I think Aunty Adesuwa is a witch. Mama says so sometimes.
“What is a witch?” I asked Mama once.
“A witch is an unusual person. They are different from normal people,” Mama told me.
“People call me different. Am I a witch too?” I asked.
“Idara, you are not a witch, okay?!” Mama said. “You are a kind and sweet little girl and when I’m done with you, you will be a strong, independent woman,” she told me, holding my arms as she looked into my eyes, smiling. I smiled too.
“A witch can never be these things,” she said. “A witch is a paranormal creature that lives between the shadows cast by daylight. They traverse the infinities of a heartbeat, they sail in seas of dreams… they manipulate nature.”
I couldn’t understand Mama. It seemed to me that witches did wonderful things.
“Above all else, a witch is evil. Evil for a witch is its own reward,” she finished. I knew it must be true because Mama never lied.
I wondered if Aunty Adesuwa was all these things. I think it was that day my hatred for witches began to take root. I hated how they perverted a thing that would otherwise have been beautiful. I didn’t know why Mama or anyone hadn’t stopped Aunty Adesuwa and I didn’t care to know. I would stop her myself.
I once saw Aunty Adesuwa eavesdropping on my mother and two of her friends. I didn’t know how to signal Mama without her seeing me. My palms became sweaty and my breathing difficult.
“We all know Adesuwa killed her ex-husband’s illegitimate child,” Aunty Bisi, one of Mama’s friends said. She probably thought she was whispering. She wasn’t. Aunty Bisi always complained about my clothing to my mom. She had a big nose. I didn’t like her. As I stood paralyzed by fear, Aunty Adesuwa burst into the meeting. She was all tears and fury.
“I loved that child!” she screamed. Mama and her friends stared open-mouthed at her.
“Am I the cancer that afflicted him?” she asked. “You’re all typical weak women! You judge me for leaving a man who was perpetually unfaithful. You judge me for doing well for myself without his help. You blame me for his misfortunes. You blame me for the death of a child whom I loved regardless of the manner of his conception.”
While she talked I felt it resonating in my bones. My blood seemed to heat up in my veins as if her words scorched my insides. I wondered if Mama and her friends felt this strangeness. They didn’t seem to.
“God will judge all of you” Aunty Adesuwa said finally, walking away. Days later, I still pondered her words.
It was a sunny day, two weeks after Aunty Adesuwa’s tirade. I hid in the bushes by her house. Aunty Bisi had come down with a fever. Mama had sent me to give her and her big nose the medicinal pepper soup. I had subliminally taken a route that went past Aunty Adesuwa’s house when I saw her calling to a teenage boy. He was new in the village. His bicycle seemed worn out. I watched as she offered him a steaming plate of jollof rice and chilled Fanta. I saw a grin split his face. Generally, we were not very hospitable to strangers in our village. Even Mama was downright awful to them. I pondered this as I went to give Aunty Big Nose her pepper soup.
Three weeks later I sneaked out of my house at midnight. Mama was sleeping like a log. She had been helping her only friend other than Aunty Bisi, Aunty Uwa with the burial of her son. He had accidently ridden his bicycle off a cliff the day he came visiting from the neighboring village. I wish I had known him.
I walked to Aunty Adesuwa’s house. I had to see the witch in her element. It still pained me that such a fascinating and wondrous thing as magic was used for evil. I hid in the darkness watching aunty Adesuwa’s house. It was hours before I heard her back door opening. I ran on tip toes to the backyard. I saw Aunty Adesuwa, naked as her name day, striding into the forest. I followed her. It was a long walk. Finally she stepped into a moonlit clearing. As I watched her, I felt a migraine that blurred my sight. In the place where Aunty Adesuwa should have been, there was instead the body of a very large cat with her head still human. Her glowing eyes were looking right at my hidden position in the bushes.
“Idara,” she hissed.
My heart pounded violently. My whole body shook with trepidation. I steadied myself as best as I could and stepped out with Mama’s kitchen knife clutched in my trembling hands.
“I hate you,” I said.
“Why?” she purred innocently.
“‘Cause you’re evil,” I said.
“Are you certain?” she asked.
“Yes,” I said, nodding to myself. Mama had told me witches were evil. She had also said Aunty Adesuwa was a witch. Therefore, Aunty Adesuwa was evil.
“I know you’ve been watching, Idara. Your mother taught you better than to jump to conclusions,” she chided.
“Consider the facts,” she said. It was something Mama always said to me that helped me solve riddles.
“The riddle of witches?” I asked
”The riddle of my witchcraft,” she replied.
I pondered thoughts I had kept in the deep recesses of my mind. I was sure witches were evil because Mama never lied. I was sure Aunty Adesuwa was a witch after seeing her transformation but was I sure Aunty Adesuwa was evil?
Aunty Adesuwa had been kind and sweet to the stranger with the bicycle. She had loved her stepson. She had also shown her strength and independence by leaving her cheating husband and thriving without him. She was also a witch. This was my confusion.
Mama said a witch could never be these things.
“Things not adding up, yes?” she asked, amused by my consternation.
It hit me. Aunty Adesuwa must be a good witch. They actually existed! The realization rekindled a forgotten hope of mine.
“Will you teach me to be a good witch like you?” I asked her.
She purred contentedly. She seemed to have anticipated my response. I suppose I should have been scared. I wasn’t.
“Yes, sweet child. I will teach you to be a witch… just like me,” she said, her tail swinging leisurely behind her.
“Thank you, Aunty,” I said.
She stalked away into the deep foliage gesturing me to follow with her tail.
As I followed, I thought of Mama. Mama never lied but she was human. She could make mistakes. She didn’t know about good witches. I thought about how I would make her proud. I would show her the beauty I had only ever seen in my sea of dreams.