The door opens, and woman fills the doorway – messy curls, bare feet, arms full of chopped wood. She catches sight of Naomi and stops, staring at her.
She steps backwards, retreating into her hut, and closes the door. Naomi stays frozen, staring at the space Yaga has just vacated. She starts towards the door, pauses, looks back over her shoulder, continues, raises her hand to knock, then thinks better of it and steps away. Steps back to the door, lifts her hand, takes a deep breath, and finally knocks.
Naomi looks down at herself, adjusts her jeans slightly, and wipes her hands on them. She is still fiddling with her outfit when Yaga finally re-opens the door. Naomi looks up.
Yaga: Yes. You saw me. You weren’t expecting it, and neither was I. So let’s just get on with our lives and pretend that this never happened.
She goes to close the door. Naomi puts a hand on it to stop her.
Naomi: You’re her. Baba Yaga.
Yaga: Do I look like I have goat’s feet? A rooster’s beak? This hut may be ugly, but there are no chicken legs. And I can assure you that I don’t spent my nights riding around on a giant broom.
Naomi: Those are just stories that they tell kids. Probably so we don’t come here and find you because…
Yaga: Because what?
Naomi: Pause as she looks for the right answer. Because you want to be left alone.
Yaga: And yet here you are. Not leaving me alone.
Naomi looks up at Yaga and smiles. She smiles back begrudgingly.
Yaga: You might as well come in.
Yaga turns and goes back inside the hut. Naomi follows. The walls are covered with fabric – saris of vivid colours and patterns. There are cupboards overflowing with books, a coffee table and a threadbare sofa with a blanket thrown over the back. The floor is a patchwork of rugs, mats and other bits of fabric. It’s a little bit like entering a blanket fort, but there are signs that a real person lives in it – the mug on the table, odd stains on the floor. In one corner is a wood burning stove. There are entry ways to other parts of the house – it’s obvious that this is not the only room. Yaga sits down on the sofa. Naomi stays standing, looking around.
Yaga: Sit down while you stare, why don’t you? Do you gawp at everything?
Naomi: Sorry, I just…
Yaga: This isn’t what you expected from the wicked Baba Yaga?
Yaga: I take it you came looking. Why?
There’s this girl—
What makes you think I came looking for you?
Yaga: People don’t just stumble across me. I’ve spent a lot of time and energy making sure of that.
Naomi: You live in a hut in the woods. It’s not exactly hard to find.
Yaga: Deep in the woods. Off the track – which I make sure is clear so people don’t wander off it. Sound proof walls. I chop my own wood, generate my own electricity. I’ve spent years being invisible, or at least ignored. But somehow you… How has a scrubby little rogue like you waltzed into my home without even giving me your name?
Naomi: Oh. Uh, Naomi.
Yaga: Rogue. Urchin. Minx. Take your pick.
Naomi: Oh, I’ll be a minx.
Yaga: Don’t try to flirt with me.
Yaga: Shut up. The last girl who tried to flirt with me turned me into a witch.
Looks Naomi up and down, trying to suss her out. This lasts a few minutes. Naomi tries to hold her own but ends up fidgeting uncomfortably.
How old are you? God, you must still live with your parents.
Naomi: I’m done with them. I was finished with them when I finished with school.
Yaga: Were you ever told the story of how Baba Yaga became a witch?
Naomi: Wasn’t… Aren’t you born a witch?
Yaga: No. Witches aren’t born. They’re made. By life. By landlords who screw them over and leave them homeless. By girlfriends who fuck their bosses and run away to a “proper” happily ever after. By too much booze and nothing to go back for.
Yaga: I found this place. An empty hut. A new life. Something I could build for myself. So, I built. I made a life. Out here alone.
Naomi: Why doesn’t anyone say that?
Yaga: Stories start to spread. Rumours grow. People tell tales of the woman in the wood and soon she becomes a witch. I didn’t try to stop it.
Yaga: Children always need stories. I could weave them around myself. Being the subject of children’s nightmares protects you from the world. Grown-ups don’t come looking for the wicked witch, and children are too attached to the fantasy to believe the real story standing in front of them.
Naomi: Um. Hi? I came looking for you. Not a story, you.
Yaga: Honey. You might be past pigtails and fairy tales, but you’re not ready to give up on make believe. You still want the stories of big bad Baba Yaga. That’s what you came looking for.
Yaga: It’s okay. You grew up on those stories. You dreamed of them. And then you ran away to the woods looking for them. That’s what I did. I wrapped my life in fantasies. I made my life out of the images left in my head after bedtimes stories. It’s better than reality.
Naomi: You’re better than all of it.
Yaga leans in and softly kisses her mouth. She pulls away, and rests her forehead on Naomi’s.
Naomi: I want to be a wicked witch too.
Yaga laughs. She kisses Naomi again and stands up, taking her hand and pulling her offstage towards Yaga’s bedroom, towards their future. Lights fade.
Naomi: The moment I met Yaga I knew the end of my story. I had come unmoored, but now I’d bumped up against her and I was desperate to see every second of her. She was the poison apple, the kiss that would wake me. I knew what happily ever after was.
Parents still tell their children bedtime stories. Two wicked witches, perched in their chicken legged house, hiding away from the world.