To the casual observer, she would have looked like any other old lady, tottering out onto the ice. Which is not to say that there were many old ladies on the ice at all. As a matter of fact, she appeared to be the only one. Not that she was taking a survey, mind you. Her attention was concentrated on far more important things, like staying upright.
She gripped the entryway tightly, holding on for dear life, as she set first one foot onto the ice, and then the other.
“Breathe,” she told herself. “You can do this.”
More to the point, she had promised that she would. And she always kept her promises. She knew that words were not a thing to be thrown around lightly.
But that did not stop her from muttering under her breath as she tried to move forward, one wobbly foot in front of the other, making some attempt to glide instead of stepping.
She tried not to think about how she looked, gripping onto the wall as she scoot-skated her way around. She was a vain woman, and in every other sense, she had tried to arrange her appearance to her liking. Steely-gray curls were arranged just so, looking buoyant and bouncy without appearing out of control. She’d picked the smart-looking red sweater to go on top of the brown woolen skirt that belled out around her legs, with a coordinating red-and-green tartan scarf. It would look, she had thought, rustic and charming.
But now, all appearances aside, she felt silly.
What business did she have doing this, anyway? Ice skating at her age? She shouldn’t even be making the attempt.
She silenced her own mental voice. ‘Should’ did not matter. She had promised. And promises mattered.
She closed her eyes for a moment, and took a deep breath before pushing off of the wall.
Glide… glide…. good.
She was still slightly wobbly but somehow she managed to stay upright, keeping her feet under her as she drifted farther and farther away from the wall.
“Excellent,” she thought, as her feet skimmed the frozen surface. “I can do this.”
That was before the first small child zoomed past her, missing her by mere inches and nearly causing her to lose her balance.
“Foul child,” she murmured angrily, glaring at the small streak of a person that was presently halfway around the rink from her.
Somehow, she managed to regain her balance.
Glide…. glide…. Aarrghh!
This one touched her as it sped by.
“Tag!” the little boy shouted as he skated away.
“I will fall on you and you will cry!” she yelled back, glaring at the child and windmilling her arms in an undignified attempt to remain on her feet.
Of all the things she hated (and she hated a lot of things, reader), being undignified was in her top ten. At this point, it was swiftly creeping into her top five.
They continued zooming around her, the little monsters, coming within inches of her with their grubby little hands, almost knocking her to the ground.
“If it happens one more time….” she mumbled, eyes narrowed, shaking her head.
All it took was one more, really.
Yet another child blew by her, skates inches away from her own. Miraculously, she managed to stay upright, gripping the wall like a drowning person clings to a buoy.
“All right,” she said. “That’s it.”
She focused her gaze on the child in question, a little boy who couldn’t be older than nine, sporting mushroom cut and an oversized red-and-black jersey.
“Flame that singes, flame that burns,
Teach this child to wait his turn.”
She couldn’t help grinning, cackling quietly to herself, as the little boy’s skates caught fire.
She may have looked like a regular, sweet old lady, reader, but she was not.
She was, in fact, a witch.
And she was most definitely not sweet.
There are many things you should not do to a witch, reader. And first and foremost among those things: you should not make her angry. You wouldn’t like her when she’s angry.
Sadly, the fire was quickly put out, as the boy dropped and rolled on the ice, only panicking slightly. Sigh, what a shame. Even the skates weren’t too badly burnt – just a few dark spots. Oh, well. She’d do better next time, she supposed.
She did not have to wait long for next time… Mere moments later, a little girl zoomed by. This one had the nerve to grab at her as she went past, sending her into a tale-spin.
When she finally got her breath back, she glared, smiling wickedly at the child. What would it be this time? It had to be something good…the foul child certainly deserved it.
Hmmm…. foul child.
Well, foul certainly begets foul, doesn’t it?
“Frogs and toads and swampy-spawn
Get this child before me gone!”
She muttered it under her breath, but it wasn’t any less effective for that.
She chuckled into her scarf, barely managing to control her glee, as a horde of frogs and toads poured onto the ice, seemingly out of nowhere, chasing the little girl around the rink. She couldn’t resist a particularly loud giggle as a rather large toad leapt, landing squarely on the little girl’s head, causing the child to emit a high-pitched shriek, prancing around as though her hair was on fire.
She was so concentrated on the spectacle occurring across the rink, as the girl leapt and bounced and eventually raced off the ice, with a parade of slimy things behind her, that she did not notice the small, quiet presence by her side.
She did not notice, in fact, until the small person by her side slipped a mittened hand into her gloved one. She looked down, smiling sheepishly at her own small someone, and received an admonishing glare in return.
“Grandma,” she said, with a frown.
And that one word, spoken with such disappointment, was all it took.
“I’m sorry,” she said, giving the small mittened hand a squeeze.
“I promised I’d go skating with you,” she said.
“And you promised you’d be nice.”
Her granddaughter looked up at her, clear blue eyes trusting, despite the disappointment.
“And now I will be,” she said, managing a smile.
Wobbly-legged, on uncomfortable skates, with a small, mittened hand tucked into her own and a trusty companion by her side, she began again.
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