use the quad-cab of my mother’s newly purchased used truck as a dressing room. The fog provided adequate privacy, however, and I opted to switch my clothing beside the fountain.

When I finished adjusting the silver belt, I glanced at my mother.

All in all, Eris seemed to be remarkably accepting of the loss of her limb. She’d even gone so far as to say, “Losing my arm was a fair price to pay in order to have you in my life again, Persephone.”

It seemed like the simple show of a positive attitude. At first. After hearing it for the fourth or fifth time, the passive-aggressive tone became obvious. That sentence, as in “grammatical unit,” was becoming my sentence, as in “judicial determination of punishment.”

In a single afternoon I’d brought the two biggest regrets of her life into her tattoo parlor: me and Johnny. After sixteen years of separation, on the first day I’d spent with Eris, her home had been invaded. The top dog of the wærewolves, the Rege, had followed us to her home—led by a tracer he’d planted in my phone. In a hail of bullets, he’d forced his way inside, where the spell to unlock Johnny’s tattoos had been under way. The Rege had hoped to kill Johnny and eliminate the threat a Domn Lup would have on his power base, but Eris had caught two bullets playing human shield and protecting Johnny. That had led to the loss of her right arm.

For all her recent heroics, she’d also been the villain who, eight years ago, had tattooed Johnny in the first place. She’d used her magic and sorcery to hide and constrain the power of the Domn Lup. A mysterious man had paid her to perform the magic and create the tattoos, but she could remember nothing about him. Or that was what she claimed.

After my messy reentry into her life, she should have told me to get the hell out, to drag my dangerous destiny with me and never come back. Yeah, she should have abandoned me again. This time, at least, she had a legitimate reason.

Instead, she was using these events—and her consequent loss—as a means to keep me around. It felt like I’d been condemned for life, and my prison was the unending inclusion in her world. What is it with mothers and guilt trips?

I’d truly forgiven her for the awful childhood she’d provided. I’d even let go of my resentment for the subsequent abandonment. She’d protected my boyfriend from certain death, and I had made sure the damage to her apartment was repaired pronto. I’d also agreed to stay and help her adjust to life without her arm and get to know her again.

But that was before I realized what she was doing. And what she wasn’t doing.

Tonight, November 16, was the Night of Hecate, and that particular goddess had shown me great favor. There was no way I would miss honoring Her. But I didn’t have to include Eris and Nana in it. I’d involved them because the guilt trip my mother was determined to send me on felt like a brand-new wedge between us, and I wanted it gone. I wanted her to get into a circle. I wanted her to see that she couldn’t perform ritual tasks like she did before. I wanted her to eat that knowledge and get angry. I wanted her to cry. Not in order to satisfy some vengeful side of me; those days were gone with the absolution I’d sincerely offered her. These things would be healthy for her. She had to grieve her loss in order to accept it. Instead, she was disguising the truth—and I was the camouflage.

That kind of self-deception wouldn’t help anyone.

But in this ritual she had been charged with specific duties, and she’d have to figure out how to perform them one-handed or admit defeat. Either would force her to begin dealing with her loss.

Since we were in Pittsburgh, I had selected a park where a triangle of land jutted between the Monongahela River and the Allegheny River. The tip of the triangle pointed toward the Ohio River, and on it sat a fountain celebrating this liquid confluence by spewing water high into the air. Or it did in warmer weather.

The fountain and its pool had been drained for the coming winter, but there was no lack of moisture in the air. With the mist embracing us so thickly, we were going to have to rely on Menessos to determine when the sun sank beneath the horizon. Not that he was here, but I would feel when he awoke, and at that exact moment, the Night of Hecate would commence. That was when we were to begin our journey to the river’s edge.

Nana pulled a white-lidded bowl from a cloth satchel and passed it to me. The standard supper offerings were eggs, bread, cheese, and fish. As she removed the lid and replaced it in the bag, I saw I had, as expected, the eggs. Once standing in position, I quieted my mind and tried to purge the not-so-calming effects my mother had on me.

Nana put a red bowl into the crook of Eris’s only arm. “Good?” she asked.

“Good,” Eris replied. Representing the mother aspect of the triple-goddess for our ritual, she was dressed all in red: scarlet jeans and a tight-fitting crimson tee that said Tremendous under a flannel-lined red jacket. She’d insisted that Nana cut off the sleeve and sew the hole shut. This alteration made it obvious that nothing of her right arm remained. She’d even had a pair of red leather cowboy boots in her closet to complete the scarlet head-to- toe.

Lastly, Nana, who signified the crone aspect of the triple-goddess for our ritual and therefore wore black polyester pants and a thick black sweater, drew out a black bowl and dropped its lid into the satchel before taking her place in our line. The smell of delicious fish wafted to me and reminded me how hungry I was. We’d fasted all day for this ritual.

And we waited.

I had time to notice the pair of black combs with little silver owls in Nana’s hair. She’d found them at a local sundry store.

My fingers drummed on the edge of the white bowl. I checked on the candles behind us. After I’d drawn the circle earlier, I’d placed and lit short black pillar candles at each of the five spots where the lines of the star met the circle. Because of the constant wind here, the candles were topped with glass hurricane globes. They flickered but didn’t seem in danger of going out.

Abruptly, my body felt like it was being inflated with hot air—Menessos was awake. My insides resonated with his screaming as if the waves of sound were vibrating from within me. Returning to life must be a horrific experience. I pitied him because of it.

When the resonance faded I breathed deep and exhaled with purpose to counter the sensation.

Then, I began walking. Eris and Nana fell in behind me, and we made a single-file trek toward the river’s edge. The light of the candles we were leaving behind would disappear into the fog as we strode further away, but hopefully I could maintain a straight line back until we were in range of the glow that would guide us unerringly to the circle to complete the ritual. Parading all over the park, lost in the white air, would be embarrassing.

Another part of my earlier on-site preparation had included hiking down to the river’s edge to stick two oil- burning bamboo torches into the ground. When the torches glimmered into view, my nostrils filled with the smell of the cypress I’d scented the lamp oil with. Pausing on the last piece of level ground, I waited as Eris and Nana re- formed the side-by-side line.

“I am the maiden,” I said, ceremoniously hoisting the bowl of eggs skyward. The fog gave this ritual an ambience of mystique and majesty, so it felt appropriate to try to display a formal and serious demeanor.

As I surveyed the embankment, though, I realized I was in trouble.

This slope had been no problem earlier, when I’d worn my hikers, but the Isotoners were soft-soled. With my first step, sharp rock points jabbed into the bottom of my foot. I wished my boots would magically reappear on my feet.

Compensating and shifting my weight onto my heels led to the discovery that the slippers had zero traction. The rocks shifted under my feet. Two quick steps kept me from tumbling down, but I was certain that something had pierced the sole and cut into the arch of my foot. The eggs clacked roughly in the bowl, but when I inspected them, none had cracked.

Trying futilely to regain my solemn demeanor amid the giggling from Nana and Eris, I proceeded between the torches. Crouching before the water, I found my bell sleeves made placing the bowl into the river tricky. Not willing to let anything further dampen the mood, or my sleeves, this problem was solved by wrapping the draped length around my forearm and tucking the edge under. “I offer this food for the Supper of Hecate, for the Lady of the Crossroads.” The bowl quickly floated out of sight in the mist.

“I am the mother,” Eris said.

She awkwardly surrendered the red bowl to me. In the transfer, I couldn’t help seeing the red ink now embedded in Eris’s palm. That, too, had happened when she’d reversed the spellwork on Johnny.

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