Dory was sweating when she finally made it to the village center. The trek down from her mountain cabin had been easy before she got pregnant, but now she was swelled seven months and nauseous. Hunger made the sickness worse. She wished she had some more of that special jam the old woman had given her. The jam had stopped the sickness. But the old woman in the woods was the source of her agony now. Because of the old woman and her damnable jam, Dory was alone, with no wagon, no husband and no friends.
A stone connected painfully with her temple as she walked up the center road toward the food market, bringing tears to her eyes. She heard the laughter of retreating children. Rubbing the spot where the stone hit, she hurried through the crowd and into the market. People glared at her and whispered as she stuffed vegetables and cheese into her sack, pretending not to notice their probing eyes. After collecting her food she approached the clerk to offer payment, but he shook his head.
"I'll sell you none of my food, Dory Carlisle. We don't cater to witches here!" A huddle of women nearby cooed in approval.
"I'm not a witch," Dory whispered.
"What did you say?" the clerk asked, his face pinched.
"I said I'm not a witch!" She shouted, bringing gasps to the market crowd. The clerk's indignant expression became fearful, as if she were about to cast some plague upon him. Despairing, she threw her food sack down and ran out of the store, weeping.
Her stomach growled, and with it came a wave of sickness. Linking an arm protectively under her pregnant belly, she hurried up the road in search of another market. A band of school children ran out from behind a wagon and pelted her with rocks and sticks. "Witch!" they screamed. "Kill the witch!" Dory crouched to the ground, covering her head as the stones cracked painfully against her. She screamed, and this seemed to scare the children off. As she lifted her head, a trickle of blood ran down her nose from her forehead where a stone had sliced her. Across the road her husband stared back at her, his arm around another woman. Turning away, he scurried off down the road.
Dory looked over at the church where evening mass was letting out. The priest walked out a side door with his books and made to his cottage around back. Wiping the blood from her eye, she hiked up her dress and ran over to the church. Her temple stung and her stomach growled, prompting her mouth to water as hunger and nausea waged a war inside her. The priest opened the door a crack when she banged on it, his eyes widening when he saw her blood smeared face.
"Dear Lord! What is this business?"
"I need your help, Father," she cried. "Please."