“It’s haunted” Middle Sister whispered, fingernail bloody where she’d gnawed. “Evil spirits live there.’
“I thought you said they were witches” Oldest Sister scoffed, her eyes never leaving the stone steps leading to the house; imagining two by two files of pointy toed feet slipping, fleet and silent, up and down, up and down throughout the night.
For witches marched on their way to gatherings. Like soldiers; bony shoulders thrust back, hats straight, black eyes staring into the darkness seeing everything clear as a pin.
“Them too” Middle Sister answered. “Evil spirits and witches. I hear them moaning and chanting, though the nighttime. You remember” she glanced at Oldest Sister, “we heard ‘em singing that night. Magicking someone young into old age most likely.” Her green eyes glazed over and stared hard. “Magicking them while they slept, lying in their beds so smooth and young and beautiful; and when they awoke their hands had gone wrinkled and spotted, their necks turned to turkey skin, and their long golden hair white and stiff as dry widow weeds.”
Oldest Sister’s jaw dropped “Where do you get this crap from?” She’d meant to whisper yell, but her voice caught in her throat and came out croaky and low. “What are you talking about?”
“Them” Middle Sister gazed back at the house. “Cause it’s true in’t it? You can feel it, I know you can. And so can Cedar…”
“Her name in’t Cedar” Oldest Sister snarled, digging her fingernails into her own palms. “It’s Youngest Sister, you know that…”
“No I don’t” Middle Sister replied, ever so calm; and she turned to look her sister in the eye. “Her name is Cedar, even if it never was before. “Same as mine is Esther and yours is Lilly”.
“Lilly?” The older girl unclenched her fists, mind racing. She remembered… What did she remember? The pictures flashed again, unbidden through her mind and her hands went hot then cold. Fingers falling away from her own.. Glaring lights, explosions, that whistling sound; so small and looming at the same time. Could Lilly have been her name? What had the bear called her, when they whispered together in the night?
“I can’t call you Esther” she stared wet eyed at the younger girl. “The Mother…”
“The Mother doesn’t have to hear. She doesn’t have to know” Ether squeezed Lilly’s cold, thin hand in her own, warm and strong. “We don’t have to tell her anything you know, not really. Nor The Father either.”
“But they’re our parents” Lilly’s words were barely audible. She was waiting, even as she blinked slow and felt the night clouds moving overhead and inhaled the sweet basil growing thick about them she was waiting for the words she knew Esther would say….
“They aren’t you know…”
They aren’t you know; and the thick wall about Lilly cracked clean through and tumbled down about her feet. Even as the houses back on High Street had when the bombs rained down thick and she had somehow lost hold of the hand which always held hers so tight and the path to the air raid shelter had disappeared; swallowed away into The Mother’s colorless eyes.
“They aren’t you know” Esther said slow. “They never have been. And we don’t have to listen to them any more”.
The younger girl smiled then, transforming her face into a green eyed gleaming beauty; showing Lilly what Esther would become in but a few year’s time. Full lipped, white teeth, the thick unruly hair, now kept so closely cropped, rising from her widow’s peak to roll down her back in a tumbled cape.
“Come on” Esther whispered, squeezing Lilly’s hand. And together the two sisters began the climb toward those stone steps. Toes digging into the earth, rustling and releasing the night herb fragrance till it rose about them like a mist, fingers grasping root and snag till each placed a hand upon the bottommost step together, and gingerly set their feet upon the stone; faces gazing upward beneath a shining full moon.