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Sep. 21, 2019 | Saturday
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Writers' Circle: The Gift - A second chance
File photo.

SUBMITTED BY HERMINE STEINBERG
WRITERS' CIRCLE

As you may remember from last week, my friends and I were on our weekly Friday afternoon walk with our dogs at The Commons when something incredibly strange and unbelievable happened as we were strolling, or to be more precise, singing and dancing through the forest. I admit we were drinking, but this was no alcohol-induced hallucination. I think.

From inside the trunk of a large ancient oak, a pale, tall women appeared. She had flaming red hair cascading down her shoulders and wore a long diaphanous gown that flowed behind her as she walked toward us.

“Circle of Five, you have summoned me.” Her voice was deep but soothing. “Are you witches?”

I heard Maggie’s trembling voice. “No, of course not. Who are you?”

“I am Euphraxia. It is the first time in over a hundred years I have been called.”

“Called?” said Irma. “We didn’t call you.”

Euphraxia smiled patiently. “You did summon me. Like all the witches before you who invoked magic to bring me forth and sought to regain their youth.”

“We’re not witches,” insisted Ellen. She turned to me. “I’m not sure any of this is real.”

Euphraxia looked puzzled. She then walked toward Ellen and gently placed a hand on her face, caressing it as if she was a small child. “But my dear, I heard your plea the most loudly.”

“What do you mean?” I felt as if I was in a dream, but somehow more aware than I had ever felt before.

“Your hearts spoke in unison to me, strong and true. And as the ancient laws dictate, I must now offer you the magic you seek. To each one I can give the gift of youth, not a turning back of the clock but a second chance. The appearance and vitality of half your age, but in your ideal form. The exuberance of youth is yours.”

Beth laughed. “We really must be suffering from some mass delusion. You are just going to turn us into a younger version of ourselves?”

“No,” Euphraxia said. “The ultimate decision is yours to make and you will have exactly three days to make it.”

With a wave of her hand, a gold cord with a velvet satchel materialized around each of our necks. “You will not go back in time; your current life will remain as it now exists and will only change according to the choices you make. Only you will change physically, the most glorious version of yourselves. All your memories and knowledge will remain.”

“I still don’t understand.” Irma looked down at her satchel.

“It’s simple. Each one of you has a powerful concoction of herbs and magic that you can brew into tea. If you decide to accept my gift, you must drink the potion before three days are up – Monday before the sun goes down. If you decide to forego my offering to you, on the third day when the sun sinks below the horizon, the satchel and its contents will dissolve into mist.”

Euphraxia then turned and floated back up to the doorway, stepped into the tree, and when the doors shut behind her, they faded right before our eyes.

Ellen ran up to the oak and felt the trunk. “Nothing, there’s nothing there!”

“But I have more questions,” whispered Maggie.

“The sun is going down. We better get going,” said Beth, sounding shaken.

“Did this really happen?” I felt like I had just gotten off a roller coaster.

Ellen took the green velvet bag around her neck and raised it to her nose. “Oh, my God!”

“What is it?” I took my satchel and drew it close to take a whiff when I was suddenly overcome by a memory of when I was first going out with Frank, my husband. We were in the throes of a passionate embrace. I was overpowered by the intensity and excitement I felt. It had been a long time since I experienced anything so deeply.

When I looked up, I saw Irma was weeping and Maggie had covered her face with her hands. Beth’s eyes were closed and her face appeared more peaceful than I had ever seen.

“We better go,” I said quietly.

As we walked down the dirt path leading out of the forest, none of us whispered one word. The weight of the decision we were about to make was almost too heavy to bear, but one way or the other had to be made.

If we accepted the gift, our lives would change permanently and there would be no going back. It would affect everyone around us. But if we rejected it, would we live to regret it? And we only had three days to decide.

Over the next five installments, you will read what each of us decided. What would you choose?

To be continued ...

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