“Why don’t you go suck on a eucalyptus leaf? Maybe that will make you feel better?”
She said it with so much brazen self-confidence, like she had said the cleverest insult of all time. Coming from her, though, it might as well have been.
Anna Bouchard carried herself with the grace of a woman who had nothing to lose or gain by public opinion. She also wore her mean streak like a suit of armor. People in town were either afraid of her or in love with her. Sometimes both.
At 38-years-old, Anna dressed almost like a farm hand in old faded coveralls, grass and dirt stained jeans, and denim overalls with flannel shirts that had self-patched elbows. The only thing extravagant about her appearance was she wore her long, ginger colored hair tied back with silk scarves that seemed expensive enough that the cost of one could feed a family of four for a week. The dichotomy of Anna’s gruff appearance and gruffer attitude, and her pricey, beautiful scarves gave the world a conflicting image of rough around the edge’s woman with only hints of softness about herself and showed Anna Bouchard was an iron fist wearing a silk glove.
Strangely enough, she was a hit with the elderly. Despite her viperlike attitude, Anna had healer’s hands. She made and sold natural remedies for any and all ailments. Creams, lotions, oils, candles, teas–you name it, she had it. She made all of her products herself with ingredients grown in a large garden that she grew next to the old Victorian style home Anna shared with her mother.
When the timid grandmother, or ornery old fisherman came into her store complaining of aches and pains in hands and shoulders, Ann would offer salves and balms made with mint, aloe vera, and possibly magic—because they always worked. When they started throwing skepticism and questions at her, Anna would start swinging (verbally).
“Did you come here to gab at me, or did you come here for help, because this is a business, not the Sunday potluck.”
Somehow, they found her charming.
Today a man was trying to shout his way into getting a refund for a candle that was supposed to be help him sleep better. It wasn’t working and Eric Keane was unsatisfied.
“You’re a fraud!” He said, spittle flying from his mouth and running down his chin. “What kind of business are you running? Scamming us all with your ‘methods’ like some kind of mystic hippie!”
Keane jabbed his finger at Anna’s face as he shouted, nearly catching her in the forehead. And she just waited with her arms folded and her face indifferent while he finished his tantrum. This clearly wasn’t about the candle. It was about the fact that Keane was losing sleep because he was in the middle of a messy divorce and was trying to take it out on Anna.
And then she said that thing about eucalyptus leaves and somehow that shut him up. Keane’s mouth shut with an audible click and his face turned so red, the other customers who happened to be shopping during the scene of the century thought he might burst. But he didn’t. Keane marched out of her store, muttering obscenities all along the way, and Anna sold two of the very candle he was complaining about.
Shortly after this incident, a rumor started about Anna being a witch. This rumor would’ve been funny in how childish and silly it sounded had people not actually believed it. Suddenly, Anna’s healing hands, were under speculation, and superstitious whispers grew louder than common sense.
Anna didn’t really hear about the rumor at first, partly because she didn’t go to church so she never got filled in on the local gossip, and partly because people were too afraid of what she would have to say about it. So, Anna was in the dark for a bit, but her business didn’t really suffer any while the witch speculation floated around. Had it, who knows what she would’ve done. But, even though Anna had no idea the new word on the street was that she was a witch, she noticed people were starting to stare at her more often than she liked, and people were tittering about her at the grocery store when all she wanted was to buy chicken stock in peace.
Then the news got around to Anna’s mother, a saint of a women who never missed a Sunday at the Light of God Protestant Church, and it nearly made her faint. Her daughter? Doing witchcraft? Lettie Bouchard couldn’t believe it. What would the pastor think? Lettie brought the rumor up at bible study that week, asking all of the ladies in attendance to say a prayer for her daughter’s soul because, on top of being an unmarried self-proclaimed agnostic, Anna was also now practicing witchcraft. (No, Lettie did not ask her daughter if the rumor was true, and yes, she did take it to be possibly true at face value.)
When someone finally worked up the nerve to tell her—Nicole Linden, head of the PTA looking for some natural toothpaste—Anna, of course, took both the news of her mother’s fretting, as well as her witch-based slander in stride.
“That doesn’t surprise me,” was all she had to say about both pieces of news.
When it was further revealed that it was Eric Keane himself—because of course it was Keane, bitter about candles, divorce, and being publicly embarrassed in front of the four people who happened to be in Anna’s shop when he decided to cause a scene—who had spread this wicked rumor that had sent poor Lettie into a tizzy, Anna took the matters of revenge into her own hands. You see, Anna was many things, but being above revenge, she was not. She marched over to the post office where Eric Keane worked as a clerk, pushed past the three people waiting in line, and, reaching across the counter, tapped Keane on the forehead twice, before saying:
“I’ve put a curse on you.”
Eric Keane never said a bad word about Anna or the rest of her family again after that. As far as his being actually cursed or not, though, no one could say. Keane didn’t run into a string of bad luck or experienced unspeakable horrors, but he did start losing his hair. No one really crossed Anna Bouchard much after that.