Middle of the afternoon in the middle of October and a beautiful autumn day to continue our story of Diane Vitale. Here's the next installment.
I caught sight of my brother waiting for me outside Customs at Reagan Airport. Before I could attract his attention, I heard a sneering voice behind me. “Well, if it isn’t Virginia’s very own Glinda,” and I turned to confront my sister-in-law. Her facial expression matched the insult in her voice. Wonderful . . . it was apparent no deity was going to cut me any slack. “Hello, Charlize, you’re looking well.” I worked to keep my voice neutral. “And you look hag ridden, but then, hey, you’re a witch. It goes with the territory. What a laugh. If you were really a good witch, my brother would still be alive. You couldn’t even protect him with all your so-called powers.” “Chad died instantly. Nothing and no one except the Goddess could have saved him.” I closed my eyes and prayed for patience. “Goddess, geez, you really are so delusional. What my brother saw in you I’ll never know.” She turned on her heel with that parting shot and stalked away. Guilt swamped me despite what I knew was true. I couldn’t have protected Chad, and even if I had been there, my gift would not have saved his life. Deep in my unconsciousness, however, a voice whispered, but you used your gift to save someone else, someone you shouldn’t have. I turned back and watched with weary eyes as Gino walked up to me. “Gino, what are you doing here? Is something wrong?” He wore his “St. George off to slay the dragon” look so my immediate reaction was to expect a problem. “Nope, no problem, I just felt that my favorite sister needed to see a familiar face instead of a cab driver.” Gino’s lopsided grin lighted his face. I assumed from his reply hadn’t seen Charlize so I didn’t mention the confrontation. “I’m your only sister.” My appreciation for his small joke colored my retort. I raised my voice over the raucous sounds echoing off the hard surfaces in the terminal. “I’m gratified my favored sister status pried you out of your studio.” Gino was a portrait artist whose reputation has gained him international recognition. “And so you should be, but now, favorite only sister, move it! I have a client coming to discuss a portrait of her children this afternoon, and Nonna and Mother are at the house waiting for you to materialize.” “Spirits materialize; witches arrive like everyone else.” My feeble laugh sounded strained in my ears. Gino’s large build and broad shoulders blazed a trail through the throng of people clustered around the exit. I smiled with deep affection at his back as I followed him out the door. He is the best of brothers. I’d always sensed he felt cheated that the only magic he possessed was in his paintbrush. Someday I hoped he’d realize how potent that magic was. In the meantime, he compensated for his perceived lack by what he called ‘taking care of his womenfolk,’ a role he’d assumed when Dad died five years earlier. Since my absence over the last thirty-six months hadn’t required a home base in Virginia, Gino drove us to the house where Mom and Nonna waited for my arrival. Nonna’s gift is her empathetic affinity with animals. Even now at 70, she still goes to the veterinary clinic three days a week to work with those creatures whose conditions are the most critical. Mother is a clairvoyant. Her ability to look beyond the physical world brings joy, sorrow, and sometimes, discomfort to those who seek her counsel. My gift is magic and because of that, I had always been cautious with my practice of the Craft. Spells can have unintended consequences. My actions in Afghanistan were a prime example of that. Together, the three of us make a powerful unit, one that people alternately seek, misunderstand, or sometimes simply ridicule. Gino recently exhibited a painting of us at the Corcoran Museum. He titled it, appropriately, “The Diana Triad,” but casual observers tended to refer to it as the “Three Graces.” Practitioners of the Craft, however, know otherwise. The Triad depicts the three manifestations of the Goddess: the Maiden, the Mother, and the Crone. The three of us share the same light olive complexions, moss green eyes, and dark hair, although Nonna’s hair is now almost all silver. No one would describe us as pretty, but we are striking in appearance, especially when someone sees the three of us together. Gino, as if the Goddess had wished to emphasize his unique status, doesn’t look like any of us. He has always pointed out that this made him special and allowed him to follow his artistic inclination and not a preordained path. He left in a hurry after our arrival at the house and I went up to my old bedroom to rest. I dropped into a deep sleep as soon as my head sank into the pillow, but then my unfocused, dreaming eye relived the IED attack in Afghanistan again. This time, however, the person whose life ebbed away was not Colonel Martin, but Captain Chad Rivers—while I stood helpless to save his life. (To be continued.)