Mark shouted, “ooh,” and skidded to a stop behind me.
I braked ten feet in front of him. “What happened?”
“See that house?” he said. “A witch lives there.”
I looked across the street at a single-story, white house on a corner lot. It had crooked aluminum awnings hanging above the windows; the paint was chipped and flaking; and there was a crumbling rock wall in the front yard. But the weird thing was that all the vegetation in the yard was dead. Though it was mid June, the two trees in the front remained leafless, and the grass was a sandy shade of brown. The foundation of the house was lined by dry dirt.
“Looks like an old person lives there,” I said, just to say something. Mark didn’t respond, so I added, “Creepy.”
“It’s not that creepy,” he said. He took off on his bike. “C’mon.” I lingered for a second, looking at the dead lot, curious. Then I worked up a sweat catching up to him.
I didn’t really think of the house as creepy. Not yet. But a few days later, I was on my bike again, riding alongside my mother on one of her jogs. We went into the older section of the neighborhood where the houses were smaller, and I noticed the witch house. I guess I thought pointing it out to her would be cool.
“See that house? A witch lives there.”
Mom stopped suddenly in front. I hit the brakes and looked back at her. “You mean Mrs. Morton?” she asked. It occurred to me I didn’t know who I meant. “I’ll show you a witch.” She marched up the front walk and rang the doorbell.
“Uh-oh,” I thought. I wanted to say something to stop her, but when I opened my mouth, I only managed a “wa.”
From the street, I watched as the door opened, and a gorgeous blonde woman stepped out. Their conversation was impossible to hear, and I was frozen still, staring at her. She was the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen. I only took my eyes off her when she looked at me and I looked down at my feet.
Mom jogged back to me. “Was that Mrs. Morton?” I asked.
She shot me a sly smile. “No. That was her daughter. Mrs. Morton isn’t feeling well.”
I was trying to memorize that face when Mom said, “She just graduated from college.”
“No,” Mom said, “her daughter.” She smiled at me again. “I think she’s a little old for you.” I would have turned red had she not changed the subject quickly: “So, I thought we could head to the pool around one.”
“Okay.” I was grateful to be let off the hook.