Piety could hardly sleep in her excitement. It was just a few more hours until daybreak, she calculated. A few more hours until she got up to meet John and go to the faerie town Ilsbeth, where she'd discover how to control her abilities. She would be a monster for simply a few hours longer.
She waited, but the morning never seemed to come. She waited for John's footsteps in the hallway, but they never surfaced. Finally, after tossing and turning for a good hour, she sat up and began to pack.
In her satchel, she tried to pack a dress, but it's long folds and heavy fabric just would not fit. So, she settled with packing a hairbrush, a bar of soap, a quill pen, and a big leather-bound book she kept as her diary. It was most important to bring, she decided.
After scribbling a painstaken note to her father, one that claimed that she and John had decided to take a tourist trip to the next town over for the day. It was a believable excuse. There was no possible way that the down-to-earth Goodman Evans would believe that they had taken a trip to a town that probably does not even exist.
Piety dressed next. Her feet softly tip-toeing across the coarse wooden floorboards, she selected a simple traveling dress. It was as blue as the afternoon sky, made of a soft cotton with a lace hem and neckline. She tied her freshly brushed red waves into a low ponytail, tied with a lace ribbon. Presentable, she thought, for the people at Ilsbeth. John's face crept into her mind, and she shook her head as if she could entirely shake him out.
By this time, the sun was starting to show its quiet rays over the horizon, a white line separating the dark ocean and the dark sky. She left her room then, trying to keep her heavy boots as quiet as possible. As she passed John's room, she peaked inside once more—it was dark, and she could sense no movement. She had not heard him leave, Piety thought, but continued on. She did not want to keep him waiting.
She found John leaning casually against the side of the house, looking around and taking in the sleeping village. He was wearing the same clothes as he had the day before, those simple brown slacks and white shirt. The common attire of a witch? Piety thought. Or was he just trying to blend in?
When he saw her, he smiled and stood up straight. "Ready to go?" he asked, paying no mind to the volume of his voice. Piety glanced nervously into the window of her house, the window through which she had spoken to Elisabeth just a day prior, and into the window of the house next door. The last thing she needed were her gossipy neighbors to think that she and John were sneaking around together.
Piety nodded silently, just in case, and the two set off. They did not follow the road, no, that would be suspicious. Instead, they set off into the meadow beyond. It was not until they had gotten some distance away that either of them spoke.
"Yer lookin' fancy," he smiled, looking at her hemline, which kept getting tangled up with burrs.
"Am I?" Piety asked, looking down at her skirt, a blush forming on her pale cheeks. She had thought she looked rather plain.
"Ya look nice. Jus' don' want it to get ruined on our journey."
"How far is it, to Ilsbeth, exactly?" It was Piety's turn to be suspicious now. She was not expecting a long trek across the country, more like a day's worth trip.
"A day or two of walking. I wouldn't expect to arrive until tomorrow evening, at the earliest."
"You should have taken care of that, yerself!"
"What should I have told him?" Piety was angry now. This new stranger constantly found new ways to infuriate her. She was beginning to regret agreeing to leave with him.
"The truth," he said. She snorted.
"No way would I tell my father that I am a witch!" she retorted.
"If you don' tell anyone what you really are, how do ya expect to get 'elp?"
"I'm a businessman's daughter! I'd be locked up!" she kept her voice lower this time. "Besides, I told you. Isn't that enough?"
"Awright, you 'ave a point. If it wasn't fer me ya would still be killin' people," he said brightly this time. Obviously, Piety's comment had inflated his ego. "So, basically, ya should do what I say and not ask all of yer silly questions."
Piety rolled her eyes. This was going to be a very unpleasant trip if they continued arguing. Besides, what John said was true. She needed him if she wanted to learn to control her abilities. So she stalked silently beside him, not looking in his direction. She wanted to retain whatever dignity she had left. After all, she was not about to be a charity case. She was very much an important part of this journey as he was.
"So, Piety, yer name is a bit misleading. Ya don' seem to be very pious," John said after a while.
"Why do you think that?" she demanded, and then seemed to remember her decision to be agreeable in the presence of this awful man.
"Well, yer a witch, the opposite of Puritan."
"I am very much Puritan. We are all sinners."
"Some more than others," he grinned.
"Some more than others," Piety repeated, thoughtfully. Was there some clause that made her incapable of being both a witch and a Puritan at the same time?
As if she had spoken aloud, John answered her silent question. "Puritans 'ate witches," he said simply, as if it was too obvious. "Ya wonder why the Church was so quick to charge Goody Jameson?"
"Yes, still—I can be a Puritan and a witch too, can't I?"
"Well, I suppose ya can. It's a bit 'ypocritical, though. Self-loathing."
And with that, Piety lapsed back into her thoughtful silence, just now fully understanding the origins of the horrors that had been occurring in her small village. It was not just a battle of social outcasts, no, it was a battle taking place inside her own head.