Jealousy

gone to meet a lover
outside the queen’s chamber
naked finger to her lips
whispers before the fire
as if there were no ghosts here
no secrets hidden in my bodice
just blood staining my hands

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Molly #24

The next morning at breakfast, my sisters were talking about how we were going to be moving to a different town. I didn’t understand what they meant at first, and then Samantha said we would be going hundreds of kilometres away to a town in the south western part of the state.

All I could think about was Stephanie and how I would get to see her if we were going to be so far away. I felt numb at the thought of leaving her behind and missing all those things that were comfortable and familiar.

At school that day I told Stephanie that I was meant to be moving away.

“You’re kidding me aren’t you Molly?”

“No,” I said sadly, “It’s true. We go at the end of the month.”

“What about all our plans? Who am I going to sit with at lunchtime?”

“I’m sorry, Steph. I don’t want to go.”

We hugged each other and moped around the playground until every day started to be full of last things – the last game of soccer; the last time I went to Stephanie’s house; the last day of school.

As the time drew closer, I had to start to pack all of my things, feeling sad as each toy or book disappeared into the bottom of the box. I wrote my name on top in big letters using a marking pen so that it wouldn’t get lost when the men came to take it away in a truck.

On the morning we were leaving I woke up very early, before anyone else was awake. The house was quiet and I walked slowly around looking in each empty room, trying to soak as much of it into my memory as I could so I would never forget. I went outside and sat down under the mulberry tree, looking up into the branches and thinking about all the fun times I had played with Stephen there.

I closed my eyes to hold the tears in and then must have fallen asleep because I woke up hearing my name being called from the house.

“Molly,” called Mum. “Molly, where are you?” The men with the truck had come back to take the last of our furniture. I looked up in time to see my bed disappearing into the back of the truck. I sat there with tears in my eyes when Mum came along and picked me up. I felt really heavy and sad.

“Oh Molly, there you are. What are you doing out here, sweetheart?”

“Mum, do we have to go? I want to stay here forever.”

“Come on Molly. This is just something we have to do as part of growing up. It will help you grow into a big strong girl.” Mum kissed my head softly.

“But I don’t want to grow up.”

I pressed my face against her shoulder and cried as she carried me back to the house. I was still sniffling when I climbed into the car and Dad drove out of the driveway. As I looked back through the window and watched the house disappear, I could see Stephanie standing on the corner waving goodbye.

Book review – Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman

I hardly know where to start in reviewing Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman. I fell in love with it straight away and it is now firmly in my top twenty favourite novels of all time! I have to confess that I love books with magic realism and Practical Magic has it in spades. I was blown away by the depth of understanding Alice Hoffman shows, in human nature, folk magic and all things love. The whole novel is almost a ‘how to’ manual for growing up and falling in love.

For more than two hundred years, the Owens women have been blamed for everything that has gone wrong in town.’

The opening sentence immediately suggests this is a story about witches. Of course, the wise women and healers had always been blamed when things went wrong for hundreds of years. It was part of folk superstition. It was the basis of the witch hunts and patriarchal domination of women. So it seems from the outset the women of this story have some ‘magical’ ability – enough to be the subject of the town’s suspicions.

Once a year, on midsummer’s eve, a sparrow would find its way into the Owens house.’

Midsummer’s eve is the time around the summer solstice. Evil spirits were said to wander during the summer solstice. It also marked the beginning of the end as days become progressively shorter. The sparrow itself is a bringer of luck, good and bad. In Greek mythology the sparrow was a symbol of love – fitting for this novel – while in English folk lore a sparrow flying into the home meant a foretelling of death. There is plenty of love and death in this novel so I’m guessing that Alice Hoffman used the sparrow to convey both meanings.

‘Crossed knives set out on the dinner table means there’s bound to be a quarrel, but so do two sisters living under the same roof, particularly when one of them is Antonia Owens.’

Alice Hoffman is brilliant in her understanding of teenage girls. Their capriciousness, self-doubt, half girl, half woman – she captures it all. One moment I found myself falling in love with these characters, the next I could see too much of myself reflected back. Sisters have a special bond, but growing up so closely with someone that is probably going through much the same emotional experiences, possibly just not at the same time, is a recipe for conflict in any house. But it is almost a universal truth that sisters love each other in a way that no two other people can. This is not the fairy tale of never ending love we are fed on as children. This is a love forged in shared experiences. This is a key theme throughout this novel. Although the story is about romantic love everything that happens revolves around the three pairs of Owens sisters, each at different stages of life.

‘On the morning of Kylie Owens’s thirteenth birthday, the sky is endlessly sweet and blue, but long before the sun rises, before alarm clocks go off, Kylie is already awake.’

The innocence of turning thirteen – reflected in the sweet and blue sky – is contrasted with the awakening of womanhood inside. Kylie knows something is different now that she is a teenager. She doesn’t know what it is yet. Is it her? Is it the way the world now sees her? Or is it some combination of the two? There is a magic about being thirteen. A time when you don’t even know who you are yet but there are so many demands placed on a young girl. Parents’ expectations, school teachers… boys!

‘All of the teenage boys down at the Hamburger Shack say, ‘No onions,’ when Gillian takes their orders.’

All of the teenage boys (and later the men) in this novel are obsessed with the Owens sisters. The sort of obsession that makes teenage boys forget what they were about to do. They forget where they were going or what they were about to say. They forget everything because one glimpse of one of the Owens sisters is enough to turn any teenage boy weak at the knees. In this way Alice Hoffman reduces teenage boys and men to gibbering idiots. There are very few men that are worthy of the Owens sisters (and by implication, very few men that are worthwhile, period!). I think in a way she is making fun of popular notions of romantic love and concepts like love at first sight. I see it as a warning to women not to be suckered in by flowers and gifts and words of love because there is something much deeper out there waiting for you. She does this by setting the novel in a world of magic realism that makes us question common conventions of what love is.

‘If a woman is in trouble she should always wear blue for protection.’

Blue is a symbol of many things in folk mythology, including protection. So why does Alice Hoffman think women need protection? Is it from men? Other women? Themselves? Maybe she means it as a symbol of protection against all of those things that drive a woman to be something other than who she is meant to be. This is another example of the magical realism that persists throughout this novel. The notion that we are surrounded by magic if we only know to look for it. The book is loaded with these superstitious beliefs, interwoven throughout the story so they seem like truths.

‘Two hundred years ago, people believed that a hot and steamy July meant a cold and miserable winter.’

Sally is practical and sensible. She spends most of her life trying not to believe the folk myths surrounding her aunts. She denies that anything happening in nature is a portent of something about to happen in her life. But all the while, Sally (and the reader) is drawn inexorably toward her own destiny. When we finally reach this point it seems as though it were always inevitable. I think Alice Hoffman is suggesting that we all have our passions and no matter how much we deny them we cannot avoid our own true natures.

‘Always keep mint on your windowsill in August, to ensure that buzzing flies will stay outside, where they belong.’

The use of mint has a long history dating back to early human civilisations. Historians have suggested mint was brought to England by the Romans. Regardless of its historical origins, it is little wonder mint has a place in folk magic because its strong smell would have suggested mystical powers. The use of mint in the context of Practical Magic suggests that we ignore such folk myths at our own peril. Do you dare not put mint on your windowsill? I know I will.

‘On the eighth day of the eighth month, the aunts arrive on a Greyhound bus.’

In a novel about independence, among other things, Alice Hoffman only gives a sketch of the aunts in the early chapters before turning her attention to the sisters, Sally and Gillian. We get to know them intimately, inside and out. We learn their innermost fears. We learn their secret desires. But overarching all of this is the example set by the aunts while the two girls were young. It is no coincidence that the aunts come back toward the end of the book when they are needed the most. It suggests that we can never run away from our past or our heritage. And ultimately it is this heritage that Sally and Gillian reclaim as they come to terms with themselves and ultimately discover the love they always longed for.

‘On the outskirts of the city the fields have turned red and the trees are all twisted and black.’

Magic realist novels had their origins in Latin and South America before spreading to other parts of the world. In case you couldn’t tell already I absolutely love reading magic realist novels and Practical Magic is no exception. The only way to judge a book is how it makes you feel when you’re reading it. So much of this novel spoke directly to my heart and made me laugh and cry and cry and laugh throughout. Now I’m going to have to watch the movie starring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman (which I’ve never done) and Alice Hoffman’s latest novel The Rules of Magic is high on my wish list!

A girl with a guitar

A girl with a guitar written by Molly-Louise and performed by Ain’t Life

I’m going to find a girl with a guitar
And play her tune all night long
Lay on the beach under the stars
And sing her Frank Zappa songs

I’m going to find a girl with a car
And drive her ‘round all night long
Park somewhere under the stars
And sing her Van Morrison songs

I’m going to find a girl with faraway eyes
And hold her tight all night long
Park somewhere under the stars
And sing her Rolling Stones songs

I’m going to find a girl like you
And dance with her all night long
Do whatever she wants to do
And sing her Foreigner songs

Fashion: Imperial orchid

Fashion-Review dress

Simply devine Imperial orchid dress from Review Australia. Navy dress with intertwined petal blush pink and silver thread. Lace embroidered detailing, halter neck and hidden zip. Fit and flare style with an A-line skirt.

Molly #23

Stephanie and I walked out of the pavilion and into a world of rides, clowns and show bags. With all the excitement and noise spinning around me I soon forgot to be sad and we lined up for a ride on the dodgem cars. Mum bought some tickets and Stephanie and I climbed into the same car. She steered because she was bigger than me and I couldn’t reach the pedals or steering wheel. The bell rang and we were soon off, whizzing around and around, sometimes bumping into other cars and swerving all over the place. We were laughing our heads off the whole time and I was quite breathless by the end.

My head was still spinning after I got out of the dodgem car and Mum had bought some fairy floss for Stephanie and me. As we walked along holding hands and eating our fairy floss I told Stephanie that I had never had so much fun in my life. We swore we would be best friends forever and I felt my eyes sparkling with joy. We gave each other a big hug and I thought how amazing it was that I felt so perfect and happy when I was with Stephanie.

I was really tired by the end of the day, but I was floating with happiness as I sat in the car. I kept watching the showground through the back window of the car as we drove away and I could see the tops of the ferris wheel and some of the rides poking above the trees. There was still some fairy floss left on my stick and I licked it with my tongue, giggling at the way its sugary spider webs dissolved in my mouth. When I closed my eyes, I could picture the clown’s heads with their wide open mouths turning from side to side in the middle of all that noise and dust.

That night at dinner, the girls were still talking excitedly about the show.

“Did you see how cute the lambs were?”

“I didn’t go anywhere near the animals,” said Samantha. “It was too dusty and smelly in there.”

“Oh, but they were so cute, and the smell wasn’t that bad,” said Jasmine.

“What about the trick riders?” Catherine said, “They were fantastic. There was this one guy that leaned right down off his horse and picked a girl up from the ground and then she climbed on his shoulders as they rode.”

“Yeah, I saw that. They were so amazing.”

“I’ll tell you what was amazing was the rides. Did you go on the zipper?”

“No way! It made me feel sick just looking at it.”

“I nearly was!” said Samantha as she swallowed a mouthful of peas.  “It looked tame but as soon as I climbed in the cage it took off, and then I was upside down and suddenly spinning around. My legs were all wobbly when I got off.”

“Aw yuck!”

There was no way I would have gotten on a ride like that. I thought about how much fun I’d had with Stephanie on the dodgem cars and smiled to myself.

“Well it’s a good thing you all had fun,” said Dad, “Because next year we’ll be at a different show.”

“What do you mean?” Mum suddenly put down her knife and fork and looked sharply at him.

“I just heard this afternoon, we’re moving again. It’s only a rumour, but you know how these things work out.”

“I thought we had decided to stay here while the girls were at school?” I watched Mum’s face because she didn’t look very happy.

“Well, we’ll talk about it after dinner,” said Dad.

The girls had gone quiet and everyone had forgotten about the show.

As I lay in bed after dinner I could hear Mum and Dad talking in the lounge room. Every now and then Dad would raise his voice, not quiet yelling but I could tell he was putting his foot down and wasn’t going to budge.

When Mum came into my bedroom to tuck me in bed, I knew she had been crying. I gave her an extra hard hug when she kissed me goodnight.

“Mum, what’s happening?” I asked quietly.

“There’s nothing to worry about, Molly,” she said. “Just go to sleep, darling, and everything will be all right.” She turned out the light but left my bedroom door slightly open.

That night I had a dream that was full of images of colourful things spinning around. Suddenly I was on the back of a horse, riding over jumps and through hoops; then I was in a dodgem car and laughing my head off, but when I turned to smile at Stephanie it was actually Dad holding the steering wheel and we were driving out of the showground.

Midsummer blue

I don’t care
to blame others
for thinking of the past
of things that have gone out of style
love, marriage, family, first kisses
wandering the shadows, morning mist
cyber secrets like ancient charms
traded after dark where words are power
dancing flames of hair, emerald eyes
glance sharply, voice echoes
a witch’s refrain to leave it alone
because midsummer blue
will always be a dreamer

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