Thursday, 13 November 2014

She was just as revolting as he remembered

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She was just as revolting as he remembered but hedge witches didn’t rely on their good looks for customers. Small twigs and leaves were woven into her hair. It was meant to look disordered and scatterbrained but he knew she was anything but. She wore a long kind of cloak that was filthy and reeked badly enough for him to smell it from where he stood.
“What eez eet you be wanting today, mee luvv?”
“Cut the shit, Maggie.” He knew she could speak normally; it was all part of the act.
She laughed; an ugly cackle. “Okay, boy. You had better come in.”
He followed her into her small, thatched roof cottage. The garden was a shambles with plants growing everywhere. Most of them looked like weeds to him. He had to push them out of the way to walk down the path.
She left the fetid cloak hanging in a small room just inside the back door and then she guided him to a much cleaner and neater kitchen.
He wondered if all her clients got this far.
As if she had read his mind, she said, “They usually ask but don’t want to be seen inside the house. I do a lot of business through the front window.”
“The window? Really?”
“That way they aren't in the house. It seems to ease their mind.”
“I see.”
She gave him an appraising look. “What do you want?”
“A potion.”
“I don’t do love potions.”
“I know; I don’t want one.” He sighed. “I want a memory potion.”
“Forget or remember?” Her small, bright eyes studied him.
“Oh, my boy... that is not so easy.”
He stood suddenly. “I need to...” He moved agitatedly, stopping in front of the window. He stared unseeingly out the window.
“I can’t help you forget. That just takes time... and patience.”
He turned and banged his palms on the table. She didn’t flinch. She was much tougher than she looked.
Placing her weathered palm on top of the back of his hand, she patted him. “Tell you what, love, I’ll put the kettle on.” Water came from a hand operated pump on the edge of her sink. She chattered inanely about the weather and talked to one of her cats as she filled the large iron kettle and placed it on the cast iron stove. She stoked it up and then bustled around cutting up slices of fruit cake and spreading thick slabs of butter on them. She placed the plate in front of him. He was still sitting, hunched over at the table but now his hands were held between his thighs.
She poured the water into a large teapot and a fresh smell of herbs rose.
His face twisted at the odour.
“It’s sage tea; very good for your liver.” She passed him a large chunky practical mug filled with the hot tea. “I would not offer it to you if you were pregnant, but I don’t think there is any chance of that.”
He peered into the mug and then took a tentative sip. The cat leapt up onto his lap. He gave it annoyed look but let it stay. Another sip.
Maggie just waited for him to talk. She pushed the cake closer to him, and added a slice of lemon to her own tea.
He ate, he drank, he stroked the cat and eventually, he talked.
Maggie listened.
And when he had finished, she suggested that he might be feeling better.
He gave her an awkward hug and agreed that he did... just a little.
She watched him leave. She didn’t tell him that it was better to remember, because he would need this experience. Getting his heart broken would make him more careful next time. And the next person he fell in love with would benefit. Maybe, if they loved him, he would appreciate them more.
The next day, he came back to chop some wood for her as payment. A month later, he took a kitten with him and she knew he would be all right.
© AM Gray 2014

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