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?”
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!