In the undergrowth by the tall fence, I sat in the sunlight at the end of an August evening. There was too much hurt in the house across the other side of the gravel drive. Something had gone wrong, and after the shouting and the rage the time for talking was over. I couldn’t work out what I’d done; if I’d played a part in fueling the rage I was sorry as hell about it, but sitting there in the dust I just couldn’t understand the cause. And I knew there was never a solution.
The light melted away as the orange sun mixed with the late summer leaves and into my tenth Secret Place of the past six weeks. It would be time to go inside soon. Time to face the atmosphere. Time to be scared until I heard them go to bed. There’d be the morning, too: breakfast table target practice, with me as bulls eye. If only he had a dog to kick, or anything else but me.
The Witch was pure imagination conjured up from a place a little boy had to go in his mind in tough times. I did a lot of hiding in there. Anyone would have. I never gave the Witch a name, just knew her as The Witch. She had green skin, a pointed nose, and she was thin even in the black witches robes and that hat. She always made herself available when I needed someone to talk to about it all. I imagined her riding down out of the sky on her broomstick and landing gently beside me, smiling, and asking if I was ok. At first I always tried to lie to her. I’d say I was fine even if the fear was stretched out across my face. She knew the truth. She was the only one.
In the dark of my bedroom, when the shouting had stopped and my bedroom door didn’t crash open, The Witch would sit on my bed and make sure I was safe through the night. Whatever spell it took, however many times she helped me to wipe my eyes, whatever monsters came, she stayed through the small hours and held my hand. She was all I had.