Hocus Pocus Added£2.29
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(A long short story of 10891 words)

Hocus Pocus


by Paul Lahert

Fleeing an abusive relationship, a young woman returns to her hometown and her bereaved mother.

***Please Note: This story is also available in the collection "Indelible and Other Stories".***

Connie had come home with good intentions. Noble even. People would tell her what a good daughter she was. More than that, what a good soul. To come back from living in Italy to look after her still grieving mum? Well now… Many of the neighbours spoke of her as they might a saint, their own grown and moved away children nothing but ungrateful wretches in comparison. No one looked further than that though. They all thought she’d been in some kind of paradise. As if shit doesn’t still happen in places where people might think of going on holiday; where the wine is local, the buildings pretty and the mercury capable of topping thirty degrees Celsius without it making the newspapers. Not that she could look down on them, she’d arrived in Naples with the same naive prejudices, after all. A rose-tinted view that was only extended by the fact she was teaching little kids. Little kids being, by and large, sweet – at least to adults. And so it took her a good while to realise that bullshit is bullshit wherever you go, whatever the weather. Speaking Italian helped, but as it turned out she had only learned it well enough to be lied to and believe it. She wondered whether she’d have been such an easy sell if the same patter and promises had been made in her own language. Maybe so. Maybe not. These things tend to depend on the talent of the teller, and Luca was not without skill in this regard. Still, in her gut she knew after about four months that things weren’t going in a good direction, but by then it was too late. She was hooked. After all, it had started with a colpo di fulmine. A thunderbolt. The kind of thing that makes you think it’s the best thing that ever happened to you, that beguiles a cynic, that makes a sceptic believe in fate. That was before the gaslighting, the cheating and the threats. That was before the pregnancy scare. Before Luca’s hand firmly around her throat in the middle of what the local police later described as a “lover’s tiff” made everything all the scarier. She’d then come to think of the sensation as something altogether more sinister by the end. Stregoneria – black magic. The arrival of her period two weeks later came as a reprieve. The day after her aunt called to tell her just how badly her mum was doing.
That had been four months ago. Long enough that being back in her hometown no longer felt temporary. Long enough that any hopes that her being around would help straighten her mother out were already in vain. Long enough that the supermarket job she’d picked up to tide her over was starting to pull her under. That and the rest of it...


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