The Wickedy Truth

By: Anna Bertrand

Something is wrong, thought Phoebe. The three charmed ones were sitting beneath a red-umbrella on the patio of the new Café Benjamin having an early dinner. Phoebe had been thirty minutes late of course, and now the October sun was setting. It was her favorite time of the day, her favorite month, and she wished that she could just relax and enjoy the glow and her sisters' company…but there was that agitated feeling…and now a barely perceptible hum in her ears.

Prue and Piper didn't seem to notice as Piper was describing some new recipe she wanted to try at the restaurant.

Phoebe looked around at the other restaurant patrons but they were all engrossed in their individual conversations with no sign of anything amiss.

Phoebe opened her mouth and was just about to ask her sisters if they, too, were hearing the strange hum, but Prue suddenly leaned forward and said, "Oh, I won't be in until late tonight—got a date with Brody." She swirled her glass around and caught a small ice cube between her teeth and crunched it loudly.

"Brody?" Piper glanced sideways at Prue. "That new guy you've been talking about?"

"Wait. Wait. Who is Brody?" Phoebe asked.

"A guy in Public Relations at the museum. He asked me out for a drink after work."

"Oh?" Piper rested her chin in her palm. "So you're finally moving on from Andy? I can't say that I blame you; witches and cops probably don't make the best couples—no matter how much you want to be together. When do we get to meet this Brody guy?"

Prue smiled slyly. "If all goes well, soon. I promise."

Phoebe ignored the hum and turned her attention to the conversation at hand. Prue's date. Brody. Crush at work; she thought she'd caught all the main points. She looked at the black silk blouse, matching pants, and the black high-heeled boots that Prue was wearing. "Aren't you going to change before your date?"

Prue stopped swirling the ice in her glass and looked down into her lap. "What's wrong with what I'm wearing?"

Phoebe closed her eyes and shook her head. "Nothing. Nothing Prue." But an irresistible impulse took hold and she cupped her mouth and giggled. "It's just…you look like an uptight accountant…who's going out after-hours to talk business with a co-worker." Her giggling became louder. "You look like you could kill the poor guy with just the historic facts of a medieval sword."

Trying to stifle her own giggles, Piper straightened and stared at Phoebe. "Well, aren't you witty and blunt today—more blunt than usual." She then turned to Prue. "But, for what it's worth, I think what you're wearing is sleek and classic. Perfect for a first date. Besides, you can wait until the second date to show him your fun side."

Phoebe hic-upped. "Fun side?" Her sisters simultaneously turned to stare at her. But then Piper burst into laughter. "She's right about that, Prue. You do need to let go more."

"Me?" Prue asked incredulously. "What? Would you rather I act like Phoebe? Dress like her? She extends her negligees into her daywear! Oh, please." Prue brushed her bangs out of her eyes and then pointed at Piper. "And you, would it kill you to closet the jeans every once in a while? I mean, think about it, maybe Leo would actually ask you out if you didn't look so frumpy all the time."

Piper's mouth opened into a big O. "If Leo asks me out it won't be because I'm wearing a mini-skirt."

Uh-oh, Phoebe thought. Something is definitely rotten. She looked around again, searching the street and sidewalks, the shop windows, expecting to see the ominous face of a demon or warlock, but she saw nothing. Yet she was sure now that she and her sisters were being watched, perhaps even manipulated. They bickered and picked on one another, sure; but never in public.

Phoebe put her elbows on the table and leaned over. "Um, guys." But the insults just escalated between her sisters. People were beginning to stare. "Prue, Piper," she said sharply, "let's take it home."

Prue stopped mid-insult and turned her attention to Phoebe. "Home? I have to meet Brody in—"she raised her wrist watch, "twenty-five minutes."

"Home," Phoebe slowly pronunciated, widening her eyes.

Piper, still red in the face, nodded. "I think home would be best. Call Brody and claim whatever it is you claim when you break dates."

An indignant Prue glared. "After all I've been through with Andy, I believe I deserve a night out…" Then to Phoebe, "Are you having a premonition?"

Phoebe nodded. "A huge one. So big I can't believe you guys can't see it."

Piper reached for her handbag, took a few bills out and put them on the table. "Let's go..."

They stood up from the table. Prue was fishing in her own handbag. "It's my turn to pay…"

"No, it's been my turn the last couple of times," Phoebe admitted.

"I don't care. Come on," Piper said over her shoulder. She was already to the sidewalk before her sisters could gather themselves and leave the table.

Ten minutes later, the sisters were taking the porch steps of their rose-colored Victorian home. It was now dark; the streetlamps were buzzing on as they quickly unlocked the front door. Always they felt safer within these walls, in close proximity to the Book of Shadows and the spirits of their mother and grandmother who had passed on.

No one spoke as they walked through the house's foyer and then up the stairs to the attic. It was only when they'd lighted several candles and drawn a collective breath that they all began to speak at once.

"What's going on?" Prue asked.

"Is it a Warlock? Because I thought I smelled Warlock…" Piper said.

"It was strange, the way we all seemed to turn on each other…" Phoebe said, but then she realized that Prue and Piper had not seemed to notice.

Prue put a slim hand on her waist. "What are you taking about, Phoebe? I thought you had a premonition. We're home because we thought you had a premonition, remember?"

Phoebe laughed nervously. "You two were at each others throats at the restaurant—telling each other exactly what you thought…no matter how hurtful it was or how angry it made the other. I even caught myself doing it a couple of times. And we were in a public place. Does that not strike you as unusual?"

Piper and Prue looked at each other.

Piper shrugged her shoulders, "Shameful, I suppose."

"But I resent being ordered home to false pretenses," Prue admonished Phoebe. "I just can't believe this. I cancelled my first date since Andy and I split up because you thought it unusual that we were arguing?"

Phoebe heard the pain in Prue's voice, saw the way her sister's hand trembled as she ran it through her dark hair. "No. No. You have it wrong."

"Well you better explain yourself, missy," Piper told her.

Phoebe sighed. "Okay, I know. Tell me you love the outfit I'm wearing or you love my taste in clothes."

Both Prue and Piper were looking at her as if she had lost her mind.

"Go on, tell me," Phoebe said smugly.

Prue was shaking her head. "I've lost my patience for this nonsense."

"You can't say it," Phoebe told her, "because it is a lie."

Piper through her hands up in the air. "What?

"Try it, Piper. Tell us a lie. I bet you can't do it."

"Tell a lie?" Piper said. "You want me to tell a lie? You know, this makes no sense because you lied to get us to come home."

"No, I didn't," Phoebe said. "I didn't have a visual premonition, but I had a strange feeling and there was this odd humming in my ears…I can't believe you guys can't see what is right in front of your faces. Go on, tell me a lie. Any lie!" She was becoming irritated and anxious to make her point.

"Okay," Prue said. "I'll tell you a lie." She smiled vindictively. "This is the worst prank you've ever played on us—me in particular." But then she gasped.

"That was a lie?" Piper asked, confused.

"That was exactly what I was thinking, but I didn't mean to say it…" said Prue.

Phoebe nodded. "Your turn Piper." She opened her purse and took out a tube of pink lipstick, "tell me this lipstick is green."

Piper stared, her mouth opened and closed, opened and closed, and then finally she said, "its…pink."

"Do you believe me now?" Phoebe asked, returning the lipstick to her purse.

"We have to find out who or what is behind this," Piper said. But just then the hallway light flickered and went out, leaving only the candle light and long dark shadows along the attic walls.

"Oh, no," whispered Phoebe. Loss of electricity and supernatural activity seemed to go hand in hand in this house.

Prue went to the window that looked out over the street. "Looks like we're the only ones to lose electricity."

Dryly, Piper said, "Well isn't that a shocker?"

But Prue didn't reply. After a few seconds of silently leaning into the windowsill, she calmly asked her sisters to come over.

They looked over Prue's shoulder, following her gaze to the sidewalk below where a large figure stood in a grey hooded robe, all features hidden. It seemed to be looking up at them. The charmed ones leaned back, holding on to one another's arm. Prue was the first to lean over again, carefully. "He's still there."

Phoebe left her sisters at the window and went to the pedestal table where the Book of Shadows rested. She wiped the dust from the cover with her palm and then opened it, flipping the pages as she held the mental picture of the hooded figure in her mind. Suddenly the pages started turning themselves in a surge of flutters. Then, just as abruptly, the pages stopped.

Phoebe stared at the page. "Oh Crikes!"

Piper and Prue turned from the window.

"Guys," Phoebe told them, "I think we've got serious trouble this time."

xXx

The charmed ones' heads were bent over the Book of Shadows, each with a worried frown.

"Not very much information here," Prue sighed.

Piper tapped her heel against the wooden floor. "Gruesome picture," she said, tracing the red eyes with the tip of her fingernail. "So, they're called "The Aox". And apparently they come from another dimension and are very secretive. The Book of Shadows groups them into two categories: the benign, and the evil." Piper lifted her eyes from the book. "Do ya think we've got the evil type? Because I do."

"It's trying to make us angry at one another, maybe thinking it will turn us against each another, or weaken us," said Phoebe.

"But if they are so secretive," Prue mused, "why is it standing out there on the sidewalk in front of our house?"

Piper bit her lower lip. "What's worse is The Book of Shadows gives no instructions, no way to combat it. How do we vanquish it if we know hardly anything about it?"

Phoebe whispered, "Maybe we can't…"

"Of course we can," Prue said. "We've got the Power of Three." Yet she didn't sound very convincing.

"I can't see us fighting something that—" Piper was saying when suddenly she startled and pointed to the page where cursive handwriting was flowing by an invisible hand.

"It's Mother's handwriting!" Prue said, astonished. "Girls," she read aloud, "Leave the Aox alone. Protect yourself, but leave them alone."

"How do we protect ourselves?" Piper asked the empty air in front of her.

"Wait, there's more," Prue told her. "Root of a diseased Elm, a tail feather of a Raven…"

"It's a spell!" Phoebe rubbed her hands together. "Oh, thank God, we have a spell!"

"It's a grocery list, you mean," Piper grumbled. "We don't have any of this stuff in the house."

"Guess that means we make a trip to our favorite alchemist," Prue said.

"I'll go," Phoebe offered as she went to the window to peer below, "Since you paid for lunch. Oh, and by the way, Mr. Aox is gone."

Prue closed the Book of Shadows. "I don't know if that's good or bad. At least we knew where he was when he was hanging out down there."

"And we knew when he was watching us…" Phoebe added.

But Piper just shook her head. "Something that powerful doesn't need to stand out on the sidewalk in front of our house to watch us—it was some kind of threat or warning. Or maybe he's just taunting us."

The hall light flickered and then came on.

"He must really be gone for now," Phoebe said, relieved.

Prue gazed about the attic, "For now."

"Yeah," Phoebe agreed. She turned to leave the attic but then turned back. "You know, Prue, I'm really sorry you missed your date. I hope you know I'd never hurt you on purpose…"

Prue squeezed her eyes shut. "I'll trust that, deep down. And I'm sorry for the things I said; they weren't very kind. We're just different, that's all. I mean, we're sisters, but we like different things and we live our lives differently."

"Like my wardrobe, you mean?" Phoebe grinned.

Prue laughed and turned her eyes to the floor in embarrassment. "Like your wardrobe," she nodded. "Although you do have a few things I like."

"Really? Like which ones?"

"Like the ones you take from my closet."

"Okey-dokey," Phoebe said, smiling and tucking her hands into her back pockets, "glad to clear that up." She nodded toward the attic door, "I'll go make our grocery run now. Oh, I guess I need the list."

Prue shook her head. "Wait until morning. I don't think any of us should go out tonight."

"In that case," said Piper, grinning impishly, "I'm going to take my frumpy jeans and go to bed. Good night, all." And she disappeared down the hall.

Phoebe jabbed her thumb in the air after her retreating sister. "She is not frumpy. If she's frumpy, I wish that I were that frumpy."

"She's not frumpy," Prue agreed.

Phoebe turned, walked into the hall, and called out: "Did you hear that, Piper? We both said you aren't frumpy—and we cannot tell a lie."

xXx