‘You don’t want that one, Child.’
I looked up from the open book in my hands, annoyed at being interrupted and called a child.
Mr Mole, the book shop’s owner, was standing at the end of the bookcase, a pile of books in his hands and leaning back to look at me. His black framed thick glasses were balanced on the edge of his nose. His face was heavy lined with brown wrinkles, yet his pale blue eye sparkled with youth. His white hair was thin and wispy, failing to hide his bald liver spotted head. He was wearing an old blue shirt, sleeves rolled up and light brown creased trousers.
I shot him a disgruntled look and turned another page, ‘Why not?’ I asked.
‘It’ll give you indigestion. It’s not a nice read for a young girl like you.’
‘Please,’ I snorted and turned around.
I saw him shrug and walk off to the next bookcase row, where I heard him beginning to slot away a book or two. My eyes twitched across to glance at him, but all I could see was the bookcase’s edges. Positioning my finger in the current page, I swept some dust of my long, red and black chequered high school skirt. I then rubbed down the undersides sleeves of my deep red blazer before loosening the matching tie. I also threw my double plated bronze hair over my shoulder. Then, ignoring everything once again, I got back into reading The Trial Of The Pendle Witches.
‘Are you actually looking for anything?’
I glanced up as Mole reappeared.
I snapped the small dirty grey book close and fixed him a hard look.
Mole smiled sweetly back and waited. I got the odd sense that he knew…somehow, he knew why I was here.
I slotted the book back and looked at the next few along. There were all about different witch trails from all over the world. My fingers reached out to take the Salem one down, but then I saw Mole shake his head. I withdrew and walked right up to him. He still had six books in his out stretched hands.
‘Your secret is safe with me and the books, Child,’ he whispered.
I took a deep breath and touched the small gold cross at my throat. The action was more out of habit then anything religious. It felt warm against my fingers, I pulled out the matching chain it dangled from and began playing with it.
‘No advice, I promise,’ he added.
‘I’ve been having these strange dreams,’ I muttered, ‘and wondered if I could find a book about them.’
Mole cocked a wild hairy eyebrow then looked at the witch trail books and back to me.
‘About witches?’ he asked.
I nodded, ‘and other things.’
He hummed and looked thoughtfully around the cluttered bookshop. The place was a messy labyrinth of old floor to ceiling dusty oak bookcases, short tables, large leather winged chairs and books of all shapes, sizes, years, languages and stories. I breathed in the soft mouldy dankness, loving the smell as it reminded me of the village church only on a heavier level.
‘I think I might have something,’ Mole spoke, ‘follow me.’
A smile flicked on my face and I dropped my chain as I fell into step behind him. We weaved through the bookcases and furniture like mice in a cornfield. Deeper and deeper we seemed to go, until at last Mole stopped. He set the books down on a small rickety table that looked like it was about to collapse.
‘I don’t recognise this section,’ I whispered and glanced at the gloomy corner.
‘It’s a bit out of the way, I know. But it’s the right place for these books,’ Mole responded.
I looked round, my eyes trying to read the titles, but unable to focus in the dim light. The books were undisturbed like a forgotten crypt. Their spines were all hard backed and some were missing their dust jackets or else were made of leather or velvet.
‘This one. It’s heavy,’ Mole’s voice called.
‘What are these books about?’ I asked.
‘Old magic, spells, palm reading, tarot cards, demonology etc and this…The Arcana Of Dreams.’
I looked at what Mole was holding out to me. It was a large, thick, dark purple velvet covered book. Curling gold letters stated what Mole had just spoken. The pages underneath looked creamy and dusty. I reached out and took the book from him. He’d not lied about the weight!
‘I’ll have to loan it to you,’ Mole said, ‘it’s far too…’
‘Expensive?’ I gasped.
‘Collectable,’ he said instead.
He muttered a price which I barely caught, but my mind spun with it.
‘All right. How many days for how much?’ I asked.
Mole shook his head at our usual arrangement and replied, ‘keep it till you are sleeping soundly again.’
I looked at the book and nodded, ‘thanks,’ before I turned to leave. I pressed the book to my chest, expecting any moment to feel Mole’s gnarled but steady hand squeezing my shoulder. I made it to the front door and turned around. Weak autumn sunlight was trying to look through the grimy windows, though the towers of books were doing a good job at stopping it.
‘Goodbye, Mr. Mole. Thanks!’ I shouted.
‘Good day, Child!’ his voice rushed back to me from the bowels of the shop.
I grabbed the door and walked out into the clean fresh country air. I walked down the cobble street, passed the other seemly small shops that made up the centre of the village. Then the single road and pavement began to rise. I clutched the book tighter and dug my toes more downwards as the hill became steep. Cottages lined both sides, looking like children’s play blocks with their multi-colours and simple structures. At the top and passed a few more houses, was large gap at the hill’s peak before another rise up to the small church.
I walked along the cemetery fence, glancing at the moss or vine covered headstones. The church gates came and went. I turned, walked around the back of the church and up a small cobble track which a small car could just fit down. At the bottom of Church Lane, half hidden by a weeping willow and an ancient oak tree, stood the white thatched vicarage.
I opened the white gate, walked up the crazy paving path on either side of which lay empty flower beds marked out on the short lawn. Stepping on the flat dark grey slab step, I tucked the book under my arm and swung my black rucksack off. I dug out my keys from the front pocket and let myself in.
A warm breeze touched my face then vanished into the cold evening. I walked in, shutting the door behind me. The flower wallpapered hallway was short and taking up by a grandmother clock and the wooden panelled staircase. Listening, I heard the distant voices of my adopted parents coming from the kitchen followed by the smells of cooking. I climbed the narrow stairs and went down the hallway, past two other doors, to my bedroom at the end.
I shut my door and took my rucksack off, dropping it to the floor beside my desk. My bedroom was small and spotless. It looked more like a guest’s room then a sixteen year old girl’s. The four walls were covered in dark white wallpaper with blue forgot me not flowers. A small white window, with matching curtains was opposite me, halfway over the wooden bed. Then a large oak wardrobe and dressing table took up all the space on the right wall. My bed stand table, desk and bookcase were on the left wall, claiming almost all the space there too.
I pulled my shoes off, closely followed by blazer and tie which I abandoned on my made up bed. Sitting on the wooden tall back, leather seated chair at my desk, I pushed back my laptop and the text books over. I placed The Arcana Of Dreams down in that space. I grabbed my back and pulled out a half-drunken bottle of water. I took a few sips then place it to the side.
I opened the book’s front page then flipped to the actual start. There wasn’t a content page, but the introduction gave clear instructs on how to use the book. Everything was in alphabetical order and I just need to look up the word I wanted to know more about. Witches. I started turning towards the back and was almost there when I got the call to come and eat. Sighing, I closed the book and went downstairs.
Four doors led off the hallway – the living room, dining room, kitchen and Adam’s study. I walked into the dining room and found him and Jane already at the table. I took the empty chair next to Jane’s and looked at the homemade stew before me.
‘Let’s say grace,’ Adam’s too quiet voice said.
I put my hands together and spoke the words alongside them. After we started eating and talking about our individual days. I was mostly silent and focused on eating, though I did glance up at their faces whilst they were talking. Adam’s face was pale and soft, he had large light blue eyes and very blonde hair. He was wearing a black shirt, buttoned all the way and his white vicar’s collar.
Jane was petite, with brunet hair tied up in bun and just a touch of make up to her face to hide the growing wrinkles. Her eyes were green, her cheeks slightly too rounded and her nose too small. She was wearing a baby pink silk blouse and had a Christian charm bracelet on her left wrist.
‘Did you go to the bookshop today?’ Jane asked me close to the end of the meal.
I nodded, mopping up the gravy with some crusty bread.
‘And how is old Mr. Mole doing?’ Adam chimed in.
‘Good,’ I responded.
Jane frowned a little and it seemed she was debating how to phrase her next words, ‘I’m still not sure I like you visiting him so often…Doesn’t the school library have all the books you need?’
I opened my mouth, but Adam bet me to it, ‘I’m sure it does, Jane. Abigail and Mr. Mole are just good friends and there’s nothing wrong with keeping an eye on your friends. It’s like the sermon I give a few weeks back…’
I droned out his voice and drifted into my own thoughts as he began quoting his sermon and parts of the bible.
It was much later and my bedtime when I returned to the book. I tucked it under my pillow before Jane and Adam came into say goodnight to me. Finally, alone, I pulled it out and flipped to the ‘W’ section. My eyes skipped down the page then stopped at the word;
‘Witches represent destruction and evil, either through seeing them physically or objects that are connected with them,’ I read aloud in a whispery voice, ‘Witches are also linked to negative ideas about females and the body. This could have been brought on by recent events connected with these matters. It is often centred on bad experiences with a heartless woman who is or will become a danger to you.’
I stopped, my breathing quickening, yet my mind couldn’t come up with anybody or event I could link to the words. I looked down and read the next passage, ‘Alternatively, a white or good witch has the opposite effect and they are seen as a symbol of goodness, power and enchantment. They can appear to protect you and/or offer guidance through their magic.’
Maybe that’s it? Though the witches always seem so dark to me.
I yawed, tiredness hitting me. I rubbed my face then decided to give into it. Muttering that I’d look up everything else tomorrow, I rested back on the pillows and went to put the book safely on the floor. However, sleep had stolen me before I could and the book stayed hugged in my hands.
To Be Continued…