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A Witch In Town

Down in the valley where berries tangled with old secrets and the moon went to sleep, down in the valley of wild quiet and tree dreams, lived a witch. The townspeople knew she was a witch because they said so. She said nothing back, except a few common words - bread, milk, please, how kind, that sort of thing - when she came to buy her groceries. Half the time she had an expression on her face as if, infuriatingly, she was not even seeing the townspeople, but gazing instead on something else - the devil's tail, perhaps. The other half of the time her eyes seemed to shine, as if tear-filled or enchanted.

She was neither young nor old. She looked like a rather plain woman on a purple bicycle that probably turned back into a broom in the valley. A woman with copper-coloured hair and long, patched dresses and a troubling smile. Of course she was a witch.

She cut her cats out of the night sky and gave them stars for eyes.

She caught wishes on cobwebs and ate them with her porridge, which was why some folk never married or got the promotion they wanted - the witch was why.

That was what they said. They should have run her out, but were just a little too nervous for it, so they poked at her life instead.The grocer's wife gave her the older batch of bread. The grocer's daughter raised an eyebrow as she bought seeds for birds, bones for stray dogs. The retired gentlemen, with war medals on their jackets, stepped deliberately in her path as she rode through town, so that she almost tipped off her bicycle, trying to avoid them. The women did not talk to her, not even when she smiled that deep, longing smile and said please, how kind. They snickered as she left their shops.

After all, there was nothing worse than a witch.

illustration by Ida Rentoul Outhwaite

The Water Cycle


Every day, beneath the tenderness of new sunlight and the quiet sorrow of fading stars, a woman went down to the pool. It lay between her house and the unkempt meadows, and when she sat there she could look to the candlelight blossoming in window after window as the household slowly woke, or she could look to the shadows of animals creeping through the meadow mist. Sometimes she looked for a little while. Other times she lay her face in her hands - because she came to the pool for weeping.

Every day, weeping, as the sun rose and dreams slipped away.

Once it had been that she wept for a reason, but now it was simply what she did come morning. She spilled her heart into the silent bright water. And then she returned home feeling refreshed.

But that was a melancholy household, where sighs wove a shroud around words. And so the woman found no reason not to go down to the pool every morning for weeping. And every morning afterwards she sat in the kitchen with softening eyes and sighs, and she drank water with her porridge. The household drank water - pool water, carried up to the house by servants, stained with her habitual tears and her empty sorrows.

And then it happened that the woman came to be with child. Thereafter, when she went to the pool in the morning, she wept no more but whispered small dreams that soon ravelled long and lovingly into songs. And she began visiting the pool later and later, for the sake of protecting her child from dawn's chill. So it was that, sitting there, she smelled the bread scent, heard the voices, coming from open windows of the household. She listened to birds and crickets sing in the meadow grasses. Her joyful breath stirred the pool water and made its scintillations rise up like wishes on the sunlit air.

At first she sang for gladness of her child. But soon she sang for the singing itself. And then she returned home feeling refreshed.

And song seemed to dance through the household's words, and they drank the waters of joy. The woman found no reason for weeping any more.

illustration by Robert Anning Bell

You see, I am somewhat adrift lately, and story has always been my certain ground, so here I stand a while. I know you don't like it, but you can always visit me at instagram for something different. The question of give and take with blogging has been on my heart a lot lately, and I've decided to go let it go and just do what I want for the moment. And yes I know this is an awful story, but I'm simply letting myself write, just as I let wildflowers grow in my garden, to nourish the ground for better things.

The Frog Prince's Wife

Afterwards, she carried the scent of lilies with her, and the silver of light on the water, gold on the treasured ball. It was as if her heart would carry her back if it could. Back to the day she met the frog.

His voice was gentle now, the voice of a man who for three years had swallowed his truth along with well water. But then it had rattled against her bones much the same way his smile still could, leaving her feeling half-wild and fragile - all the princess shaken out of her, all the manners and charm, until she was simply a woman before him, seen by him the way no one else ever did. He had fished out her heart even before her ball.

And yet she had not seen him. She had seen only the lithe tongue, the gibbous throat, the specks on his wet green skin. The curse on him had been forced apart legally by her reluctant promises: she had known it as a curse only when it shattered against her bedroom wall as she threw him in disgust; only when the frog's gulp of pain became the prince's exhalation.

Oh how she loved him now - but she should have loved him then too.

He never spoke of those days. His voice was too gentle, his heart as kind as it had ever been. And perhaps too something of his desperation remained, for he kept her to her promises still, although she said he should have the bride he deserved. Someone with less beauty - and a more beautiful spirit. Someone less regal - with more humility. A good woman rather than a fair princess. He merely smiled his feral smile and kissed her warmly. For he was determined to break the curse on her, the curse of her self-disgust, and he knew that this time only love could do it.

After all, her gritted obedience to her father may have been what changed him back from a frog, but it was her love ever since that made him human.

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