In a daze, Eleanor made her way back to Grace. She untied the reigns and lifted herself into the saddle. Fixing to start the journey home, Eleanor paused.
She felt a pull towards the forests outside of town.
Towards the home of her dear friend, Alice.
Making her decision and already getting excited, she squeezed her legs around Grace and set her off into a canter. Eleanor steered her horse towards the woods. There was a path that was hidden by shrubs and low branches along the edge of the forest.
Eleanor stopped in front of the hidden path. The trees grew in odd angles and zig zag in different directions. Even though the leaves were still on the trees, the trees themselves looked oddly like tall humans with long arms and fingers. Reaching, stretching for whoever dared to enter these woods.
Many of the town’s people stayed away, claiming they were haunted. But Eleanor knew better and was happy these woods were untouched by humans.
Grace snorted, shifting uncomfortably. Eleanor knew these woods would make the horse uncomfortable, most of the time she rarely sees animals venture in them. There was just an ominous feeling to them. She clicked her tongue, leaned forward, and wrapped her arms around the horse’s neck so that the branches would not scratch her face. Grace seemed satisfied with the contact and began the journey to Alice’s home.
As they continued to their destination, Eleanor’s mind drifted to the foyer room of the brothel.
“What was that intense feeling I was getting? How did Phoebe not feel it?” she thought, glancing down at her bandaged hands. She tried thinking of words that would best describe how she felt. None came to mind.
As the forest grew dense, and the fog that inhabited it became known, Eleanor stopped Grace and got out of the saddle. Still holding the reigns, she walked her horse the rest of the way.
Finally, the sun hitting midday, she came to a clearing.
The old cottage was built with chopped wooden tree logs, with a window and a door right in the front. There was a brick chimney along the side, with stacks of wood right beside it.
There was also a small garden off to the side with a small fence around it to ward of small animals.
Just as Eleanor was approaching, the door flew open.
“Ellie!” Alice cried.
Eleanor dropped Grace’s reigns and ran into the old woman’s arms. Alice’s short stature cause Eleanor to bend her knees and rest her head on her shoulder. After a few moments, Eleanor held her at arm’s length to get a good look at her.
Alice wore a dark brown petticoat with a dark green stay. The shift and stockings underneath were charcoal gray. Her silver hair was braided down her back, but wisps of it fell around her face. Wrinkles covered her face, but still appeared soft especially when she smiled.
“She ages like fine wine.” She thought.
Alice had been staring straight ahead, but then tilted her head up towards Eleanor’s face. Her eyes used to be a forest green, but now they were dulled by the film that covered them, robbing her of her sight.
“Don’t give me that look young lady. I am not as helpless as you think!” She scolded her.
Eleanor blushed and thanked the heavens that Alice could not see. “I’m sure I have no idea what you are talking about.” She kissed her cheeks gently and stepped back.
“How are you, Alice?”
Before Alice could answer, a meow came from behind her.
“Avice! Oh, beautiful kitten, I’ve missed you so much!” Eleanor tried squeezing passed Alice, but she stood solid.
“You address me first, then you can say hello to Avice.” Alice said in a snobbish way, her head tilted up, and her gaze past Eleanor’s shoulder.
Eleanor bowed her head in shame. “My apologies Alice, I got carried away. Would you please allow me to serve you tea?”
Alice snorted. “Of course, I will my dear! Come in, come in! You know how much I love your tea!” She turned and walked into the cozy home, waving to her to enter.
Eleanor rolled her eyes at the scene and stepped in. Inside was small, just like the outside implied. There was a wooden table with four chairs in the center of the room with different kinds of herbs spread across it. To the left side was the small kitchen area with a fireplace. To the right was her bed covered in many colorful, warm quilts. A walking stick, which Alice used for going outside, was leaning against the bed. There was also a small window above the bed, facing the small garden.
Alice walked to the chairs and sat down. In her own home, she did not need her walking stick, she knew exactly where everything was.
“What kind of tea would you like Alice?” Eleanor asked as she stepped over to the fire.
“Whatever you’d like dear, I’m not picky,” Alice waved her hand at her.
“Mint should help settle my nerves.” Alice thought to herself as she readied the kettle.
“Now, back to your question of how I am doing. I am doing very well Ellie, thank you for asking. I’ve been keeping busy in my garden, managing my herbs.” Her hand swept over the many herbs on the table. “Good for so many things. Tea, medicine, spices, etc. I have a man come to my home once a week to collect all my herbs, spices, and salves. He also gives me my money of what he sells. Of course, I pay him handsomely too for him to keep coming out here. But that is what must be done to keep my Avice happy.” The cat jumped onto the table at that moment and purred loudly. Alice chuckled and stroked the feline’s fur.
Eleanor eyed Avice. The cat had long, silver hair and Forest green eyes. The eyes often reminded her of Alice’s eyes, before they glossed over in a film of milky white.
“Are you able to tell which herb is which? Are you not afraid of giving the wrong medicine to someone? Or the wrong spice?”
Alice threw her head back and laughed. “My, I never thought you would be so closed minded.” She said wiping a tear from her eye.
Eleanor puffed out her cheeks. “I am not closed minded! I am just simply curious.” She crossed her arms and looked back at the kettle.
Alice smiled at her. “I am just teasing, love! I know you are not closed minded!” she tilted her head and touched her nose. “I can smell and feel the difference. My other senses are heightened from my loss of sight. I have not heard one complaint yet, so I am not worried. I am greatly confident in myself.”
Eleanor simply nodded, then remembered Alice cannot see her. “Interesting.”
“Plus, keeping up with my herbs keeps this old mind strong! Not to mention my body,” Alice smirked, slapping her bicep.
Eleanor did not say anything, instead she focused on making tea. Once she had a cup for both, she sat down across from Alice, trying hard not to disturb the herbs.
“So,” Alice began while lifting her cup. “How is Grayson?”
Eleanor stiffened. “He is sick. Actually, do you happen to have any medicine I can give him?”
Alice took a sip. “What are his symptoms?”
“Oh, uh…” Eleanor thought back to earlier in the morning. “Headache, stomachache, vomiting…maybe a fever too?”
Alice raised a brow. Avice meowed loudly, as if she was scolding Eleanor for hiding the truth.
“Hmm.” Alice quietly hummed. “Take some ginger. If anything, that will help his stomach.” She said in an annoyed tone.
Eleanor took that as her que not to continue the topic. She sipped her tea and reached a handout to Avice. The cat strategically moved around the herbs without disturbing them and met the hand halfway.
She purred lovingly as her soft fur was being stroked. Avice closed her eyes and continued to lean into Eleanor’s touch, making Eleanor smile.
After a few minutes of stroking the cat’s fur, Eleanor stood up. “I am terribly sorry Alice, but I must get going. Night is about to fall on us, and I would rather not be caught by a malicious person in the dead of night.”
Alice stood and listened as Eleanor took their empty cups to the washing bin.
“I understand,” spoke Alice grabbing an herb off to the right of her. “Here is the ginger. I trust you know what to do correct?”
Eleanor nodded her head, “yes, thank you.”
“And take these herbs as well for you. Its Dandelion, Nettle, and Yellow Dock. These will help with energy.”
Eleanor stared at Alice. “Why do you think I need these herbs for energy?”
Alice smiled sweetly at her. “I can hear it in your voice.” She tapped her ear, like it should have been obvious.
“Oh,” Eleanor replied as she took the herbs.
The two exchanged their goodbyes, hugging and kissing each other’s cheeks. Eleanor scratch Avice’s head one last time before heading out the door.
“Be safe and visit soon!” Alice yelled from her doorway.
Eleanor hummed an agreement. She grabbed Grace’s reigns and started her long journey back towards her home.