgrown dog.
“It’s time,” she told it.
She winced at the tremor that went through it. It could only be a whine, and the whole family would be hearing that, if they were paying any attention at all.
“You know it is.” She could stay on, of course. Continue running the family for another 80 years — or longer. The spell, while tricky, could be repeated, and while some of its components were difficult to acquire, they were not impossible. She could run the family as Aunt ad infinitum.
But that was not the way the family was meant to run. And if she was being selfish, she would think about 80 more years of meddling older relatives, family politics, training bright young girls who would never, if she was still there, have a chance to be Aunt, handling young men who did not understand how the power worked, and babies. So many babies.
“It’s time to hand the reins over to someone else.”
The power, this time, shook indignantly. It was not a horse.
She was going to have to hurry if it kept this up.
“Not your reins. The reins of the family.”
The power settled down, washing over Beulah in a sensation that could only be read as I’ll miss you.
“I’ll miss you, too.” The spell took a full day to prepare, but she’d prepared two batches. She also had her own valise packed and a dress more suitable to a young woman – one of her nieces had left it here and it had disappeared into Beulah’s closet a few months ago – waiting for her.
She finished her tea and studied the leaves. Change. “Thank you,” she told it tartly. “I could have figured that out.” She left the teacup on the table, where the family could see it and think it meant death, as it sometimes did.
She drew a circle on the dining room floor and stepped into it. This portion of the spell took only fifteen minutes.
She activated it and felt the decades begin to peel off. She felt the aches and soreness that afflicted even an Aunt begin to vanish. Her eyes were clearer. Her teeth were – well, were. Her joints no longer hurt.
As the last of the age melted away, she felt the power also slip off of her shoulders. It would be looking for a new Aunt.
She stepped out of the circle and changed her clothes, fluffed her hair, and picked up her valise. The family would be here soon. She had to hurry.
The cornfield would be the quickest. There was still a light early mist hanging over it, too. She hurried down the steps, revelling at a body that moved the way it ought to, moved through the garden, getting mud on the shoes she’d bought for this, and sent a last good-bye to the house as she made it to the cornfield.
The Place inside the field was waiting for her. She gave one last long look behind her, just as the family started to arrive, and headed into the mist.