As I approach the halfway mark in writing “The Witch of Hadler’s Woods,” I thought I would give you a little sneak peek. This is opening scene. I hope you like it.
“Turn your eyes away from that young man, Raven. You got no reason to look at him. There are rumors he’s a freak … that he’s dangerous,” said Nanny Barnes.
Raven tilted her head to the side and continued to watch the young man who stood out on the sidewalk in front of the diner. She knew Nanny didn’t expect her to obey. Despite her youthful appearance, Raven was older than she seemed and was the one whom most obeyed when she spoke.
“Why do you say this?” she asked the older woman.
Nanny’s hesitation annoyed her. Without taking her eyes off the tall young man out on the sunny sidewalk, Raven reached over and tapped the older woman’s bony, prominently-veined hand and softly whispered a powerful word, “Speak.”
The older woman uttered a dry cough and was compelled to speak in low tones. “His name is Jeremy Fowler. His father owns half the town. He has no friends except for those three you see with him out there, and who knows if they’re true friends or if they only hang around with him because of his rich daddy.”
Raven and Nanny seemed to be in a strange vacuum. Modern humanity moved around them in a busy hustle. They ate their lunch without drawing too much apparent notice, but this was an illusion. Raven knew the human hordes saw they were there, but avoided glancing directly at them out of superstitious fear.
It was a Friday lunch hour and still early enough in the day for her to get back to her remote home in Hadler’s Woods before dark. The sun was high in the sky. Raven always knew where the sun was. Her life depended on it.
It was a perfect early October midday. The young man she watched currently produced a genuine smile and a hearty laugh at something one of his friends had said. They all spoke enthusiastically as they stood beneath the downtown diner’s awning. Jeremy’s head nearly brushed the awning’s edge. He was very tall. His hair was dark and his face was as beautifully proportioned as his body. He was lean and muscular, but broad-shouldered. He had a backpack behind his left shoulder. He was a compelling young man, even to Raven, and she never found any man compelling – not since she left home. That was a very long time ago.
“Why do they say he’s a freak?” Her question was barely audible, but her tone would not be ignored. She did not move her eyes from Jeremy for fear he would walk away and she would lose him.
The old woman beside her spoke, grudgingly. It was obvious she hated to be forced to speak. “The rumor is that he heard voices when he was a kid. Some people say he still hears them. There was also an incident back when he was in middle school … some bully got hurt … but I really don’t know much about that.”
Raven was quiet for a long moment. Too long. The old woman cleared her throat and suddenly asked, “He’s pretty, to be sure, but there are lots of pretty boys out there. What’s so interesting about this one?”
Raven tipped her head forward to indicate the woman give him a second look. “He has … Gifts.”
The old woman now also studied the young man. “How can you tell? I can’t sense nothing to show me he has Gifts. Do you think he is a witch … like you?”
She smiled. “Maybe, maybe not … but … I sense power. In the time I have watched him, I have seen a crow land and stare. If you look at the parking meter over there, you’ll see it still sits and watches him. It’s waiting for his will. I have also seen two people walk by with their dogs on leashes. Both times, the dogs tucked their tails and move as far away from him as they could. Also, it’s very windy outside. The wind plucks at the clothes of his friends like a worried mother, but it does not touch him.”
Peripherally, she noticed Nanny’s regard had been directed back toward him. After a pause, she said. “Yes, you might be right. Do you think he knows?”
Raven considered him. “No, I don’t think he does.”
The old woman cackled loudly enough to draw wary glances. She lowered her voice. “This is so good! Paul Fowler’s son may be a witch!”
Raven abruptly held up a hand to silence the old woman. Jeremy’s posture indicated he and his friends were about to leave. It seemed a decision had been made.
The young man and his friends turned to walk away down the sidewalk to parts unknown. Raven felt a sudden desperation to stop him. She held her power. She was used to keeping her cool. She was nothing if not dignified.
Jeremy surprised her by looking her way just before he turned. His eyes locked onto hers and a powerful shiver gripped her. He had dark brown eyes. Eyes that commanded attention. There was untapped power there. He regarded her purposefully until his friends pulled him away. He seemed reluctant to go, but he managed to tear his gaze from her and she felt the loss.
Next to her, Nanny whistled. “Damn girl! Even I felt that.”
For the first time in too long to remember, Raven felt shaken and weakened in the presence of another being. She shivered and took a calming breath. She only knew two things for certain.
She had to see Jeremy Fowler again and she had to know what he was.