Tituba was reaching for the bellows, to prime a waning fire, when a twisting sensation from her stomach forced her to grab the cutting table for support. The feeling was more than the festering ache of melancholia over missing her son; it was a hard grip. As she fought against it, the pain mushroomed, and she dropped the bellows. The kitchen floor seemed to liquefy, the walls turning dark and limitless, as if she were tumbling into a deep cave. Dizziness forced her onto a nearby stool.
The smallest spot of light, like a lantern a mile away, captured her attention. It enlarged as if approaching her. In the blossoming image she saw Akanni riding away on the factor’s horse. But unlike that day, he turned and waved to her as if to say, I’ll see you soon.
Tituba said his name as the image faded. To her surprise she felt euphoric, believing what happened just then to be an omen of something good.
From the loft, Betty called, “Tituba.”
She gathered her skirts and ascended the stairs, feeling lighter, on the verge of smiling.
As she approached the girls, Tituba heard them talking. Ann was telling the other two how Elizabeth Hubbard knew a way to use white magic to find a husband. “I saw Elizabeth drop a raw egg into a cup of water. She can peer into its shape and tell who you will marry someday.”
Tituba shook her head at their folly, but held her tongue while watching the other two giggle and whisper boys’ names. Abigail said, “Bring Elizabeth to us, and Tituba can get us an egg and cup.”
“I will do no such a thing!” she said. But the girls apparently did not hear her, for they did not bother to try cajoling her into their game, as they had so many times before.
Ann went to the loft opening, forcing Tituba to step aside for her. She shouted downstairs, “We need you to come, Tituba.”
The shock of her invisibility lasted a blink before Tituba found herself back in the kitchen—on the stool she had never left. A fresh wooziness surged through her as she tried to stand. How could she have seen them as though she was with them?
Off balance, she tripped while trying to stand, but she recovered her balance and, gathering her skirts, once more managed the stairs and the ladder to the loft. With each step she repeated to herself, hide your feelings, hide them, hide them.
The girls saw her this time. Each of them smiled as if asking, “Yes?”
“It is time to nap. All of you.” Tituba wiped at the sweat draping her forehead.
She could have none of their protests. They must be silent to let her think. “I shall stay until you all are snoring!”
After a while, she tested them, whispering, “Girls.”
Beyond simple confusion, Tituba’s mind raced. How? How had she seemed to be among them, but still be in the kitchen, two places at once? Was this how a mother lost her mind? How women shattered after losing one child after another to sickness or accident? She knew she was not mad.
If this were madness, she was determined to verify her sanity. In the silent loft, she counted and recounted her daily tasks to keep from screaming. A woman losing her mind could not function as she did each day, could she?
Loneliness, loss and fatigue were morphing at the edge of her growing panic, and she fought it, repeating the list of the tasks she had to do until the words became meaningless. She labored to keep her eyes open. It was not long before she succumbed to the comfort of sleep.
When the front door opened, Tituba popped awake. The shuffling of people entering.
“Yes, gather around and we shall pray.”
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