Friday Fiction: Witch of the Woods, Part 5

Rafia sat at my table, silent and sullen. She had finished husking the ground cherries and was now shredding the papery casings.

“I hope you plan to sweep the floor when you are done littering it,” I said.

She looked up, her face pinched. “Today is the autumn equinox,” she said.

“Is it?” The leaves were starting to turn, and the air tasted crisp and sweet rather than wet and loamy. “And so?”

“You said I could come until the autumn equinox,” she said. “So I won’t come back.”

“Aha,” I said. My knife flashed, up and down, slicing the fruits into pieces. “I understand. You’re tired of doing an old woman’s chores; you’re tired of milking Goat; you want to wash your mother’s plates instead of mine.”

“No.”

“Aha,” I said. “Then you’re bored of memorizing the names of plants, of learning to read and write the ancient languages, of calling fire and speaking to the trees.”

“No, I –”

“You what? You want to be a farmer? You want your mother to teach you to make cheese, and your father to teach you to tend goats?”

“I want to be a witch!”

I set down my knife.

I raised my eyebrows. “Anybody can be a farmer, if they work at it. A witch must have brains. A witch must be stubborn. A witch must be brave.”

Rafia stood, meeting my gaze evenly. “I want to be a witch.”

Outside, it began to rain.

“Very well,” I said. “Come back tomorrow.”

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