Author's Note: In this chapter, we meet our street urchin, Kenzie. I still don't own Into the Woods or the Witch, but Kenzie is definitely mine. I hope you enjoy.
People had said she was a witch.
People talked; that is what people do. People talk, and others listen. So when the rumors about the witch of 5th Avenue reached the ears of a small child, she had no choice but to stop and listen. They said she was short; not physically, but in her mannerisms. She was quick, brash, but she knew everything you could ever need to know about magic. She had herbs and teas and jewelry. She had a small garden in the back of her home where she picked her the greens needed for her recipes. Everything from fruits to vegetables to herbs was back there.
That was what caught her attention, actually. Kenzie had been sitting on a park bench, nibbling on a package of roasted almonds a kind man had bought her, when two joggers brought her the news. They did not speak to her directly, of course. They merely came up and sat on the bench next to her for a quick rest. As one checked her shoes and sipped from a metal water bottle, the other talked about the tea she had gotten from the witch. It was supposed to flush out all the impurities, she bragged. She knew it was real, too, because the witch had taken her to the back and shown her a small section of her garden, had let her watch as she picked the herbs and leaves necessary for the tea.
The two left not long after, but Kenzie had already gotten what she needed. The girl of seven knew New York like the back of her hand; she had lived in its streets for well over a year now. She knew where 5th Street was, and she knew the building the women had spoken off. Many times she had considered sneaking in and seeing if the rumors were true for herself, but she had always stopped herself. No rumor was worth getting caught, especially if it turned out false. But now, she thought as she shoved the rest of the almonds into her pocket, she had proof, and proof was all she needed to get her next meal.
Glazed almonds were tasty, but not very filling. The same went for the other treats the tourists and kind couples of New York bought her. Often times, if she was caught staring at the food, she would find a small package of it pressed into her hands. More often than not, it was candy of some sort, or a sweet from a bakery. It was a treat that left her filled, but did not satisfy the needs of a growing child for long. Fruits, however, could do that. Nuts could. Greens would keep her belly full, especially if she managed to get a good haul. They would not be as filling as, say, a meat of some sort, but they would be considerably better that sugar.
She traveled through Central Park with ease, then into the subway. She could slip through the bars without any trouble and, therefore, did not have to buy a token or a ticket. After a few stops, she came out near her target street and proceeded to walk the rest of the way there. Occasionally, while waiting for the light to change, Kenzie could filter through her sack to make sure there was enough room for what she needed. She tossed out candy wrappers and pieces of paper, but kept the stuffed duck that was zipped inside one of the pockets. She stroked its soft fur as she approached the wooden fence that surrounded the lot.
The fence seemed out of place, especially in the middle of New York, but no one seemed to notice. They also did not notice the tiny girl slipping between the fence and the next door apartment complex, to the back of the lot. Once she was hidden from man and camera, Kenzie knelt at the edge of the fence. She fiddled with one of the boards, then another. Her nose wrinkled in confusion. She could feel dirt on her hands. She could smell it. And yet all she could see was wood and concrete.
Tentatively, the girl placed one hand against the bottom of a board. Wincing, readying herself for pain, she dug her nails into the concrete and pulled back. But instead of losing a nail or scraping the tip of her finger, Kenzie was surprised when a handful of dirt appeared. As she moved it, she saw that there was dirt all around her. Her lips curved into a toothy grin. Soon, she was digging, throwing the dirt behind her. Mud soaked the knees of her skirt, burrowed underneath her nails, but she paid it no heed. She could smell something now; she could smell the sweetness of fruit, the tang of peppermint. Three minutes later, she had enough dirt moved that she could wriggle under.
It took another five minute of wriggling, struggling and clawing, but eventually the girl managed to slip under the fence. As she stood, brushing the mud from the front of her shirt, she took a moment to look around the garden.
The sight was beautiful enough to make her gasp.
The garden was huge, much too big for such a small lot. There were fruits, vegetables, greens, flowers, herbs – anything and everything you could ever want in a garden was right here, right in front of her. For a moment, Kenzie could only stare. She inhaled the scents of the fruit and the flowers. The mix of sweet and tart nearly made her toes curl in pleasure. It had been far too long since she had seen this sort of beauty. Central Park was a lovely place, especially from her home up in the trees, but this… this was much more than a city-tamed forest. This was paradise. This was all she could ever need.
But when Kenzie's eyes finally found the fruit, and all thoughts of beauty and perfection disappeared, leaving only the gnawing hunger in her belly. She scrambled through the garden to what would be her next meal. With bare feet and hands, Kenzie climbed up the first tree. Apples, green and tart. Two went into her bag. She added three sweet red ones from its neighbor. The next were oranges. Three. And then four bananas. Three peaches – well, two, after she gave into temptation and devoured one. A single pear. Three nectarines. Once her bag was heavy, she moved onto the bushes. These would be what she would devour now, to fill her stomach before she made her way back home.
The blackberry bush was her first target. She snagged a handful of blackberries and crammed them into her mouth. The sweet tang of its juices had her toes curling again. Purple stained her lips, her fingers, but she merely swiped it on a branch before she reached for another handful. The berries did more than just fill her belly; they eased her thirst as well, and that was enough to have her going back for a third handful.
By this point, the sun was high, and she was tired. Deciding not to leave her private Eden, at least not yet, Kenzie shrugged off her bag and clambered to hide under a blueberry bush. Dirt and blackberry juice smeared over her face, her shirt. Though dirty, her new hiding spot was cool, and gave the girl a sense of safety. And, once she was tucked safe in the cool dirt, protected from the sun by the leaves of the bush, the girl decided the nectarine was the next victim of her hunger.
Two bites into the fruit, the crunching of leaves had her glancing up. Someone else was in the garden. Judging by the humming, it was a female – more than likely the witch. Kenzie gulped down the rest of the fruit, barely even attempting to chew as she scanned for the feet of the witch. She found them just a few yards away, a pair of black heels covered almost to the ankle by a soft purple dress. A shiver went down her spine as a soft snap echoed across the garden. Though she did not know what the sound was, she could feel something in the air change. The witch had done something, something unnatural – something magical. Part of her wanted to know what.
But instead of asking, Kenzie instead chose to stifle her breathing, covering her mouth with one hand. Her body curled up, slowly, in an effort to appear smaller, to go unnoticed. The last thing Kenzie needed was to be found and reported to the police. They would contact the House. They would make her go back. She didn't want to go back to the House. She wouldn't go back.
The woman approached, and the girl inhaled a deep breath, holding it. Her feet stopped near the blackberry brush she had snacked at, then took half a step back. There was complete silence for a long moment. Nothing moved, not even the breeze among the leaves. But then the feet started towards her hiding spot. Kenzie raised her eyes up the purple form, until they found the face of the witch. She looked younger than the girl had pictured her, much more beautiful than the fairy tales had always described witches.
It was her red hair, however, that distracted Kenzie. One glance at the curls, and the girl started to move forwards, out of her hiding spot. The hair that framed the witch's face sparked a memory in the child that had almost faded out of existence.
Her mother had red hair. Her mother was beautiful. Her mother was sometimes brash and cold. Maybe… Maybe this was…
The witch caught her movement and looked down. Blue eyes met soft brown, and, for a brief moment, stillness returned to Eden. Then Kenzie crawled forwards, one grubby hand reaching out, grabbing onto the edge of her dress. She whimpered, almost hopefully.
AN: The next chapter we'll get into the finer details of it all, but for now, I hope you enjoyed meeting our main two. Leave a review, please? Let me know what you think?