Lacy lay in the bed and listened to the footsteps in the hall. She could tell by the heavy shuffling of his footsteps that he’d been drinking again. “Oh, please, not again tonight,” she prayed. She held her breath in the fear that even an exhale might make a noise and remind her stepfather that she was in her room. She finally took a deep breath as the footsteps grew faint.
Lacy’s father had disappeared the year before, leaving her mother and her a note describing how family life was too confining. It had been a difficult time financially, but she and her mother had managed to carve out a nice life. At least, that’s what she thought until this man came into the picture.
Tom had done and said all the right things, and before long her mother was totally infatuated with him. Only two months after they started dating, she announced to Lacy that Tom was the man her father had never been, and she was going to marry him. According to her mother, “They would be a real family now.”
Well, if this was a real family, she wanted no part of it. The drinking started within a couple of weeks after their marriage, and now the beatings. The first time had been over a shirt she left in the living room. Tom began ranting about her lack of concern, and when she didn’t grab it quickly enough, he slapped her across the face. Lacy, who had never been struck by either of her parents, was stunned, and more so by the fact that her mother stood by and did nothing. And now when he came home drunk, her mother would insist that Lacy do nothing to upset him, and at the same time her mother tried to hide herself from his sight.
Lacy begged her mother to leave Tom, but she knew it would never happen because she could see the terror in her eyes. “He really loves us, Lacy. It’s just that he’s under a lot of stress. Besides, we need him. I need him. I love him, Lacy,” she’d say. “You’ll be gone in a couple of years, and I’ll be alone.” Her first reaction was if you live that long, but she held her tongue. Obviously, her mother didn’t have the strength to do what was needed. Lacy felt trapped and alone because she knew if she tried to get help from others, her mother would either deny the beatings or not want to leave.
That’s what had driven Lacy to go see the old woman. All her life she’d heard stories about how the old woman living out in Turner’s Woods was a witch, although she never put much stock in such talk. But there had been some unexplained things happen to people around her small town, and she was desperate,
Gathering her courage, she had a friend drive her out to the old woman’s house. Walking up the path, she thought how eerie and dark it was even though it was still daylight. The overhanging tree limbs and overgrown bushes shrouded the path. Knocking on the door, she pushed the door slightly open. A voice from across the room said, “Come on in, dearie. I’ll not bite you.”
As she slowly walked into the room, she saw the old woman sitting in a small rocker. In her lap she held a large gray cat which was enjoying the soothing hand of its owner. “How nice you came to see old Melda. Isn’t this nice, Matilda?” she said looking down at the cat who eyed Lacy suspiciously. “What can I do for you, child?”
Lacy was hesitant, but summoning all the strength she could muster, she said, “I understand you help people sometimes. I need help.”
“What kind of help a young thing like you need? Some kind of love potion I figure.”
Lacy slowly and painfully told the old woman her story about her mother and Tom and the nightmare that had become her life. The old woman sat and listened patiently, all the while stroking Matilda’s head. As she finished, she said, “I brought some money if there’s anything you can do to help me. I just so want for my mother and me to have some peace and quiet again.”
Lacy held out her hand holding several folded twenty-dollar bills. “Is this enough?”
“Oh, yes, dearie, that’s plenty. Now, you just go on home and let old Melda take care of your problem. My spells are powerful weapons. Don’t worry, child, you’re going to find peace. I promise you.”
As Lacy left the house, the old woman sat stroking her cat. “Now, ain’t that a sweet, young thing, Matilda. Now, let Melda go put this in the money pot.” She sat the cat down on the floor and tipping the lid up on a pot on the counter, placed Lacy’s money in with the rest.
As she sat back down, the cat jumped back into her lap. Stroking the cat’s head as if it were a small child, she said, “It’s just such a shame that the child’s mother came to see me first. But at least, she’ll have peace. Yes, ma’am, she’s in for a long and peaceful sleep.” The cat purred, and the old woman smiled.