Aspects of the cottage were unusual, to say the least. A large white, winged-devil gargoyle hung to the left of a handwritten sign – Haunted Cottage. Julie and I exchanged glances.
“Welcome, you found the place then!” A short woman in her sixties with a mop of long, incongruously-black hair answered the door. “I’m Mary. Come in.”
Julie and I had answered an advertisement for a saddle, for my stepdaughter’s first horse. We passed through a tack room into a large conservatory.
“Please sit. I’ll make some tea.”
“Oh, no, that’s fine, we can’t stay long.” Julie smiled and toyed with her blonde hair.
“Oh, I insist,” replied Mary. Before we could say anything she’d disappeared.
Julie and I looked around. A large ‘Green Man’ planter hung high on the one solid wall and peach-coloured cushions graced cane furniture.
Soon Mary was back. “The tea won’t be long. Now I must tell you, I have two witches.”
“Two witches, in spirit. They live here. They get up to all kinds of tricks!”
“Oh.” Julie tried to keep a straight face.
I was far less sceptical. “Like what?”
“Oh, they stole my slippers and put them in an old coat. Come, I’ll show you!”
She led us into the cottage, a network of small immaculate rooms, full of antique furniture and effects. Stuffed foxes glowered from glass cages, and witches, from small dolls to waist-high figures, were everywhere.
Back in the conservatory, having seen the coat and slippers, and having succeeded in getting Mary’s mind back on the purpose of our visit long enough to purchase the saddle, I finished my tea. “Well, thanks Mary, it sounds like it’s never a dull moment around here!”
She sat up suddenly. “Did you hear that? Thunder. There’s going to be a storm.”
“Oh well, we’d best be going.” I felt in my pocket for the car key but it was empty. “Hang on, where’s my car key?”
There was a flash of lightning and rain rattled on the windows. I ran to the car with my jacket over my head. “It’s OK, I left it in the ignition!” I shouted.
That lady was crazy,” said Julie, snuggling up to me in bed that night. Her skin was warm and comforting.
“Yeah, maybe, but when we were first sitting down I seem to remember the car key was pressing against my leg.”
Featured in the book, To Cut a Short Story Short: 111 Little Stories
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