“The Witch’s Dance” by Esther Bernstein

Julie had a new neighbor. She and her friend Amelia watched the movers carry large pieces of furniture into the house across the street, dark wooden tables and chairs and desks and armoires.

“Everything is so dark,” Julie said. “Who would want black furniture?”

“It’s not black. It’s called cherry wood,” Amelia said wisely. “It’s because the wood is the color of cherries. It’s really a dark red.”

“Ok, but still, who would want to live with such dark things in the house?”

But before they could see the people who were moving into the house, Amelia had to go home and Julie had to go to bed.

The next day, as Julie left to go to school, she looked over at the new neighbor’s house and saw the curtains twitch as if someone was looking out the window. But she couldn’t see who was standing there.

“Did you see them?” Amelia asked in school.

“No, I couldn’t see them. But the drapes are black also. Isn’t that weird?”

“Wow, that is weird. First the dark furniture, now the dark drapes… What’s with these people?”

All day long, Julie and Amelia wondered about the new neighbors, and they rushed off the school bus and raced through their homework so they could watch the house across the street. Nothing happened for a long time. Then, when it was already dark but not yet bedtime, Julie and Amelia saw something happen. All the lights in the house across the street went off. And then a glow seeped through the sheer black drapes – a flickering light that danced over the shrubs and tree in the yard.

“That’s candles,” Amelia whispered. “That’s what makes a flickering light like that.”

And then they saw it. Shadows in weird shapes moved in the flickering light, casting long and twisted shadows on the lawn in front of the house.

“Sh!” said Julie. “Do you hear that?”

Julie and Amelia strained to hear, and what they heard was weird sounds coming from the house across the street – high-pitched screeching sounds that ran shivers down their spines. The two girls stared at each other with wide eyes.

“What is that?” whispered Julie.

“I don’t know!” Amelia whispered back. “But it sounds scary. What are they doing?”

“Girls!”

The girls jumped in fright. But it was just Julie’s mom, telling them it was time for Amelia to go home. As she left, Amelia said urgently to Julie, “Make sure you see them tomorrow!”

But again the next morning, all Julie saw was the drapes moving and a tall figure standing in the window.

And that afternoon, Julie and Amelia saw the new neighbor. It was a woman, slender and tall, and all dressed in black – a long black dress, a black shawl, black shoes, a black coat, and a wide-brimmed black hat.

“I knew it!” Amelia said. “She’s a witch! She was doing magic yesterday! That’s why she had candles, and that’s why there was that horrible screeching, and that’s why she was making weird motions!”

“But look at her hat,” Julie said. “It’s not pointed!”

“Of course not,” Amelia said confidently. “She doesn’t want anyone to know she’s a witch. But you better make sure to stay away from her.”

“I will!” Julie said fervently.

And for three weeks, she did. She looked over at the house across the street, and she shivered when she saw the flickering lights and the weird shapes and heard the screeching sounds coming from the house. But she saw the tall woman only a few times, and she made sure the witch never saw her.

But then one day, as Julie and Amelia were walking form the bus to Julie’s house, they saw her – the witch was coming out of Julie’s house! They stopped at the gate and watched in horror as Julie’s mom stood in the doorway and the witch made her way down the path. She passed by the two girls in the gate, and her lips twitched when she looked at them.  And then she was gone, and Julie and Amelia unfroze and raced into the house.

“What was she doing here?” Julie demanded.

She? Ms. Pur was inviting us to her house next weekend for a special party.”

“A party?” yelped Amelia. “In her house?”

“We can’t go!” Julie said urgently. “She’ll – she’ll – ”

“She’ll what?” Julie’s mom asked with an amused smile.

“She’ll chop us up and put us in a pot of boiling water!” Amelia said.

Julie’s mom frowned. “Why in the world would you think that?”

“She’s a witch, Mom!” Julie said.

“Nonsense. She’s a perfectly ordinary woman, and we’re going to be friendly neighbors and go to her party.” And she wouldn’t listen to any more arguments.

So next weekend, Julie got dressed in her nice clothes and waited for Amelia to come over – she made Amelia promise to come so they could get away from the witch together if they had to. They walked over with Julie’s mom, and joined all the other neighbors in the yard of the house across the street, where tables with trays of treats were set up.

Ms. Pur moved among the neighbors, chatting with them and making sure all the kids got some treats. She was dressed all in black, as usual, but now she had two bright spots of rouge on her cheeks. Julie and Amelia shrank away when Ms. Pur came to speak to Julie’s mom, but Ms. Pur just smiled.

“An evil smile,” Amelia whispered to Julie.

After some time, Ms. Pur invited everyone into her house. They all trooped into a room with walls completely covered by mirrors, with long round bars at waist height.

The sheer black drapes were drawn shut, and the lights were all off, but there were flickering candles set in spots all over the room, reflecting eerily off the mirrored walls so that the light seemed to permeate the room and beyond.

“You know what that means?” Amelia whispered to Julie. “It means the witch is going to do some magic now. We’re all doomed!”

Julie shivered and pressed closer to her mom.

Then Ms. Pur stood in front of the room and everyone got quiet to hear her.

“Thank you all for coming today,” she said in a soft, sweet voice.

“That’s not her real voice,” Amelia whispered. “Wait – soon she’ll cackle and then everyone will see she’s a witch.”

“I invited you here to introduce a special program I’d like to set up in this neighborhood.”

Julie could imagine what kind of program it was – one after another, the ideas came to her – boiling snakes and talking ghosts and the river flooding and –

Ms. Pur glided over to a stereo system set into the dark wood of the furniture and pressed play. High-pitched sounds came out of it. The sound of violins playing filled the room. Julie looked at Amelia.

“That’s not screeching!” she whispered. “That’s music!”

Amelia looked confused. “I thought it was the people she was torturing!”

And then Ms. Pur started dancing. Her arms bent, her feet came up, and she whirled across the floor in a gorgeous flow of movement.

“And that’s not weird magic motions!” Julie whispered.

Amelia didn’t answer. She was staring at Ms. Pur in awe.

Ms. Pur glided to a stop and bowed deeply as all the neighbors clapped.

“I used to dance in shows in New York,” Ms. Pur said. “Now I want to teach dance of all styles to anyone who wants to learn. I’ll have – ”

“Me! Me!” Amelia had pushed her way to the front of the crowd and was raising her hand and standing on tip-toe. “I want to learn how to do that!”

Ms. Pur laughed. “I have my first student!”

Julie and Amelia signed up for the children’s class while Julie’s mom signed up for the adult class.

One week later, Julie and Amelia stood with a group of ten girls and ten boys in Ms. Pur’s studio, gazing in awe at the mirrors and bars, now in the bright light of fluorescent lights. They were dressed in the black leotards and black slippers that Ms. Pur had instructed them to buy, and which their mothers had bought online.

Ms. Pur clapped her hands, and all the kids got quiet and turned to her. “Welcome to our first class,” she said in that soft voice. “We’ll be starting ballroom dancing today, and we’ll work on that for a while. After that, we’ll move on to some basic ballet, some contemporary, and,” her eyes twinkled, “we’ll even do some hip-hop. How do you like that?”

The boys hooted, and the girls laughed and then clapped and cheered. Ms. Pur laughed.

“Let’s get started, then.”

For three months, the group learned ballroom dancing. They practiced swing, the waltz, salsa, and even the tango. And then one day, Ms. Pur called their attention at the end of class.

“Girls and boys, I think you’re ready. It’s time for our first recital.”

So the next week, all the parents came, and Julie and Amelia’s group, along with the other age groups of kids that Ms. Pur taught, performed spectacularly. They danced in a room in Ms. Pur’s house, set up just like a theater with a stage and audience seats – and when the lights dimmed and the candles cast their flickering lights over the stage, everyone felt the magic.

***
Esther is an English student who focuses on medieval literature—it’s just so magical! Though not Pagan herself, she loves everything ‘witchy’ and is an avid reader and writer of fantasy, especially Young Adult. This is her first published work, and she is proud to have it hosted on Pagan Culture!”

***

Stop by Reader’s Dialogue, my Wicked Darlings, and devour one of Esther’s latest reviews. I’ve taken the liberty of tasting a few, and yum, yum, yum!

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48 comments:

  1. Great story.  It makes me think of how my 5 year old would react... probably with "Oh a Witch!  Let's go meet her, have tea and talk about Thor."

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  2. Fabulous story...and wonderful of you to share Esther's work with us :D

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  3. Very enjoyable story Esther...thanks for sharing...

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  4. Great story Esther... had me hooked!

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  5. I enjoyed this very much especially the way the girls were scaring each other by imagining evil witchyness.  I also liked that boys were included in her Ms. Pur's dance class.  Very nice.  What age group is this geared to?

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  6. Diandra Linnemann12/21/2011

    Thanks for sharing, this is a great story.

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  7. lilacwolf12/21/2011

    What a great story, good job Esther!

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  8. Hi Esther, me again LOL I re-read your story and still love it! I'm curious Esther, is this from a book you have written or strictly a short story? I think a children's book is right up your alley!

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  9. Esther Bernstein12/21/2011

    That's an intelligent 5 year old! Glad you enjoyed the story.

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  10. Esther Bernstein12/21/2011

    Thank you!

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  11. Esther Bernstein12/21/2011

    Thank you! Glad you enjoyed!

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  12. Esther Bernstein12/21/2011

    That's great! Thank you!

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  13. Esther Bernstein12/21/2011

    Thank you! I'm glad you shared the details you liked. This is geared to the "Middle Grade" group - 8-10 year olds.

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  14. Esther Bernstein12/21/2011

    Thank you, Diandra!

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  15. Esther Bernstein12/21/2011

    Thank you!

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  16. Esther Bernstein12/21/2011

    This is just a short story. Thanks for that comment - I am working on a couple of books for this age range.

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  17. Sweet Zombie Goddess12/21/2011

    Your story was wonderful :)! Such a fun and unique way to show that you can't always judge a book, or a witch, by its cover lol.

    \IiiI

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  18. Bernard-Charles12/21/2011

    WOW! I am madly in love with life and how it works! Stay strong! Esther, which character do you see yourself in the most?

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  19. Loved this story Esther.  And thanks Magaly for sharing this as your Yule gift!  Wonderful!

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  20. Hazel (Didos)12/21/2011

    Hi, WOW what a great story, I loved it, Thanks for sharing, Hazelxo

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  21. This is an adorable story.  While I'm not particularly into dancing, I do aspire to one day be the woman that all the neighborhood children believe is a witch . . .

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  22. Dragonfly12/21/2011

    Wonderful story Esther, thanks for sharing. I love how the children embellished what little they knew at the start until in their minds Ms. Pur resembles the traditional stereotype witch and Ms. Pur's smiling indulgence of them.  I also like the name of Ms. Pur it makes me think of a witches cat. Lovely tale, hope to read more of your writing soon. I'd love to hear more about Ms Pur and her lovely home with all the dark furniture and style of dress, how she came to have that style rather than a modern dress.

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  23. Wonderful short story Esther! As a Witch and a Dancer it spoke to me on many different levels. I'd love to see what her choreography ended up looking like... you certainly didn't expect ballroom... but what a great way to show the diversity of dance! Thank you for allowing Magaly to share your wonderful story! 

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  24. Esther Bernstein12/21/2011

    Or anyone, for that matter! Thank you.

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  25. Esther Bernstein12/21/2011

    Interesting question. I suppose a bit of the mother and a bit of Ms. Pur. There's a rational, no-nonsense side to me, but I've got a bit of the artsy and magic as well!

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  26. Esther Bernstein12/21/2011

    Thank you! Happy holiday!

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  27. Esther Bernstein12/21/2011

    Thank you, Hazel!

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  28. Esther Bernstein12/21/2011

    lol! You can do it - that would be super-cool!

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  29. Esther Bernstein12/21/2011

    Ooh, Pur as a cat - that's a nice twist. I like that!
    As to her dress - I considered having her dress more modern, with a real artsy look, but I went with the quiet, dignified look instead. It's a subtle difference, but it is there.

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  30. Esther Bernstein12/21/2011

    Thank you Kourtney! I actually know very little about dance, and I had to do a bit of research for this story. I'm glad a Dancer didn't catch me with any mistakes!

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  31. AutumnWind12/21/2011

    What a great story Esther. I really enjoyed reading it. How long have you been writing short fiction?

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  32. Esther Bernstein12/21/2011

    The first story I remember writing is a fairy tale, in 5th grade. I recently went back and rewrote that story! Now that was a satisfying feeling! 

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  33. That was a great story; a perfect example of how you mustn't judge a book by its cover, so to speak!
    Thank you to Esther for writing this, and to both of you for sharing it! :)

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  34. Esther Bernstein12/22/2011

    Thank you, Tori! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

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  35. Esther Bernstein12/22/2011

    On second thought - though I do have a bit of Julie's mom and Ms. Pur - and even Julie - in me, I think I see myself most in Amelia. I let my imagination run wild, I both accept the supernatural as "perfectly ordinary" and see the magic in ordinary things, and I delight in the thrill of new experiences.

    I'm glad you asked this question, because it made me realize these things about myself!

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  36. Great story! I was hooked right till the end!!!

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  37. Lisa Wright12/23/2011

    What a great story - I really enjoyed that. Don't you just love our children's imaginations run riot!!

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  38. What a wonderful story and a pleasure to be introduced to Esther Bernstein.

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  39. Esther Bernstein12/25/2011

    Thank you Michelle!

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  40. Esther Bernstein12/25/2011

    That's what makes writing children's stories so much fun - you get to let your own imagination run wild, and they'll eat it all up!

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  41. Esther Bernstein12/25/2011

    Thank you!

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  42. Esther Bernstein12/25/2011

    Thank you! I'm so glad you enjoyed it!

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  43. What a great story!! It reminds me of something that happened when I was about 6 or 7. My best friend was a boy that lived next door until I moved out to the country. On the street we were neighbors on, there was a house at the end of it covered with vines. It had a witch shaped doorbell plate. Every Halloween, we'd see lights on inside and outside, but all of us were too afraid to visit it. We stayed away from it like the plague. Turns out the woman inside just really liked witches. LOL We thought she'd chop us up and eat us.

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  44. I would LOVE to have that house. You see, I have this really good friend, and we've been planning to dance around under the Dark Moon when we are in our 80s ;-)

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  45. I would love to have it now, too.:)

    Back then, I thought I was gonna be witch soup, though. LOL

    Ahhh, the Dark Moon, the dancing awaits! ;)

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  46. Time does change things, doesn't it? I mean, except dancing under the Dark Moon that always stays true *cackles*

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  47. Sheralie Samuels1/01/2012

    Don't ever stop writing Esther. I really want to print this out for my kidlets. Brightest Blessings )O(

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