Prompt: Write about a single image.
In the tangles of tree trunks, twigs, and pine needles behind my Grandpa’s house, there is small clearing. The trees guard a sacred place. In the Summer their is a smattering of grass and weeds, and in the Fall a layer of dead leaves blanket this space. Fireflies guard it at night and create snatches of light in the deep blackness.
If you go beyond this place not far their is a cottage and my Grandpa told me when I was young, a witch lived their and she ate children. Perhaps, he was simply teasing us with his modern version of Hansel and Grettle, but he was very adamant that we never go into this clearing or by that cottage.
The cottage was old, grey, tumbled down, and in need of repair. If indeed a witch lived there, she didn’t use her magic to keep her home in a presentable condition. But perhaps, she had no children visiting so she could not bake them into cookies and treats to make her home look like a gingerbread house.(This last part I thought snidely because I never believed there lived a witch there who ate children, not ever.)
When my Grandpa passed away I was willed his house and property back in the woods. It stretched for many acres. I also was willed the tenancy of single woman in a cottage. I decided to finally go to this cottage despite my Grandfather’s pleas that we never go there even as adults.
So, Monday when I drove out to Grandpa’s house to assess the shape his house was in, I went first to the cottage. The light of the sun was muted in the woods and when I knocked on that cottage door dust and dirt rained down as a young woman opened up the door.
Her eyes were blood shot and grey like stones and rocks. Her house smelt dusty and I think she could have used a shower. Her brown hair was matted, growing a long way down her back. Underneath a dirty face, her skin was perfect and pale. She was unkept but I don’t believe she looked like any witch I imagined.
“Hello” she rasped, as if it were hard for her to speak, “would you like to come in Thomas. Your Grandfather spoke highly of you, perhaps, that’s why he left you his home. I haven’t had visitors in a long time so you’ll have to excuse the mess.”
“Oh, alright. I guess I could come in for a bit” I said wrinkling my noise at the musty smell. “What’s your name and how long have you lived out here, you seem young to be living out all alone here.”
” I use to live here with my Grandmother and my name is Ivey. I am twenty-three-years old and I know how to handle myself.”
“Oh I see” I said “But maybe I could help bring your home up to a safer and more attractive level. It’s such an old cottage and the nights are cold.”
“I’m fine, Thomas. I plan to start working on repairing the house shortly. But for now let me go down to the creek and wash myself, then I will make us some supper.”
I agreed and sat in the disgusting house as Ivey fixed herself up. When she came back I thought she was quite beautiful her washed damp mane was a glossy brunette, her eyes enchanted me. Her skin was as white and beautiful as I imagined.
Ivey hummed a song as she cleaned up the dusty kitchen and wonderful smells came from the stove as she chopped vegetables fresh from her garden. She was making stew. I enjoyed the dinner heartily with wine and Ivey was quite entrancing. That night I left her house thinking, how could Grandpa have ever thought she was a witch.
I loved my Grandfather’s house and the trees within that secret clearing. And as I was a writer I set about to write a story using details from my Grandpa’s life for some parts in the book. As I sorted through his life in that house, some things I kept and others I gave away. I spent many nights with Ivey, she always insisted on cooking me dinner. I brought her little trinkets, clothes, and items most other woman liked. She would always smile at me and kiss me, grateful for the present.
When she became pregnant I tried to marry Ivey but she would have none of it.
“At least move into the house” I said, “that cottage can’t be good for the baby. Or let me get it fixed up for you?”
Ivey finally consented to having the cottage remodelled. We could preserve nothing but the skeleton of the cottage and everything else had to be redone. It was modernized with a bathroom and a kitchen with an extra-large oven in it, Ivey’s only request.
I was happy to do it for her. I loved her, that is why I could not understand it when one night I came over supper, she gave me too much wine and watched gravely as I held my daughter. Then she asked me to check that the oven was working before pushing me in. She had been fattening me up to eat for months. The last thing Ivey said to me was:
” I cannot be better then my Grandmother, I’m sorry Thomas, but I will take good care of our daughter. I’m not like my ancestors, I do not eat children. But I make men into sweets to decorate my house and eat.”
It was a horrifying thing to hear from my beloved Ivey. But no matter, it didn’t hurt due to Ivey’s magic. I am the post and lentil around Ivey’s door, some kind of short bread. And I can see out to that magical clearing and remember what my Grandpa said in vain: never go out to the witch’s cottage.