Tatiyana Borisov kept her head and eyes downcast, her long brown hair fell across her face, hiding her. Even so, as she approached the well in the square, a rock whistled past her head. She flinched but kept moving. Her mother had sent her for water and she was determined to get it, despite the hatred of the village.
As she pulled the rope to bring up the bucket, she saw the priest appear at the top of the church steps. The whispered curses subsided, but Tatiyana knew the good people of the village were making warding signs behind her back. With the priest there, the people would do nothing more. That didn’t make the priest a friend. She could see the man glaring at her, hands tucked up into the wide sleeves of his brown wool cassock. The sun glinted off of the polished silver cross he wore upon his chest.
She poured the water from the well bucket into her own then lowered it again to fill her second bucket. Her mother told her that the priest had come while the midwives were still at her birth. Her green eyes had caused the midwives to gasp when she opened them. A woman was sent to get the priest. He’d come, laid the cross against her new skin and when nothing happened, she was allowed to live. Her mother had told her they expected the silver to burn her. Kill her even.
Tatiana shook her head at the memory of her mother’s story. Her mother had been a bride from far away, so far that her eyes slanted. That caused some trouble in the town but not much, at least as long as her husband, Tatiyana’s father had lived. Now though, the mother and the daughter were shunned, though expected to appear in church every Sunday and Holy Day. She poured the water into the second bucket, secured the well and picked up the water to take home.
Her monthly cycle had come two weeks ago. Her mother had baked her a special cake and they’d spent the day on a picnic while she explained how to be a woman. Tatiyana had been told that her mother planned to take her back to her own land, now that her father was dead. There, no one had prejudices against slanted or green eyes. There would be many men there who found a green-eyed woman a treasure and a prize.
The priest went back into the church as Tatiyana turned to leave. A rock hit her square in the back. She fell, landed hard on her knees, water splashing over her. Behind her, gales of laughter came, male voices, boys. A woman yelled, “That’s what you deserve, witch.”
The pain in her back and the pain in her knees met in her chest and before Tatiyana knew what was happening, she was on her feet and spun around to face her attackers. Fury drove her, and fear. She flung out her hand and pointed at the boys. The middle boy, Bruno, a little older than her, black hair falling over his right eye, fell to his knees, his hands over his stomach and began to scream. The rest of the people in the square stared between the boy and her. Tatiyana could hear the blood rushing in her ears. She dropped her hand, unsure if she was the cause of the boy’s pain or if it was something he was doing.
He sat back on his heels, gasping for breath. His friends tried to get him to stand but he pushed them away. “Witch!” he yelled at her. “Witch!”
Tatiyana turned and ran. At her house, she slammed the door open. “Mother!”
Zara Borisov was at the table, making bread, flour covered her hands. She looked up with surprise. “What is it?”
“Something happened at the well. I think I hurt Bruno Kosov.”
Her mother dusted her hands off and wiped them on her apron as she hurried around the table. She took her daughter by the shoulders. “What happened?”
Tatiyana told her mother everything. “Then, I just pointed at him. He was screaming in pain.”
“You didn’t throw a rock? Hit him?”
Tatiyana’s green eyes were filled with tears. “No, I just pointed at him. He was screaming Witch, Witch!”
Zara’s eyebrows drew together in thought. “There is no such thing as witches.” Through the open door, they could hear a mob coming. “Get out to the barn.” Zara pushed her toward the back door. “Stay there until I come for you.”
It was too late, the priest, at the head of the mob, already filled the doorway. “Tatiyana Borisov, You have been accused of witchcraft.” His deep booming voice filled the small house.
Tatiyana clenched her fists. She didn’t do anything.
“Nonsense,” Zara said, pulling herself up to her full five foot two. She stood in front of the priest. “Who accuses?”
The priest pulled Bruno around from behind him. “Here is the accuser.”
Zara looked into the boy’s brown eyes. “Tell the truth boy. Why did you scream when Tatiyana pointed at you?”
His eyes swept past Zara to stare at Tatiyana. “She did…”
“Nothing.” Zara interjected. “You’ve been hanging around for months, watching Tatiyana.”
He began to blush. “No, no, I, I, uh, …”
The priest glared at the boy. “You are looking for attention? Witchcraft is a serious charge. You want the girl to be burned?”
“No, Father,” Bruno stammered. “I just, it was just a prank. So she’d notice me.”
The priest took the boy by the back of the collar. “You hit her with a rock.”
“Yes, yes, Father.”
“Bah!” The priest dropped the boy and stormed out of the house. The mob grumbled but left.
“Get out,” Zara pointed him to the door.
He stared at Tatiyana then left.
Zora went back to the bread.
Tatiyana watched him until he rounded the corner. Her back and knees still hurt. She closed the door.
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