My sister Ita was born in the summer holidays a month before I was due to move up to the big school. I never thought I would have a sister, or a brother either, because I thought you had to have both a mother and a father if you wanted babies, and we hadn’t seen my father for years. I couldn’t even remember what he looked like, and my mother said she was glad he had gone and that sometimes she had nightmares about him coming back. So I was surprised when my mother told me she was going to have another baby. I thought maybe it was a changeling, one of those babies the fairies leave you when they take away a real child, or maybe the Devil’s child, the kind of baby witches have. Not that my mother was a witch. But there was one living just outside the town.
Everybody in our gang knew the woman in Raven Cottage was a witch. Her name was Nellie Brooks. Sometimes you could catch a glimpse of her through the grass and the weeds that choked her front garden and grew up to where the thatch began.
Everybody in the town knew that she ate little boys if they got too close to the cottage. Boiled them up in a big black cauldron that she had dangling on a chain over the fireplace was known to be her very famous trick. Sometimes when you passed by you could also smell them boiling. It was all you could do to keep from being sick.
We didn’t know a lot about her except that she was about two hundred years old and she had a one-eyed black cat that…