Never steal from a witch. Our neighbor was just supposed to be an old woman who lived alone. That was what our parents would say whenever we joked about the witch next door. They were wrong.
She caught me on her property trying to take one of the many objects decorating her front porch. Only twelve years old and stupid, I wanted to prove how much braver I was than my older brothers. But she caught me stealing from her. The way she flew out of her house, as if her legs and feet were trailing behind her in midair, startled me. I dropped it on the ground. It broke before I could really get a good look at it. I remember it was ceramic, had tall yellow and white flowers with fat green leaves all round it and stood about fifteen inches high. And I remember it broke into a hundred pieces.
The witch held me in her stare and cursed me on the spot. Her voice was angry and evil and she used my full name. I held my breath and listened in horror as she vowed to get her revenge on us all. She said unless I replaced the broken object, her curse could never be lifted. The old woman next door spoke just like a real witch would and I believed every word. I turned and ran, never saying I was sorry. In the time it took me to get back in my own yard, where I should have been safe, I had aged fifty years.
The change was discovered by my family who greeted me with surprise and concern. Who was this strange old woman? What was she doing running into their home?
“What?” I spun around but no one else was there. Glancing into the small mirror hung beside the door—the one mom used to check her lipstick and hats with—I screamed. It was me. I was the strange woman they were wondering about. An ugly old woman just like a . . . a witch.
None of them knew who I was. I tried explaining what had happened but they shook their heads in disbelief. My brothers turned away and laughed as I stood there shouting “It’s me. It’s me.” My parents asked me, a stranger, to go. “Go? Go where? But this is my home,” I pleaded.
That really happened to me years ago. It’s the one day that will forever be ingrained in my mind. I relive it night and day. Ever since then I have searched the internet and traveled all over New England searching for that ceramic object. What other choice do I have? My only thought as I approach the enormous antique flea market in Brimfield Massachusetts is, it’s got to be here somewhere. It just has to be. Please, please someone, answer my help wanted ad in the newspapers. Otherwise I’m not getting any younger.
© 2020 by Andrée Gendron