The Witch and Me This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

January 15, 2013
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I. Hunger

I hardly ever speak to Grace Oliver, who sits right in front of me in class. I don't know much about her really, but all I can tell you is that you can't trust her. There's just something about her that's peculiar and not quite right. Maybe her smile is too bright and perky, or she constantly bites her lips when she hesitates, or her shrill voice is too vivacious, too animated to be normal. Perhaps it's all of her in general. She's one light bulb set too bright. Whatever it is, I don't trust her. In general, you can never trust women. Like my ­father said in those parched courtrooms, all they bring you is trouble and debt and migraines.

Even though my mom thinks my “sexist viewpoints” are a problem, I'd like to view it as an allergy – to girls. When my mom comes around, she'd often allege that I'm just a “misogynist-in-the-making” and that I heed my little problem and correct it before it “morphs into a bigoted mindset.”

But, really, it's just that I don't like people in general. They're so flighty, mercurial, confusing; I just can't get them. Especially girls. They expect you to do the right thing, what they're thinking. And they tell you to be ­honest, but when you are they get ­offended. They're just as fickle and prissy as my stupid cat I never wanted, but somehow have to feed and clean and brush because apparently, it was one of my mother's you-must-do-this-since-I'm-not-here-anymore edicts. It's sad to think that my stupid cat gets fed more than I do.

And there is Grace, burning brighter than my neglected kitchen stove, flickering on and off in enthusiasm as she furiously jots down her notes. Her pencil scribbles and draws all over the paper, sounding almost like how my mother peeled and chopped apples, quick and effortlessly. I once tried to copy my mom, but then, I accidentally cut my finger. She wasn't there to help me, so I just sat there, bleeding and wondering what to do, the ticking of the clock bandaging my anxiety. I watch strands of Grace's ebony hair curl onto my desk as my stomach ­grumbles and rattles like a train on a rickety track. That's what I get for not eating breakfast.

But, it's not like I know how to cook. It's not like there's food in the fridge. I laugh to quell my hunger, hoping to get some hot lunch at school, if I even have enough money. Dad had already spent the rest on booze, but that's to be expected. He's coping. Eight silver quarters ­jangle in my pocket as I anticipate lunch, which will start soon. Only two more classes. I doubt that I can wait that long. I stock up on imaginary food in my head, just in case.

II. Apple

“West,” Grace says as we shuffle through the hallways, “West.” I'm so surprised that she even knows my name that I, being the smooth person I am, drop my stuff. My papers scatter all over the floor and I scramble to pick them up. Grace crouches next to me, gathering them, and I inhale her flowery perfume. She stares at me, her eyes planets orbiting around me, holding a red apple in her hand.

“What's that?” I ask.

“It's an apple,” she says flatly.

“Um, I know,” I sputter, chagrined at my stupidity, “I wasn't asking you that.” Heat flushes over my skin and I cover my face to hide my ­embarrassment.

“It's yours,” she tells me, placing her hand on my shoulder, “Go ahead and eat it.” She hands me the apple, the scent of roses washing over me. It's a scarlet red, dashed with flecks of yellow, exactly like the ones my mom used to give me. I don't trust it; I don't trust her.

“I don't want it,” I blurt, reminded of its rotten core,” I'm not hungry.” My stomach growls in contradiction. A faint smile brushes across her lips.

“Take it,” she says, “I think you need it.” She places the apple gently in my hands as if it were delicate china. I try to remind myself of the apple and what it destroyed, but I take it anyway.

“Thanks. I'm starving.” And I bring it to my lips, inhaling the sickly sweet aroma.

“You're welcome.” We part ways and I begin to saunter to class, but she stops me.

III. Poison

“Wait,” she tells me as I bite the apple, “wait.” She looks at me, daggers shooting at me, and I nearly drop the apple. “You might want to scrub it clean before you eat it.”

Her eyes pierce through me. They are mirrors reflecting light and shadow, holes in the world hinting secrets, cinematic screens that play movies in my eyes.

“You see,” she whispers, “it's ­poisonous ….” And as the words come out of her mouth, I see those same eyes hidden under a blue cloak, ­shadowed under the canopy of trees, holding a gnarled staff in one hand, a basket of ripe apples in the other. Cluttering around her are broken ­remnants: empty dinner tables, ­shredded photos, dusty rings, unopened problems.

“What?” I ask her, the image washing away, “What did you say?” Her eyes fixate on me, blue marbles rolling in black, and her strawberry lips open.

“I said it might be dirty.”

“Okay,” I say, shrugging, as I shy away from her piercing gaze. Her glassy eyes see right through me.

“West, it's okay,” she whispers softly, “I know how you feel. My mom did the same thing.” Her eyes play a movie that I've known for years, the one that I've always wanted to forget: screams that paint the walls in scarlet; garbled messages left on the answering machine, only broken records that told you she won't be there; forgotten lunch sacks scrawled with messages claiming a next time; black shoes you don't ­recognize at the door, crisp and pointed and shined; and wrapped in satin sheets, she and a man you don't recognize. A man that is not my father.

I wonder how she knows.

I want to ask her more, like how are you, what do you like, do you want to hang out sometimes, but she disappears, leaving a trail of strawberries and roses in her wake.

I hold the scarlet apple in my hands and I laugh a real, loud laugh I haven't heard in a while. Maybe girls aren't so bad after all. Maybe they're not like my mom. Maybe I was just imaging things. And if it was real, it was too late; I had already bit into the apple.

But, then again, it's okay. I wouldn't mind her poisoned apples anyway.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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anteaThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Feb. 20 at 2:56 pm
Everything in this essay is incredible! Absolutely stunning!
Em129 said...
Nov. 10, 2015 at 3:55 pm
I love the way you put your words, this is amazing!!!!!!
Rach3819 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Nov. 4, 2015 at 8:17 pm
I love your stuff-- the symbolism and language used in your work makes it seem very relatable, or like I'm right next to the main character when I'm reading it. At least for me. :)
Welcome2TheNewAge said...
Feb. 9, 2015 at 4:20 pm
Hmmmm *wink* I may be detecting some symbolism here. Anyway, thanks for the great read! Keep writing!!
E.J.Mathews This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Sept. 15, 2013 at 11:08 pm
Hey fountainpen! Sorry it has taken me so long to reply, I have been busy with a lot of stuff. Anyways, I read your piece in the magazine a while back, and I thoroughly enjoyed it! Everything seemed perfect to me, and I loved your creativity!
guardianofthestars This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Aug. 1, 2013 at 10:57 am
I think this is written so well.  I truely loved it. The details were nice and the lack of them helped the story move along.  I enjoyed how you really weren't sure what was happening until the very end. I love stories like that. 5 stars!
Snow_White This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
May 18, 2013 at 10:24 pm
Wow- I really liked this!
Carly_Elizabeth replied...
Jul. 31, 2013 at 5:32 pm
This is really really good. Your descriptions were great and everything flowed nicely. The only thing I would say is that there was kind of no setting to it, but I guess it was written in such a way that it didn't really matter. There's kind of really nothing to say. I am in awe of how well this was written. Great job. 
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