The Witch of Kingstone Ave
“I’m not sure about this,” Tess the Blue Zafara told her friends nervously.
“Don’t worry about it,” scoffed Boris, a Shadow Kougra and leader of the group. “We aren’t gonna do anything wrong, Tess. We’re just gonna knock on the door and see if Old Lady Crimmins is really a witch like everyone says. No big deal.”
“But what if she is a witch?” Tess pressed. “Won’t she hurt us with her magic?”
“Naw,” Boris replied confidently. “Halloween’s over now. Witches are at their strongest on Halloween nights, but for a short while after that they’re powerless. Or so I hear. She can’t do anything to us.” Despite Boris’s comforting words, Tess still felt uneasy.
Tess was two years younger than Boris and his friends. Though she didn’t like the daring things they did, they were her only option of friends – the other Neopets her age just didn’t seem to accept her. Boris was her older brother anyway, so she didn’t feel uncomfortable hanging out with him.
“Are you sure she isn’t just a lonely old woman?” Tess asked, curious in spite of herself.
“Of course not!” Boris snapped. “For gosh sakes, Tess. Old Lady Crimmins is a witch!”
Rumors flew amongst the Neopia Central children about Old Lady Crimmins, the elderly Aisha who lived at the end of the block. Gossipers swore that she had killed Old Man Crimmins, a very rich Neopian indeed, to get all his money. Ever since his mysterious death years ago she had become a recluse, drawing into her own house. She was rarely seen coming out of her house before.
“Once I walked by her house and I saw flashes of light coming from her windows,” declared Jason, a Red Shoyru. “It was as if she was brewing some sort of concoction in her cauldron!”
“I heard that the Johnson’s Doglefox wandered into her yard one night,” Maura told them in a hushed whisper. Her Purple Wocky eyes were wide. “Mrs. Crimmins returned him to them, but the next day he disappeared. I think that she cast a spell on him!”
You’re all just being silly, Tess wanted to tell them. But her own hidden doubts inside her kept her quiet. She’d talk when there was proof.
The four friends walked slowly down their neighborhood road–Kingston Avenue. The autumn sunshine warmed their backs, but a slight breeze ruffled their furs as if to remind them that winter was on the way. Leaves of many colors littered the ground, and whenever they got the chance the four friends would step on them, smiling at the satisfying crackles under their feet. Somewhere in the distance somebody was holding a barbecue, and the smell made its way to Tess’s nose. Despite these merry surroundings, she still felt uneasy about confronting Old Lady Crimmins.
The friends finally made their way to the end of the block where the witch lived. Tess was surprised at how run-down it looked. The grass in the yard was shriveled and dry. The fence in front, though it looked like it once had a coat of white paint, was worn, and much of the paint was gone. The house looked like it was once a great manor, but now it looked like nothing more than a large haunted house. The wood was dark and the shingles on the top of the house were falling off.
Looking behind the house, Tess could make out a beautiful fruit orchard. Various trees were scattered throughout the yard. On each tree was a fruit of some sort–apples, peaches, pears–and they were all juicy-looking and delicious. They seemed to be the only things full of life in the whole of the property.
“This certainly doesn’t look like Old Lady Crimmins inherited any money,” Boris commented, looking about the house. “Whatever. I’ll just go up there and knock.”
Tess hung back as her other three friends went up to the house. Boris confidently rapped on the door. For a breathless second, nobody moved; the only sound was a Doglefox barking loudly in the distance.
Boris sighed. “The old hermit hasn’t even come to the door,” he said disgustedly. “C’mon, guys, let’s go–”
Boris suddenly seemed to notice something, and with a sense of foreboding Tess realized he was noticing Old Lady Crimmins’ orchard. His eyes gleamed.
“Hey, guys,” he said. “I’m a bit hungry. Aren’t you?” Jason and Maura automatically nodded, and as if on cue the Red Shoyru’s stomach growled.
“Why don’t we grab ourselves a bite to eat?” Boris suggested. “If the old witch is really there, she won’t come out because she was too lazy to answer the door, after all. Those apples on that tree look delicious. Let’s go!”
Tess reluctantly followed her friends to the orchard. Despite her misgivings, the apples did look delicious. Red and juicy, they hung precariously on their branches, practically begging to be plucked.
Boris boldly began to grab apples off the lowest branches of the tree. “One for me,” he said, almost to himself, “one for Maura, one for Jason, one for...”
Suddenly the old screen door that led into the house was flung open. There stood Old Lady Crimmins herself. She was a pale Yellow Aisha. She had a mop of white hair bobbing on her head. She wore a long black gown–real witch clothing. She clutched a broom in her paws, swiping it back and forth as if to chase the intruders away from her front porch. Her eyes were wild with rage.
“Get off my lawn!” the witch screeched. “Get away from my orchard, you naïve thieves!” She swung the broom again as if to emphasize her point.
The four children froze with fear. What was Crimmins going to do?
Suddenly the old woman let go of the broom. It dropped with a clatter to the front step. She now closed her eyes and held out her paws.
She began to chant.
“Shi cha kovar, mi say novek. Ka say kertou.
Me ka doma, si si gana!”
Boris was the first to take action. “Run!” he wailed, sprinting away towards the fence. “She’s casting a spell on us!” The others all followed suit, not daring to hesitate. All except Tess.
Tess felt like she was frozen to the ground. Her feet wouldn’t move. Terror seized her with an iron grip... and wouldn’t let go. Boris was right after all!
The witch slowly came closer, threateningly holding the broom over her head. Tess squeezed her eyes shut.
Then the witch stopped.
For a moment, the two stood stark still in the autumn sunshine. Nothing interrupted the silence but a slight breeze rustling the leaves and trees. Finally Old Lady Crimmins sighed. She let the broom drop onto the coarse grass. Putting her face into her paws, she old woman slowly walked back to her porch and with a gusty sigh put her head onto her knees.
Tess wasn’t sure what to do. For a moment or two she just stood there, staring stupidly at the old woman. Then she took a tentative step forward. Listening closely, she heard muffled sounds coming from the witch’s hunched form. With a jolt of surprise, Tess wondered, Is she... crying?!
Tess hesitantly approached Crimmins. She gently sat down next to her on the porch and awkwardly patted her back. “It... it’s okay,” Tess said at last. “It’s okay.”
Crimmins sniffled and looked up. Her eyes were not really that wild; in fact, they were a soft brown. The black gown was really just a black bathrobe.
“Thank you, dear,” Mrs. Crimmins sniffled.
Tess felt a wave of shame wash over her. Mrs. Crimmins was just an innocent old woman after all!
Tess felt nervous in spite of herself. Deciding to be bold, she asked, “Mrs. Crimmins? ...Why do you try to convince children that you’re really a witch?”
Mrs. Crimmins gazed into Tess’s eyes. “I make a living off of my orchard,” she said at last. She took a deep, shuddering breath. “After Tom–my husband–died in a fire, I received all his money. However, it wasn’t as much as he made people think. Tom was such a prideful man. He didn’t let any Neopian know that he was losing money in the Stock Market.” She took a tissue out of her robe pocket and blew her nose.
“So I inherited his money,” Mrs. Crimmins continued, “but I still needed something else. I began to grow fruits in my orchard and sell them at the Marketplace. But I can reach only the fruits on the lower branches. These old bones are no good for climbing anymore. It’s such a waste to the delicious ones up high.
“That’s why I had to convince the children that I was a witch. I couldn’t have them coming into my orchard and stealing my fruits, because then I wouldn’t make enough income. But some still boldly entered my yard anyway. Some still hurt my income. That’s why,” the old Aisha concluded, “I tried to chase you off. But it seems that I’ve lost my power over you!” Mrs. Crimmins laughed a croaky laugh.
“What about the spell you cast on Boris, Maura and Jason?” Tess asked curiously.
“Are those their names?” Mrs. Crimmins wrinkled her nose. “The words I chanted meant nothing at all. It was all plain gibberish. It makes no more sense than the Tyrannian language!”
Tess’s mind was racing. One part of her felt deeply sorry for the old woman and her situation. The other half of her still felt wary. What if this was all just a trick?
But looking into the old woman’s eyes convinced her that all she said was true. Tess stood up.
“I could get the high fruits for you!” Tess blurted out. Embarrassment washed over her. Was she hurting the woman’s pride? “I’m a really good tree climber. All Zafaras are,” Tess pointed out reasonably.
Mrs. Crimmins’ eyes shone. "That would be wonderful, dear,” she croaked. “You go on and start with that, and I’ll fetch my baskets.” The Aisha heaved to her feet and slowly walked inside.
Tess began to climb the trees. Just as she had suspected, the fruits were round and probably delicious. They had been grown with tender care. One by one, she dropped them into baskets until she had harvested the last of the fruits for the fall.
Mrs. Crimmins’ eyes were shining with happiness when Tess finished. “Thank you, dear,” she told her, hugging the young Zafara. “Please come by anytime. I’d love the company.”
Tess went home with a large basket of fruits for her efforts. On the way, she noticed Boris, Maura and Jason all gathered together whispering with wide, scared eyes.
Maura ran over first. She hugged Tess so hard that she almost dropped her basket. “Oh, Tess! We thought the witch had gotten you!” the Wocky gasped.
“Yeah,” Jason agreed. He flapped his wings anxiously. “We thought that maybe Old Lady Crimmins had caught you and put you in a stew!”
“We were ready to call the Defenders!” Boris added. He stared suspiciously at Tess’s basket “What were you doing?”
Tess took a deep breath. She was ready to explain all. “Mrs. Crimmins isn’t a witch,” Tess told them firmly. “She’s just a nice, lonely old woman who chases away kids who pick fruits off her trees because she can’t afford for others to eat them. She sells the fruits to make money. I picked the high ones for her,” Tess concluded, gesturing towards her basket, “and she rewarded me. I’m going to go back in a couple days or so.”
Boris stared at her. “Are you crazy?” he fumed. “You didn’t know anything about her! She could’ve kidnapped you or something!”
Tess refused to meet his eyes as she scooped her basket.
Boris, Jason and Maura plainly ignored her all the way home. Tess figured that they were just angry because they weren’t brave enough to stick around the yard. But despite this temporary rejection, Tess’s spirits were high. Though the fruits were delicious, the best reward of her adventure was something far more important–a new friend.
This is my first story to get in. ^^ Feel free to send a Neomail anytime; I will always respond. Tell me what you think!