11 THE LOVE CHARM  

jasonabadboy4u 29M
48 posts
6/11/2006 3:42 am

Last Read:
7/23/2006 4:39 am

11 THE LOVE CHARM

11 THE LOVE CHARM
The path to the witch's cottage twisted through high bushes and overhanging trees. More than once, Angelica Looked behind her. Was it the sound of someone following that she heard? Or was it just the whispering of the trees in the night air? She clutched the money tighter in her hand and hurried on. A black shadow jumped out onto the path in front of her, making a soft thud when it landed. Angelica drew back. Then she saw the green slit eyes of the cat peering at her through the black night. The cat made a strange meow, turned, and walked down the pant in front of her, switching its tail back and forth. Angelica followed its shadow, for she knew it would lead her to the witch. Bramble bushes reached out onto the path, pulling at her hair and ripping her clothes. Angelica pushed them aside, trying to keep up with the cat as it stole its way through the darkness. The path made a sharp turn, and the cat suddenly bounded forward. Then Angelica saw it, too. The witch's cottage crouched among the trees as though it were a part of the forest. Only one window had light, the leaping, flickering light of a fire. All else was dark except where the moonlight filtered down through the opening in the forest and shone on the doorway. Angelica moved into the shadow of a huge tree near the end of the path and leaned against its scaly trunk. A thick, sweet fragrance of herbs and flowers permeated the air. It overwhelmed Angelica with its mystic incense. She felt faint. The cat jumped onto the doorstep and began scratching the wooden door with its claws, all the while making its weird, plaintive cry. Angelica hovered in the shadows, watching. The door opened, and the old woman whom the villagers called a witch reached down and picked up her cat. As she stroked its sleek black fur she mumbled words to it that Angelica couldn't understand. The cat answered with a high whine. Then the witch set it down on the ground and took a step toward the woods. "Who is there?" she asked in an old, cracked voice. Angelica thought about running away. But she struggled forward from the shadows to face the woman. "I am Angelica Fier, a servant in the manor house. A friend told me you make love charms. I want one." As Angelica stepped closer to the witch she could see her long, yellow teeth set in a smile. "It's a love charm that you want is it?" Angelica nodded her head. "Have you got the money for it?" the witch asked. "Love can't be bought cheaply, you know." Angelica opened her hand, in which she had been clutching her last month's wages. "I have this," she said. The old woman reached out for the coins and picked them from Angelica's palm. Then she cackled a satisfied laugh and motioned Angelica toward the cottage. Angelica followed her into a low-ceilinged room, the room that was lit by the fireplace. Along the walls were shelves and nooks, filled with bottles and jars of every shape and size. Angelica sat down on the low wooden bench by the fire and stared at the old woman as she began to gather a collection of bottles on the table under the shelves. "I can make you what you want, dearie," the witch said, looking at Angelica's plain face, lit by the firelight. But it is worth much more than you have given me. Are you sure you don't have more?" Angelica nodded her head solemnly. The old woman cackled again. "Now you must turn away and look into the fire. If you watch me, the charm will be ruined." Obediently Angelica turned toward the fire and stared into the flames. They made her mind leap and burn. She thought of all the young men she had secretly loved, the young men who had ignored her and married others. She let her mind drift to the dreams that came so often into her head. . . . "The charm is ready," the old woman said from behind her. "You have lost yourself in the flames." Angelica turned around. In her hands the witch held a small, blue glass bottle. Angelica reached out for it, but the witch drew it away. "No, not yet. Before you touch it, there is something you must know. Whoever drinks this love potion will fall helplessly in love with you. His love will be charmed and will last forever. But. . . ." The witch's eyes narrowed into slits like her cat's. "But if the bottle is ever broken, then the charm will be broken too." Again Angelica reached out for the precious bottle. The witch gently placed it in her hand. Angelica felt the glass burning in her palm with a strange heat, but she held it tightly in her fist. "There is one more thing," the witch said as Angelica rose to go. "Put the bottle under your pillow tonight and you will dream of a man. Give that man this potion, and he will become your husband." Angelica walked out of the cottage and into the darkness of the night. She felt entranced by the witch's words and by the smell of the herbs and flowers. When she opened her hand to gaze at the tiny bottle, the moonlight shone on it, looking as though the moon itself were trapped inside. She closed her fingers tightly around the charm and hurried along the path, back to the manor house where she lived. The next morning, Angelica woke with a start from the strange dreams. She looked around her small, plain servant's bedroom. In her dreams she had been the lady of the house; there had been satin sheets on her bed and lace curtains on her windows. . . . Suddenly Angelica remembered the love charm. She felt for it under her pillow and pulled it out. The charm had been there all night. A wave of anger washed over her. The witch had lied when she said Angelica would dream of her future husband. Angelica had dreamed of her master . . . her master who was rich and handsome and married. Angelica threw the blue glass bottle onto her bed stand. It slid across the top and stopped just near the edge. As she dressed, she decided she would take it back to the witch that night. She wouldn't be cheated out of her hard earned money so easily. When she climbed down the stairs to the kitchen, Angelica tried to erase the anger and the dreams from her mind. She busied herself with her morning chores. Then Amy, the cook, burst through the door that adjoined the main part of the house. She was shaking and sobbing, and her face was swollen red from crying. "What is it, Amy?" Angelica asked concerned. "It's too horrible, too horrible," Amy sobbed. "What is?" "It's the master's wife, Katie. She's dead. She died of a stroke in her sleep last night." Angelica left Amy sobbing alone in the kitchen. She flew back up the stairs to her room, her mind crowded with horrible and wonderful thoughts that fought each other like good and evil. The glass bottle still rested on the bed stand where she had thrown it. Angelica reached for it and held it up in the pale morning light. She gazed into its deep blue color, trying to make sense of what was happening. Before she went back downstairs, she wrapped the bottle in her thickest wool shawl and hid it in the farthest corner of her closet. Two months passed. Angelica quivered inside now when she saw her master. His mourning for his wife was heart wrenching, and it had made him thin and pale and less handsome. But as every day went by, Angelica fell more and more in love with him. Now she knew it could happen, what the witch had promised. Every evening, after Dinner, Angelica brought him his glass of brandy. One night, as usual, he was sitting in front of the fire in his study, sunk deep in melancholy over his wife's death. Angelica came into the room with the brandy. She stopped at the bookcase behind him and set the glass on the shelf. Then she felt for the small bottle, hidden deep in the pocket of her dress. Angelica pulled it out and for a long while stared at it. Then she poured the sweet smelling potion into the glass. With shaking hands she took it to him. Automatically he reached out for his brandy. As he began to sip the drink, Angelica ran from the room and stood by the high window in the hall, staring out into the black, mysterious night. "Angelica." It was his voice, calling her. She trembled in the darkness of the hall. Then she walked into the room and over to the fireplace where he still sat in his chair, the empty glass beside in on the floor. Angelica looked into his burning eyes and saw that the love charm had worked. It was confusing at first, just as the dreams had been. It didn't seem to matter to him that she was a servant and poor and plain. He fell completely in love with her. And the death of his first wife was forgotten; it was almost as though she had never existed. Of course, people were shocked. Angelica was embarrassed by their gossip. Some even whispered that she was a witch. But on the day of their marriage she knew that she had no reason to worry anymore. She was his wife now, just as the witch had predicted. And Angelica was sure that he would love her forever, for she had hidden the bottle well. They had been married for a year. Angelica, hardly remembering the servant she once was, looked at herself in the gilt-edged mirror of her dressing table. Her face was still plain. But the rich jewels and fine clothes that she wore made her look almost as mystic. Her husband told her everyday that she was beautiful. Angelica smiled to herself, suddenly remembering the love charm. She was filled with an overwhelming curiosity to see it again. She had hidden it safely away on her wedding day in a carved wooden box that had been a gift from her husband. Angelica wore the key to the box around her neck as a pendant. Now Angelica wanted to hold the tiny bottle in her hands again. She wanted to look into its deep blue color. She wanted to remember the magic she had felt when the witch first gave it to her. The carved box was in her closet, hidden under her old, woolen shawl. Angelica uncovered it and took off the key pendant from around her neck. Her fingers fumbled nervously as she fit the key into the lock. A thought had crept into her mind and was growing there like a poisonous weed. What if the love charm was no longer in the box? She threw open the lid and reached inside for the bundle of wool that she had wound around the bottle. She unwrapped the wool, layer after layer, until she came to a soft leather bag. She tugged nervously at the drawstring and then felt inside. Her fingers closed around the smooth glass bottle. A calmness spread through Angelica's body. It was safe, the charm and her love. She took the bottle over to the window and held it up to the setting sun. It caught the sunlight just as it had trapped the moonlight that first night in the witch's garden. Angelica turned the bottle around and around, enchanted by its power. "I love you," her husband whispered in her ear. Angelica jumped in fright. The blue bottle slipped from her hands and fell to the floor at her feet, shattering into a thousand tiny pieces of glass that flew apart in the evening light. Angelica stared at the pieces in horror. Then she slowly turned around to look at her husband. The witch had been right. At first he gazed at her in confusion. Then his face took on a look of disgust. Soon hatred shone from his eyes that had once burned with love. "What are you doing here?" he screamed. "Where is my wife?" Suddenly, through his rage, he clutched his chest and fell to the floor moaning in pain like he was having a heart attack. Then just like that he died. Angelica stood by the window, her body shaking with sobs. Angelica turned from the window. Her eyes were caught by the twinkling bits of blue glass. They were winking up at her from the floor like laughing eyes. The path to the witch's cottage was overgrown with tall weeds and sharp thistles. Angelica didn't feel the tears in her clothes and flesh or see the insects that swarmed around her swollen face. She pushed through the darkness that was falling as black as the doom around her heart. Suddenly, in front of her, the cat jumped out onto the path. Now Angelica sobbed in relief when she saw it. But the cat's green, slit eyes seemed to mock her. It meowed its high unnatural call and ran off down the path. Angelica tried to catch up with it, but the brambles and branches caught at the ribbons on her fine gown and pulled her back like jealous arms, forcing her to take it off and she threw it aside as she ran along with bleeding tears. Finally she smelled the sweet aroma of the herbs and flowers. She knew she was near the witch's cottage. Angelica came out of the shadows of the forest and into the opening and saw the witch, standing on her doorstep and petting the cat in her arms. The perfume in the air was potent. The witch was smiling. "The love charm has been broken, I see," she said. Angelica walked up to the witch, her eyes pleading. "You must help me." The witch stared off into the black forest. The cat meowed. "You have broken the glass bottle, and you have broken the love charm. Neither can be mended. Now he has died of a broken heart." The old woman looked down at her cat and stroked its sleek black fur. Then she turned her wise green eyes on Angelica. "Charmed love is not true love," the witch said. The trees whispered it again sadly in Angelica's ears. She turned away from the witch's cottage and the sweet perfume of the garden. And she walked away . . . . into the black, black night.


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