“Perhaps I am the only person who, asked whether she were a witch or not, could truthfully say, “I do not know. I do know some very strange things have happened to me, or through me. – Lady Alice Rowhedge”
~ Norah Lofts, Bless This House
Last year the little girl from down the road at our city house knocked on my front door. The family had not lived in the street long, and I hadn’t met her or her siblings, although I had waved to them on occasion.
I could tell she was nervous.
“Excuse me,” she asked very shyly, “are you the Witch?”
Before I could say anything she pulled a fifty cent coin out of her pocket which she placed on the doormat at my feet.
“Can you turn my brother into a toad or a rat or something? Not forever, but just enough so he’ll stop pulling the heads off my dolls?”
We never got to finish the conversation because her brother and his friends turned up out the front on their scooters and she took off down the road, giggling like anything.
A few weeks ago she again made the nerve-wracking journey to my front door.
She’s taller this year, and gap-toothed. On that particular day her toenails were the most shocking shade of orange, with bright pink glitter. But her eyes were sad.
“I’m sorry to bother you,” she said, not quite able to look at my face. “I know you’re probably very busy…”
“It’s no problem. I have time right now. Can I help you?” I tried to use my kindest smile.
“I don’t have much money.” Her words came out in a rush and she thrust a ziplocked bag at me with a five dollar note and some coins in it.
When I didn’t take it, she looked up, her face screwed up in something between desperation and defiance. “I can get more!”
“Why would you need to give me money?” I asked her gently.
“My granny is dying. I thought you could do a spell for me.”
Oh my. Her words just stole my breath away.
As she stared at me her eyes filled with tears and her bottom lip began to tremble.
“You love her very much, don’t you?” I said.
The little girl nodded, tears spilling down her face.
“And I know that she loves you…”
As we spoke the little girl’s mother pulled her car up in front of our driveway. “Hurry up, Veronica. We need to get going!”
“Just a moment,” I called to the mother. “You’re going up to the hospital?” I said to Veronica, quietly so that her mum couldn’t hear. She nodded, yes. I stepped closer. “Honey, it’s your granny’s time to go. You make sure you get to hold her hand and whisper in her ear. Don’t be afraid. Tell her how much you love her and tell her it’s okay for her leave now. Ask her to watch over you and come visit you sometime. I know she will. Okay?”
“Okay,” she sniffed. “Thank you.”
And she scooted off to the car, leaving me wishing that I did have some kind of magical spell to take away the pain of little girls.
This afternoon I saw her again. She waved, and left her brother and his friends to come and stand at my fence.
Veronica’s face grew pinched, and she looked around to see if anyone was listening before she blurted out, “She smells like soap. That’s how I know she’s there. Granny, I mean.”
She ran over to the other children, not looking back, and I went inside to make a cup of tea. Maybe I gave her the right magic after all.