I darted inside the door for the mortar and pestle while my mother went to my circle of seven plants and grabbed handfuls of each of the leaves and flowers and stems, ripping them off instead of taking time to cut each one. By the time I returned, she had messy handfuls, and crammed them in the bowl, took the bowl from my hand, held it up to the sky to catch rain water, murmured what I presumed was a prayer, and shoved the bowl back into my hands. The pestle was familiar in my hands I worked to grind down the panacea.
My mother strode over to the man with bold strides and bode me to come with her. I crunched and twisted the pestle against the aromatic contents while I walked, glad to see the man collapsed on the ground beneath the tree, but disbelieving at the silence beyond the fence.
“Is she gone?” I asked my mother. “Her spirit, I mean.”
“Yes,” my mother signed. “Now, we must save him.”
“Save him?! Why would we save him? It seems to me that we are rid of two evils at once!” I thought for sure that my mother was planning on using the Darkness to take out our enemy and let bygones be bygones, going back to our lives as they were.
“What good would that do?” She asked me, but I did not know. She beckoned me to kneel on the other side of the man, torn up and bleeding as though he’d just survived a tornado. “Give me the bowl,” she commanded, but the thought of it made my lips purse in indignation. I did not resist, however, when she took the bowl gently from my hands.
“A man who does not see,” she said as she knelt at his side and spooned some of the verdant green mixture onto the man’s closed eyes with her fingers, “cannot understand. A man who cannot understand holds fear in his heart.” She tore open the man’s coat and shirt, and rubbed the mixture in an area bigger than his heart on his hairy chest. “A man who holds fear in his heart causes pain with his hands.” She picked up each of his large hands and rubbed his rough palms with the earthy mixture.
The moments following were filled with fear, certainly, but also hope that my mother was right. She had to be right. Where else could we go? How would we cover his death? Surely, someone would come looking for him. He was not a nobody in his life.
His eyelids twitched, and my heart fluttered.
A groan escaped his throat, and my breath caught in mine.
“Shhhh…” my mother whispered to him and placed her hands on his, helping him sit up.
He said nothing, mouth a little agape, looking back and forth at my mother and me.
“What was that? How did you? Where did it go? What happened?”
My mother said nothing, but turned his hands over in hers. He rambled more almost-unintelligible questions as he looked at his hands, the slices in his skin closing before his eyes, the wounds healing one at a time. Once his hands were almost restored, he rubbed them together to remove the panacea. Standing now, he noticed his shirt undone and he quickly brushed green clumps from his dark chest hair. Finally, he touched his face. Although dirty, the peeling skin revived itself, restoring a natural pinkness instead of the agitated, bloody coloring.
My mother cupped his hands in hers again, making a bowl and stretched his arms out enough to catch rainfall in them.
“For your face,” I explained when he looked at me at a loss.
He splashed the waters over his eyes and rubbed away the grit and greenery from the deep crevices near his eyes and in his eyelids.
When he opened them again, he looked at us and laughed so suddenly, my mother and I both jolted.
“You healed me,” he said.
“Yes,” I said and stole a glance at my mother.
“No, no, no, I mean, you healed me! Ha ha! You could have just let me die, but you didn’t, did you? You rascal women! This is unbelievable! The evil - that dark thing - what was that? Is it gone? It feels gone. Do you feel it gone, too?”
My mother and I stood still but nodded slowly, unsure, I think, of this man’s sanity.
“I did it!” he proclaimed. “No, we did it! You did it! And you! Why, you aren’t evil witches at all. Look at you, look at this. Did you make these?” He indicated my small now slightly torn up garden that made his panacea.
“For you,” I blushed. When did he get handsome? Suddenly, the man in front of me wasn’t the hated witch finder, but a man not much older than I with sapphire eyes that locked with mine, and I could not look away.
“That,” he said as he kissed my knuckles, “is a gift worth protecting. I cannot undo what I have done to you and yours, but I can protect you from further harm, something I think your father would have wished for you, regardless of his presence, something, in fact, he died to give you.”
I dropped my head, shameful for letting an ounce of lust stir inside me for a man who was mostly responsible for the death of my father.
“May I come see you again?” he asked me, and I felt my mother’s hand on my shoulder before I could answer.
“His intentions are good now,” she signed. “He will not hurt you or me or any good witch again. He has seen the true Darkness and knows the difference now. There is good and evil in all of us, even you and me and even the which finder, but you can trust him now. If you choose to.”
The witch finder looked between the two of us, not able to follow my mother’s signing.
I turned to the man, and I nodded once.
The next morning as I worked in the garden, repairing the damage from the winds of yesterday, I heard my mother whistle from the open kitchen window, but when I turned to look, the witch finder was back, standing almost shyly under the patio, a bouquet of wild daisies in one hand.
“Of course he came to see me,” I thought as I brushed my hands clean over the garden box, stood up, brushed spare blades of grass from my knees, just below the un-hemmed line of my favorite green dress, and crossed the yard to my witch finder.
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