I am so curious about what is happening next door. The little house behind our tall fence and taller trees, that I have always called the Enchanted Cottage, has been empty for as long as I can remember. I’m 6 now, all grown up and going into the 1st grade soon, so I am a curious girl and also want to be a detective like the girl I read about in my grandmother’s Nancy Drew books in the attic. I learned the word curious in one of those books and like the sound of it.
At first, cars were coming and going in the driveway next door at odd hours. I wrote that down in my notebook. Then, one day, a bright orange truck and a dark blue truck with ladders roped on top came. There was banging and sawing and the zing of an electric drill all the livelong day. I could barely keep my mind on my Nancy Drew books with all that noise going on. These trucks came and went for days and days and then it takes me one whole day to realize the trucks have not been back and now a little blue car is pulling into the driveway. I can see only one lady in the car. I hope she has a little girl I can play with. Even a dog will do. I get lonely over here all by myself.
As much as I am kinda thrilled someone is moving in next door, I am also a little bummed because I used to go over into the yard sometimes, well more than just sometimes, and poke around in the shrubs and out-of-control flowers and weeds. There is a little shed in the backyard that looks like a doll house and I love pretending a princess – namely myself – lives in there and can only come out right at sundown when no one is likely to be looking out their windows. Then I look for teeny frogs in the tall grasses. I like to make them hop into the pond that is covered right over with white flowers. I creep around the rocks to the back of the pond and build tiny houses for the faeries I know play around there. I want to catch me a faery and keep it in the tiny house for a pet and friend. Is that bad? I wonder if Nancy Drew would do something like that?
I forget what time it is while busy creeping around the pond and Uh-Oh, my mom is yelling for me to come home and do my chores. Can you imagine a princess having to take out the kitchen garbage? Yuck! But, I go back home and do it.
So now, with someone living in the house next door I won’t be able to play in that little doll house and behind the pond any more. And also there is a Wishing Well over there with a rope and little bucket which is very cool except the rope is broken on one side and the bucket hangs at a funny angle all the time. Once I threw one of the tiny hopping frogs in the well to see if it could jump back out. I forgot about him and 3 or maybe 5 days later when I looked in the well again I saw he didn’t jump out and wouldn’t ever again. I felt kinda sad about that.
So, after days and days of not being able to go next door my curiosity got the best of me and I decided to have a look-see through the fence. I pulled an old milk crate over behind some tall flowers by the fence and, lucky me, it was the right height to look through a peephole right by my eyes!
Wow! The porch looks all pretty with screens all around what used to be wide open, a new door, big round paper lanterns with pretty paintings on them hanging from the ceiling and swaying in the breeze, chimes that most people hang outside but they are inside here, flowers in glass jars and candles burning just everywhere I look. There is music playing inside – I don’t know the singer or the song – but the lady is dancing around barefoot and smiling. Watching her makes me smile too. I wish I was old like her so I could dance whenever and wherever I wanted without someone telling me ‘No’ and Uh-Oh here’s my mom again yelling about the kitchen garbage needing to be thrown out.
I step down from the crate and see out of the corner of my eye a black cat dancing around on the porch too.
As I take the kitchen garbage out to the trash can I make a detective list in my head:
- Candles burning in the daylight
- Lady dancing barefoot all by herself
- She wears a long skirt and red scarf with long fringe
- Her black cat is dancing, too
- She has an herb and flower garden right on the other side of the fence with lights that come on after dark
Everything looks so pretty over there and smells so nice and I want to pet that black cat and dance with him, too.
I write this list down when I get into bed and looking it over I think, Wow! That lady must be a witch! Hopefully she is a good witch, but any kind of witch is exciting to have right next door. I wish I had Nancy Drew’s nerve to walk over there and meet her. Every time she drives by my house I duck down below a window sill so she can’t see me even though she has never once looked my way. Can’t be too careful.
One day I see her walk down the lane to the lake where she lies down on one of the old docks. She stays there for over an hour and I think she is crying sometimes. How do I know this? I snuck through everyone’s back yards and hid behind a bunch of tall flowers and watched her. No one else has never, ever done such a thing as lie down on a dock. They go fishing or get into a boat or try to capture dragonflies with a paper cup. That’s just me doing the last thing. But no one lies down like she does. I’m adding this to my detective list:
-strange dock behavior
– wears a long skirt while on the dock!
I want so bad to look into the little Wishing Well and see if the frog body is still in there. It’s been weeks now so maybe nothing is left of him. While the witch is sleeping on the dock I sneak into her yard and tiptoe up to the Wishing Well. Hey! the rope is fixed and the bucket can now go up and down when I turn the handle. I pull the bucket up and inside there is a shiny penny, a blue jay feather, a white stone and a live frog! I am so amazed to see the frog alive again I don’t hear anyone behind me until a voice says, ‘You can take whatever is in there. The faeries left them for you. They fixed the frog you threw in there a few weeks back.’
I jump sky high and crack my head on the roof of the Wishing Well. I make myself not cry although it hurts real bad. I let go of the handle and as the bucket falls back into the well, the frog jumps out and into my hand. The rest of the faery gifts spill out onto the floor of the Well. At the same time I hear my mother yell for me to get on in for supper. I turn around and run like the wind. Behind me I hear the witch laugh softly and say come back again anytime.
That will never happen.
When I can calm down enough to write in my detective book I add:
- She brought a frog back to life so that proves she is a real witch
What a day this has been. When I go outside to put out the kitchen garbage I hear her singing on her front porch. I can see the glow from all the lighted candles. I just know she is wearing that red scarf with long fringe that I want to run my fingers through. I still want to pet her black cat even though I now know for sure he is a witch’s cat.
Well, it is time for me to go back to school. Did I say I was in the 1st grade now and all grown up? My summer days of spying on the witch and running through her yard when her car isn’t there are over. Now I not only have to take the kitchen garbage out each night, I have to do homework. Homework? I’m only in the 1st grade!
Now that the nights are getting cooler the witch has been lighting a fire in the sweet little fireplace she put in the backyard by the pond. I know about the fireplace because I saw it when I was doing detective work last weekend. Sometimes I hear her beat a drum and play something that sounds like it is raining on a tin roof. Her fire crackles and smells so nice. Sweet sometimes, minty sometimes, like pine needles other times. I hear her sing the same few notes over and over while beating her drum. These notes stick in my head and I hum them over and over all day long. The teacher gives me a hard look sometimes so I know I am humming too loud. Then I switch back to humming in my head: ‘Heya Hayo, Heya Heyo.’
It’s Fall now and the witch is cutting back the dead flowers and trimming her trees with big clippers. I like to listen to her sing softly while doing these things. I lie in the grass on the other side of the tall fence so she doesn’t know I’m there. I’m trying to get her black cat to come over to my yard but he just pokes a paw under the fence for me to tickle.
People come alot to visit next door. They are almost always girlfriends. Sometimes I hear her say ‘no boys allowed here’ and they all laugh. I smile, too. I don’t like boys either.
Halloween will be here soon and I am so excited about being dressed up to go trick and treating that I have to go to the bathroom every time I think about it. I change my mind every day about what I will dress up as. My mom is getting a little mad at me and says I have to make a choice and stick with it or else I’m not going at all!
Secretly, I want to dress like the witch next door but I decide to be a black cat. Close enough.
Hurray! Halloween is here and I am the luckiest kid in school because I have a real witch living right next door. My mom and I walk down our little lane going to the houses on the one side right to the lake. Then we start up the other side, the witch’s side, and I get so excited and scared I forget to say ‘trick or treat’ at 2 of the houses. They give me candy anyway.
As we turn into the witch’s driveway I smell popcorn and apple cider and, can that be chocolate chip cookies? Her porch is all glowing with orange and black candles burning just everywhere. My mom knocks on the screen door and whispers to me to yell ‘trick or treat’ but I am suddenly shy. Well, here she comes to the door anyway and I am getting worried. Does my mom know she is a witch? What if she tells my mom about my spying? Maybe it wasn’t a good idea to be dressed like a black cat. Maybe the cat will get mad and put a spell on me and my mom. Oh no!
The door creaks open and the witch stands there smiling. She is wearing the red scarf with the fringe I long to touch. She says, ‘come on inside and stay a while. Not too many trick or treaters tonight and I made all these goodies. The black cat is swirling around her legs and I lean down to pet him. He purrs so loud we all can hear him and I giggle. My mom says that sure, we can come in for a spell. A spell? Does she know what she is saying? I start backing up towards the door. Her and the witch look at me and laugh.
‘That’s just a saying, to sit a spell. It means to stay for a while and talk. I have wanted to get a look inside the house since you moved in. Mind if I walk around?’
The witch says to go ahead and she and I will sit and try out the popcorn and hot apple cider with a real cinnamon stick sticking out of the mug. When I finally look around I see the place is just perfect. Soft lights, soft music, soft-colored paintings on all the walls, a little fireplace with soft flames.
When I sit on the couch the black cat jumps right into my lap and paws at my fake whiskers.
‘This here is Angel.’
Whew! I don’t think a bad witch would name her cat Angel and she’s a girl cat, not a boy cat. No boys allowed at all! I smile.
The witch sits down next to me and holds out her hand, palm up. On it are the shiny penny, the blue jay feather and white stone.
‘You left these here last summer. The faeries want you to have them. It will be our little secret that you came over here to spy on me. Now you can come over whenever you have a mind to and sit on the porch with Angel here.’
She winks at me.I put my face near Angel’s face and she winks at me too.
A perfect Halloween with my new friend the good witch next door.