That Woman In Red

Where she goes nobody knows. Where she lived nobody dares go. Her backyard was the forest. A secret maze of tall ominous looking trees hide her cottage from the rest. And whenever young Marie would see a dark red diaphanous long dress or a red velvet coat she wears. Her eyes towards the horizon. Her gait confident, oblivious of everyone around her.

“ I want to wear a dress in that color.”  Marie told her mother one day when she saw the woman in the town. She looked suspiciously at the woman. “ Men never marry a woman in red. They want women in pastels.”  Marie frowned.  “But men do sure like women in red.” She remarked. Her mother snorted.  Marie can see men ogling the woman in red. The woman would occasionally  look at the men sideways and the men would have an expression Marie thought indecent.

“She doesn’t have any friends in the town,” Lilian said while drawing circles in the sand with her fingers. Marie copied her and drew a heart and wrote  the name John in it.

“Mother seems to hate her. But father always have a dreamy look every time they would talk about her.”

“I heard she tried to wear pastels once a few years back. But the people only laughed at her.” Lilian said now washing her hands in the sea.

“Did anybody wanted to marry her then?” Marie asked.

“There was one soldier, a foreigner, I think.” Lilian sat next to Marie.“ Why are you so interested in her anyways?”

Marie squinted in the sun. ” Well, I had seen her all my life but she’s the only person I don’t know anything about in this town. And what is wrong with the color red anyway?”

Lilian laughed. “ You are so stupid. Everybody knows nobody marries a woman who wears red.”

Marie frowned.”That’s no explanation at all.”

One day Marie followed the woman home. When she saw the woman’s house  Marie hesitated and decided to turn back. Up until then the woman never gave indication that she knew Marie was following her. But when she turned to walk back the woman spoke quietly.“Would you like to have a cup of coco with me?”

Marie turned pale. But nodded shyly.

The woman’s house was not like any other  house she had seen. On the inside it was like a cave. The walls seemed to whisper secrets. Marie kept her self from shuddering. She saw ornaments  which looked strange and other worldly.  She had never saw  anything  like those in any other  houses in the town. Nor in any of the shops. And the house have the a strange smell of something unearth like.

When they reached the dining room the woman removed her coat. Marie was shocked. She was speechless.“ What’s wrong child?”

“ You are wearing pastels underneath that coat.” She stammered.

The woman laughed mischievously.

“ I love pastels.” She said. “ Its our little secret.”

Marie was dumbfounded.“But why do have to wear that red clothes all the time?”

The woman poured hot coco in a cup and handed it to Marie. It’s the best hot coco she’d ever tasted.

“ Some people can be so stupid. I wear it to satisfy their sense of mystery about me.” She chuckles.

Marie frowned. “But no ones likes you because you wear the color red.”

“ Not being like is better than being hanged. Theywill kill me if they see me wearing pastels.”

“I am the village witch. “ she added amused.

“Don’t you want anyone to marry you at all?”

The woman pinched her cheeks. “Why do you think I wear red?”

“But why don’t you want anyone to marry you.” Marielooked at her. She couldn’t imagine anyone not wantingto marry.

“Men marries pastels but dreams of red.” She smiled. Looking far away.

Marie thought of John.

“Isn’t there a man who can be faithful?” Marie asked searching her face.

“ I’ve not met a man who is faithful. Never” she said firmly.

Marie thought of John and their nightly walks by the beach. Holding hands.

“But John said he loves me very much and no one else.He wants to marry me.” She said confidently at the woman. Smiling.

The woman looked at her.” John does love you. He is the best among the young men in town. And you should marry him.” She paused.

“ But John comes in here once in a while too.”

Marie turned pale. She pushed the coco away from her. She thank the woman and shakily went for the door.

Marie started to run and when she looked back the woman was wearing the red coat again and was closing the door. She was smiling.

©JMKhapra

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