Toni steps aside as Mrs. Wiggins pushes past her into the house.
“Well Toni?” Mrs. Wiggins asks, “What do you think?”
“I think you are a crazy witch like all the neighbors say,” Toni replies, “What have you done with Lou??”
“Oh dear, don’t worry about him. He’s home… or, well, not quite home per se,” she replies with a flutter of her hands, “but he will not be harmed.”
Toni slams the front door. Mrs. Wiggins stands firmly in her spot in the middle of the living room staring at Toni. After what seems like an eternity, she breaks the eye contact and calmly reaches down to pet Rufus. Rufus stretches his head to meet her hand and thumps his tail on the floor in appreciation.
“No sense in being upset dear.”
“I’ll stop being upset when you tell me where Lou is!” Toni replies.
Mrs. Wiggins heaves a huge sigh, gives Rufus one last pat on the head and walks over to the couch. As she sits, her black dress and robes flutter around her and settle on the cushions. She straightens out the fabric, smoothing it down, and then sits back with her hands neatly folded in her lap.
“If you want to get back to Lou, you will have to learn to control your temper and your emotions,” she tells Toni.
Toni starts to yell again, but thinks better of it. She clamps her mouth shut, and then glances at the old lady out of the corner of her eye.
“Uh… oh! How rude of me! Would you like something to drink?” she asks, squelching the tirade she was about to unleash down into the pit of her stomach and forcing a smile instead. Toni bites back several expletives that she would like to get out right now and fights the urge to just turn and run away like she had intended this morning. She is determined to see this through—even if she never sees Lou again. At least she will know she has tried.
“That’s a good thought dear,” Mrs. Wiggins replies.
At first, Toni is startled. Did she just read my mind? She looks at the witch and Mrs. Wiggins gives a small smile in return.
Don’t be absurd! She’s referring to the drink!
Shaking her head of the confusing thoughts, she heads to the kitchen to get the old bag a beverage. The sooner she plays nice and gets this over with, the better. And the sooner she’ll be back to Lou. She hopes.
But part way to the kitchen Mrs. Wiggins speaks again.
“No, dear. I was referring to your determination to see it through. I can read your thoughts don’t you know.”
Toni’s head turns slowly, looking back over her shoulder to the living room, her body turns a moment later. She returns to the living room.
“I’m pretty sure you heard me. Now can we move on or are you still insistent on that drink? If so, I’ll take bourbon. Neat.”
Again, Toni is at a loss for words. It is always this way with Mrs. Wiggins. This instability has kept her interested in the friendship. She never knows what will happen next. In the past, it’s been a quirky endearment. Now it’s involving her own life and she doesn’t think it’s so cute.
“I don’t have bourbon,” she croaks, her mouth now suddenly very dry.
“Oh. Well then forget it. I’m not that thirsty anyway.”
Toni half wonders why she couldn’t just conjure up her own bourbon, she seems to have moved time and space, why not liquor. And Toni could certainly use some hard stuff right about now too.
“Oh, my dear. But that would be stealing.”
Okay, that’s kind of freaky.
“Yes, many people have trouble getting used to it.”
“Stop it!” Toni screams, tightly squeezing her eyes shut and bringing her hands up to her head.
“Again, the temper,” Mrs. Wiggins murmurs and fusses with her skirt.
Toni collapses into an armchair and puts her face in her hands. Tears form for the umpteenth time today and she silently sobs. Suddenly she feels a warm hand on her shoulder.
She is instantly up and off the chair.
“Don’t touch me you witch!” she turns and yells at Mrs. Wiggins, but then realizes the old lady is still on the couch behind her. She looks back at the chair, which is a good five feet from the couch, then back to the hag.
“How did you do that?” Toni whispers.
“Now will you listen? I am not here to hurt you. I only want to help,” Mrs. Wiggins stands and reaches out to her, “Trust me and I’ll have you back to Lou by midnight.”
Toni looks down her hand, withered and old looking like any normal elderly lady’s hand.
Slowly, she reaches out, her fingertips gently touching Mrs. Wiggins’s fingertips, until finally placing her whole hand, and her future, in the hand of the witch.