Paranoia

Mrs. Clark's face creased with worry. She tried to cover up her concern as much as possible for her daughters and sons, but her anxiety was reflected in their own eyes.

"Mother, what's going on?" Thomas pleaded, looking up at her.

"Nothing, dear," Mrs. Clark assured him, then quickly changed the subject. In this society, the smallest bit of paranoia was known to blow out of proportion. "You listen to your mother. Run off to bed, now."

Thomas did as he was told, his worry still apparent in his round face.

Priscilla walked closer to her mother, Arabella still at her side. "Mother?" She quietly asked. Mrs. Clark turned to her.

"Yes, dear?"

"Mrs. Williams was a witch?" Her expression was one of disgust; why would one sell their soul to the Devil?

"So they say, dear." Mrs. Clark sighed, then shook her head, deciding to spare the girls the worry. "Nothing for you to worry about, Priscilla."

"Oh, Mother, will Mrs. Williams be okay?" Arabella broke into the conversation, her voice lined with excitement.

"I don't know." Mrs. Clark patted the girls' backs and smiled, trying to comfort them. "Don't let the thought enter your mind tonight. Get your rest; we have more work tomorrow."

Priscilla nodded and walked upstairs, smiling back at her mother. "I'll see you early tomorrow." Arabella followed close, a cunning half-smile on her face.

Mrs. Clark sat down alone at the kitchen table, staring out at the crowd of men waving their torches and shouting. The terrible memories of the last witch accusation possessed her mind; rumors of a woman practicing witchcraft had spread through the town, and all of the people living there turned against her. The grand finale was the hanging of the woman. Although that was two years ago, people were still thinking about it.

"It'll be alright," Mrs. Clark whispered to herself as she finally stood up and headed up the stairs to join her children in sleep. She quickly checked on Mercy and found her sleeping, the quiet innocence radiating from her young face. A quick smile crossed her lips as she returned to her bed, laying down and praying for sleep.

˚˚˚

Arabella had laid in bed for about twenty minutes now, tossing and turning. The sound of her mother's footsteps had finally stopped and the house was unnaturally quiet. The shouting and jeering of the crowd had finally passed, granting her sister sleep. But the excitement hadn't passed Arabella yet, and she could only imagine what she was missing.

"That Edgar Mosley." Her eyes glistened in wonder. "What he must be experiencing! The chaos of an accusation; I wonder what's happening to poor Mrs. Williams!" Arabella's eyes darted around the room and finally landed on the candle next to her bed. Her face lit with inspiration as she climbed out of bed and lit the candle.

"I can find out on my own!" She whispered to herself. "Mother won't mind as long as she doesn't wake while I'm out."

She kept her long hair down and ran out of the house in her nightgown, following the barely-audible shouting men.

"She's a witch!" The voices called. "She's unclean! Hang her!"

Sweat gathered on Arabella's brow as she followed the sounds, excitement building up in her chest as she picked up speed. After a few minutes of sprinting, she caught up with the men. Arabella scanned the crowd for familiar faces, only finding Edgar Mosley.

"Ed!" She half-whispered, running up behind him.

"Arabella!" He smiled, but as he turned to see Arabella, his grin turned to a smirk. "What are you wearing?"

"My nightgown," Arabella smiled, feeling rather rebellious. "What do you think?"

"I think that it's nice." Edgar tilted his head to the side as he looked at her. "You really are a rule breaker, aren't you?"

"I guess I am," Arabella raised an eyebrow. "I see you are, as well."

Edgar laughed. "I guess so." He paused, then grinned. "Then again, I'm dressed properly."

Arabella laughed in return as she looked up towards Mrs. Williams. She was standing up by an old, black tree, looking frightened. Arabella quickly turned back to Edgar. "What's going on?"

"They're hanging her," Edgar said with authority. "She's a witch; we've proven it!"

"How exciting!" Arabella gushed.

Poor Mrs. Williams was hanged that night on the black branches of the old tree just out of Salem. Arabella was caught up in the chaos of the situation, shouting with the men and joking with Edgar despite the pleas of Mrs. Williams. After her death, the group rejoiced in the light of the moon, acting more like animals than Arabella had ever seen. Her heart beat just to see it, and Edgar sensed her interest. He introduced her to some of his friends and taunted Arabella with dancing, a terrible sin. After about a half-hour, the group started to part, Arabella still intoxicated by the experience.

"I'll walk home with you," Edgar offered. "I live nearby."

"Of course," Arabella smiled. They set off towards their houses, the night keeping them silent. She finally calmed down and smiled back on the events of that hanging. It didn't seem as solemn as everyone described, but rather like a party. Arabella had experienced sin after so long, and it was a completely new feeling. She was unable to forget it and couldn't stop smiling and laughing at the memories with Edgar.

They finally reached the Clark household, and Edgar took Arabella's hands.

"One less witch to worry about," he joked.

Arabella laughed. "Perhaps another will turn up."

"Hopefully not!" Edgar grinned. "It was fun, though." He paused and blushed. "I guess I'll see you around Salem." He let go of her hands and walked away, leaving Arabella speechless and bewitched.

Arabella, out of breath, walked up to the door and opened it, sneaking inside. In the doorway was Priscilla, a disapproving look on her face.

"Arabella," she scolded. "Where have you been?"

The End

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