Short Story: The Witch's Brew - BlueAnteater.com

Short Story: The Witch’s Brew

“Where there’s tea there’s hope.”
— Arthur Wing Pinero

The moon was big tonight and shone brightly through Davey’s window, the light slowly spreading across his empty bed. Davey was at his desk, whiling away the time as usual by (silently) playing games on his computer. He knew it was probably bad for his eyes, but anything was better than just staring blankly at the glow-in-the-dark star stickers on his ceiling. His dad had put them up there when Davey was little and dreamed of being an astronaut. His dad had promised that they would add the planets and moons someday, but now . . . Davey shoved the thought back into its usual place in the back of his mind and viciously killed another monster in his game.

Tonight was different than the past few weeks, though. He was waiting for more than just the sun to rise and another lie to his mother that he had slept well. Davey glanced at the sticky note on his monitor:

Meet me at the old oak at 1 am for the cure to your sleep problem. ~ From THE WITCH”

Everyone at school knew who the Witch was – or at least, what she could do. If you needed anything, from a set of pencils to a new basketball, she could always somehow get it for you. There was always a price to pay, of course, but she rarely asked for money. No one who went to see the Witch was allowed to say what they had paid for her services, but rumor said it was sometimes a personal item, a prank to pull, an act of daring . . . or a secret. Who the Witch actually was (besides obviously being a student) was also a mystery; you found her via friends of friends of friends, she wore a disguise, and she never conducted business in the same place twice. Davey wasn’t sure how she had found out his secret (though the permanent dark circles under his eyes was probably a dead giveaway), nor why she wanted to meet outside of school in the middle of the night, but he was rather desperate by this point.

It was 12:45 now, so Davey shut down his computer and put on his tennis shoes. He had already changed out of the pajamas his mother had kissed him good night in, and was now wearing jeans and a thick sweatshirt. The winter chill hadn’t yet entirely abated from the April air.

He looked around his room. There was no indication on the note of what this “cure” would cost, so he had no idea what he should bring. He settled for stuffing his pockets full of loose change from his piggybank, one of his favorite books, and – after a moment’s deliberation – a few of the glow-in-the-dark stars from his ceiling. Then, he stole softly over to his window and pulled it open (he’d checked earlier to make sure it didn’t creak). The moon was even more brilliant outside, and Davey had to blink a few times to restore his night vision. He hoisted himself over the sill and dropped softly onto the grass. His mother was a sound sleeper, and he probably could’ve sneaked out the front door, but there was something adventurous and thrilling about sneaking out through the window – and luckily, his house was only one story.

The night was cold, more so than he’d thought, so Davey hurried through his backyard and over the fence into the wide open field behind his house. He couldn’t see any lights on in any nearby houses, but he assumed that the mysterious Witch likely lived in his neighborhood. How else could she have known about the old oak?

He could see the big tree now, leaves almost white from the moonlight. He was too far away to see if anyone was standing there, but being out in the open like this, without any protection besides maybe whacking an attacker with his book, made him nervous, so he ran quickly but softly, keeping low within the tall grass. The thought that this was a stupid and reckless thing to do crossed his mind. The Witch obviously knew where he lived, or she wouldn’t have chosen this spot to have the meeting, and that was unnerving to think about. But Davey still kept running. It didn’t feel like a trap, and bizarrely, he trusted the Witch. Everybody did.

And suddenly, she was there. A rumpled looking figure wearing billowy black robes and a crooked witch’s hat was sitting under the old oak. Davey slowed to a walking pace and then stood still for a moment, catching his breath.

“Hurry up, it’s cold!” the Witch called out to him in a grumpy voice.

Davey smiled in spite of himself and walked over to the Witch. She was indeed young, probably his age, though it was hard to tell under all the black wrappings. She glared up at him with bright hazel eyes that reflected the overhead moon.

“Have you no sense of urgency?” she said, her voice now a little deeper, obviously trying to be spooky. “It’s the witching hour, you know – no time for dawdling!”

Davey squinted at the girl’s face. “Aren’t you in my third period class?”

The Witch’s shoulders slumped. “C’mon, man, don’t ruin the illusion,” she complained, sounding normal again.

“Sorry.”

The Witch rolled her eyes, then reached somewhere in her cloak. She pulled out a tiny bag and standing up, held it high in the air.

“Behold!” she cried, voice thin in the chilly air. “The cure for your insomnia!”

“Well, I don’t know if it’s insomnia . . . ” Davey began.

“Have you been getting more than six hours of consecutive sleep per night?” the Witch demanded, glaring at him again.

“Er . . . no?”

“Then it’s insomnia.” She cleared her throat. “Take this cure, mortal, and be free from your affliction!”

After a little flourish of her hands, the Witch handed Davey the bag. He peered inside.

“It looks like dried up leaves,” he said slowly.

“It’s tea! Witch’s tea!” proclaimed the girl. “Also known as . . . CHAMOMILE tea.”

“So it is dried up leaves,” Davey muttered.

“Chamomile!” the Witch corrected, frowning a little. “I promise it works. Boil some water – properly, over a stove – and then pour it over a bit of the leaves and let it stew for four minutes. Then drink up! You’ll be out like a light in no time. Here, I’ve written the instructions down somewhere.”

She began rummaging through her robes. Davey glanced at the little bag.

“What does this cost?” he asked.

The Witch stopped still for a second, then continued shaking out her pockets. “Nothing,” she said, not looking at him.

“Nothing? At all? Why?”

The girl sighed and then gazed up at the moon. “Because. Because . . . I know what you’re going through.”

Davey stared.

“Not exactly, of course,” she continued, head still turned upward. “But . . . I . . . I lost my mom. So. Y’know.”

The Witch finally turned to Davey and held out a crumpled piece of paper with scribbly handwriting on it. “Here. Instructions for the tea. It’s easy.” She smiled at him, but it was a brittle smile, and her hazel eyes were dull with the memory of loss. Davey recognized it because his eyes looked the same whenever he saw himself in the mirror. Whenever he looked at his mom.

He slowly took the paper.

“If you need more, just let me know,” the girl said. “I mean, you can get chamomile tea at the grocery store, but this particular brew is made special by my grandma and works better. I hope it helps.”

Davey nodded and took a step back, unsure of what to do or say. Now he knew how everyone felt when they tried to talk to him. The Witch didn’t seem bothered by this, though. She’s probably used to it, Davey thought, and a little twinge of sympathy and familiar sadness ran through him.

“Thank you,” he managed to say. The Witch nodded.

There was a moment of quiet, broken only by the sound of crickets and the wind rustling the leaves of the big oak.

“I’m sorry about your dad,” the girl said softly.

Now it was Davey’s turn to nod. “I’m sorry about your mom.” he said, just as quietly.

The Witch smiled again; this time, it was much more warm and genuine. Davey couldn’t help but smile back.

The girl then did a little curtsy with her robes. “See you at school, Davey.” She waved at him, then turned and began walking toward the houses on the far side of the field.

Davey stood there for a couple seconds, then called, “Wait!”

She stopped and turned as he ran over to her. “Here,” he said, and placed the glow-in-the-dark star stickers in her open hand. “As payment.”

The Witch stared at the stars, then at Davey’s face. A look of understanding passed between the two teenagers. She closed her hand around the stars.

“Payment accepted.”

Then they turned and went back to their respective houses, the houses that were emptier than they should’ve been.

 


 

I don’t know really how to write happy endings, I’m sorry. xP

This idea came from Yeah Write, which is doing a year-long short story challenge for 2016! I’m a bit late to the party, so this is Week 2’s prompt. You can read all about the challenge HERE!

“Astronomical twilight” by Mike Lewinski is licensed under CC BY 4.0.

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