The woman waiting at the bus stop takes her breath away. She only sees her for a split second from a distance of fifty feet, but even still, she could swear -
But then the woman turns around, and she looks nothing like her. Except for the wavy blonde hair and the long, white maxi dress, the woman couldn't look less like Misty if she tried. Cordelia sighs, bringing one clenched fist over her heart to ground herself as she steadies her breathing. Beads of sweat slide down the back of her neck and soak into her collar, and she takes a long, deep drink from her water bottle, perspiration and condensation gathering indistinguishably between her fingers. Strands from her long ponytail, damp at the ends, stick uncomfortably to her warm skin as she stands immobile on the sidewalk catching her breath.
It's not Misty. Misty is… gone . She tells herself this firmly as she stretches her legs and rotates her neck, sighing as her muscles bend themselves to her will. Radiant health comes with the all-inclusive Supreme package so, technically, her nightly runs after dinner do nothing to improve her overall physical well-being. Mentally, however, she was - in a word - fucked without them. She's thrown herself into her new role and allows the neverending duties to consume her. It's only after dinner, once the day's meetings and classes are over, when she's finished teaching the next generation of witches and done debriefing with her Council, that she's left alone with her thoughts. Once a painfully introverted recluse, she's learning to say yes when people ask for her opinion or help. Being the Supreme is somewhat of a confidence booster, after all.
Even still, she wakes up every morning and she's alone. Every evening she sinks into her thick, plush mattress and curls her body around her obscenely soft pillows, alone. If she runs hard and long enough, mercilessly pounding her sneakers into the concrete pavement for at least an hour, she'll be too exhausted to do anything but shower and collapse into an exhausted sleep. And that's the goal, every single night.
Two months to the day after Misty fails to reemerge from Descensum, Cordelia wakes in a cold sweat. It wasn't a nightmare, exactly, that'd woken her, because no dream in which Misty has a starring role could truly be considered a nightmare. Reality tends to be worse, at least in Cordelia's experience. In fact, as far as dreams go, this one could almost be considered pleasant. She pulls the covers over her head and lies there, drowsily hanging onto the story her subconscious had woven for her that evening.
"Dance with me, Miss Cordelia," Misty laughs, grabbing Cordelia's hand and pulling her close. Misty's long, black dress twirls around her strong, pale ankles, the cotton fringe tickling the tops of her sandals. She tosses her curls, interwoven with silken feathers, over one shoulder as she grins at Cordelia. Her wide smile causes her steel blue eyes to crinkle slightly in the corners and Cordelia is embarrassed to find her own lips stretching of their own volition, until she's practically beaming at Misty in return.
"You look mighty gorgeous," Misty murmurs in appreciation, charcoal-rimmed eyes sweeping over the length of Cordelia's body. "That dress might be the prettiest one I've ever seen."
Cordelia ducks her head self-consciously, hiding her pleased smile. She'd chosen this outfit with Misty in mind, thinking her friend would appreciate the soft, white silk. More importantly, she was hoping Misty would notice the way the fabric cut at her thighs, the silk splitting open and falling to the floor in layers of delicate ropes that brushed her calves with every move. Misty reaches down and gently cups Cordelia's chin between her thumb and pointer finger, lifting until warm, brown eyes meet her own in a shy gaze.
"Come on," Misty says suddenly, bringing her face closer to Cordelia's and squeezing her hand in sudden excitement. "I have an idea."
Cordelia allows Misty to drag her outside, happy to escape the sweltering heat of the dance floor and crowd of people gathered in the ballroom. Her white-jeweled headpiece glitters in the moonlight and she looks at Misty in anticipation, already fully acquiescing to whatever the woman has planned.
Keeping one hand locked with Cordelia's, Misty uses the other to make a dramatic sweeping motion behind the shell of Cordelia's ear. "Ta-da," Misty whispers with delight, holding up a perfectly round, copper penny.
"Can't even swing for a quarter?" Cordelia jokes, eyes shining with amusement.
"I could," Misty confirms confidently, tugging Cordelia over to the large stone fountain prominently displayed in the mansion's courtyard. "But there's no luck in quarters."
"No?" Cordelia asks.
"No," Misty replies firmly. "Now, close your eyes." Cordelia complies obediently, gasping lightly when she feels Misty's warm hand slide over hers. The younger witch intertwines their fingers until Cordelia can feel the cool surface of the penny between their hands. Misty steps closer until her front rests against Cordelia's back, and they're breathing as one. Cordelia tries to ignore the way Misty smells - feminine, floral, and decidedly lovely - but it's impossible. Misty presses her soft chest in between Cordelia's shoulder blades, one hand woven together with hers and lightly resting at their sides, while the other gently clasps the penny between their joined fingers, elbows bent and ready to throw.
"Make a wish," Misty commands gently, and Cordelia complies, keeping her eyes closed. She feels Misty pull their hands back before tossing the penny into the pond, only opening her eyes once she hears the light splash as the coin sinks deep into the water. Turning to face Misty, her breath sticks in her throat when she realizes the other woman has remained in place, one hand softly clasping Cordelia's wrist.
"So," Misty breathes against Cordelia's lips, "what did you wish for?"
Cordelia sits on a wooden stool in the sweltering greenhouse, wiping her sweaty brow with her forearm as she mutters different incantations under her breath.
"Do you really think this will work?" Zoe asks, fingers digging into the soil and water mixture until the mud thickens.
"I'm not sure," Coredelia admits with a sigh, dirt streaked across the clear skin of her cheeks and caked into her blunt nails.
"Why do you keep trying?" Zoe eventually asks, hands cramped and exhausted after hours of kneading different soil to no avail. There's a pile of broken ceramic pots behind the Supreme that Zoe is choosing not to acknowledge, weeks of failure culminating in one glorious trash heap clustered in the corner of the greenhouse.
"Because, Zoe," Cordelia replies calmly, eyes closed as she concentrates on permeating her healing powers deep within the plant before her, "it could have been me." She's silent for a minute before opening her eyes with a defeated sigh, tossing the useless pot over her shoulder. Zoe winces as the sound of shattering clay echoes throughout the stone walls. The symbolism of shattered hope isn't lost on her. "It could have been any one of us."
"It was me," Zoe responds quietly, ghosting her hands over her abdomen where a faint scar still lingers.
"Then you understand," Cordelia responds, not unkindly.
She does, and she doesn't. Zoe understands the reigning Supreme will do anything to protect her Coven, to ensure their collective safety above all else. What she doesn't understand are the depths to which Cordelia will go - has gone - to protect Misty, whether as Supreme, or as a well-meaning headmistress presiding over a disjointed group of mildly enthusiastic witches. Being Supreme gives her the ability, not the heart.
"It could be you," Misty whispers conspiratorially, turning her head to study Cordelia's profile. "You could be, y'know… the one."
Cordelia's heart stutters in her chest, an irregular cadence that steals her breath from her lungs. She turns to face Misty and flinches when the pointed ends of the grass they're laying on sharply tickle her cheek. "It's not me," she replies.
"It could be," Misty insists, plucking a pappus of Taraxacum erythrospermum from its spot in the backyard and rubbing the stem between her fingers.
"Please," Cordelia scoffs, keeping her gaze fixed on the back-and-forth motion of the flower as it succumbs to Misty's will. "I'm barely the headmistress here, Misty, and besides, you've met my mother. I'm not exactly what she'd call 'Supreme material.'"
"Well it ain't up to her, now is it?" Misty responds cheerfully. She stills her hand and brings the fluffy, white parachute of seeds close to her mouth, pursing her lips.
"No, I guess it isn't," Cordelia agrees, feeling Misty's cool breath dance across her lips when she gently blows on the dandelion, scattering the white, puffy filaments through the air and all around them.
"There," Misty says smugly, trailing the now-naked weed over Cordelia's nose. "I wished for it. Now it's out there in the universe. No take backs."
"No take backs," Cordelia smiles.
She wants to take it back. Hecate help her or curse her for it, but she does. This thought comes to her frequently, although not in the quiet dead of night like one would expect. Instead it comes when she's surrounded by important people - senators, city leaders, powerful witches, and her Council, all gathered together for benefits or parties or important meetings.
I wish I could take it back.
Zoe approaches her with a knowing look on her face and hands Cordelia a glass of rosé. Cordelia wishes the pour is a bit more generous but this is technically a work function, after all.
"She wouldn't want you to regret it, you know."
Cordelia hums in response, fixated on the pink liquid swirling gently in her glass.
"She wanted you to be Supreme."
"But at what cost?" Cordelia finally replies, lifting her gaze to meet Zoe's eyes.
Zoe is quiet for a moment, observing her leader with a kind of aching reverence. On the outside, Cordelia glows with power. Her beauty is undeniable - pale, clear skin, full lips, and wide brown eyes that darken with intensity when she's radiating particularly strong energy. But when Zoe looks closer at Cordelia's hands, she can see the physical reminders Misty left behind. Dirt remains embedded in Cordelia's fingernails from hours spent in the greenhouse, despite her polished manicure. Her palms are often slick with lotion, permanently chapped from being immersed in the damp earth. Two heavy rings in the shape of frogs sit permanently fixed on Cordelia's left middle and ring fingers, and although Zoe has never asked what they represent, their sudden emergence after Misty's disappearance gives her a pretty good idea.
Cordelia offers her a sad smile before turning away, slipping on her confidence like a mask as she's approached by a potential benefactor. "Bill, hello," she greets warmly. "Shall we find Rosetta and convene in my office?"
Zoe stands silently in the doorway around midnight, arms crossed over her chest as she observes Cordelia elbows-deep in another pot of soil.
"I'll never know if I don't try," Cordelia whispers without looking up. "I have to try ." A tear slides down one dirt-covered cheek but she makes no effort to wipe it away. "The answer is here, Zoe, I can feel it. Sometimes it just takes one thing, one ingredient or incantation, to change the outcome of the spell." She sighs. "I need things to be different... I need her here."
"Well," Zoe responds quietly, stepping over the threshold and into the greenhouse. "Then let's find the one thing that changes the outcome."