To Belong Somewhere / Brittany Wallace

Homemade cake with purple frosting and fresh strawberries.
 

Long ago, in a village caught somewhere between mountain and sea, there lived a witch. She was not a beautiful, golden-haired angel who sparkled on the wind. She was not an old hag in a bog. She was just a witch, with a very special magic—a magic of beauty and food. Everything she made was beautiful and delicious. Candy was her favorite, and she sold it in the village. She walked through town, selling her wares. She lived her life like any other. She tried to carry on day to day.

But her magic frightened people. They thought that in witches there were only two kinds—angel or demon, one to worship or one to fear. Her hair was just a bit too dark, her nose just a bit too hooked, her waist just a bit too round. And so, to her village, if she could not be the fantasy they desired, if she could not be one side of the pendulum swing, then she must be the other.

And so they pushed her away. At first, it was just an awkwardness. They would refuse to meet her eyes in the street, pretend not to hear her hello. But slowly their cruelty grew, and soon they were spitting at her in the street. They stopped buying her sweets with mutterings of poison, or sickness, or curses. They closed their shops to her, refused to sell to or serve her. Wherever she went, whispers followed her—whispers of ugly, of evil, of wrong.

Finally, the young witch couldn’t take any more—no more dropped eyes, no more closed doors, no more whispers. She would make her own way, alone. And so she journeyed into the woods, into a beautiful glade where no one would find her but the birds, and she would never have to face her tormenters again. She built her house with her magic: sturdy walls of gingerbread, wafer window shutters, pillars of licorice, and a sugar-dusted path lined with gumdrops. She loved her little house in the beautiful glade, with a gurgling brook and birds to sing to her, and no one to hurt her or call her names. But after awhile the witch grew lonely, and wished for a friend.

One sunny afternoon, as the sun was setting, the witch was working in her garden in the back of her house, her hands in the dirt and a hat to keep the sun from her face, when she heard a strange cracking sound from the front of her house. As she walked around the corner, she saw two children, cracking the gingerbread from her windowsills and pushing it into their mouths. “Hey!” she cried in surprise. “What are you doing?” The children jumped back. They looked at the woman before them, dirty from the garden, her hat darkening her face, and were frightened.

“We weren’t doing anything!” said the girl. “Please don’t hurt us!” They were from the witch’s old village, and had heard the terrible rumors.

“Are you hungry?” asked the witch, stepping toward them. “Please don’t eat my house. If you’re hungry, why don’t you come inside for dinner?”  

“You’re not having us for dinner, witch!” shouted the boy. “Run, Gretel!” And, shoving the witch to the ground, brother and sister sprinted back into the woods, back into their village to tell of their narrow escape from an evil witch, and all of Hansel’s heroics.

The witch rose slowly from the ground, dusting herself off, tears making tracks through the dust on her cheeks. She looked at her house. There were holes gorged out of the sides, the windows cracked and broken. Gingerbread crumbs littered the grass. She sighed and walked over. It took only a moment to repair the damage, but even though it looked as it had before, it felt different. Her sense of safety was shattered.

She tried for the rest of the week to put the incident with the children behind her. She tended her garden, read books by the stream, fed crumbs to the birds whose singing comforted her, but she was unhappy. She didn’t want to go on like this, alone. But she didn’t know what else to do. One night, days later, she was inside, making adjustments to her furniture, strengthening the legs of her white chocolate chairs, when there came a knock at the door.

She cracked it open warily, fearing angry villagers, but instead on the doorstep stood a little girl with the most magnificent golden hair the witch had ever seen. She looked exhausted and scared. The witch opened the door wider. “Can I help you?”

“Excuse me,” the child said quietly. “I’m sorry to bother you, but I’ve been running for so long and I wondered if you’d let me sit down for a moment, I am so very hungry and tired.” 

The witch hesitated, but the child didn’t seem frightened of her at all. She must have come from somewhere far away, where the rumors hadn’t spread. “Of course,” she said finally, “of course you may. Come in.”

And so in came the girl, and the witch gave her soup of vegetables from the garden, which she watched the girl eat with great curiosity. “Do you mind if I ask,” she began, “if you were so hungry and tired, why did you not take a piece of my house? Were you not tempted?”

The golden-haired girl thought a moment. “I was,” she said. “I could smell your house for a long way off, and when I saw it it looked so wonderful I thought I was in dream, but I recently learned a lesson about not taking things that aren’t mine. I went into the house of some bears, you see. It’s them I was running from when I came to your home, and I didn’t want to repeat my mistake.” 

The witch nodded slowly, not taking her eyes from the girl. “And may I also ask… were you not frightened of me? My magic tends to have that effect on people.”

The girl’s brow furrowed. “No,” she replied simply. “I thought your home was beautiful and your eyes were kind. What would I have to be afraid of? I only wish I had a home as lovely as this”.

“Do you not?” asked the witch. 

Goldilocks shook her curls, “I lost my home and my family long ago. You must feel very lucky to belong somewhere.”

The witch looked thoughtful. “Would you like to stay here tonight? I wouldn’t want to send you back into the woods alone.”

Goldilocks nodded eagerly. “I would love to stay with you, if it wouldn’t be any trouble. But wait!” she cried. “I haven’t even asked your name.” 

The witch’s eyes sparkled joyfully. “Hardly anyone ever has,” she said, “I’m just a witch to them. My name is Ella. It was my mother’s name, too.”  

Laughing, the two girls shook hands. The next day, Goldilocks helped Ella in the garden, and they talked for so long it was too late in the day for Ella to even think of sending Goldilocks off, so she stayed another night. And then another, and another, until they realized that neither of them had any desire to part, and agreed that Goldilocks should stay forever. Even the villagers, seeing the beautiful young girl so happy with the witch, slowly began to wonder if perhaps they’d misjudged the woman who’d never truly caused them harm, and let them live without torment. And so Goldilocks found the home she’d been searching for, Ella the friend she’d always desired.

***

Brittany Wallace is a 24-year-old preschool teacher in Bozeman, Montana. Living and working in the mountains inspires her to read and write in ways that reflect the magic of the outside world around her. She enjoys hiking, reading, road trips, and snickerdoodles. She is determined to find a nest of dragon eggs someday. 

See more: @brittwallace4