Short Stories » Paul’s Problem
Paul’s Problem - Short story by Maddalena Moccetti
Paul knocked on the wooden door. No one answered. He knocked again, louder. The cottage seemed to be inhabited. The boy tiptoed and peeked in the round window, which was encircled by ivy.
“I don’t understand,” he said aloud. “She should be inside. This is what the leaflet says.”
Paul looked around. Behind him there was the narrow street which led to the country house his family was currently staying for the Holidays. Behind the cottage stood a small forest. The place was beautiful, and everything was quiet. Too quiet. Where was the mysterious woman – who was said to be a witch – the leaflet was talking about?
“So,” started Paul, reading the paragraph once again. “In the cottage located right at the end of the Oaks Path, you will find a real witch. Nobody knows how old she is, or even how does she look like; but many claim to have seen a feminine shadow picking poisonous plants on full moon nights. Stay away from the house, or be brave and have a look, at your own risk.” He sighed. The house seemed to be empty.
“I’m not afraid of the witch, I want to ask her to help me with my problem. I’m sure she has a solution. But where is she? In this place there are only insects and…what is that, a spider? Cool, yeah.” Paul kicked a small rock on the ground. Then he kicked another one.
“This was really a terrible idea! This whole vacation is horrible, and…”
“What did that rocks do to you, my boy?”
“Oh no…I…I was…Wait, who are you?” Paul gazed at the pretty girl with auburn curls standing in front of him.
“I’m Gemma. I come here every year to study this area’s plants. Then I pick the most interesting ones and I prepare lotions, creams and fragrances that I sell in my family’s herbalist’s shop. What’s your name?” she asked.
“I’m Paul. I’m here with my family. I was looking for…for…”
“Let me guess, a witch?” Gemma laughed. “I’m sorry to disappoint you, Paul, but I am the so called witch. The first time I came here three years ago, two old ladies saw me in the evening and for some reason got afraid. Since then, everyone at the village decided that I was a witch. Well, they know me now, and they’re not afraid anymore. Still, they keep spreading the voice to attract more tourists, and I’m actually fine with that. I think it’s fun.”
“So you’re not a witch? Just a girl that studies plants?”
“Precisely. But plants can still be magic. Come with me and I’ll show you.” The girl started walking past the house, followed by Paul.
“Here grow different kind of plants. Some are good for humans and animals, others are poisonous and should be avoided at any cost. Look, isn’t it wonderful this small lawn in the middle of the woods? To me, it’s like a paradise. And it’s kind of a secret place, so don’t tell anyone.”
“Whoa, it’s really cool. But…what did you mean when you said plants can be magic?” asked Paul. Gemma smiled.
“That depends on what you need. Was there any particular reason you were looking for the witch?”
“Well, yes. I have this problem, you know.”
“Do you feel like talking about it?”
“It’s nothing big. It’s just…stupid.”
“There’s no such a thing. If something makes you feel worried or upset, then it’s serious, and it needs to be solved. Tell me, I’m sure together we can find a solution.” Paul waited for a moment, then took a deep breath and said:
“Lately I can’t sleep at night. I have nightmares, so I’m just too afraid to fall asleep. But then I’m so tired the next day, and I don’t know what to do anymore.”
“This is nothing to be ashamed of, Paul! Listen, nightmares come and go. Start with falling asleep feeling safe and relaxed, and they will disappear.”
“Yeah, but how can I fall asleep fast?”
“Give me a minute.” Gemma began looking around, and picked some plants, while nodding and smiling. “Here: chamomile and valerian. I’m going to prepare you right now an herbal tea with them, and believe me, you’ll sleep like a baby tonight. And your dreams will be wonderful.”
“Are you sure they’re going to work? Thanks, anyway.”
“I promise. Just trust me, I know plants and their power. Nature is magic, and I’m a witch, right?” winked Gemma.
“Right,” smiled Paul, feeling already better.