I was walking along the cobblestone road to my small cottage at the edge of town when I saw smoke in the distance. I hurried along, past our small garden, heading inside.
The fire was still burning from earlier that day when I decided to leave for the local market for some bread. My husband stayed behind to tend to the fire and our daughter.
"Hello my dears. What have you two been up to since I've gone?"
"Just waiting for you my love." My husband said as he kissed my cheek. We have been together since our schooling years and we live the most perfect and quiet life. Or so we thought.
I began preparing our supper when my husband asked, "Have there been more fires?"
"I'm afraid so. I saw one through the trees on my way up. How dreadful it is." I never understood the fear those people had. Fear of being different. "Enough of that talk now. Dinner is almost ready."
Tonight was a special night. The harvest this year was good and we had plenty of fresh squash and corn from the garden to sell to the town and more than enough for ourselves. With the fresh bread from the market and the fish my husband caught during his morning catch, we were to have a nice meal. Until there was a knock at our door.
"Who could possibly be here at this very hour? The only people who would come this late were our neighbors who just so happened to be out of town.
My husband got up and opened the door. It was the town's mayor. "Good evening friends. I am here to ask questions regarding the rumors of witches in these parts."
I went to join them at the door. "Good evening Mayor Jacobs. Did I hear, "rumors of witches"? But there has been 10 so far this week."
"Yes miss, but I am afraid there have been sightings of another.
"Then come on in. We wll be happy to answer any questions you might have."
"No need, it will be a quick visit tonight. Have either of you been in the market this evening."
"I have, yes. To get bread for our meal tonight." I said truthfully.
"You didn't happened to come across Agatha Grimsley by any chance during your visit now have you?"
"No, I don't think I know of an Agatha Grimsley. Was she the one caught today?"
"Yes miss. A cat was also seen coming this way and we are sure it was her familiar. Have you seen a black cat around here?"
"Oh my, I haven't. We will make sure to let you know if we do."
"Alright, thank you for your time. Enjoy the rest of your evening." On that note, he left.
My husband and I looked at each other, went back to our dinner, read a night time story to our daughter, and went to bed.
The next morning, my husband went off to work while my daughter and I went for a walk into town. Our first stop was to get some medicinal herbs from an old friend.
"Good morning Mary. How are you and little Lucy doing this fine morning?" Jane is a close friend of mine who sells me herbs every Thursday. Her and her husband own the tiny herb shop on the corner of Mulberry Street. She is as cheerful as a sunflower and always makes sure to give us a deal on Sage.
"Hello Jane. We are quite well, thank you."
"And how is Henry these days? Walter and I haven't seen him around much lately."
"He's doing well. He has been working hard lately so that we will have a nice Winter. How have you two been doing."
"We've been doing quite lovely as well. Getting ready for Winter ourselves." She handed me the bundles of herbs, I gave her the discounted money, and we said our farewells."Have a blessed day Mary. I hope you find what you are seeking."
"Have a blessed day Jane."
The rest of our morning included buying fabrics for our Winter clothing and getting grains for our goats. At around 10am, we had all we needed and decided to head home to prepare for lunch. Until, a swarm of townspeople gathered throughout the streets, blocking anyone from moving.
"Where is she?!" A voice from the crowd yelled. "Where is the witch?!"
I turned to the person next to me. "Oh my, what is the meaning of this?"
An older lady replied, "There were markings carved on the doors of several people in town. Witch's marks. Their crops were also destroyed."
"Oh my. Did they say what the markings looked like?"
She stared at me for what felt like an eternity before answering, "I'm not quite sure miss. I overheard something about... she paused slightly, "...three petals."
"Three petals? I awkwardly laughed, "I just hope the person responsible is caught."
"Yes. Well it will all be over soon." She smiled, turning away back to the crowd.
The men in the crowd began searching everyone. The one who did it would bare the same marking as the ones on the doors of those houses. Although it is more common for women to be witch's, men were searched as well. Right in the middle of the streets no less. I did not want my child to be any part of this madness, so I turned and went on my way down the street, back to the shop where my old friend Mary works.
"Back again?" She said as I walked up to her stand.
I replied, "Those men are searching everyone for witch's marks. I can not be there with all that ruckus going on, especially with Lucy."
"Of course Jane. Just head on home. I am sure this will all be over soon and they will catch the one responsible." She said smiling
I half smiled and replied, "Right, thank you Mary."
I hurried on down the street, out of town, over the cobblestone road, and back home where my husband was waiting for me.
"Good, you're back." He said nervously.
"Henry! Why are you home so early?"
"They told everyone to go home where they will be doing a house to house to ask questions and..."
"Search us for markings, I know."
He paused. "They mentioned three petals."
"I know." Looking up at him.
"What will you do?"
"What I must." I kissed his cheek quickly. "I must hurry."
He nodded and took Lucy. I locked the door then went off to our room. I pulled out a book from underneath the floorboards. This book has been in my mother's family for generations. It contains the secrets of all that is good and all that is, to some, unholy. It opened itself to the page I desired and while focusing on my intentions, I read the words aloud.
"Let them see not what is truly there
For what is there is but nowhere
Bind their eyes from the sight
Disguise all to seek in holy light."
Over and over I spoke these words until, a knock at the door. I calmly put the book back in its place, stood up, and walk into the living room. As my husband stayed seated in front of the fireplace, playing with our daughter, I unlocked the door.
"Good morning gentlemen."
"Hello miss. There was an incident in town so we must check both of you."
"Why of course. Come on in."
Three of the six men came inside. Two over to my husband, one to me. They removed our clothing to see as much skin as they could. But nothing. Nothing was to be found. Nothing of a mark. They stared at us. Seemingly half disappointed, half confused. "Where were you all this morning." The first man asked suspiciously.
"Why my husband was working and I was out getting fabric for our Winter clothes and grains for our goats before returning home."
"And before that? Mary Evans said you were buying herbs at her shop this morning. What kind of herbs were those ma'am?"
"You are not accusing us of something now, are you? You saw yourselves, we have nothing on us." I said smiling. "But if you insist. I bought sage and rosemary for our meal tonight. That's not a crime now is it?"
"Um no. You both may put your clothing back on. " Another man answered, clearly his throat. "Alright me. There seems to be nothing here. Lets leave these two back to their business."
As I finished putting my dress back on, I lead them to the door "Let me walk you fellows out." I walked them out onto the front porch. "Let us know if we can help with anything to catch that dreadful witch. You don't know what she is capable of." I said still smiling.
"Yes, um, thank you miss. Have a good day." They turned and left.
As they walked past our small garden, along the cobblestone road, on their way back into town, a black cat wondered up from out of the woods.
Henry came up behind me, moving my hair back over the now exposed three petal flower on the back of my neck.
I looked to him. "Do you think any of them saw it?"
"No. Whatever you did kept them from seeing it. He smiled. I'll go prepare lunch." He kissed me on the forehead and went back inside.
"That was close miss. You must be more careful next time." The cat spoke walking up to the porch.
"Yes yes. Now. Lets get you fed and we can find out who tried to frame us."
The cat purred "Of course miss. I have a few in mind."
"As do I."
We walked inside together, closing the door behind us.