Trick or Treat
Posted: 28 October 2009
Word Count: 684
Summary: For Keith's Halloween Challenge
For three years running, on Halloween Night, two lads hammered on her door. ‘Trick or treat,’ they’d shouted. On the first occasion, Ella offered them a bag of sweets.
‘We want money.’ The taller lad pushed his face up close to hers. Refusing at first, but after threats of vandalism, she gave them fifty pence. Sneering, they asked for twenty pounds. Afraid, she gave into their extortionate demand.
The following year on Halloween night, she didn’t answer the door. ‘We know you’re there!’ they shouted through her letterbox. ‘It’s forty quid or we’ll burn your bungalow to the ground.’
From behind the door, Ella told them in a tremulous voice, ‘I’m calling the police!’
‘They won’t get here in time,’ one of them threatened.
So Ella handed over forty pounds, money she’d put by for her electricity bill. When the older lad snatched the notes from her hand, he warned her to keep her mouth shut.
On the morning of this third Halloween, desperation drove her to leave her home and head towards Pennant Lane. As she walked towards a cottage tucked behind a high, hawthorn hedge, she mused upon the strange and reclusive woman she was about to visit, unannounced. Some locals claimed Miss Witherspoon was a witch and could turn sane men mad. On hearing those stories, Ella used to laugh and reply that witches lived only in fairy tales.
Reaching a gate almost concealed by rampant ivy and flapping Wood Pigeons, she pushed it open and stepped up to a black door. The door opened to reveal a deep lined face. ‘I knew you were coming,’ Miss Witherspoon said. Surprised, Ella stared at the stooped elderly lady. ‘Don’t stand there catching flies. Come in.’ Wordlessly, Ella entered a cosy sitting room where a log fire blazed in a large, stone fireplace.
‘Cup of tea?’ Miss Witherspoon asked. Ella nodded, unable to speak. ‘Make yourself comfortable.’ Miss Witherspoon disappeared through red velvet curtains and from the kitchen the sound of rattling cups could be heard.
‘Now tell me your problem.’ Five minutes later, Miss Witherspoon sat in her rocking chair by the fire.
Ella, sipping hot herbal tea, sat on a similar rocking chair, facing Miss Witherspoon. ‘I heard you are a…’ She stopped.
‘A witch?’ Ella nodded at the prompt.‘A white witch, that’s what I am. I don’t put curses on people. I don’t have a broomstick or a black cat.’ With the mention of cat, a white feline wandered into the room. ‘This is Blanche.’ Miss Witherspoon let her pet jump up onto her lap.
‘A couple of lads demand money from me on Halloween nights,’ Ella explained. ‘I’m desperate and terrified.’
‘So you want me to turn them into toads?’ Amused dark eyes twinkled. Ella smiled a self-conscious smile and felt rather foolish.‘I’ll make up a potion for you. When they come to your door, tonight, drink every single drop of it.’
‘Will it work?’
‘Ask your neighbours. They’ve had no trouble since my help,’ Miss Witherspoon replied.
‘Why didn’t my neighbours mention it? They know what I've been through.’
Miss Witherspoon laughed a gentle laugh. ‘Who’d want to admit they’ve colluded with a witch?’ Ella had to agree.
That night, when her tormentors hammered on her door, Ella drank the liquid that tasted vaguely of elderflower. Almost immediately, a sudden surge of strength and confidence seemed to flood through her body, her veins. Now or never, she thought, answering the door at the fifth pounding.
'Go away!’ she ordered the pair, amazed at the strident power in her voice. ‘Leave or you’ll be sorry!’ Open mouthed, the lads stared at Ella and as they stared, Ella sensed herself growing in height as if she was towering above the pair of them.
Glaring at her protagonists, she noted apprehension wipe away their expressions of greed and disdain. Then, with a quick glance at one and other, they turned and ran down her path, slamming her gate shut behind them.
Surprised and elated, Ella began to chuckle and, for a moment, she thought she heard Miss Witherspoon chuckling with her.
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