Nobody's Witch Finder

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Chapter 3

It all made sense. It was almost impossible for me to garden without my magic leaking out, even if I tried, which I rarely did. I knew that we couldn’t make and sell our remedies because it invites too many questions, but I wasn’t careful at all about using my magic in the privacy of my new home, tucked so nicely in the crevice between the hills where no one knew we existed. I danced with the fairies under full moon, planted them their own foxglove to play in, created whole fruiting trees in a matter of days from but a single seed to provide the lemon my mother needed to get a job as a housekeeper, to sell our cleaning products to other housekeepers and wives.

“I did this. I led her here,” I said. “I wasn’t careful.”

“You were as careful as you thought you needed to be,” she said. “What’s done is done, and we mustn’t dwell on it now.”

“But what do we do?”

“Well…which would you prefer to do: push back against the Darkness or relent?”

Bang! Bang! Bang! A knock on the door made us both jump. Our eyes met with the same question, who could that be? We sat in silence, but heard a man’s voice, mumbled by the thick wooden door.

My mother put her finger to her lips to invoke silence, but carefully stood up so as not to scrape the wooden chair leg across the floor. I did the same. Breathing in and out through my nose, I took cautious steps, my bare feet moving noiselessly on the old floor. The mumbling continued on our front step, but it became clear that it was not one man’s voice, but two.

“This house has been abandoned for years. I assure you they are not here.”

“But, Sheriff —,” said the other, “if I could just look around a little more, maybe go inside?”

“I’m sure the door is locked,” he said, and the knob jiggled, surprising me into taking a sharp breath. It was, in fact, locked.

“That doesn’t mean there’s no one here,” said the other man.

“Show me a warrant, and I’ll show you inside. Until then, this is private property, even if it hasn’t been used in years. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have important business to attend to in town. I must ask you to leave the property with me.”

I pressed my ear to the door, waiting and listening for sounds of retreat from the steps or continued arguing, but heard none. My mother closed her eyes, and I knew she was feeling out the energy of the house, of the land, of the property, sensing the presence of our unwanted guest, tracking him down the overgrown path and out to the main road.

“He’s gone for now,” she signed.

“For now?” I asked.

“He’ll be back after dark.” I stopped asking how she could do that many years ago; it was her gift. She had a keen sense of energy and existence that she could read a person’s intentions rather than his or her thoughts. “The officer will not, though. We will be on our own with him. If he catches us, he will take us back and have us tried for witchcraft and hanged.”

“We can’t just give in,” I said. “If we run, he will follow. If we leave, the Darkness takes over. It really only gives us one option. We have to push back against both. Tonight.”

She smiled the mischievous smile, and pulled me by the hand into the room off the entry, a room with a round wooden spindle that doubled as a table and a couple of worn wooden chairs, a room lined with ancient books on wooden shelves on three walls, the fourth wall faced East. This was the room my grandmother used as her apothecary and took in visitors to treat their maladies.

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