Under the Willow – A Story by Mo Skiie

[This is a collated version of my serialised e-novel. Enjoy]

I – Beginnings

“Under the willow, by the brook

There are things to be seen if you care to look.

Beyond the giggling, rolling beam

Of water light and yummy green.”

This is how Persimal started the story that got us here in the first place. By ‘us’ I mean Persimal’s mind, Ray, Boomer, Flinny and I.

I’m Sheloch. I don’t matter much in this group. The only thing I contribute to this story is my curiosity and my love of telling stories. True stories of course. I don’t lie. Not Much. But my thing is mostly curiosity. When others look or listen, I say; ‘hey, I wonder if. . .’ and; ‘we should go check it out…’

Ray says those last words there will one day be my last words. I don’t find it amusing anymore when he says this. A lot of things Ray says seem to work out or come true. It’s like he knows things even when he doesn’t know it, if that makes any sense.

The others in our little group, Boomer and Flinny, also have a little skill and a little knowledge. All these together keep us out of more trouble than we would find ourselves in otherwise. Trouble that may or may not be due to my curiosity, I can’t say. I sometimes get the feeling that the others think this. But over all, I think I have to blame and thank Persimal for where we are now.

I mean, sure, I found Persimal. But I didn’t put those strange ideas into her head and I surely didn’t ask her to take up a chair in our heads.  But this is just what happened.  Or maybe she found me, even, and pulled me to her little hut-wanting-to-be-a-cottage. I wouldn’t be surprised. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I believe that’s just what happened.

When I found her, it was her muttering that I first heard. It was about 7months ago. I was walking through the patch of forest that separated my village and Ray’s little town.

*

Now, I have been walking through this forest for as many years as I can remember and taking this particular path to Rays for at least 5 years. I think I know every patch, every leaf and every creature that lives and moves through here. I have certainly stuck my nose in as many fine and foul corners as there are and have been since I was born. But to find an unfamiliar sound, even worse, muttering, was something frightening and wonderful at the same time.

I know everyone in the three towns around this forest. None of them sound like that. Not even Mrs Bayn with her walking stick and coughing fits. After a spell of gagging and sputtering, she would hawk and spit into her handkerchief, examine it and mutter with surprise, ‘Oh, what! No death yet?’

That fateful day into forest, I could not, at first, tell what the sound was. It was so hissy and strange that it could have been the wind in the trees, something dragging dried fallen twigs along the ground, or the lake slapping the edges of the shoreline. Or all three. This forest could play tricks on your mind. And your ears. But this sound gave me the chills, even with the sun coming through the trees, which were sparse in this section.

And it seemed to play games with me too. I kept walking and hearing these sounds. The second I stopped, the sound stopped. Sometimes I thought I was following it. Sometimes it followed me. It continued like this for five minutes. Walk, hiss. Stop, silence. Whatever or whoever it was, they were watching me. I went from madly jumping and looking around to sneaking peeks here and there hoping to catch something. After a while I gave up.

“Very funny, Boom!” I yelled. We call Boomer, Boom or Booms, for short. “You can come out now or stay in the thick and get bitten and cut. It’s fine by me.”

I tried to find my bearings and continue walking towards the clearing that led to Pinerush, Ray’s town. I knew it wasn’t Boomer out there. Boomer didn’t like the forest and hated the clusters of thicks, where the sound was coming from. He always walked or biked around the three towns to get wherever he wanted to go. And for other reasons I couldn’t explain and didn’t want to think about, I knew it wasn’t Boomer.

But I wanted to fool them that I wasn’t afraid or suspicious and maybe they would just slink away. I wanted to fool myself as well, that there was nothing strange or bad going on. After I shouted, I heard nothing more. That was even worse. I started to feel very cold when a voice, almost in my, ear said “who is boo?”

It was the hissy alright, but it sounded a bit more like a voice now that it was close. Almost a soft, female voice but very cracked at the same time. It made me want to yawn and close my eyes to sleep, but also to run at the same time.

I turned around to my left where the sound came from. The tiny image of a woman startled me. Not because she looked strange, even though she did with her raggedy brown clothes and and face mostly blocked by an old hat. It was because I expected to see her right by me. But this lady was at least twenty steps away from me. I looked around to see if there was someone else. No one.

She didn’t look like she had been walking through the woods either. She was sitting on the grass, with her back against a large tree trunk. She looked like she had never moved from that spot. Ever. But I know she had followed me for the last 10 mintues. I heard her. Heard something.

“Who is boo?” she asked again.

She had been looking at the floor when I first saw her but now, as she asked again, she raised her head. She had the most ordinary face in the world that I almost laughed at the fear I was feeling. She half smiled. It felt warm.

I realised, much later, that I was whispering when I answered, yet I knew she could hear me.

“It’s Boomer.” I corrected her. No outside person gets to use our ‘us’ names. “He’s my friend. He is one quarter of the pie. And I am too.”

Why was I saying that? I never said that aloud. That was just what I thought of us; Ray, Boomer, Flinny and I. We weren’t just friends or pieces of the puzzle. We weren’t even the different parts of the pie, like crust, filling, sugar and cream. We were all the pie in sections, even though we were different. But I never, ever said it aloud. Not even to them. They would make fun of me until forever. I couldn’t look them in the eye with them knowing that!

She smiled even more. I started to walk toward her even though I wanted to say goodbye and walk away, very fast, out of the wood. I was embarrassed and confused. But I couldn’t do what my heart and mind told me to do.

 

II – A Piece Of Pie

As I walked towards her, my nose filled with the sweet smell of cinnamon and apple. I could almost taste the buttery cream. I felt so at home. So comfortable. But there was also a sound very far away that I couldn’t really hear well but felt I ought to. That was not so comfortable. But I was too lost in cinnamon, curiosity and something else I could not explain, to stop and work it out.

I also noticed, as I got closer, that she wasn’t leaning against a normal a tree trunk but a rough and tumble sort of hut or cottage. It looked like giant tree trunk was hollowed out to live in. There was a roughly cut hole just above her head and to the right. I could see a ragged cloth flowing gently on the inside of it. That must be a window and the door must be on the other side. A giant tree but still a tiny place for a person to live in. But she was kind of tiny too, this soft talking woman.

“Is this where you live?”

“Yes, sometimes.” She was still smiling.

“But how come I’ve never seen you before? Or this place?”

“Beyond the willow, by the brook, there are things to be seen if you care to look.”

Oh no, you don’t. If there is anyone in this place that looks, it most certainly is me. I even look at myself in the mirror like three times a day, If I can, to see if anything’s changed. My mom used to say ‘Everyday we are all changing and growing in the funniest ways. Sometimes it happens so slowly that we don’t notice. Sometimes it’s three super quick changes that pop up an hour of each other to land you with a pimple or lock of hair sticking out or your ear. Some things are nice to see happen and some things are good to catch early and nip them in the bud.’

Don’t you go telling me about ‘things to see if you care to look’, lady! Of course I didn’t say all that to her.

“I always look. And I know every part of this forest. Well, most of it. What parts that count. How long have you lived here?” I asked instead.

“Would you like some pie?”

The pie did smell delicious. So delicious that I was upset because I knew I had to turn it down. I actually felt like I was going to cry for missing it.

“No thank you,” I said. “I don’t want to be a…”

“There’s more than enough for two. Even five or six.” She said, as if reading my mind. I always shared my best treats with my best friends. Besides, time was ticking.

“I have to be somewhere. People are waiting for me.”

“Okay, but you must come back.” Again, she smiled sweetly but it felt more like an order.

“Okay.”

I know I didn’t want to come back but that pie made me want to a little bit, and I was curious about this lady and her home that seem to have just popped up from nowhere. I looked around to see if I could trace the location back. If not for the pie, at least to just note it and maybe bring the others along. I would feel safer with others. Something told me this strange meeting was just the beginning of things to come. I breathed in deep to get one full blast of that delicious pie with the cinnamon scent just dancing on the apple enough to make you wonder if it was cinnamon and apple or apple and cinnamon.

“Under the willow, by the brook. There are things to be seen if you care to look. Beyond the giggling, rolling beam of water light and yummy green.” She looked pointedly at me while she said this.

This was pretty awkward. Was this rhyme supposed to help me find my way back here? I didn’t know what I was supposed to say back or if I was supposed to respond at all. She didn’t look crazy, although she didn’t seem completely normal when you looked right into her eyes. I tried not to do too much of that.

Granted, the words did make sense as far as this spot was concerned. Our forest, Havlar Green, was in the middle of Pinerush in the north, and my village, Southpines, in the South. To the west of the forest was Everin, which everyone called ‘midtown’. So the three towns – and we imaginatively called this region ‘the Three Towns’ – curve around the north, west and south of the forest while the lake runs South, on the east end, from Pinerush along Havlar Green and down beyond Southpines.

Most of the forest is an odd collection of ‘thicks’ and various tall trees. The thicks are horrible clusters of stubborn and unstable roots, stumps and vines with pokey bits. They tangle you up and cut you or trip you over when you get too close. Even the snakes hated the thicks. For such a high forest, Havlar is surprisingly dark. But in a soft, dreamy cozy way. Boomer says it’s creepy. This part is brighter as it’s closer to the opening along the lake and, though there are more thicks around, the trees are more spaced out so it isn’t an impossible place to navigate. There are more weeping willows around and so the place feels more tranquil. Almost sunken, depending on the weather. Still, the rhyme only gives a general description of the area. There was nothing distinctive in the words or even this area, save from this tree-turned-home. But you’d have to find it first.

“Where’s that rhyme from?”

“It’s from me to you. You and everyone else who cares to think differently.”

“What’s your name?” I asked.

“You take a guess, young man. You look very clever.”

Of all the millions of names on the planet, I had to choose one for this plain-faced total stranger that I just met. That’s crazy. Well, I may as well have fun with this.

“Well, you’re not a Jane…”

“No. I’ve heard the term ‘plain Jane’ but that would be too obvious and cruel.”

“And you’re definitely not a Freya or Eugenia, on the other end.”

“Good. I have never met a Freya that I liked.”

I found it hilarious that she thought I was actually working with her. It was time to drop in the punch line.

I stuck my index finger in my mouth and held it up as if to check the wind direction. For a split second, I actually did think hard before I brought my hand down- I mean what if I could actually use unknown powers to do strange things. The thought was gone as soon as it popped into my head.

“So, I think I’ll call you Percy.” I started to laugh.

“Astounding! You really do have a gift,” she said as she shot up from the ground. She was now walking around me – the hissy muttering started again –and looking at me as if I were a fascinating sculpture. The smell of apple and cinnamon – definitely apple with cinnamon – was overpowering as she got very close. After the second round, she stopped right in front of me and held out her hand for a handshake.

“Pleased to meet you, Sheloch. I’m Persimal. If we become very good friends then maybe you may call me Persi. Until then it’s just Persimal.”

Everything in her response seemed genuine. Genuine surprise, genuine interest and genuine pleasure. I think I did shake her hand. I don’t fully recall – that moment was a bit of a blur. I was actually speechless. A strange chill ran down my spine.

*

Did I tell her my name? I suppose anyone who’s been in three towns long enough would know my name.

I walked away in a daze. I occasionally looked back to see if she would move or watch me leave. I wanted to see her walk around the trunk to where I guessed her entrance was. Even more, I wanted to see her go in and to just be sure she was gone home and not just ducking in somewhere to follow me again. But she was just gone.

I couldn’t figure out exactly how to get towards Pinerush – or back home for that matter – so I decided to follow the light to get to the clearing by the lake. I knew I could get my bearings from there. The journey seemed to take me deeper and deeper into the less familiar areas of the forest. What I thought was the light of the edges would turn out to be a huge shaft of light coming through the trees.

This meeting must have really got me spooked, if I can’t even find my way around in here. But I tried not to think about it. It must have been another 30 minutes when I heard far-away leaves crunching. My heart sank.

Here we go again! It was an awful feeling to want to get away but not really know where I should be heading for a sure safe spot. It sounded like more than just one person. Or thing. They were cautious too. I could tell they were listening for my footsteps. And then I heard a whisper.

“I hate this! Now we’re also gonna get our heads chopped off.”

“Boom!” I yelled out in the direction of the voice. I started to run towards him. I was never so happy to hear his whiny, complaints about our woods.

“Shelly! You’re alive!” That was Ray’s out of breath voice. They must have all come to meet me.

The crackling leaves and twigs sped up towards me, now with the sound of thumping. I almost cried when I saw them. For some reason, they all hugged me. I know why I wanted to hug them but I couldn’t understand what had gotten into them. Flinny didn’t look as relieved as the rest. She just kept staring at me with a worried look.

“Are you okay?” Ray asked.

“I am now. Boom, what’s going on? What’s this about someone’s head being chopped off?”

“Don’t look at me. It was Ray. He got one of his ‘things’.”

Ray looked down and away from me as he said, “I didn’t say his head was actually cut off, you idiot.”

That wasn’t good. Not good at all.

 

 

III – Dreams In Time

Ray not only knew things got he also had a thing. Sometimes he would zone out and see things. His eyes would glaze over and sometimes he would be very still but like vibrating all over. He could be standing, with his eyes wide open but he was gone. It could be ten, forty, sixty seconds. And in that time, he would see things that, to him, could last from 5 minutes to an hour or a day. Like dreams. I say ‘like dreams’ because they had a way of mirroring reality. Mirroring reality. ‘Mirroring reality’ is what my mom says when I would tell her about something that pretty much matches a trance that Ray has had. She can never quite commit to ‘coming true’. It was never a clear picture or dream he would have, like of the mailman falling down and then you hearing the next day that the mailman fell down a well. Ray’s thing was always a bit sideways and hard to figure out until you saw it. Then the light bulb would come on. Or go out, depending on how scary the outcome.And they could be pretty random too.

Once he had a thing just outside a sushi bar. We were standing outside deciding what to do and then he was gone. Stump stiff, eyes staring into nowhere and almost popping out. Must have been only thirty seconds but it always feels longer when you’re in public and people walking by can tell something’s wrong. Even when we try to play it cool and keep talking in a huddle like everything was normal. That day by the sushi bar he said he saw a guy flying on a bicycle. Like a strange tumbling acrobatic sort of dance, along with a small blue car and a black truck. The bike was always in the air and the car and truck were mostly on the ground except when they jumped or hopped over each other. The man on the bicycle had a shadow that looked like the letter N. Every time the man and the bike circled high above the cars, he would raise his left wrist really high and look at the time. He looked upset. This repeated about 5 times before Ray came out of his trance.

Two weeks later, a totally random and quirky news feature from Japan hit our network. It was about a guy who fell off his mamachari– the popular, sturdy bicycles used to commute and shop in many cities and towns in Japan. Apparently, he was half asleep from a long shift and was rammed, by another bicycle, into a black truck which subsequently swerved into another car (we notice from the pile up image that the care was blue). Apparently, he did a bit of freaky somersaulting before he headed towards the van for the final crash. His bike was totaled, not event fit for scraps. It was a wonder he got away with only a few bruises and scratches. But the funny part was not just that he was getting upset at all the other people the accident – which he caused –  it was because his biggest complaint, the thing that he shouted about when he got off the floor, and what he complained about repeatedly when he was interviewed afterwards in hospital, was that his watch, which he wore on is left wrist, had been smashed in the accident. He got it from his father and it was the most expensive thing he ever owned. The features actually mentioned his name, which we couldn’t remember, but it started with N. We are now used to these ‘uncanny coincidences’ as my mother calls them. I have stopped telling her about them. It’s probably for the best.

Not all his things made sense and not all of them came true. Or if they did, it happened somewhere else.

“Who’s head? And what did you say? What is going on guys?” I felt very afraid.

Flinny put her hand on my shoulder. “We waited two hours after we were supposed to meet and you didn’t turn up and we couldn’t reach you. Then Ray had his thing and it really scared us so we came looking for you.”

“Well I’m here and alive so will someone please tell me what the heck is going on? What happened to my head?!”

I didn’t mean to shout at them but, there, I went and did it. I was getting more and more frustrated with this day. The worst part was that I couldn’t say exactly why. I couldn’t explain this lack of ease I felt and their cryptic words and fearful looks didn’t help at all. I hated not knowing. My mind was racing.

“Wait a minute, did you say we are two hours past the meet? I’m sure it’s only an hour.”

“Well, it’s three hours now. Ray had his thing after two hours.  After he calmed down, told us what it was and we couldn’t reach you, we all panicked, so we then headed out and have been creeping around here since. We went to your place first.”

“Thanks Boomer.” I said calculating everything. A normal walk from Ray’s, at the edge of Pinerush, to my place would be thirty minutes. Twenty for us because we walk fast. I couldn’t understand how my detour took up that much more time.

Even though a big part of me didn’t want to know, I asked again, “So what did you see, Ray?”

He finally looked up.

“Wait, were you busy eating while we were all worrying about you?” Flinny was squinting her eyes at me the way she always did before she started a long telling-off or dropped me one of her sharp shoulder punches. At this point, it felt like both were on the way. I never met a girl who liked to punch others so hard. Even when she did it playfully it stung like crazy.

“Of course not,” I said. I thought back painfully to the apple and cinnamon pie I turned down.

“Then why do you smell of cinnamon and what are these crumbs on your shirt?” she asked, squinting even more. Now they were just slits outlined by a mesh of eyelashes. Very scary but impressive that she could see through them. I could feel the force of what was behind those scrunched up slits. She was mad at me. It didn’t make sense why she was so upset.

“I was outside a house, a hut, where a lady – a very strange lady, by the way- was baking. I didn’t even go inside. She offered me some and…” I looked down at my shirt as what Flinny said, registered in my head. Sure enough I had crumbs scattered along my collar and down the middle.

Howlin’ Crumbs! How did that get there!

“This day just gets worse and weirder. But I promise you, I didn’t eat or drink anything. I was too spooked. The strange lady, she walked around me… she shook my hand… I don’t know…”

*

“You don’t know if you ate or don’t know why you did it?” Boomer asked.

He looked down at me with one of his confused expressions. I have never known anyone so contrary as Boomer. He is taller than all of us, though Ray and I are older than him by two years. He’s pretty big, in general, too. Not quite fat, not quite muscle-like. Just chunky. So, I guess a bit of both. He has the deepest voice I have ever heard in real life but it’s sort of soft at the same time. With all that, he is the most gentle, fearful and easily confused of us all. Don’t get me wrong, he isn’t dumb or anything like that. He is actually very clever. Top of the class since I’ve know him from grade school and middle school. He just doesn’t understand people much. Especially when they are being round about or sneaky.

Boomer had a very expressive face but, again, that could confuse you. We soon got to learn that when he was confused or embarrassed, his face went into a kind of grimace that looked like he was angry. With his delicate, shy temperament all these expressions made it hard for him to make friends.

When he was amused he looked surprised and had a tendency to point and shout ‘Oh! Oh!’ with his eyes so wide open, you’d think they were about to pop out. Literally. Eventually, he would even out into normal laughter, which is loud, full of chuckles and quite infectious. It was doubly funny if he had just managed to work out a joke so the realization and amusement multiplied his reaction to ridiculous levels. It was such a treat to watch him at those times.

But when he was really angry, his face would go all expressionless. He would seem twice as large and became still and calm. He was  a glacier when he was moving. He had this supernatural strength that I wager could put down a bear if he wanted to. He was a totally different person, and quite something special to watch at those times, but only if you were not the object of his anger. If you were, running would be the best thing to do. But those times are rare and so Boomer is mostly just our likeable, fidgeting, ever-complaining Boom.

“No, no. I didn’t eat. I know I didn’t. At least I don’t think I did.” I told them what happened in the woods and how I met Persimal.

They were all silent. Something was hanging in the air. I knew Ray’s ‘thing’ had taken on a new life from what I just said, otherwise, my story would have seemed a little weird and exaggerated at best, a total load of bull at worst. Unfortunately, I sensed the reality was even worse that ‘at worst’.

I was the first to speak. When I opened my mouth I said something that was very unlike me.

“You know what, guys, we are here, we’re all safe, and we still have a few hours left in the day. Let’s forget all of this crazy stuff. Don’t anybody talk about Ray’s thing or anything else that’s happened today. Let’s get out of these dreary woods and get back to the real world for some laughs.”

They all agreed. It felt so good to say, at the time. I knew there was more to come and I knew the real me deep down inside wanted to know every detail of what was going on but it had to wait. That was a cloud I didn’t want to look behind now. Couldn’t, even.

 

IV – Silver Lining

Two weeks went by and everything was about back to normal. Well, if you don’t count the fact that I hadn’t stepped foot in the woods since that day. I started taking the shuttle that runs round the forest and through the Three Towns. It’s too long to walk around. This was a shame because we were getting into the sweetest part of summer, just towards the end of season when things were most beautiful, especially the woods. It was kind of like a sunset all warm and intense but without bearing down on you with the burns, discomfort and sweats. This part of summer left us with fond memories before it made way for the fall.

Also, if you call not being able to sleep with all the lights off ‘normal’, then, yeah, things were back to normal. I stopped sleeping with a night light when I was five. But here we are, over ten years and a weird encounter later- I’m back to being scared of the dark.

People always talk about growing older and stronger and wiser. No one really talks about growing backwards or loosing the things you learn that make you grown and more mature. Unless when you’re super old or have a mental illness, this sort of thing is not expected. None of those applied to me. What’s more annoying is that I had nothing concrete to base it on, this fear. Just some unexplained gaps in time and space, suspicions, and a feeling that everything had changed.

During the summer, we would all meet up at least two evenings a week; Ray, Boomer, Flinny and I. Usually in Mid-town. Since that day in the forest our meetings had been different too. We still laughed, played pranks, fought about stupid stuff like who was going to end up working in Happy Things, Mid-town’s crummiest convenience store, and not go to University. But always with that cloud above us, it seemed. I sensed that at different times Ray or Flinny were on the verge of talking about it but then would think better of it. That’s how heavy the cloud was. It was like a magnetic field that we could all feel pulling us. Think about it too much or bringing it to the front of our minds and you could feel it shift and move in response. Ready to pounce the moment we let it out with our mouths.

But we can’t always avoid what we want to avoid.

It was exactly two and a half weeks from meeting Persimal when my mom walked in one evening after work, almost skipping into the house. It had been raining. Normally she would take off her boots, jacket and dump them all, along with her umbrella and car keys, in the drying corner of the entryway before she stepped into the main house. Today, she had her hands full and just rushed in, heading straight to the kitchen.

“You will never guess what I’ve just discovered in town. There’s a new place I know you’ll just love, love, love!”

As she walked in past me I got up to help take some stuff from her and my nose was hit with the smell of apple and cinnamon. My heart sank.

“Mom, what’s that smell?”

Stupid question considering the huge cake box she had balanced on her briefcase.

“It’s this wonderful new bakery in Mid-town. P’s Delight, I think it’s called. I was minding my own business, when I saw a little crowd of people, queuing up. You know, just by the old Library?”

“Uh-huh” I was frozen and scared stiff and that was all I could manage.

“Well, I was curious. I hadn’t even noticed they were renovating that old building and all of a sudden, like magic, there was this quaint little shop, all done up like a cottage with soft lights.”

“Yes, like magic.” I could hear my own words falling cold and weak from my lips but I didn’t know when or how I said them, being gripped by something that had just fallen on me.

Mom darted back and forth between the kitchen and living room, putting things away to make space, placing others here and there, all the while taking off her jacket, scarf and boots. Mom loves her slacks and t-shirts but dresses extra smart for work so she always rushes to get out of her work clothes as soon as she gets home. She was a clerk in the local accountant’s firm. I shouldn’t really call it local as it’s actually a small branch of one of those huge national partnerships that have glass and marble offices in big cities. You know the ones; black leather chairs and sofas  that have cold silver  lining along the edges and armrests, to remind you not to get too comfy in you super comfy seat. It paid fairly well to afford us a decent home and all the other things that we needed. My father has never been there. He’s alive somewhere but he may as well be dead

She continued gushing. “I could smell the food just driving past. Mind, I was driving pretty slow as they were causing an awful lot of traffic, the people waiting in line. Apparently, she was giving stuff away free but it was all outside, through the kitchen hatch, so some people were on the road.

“You know me, always rushing to get home as early as I can, but everyone seemed all abuzz and it’s Friday anyway so I parked up when I saw Betty’s mom in the line and went over for a gossip. Turns out it opened today. When I got to the front of the queue the owner came out at just that moment, and she said to me, ‘You look like a woman I need to get to know.’ She was just a plain slip of a thing but she exuded such a glow!

“Well of course, I was flattered. But I was not expecting what she did next. She asked me to come into the shop. She introduced herself, she showed me around and asked me what I did and all that, then she gave me this cake. Others were getting cupcakes and slices and I get this huge whole box. She called it her ‘random feel-good moment’ as she had a good feeling about me and just had to act on it. Talk about a sliver lining on this dreary, wet day. I just cannot wait to try this cake. I don’t even know what it is but it smells amazing!” She moved over to where the cake was to lift the cover of the cake box.

“It’s a pie.” I managed to say through my trance.

“What, Shelly?” She was distracted peeling of the securing tape on the box.

“It’s a pie. Apple and Cinnamon.”

She looked up at me. “Shelly! You look absolutely dreadful. Are you unwell?” She dropped the cover and came over to me, wrapping her arm around me, feeling my forehead. Her warmth was a comfort and a shaking back into a safe and hopeful reality.

“I’m fine, Mom. You shouldn’t eat that pie. I have heard things about that lady.”

“Really? But she just moved here. How do you know so much about it already?”

“I just heard stuff. Mom, promise me you won’t eat that pie.”

“Okay, I won’t eat it yet. You get to bed and rest. I’ll bring you some soup and we can talk about it in the morning.”

I walked up to my room in a daze. As soon as I got up to my room I really didn’t want any soup. I wanted the pie. But I also wanted to throw it in the dustbin. I got into bed and sent a text to the gang. “She’s in town. Forest Lady. Don’t eat anything from P’s Delights. Let’s talk tomorrow.” Send. The cloud had burst.

I had been avoiding this but I couldn’t fool myself any more hoping maybe it wasn’t real. This had to be talked about and I was almost relieved now. I also felt better knowing that I hadn’t lost my mind. She was real. The power of her tools was real. I felt it again with the pie in the house. And now I could have my friends go see her without going to the woods and getting lost and creeped-out. She was on our turf, out in the open. This had to be a good thing somewhat. Well, there’s my sliver lining.

[If you would like to read more, please let me know]
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6 thoughts on “Under the Willow – A Story by Mo Skiie

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