Regina ran home as fast as her legs could carry her, bleeding and sobbing and missing a tooth. The pain of her wound worsened by the tears she shed. She arrived, banging her small fists against the door, and it swung open revealing her sister, cloaked and preparing to search for her.
"Regina!" Zelena exclaimed, relief and horror evident on her face. She fell down on her knees and cupped her sister's cheeks and tried to clean her face. "What happened? Where have you been?"
But it was impossible to understand the child's words underneath the sobs, the hiccups and the tears.
The blind woman walked beside the girl and enveloped her in a hug — tender, warm and comforting — the first one she gave in all those years they stayed with her. She did not mind the tears, snot and blood that stained her dress as she rubbed the girl's back, coaxing her to calm down.
"I got too close!" The little girl cried against the old woman's bosom. "I got too close and it hurts!"
Zelena looked at her with those inscrutable eyes, her pale, pink lips morphing to a frown.
"Let's get you cleaned up," the old woman murmured, as she ushered the still sobbing girl to the loft, "mind the door," she gestured to the other girl.
Their warden helped Regina clean her face and change her dress. She gave her a sleeping draught to prevent any night terrors from surfacing, but she was afraid another nightmare might have already begun.
Once the door was shut and bolted, Zelena made sure to watch from the windows, in case someone had followed her sister. But the woods were still and the night went undisturbed, and as she sat down on the old chair by the fireplace, and listened to the sounds of her sister's quieting sobs, she stared at the dying embers by her feet. She watched the smoke swirl, as the flames leap and settle.
An image formed in the hollows and crevices of the cinders — memories of the same cries from a different girl of another time plagued her mind.
She did not notice when the old woman came back down nor did she hear what she had spoke of.
"... another tooth will grow, but I'm afraid her wounds will have to heal on their own. It's a shame she can't heal herself—" the gammer paused from her ramblings, and called out to the elder sibling.
But she paid no heed and she did not stir. Her eyes became glassy, and a mist of white curtained her blue eyes as she sat stiffly, clutching at the chair's arms, her nails digging deep, marking the old wood. She was looking up, staring not at the ceiling but to the unknown that she was seeing.
"Girl!" The old woman called.
But she went unheard.
Zelena started seizing, with her body shaking and her limbs stiffening, her mouth opened to let out a scream. But no sound came from the girl's mouth, only the protesting creaks of the wooden fixture beneath her were heard.
The blind witch strode briskly to the girl and landed a heavy hand against her cheek.
The tremors stopped, and the mist dissipated, but what girl saw will haunt her every waking moment.
"You need to leave," the woman stated loudly, effectively rousing Zelena from her stupor.
The girl blinked emptily, she's exhausted, she realized. She must have fallen asleep while sitting. "Alright..." she trailed hesitantly, "what do you want me to br—" but she was interrupted.
The old woman's voice was deep and cutting.
"You need to leave this place. You're eight and ten, girl. A woman grown. You have nothing left to learn from here."
Realization dawned to her. "You can't be serious. What about my sister?" Zelena asked in disbelief, her voice rising by the octaves.
"She stays," the woman stated without a room for objection.
"I can't just leave her here," she hissed, thinking the old bat had finally lost it.
"You are danger and you don't even know! I'm an old woman, and it only spices up what's left of my old days, but your sister..." she trailed, not knowing how to proceed.
"How can you say that?" Zelena asked, the bitter look of betrayal evident on her face. "I will never hurt her!" She exclaimed.
"So you say," the woman murmured. "I might be blind, girl but I still have my other senses! I know how you talk to her, how you interact with her, how you treat her. I can feel you staring at her. Tell me, when was the last time you looked at your sister without contempt?"
"I love her!" Zelena cried. And it's the honest truth. For she would burn the world and everything in it for her little sister.
"So you say," she repeated. "Yet you look at her like you're looking through a forget-me-knot! Tell me, what do you see?"
Zelena stood, frozen, for she couldn't come with a response. One by one, tears started to fall from her face as she was assaulted with memories long past. Buried, but not forgotten. Never forgotten.
"No answer? Fine. I'll tell you. She reminds you of your mother, but she's dead. And she is very much like her. Strong willed. Proficient. But that's where her resemblance ends and yours begin."
"Stop it!" Zelena screamed. She is crying loudly now, wheezing and gasping for breath, as she closed her eyes tightly, willing, hoping, that the woman would stop, that the images would stop, but try as she might, it's no use.
The old crone continued, "She whored herself away. Got pregnant. Had you. Got lucky with a former prince of a fallen kingdom. Had another babe. Things were just starting to turn out fine when—"
"Stop! Please!" but her pleas fell on deaf ears.
"The puritans arrived. They hanged her father. Burned your mother. Took a red hot poker and branded you like cattle!"
"You're a horrible woman!"
"Not half as horrible as you!" She snarled, her white eyes burning through the younger girl's skin. "I knew it the first time I felt you looking at your sister, this danger. I want to take her as far away from you as I can, but it will be pointless. She is not the problem, you are!
"You put on that pretty smile of yours, but it ain't foolin' anybody! You forget who yer dealin' with!" She bit her thumb and pressed it hard on Zelena's forehead, and blood trickled down between her eyes. "By the pricking of my thumb, something wicked this way comes."
She grabbed Zelena's arms, with a strength that belied her age, she backed her hard against a shelf. Bottles upon bottles filled with unknown substances rattled and fell, shattering on the ground, but the crone was not deterred. Her sharp, yellowed fingernails dug deep into the girl's clothes, bruising her pallid skin. "I won't ask again girl, or so help me I will strike you down the worst way you can possibly imagine."
"They burned her! They burned her at the gallows! I saw the flames that swallowed her! The plumes of perse and black smoke! I saw it all!" Zelena cried, her shaking knees gave away and she collapsed to the floor in a heap of sobs.
"Did you weave it?" The woman asked.
Zelena raised her blotched face, all tear-stained and puffy. "What?" She hiccuped, wiping her snot with the sleeve of her dress.
"You know what what I mean, girl. Did you manipulate your sister's fate?"
"I would never do that to her! She's my sister!"
"The question isn't if you would. The question is if you already have."
"I don't know!" Zelena shrieked, burrowing her head on her knees, her fiery head clutched tightly in her hands. "They — they look so real, I thought they were memories! But I saw the face of my sister instead of my mother, and I knew they were not."
The blind woman released a tired sigh, and for a brief moment, she appeared older than what she appeared to be, as if the weight of the entire world reflected on her features. She made to her rocking chair and was quiet until the sounds of sobs and hiccups abated.
"Your past is overwhelming you at the expense of her future. Mayhaps your gift was never meant to walk side-by-side with hers," she stated, after a moment of silence.
"I'm scared," the girl confessed from her position on the ground.
"You should be. Dabbling with the unknown is already a nasty business. The last thing we need is for your past horrors to haunt your sister."
"Where should I go?" Zelena asked quietly.
"There is a city in the east, in the kingdom of Oz. There is a coven there founded by three sisters of the craft. They will help you."
"And Regina?" Who will take care of her?
"Leave her be. She's more capable than you think."
Above them, on a cot made of cotton and hay, lay a little girl with a fresh scar blooming on her face sleeping the sleep of the dead.
She didn't even stir.