The Witch In The Woods
Avalon was always the last of the children to come in when they were called. She loved to play in the woods, and knowing that all her brothers and sisters, plus the children of the servants were playing close by gave her a feeling of security. The so called witch would never be able to get her. Deep down she knew the witch was just a lonely old woman, but it added to the excitement to thing she was more than that.
There were rumours that the witch had been brought up by animals, and others said that she had been left there by an evil step mother who only wanted her father and not her. Others said she was a ghost not a witch, and some said that she turned into an animal at midnight.
Sometimes she smiled at the children, but they all ran away.
Avalon had been allowed to play with the staffs offspring for as long as she could remember. Her parents wanted their children to see a variety of life, and the servants children always knew the boundaries.
Her childhood flew past in a blaze of fun and attention, with nothing to darken her days. One by one the older children married and moved away form the house. Eventually there was just herself and Josh and Emmy. Josh was the son of the butler, and Emmy was the grooms daughter. All were the same age, and spent their 14th year discussing their future and hopes and dreams.
Josh and Emmy dreamt of a life where they could make all their own choices, but they never once begrudged Avalon her options She would marry a rich man and never have to work. Who would not want that choice for them-self?
In their 16th year, it was clear things were not right with Josh. There was a man constantly visiting the farm and Avalon was chased away when he arrived. She could hear raised voices and wondered what had happened to bring about this state of affairs.
At first she was just told that Josh was going away, but soon she found out the truth. Josh had been spending a lot of time with the daughter of the neighbours Butler and was about to become a father.
Over the next few years, Avalon lost touch with Josh and Emmy. She heard that despite the difficult start to married life, Josh had settled down, had three more children and was now Head Butler in a house in the next County.
Emmy too had married and Avalon found that her walks in the woods were always by herself. The new staffs children were too young to spend time with her and it would not have been appropriate for the staff to go with her.
One day as she was considering going home, she heard a noise behind her. She turned to see a man in uniform. He smiled and told her he was staying at the next mansion, and there was no need to be afraid. They talked for a while and he walked her home.
For the next few weeks they went everywhere together, and spent as much time together as they could as he was due to return to France. When he left he told her he would write and return as soon as he could.
Week after week the letters arrived. Very few mentioned the fighting, but all told about his friends and the villages they were travelling through. Then there was the one she had been waiting for.
" I will be home on the 21st. Meet me at our place in the woods at 2"
She left at 1.30 and waited hopefully. By 5 o clock she realised it was getting dark and cold and started to make her way home. Maybe he had been delayed, or maybe she had gone to the wrong place in the woods.
As she walked up to the house she saw the military car. Her first thought was that it was him, but when the door opened and the officer walked out she knew the worst. He had been leaving to come home, when the unit was attacked. He died instantly.
Avalon ran up to her room and cried for days. She could not be comforted, and it was months before she started to go out of the house, and even then it was usually just to the woods. She felt closer to him there.
She eventually got back into the routine of her former life. She met friends, hosted parties and attended others, but still she went into the woods at least a couple of times a week.
Years passed, and Avalon soon realised that she saw less and less of the people she used to know. She looked in the mirror and was surprised about how she looked. Her hair was not styled any more, and as usual she was wearing a shapeless baggy dress.
She looked at the calender and as she did she knew it was the 21st. How many years had gone by - she let out a squeal when she realised it was 50. She was not a middle aged women still pining for the man she had lost, but an old women who had let her life pass her by for something she could not change.
She entered the woods again, and saw all the children hide behind trees, and older ones protectively hold the hands of the smaller ones. She smiled but no one smiled back.
It was official. She was now the Witch of the Woods.