She woke up with a jerk, sitting up on her bed, heart racing, her upper body damp with now cooling sweat. The slight breeze from the open window in her room caused her shiver, even after she pulled her blanket up against her small, thin frame. "It's just a dream." The quiet words were loud in the empty room, almost echoing.

Annmarie was no stranger to nightmares. As a witch, why, she could very well curse others with said scary dreams, after some practice. But the seventeen-year-old was much too kind-hearted for that. She was the sort of person who wanted to world to be filled with sunshine and kittens and flowers.

Alas, the world was anything but.

As she slipped out of bed and stepped onto the cold wooden floor, there was the sound of something soft landing next to her feet. It was followed by a small meow, causing the little witch to smile, albeit a shaky one. "My apologies, Shadow, I hadn't meant to wake you." He was her constant companion for the last one year after she found him abandoned on a walk through the shadier part of town.

Annmarie could still remember his messy little face and huge yellow eyes as he had peeked out at her from under a dumpster. Her smile broadened a smidgen as she reached down and picked him up, holding the now purring bundle of fur against her chest. Her nose pressed against the top of his furry head, taking in the scent of the different herbs and spices she kept in the front of her house.


"Ah, yes, sorry, you probably want something to eat." He wasn't a very noisy cat, so when he did make some noise, Annmarie knew it was for a reason. She set him back on the floor and walked to the bedroom door, which she then unlocked and pulled open. Shadow, as he was named, padded out into the open plan attached living room and kitchen, heading straight for his bowl, a semblance of patience, though his tail was flicking a little.

Annmarie meanwhile switched on the light, and it was quite clear once the place was lit that hers was a humble abode. If there was anything she was overly extravagant in, it was the many different types of plants and flowers she had decorating the living room side. Quite a few were useful for the potions she brewed, but many were simply there because she loved 'the green life', as she liked to call it. All sorts of flowering plants stood by the windows, from jasmine to hibiscus to lavender. Scents mixed and sometimes even clashed, but that made no difference to her.

"Meow." This time, the cat's call was a little more direct, almost annoyed. Annmarie gave him a little patient smile before she nodded. "Yes, yes. It's good to be a little patient, though, Shadow. You know what they say? Patience is a virtue. Mother would say it's one that must be cultivated, however."

She didn't take too long with teaching the cat about patience. A couple of minutes later, he was busy munching on his cat food. Annmarie meanwhile was standing by a bookshelf, looking at a framed picture that she had placed there a while ago. Smiling at her where two persons; one was herself and the other was her mother. She had her mother's eyes, that was for sure, but the rest looked quite different. Her mother's hair had been as dark as her was light. She had been a tall and buxom woman, whilst Annmarie was short and rather flat, seeming years younger than she actually was.

"Oh Mother," she sighed softly as she let her finger trail over the glass that covered the photo. "I wish you were still here..." It was hard, living alone by herself. She was shy, yes, but with those she became close to, it was different. As of now, there was only Shadow. There used to be Mason, but she had sent him off to Greece so he could find help. It had occurred to her that perhaps she too should have gone too, but she didn't seem to think she had any reason too.

Another sigh escaped her before she turned away from the photograph. She couldn't mope, and she had to sleep. In the morning she would have someone come over. Auntie Briar wasn't exactly a friend, more the crotchety old lady that every mother seemed to know. She had requested, or rather ordered Annmarie to make her a potion for her aching limbs, and it was to be fresh. The little witch had decided that morning would be the best time to make it. It would be steaming by the time the old witch came to pick it up.

She returned to bed, leaving Shadow in the living room. Since it wasn't too far away, the sound of kibbles being crunched lulled her to sleep.

It was the heat that woke her up. The window had been open so the early morning breeze should have been cooling the room. As she sat up, a cloud of smoke met with her face, causing her to cough as the smoke entered her lungs. Her chest burning, she scrambled out of bed, eyes wide with fear. The fire was licking at the walls of the room, the sparse furniture slowly turning black as they took longer to burn; quite a few pieces had been spelled against fire.

Why hadn't she woken up before now?! Annmarie didn't have time to think over that as she rushed toward the open doorway, shying away from flames that were clinging to the doorframe. She wasn't wearing her usual long dress or skirt, otherwise, that would have caught on fire. Instead, she was in a chemise, once white but at the moment darkening due to the smoke and ashes.

She spotted Shadow in a corner of the living room, hunched over, yowling in panic. "Come here!" she called to him as she raced over. She didn't wait, quickly grabbing hold of him. Tucking him under one arm, she turned and headed to the front door. Try as she might, however, she couldn't open the door.

"Oh... Sugar!" Annmarie growled under her breath, feeling rather frustrated due to her panic. She took in a deep breath, and as she did, she gathered magic around herself. She let out her breath and was no longer in the living room. She had teleported herself and Shadow outside, a few yards away from the house.

"There she is!"

She turned around just in time to see a cricket bat rushing toward her face. There was no time to dodge; the bat reached its target with a sickly cracking sound. The last Annmarie could remember before losing consciousness was Shadow leaping from her arms. She fell back and blacked out.

The next time Annmarie woke up was due to severe pain. She blinked, eyes dry even though she wanted to cry terribly. "Help." She could speak at least. That was a comfort.

"Awake, are you?" There was the sound of movement, and after a moment, shuffling. It took a few more seconds before a face came in Annmarie's view. Gnarly, wrinkly, almost like a walnut. Yes, this was Auntie Briar in all her glory. "It'd be better if you went back to sleep."

She didn't know what to say to that. Was it all just a dream then? "I- the fire- Shadow, what-"

"Not now, girl!" The voice sounded sharp, but Annmarie hinted something else. Something was wrong. Was- Did something happen to Shadow? "No, Shadow, where- where is my cat?" She struggled to sit up, managing to lift her head-

"Stop, girl-

A scream left Annmarie. The pain was there, yes, but what she saw was more horrifying than that. From torso below, there was nothing. No pelvis, no legs- Her eyes, bulging, looked to the side. There she saw an arm, unattached, sewn together it seemed, with thick threads of black. "My- my- me-" She couldn't bring any other words to her mouth.

"They chopped you, girl," Auntie Briar snapped, her voice blunt and cold. "Into itty bitty pieces, and they would've thrown you to the dogs if I hadn't come along. You weren't dead, your heart was still whole, as was your mind, and your soul was still here on this plain." She breathed out, as if saying all that she had taken all of her energy. "I didn't wager on you gaining consciousness so quickly. It'll take all I have to put you back together, and then some. Buck up, girl, because the pain has only just started."

Annmarie managed to let out a strangled sound before falling back into the darkness once more.

A cold nose touched her hand. That was what she felt the next time she awoke. Annmarie's clear blue eyes opened, everything blurry at first, but soon enough it became clear that she was staring up at a thatched roof. Her head turned to the side to look at her hand. There she saw Shadow, who was staring at her, yellow eyes wide in the dim light. "Hello, lovely," she said softly. Her voice sounded so strange to herself.

"Meow," was the reply as he pushed his head against her.

Annmarie was scared. This time, she knew it wasn't a dream. She could remember Auntie Briar's rough words clearly, and she didn't want to see what had become of her. Her eyes shut as she took a trembling breath. I am... alive. I am alive. Shadow is here and I am alive. The words seemed to give her some sort of comfort. She opened her eyes and lifted her head.

Her breath held as she looked down at herself. Her formally unmarred body had stitches everywhere. From her chest to her waist, her legs and her feet, her arms, her hand- Annmarie looked to her left hand... but it wasn't there. All that was left was a stump. "I- I'm right handed." Her voice shook as she spoke. "I shall be fine."

She sat up, and as she did, her hand wandered over her stitches. It was hard to marvel how well they were holding her together when all she could think of what how she looked. Her hand moved up to her face, feeling the various stitched mapping her face. She whimpered softly when she realized she was missing her left ear as well. "I'm alive," she reminded herself, voice barely making a sound.

It took a good hour before she could stand up. Her body was strong, yes, but it hadn't been used in a while. A month, two? Annmarie couldn't tell, and she knew she wouldn't be able to. Auntie Briar would know best. For now, she made sure she held onto the walls as she looked around the room. There it was, what she was looking for. A mirror. Stumbling in her hurry, she finally reached the full-length mirror. Her breath caught in her throat as she looked at her naked body.

No one would want to be near her, the way she looked. A freak, that's what she was. Her eyes stared at the stitches on her face, fingers tracing them lightly. "I... I cannot be seen." Her chest was heaving, but she realized she couldn't bring herself to tear up, even though inside, she felt as if she was tearing apart. She didn't want to see herself, she was abhorrent, she should have just died-


Annmarie jerked a little at the sudden call from her cat. She looked down to see him winding between her leg, rubbing his head affectionately against her. He didn't seem to care what she looked like; it was more than clear that he was just happy to have her back on her feet.

"Oh you," she whispered, her hand clutched over her heart. She sighed deeply before forcing a smile on her face. The feeling of the stitches pulling was so alien to her, but she bore it for now. "We're alive... we- we shall be fine. You and I, together."