Following readers’ votes, Susan’s family arrive to spend a week with her. But things don’t stay still for long in the world of ‘Mugwhah’ and at the end of this episode you will have to make another important decision. (If you want to pick up the story from the beginning visit the Mugwhah Page, otherwise dive in and determine how the story goes by voting in the pole at the end…)
Susan busied her hands finessing the pastry top of the apple pie, moulding special little shapes with her fingers for the two girls. Lea had always liked cats, Jade birds. Both were teenagers now, but this practice had passed into tradition and would be missed if it was neglected. Every so often Susan paused to look out of the window, trying to catch glimpses of the internal conversation she had had the night before – trying to figure out Mugwhah.
Alice, Susan’s daughter, and the girls were due any minute. And despite her preoccupation with working out how she might be able to write for an ailing TV programme, Susan still felt rushes of excitement in anticipation of their arrival.
By her reckoning Mugwhah had yet to really surface as a character in the show, thus far written by her daughter’s ex-husband Alexis; the eponymous witch had true magical powers, but no sense of inner life to give her depth. The three pilot episodes had instead attended to the desires of the narrator, a male courtier character and son of a manipulative lord. In the last episode his name had been revealed to be William, who, judging by his interior monologue, the dulcet voice-over, was in search of some kind of enlightenment through the transformative power of Mugwhah’s magic. In Alexis’ lurid imagination, a kind of feminist awakening in William had been infused with the trappings of sadomasochistic fantasy. Although William was played by a handsome young Canadian actor, Susan couldn’t help but see Alexis’ himself in that cheap medieval costume, with all his frustrating, ingratiating mannerisms.
As Susan closed the oven door the sound of gravel shuffling under car wheels announced her family’s imminent arrival. She looked up to see headlights casting around the leafy mulch of the driveway. Opening the kitchen door with a pair of oven gloves still in her hand, she kicked open the porch door and was hit by the sudden, almost unreal, coldness of the air. But, as she could see Alice and Lea in the front of the car, she bit back the discomfort and beamed at them, warmly anticipating the hugs and greetings.
As it turned out, Jade had been sick on the journey and so hugs had been postponed and clothes were carried off to be washed. Greetings took place with Jade – wrapped in a thick yellow blanket and sitting in the single chair in Susan’s study – had warmed up after a shower. The three older ones stood around her, slurping beef and cabbage stew from mugs, rather than at the table in the kitchen. Alice was in some ways relieved to be standing after being in the car for over nine hours.
“Sorry about all that,” Alice conveyed over of matter-of-factly, close enough for Susan to hear but not to embarrass Jade further.
“Ha”, Susan said aloud, “well it adds to the fun of life doesn’t it”. Jade burrowed into the blanket and forced a smile. “There are lots of other salads, stuffed mushrooms, nuts, fruit if you want anything else. Otherwise it can wait until tomorrow, you must be tied after such a long drive, and we’ll just have a big piece of apple pie with some of Victoria Roy’s own vanilla ice-cream.”
It was a faultless plan, but before the tired troupe could move back to the warmth of the kitchen, the look on Jade’s face stopped them in their tracks.
“What it is Jade, you look like you’ve seen a ghost?”