It is over. Done. Decided.
The burning has been scheduled for tomorrow morning and somehow, I feel at peace with myself, with my resolution to the truth.
I know not what a witch is, only that the Bible says we mustn't suffer them to live. It seems odd to me that God wouldn't tell man what a witch is, and expect us to recognize one and kill it. This thought is blasphemous, I know. Who am I to question God's will? I have prayed for these thoughts to wane, to vanish from my mind, but they never do. Perhaps that is what a witch is; one full of doubt and blasphemous thoughts. If so, I suppose I must be burned.
I have but a short time until morning, when the town will gather and watch me die, spitting on me, shouting, cursing, damning me to eternal Hell, so I suppose I must begin to recount things now, if I am to recount them at all.
My father is dead. This is how I will begin. He died before I was born, but after he married my mother. I shan't go into detail about his death, as my mother wishes. But I can say this, she loved me all the more for his absence. Me. A part, if a small one, of him. Due to this, I was quite spoiled, I must confess. My fancies entertained and even sometimes encouraged by my mother. She is lovely, my mother. And though she is now gone from this place, I believe somehow she still lives, perhaps with another family, with children she spoils even more than I, if such a thing is possible. She left when I was old enough to live on my own. She never told me where she went, but maybe it is somewhere as beautiful as she. It is as much as she deserves.
Her sudden disappearance was less beneficial for me. It was, perhaps, the first step into the town's suspicion of me. You see, my mother did not wait until I was married to leave me, just until she was confident that I was capable of life alone. This, of course, was quite strange to the townspeople, as most of them believed a woman completely incapable of living on her own, even with the knowledge and skills to do so. My mother's choice to raise me alone was only permitted socially because she was a widow. Yet, despite their judgment, I managed quite well on my own for some time. That is, until little Miss Chastity Ames came round one day.
I'd been pruning the sage plant in front of the home I'd once shared with my mother when she arrived, unruly dark curls inherited from her father escaping from beneath her bonnet.
"Why do you live alone, Miss Newcomb?" She asked innocently, impolitely forgoing any greeting.
"Well, good morning to you too, Miss Ames." I said, giving her a rueful smile.
"Why do you live alone?" She said more demandingly, a grimace taking the place of the innocent pout from moments before.
"Well, my mother left me." I said quietly. At this time, my mother's desertion had taken place only a month before and its pain was still fresh in my mind.
"She should have found you a man." Chastity said, bold as can be. No one had ever said this so directly to me, I was taken aback.
"Perhaps. But she didn't." I said thickly.
"So I see." she said, her voice too contemptuous for one so young.
Some part of my bewildered brain regained composure.
"Is that all you came to say to me?" I asked, trying and failing to add as much ice to my voice as she had.
"No." She said tersely, looking straight into my eyes, as if searching my very soul. I can still recall the way her face looked.
After a pause, during which we continued to stare at one another, she still hadn't said anything more.
"Well, what is it, child?" I said, a certain alarm in my voice that I hoped she wouldn't take note of.
"I've forgotten." Chastity said, her eyes still boring holes into me. The expression on her face told me that she hadn't forgotten at all, but I couldn't discern anything more than that.
"Silly girl." I said quietly. "Run along now, come back if you remember."
I regretted the invitation as soon as it left my lips.
I was a sweet child. Always well-meaning. Yet even good intentions will go wrong. I was different from other children, kept to myself and refused to play with the other little girls my age. I enjoyed removing my bonnet when no one was looking. Mother sometimes caught me, but I was never scolded.
I think my bonnet was meant to hold in my good faith, because it wasn't long before I was questioning things. I never spoke of my newfound doubts aloud, not even to Mother, because I knew they were wrong. But even my sense of what was right and wrong faltered. God gave me a brain, didn't he? Should I refrain from using it? I knew I should remain meek in spirit, not only in action, but the doubt and questions continued to creep in.
At times, I wanted to embrace these thoughts, to shout them from the mountain-tops and seek others who were doubtful as well. But some reminder, a sermon or a well-placed cross, would always send me crashing down from the mountains onto the cold earth where I was alone in my sin.
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