Tangled Truths - The Witch's Story

   Lavinia cringed as she heard the yelling coming from the house next door to hers. Her neighbor, Maria, was one of the sweetest women Lavinia knew. She couldn’t understand how Maria could put up with her husband’s torturous abuse. She wished there was something she could do about it, but all the magic in the world couldn’t alter someone’s core being. She couldn’t make Alexander stop drinking and she couldn’t stop him from beating his wife. And Maria wouldn’t accept any of the other help Lavinia had offered through the past year that they’d been living next to her. So she did the only thing she could do. She started her usual healing potion, adding a little something extra to help with the baby.
   As she worked, Lavinia thought about Maria’s words a week earlier.
   “I’m pregnant.” She had begun.
   Lavinia immediately understood why this was not a cause for celebration, as it normally would be. If the baby even survived the pregnancy, there was a good possibility that he or she would be subjected to the same treatment that Maria was. There was no way that Alexander would be a safe father. Lavinia hadn’t let Maria finish explaining what she already knew anyway and had simply put her arm around the other woman and allowed her to cry.
   After what seemed like hours, she heard Alexander’s voice in the garden and knew it wouldn’t be too long before he headed off to the tavern and Maria could come over and get the healing potion. While it wouldn’t make the marks disappear completely, it would help with the pain, and the bruises would fade faster than they would without it.
   She looked up from her work as she heard a soft knock on the door. She sighed as she went to open it, afraid of what her friend would look like this time. No matter how many times she saw Maria this way, she could never keep herself from flinching at the sight of her friend’s battered face.
   Lavinia opened the door and Maria hurried in. She didn’t enjoy being outside for longer than she had to be. The world scared her, and Lavinia wondered how her child would fare in it. Then she wondered if Maria’s child would even live to find out.
   “I told him.” Maria whispered as she picked up the drink she knew was hers. “I told him I was pregnant.”
   “I take it he didn’t accept the news very well.” Lavinia answered, taking the seat across from her friend. She could see the red welt beginning to form on her friend’s cheek.
   Maria shook her head. “He never wanted children and said I tricked him into it.”
   “Yes, because he never does anything that could lead to children.” Lavinia said, scowling. “Is he completely ignorant?”
   Maria smiled sadly. “I want to be excited about this baby. I wish so badly that I had a husband who would rejoice with me at the thought of bringing little ones into this world. I know such a man exists. I guess God just didn’t see fit to give one to me.”
   Lavinia sighed. “What are you going to do?”
   Maria shook her head, tears filling her eyes. “I know there are things you could do that would make me lose this child, but I can’t do that. Even knowing what I’m bringing this child into, I can’t bring myself to kill her.”
   Maria smiled sadly. “I think it’s a girl. I have no proof other than my instinct, but everything in me is screaming ‘baby girl.’ I don’t know if I’m happy about that or not. I know Alexander would prefer a boy if he had the choice.”
   “I suppose any man like him would. I wish there was something I could do to help you.”
   Maria lifted her half-empty cup. “You already are.”

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