The Fall of Grace
By Nadia Romanov
The dried leaves crunched beneath her feet as Grace Wilkins walked through Central Park.
Autumn had always been her favorite time of the year; the colorful leaves, the warm snuggly sweaters, the stylish boots, the delicious and aromatic foods and beverages. When the Pumpkin Spice Lattes came to Starbuck’s each year, it was the beginning of a season of bliss.
Grace loved living so close to Central Park. It was her oasis of nature amid all the hustle and bustle of New York City. She loved the city; loved working there and loved living there, but at times she needed to reconnect with nature, to feel the seasons change all around her.
Today’s walk through the park however, was not full of joy. There was no appreciating the beauty. No feeling of connection. Quite the contrary! Today, Grace felt disconnected from everything, most of all herself. The dried leaves crunching beneath her feet sounded dead, breaking as they crunched into particles on the ground.
This year had been hell. Plain and simple, a living hell. The list of top stressors in life had all occurred in her world as if racing through to finish a ‘bucket list’.
Grace’s move to the city had been met with resistance from her family and friends, but was necessary for her new job. She loved her apartment with a stunning view of the park, but the move had been painful. Hiring movers to help her relocate as friends and family refused to speak to her, let alone help, was pricey in more ways than just financially.
The new job was wonderful. She loved being an editor for a national magazine, her coworkers were wonderful, and she still, a year later, felt the exhilaration of it all as she stood each morning in front of the prestigious building she worked in. The hours were long, Grace grew tired and felt unsure of abilities and skills long since honed to professional perfection, so even her career added stress.
Divorce and death, the other two on the top stressors list. These two had come to visit as well.
Grace’s parents, married happily for 30 years, suddenly announced that their marriage was over. As her mother, Dawn, so eloquently phrased it, ‘now that Grace had moved away, why bother anymore’. Apparently, her parents had grown apart. What did that even mean after decades together, sharing sickness and health, lean times and expansive times, plus of course 4 children?!?! Neither wished to discuss it, so much so that they weren’t even blaming each other. It was just over. The end. Kaput. Sure, she no longer lived at home, but Grace’s foundation was shaken. There was no home base to return to, no more full family times to look forward to, and a new doubt if anything was as it appeared.
And death…Grandma Cassie had passed peacefully in her sleep just three months ago. Grandma Cassie was the stereotypical grandmother, with a twist. Spunky, witty, and sharp as can be – certainly sharper than one would expect of a 95 year old woman. Grandma Cassie had seen and experienced a lot in her life. She was a colorful character, who baked sumptuous feasts, sewed delicate silk dresses for Cassie and her sisters, and kept a tidier home than women a fraction of her age. Her daughter, Grace’s mother, was not close with Grandma Cassie. Fortunately, they lived just down the road from each other so the children grew up with the elderly woman in their lives despite their own mother’s disdain for her. Why was there distance between the elder two generations of the family? Simple, yet sad really. Cassie was a witch. She blended teas, brewed tinctures that could cure all that ailed you, read palms, cards, and tea leaves, had candles always lit throughout her home, and one could taste the magick stirred in to all she cooked. All of the wisdom and knowledge, and mystical practices that had been shared mother to daughter in this family line, stopped short at Grace’s mother. Dawn was ashamed of her mother. Felt she was weird and embarrassing, even when her friends found Cassie to be delightfully warm and inviting, even if also a little bit eccentric and mysterious.
There was never any magick discussed nor allowed in Dawn’s home as Grace and her siblings grew up. They were also not allowed to ‘play with any of that stuff’ over at Grandma Cassie’s house either.
When Grandma Cassie died, Grace lost her best friend, her warm haven of refuge, comfort, and wisdom, and her only link to the spirituality her bloodline practiced.
What a year! It had ALL hit….or so Grace thought.
Yesterday, the doctor confirmed that Grace’s autumn cold had progressed into a mild case of pneumonia. What a blessing that her boss was understanding and was fine with Grace working from home, and a light load at that until she was well.
Dawn had made one of her rare calls to her daughter, and heard the stuffed nose and raspy voice on Grace’s end of the line, and insisted on coming to visit to lend a hand. At the time, Grace had been relieved. How nice it would be to have someone take care of her, even for a day. It would be nice to hear her mother in the kitchen, heating soup, boiling water for tea…or cocoa if she could persuade her. The feeling of ‘home’, even if for a fleeting day of sickness.
Dawn arrived early and whisked Grace off to bed. As anticipated she called the pharmacy and had Grace’s prescriptions delivered, and began working in the kitchen, where soup and a casserole were soon cooking.
Grace fell asleep, feeling warm, loved, and safe.
An hour into her nap, just two hours ago, Grace jumped awake to the sound of a crash and her mother’s screams. Racing into the living room, Grace found Dawn standing in front of an antique chest, which had been covered with a decorative cloth. As she straightened up the already tidy living room, Dawn had discovered Grandma Cassie’s trunk. The cleaning supplies clattering from her hand as she screamed were the mild beginning of her reaction.
‘How dare you Grace!! What is this? Where did you get it? Why do you have THAT, here??!!’ Dawn yelled at her ailing daughter.
Grace explained that just a week before Cassie’s passing, she had visited her at her request, and was given the antique chest.
Were ‘those things’ still in it? Dawn inquired, referring to Cassie’s altar items.
‘Yes Mother, they are, and before you even ask, yes I use them. I have been a witch since I was a teenager, and I am honored to have inherited Grandma Cassie’s sacred items’, was Grace’s reply.
As Dawn screamed at her, calling her a freak, an embarrassment, and cried, wondering aloud how she went wrong in raising a sane GOOD daughter, Grace calmly got on her coat and headed to the front door.
‘Grace Wilkins, go for a walk, clear your head, and when you come back, I expect you to pack these things up and get them out of here. To the trash is best – that is where this nonsense belongs! No daughter of mine will be involved in such antiquated notions.’
Grace walked on through Central Park, barely able to catch her breath through her pneumonia affected lungs. Leaning against a tree, she closed her eyes, and sought to regain balance.
‘Hey Lady, what you dressed up as? A Tree Hugger?’, yelled some smart aleck teen riding by on his bicycle.
Dressed up? YES, how could she have forgotten?? It must be that losing sense of time that happens when with long illness induced napping. Today was Halloween – the Witch’s New Year, also known as Samhain.
Grace smiled to herself thinking, ‘Wow Mom, you sure picked a great day to challenge my faith’.
Then it hit her. Indeed, it was a great day for that. The veil between worlds was thinner than it had been all year, and Grace knew for certain her Grandma Cassie could hear her thoughts and feel her heart’s torment.
The wind blew and whispered into Grace’s ear. She smiled. Finally, she felt the brisk autumn breeze nip at her cheeks. She smelled fireplace smoke from nearby homes.
Slowly, Grace started to walk back to her apartment. As she walked, she reveled in the lively snap and crackle of the dried fallen leaves as they sassed back under the pressure of her footsteps.
Everything was clear. Her parents had not been the only ones with secrets and false facades during her youth. She too had hidden the most cherished part of herself. She was a witch – in faith, in practice, by blood, and by choice.
Grace walked through her front door, feeling stronger than she had in months, and hung up her coat.
“You are back. So Grace, what will it be? What do you have to say about your fall from grace?”, asked Dawn through pinched lips.
“Mother, I love you and respect you and I hope you can come to do the same for me. I hope one day you will find love and acceptance for both your mother AND your daughter.”
Grace started to walk back to her room to rest, fully winded from her emotional journey during her walk through the park. She saw out of the corner of her eye that her mother was approaching the coat rack, presumably to take her leave of her errant daughter.
“Oh and Mother, it is not my fall FROM grace, it is actually the Fall OF Grace…and I hope you can be happy for me.”
Grace went to her room and got into bed. She took comfort in the fact that her mother had closed the front door quietly, no angry slam, and with that the hope for heart to heart talks over the holiday season. Grace set her alarm for an hour later, so she could be rested and ready for her Hallows ritual later that night, and she dozed off feeling the magickal presence of her Grandma Cassie, and the power of finding her own way.
This story just won 2nd place in the Autumn Writing Contest hosted by Award Winning Paranormal Author, Jolynne Valerie.