On the edge of the mountain, silhouetted against the setting sun, there is a small ramshackle cottage made of wood (3). Inside, Philomena sits hunched over her cauldron; she waves an arthritic hand over the fluid therein and an image slowly appears. She can see Eli, her husband, walking toward the cottage as he does each evening around this time. He looks almost happy as he walks along the jagged path, his expression one she had not seen up close in many a year. However she knows from whence comes his joy: on his way from the quarry he often tips his hat at Helena, the counter girl at the feed store. That smile had once been reserved only for Philomena. She knows what she must do. With a grunt, she stands and makes her way to the pantry and from behind a small secret panel she produces two small sacks of herbs, one batch of which is reserved for making hate (2). This sack she carries to her cauldron and after a complicated incantation there in the fluid is the image of Helena. Philomena sprinkles some herbs into the cauldron and mumbles another incantation. A wave of her hand and there again is Eli; he is coming into the clearing, closer to the cottage now. She pulls open the second sack of herbs–the one reserved for inspiring love–and sprinkles it into the cauldron. She can hear Eli whistling; lifting her skirts, Philomena hurries as much as an old witch can to replace the herbs in their secret chamber. She settles herself and stirs the now-steaming fluid in the cauldron just as Eli opens the door. He comes to her, young, handsome, and strong; Eli is at least 20 years her junior but thanks to her constant ministrations has never realized it. Where others see an old hag, Eli sees his young vibrant wife. However, over the past year or so he has grown weary of their life on the edge of the mountain; he sought more work at the quarry in hopes of giving them an opportunity to move closer to town. But Philomena resists, not wanting her secret to be exposed; the townsfolk are afraid of the witch and are equally afraid to alert Eli to the fact that he had fallen under her spells. She places a bowl of soup from the cauldron before her husband and he greedily spoons it up. As he finishes the last, he looks at her with an expression that perfectly captures their unconventional love (1). She smiles back, anticipating the look of disgust and hatred he will garner from Helena when he tips his hat at her next.
(1) Daily Prompt
(2) Inspiration Monday
(3) Story A Day (Day 14)
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