The full-scale witch caught Bernadette’s eye from the yard-sale table. At five-feet tall and four-hundred dollars, she knew her husband would hit the ceiling if she purchased it. Halloween was her favorite holiday, and this was the first year in her new home. She finally had a lawn to display decorations, unlike in the apartment she and Bill moved from. They didn’t even get trick or treaters up there on the third floor, and any decorating she’d done fell on blind eyes.
But not this year. She was starting from scratch and building her display all in one shot. It wasn’t the most cost-effective strategy, and she’d already collectively spent over one-thousand dollars on the mechanical lawn-ghost and the flying bat that strung from her two front yard maple trees. Not to mention the vast array of Styrofoam tombstones and solar activated jack o’ lanterns and hanging cobwebs and inflatable vampires and the screeching skeleton that stood at the end of her walkway, startling the hell out of passing pedestrians. Yes, the display was growing, and Bernadette couldn’t have been happier. Well, almost.
Just when she thought her Halloween collection was complete, here it was staring at her, red eyes ablaze, pointed hat drooping, emerald face twisted. It was the most realistic looking witch she’d ever seen, but four-hundred dollars piled onto what she’d already spent was out of the equation.
She shook off the disappointment as she wandered around the yard, browsing the other less-than-impressive items and trinkets until she reached a foldout table with several stacked books. She noticed a few of the titles: Wicca Book of Spells and Witchcraft for Beginners. She picked up one entitled The Big Book of Black Magic and began reading the back.
“Do you like it?” a soft voice from behind her asked. Bernadette spun and saw a striking young woman standing arms-length behind her.
“Oh, I’m not really into—” Bernadette trailed off and glanced at the book, quickly setting it down.
“No, not that,” the woman continued. “Over there,” and she pointed to the witch on the table. “I noticed you admiring it… for over fifteen minutes.”
Bernadette hitched her purse over her shoulder and said, “It certainly is impressive, and so is the price tag.”
“Follow me,” the woman said, and she began walking away. Bernadette trailed her to the table. The woman stood, hands on her hips, head cocked looking at the witch. “I acquired it last year from my sister,” she rolled on. “That was before, well, before her departure.” The woman never broke eye contact with the witch’s deep red eyes, as if entranced by them. “Her name was Bonnie.”
“Who’s name?” Bernadette asked.
“My sister, that was her name. Where are my manners? I’m Connie,” she said, looking up and holding out her hand.
Connie and Bonnie, Bernadette thought, and wondered if they were twins. “I’m Bernadette,” she finally said.
“I haven’t seen you around. Are you new to the neighborhood?”
“Well, my husband and I just moved here three months ago, just around the corner on Blackwood Drive.”
Connie’s smile fell. She nodded and said, “I see. And may I ask which house you moved into?”
“Oh, it’s uh,” Bernadette silently cursed herself for momentarily forgetting her own damn street address. “It’s um, 312. Right, 312 Blackwood Drive.”
Connie’s smile slowly returned. “Oh, so you’re the new tenants there? I noticed a man coming and going; I was surprised that the place had sold already.” She then reached up and lightly touched Bernadette’s shoulder, closing her eyes after a moment. It seemed like an eternity to Bernadette, and it made her feel uneasy. She was about to pull away when Connie opened her eyes and released her touch. “Welcome to the neighborhood.”
Bernadette couldn’t wait to get out of there. She smiled and said, “Yes, well, I should be going. My husband is waiting for me.” And she began to walk away.
“Wait just one moment,” Connie spoke up. She lifted the witch off the table and held it like a baby. It was bizarre, and it sent uneasy chills down the nape of Bernadette’s neck. “How badly do you want this?” The question took her off guard. She wasn’t quite sure what Connie meant by that, but she still wanted the witch without a doubt.
“Excuse me?” she asked. “I don’t underst—”
“It’s yours for one dollar if you still want it.”
Why would this stranger, whom she’d just met, reduce an item from four-hundred dollars to a buck? She couldn’t decipher Connie’s angle, or maybe there was no angle, and the woman was merely being generous. No, there had to be an angle.
Bernadette was about to ask that very question when Connie added, “I have just one condition.” Here it comes. “Be sure to display it inside your home, where no one can see it.”
It was an odd request, and Bernadette felt an immediate pulse of disappointment. The main reason she wanted it was to display in her yard. She had already envisioned the witch resting in a chair at the end of the yard. But for a dollar, it was too good to pass up, so Bernadette agreed to Connie’s demand and rummaged through her purse, pulling out a crisp one-dollar bill.
The witch was hers.
She wedged it in the front seat of her Nissan Sentra and, after a pit stop at the grocery store and the Yankee Candle shop (which her husband had banned her from), she lumbered home with two more boxes of Corn Pops and five additional pumpkin spice candles.
Bill shook his head when he saw Bernadette’s Yankee Candle bag entering through the front door. He didn’t say a word, but that all changed after his wife’s second trip to the car, returning with a five-foot green monstrosity.
“How much?” he asked, sliding to the edge of his chair.
“Huh? Bernadette said, brushing past him, conveniently pretending she didn’t hear. He followed his wife to the dining room and watched her sit the witch in an empty chair at the end of the table.
She looked at Bill and smiled. “Oh, I only paid a dollar for it. It’s kind of cool, right?”
“Well, as long as you like it,” he added and sauntered to the living room, calling back to her, “Just keep it outside. I don’t want to look at it.”
Bernadette’s smile fell, but she knew how to handle Bill. “Okay,” she replied, hoping he’d let it go.
“Could you do it now?”
Well, what was the worst that could happen? Halloween was only two days away, so Connie would probably never know. At least, that’s what Bernadette told herself. She lugged the witch through the living room and placed it outside on the porch chair, intentionally keeping it obscured from the open yard. The witch gazed upon the empty street.
Halloween was still a day away, but Bernadette was up early to make the most of it. Bill, who stayed up much later, didn’t hear her alarm croak. By nine o’clock, her kitchen was a warzone of flour and pans and dough. She was so engrossed with her pumpkin chocolate chip cookie recipe that she didn’t hear Bill enter the barracks.
“Four hundred dollars?” a deep whisper came from behind. Her husband scuffed into the kitchen in his slippers and bathrobe, making his way to the coffee pot with precision focus. “You need to return it to wherever it came from,” he continued. “I hope to God you still have the receipt.”
“I bought it at a yard sale,” she answered with her back to him. “There’s no receipt. I assure you, it was one dollar.”
“There I was, walking through the dining room just a moment ago when I saw the price tag hanging from its wrist. Can you imagine how I felt?” Bernadette turned from the kitchen island and watched Bill pour his morning coffee. Until that moment, it hadn’t dawned on her how he could’ve seen the tag, considering it’s been on the porch all night. It wasn’t in the dining room earlier that morning. She would’ve seen it. “I drove past that yard sale yesterday,” Bill explained. “After I get dressed, I’m getting our money back.”
Bernadette looked up and said, “No, I’ll do it.”
While Bill retreated upstairs, Bernadette cautiously approached the witch. It sat silently at the dining room table as if waiting for a meal. A flurry of thoughts coursed through her mind. How did it get inside? Why wouldn’t her husband believe her? Why would Connie sell her an expensive item so cheap? Had Bill gotten her that diamond necklace she wanted yet? She blamed herself for not removing the damn price tag. Bill would’ve been none the wiser. And he wouldn’t be stomping around the house like a stressed-out ball of asshole.
She continued to curse herself as she returned to the kitchen. She finished hate-spattering the baking pan with cookie dough and slammed it in the oven, then set her timer.
A thud came. Then another. It came louder and burst from the living room. Bernadette dropped the tea she was sipping and rushed out of the kitchen. Lying on the floor, at the bottom of the staircase, was Bill. His head twisted against the wall; the rest of him splayed across the bottom five steps. One shoe was off, and his sweatshirt was torn on the shoulder.