Lily hated where she lived. Even though they had only moved in three months ago lots of awful things had happened. It was a very unlucky house she thought. An unhappy house.
Only last week when she arrived home Lily had passed a small round man as he emerged from the front door. He smiled at her as he bounced down the steps and walked past her.
“Who was that?” She asked her mum who was holding the door open for her.
“Mr Jones, the Neighbourhood Watch Coordinator. Somebody’s broken into the garage again. I’m sorry Lil, they stole your bike, Charlie’s too. Mr Jones called round to give me advice about security; make sure we lock doors, fit alarms; things like that. He’s a kind and helpful man.”
Lily had loved her bicycle and felt sad.
Then this morning as she was getting ready to go to school, pulling her coat on in the hallway, she found another horrid letter. This time it said: ‘gO H o M E TO POLanD Whe R E Y o U b E L o N g ‘ in letters cut from a magazine or a newspaper. Lily took the letter to show her mother and said. “But mum, I was born here so I must belong here!” Her mum, remembering Krakow where she ‘belonged’ cried.
“We should move, mum. Live somewhere else.” Lily had said as she hugged her mother. “I hate this house!”
* * *
Later, in the afternoon, as Lily sat at her desk in the classroom, worry-worms slithering around in her head, she heard the teacher clap her hands and say. “Now, children it’s time to get ready for the concert!”
With her worrying Lily had forgotten that there was the Halloween concert that afternoon. The children dressed up in their witches costumes and applied face paint, laughing and giggling at how scary they looked. Then the excited children walked across the playground to the assembly hall to sing as a chorus in the Halloween concert.
Lily had been walking in deep thought at the back of the noisy straggling line when with a WHOOMP a real witch had stumbled into her in a cloud of peculiar sparkling dust, flying twigs and a smell that reminded Lily of biscuits or burnt toast. It was as though this odd person had fallen from the sky: which she had.
The witch gripped Lily’s arm with her long bony fingers. “Please, please, help me.” She said in a strange hissing voice. “I am Jezebel.” She was nearly as tall as Lily with wild hair under a black conical hat and a nose hook nose. In her hand she held the remnants of a broom.
Lily, although surprised and frightened, considered this strange person extremely polite. Her mum and dad had taught her to help people, especially when they were polite. She took Jezebel’s hand, smiled to reassure her and hurried to catch up with her classmates who were too excited to notice the witch. Lily decided to help her now and ask questions later.
As they walked through the door of the assembly hall, the music teacher Miss Baldwin strode towards Lily and the cluster of small witches.
“Now children I want you to stand by the piano…..”
She paused as she looked down at the upturned faces. The face paint made them look like witches but one looked surprisingly realistic.
“And who are you?” She said to the unfamiliar face.
“Her name is Jezebel, Miss.” Said Lily.
“Jezebel?” Miss Baldwin repeated the strange name.
“Yes, Miss. Jez is in class four. She’s new to the school.” Improvised Lily.
Miss Baldwin was quiet for a worrying moment. But, she was only considering the odd names parents can give their children. And, she thought, it wasn’t just pop stars and celebrity chefs that dreamt up fantastic names for their offspring. There was a boy called Zeus with the Mohican hair cut in class six and there had been a girl called Moon at her last school.
“Well, em..Jez..go with Lily and stand with rest of the girls.” She said.
Lily sighed with relief. Saying a lie about Jez was a great worry as real witches were not nice. In fact she had read lots of scary witch stories.
The concert was a great success although Lily though Jez was not a great singer. She had made a low pitched keening sound which Miss Baldwin didn’t appear to notice.
* * *
At the end of the concert when the enthusiastic applause died down the proud parents left the hall with their children and go home.
“Where are your mother and father?” Hissed Jezebel.
“Don’t worry, they’re not here. They’re both at work.” Explained Lily. “You’d better come home with me.”
As they left the assembly hall to walk across the playground to the school gates Lily and Jez passed the head mistress Mrs Cunningham and the school caretaker Sam. They were standing around the strange scorch marks in the playground and the scattering of twigs looking puzzled.
When they reached Lily’s home her grandfather opened the front door.
“Hello Lil. How did the concert go?”
“It was great Gramps. Miss Baldwin was please. She said everyone sang well.”
“This a friend of yours?” He said looking down at Jez.
“Yes, this is Jez, Gramps. She’s a real witch!” Said Lily. “Don’t tell mum and dad!”
“I won’t Lil. Mums the word, eh.” Tapping the side of his nose as Lily led Jez past him into the hall and down into the basement.
“You must hide down here Jez.”
“Hide me? Why not tell your parents?” Jezebel hissed.
“Well, you’re a witch!”
“What’s wrong with being a witch?”
“People think witches aren’t nice.” Said Lily, adding, “I’m sure you’re okay, but there’s lots of stories about things witches do. They’re always casting spells: turning people into frogs, that sort of thing!”
“Pish! You shouldn’t trust everything you read.” Rasped Jezebel. “I’ve turned no one into a frog…….well, there was someone… but not for long.”
“Well, there you are. You’ll have to stay down here for a bit.”
“But you told that old man I’m a witch.”
“Oh, that’s just Gramps. He’s my grandfather, and he forgets things. He won’t remember you.”
Lily cleared a space in the corner under the stairs and build a wall around an old mattress using empty suitcases and removal boxes. It looked cosy she thought.
“Stay here. I’ve got to help Gramps make dinner for when mum and dad come home.” Said Lily. “I’ll bring food for you later.”
“I don’t need food.” Hissed Jezebel.
“But you need to eat. Everyone does!”
“I do not eat food I live off the air.”
“Yeah, right, suit yourself, but keep very quiet.”
While Lily went upstairs to the kitchen Jezebel sat cross legged on the mattress and emptied the deep pockets of her black cloak. There was a small sphere she could cup in her hands which looked as if was full of swirling fog with tiny lights that sparkled. She placed the sphere in front of her on the mattress. Then she pulled out a bunch of willow twigs and arranged them around the sphere in the shape of a star. Satisfied that the sphere and the twigs were arranged correctly she sat still and closed her eyes.
Later, after dinner Lily brought her little brother Charlie to meet the witch. She felt she had to share her secret with someone. They both looked into the den Lily had made.
“Hi Jez. This is my brother Charlie.” Said Lily.
Charlie looked but couldn’t see anybody. This didn’t surprise him. Only last week Lily claimed to have three dinosaurs in the back of the car when their dad took them swimming and another time she had an invisible friend called Florence. His sister could be really annoying sometimes.
“He cannot see me. I have cast a spell. I am invisible to everyone but you.”
“Well, you must undue the spell otherwise he’ll think I’m lying.”
To Charlie’s astonishment Jez shimmeringly took shape.
“There, I told you!” Said Lily. “She’s a real witch; a nice one of course!”
“Hey! That’s so wicked!” Exclaimed Charlie.
“What does he mean ‘wicked’?” hissed the witch wondering if she might just change this horrible boy into a toad or an earwig.
“No, Jez. He means ‘cool’ you know, like amazing.”
Jezebel looked at Charlie with narrow eyes and decided not to turn him into a toad then hissed, “You have a stream of negative energy running through your house.” She explained that it was like having a chill wind blowing through the house, a wind that brought bad luck.
“That doesn’t surprise me!” Said Lily.
“How do you know?” Said Charlie. “I can’t see anyone!”
“I will show you.” Rasped Jez as she reached into a pocket and pulled a pair of twigs bent in the shape of the letter L. Holding a twig in each hand she walked across the basement. Suddenly the twigs swivelled towards each other.
“It flows through here!”
“You could be moving the twigs yourself.” Charlie said.
Jezebel narrowed her eyes. “Listen, you horrible little boy. I could turn you into a..a..snail! You’d like that, eh!” She hissed handing Charlie the twigs. “Here try it yourself if you don’t trust me.”
Charlie held the twigs in his hands and walked across the room. To his surprise the twigs moved in his hands in precisely the same place. “You’re right.” he whispered. “Can you get rid of it?”
“Oh yes. I can make it go somewhere else.”
Jezebel searched through her deep pockets and brought out a handful of crystals like brightly coloured glass: red as blood, green as holly leaves and blue as a summer sky. She told the children that that must bury the crystals in the north west corner of your garden. Lily and Charlie followed Jez through the door and up the moss covered steps to the garden. An app on Charlie’s mobile showed where the north west corner was, then in the light of the street lamps they swept away the dead leaves and dug a hole in the damp soil. Jezebel, muttering a spell in her rasping voice dropped the crystals in the hole and the children covered them with soil and replaced the leaves.
Back in the basement Jezebel and the children sat cross legged on the mattress. “Close your eyes.” Hissed Jezebel. “Listen.” Their home let out a long sigh. They could hear the old timbers creaking and stretching and the stones and bricks settling as their home relaxed.
“There, can you feel it, sense the happiness return?” Jezebel hissed, “the stream of misfortune has gone.”
“Where’s it gone?” Asked Lily and Charlie.
* * *
At 54 Burton Grove, the bungalow on the other side of the road, the doors and windows rattled, the lights flickered and the net curtains fluttered. In the kitchen old Peter Jones muttered in annoyance as the strange draught blew across the table scattering the letters he had just cut out of the morning’s newspaper and last week’s copy of his wife’s Woman’s Weekly ready to glue on the sheet of paper in front of him. As he bent down to pick up the scattered scraps of paper from the floor, he felt a strange sense of foreboding.