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Chapter 3

It shouldn’t be so much fun to keep a secret. Auntie always said I should be grateful for everything she’s given me; clothes, food, a home. She tells me she doesn’t have to share her life with me and it’s a gift and a privilege for me not to be in an orphanage where I would have to share everything. But the secret is all mine. I found it and I don’t have to share it, ever. If Auntie knew I was going to see Marsalla… I can’t imagine how she would punish me.

I have to try really hard to do my chores at my normal pace so Auntie doesn’t suspect I’m trying to sneak away. I’m nearly bouncing by the time she gets to bed and I make sure the dogs are so full, they can barely watch me walk towards the back door. When I step out the back steps and don’t see Frog and Rabbit waiting for me, I panic. Did they forget? Did they go without me? Did Auntie find them after all and I’ll never see then again?

“Pssst!” I hear from the front porch. “What is it with you and the back door?” Rabbit peeks around a snow drift twice her size the wind piled up on one corner of our porch.

“Her Aunt’s room is the front.” Frog scolds, hopping from her back. “Ready?” He says to me.

I tug my mittens tighter on my wrists and nod. Frog jumps right into my pocket and shouts in a relieved voice, “Follow my directions. Rabbit’s never been there.”

“With good reason!” She squeaks. “I’m sure the witch would love a new pelt to keep warm.”

Yeah, everyone calls Marsalla a witch. Her house is always lit with odd colors and different ones in very window. She never foes out, even for food, fuel, or firewood, yet her greenhouse is dark with plants. Neither kids nor adults dare to try and steal anything from her even if they were brave enough to go near the metal fence and cross the evergreen snarls in her yard to face the hunched figure whose shadow is seen in the windows. The old woman must live all alone because not a single sound comes from her walls.

Marsalla lives in the tallest house in town so following Frog’s directions isn’t necessary several blocks from her home. My footsteps slow and more than just cold makes me shiver.

“Go on, Boot.” Frog says, peeking up from my pocket.

“Sure. ‘Go on’ he says.” Rabbit cowers by my foot as I stare at the house from the street. “Marsalla doesn’t eat frogs or little girls.”

I shouldn’t feel so relieved when I find out I won’t be on the menu. My shoulders drop and I relax until a shadow looms behind me.

“What are you doing here?” A scratchy voice muffled by wool demands from all three of us.

Rabbit goes to run but the shadow is too fast, snatching her up in one hand and my collar with the other to drag us both to the lightless side of Marsalla’s home. There’s nobody on the roads to hear me scream for help but as the reflection of the street lights on snow fades into black, I hope Rabbit was right about not getting eaten.

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