Mage didn’t know how to handle Tommy’s encounter with the nanny. She wanted to ask the nanny, but at the same time she didn’t want to hear an answer she didn’t like. And there was no answer that wasn’t going to send her into a fit of anger. She settled on less contact with the nanny instead of more.
I imagine that feeling calm lured her into the illusion of feeling in control.
By July, the nanny’s calls had become so infrequent, it is safe to say they had stopped altogether. Mage attempted a few calls while the children were in childcare. But the nanny never answered the calls.
Showing up at the house was dangerous, and she only considered it a last resort. One which she turned over in her mind whenever the situation made her feel helpless. Unlike before, work was unable to distract her. The despair started to settle in. Tommy knew, who else knew? Could they be convinced that they were just seeing things?
To put this out of her mind, she focused her efforts on buying a new dress for her wedding anniversary next month.
She had always wanted a dress from a small downtown boutique named Laurel Prim, which specialized in professional and formal wear for high-performing women. The store had less space than the alley next to the building. Not that they needed a lot of space. One dress cost more than most people were willing to spend on a car.
I’m not even willing to pay any price for new clothes, unless it’s lower than the cost of ones I can get second-hand.
Mage’s shopping experience was guided by an attendant named Cindy. She was a slender young woman dressed in sophisticated business attire, which portrayed the illusion she could afford to purchase the store’s merchandise. With Cindy’s help, Mage browsed the store and picked out some exciting pieces to try on.
In the changing room, she discovered her dress size had gone up.
I will admit, I wondered how it was this specific moment when she noticed. I would have thought it would have been impossible to miss her own clothes feeling tighter. I suspect she was in denial, and purchasing a new dress forced her to confront the fact that her body was continuing to change in both natural and unnatural ways.
Cindy scooped up the clothes Mage was no longer interested in or, rather, didn’t fit. With two armfuls of dresses and hangers, she asked if Mage had a sister.
For a moment, Mage wondered if Olivia had spent time in this shop. But her half sister had been deceased for several years now. Mage found herself on the brink between laughing and crying in front of Cindy. She was able to prevent either from happening by considering the question, as if her answer was somehow concealed inside of it. The few times she turned it over in her head, something about it didn’t seem right.
Instead of telling Cindy she didn’t have a sister, Mage asked her what she meant.
“Well, it’s just there was a woman who looked just like you, and she tried on some of the same dresses.”
“If we looked exactly alike, how can you tell us apart?”
The attendant awkwardly looked for an exit as she said, “She’s a little taller and the dresses were smaller.”
The nanny was buying an expensive dress.
The nanny was buying an expensive dress for Mage’s wedding anniversary.
And from the tone of Cindy’s voice, the nanny had become more attractive.
I can’t imagine how Mage kept her cool, but she did. Sort of. She didn’t raise her voice, but she caused a ruckus. She demanded to know which dress her twin had picked. She also pressed Cindy for all the details about the dress. The size, the color, if there were any blemishes, if alterations were needed. I’m sure Cindy did her best. And Mage had her repeat the details over and over so they could be committed to memory.
The comment about her “sister” being taller drew attention to Mage’s new inability to stand or sit with a straight back. She was beginning to form a small hunch. The possibility that her physical change was a result of the unknown cost she had incurred for performing a spell of dark magic crossed her mind.
With the information from Cindy and an impressive amount of detective work, Mage was able to learn where the dress was being altered and when her “sister” was scheduled to pick it up.
I was surprised she didn’t wrestle over the decision as she did with every other one related to her attendance at work. Instead, she simply wrote in her journal that she was owed the time. This was surprising given the number of times she had written before about how difficult it was for her to take time off, even for family commitments.
Mage took the next day off work to stake out the dress store and confirm her “sister” was really the nanny.
Mage did not recognize the nanny at first. She had lost weight, while Mage had gained some. The nanny had done more than go to the gym. She had changed her hair. Mage didn’t know the name of the style, only recognized it as something trendy. A style meant for younger women. With bodies younger than hers. Only, the nanny’s body was younger. Mage had not looked like that when she cast the spell. And it was doubtful a person could improve one’s health so quickly.
Undoubtedly, the shift in the nanny’s appearance would make it difficult to reenter her home life. Maybe she wouldn’t have to reenter at all. It would be so easy to walk away. Then a pain stabbed the small hunch on her back. No, walking away wasn’t an option.
Besides, she couldn’t do this indefinitely. Tommy already knew too much. Someone else was bound to figure out something was up, and then how would she explain it all? What would Henry say? If he had to choose, who would he pick?
This would be the last time she entertained the idea of walking away.
Mage didn’t know it, but she could have acknowledged her mistake then. She could have come clean with Henry. But then she would have to admit she had lost control of the situation. If any such thoughts crossed her mind, they were not written down in her journal.
Mage accepted she would not make it to her anniversary dinner. I don’t think she took it gracefully either. It’s mostly speculation, but I imagine her punching pillows and throwing knickknacks around the apartment. While the nanny dined with her husband over delicacies they allowed themselves to indulge only once a year—along with the pleasures of the evening.
The next morning, Mage used another personal day. According to her journal, she had intended to use it to recover from the “emotional trauma” of yesterday. But it didn’t take long before her path to recovery involved stalking the Gwenhwyfach. She cloaked her motives in her journal under the phrase: “fact-finding mission.”
But I’m calling it for what it is.
Whether she used a personal day when she stalked her a third time isn’t documented. Nor are any of the other days she dedicated to watching the nanny from a safe distance. As far as her journal is concerned, she never went back to work.
Over the weekend, she called the gyms in town, posing as the nanny, saying she had forgotten her membership information or lost her card and wanted to know what she needed to bring in. Similarly, she called up spas and asked when her next treatment was scheduled. In all cases, she found nothing. I admit this was a nice bit of detective work.
She did more than admit defeat in her journal. She confessed her suspicion the nanny was using dark magic to enhance her beauty.
To reassure herself, she kept thinking about the cost the nanny would be incurring. The unknowable and terrible debt that must be mounting. Part of her knew it was wishful thinking. She just didn’t know enough about how dark magic worked to really understand her predicament. The only way out was to “pay the nanny” before things got worse.