Nobody really paid the old beggar woman much credence but on this brisk Autumn day, Lia felt compelled to speak to her. She had passed This way many times before, warily affording herself a glance at the old woman’s wares. Lia paused on the dirt path beside the old willow tree under which the beggar woman conducted her business. The old woman had folded up a few squares of chocolate in plain foil and displayed them before her on a rough hewn blanket.
“May I have one?” Lia asked.
“You may purchase one,” the woman replied curtly. “One dollar, dear.”
Lia produced the currency and held it towards the elders outstretched hand. An awkward moment followed before she noticed the milky film over the old woman’s eyes. With a touch of sympathy, she gently placed the money in her hand and accepted a square of candy.
“May I sit?” She asked.
The old woman inclined her head to the younger girl and smiled with blackened gums. “Please, please.”
Lia took a seat on the blanket, holding her chocolate but not consuming it.
“My name is not important,”the old woman said. “But if you must call me something, you may refer to me as Yaga.”
Lia nodded. “Do you make your chocolate yourself?”
“Oh yes. It’s a special concoction. I fear I am running low on supplies though. Not that it would matter. Most don’t bother to glance at me, let alone converse with me and certainly not try my wares. People fear what they do not understand.”
“I’m sorry you’ve fallen on hard times,” Lia said.
“Oh it wasn’t always like this,” the blind woman replied. “I had a beautiful cottage, a successful chocolatier industry. I was quite talented, if I say so myself. I even managed to make my dwelling out of sweets.”
“No!” Lia exclaimed. “That’s amazing! What happened?”
“Ohhh,” Yaga shook her head and chuckled dryly. “I’m surprised you haven’t heard. It was quite a scandal a few towns over. I was out in the Black Forest one day a few years back, gathering ingredients. I stumbled across a pair of lost children and made the biggest mistake of my life.”
“What did you do?”
“I invited them in,” Yaga replied.
“Well, you probably saved their lives, what’s the problem?”
“The problem, my dear, is that the little hellions were abandoned by their parents for being rotten little assholes.”
“They took advantage of my kindness,” Yaga continued. “They devoured virtually all of my supply and even my home itself. They blathered to the constable that I had tried to.. eat them. That I had attempted to poison the candy.”
Lia paused as she had begun unwrapping the chocolate. Yaga noticed immediately.
“Young lady, do not doubt me. Do not believe the slander! I only mean to bring joy and delightful treats!”
“I…I’m sorry,” Lia said. “I want to believe you’re a good person who was wronged.”
“Then, why not?” The old woman asked. To prove a point, she devoured a bar of her own concoction. She gestured for the young lady to do the same. Lia hesitated but then took a dainty, cautious bite.
Immediate satisfaction. The euphoria hit her like a warm, soft pillow to the head and time stood still. Her vision became fuzzy and every nerve in her body lit up with gentle sparks of pleasure. It was…intense. Blinding. Special. As her vision dimmed, Lia knew that she would do anything to acquire more. She knew the old woman had been wronged and if she spread the word of Yaga’s innocence…through…violence if need be…the old woman would reward her with more of the euphoric concoction.
When Lia came to, the old woman was calm and mellow and wrapping more chocolate. Scraps of silver wrapper lie strewn around Lia like so much shredded confetti. Yaga calmly caressed her head and helped the young lady to sit up.
“As I see it, if I have any faults it’s that my wares are too effective,” Yaga stated.
Lia attempted to compose herself and shook her head with a flourish.
“Wow!” She exclaimed. “What is IN that?”
“I told you dear, my own special concoction. Some say that sweets, chocolate in particular, can affect the mind. In a positive way of course. I simply…enhance it”
“It…It’s really good,” Lia stammered. She staggered to her feet, still waving about slightly. “Oh god, I ate all your supply…”
“Dont you worry about it, my sweet,” Yaga said. “I may have unjustly lost everything from before but you have shown me that.. perhaps I can get back on my feet.”
“Could I have some more?” Lia asked. “I’ll do…anything.”
Yaga folded her hands on lap. “Tell you what. You take my wares to the village. Spread the word. Tell them of my innocence. If anyone should challenge that, I trust you know what to do, dear. And then, send them here. We mustn’t let my wares go to waste, right?”
“Could I have…more than everyone else?”
“Of course. You’ll be my very favorite. You’ll have special perks so long as you make sure to do whatever it takes. I’ll pay you in chocolate and you’ll do a favor for an old, blind, mistreated woman.”
“DEAL”, Lia agreed immediately.
She quickly gathered up the sweets with two wide armfuls and scampered down the path. “It was nice to meet you, Miss Yaga!”
Yaga smiled at the departing girl. “Just don’t spoil your appetite!” She called.
The old, blind chocolatier took a nibble of chocolate, leaned back against the willow tree and closed her eyes to wait for the masses.
With sweetness would come the salt of blood, a melange of tastes to dance tantalizingly on the tongue. Yaga knew the girl would soon know the taste and in time, so too would the rest of those who wrong her.
She just had to be patient. For now, there was more to do, more chocolate to brew and to wrap and to prepare.
So much to do, all for want of her wares…