Time wore on, and Flare’s patience ran thin. It was only about three more poems before Flare began to aggressively glare at anyone who came too close to her couch. Eventually, the townsfolk inside shuffled back out to the lawn, where there were more people they knew and less grumpy witches. This gave Flare a chance to lie back and breathe, and attempt to gather energy for hunting down cure ingredients.
That was when the first pang began to writhe in her stomach. Flare grimaced. The pain was sharp and mobile, forcefully dragging her attention to her stomach hard enough to make her double over. Thoughts of cure hunting fled her mind, replaced with fog.
By the time it subsided, some enterprising townsfolk had cleaned out the front room of food and tables, and Hazel was sitting by the window looking out at the winding-down get-together.
Flare broke open the book of poetry once more rather than say anything. She could think again, but only because the pain in her gut had reduced itself to merely distracting levels. Ideally, the pain would be gone entirely with a good sleep. The problem was, of course, getting the pain low enough now that she could actually get to sleep.
Her eyes glued themselves to the poetry book. What better distraction was there from pain than imagery, symbolism, and rhythm? Flare’s eyes traced each line with stubborn deliberateness, as if daring the pain in her gut to reemerge and drag her attention away again.
This time, when it did, Flare was a little more prepared. She braced herself, marshalled her focus, locked her eyes on a single word in the book. The pain crashed against her mind, but she stood her ground.
Then it redoubled, and then tripled, and Flare’s concentration was broken. More time scrambled away from her while she was distracted, trying to escape before she could make use of it. The get-together was entirely gone when Flare could feel her mind again, and Hazel was nowhere to be seen.
The book was set aside. Clearly, it wasn’t working. Tiredness was beginning to drag at her eyes even as pain scooped her guts out, so Flare resolved to tackle sleep with the same vigor she had tackled reading the poem book with. She curled up on the couch, feeling the softness underneath her, focusing on breathing evenly, creating a peaceful and calm mental environment.
The pain spiked. The environment shattered. Flare tried again.
She hummed a lullaby. A simple one she remembered the tune of, even having forgotten the words. An easy, relaxing melody, ready to whisk her away to the world of dreams.
The pain spiked again, and when it did Flare’s notes went haywire and the moment was lost. She groaned and shifted positions. Perhaps she just wasn’t comfortable enough. If she found the right position, sleep could be possible. One of her hands went to her stomach, to try and gently rub some of the pain out, but whatever effects that might have had were offset by the teeth-clenching pain that was her bruised skin.
No matter how she tackled it, sleep evaded her. Pain would leap at her in her most peaceful moments, wrestle her back to wakefulness, bring her back to her exhaustion in the waking world with no mercy or quarter given.
Finally Flare had enough. With a groan, she dragged herself to her feet, the floorboards creaking underneath her. Enough was enough. Tiredness and sickness be damned, lying still was doing nothing to heal her. No, if she wanted to feel better, procrastination wasn’t how that would happen. She would have to simply go and make her cure now, and she could deal with the town and any issues they might have with it after she was returned to her faculties.
The house was silent as she staggered towards the front door. Every step was a jolt, but once she was standing there were no alternatives short of collapse. It made it easy to push through the pain. The front door creaked horribly as Flare opened it, but Flare paid this no mind. She had business to attend to.
“Where are you going? You should be asleep.” Hazel’s voice drifted out from the stairwell behind her, and slowly Flare turned to see the woman herself.
“I need to cure myself,” Flare said.
“Look at you! You can hardly stand. No, what you need is a good rest, and then when you wake up the doctor will be back to help you out. I’ll take care of it, it’s no trouble.”
“I can’t sleep.”
“Of course you can. You just need to let yourself relax, that’s all. Have you tried taking deep breaths?”
“Perhaps some painkillers?”
“I can’t take painkillers,” Flare hissed through gritted teeth.
“Nonsense. Trust me, I’ve been around a while, I’ve never seen anyone have a trouble with these.”
“Trust me. I’m a witch.”
“Yes, but do witches know medicine?”
“I doubt that,” Hazel rummaged in the pocket of her nightrobe, bringing out a small shaker of ground-up herbs. Flare recognized the remedy that was, recognized it as interfering badly with her current issue, and backed out through the open door. She stumbled on the front step.
“Come now,” Hazel said, “Let’s get you back into bed. I’m sure Harriet would be happy to fetch whatever you need.”
“Gathering this is a witch’s job,” Flare said, backing away another step.
“No reason it can’t also be one of our jobs. Come on.” With a sudden burst of movement, Hazel was in front of Flare and gripping her arm. A light tug was all that was needed to pull Flare forward. She simply didn’t have the energy to resist, especially not as the pain in her gut chose this moment to ramp up once again.
Hazel pressed Flare into the sofa, and placed the medicine on the table next to her. “Now let’s not see you out of bed again,” she said, “In the morning you’ll feel right at rain, I just know it.”
Flare watched Hazel walk up the stairs. As the pain in her gut blossomed everything else out of her mind, one last conviction bubbled to the surface. Flare had to get out, and she had to get the cure. Tonight.