Something from my childhood came back into my mind as I walked across the stone foot bridge; ‘don’t trip or the witch will get you!’ I paused, hearing a memory of girls laughing. What was that about?
I shook it off and looked over the side of the bridge. A low, slow river was running under the three stone archways, making nice tinkling and bubbling music. The water was clear, thanks to the bright day and I could see a few weeds and plants caught in the current. There was no rubbish which strangely reminded me I was so far from London.
I breathed in the fragrant countryside air and tried hard to recall that memory. Something about going to school and me hating having my hair tied up in two pigtail plaits. Two girls in bright red dresses throwing stones into the water and shouting at the witch to appear.
It was all too faded to remember correctly. Resting against the cool stone, I let the flow of the water help me drift further into my memories. I had been seven when I had been evacuated from home. There was a war on and it was safe in the countryside then London because of the bombs. I didn’t really understand anything else at the time.
I was extremely lucky as my mother was heavily pregnant and also my brother was only one and half years old, so we got to stay together. The other children, I remember didn’t and they had to say goodbye to their mothers at the train station. Our other stroke of luck was that my father’s sister lived out here and she had agreed to take us in.
It was like going on holiday, mother had said and so it sort of was. Only, I had to go to a new school and make new friends which wasn’t that bad because I was so young. I missed my bedroom and our house though, sadly it got blown up in the Blitz but I didn’t know that until years later.
My cousin! That was the other girl in the red dress and she’d told me that about tripping on the bridge and a witch grabbing you.
I felt sadden I’d forgotten that but it had been so very long ago and Sarah had died a young teenager of scarlet fever. At the time, we had all ready been moved some years, to a large house on the edge of the village and daddy was back from the war and it was all over.
Hadn’t I cried for days when my parents had told me? I had gone to her funeral in red – her favorite color- instead of black like everyone else. I was thirteen or fourteen then. And just like when I was seven and I didn’t full understand the war or why we had to move away, I didn’t understand why Sarah was gone.
We moved back to London after that I think. Dad had secured a job there and we needed to be closer. Auntie came to live with us for awhile but I think the sadness of having no daughter and no husband – killed in France- got to her and she moved away.
Other thoughts tumbled into my mind, unlocked by all of this. It was strange to come back here and remember things I shouldn’t have forgotten. Maybe, it was best that they became forgotten once again though? I felt, that these memories had come back to me and I should do something with them.
‘Grandma!’ a voice called, breaking my thoughts.
I turned and saw my granddaughter, Hattie, running towards me. My daughter and husband following behind.
‘Don’t trip or the witch will get you!’ I said.
That made her stop and glance around, ‘witch? where?’ she questioned.
‘The one that lives under the bridge,’ I explained.
Hattie joined me and tried to look over the wall but she was too small.
‘She likes little girls the best,’ I carried on, not sure if I was making it up or if more was coming back to me, ‘she cooks them in her big pot and eats them with bread!’
Hattie pulled a face and shook her head, ‘I don’t believe you, grandma!’
I swooped down on her, making crackling witch like sounds. Hattie screamed then burst into laughter as I started tickling her and I remembered, a long, long time ago, two girls laughing and tickling each other on this bridge, joking about an old saying.
(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2018/07/05/thursday-photo-prompt-crossing-writephoto/ with thanks).