by Marian Allen
Everybody in town knew Mrs. Hatcher. My grandmother told stories about daring her brother to touch the old woman’s fence one Halloween back in the day.
So she’s the one I went to, when Luke dumped me.
I waited until after dark, so nobody would see me. Crept up onto the porch, with the boards creaking and squeaking under my shoes and knocked.
The door swung open and this tiny little skinny old wrinkled-up woman peeped up at me from under a wig of short blond curls. She was wearing blue jeans and a flannel shirt with a sparkly pin on the lapel.
“Yes?” Her voice was thin and high but snappy, like she had something better to do than answer the door. “I don’t want any Girl Scout cookies. They give me an allergy.”
“I’m not selling Girl Scout cookies.”
“What are you selling?” She tried to look around me. “Where are your parents? Children shouldn’t be out alone after dark these days.”
“I’m not a child. I’m almost thirteen.”
“Know how old I am?”
“You can’t count that high. What do you want?”
Before I could chicken out, I said, “I want a love potion.”
“A love potion. My boyfriend broke up with me and I want him back.”
“Plenty of fish in the sea.” She started to closed the door.
“Please! I’m desperate!”
She must have heard the truth of that in my voice, because she opened the door again.
“Okay,” she said. “But I can’t give you a potion until you’re worthy. You have to go through a purification ritual.”
“You have to get your hair cut, not just a little, but short, and take the clippings–”
“My hair’s always been long!”
She shrugged and stepped back, like she was about to close the door again.
“Okay, okay! Cut my hair. And do what with the clippings?”
“Bury them in your back yard, except for one or two hairs. Put them in your target’s yard or car or locker or notebook or somewhere close to him, yeah?”
“File all the rough edges off your fingernails so they’re nice and smooth. Paint over ’em so they’re all one color and you can’t see the pink and the white of ’em.”
“Come back here in a week.”
* * * *
I went to the Clip & Tip the next day and got a cut and a manicure.
You should have been at school the day after that! Pandemonium! You’d have thought I’d had plastic surgery or something.
Luke wasn’t the only one who couldn’t stop staring at me, and I made sure he knew it, too.
I never did go back to Mrs. Hatcher.
I hope she wasn’t disappointed.