"How was school?" My mother called to me as I slammed the door to our house.
"Same as always. Boring." I responded. Boring it may have been, but I was exhausted. I climbed the stairs to my room. "I'll be down for dinner!" I called, hoping she heard me. I knocked my shoes off my feet and climbed into my bed. Five minutes, I told myself. Then I would wake up and finish my homework. A quick nap never hurt anybody.
"I think she's fainted. Someone get her some water." I opened my eyes to see a boy, although he looked nearly twenty, leaning over me. There was something different about him, though, that I couldn't place immediately. As soon as I sat up it dawned on me. What was he wearing? It was definitely old-styled clothing, and he spoke with a strange accent. It looked like something out of one of my textbooks. Maybe I woke up on some sort of reenactment field. That doesn't make sense, a part of my mind told me. I'm dreaming. I have to be. I'm still at home, on my bed, and any second now I would wake up and start my chemistry homework.
"Can you hear me? Virginia, answer me, please!" The boy above me seemed stress and nervous, anxiety flooding his voice. He was cute, in an old-time way. Then something registered- I wasn't Virginia. I groaned.
"Why'd you call me that? Virginia? I'm Emaleigh. Who are you?" I could've sworn the boy swore something under his breath. But in almost a different language.
"You hit your head harder than I thought. Here, let me help you up." He reached down and grabbed my arms. I stood up and staggered a bit. He caught me again and continued to steady me as he tried to get me to walk to a nearby house. The house, along with the surroundings, was strange. It didn't look sturdy, and it definitely wasn't concrete. It looked like a house built of rock with some timber outside and a bunch of willow reeds surrounding the outside. Now that I thought about it, the rest of the houses looked nearly identical. It must be some type of village.
The boy brought me into the house, and its belongings were also peculiar. He set me down on an obviously homemade bench. He kept calling someone named Helen into the room, but I didn't think she was in hearing distance. Either that, or she was refusing to answer him. I tried to clear my head.
"Who are you, and why am I here?" He glanced at me from the stove where he was trying to heat water, presumably for me.
"Do you really not remember anything? You need to rest. I'm Demetri. Helen isn't going to approve of this! She is going to have my head for this. I knew we shouldn't have been playing with the younger children. We're too old for all that, anyways. And now you have the memory-loss sickness, and right after Helen started to approve of me, too. Not that it was hard for her, with everything going on. She needed someone on her side with what the village is saying." I seemed to have gotten him started, and it didn't look like he was going to shut up anytime soon. But I didn't understand a word he was saying.
"Who is Helen, and what is the village saying? And what do you mean, 'playing with the younger children'?" He looked at me with shocked, and somewhat scared, eyes.
"You have it terribly bad! Helen, your craftmaster? Teaching you herbs? You really forgot all this? And I mean when we were playing ball with the younger children in the village when we should've been working. You tried to chase the ball into the creek and you fell and hit your head on a rock. You were unconscious for a while, nearly an hour. I kept trying to wake you, but it was of no avail." He had soaked a cloth in the boiling pot of water and was now applying it to my forehead. When he applied pressure, it hurt. I was assuming that was where I hit my head.
"Why is it that every time she goes out with you to complete a job for me, she comes home battered and without the materials I sent her out for in the first place? Demetri, what has happened this time?" He looked up at Helen sheepishly, her arrival in the cottage surprising. She moved forward, a menacing air that stopped to hover directly above me.
"Well, our original plan was to get your thyme as planned, but then... we saw children playing a game of ball, and you know us, we had to join in. She went to retrieve the ball from the river, and tripped and hit her head on a rather huge rock. She was unconscious for a while, but when she was finally came to and was able to walk, I brought her here. She seems to suffer from the memory-loss illness, though, and I don't know what to do." She sighed.
"This is why she is my apprentice, and not you. But you would think that with all the time you spend near her, you would have picked up some tricks of this trade. But no matter, have you tried lavender? You should know it improves the memory." She turned toward her drawers and rummaged around, producing a jar of what I presumed to be lavendar. "I'm low on this. If she was in good condition, I would have her go out for more, but since she isn't;" She shot a glare at Demetri," I'll have to go out. I'd send you, but then I would risk getting the wrong herb, and I'd rather not go through that again. Just use this on her, watch her, take care of her, and I'll be back."
She turned and strode out the door, closing it lightly on the way out. I tried to get up, but Demetri's strong arms still held me down. "You're not ready to get up yet. Hold still, and take this." He shoved the lavendar at me, while still holding me a bit closer than usual. I ate some of the ground lavendar, hoping that if I appeased him, he would let me sit up.
"Is it working?" He was looking at me expectantly, like he actually expected it to work like magic. I stared at him dubiously.
"I'm not sure that it works that fast." Although I knew that I wouldn't be remembering any of this, because it wasn't real and I was dreaming. But if I really was dreaming, then I could safely play along... And since this was once of my more interesting dreams, I think it would be fun to play along like I knew what was going on. What could happen?
Demetri moved his arms and I took the chance to escape from the confines of lying down. He didn't stop me, but I didn't push my luck. I stayed on the old bench, but up-right. I figured it would be easier to make it look like I knew what was happening. Maybe that way they would let me around and explore.
“You never answered my question.” He looked at me questionably. “From before. When you said something about the village saying stuff about Helen. I asked what they were saying.”
He sighed, and leaned in closer. I got the feeling that what he was about to say wasn’t allowed in the village. “They’ve been starting rumors about her. Saying that she’s been practicing magic, doing witchcraft. You and I know that isn’t true- but whoever started this has enough followers now that if they take it to the court it’s quite possible she won’t make it. In these times, one enemy is enough to get you killed. Everyone’s suspicious of each other. People they have lived years next to now seem sinister.”
“But Helen’s so… I don’t know, it just doesn’t seem like she would do that. And witches don’t exist!” I didn’t know Helen that well, heck, I just met her, but when she came close I could tell from her face she was the type of gentle lady who wouldn’t hurt a fly. And these people were crazy! What type of village in the twenty-first century believed in that type of stuff? Sure, there were the few supernatural believers, but a whole village of them? Not a big chance. But then… maybe it wasn’t the twenty-first century. There wasn’t a rule that dreams had to take place in your century. And all this talk of witchcraft? It sounded exactly like the chapter about the Salem witch trials in my history book.
“I know that. And they seem to have forgotten that in the past if someone in their family was sick, Helen would be the one to heal them. But I haven’t decided how to tell her yet. I’m kind of nervous. But then, Helen is the smartest person I know, so she might’ve heard already. She probably has figured it out and doesn’t want to alarm us. But I’m nervous.”
“Why are you nervous?” He bit his lip.
“I’m nervous because they’ve already killed off two people in this place! It isn’t safe for anyone- especially someone whom they’ve targeted. You two should really pack up and leave this village, before the rumors are held by higher attention.”
“You would come with us, right?” I held his gaze.
“I don’t know. I might, to be with you. And Helen needs my help. She’s getting old. There really isn’t anything that holds my interest in this place. Not anymore.”
“What’s this talk of Helen getting old? Are you crazy, boy?” I looked up at the doorway to see Helen herself. She walked toward us, laughing. “How are you, Virginia? Feeling better?” She went over to the cabinet and refilled the lavender.
“I’m feeling much better, thank you.” Demetri helped me to my feet. It was the first time I noticed what I was wearing- some sort of old fashioned dress. It was hard to walk in. I would have to do something about it, shorten it or something.
“That’s good. I was getting worried I’d have to hurt Demetri. Always getting in trouble with you…” She sighed. “I remember when I was that young. I was crazy and reckless. But you’re not so unlike me. Except in some things, you are more careful than I ever could have been.” She stared off into space, reminiscing in a far-off memory. It made me wonder what she regretted doing…
“Well, she’s doing fine now, so can we go out? Please! I’ll have her back before you have time to worry!” Demetri butted into our conversation rudely. But it was a nice offer, since I would love to go see the village. Although to his eyes, I’ve lived in it all my life.
“I don’t think it’s possible for me not to worry when she’s with you, Demetri. Nearly every single time she goes out with you she comes back scarred. Don’t let her get harmed this time, okay? You can go.” She smiled down at me, and Demetri took my hand and pulled me out of the cottage.
“I thought she’d never let us out after you hit your head. I was getting worried. You should really be more careful.”
“Or maybe it’s just you.” He laughed.
“Could be. But it probably isn’t.” He still had my hand, and was pulling me through the village, barely giving me a chance to look around. I passed multiple buildings that looked nearly the same as Helen’s, but hers still had a sort of charm around it. We passed the river where I’d presumably hit my head, and he still hadn’t slowed down.
“Demetri!” He stopped suddenly, and I rammed into him. We both tumbled forward, but he caught himself and me. I hadn’t said something, and Demetri looked embarrassed. I turned to see another girl running- or really, walking fast so her dress wouldn’t blow up- toward us.
“Rebecca, what are you doing?” He seemed to be talking through gritted teeth.
“Demetri! You said you were busy tonight. Why are you with the witch’s apprentice? I can think of someone else who would be better worthy of your time.” Who was this girl that she thought she could walk around and take over? She reminded me vaguely of the girl back in my world who bossed me around and made my life miserable.
“Rebecca, I have already told you this.” He gently pushed me behind himself. “I don’t care what we had two years ago. It’s over. We’re over. Go away, and stop bothering me.”
“Would you like me to tell everyone that you’re conversing with the town’s witch again? I’m sure that will go over real well. You’ll probably be the next one sent to the guillotine. After the witch and this girl.” She pointed behind Demetri, at me.
“Rebecca, go ahead and tell them whatever lies you want. I don’t care. I don’t like you anymore. Stop following me around, and go play with someone else. Goodbye.”
She glared at us for a second, then turned and stomped off to bother someone else. Demetri looked at me apologetically.
“Sorry about that. She’s been following me forever, annoying me to death.”
“How could you ever put up with someone so horrible?”
“She was different two years ago. Now she’s been hanging out with the girls who’ve been known to spread the witch rumors around.”
“So then it’s harmful to you to be with Helen or me? Would you rather be with someone less risky?”
“All the less risky girls are like Rebecca. And trust me, the guillotine would be nice compared to that. Besides, a little danger never hurt anyone.” With that, he pulled me into a run again.
We ended up at a little creek, which probably sprung from the lake. It was farther off, and secluded from the rest of the village. I sat down at a bigger rock and took my shoes off. They were nice. Lace- up flats. I’d definitely be looking for those in the nearest store when I woke up. I placed my feet in the water and instinctively started kicking and making a big splash. Demetri laughed and did the same, except he ran in, soaking himself. He started splashing me.
“Hey! Cut it out!” I started splashing him back. Soon there was an all out water war between the two of us. We were both laughing and doused with water. I stopped splashing and lay back on the rock, totally exhausted.
“Aw, you’re giving up that easy? I guess I win!”
“No way! Look at you, you’re soaked. I get some points for that.” He came and sat by me.
“Very true. I guess it’s a tie.” I snorted. “What, you’re soaking too. I think I did a pretty good job.” I shrugged.
“That was fun. But it’s really dark now, how are we supposed to get back?” While we were splashing the sun had been going down, and now we were sitting stranded in darkness.
“Do you doubt my ability to get you back in one piece? Come on, follow me.” He pulled me once more into a run, tracing our path back into the village. Once we were in the glow of the torches and lanterns, he slowed and walked at an easier pace.
Walking through the village, I was testing my ability to pick out the cottages. To my surprise and pleasure, I could find Helen’s immediately. I started heading toward it, very aware of Demetri’s hand entwined with mine. He stopped me at the door.
“See, I told Helen I could bring you back in one piece. Well, I’ll see you tomorrow, okay? We have a lot of work tomorrow. Someone needed another medicine, and Helen needs us to get the herbs. Bye.”
“Bye.” He turned and walked away. It never occurred that he didn’t sleep in Helen’s cottage, and I wondered briefly where he slept and which cottage was his. But then I opened the door and lost everything with the smell of a pie baking. Helen looked up from the stove.
“Oh, you’re back. I’ve prepared dinner for us. And I hope nothing’s happened to you.”
“I’m fine. And thank you.” She placed wooden bowls on the table. I wondered what we would eat- I was pretty certain there was no pizza here. I looked in the bowls, not really sure what to expect. A thin soup lay in it, and although it looked weird, it smelled great. I sat down at the table.
Helen brought the pie over and sat down across from me. “Tomorrow morning I’m going to need you to go out and get me some white willow and feverfew. A mother came to me asking for something to cure her son’s chills. I figured I could take time to make her a simple medicine.”
“Okay, I’ll get those for you.” Hopefully Demetri knew what he was doing- since I didn’t know a thing about herbs. But I wasn’t about to say no, since I was trying to create the façade that I knew what was going on.
We finished the soup and started on the pie. Helen was an amazing cook- I don’t think anyone could recreate her recipes. Well, she did have an endless supply of herbs and spices, but still. It was delicious.
“I’m going to bed, Virginia. I’ll see you in the morning.” She got up and walked into the side room. I finished my pie and got up, too. I wondered where I would sleep. And then I wondered if it was possible to sleep in dreams. I walked into the room Helen had gone into- there was a second bed. I figured it was where I slept, so I sat down on it. Then I realized I had no pajamas… Instead of searching some out, I fell asleep in my wet dress.
While I was asleep, I had flickers of memories of my real life. It was really weird, because I was only dreaming to begin with. So what was this? Some sort of double dream?
“Virginia!” I woke up and nearly fell off the bed. “Wake up. I let you sleep in, come on. There’s work to be done.”
“Ugh, what time is it?” I asked groggily.
“It’s four o’ clock. Come on, I need you to find the herbs.” She left the room. I could only follow her, wondering if I really was dreaming. If I was, I’m pretty certain I would make the wake up time a little later than four. So maybe I wasn’t dreaming? It was really weird. But it wouldn’t be possible to be here, in the 1600s. I had to be dreaming… But I definitely had my doubts.
There was a knock at the door, but before either of us could answer it, Demetri opened it and walked in. He took me in with questioning eyes, and then motioned for me to come.
“Herb-hunting time. Come on.” What, not breakfast in this place? It’s the most important meal of the day! No wonder everyone used to get sick in the olden days. They were passing out from hunger. I followed him out the door, and he led me to the forest.
“Okay. Um… Helen said we needed white willow and feverfew.” I looked around, waiting for something to pop up that we could take back for her. Demetri saw my confused and slightly frantic gaze and started to help. He reached into a bush and pulled out something that looked like a daisy but smelled citrus. He handed it to me.
“Feverfew. Come on, there will probably be some white willow near the river.” We walked back along the path I was certain he had taken me on last night, until we spotted something that looked definitely white protruding from the bank. As I bent down to pick it up, Demetri stopped me. I looked up at where he was looking.
“That can’t be good. Omigod, what are they doing?” I jumped up and started running. Demetri followed close behind. It amused me a bit to see I was faster than a boy while I was wearing a long dress. When I reached the commotion, Demetri pulled me back. “Let me go! We have to help her.”
As I struggled against him, Helen struggled against her capturers. They had her by the arms and were pulling her toward the center square.
“Let me go! What are you doing? This is madness! I have done nothing to you!” We could hear the chortles of the crowd. Rebecca stood up and shouted;
“This is her. This is the witch! Let’s take her now and burn her! Or better yet, to the guillotine!” The crowd seemed more than ready to follow her anywhere, and she began to lead them to an area near the edge of the village that contained the place of execution.
A plan had started formulating in my head, and it had a pretty good chance of working. I could save Helen and Demetri, and I wouldn’t even get harmed. Well, that actually depended on if I was dreaming or not. If I was dreaming, then I would probably wake up, but if I truly was stuck here, than I would die. But I didn’t belong here- Virginia did. I wasn’t her. This wasn’t my time.
“Demetri, I want you to do this for me. On my mark, take Helen and run. Pack up your belongings and escape town as fast as you can. Don’t ever come back. I’m going to stall them.”
“Are you absurd, Virginia? No! They’ll only kill you, too!” I ran ahead, pretending not to hear him. He followed, but stopped as I reached the center of the crowd. People gasped when they saw me, although I didn’t have a clue why.
“Let her go! Take me instead of her. I’m better for this! Are you really going to watch and elderly lady die?” The guards released Helen and moved toward me. Helen backed up, watching me with unsteady eyes. Demetri caught her and tugged on her arm. I gave him one last, long, pleading glance as I watched him pull her backwards away from the crowd and start to run.
“You fools! Why’d you release the witch? This is only her apprentice. She doesn’t have as much skill. But, seeing as we still have her, a killing will still go on today!” The crowd cheered after Rebecca’s short speech. Which was stupid. I got the feeling if you got this village riled up, they’d follow any orders. I needed to stall so Helen and Demetri could pack and get away. They needed more time.
“Why are you doing this, Rebecca?” She turned toward me.
“Why do you thing? Because you’re a nasty witch’s apprentice and Demetri deserves so much better than you.”
“So you’re willing to kill somebody entirely innocent to have a zero percent chance with somebody who doesn’t love you? That’s cruel, Rebecca.”
“Silence. I will tell you what’s cruel. You and your precious witchcraft, always placing spells on us and making us bide to your will.” Out of the corner of my eye I could see the executioner coming toward me.
“Both of us know I’m not a witch.” That was the wrong thing to say. Apparently, if you denied that you were a witch, they took it like a sign that you were. And I guess if your didn’t, then you really were.
“Virginia!” Dang it, what was he doing? I tried to motion to him to run, go somewhere other than here. But no, Demetri has to be stubborn and try to save me. He could be saving himself!
He ran up to me and did something totally unexpected. He kissed me. And for five quick seconds it was heaven. And then reality hit and we came back to face the angry crowd of townsfolk. He shoved something in my hand. I looked down at it. It was purple, drawstring bag, and it felt heavy. I looked up at him. “For wherever you end up. Remember me, okay, Virginia?” Then he backed up, past the crowd, and I could swear he had tears streaming down his cheeks. He turned and ran, and in the background I could see Helen waiting for him, her bags at her side. I hoped they made it out okay.
Then the executioner advanced upon me and swung his massive ax. Everything went black.
I was floating. Going from memories of me as a child, to my short time as Virginia. I tried to push toward my memories from my real life. I don’t know how effective it was, because I lapsed back into darkness.
“Emaleigh! Dinner’s out!” I sat up straight and nearly hit my head on the top post of my bed. What? How’d I get here? Was I really just dreaming that? It was too real. I felt the ax. I felt Demetri’s lips against mine. But I was here, now, so that made it a dream, right? I unclenched my hand and found a small, purple bag. ‘Remember me, okay, Virginia?’ was the last thing Demetri had said to me.
I put the bag on my nightstand. I had to be dreaming, but it was all too real. And dreams didn’t give you souvenirs. But I guess I should be grateful- I was alive. And hopefully, Helen and Demetri had escaped and were free to do what they pleased.
I sighed and headed down to dinner. I had a lot of homework to catch up on.
"How was school?" My mother called to me as I slammed the door to our house.