One week had gone by since the villagers had burned down the Dilapidated Hut, and Toadmila had built herself a stone house with wide windows and a stone door and tile of burnt clay on the roof. She'd also made herself new furniture and a few essentials: pots and cups and cutlery and a cauldron. She even had a separate room with a bed and a soft mattress, and a warm blanket and a fluffy pillow. And she had a fireplace in the main room, with a pot of vegetable stew simmering on top of magical green flames that burned without smoke and produced just enough heat to keep the room warm.
There was only one thing that she'd recovered and kept from the debris of the old hut: the self-filling cup of magical tea. But though she kept it on her new table, she hadn't had a single sip from it since she'd started building her new home.
For some reason, the villagers had not bothered her again, no doubt disheartened by their initial failure to roast her. But as she waited for the stew to boil one evening, she heard footsteps outside her house. No shouts off “Kill the witch!” no crackling of burning torches, just the quiet tapping of lonely feet, and then a shy knock on the door.
Toadmila straightened her back and turned her head to the door. No doubt, this was the beginning of the job that she'd been trained for, her first customer looking for potions or spells. She flicked her wand and the door opened slowly, with a dramatic screeching sound. A girl, about the same age as Toadmila, peered through the open door, not daring to come in. She was tall and skinny, her face browned by sunlight and smudged with dust and possibly mud. Her hair, the color of dry straws, was tied in two braids, and her clothes, made of russet, looked too wide and too short for her, and badly worn. From her gaunt face, a pair of round, brown eyes searched around the room.
“Hello...” the girl said irresolutely. “I'm looking for the witch...”
Toadmila noticed that the girl wasn't carrying either a pitchfork or a torch. This was very encouraging.
“I'm the witch,” Toadmila said, trying to sound as professional as she could.
The girl looked puzzled.
“Oh, but that can't be,” she said quickly, studying Toadmila with wide eyes. “Witches are old and hunchbacked and they have warts and crooked teeth and an ugly nose and... you only have the nose, and gray hair.”
Toadmila raised her wand in as unmenacing a manner as she could manage, with its tip pointed at the ceiling,
“I'm a witch,” she said firmly, pointing at her wand with her free hand.
“Oh,” the girl said, taken aback by this undeniable proof. “Then you're going to make John fall in love with me, right?”