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Chapter 4

The trip down the tunnel is a blur of sound; Rabbit struggling and Frog squirming in my pocket. The way I’m being dragged, my coat is bunched up, trapping Frog in the folds. My hat id pushed halfway down my eyes so I don’t get the full force of the light when we reach it but when we do, the hard grip loosens and I tumble to the floor. Frog hops out and lands on my knee and Rabbit runs for the nearest hiding place.

“What were you doing outside my house?” I can hardly make out the words with so many scarves over the mouth in the shadowed face above me.

“You’re scaring her!” Frog scolds from my knee. “At lease take your head gear off when you talk, Marsalla.”

The shadow starts pulling off clothes till a face is finally revealed from under a hood, a hat, and two scarves. The olive colored skin still blushes form the cold. I expected Marsalla to be a scary old lady from the way people talk and how she was hunched over. But the pumps on her back where the overlap  of the scarves and the packages strapped under her coats. Her face is round and she looks younger than Auntie.

“Why were you out in front of my house in the middle of the night?”

I notice adults use the phrase “middle of the night” to mean “any time after when a kid should be out of my way.” “Frog told me you know about the man in the river.”

A smile makes her cheeks round and Marsalla tosses her coat on top of a growing pile of outerwear. “Well, any friend of Frog’s and blah, blah, blah.” Marsalla rolls her shoulder so her bag slips off, a long fingered hand catching it before it can hit the floor. Her teeth are small, straight, and very human, smooth skin and hat hair all say normal lady just come back from the cold. How is she a witch?

“You might wanna get up off the floor and get comfortable. You’re already sweating.” Marsalla reaches out to me, short nails so clean, they look like ivory, and takes my hand so I cans get up. “Sorry about the drama. I got tired of kids busting windows since before the winter came.”

“Go on, Boot. You’re safe.” Frog whispers before jumping down to the carpet. “You come out too, Rabbit!”

Marsalla’s blue eyes light up. “Rabbit?” She darts off to where Frog is shouting and snatches up Rabbit with a quickness I didn’t think a woman of her size could do. Auntie is all bones and can’t move that fast but Marsalla is all curves and moves like lightening.

Rabbit only has time for one squeak before she’s pressed against Marsalla’s chest. “I haven’t seen a rabbit in years! And so adorable! Aren’t you, sweetie?”

Some of her baby talk is muffled as I pull off my coat and look around. Books and picture frames and mirrors are everywhere, the only bare spots on any flat surface clean from a fresh dusting.. The carpet stops in front of the kitchen and a wide circle around a fireplace as big as Auntie’s dogs. Once my coat is off, I notice how warm it is; my heart stops pounding and I notice the room smells like soft incense.

“Marsalla, you’re smothering her with your mammal parts.” Frog teases and I giggle when I see Rabbit’s baffled expression as she’s snuggled ruthlessly into the front of the woman’s sweater.

“Are you sure we’re in the right place?” I disobey every rule about staring at people, my mouth open in disbelief.

“You lookin’ for the witch who lives in this big, scary house?” Marsalla says.

“Yeah.”

“Then you’re in the right place.” Marsalla puts Rabbit down on the floor gently before planting her hands on her cocked hips. “And who are you?”

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