Content warning: this episode contains suggestions of domestic violence.
Hey everyone! How are you all doing?
It’s my birthday on the 5th of May. Last year, I did a live stream and gave a link to an Amazon wishlist, in case any of you wanted to buy me presents.
Well, this year I’d like to give back. As many of you know, I am a transgender woman living in the United Kingdom.
The situation for transgender people in the UK is very bad right now. There are a lot of negative things said about us in newspapers and on TV, and the public healthcare system doesn’t give us the care we need. To give you an idea, I have been on the waiting list to get treatment on the National Health Service for almost four years, and I will probably be on that waiting list for at least another year.
I use private healthcare, but most transgender people cannot afford this. So for my birthday, I would love it if you could give money to FiveforFive, an organisation that gives money to different transgender organisations in the UK every month.
FiveforFive distributes money to a variety of transgender organisations, but it also gives to individual trans people who need money for housing, food, medicine and surgery. You can give money monthly, like I do, or go to the ‘Give’ page and give a one-time donation in the section that says ‘PayPal one-off giving’.
I would really appreciate anything you can give. Knowing that you’re helping my trans siblings in my country would really make me happy. So go to FiveforFive.co.uk and give whatever you can.
But if you think, ‘Hey, Ariel deserves a treat, too!’ then you can go to EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/HappyBirthday, where I’ve made a little birthday wishlist.
Of course, I completely understand if you don’t have any money to give, or if you don’t want to! That’s completely fine. Just listening to the podcast is enough of a present for me!
OK, let’s start the episode!
Welcome to Easy Stories in English, the podcast that will take your English from OK to Good, and from Good to Great.
I am Ariel Goodbody, your host for this show. Today’s story is for pre-intermediate learners. The name of the story is The Most Wanted Woman in Town. You can find a transcript of the episode at EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Wanted. That’s EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Wanted. This contains the full story, as well as my conversation before it.
Today’s story is an original story, meaning that I wrote it, but I did base it on a writing prompt I found online.
A prompt is a word or phrase that you use to encourage someone to say, think or write more. For example, if you are acting in a play and forget your line, the other actor might prompt you, give you the first word of your line. If you are writing but don’t know what to write, you can use a writing prompt. For example, you might start your story off with a phrase like, ‘It was a day like any other…’ or you have to write a story with the words ‘pineapple’, ‘destroy’ and ‘curious’ in it. These are two writing prompts.
Anyway, you can see the original prompt at the transcript at EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Wanted.
Story idea: The most wanted woman in town has announced that she’ll only marry the one who can open her front door with the key around her cat’s neck. Many men try to hunt the cat down, chase and trap it, but to no avail, the cat is simply too quick, smart and clever, and always finds a way to evade and avoid them.
You are the first one to figure out the obvious: Do not chase the cat. The cat is befriendable. Get the cat to trust you, to genuinely enjoy your company, and you can hang out with the cat. You may eventually be allowed to touch the cat. The cat will freely let you take the key.
Secondary plot twist: The woman is a shapeshifter. She is the cat.
It was a post that someone made on a website called Tumblr, and basically, they had this cool idea for a story, but they didn’t write the whole story. So, I decided to write the story!
By the way, I wanted to say: if you just started supporting me on Patreon, you might be thinking, ‘Hey, Ariel, when am I going to get my shout-out on the podcast? I subscribed to your Patreon, but you haven’t mentioned my name.’
This is because I’m currently recording the episodes quite far in advance, quite far ahead. So I’m actually recording this episode two weeks early.
Because of that, I can only include the names who have joined at the time I record. But don’t worry! When I do get to your name, I will, of course, shout you out.
But if I forget to mention your name, or if you want me to say your name in a specific way, to use only a first name, if you want to show me the pronunciation; do send me a message on Patreon, or email me at Ariel@EasyStoriesInEnglish.com.
OK, I’ll just explain some words that are in today’s story.
A sorceress is a woman who uses magic. Sorceresses are like wizards or magicians, but sorceresses usually use bad magic. The male version of a sorceress is a sorcerer. The first Harry Potter book in English is called Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, but in America they changed the name to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, because they thought children wouldn’t know what a philosopher was.
When you sleep longer than you should, you sleep in. For example, maybe your usual wake up time is 6am. Every day, you wake up at 6am. But on the weekends, you sometimes sleep in until 8am, or even 10am. I like sleeping in on the weekends, but it’s kind of a bad habit. It’s usually better to go to bed earlier than to sleep in.
Whoever means ‘the person who…’. For example, if you are playing a game, and you want to say that the person who wins the game will get a bar of chocolate, you can say ‘Whoever wins gets a bar of chocolate’. Or if you want to warn someone about a house with a sorceress in it, you can say ‘Whoever enters this house will be killed by the sorceress’.
When something goes away or stops being, it disappears. For example, some people can use magic to make themselves disappear. If you are hiding from a dangerous animal, you probably want to disappear. If you put a chocolate cake in front of me, it will quickly disappear.
When you run after someone because you want to catch them, you chase them. Hunters chase animals to catch and kill them. Many children’s games are about chasing each other and catching each other. If you always chase after success, you might miss the important things in life.
A trap is something you put on the ground to catch an animal. The most common trap is a mouse trap. If you have mice in your home and you want to kill them, you put a mouse trap on the floor, with a piece of cheese on it. When the mouse sees the cheese, they go and eat it, but then the trap closes on them and they die.
When you move your hand backwards and forwards on something, you rub it. For example, when you make a mistake when writing, you use a rubber, or an eraser, to rub out the mistake. When you shower, you rub soap on your body. Dogs love to have their stomachs rubbed.
Scratch is when you do this: [makes scratching sound]. Basically, you rub your nails against someone. You might scratch yourself because you are itchy. Maybe an insect bit you and you scratch the place it bit you. Or maybe you don’t like someone and you scratch them. Cats like to scratch things a lot.
When you have a nap, you go to sleep for a short time. Naps are usually 10 minutes to an hour in length. In some countries, like Spain, it is traditional to have a nap after lunch. Personally, I don’t nap often, but I used to nap every day.
Gossip is when you talk about other people when they are not there. For example, maybe you gossip with your friends about other people at school, or you gossip with people at work about your boss when he’s not there. Many people think gossip is bad, but there are good ways of gossiping, I think, that aren’t too mean. But some people definitely gossip too much!
If you enjoy the podcast and want more, you can support me on Patreon. For just $2 a month you can get exercises with each episode, and for $5, you get an extra story every month, as well as Elevenses with Ariel, a daily conversational podcast for intermediate learners.
This month’s bonus episode, The Two Frogs, is an amusing Japanese story about two frogs who decide they want a change of environment. One wants to leave the busy life in Osaka, and the other wants to find more excitement than in quiet Kyoto, so they decide to visit each other’s cities. But the frogs make a terrible mistake, and they don’t see the new city in the way they thought they would…
A big thank-you to my new patron: Dinara Tairova. Thank you so much, Dinara. Your support really means a lot to me.
OK, so listen and enjoy!
The Most Wanted Woman in Town
Ada hated travelling, but in this case, it was necessary.
One, she needed to get away from Quinn.
And two, she needed to find a way to kill Quinn.
She had heard that a powerful sorceress lived in the town of Hartwood Head, and she wanted to ask for her help. So one morning, Ada left early, when Quinn was still asleep. Luckily, he had left his money on the table, so she quietly stole the money and left.
Ada travelled through the Dark Forest. The Dark Forest was full of bad plants and creatures, but nothing attacked Ada. The old women in town said that the Dark Forest only attacked people who deserved it, and Ada thought that they were right.
Nobody deserved Quinn.
When Ada arrived in Hartwood Head, she went to the pub and said, ‘I’m here to see the sorceress.’
The owner of the pub looked at her strangely, and then said, ‘You mean, you want to see The Most Wanted Woman in Town? Please, don’t call her “sorceress”. It’s such a nasty word.’
‘Wanted?’ said Ada, confused. Usually, people hated sorceresses. ‘You mean, she does magic for all of you?’
‘No!’ said the man. ‘That’s her private business. She is The Most Wanted Woman in Town because, well, everybody wants her.’
Ada still didn’t understand, but the man said it like it was very simple.
‘Because she’s beautiful! She would make the perfect wife.’
He almost sounded angry now.
‘And let me guess. She’s rich, too?’
The man went red. ‘Well, yes… There’s that, too.’
‘Got it. Where can I find her?’
‘Ah, well, you can’t. Her house is locked with magic, and she never comes out.’
‘Have you tried knocking on the door?’
‘Of course we have!’ cried the man. ‘But the house is covered with magic. It’s dangerous. Frederick almost lost his hand when he did it.’
‘Still, I want to see this house.’
The man didn’t seem happy. Ada thought that the people of Hartwood Head probably didn’t want another person trying to marry the sorceress. But he showed her where the house was.
It looked quite normal, actually, but there were some signs of magic. The plants were too fat and colourful to be normal, and you couldn’t see through the windows. Blue smoke came out of the top of the house, and Ada wondered how the sorceress got her food, if she never went outside.
Ada considered knocking on the door, but she decided she quite liked having both her hands. So she went back to the pub and slept.
In the night, she had a strange dream, of two bright yellow eyes watching her through the window.
When she woke up, the whole town of Hartwood Head was in the streets, talking loudly. She had wanted to sleep in, but that wasn’t going to be possible.
‘What’s going on?’ she muttered. ‘Some kind of festival?’
She went outside and saw that everyone was standing in a circle. In the centre, there was a man made of blue wool. He had to be made of magic, but the people of the town seemed to think this was normal. People kept asking him things, but he didn’t answer them.
Then he looked at Ada, smiled, and started speaking.
‘The Most Wanted Woman in Town has decided to have a competition,’ he announced.
The people all went quiet.
‘Lady Rae knows that you all want many things from her. But she will not give her prizes to any man or woman. You must win the key to her heart. And the key is here.’
The wool man moved to the side, and behind him there was a small black cat. Around the cat’s neck, there was a key.
‘Whoever can take the key from this cat’s neck, and use it to open her house, will be able to ask Lady Rae for one thing. You could ask her to build you a palace, or cook a wonderful meal, or even… to marry you.’
Or I could ask her to kill a man, Ada thought to herself.
‘But remember. If you try to enter her house without the key, you will meet a sad end. Good luck!’
The wool man jumped into the air and disappeared into a cloud of smoke. The cat sat on the ground and meowed.
There was a moment of silence, and then the people moved. Everyone ran forward, hands out, ready to grab the cat.
But the cat was too quick for them. It turned around and ran away, as fast as lightning.
‘Hey, watch where you’re going!’ cried Ada.
She was pushed to the ground as the rest of Hartwood Head chased after the cat.
And so the whole day went. The people chased the cat around town, but just when they thought they had caught it, the cat jumped on a roof, or ran between their legs. They chased the cat around the forest, but the cat just climbed on a tree, or hid in the water. They chased the cat into the pub kitchen, which was a very bad idea, because the cat was very good at hiding in the cupboards, as well as eating all the fish they had there.
Meanwhile, Ada sat down and thought about what to do. There was no way she was going to catch the cat while the townspeople were doing all this. She wasn’t a fast runner, and besides, it clearly wasn’t going to work. It looked like the cat was actually faster than they thought, and was letting them almost catch it before running away.
The next day, the townspeople changed their plan. Instead of chasing the cat, they tried to trap it. Through all of town and the forest, they put traps of all kinds. You couldn’t walk a metre without falling into a trap yourself.
Of course, the cat, being much cleverer than the townspeople, walked around all the traps. She could see through them like glass, and the townspeople ended up just hurting themselves. Ada didn’t want to fall into a trap, so she stayed in her room in the pub, and watched what was happening through the window.
On the third day, the townspeople brought in horrible, great dogs to catch the cat. Ada thought this was stupid, as there was no way that the dogs were faster than the cat. But after many hours, the cat got tired, and the dogs did finally trap it.
Ada’s heart beat fast as she watched the dogs push the cat into a corner. The townspeople watched happily, like it was a sport.
But when the dogs tried to take the key, the cat attacked them. It scratched them across the face, as fast as lightning, and the dogs howled in pain. Blood went everywhere, and before the people knew what had happened, the cat had run away again.
‘It’s not fair!’ cried a woman. ‘How will we ever catch the cat like this?!’
All this time, Ada had been watching the cat, and she had learned a few things.
In the morning, before the townspeople woke up, the cat went to the river to catch fish. In the afternoon, she climbed up a tree, which the townspeople didn’t know about, and she had a nap in the shade. In the evening, she hid outside the pub and listened to people’s conversations.
The last part didn’t make sense. Why would a cat be interested in hearing people’s gossip? But this was clearly no ordinary cat.
Now that the townspeople had given up on catching the cat, Ada could try her plan.
The next morning, she asked the pub owner to make her fried fish for breakfast. Then she climbed up into the cat’s secret tree and waited.
When the cat arrived, it jumped, and almost fell out of the tree.
‘Shh, it’s OK,’ said Ada. ‘I’m not going to try and catch you. I just thought you might like this.’
She held the fried fish in front of the cat. The cat looked at her strangely, but when she was sure that Ada was a safe person, she came and ate the food.
Ada didn’t know if it was a boy cat or a girl cat, but she just felt that it was a ‘she’. And she couldn’t think of her as an ‘it’. This cat was too clever to be an ‘it’.
When the cat had finished, Ada said, ‘You like to nap here, don’t you? Well, I’m going to nap here today, too, if that’s OK.’
And she lay down in the tree and closed her eyes. For a while, she heard nothing but the wind and the birds singing.
Then, just when she was starting to fall asleep, she felt something warm and soft on her leg. The cat had lain down on her to nap.
Smiling to herself, Ada fell asleep.
That evening, Ada went downstairs in the pub. Most evenings, she sat in her room and read. But tonight, she wanted to collect gossip. So she sat in the corner and listened to the conversations around her. Normally, she didn’t care about other people’s lives. She had been lonely for a long time.
Well, she had friends. Until she met Quinn. She wondered if he was following her. She hoped she was safe here. She had to hope.
The next day, Ada climbed back into the tree with her fried fish, and as the cat ate, she told her all about the strange gossip of the people of Hartwood Head.
‘Joe’s stolen from the farmer again. He’s having money problems, I hear. Belinda’s daughter has a strange illness and nobody can understand what it is. Nigel is thinking of moving to another town. Nobody complained about that. I don’t think anyone actually likes Nigel.’
The cat listened quietly, and it was hard to tell if she liked the gossip. But when Ada lay down, she climbed onto her stomach to nap.
They continued like this for a week. The townspeople slowly gave up on the cat, and Ada made friends with her, bringing fried fish and fresh gossip every day.
One day, Ada didn’t think she could wait any longer. She hated watching the key hang from the cat’s neck, as it reminded her of her problem. So while the cat was napping, she tried to take it off.
The cat woke up and jumped back.
‘Sorry!’ said Ada. ‘It’s just—’
The cat disappeared before she could finish.
Ada continued to bring fish and gossip up to the tree, but she didn’t see the cat for another week. She worried that she had missed her chance. Oh, why did she have to try and take the key?
But finally, the cat came back. This time, something was different between them. The cat still listened to her gossip and ate from her hand, but she looked at Ada with her bright yellow eyes.
Where had Ada seen those eyes before? It was like the cat was looking through glass. Ada felt like she could see everything in her mind, but that was crazy. It was just a cat, after all.
Still, Ada started to talk more about herself to the cat. She told her about her sad, lonely life, and she told her the reason why she needed to meet The Most Wanted Woman in Town.
‘I don’t care about money or marriage. I need help. I told you I have a boyfriend. Quinn, he’s called. But he’s not really a boyfriend. He’s more like a monster. Or a wild animal. He has these sweet green eyes, and he can make anyone laugh, but… When he’s had a few glasses of wine—and he always has a few glasses of wine—then he turns dark. Like the bottom of a lake. I’ve tried to leave so many times, but I don’t have anywhere to go. Even now, I’m just using money I stole from him. And when he finds me…’
Ada felt something warm on her arm. She looked down to see that the cat was rubbing her head against her. She realised that she had been crying.
‘Well, to make a long story short, I need the Wanted Woman’s help. I need her to kill Quinn. That’s my only way out. I don’t care if I die after that. As long as he can’t hurt anyone.’
The cat meowed loudly, climbed onto her, and started rubbing her all over. It was hard to be sad when a cat was meowing and rubbing you, and it was hard to think about sad things. So Ada didn’t. She forgot about her problems, and played with the cat sitting in her legs.
The next day, the cat had a present for Ada.
In her mouth, she held the key. She placed it on Ada’s leg and meowed.
‘I… you’re really giving it to me?’
The cat meowed, and looked in the direction of the Wanted Woman’s house.
There was no doubt. She had done it.
Ada climbed down and walked towards the house. She hid the key in her pocket, not wanting the townspeople to see her. The cat followed behind her.
When she reached the door, she stopped.
Would the sorceress really be able to help her, or would she tell her that she was stupid, like everyone else had? Everyone liked Quinn, because he was funny and kind. They didn’t know about the dark lake that hid inside him.
The cat rubbed herself against Ada’s leg, and the girl took a deep breath. Then she put the key in the door and opened it.
‘Hello?’ called Ada, walking into the house. The cat followed her, meowing.
It was dark inside, but it looked nice, although there was dust and dirt everywhere. There was a smell of herbs in the air, and lots of shelves with strange glass objects on them.
‘Uh, hello? Lady Rae?’
Ada looked around, but she couldn’t see the Wanted Woman anywhere.
‘I’m here,’ said a deep, honey-like voice from behind her.
Ada turned around. The cat had disappeared, and where she was stood, there was a tall, beautiful woman. She had long black hair, just like the cat, and her eyes shone a bright yellow.
‘Welcome to the home of The Most Wanted Woman in Town, Ada,’ she said.
She lifted the girl’s hand and kissed it. Ada went red.
‘Congratulations. You have won my competition. Tell me, what do you want?’
Ada’s heart beat fast, like lightning. Those beautiful yellow eyes looked through her, like glass, like she might break at any moment.
I want you, she thought.
But no, that was stupid. She knew what she had to ask for.
‘I need you to kill Quinn.’
Lady Rae smiled and said, ‘As you wish. Would you like to join me?’
‘Join you? You mean, do it together?’
Lady Rae smiled. ‘That man has hurt you a lot. Do you want to hurt him back?’
Ada bit her lip. ‘No… No, I just want it to be over.’
Lady Rae stopped holding her hand, and Ada felt cold. She hadn’t even realised the woman was holding her hand.
‘I will be gone for a day or two. Make yourself comfortable in my home. Eat whatever you want, but do not touch anything that you do not recognise. Nobody will be able to open the door to this house except for you. So if you do not want to see the townspeople, do not leave.’ She smiled. ‘But you can tell them that I was the cat, if you want. I’m sure they’ll be very annoyed.’
Lady Rae turned towards the door.
‘Wait! You’re letting me stay here. Why?’
Lady Rae laughed. ‘Well, I have to say thank you for all the fried fish and gossip somehow, don’t I? Rest well, Ada.’
And the sorceress left.
The first thing Ada did was climb upstairs, find a bed, and sleep. It was only when she woke up, in the middle of the night, that she realised she was probably sleeping in Lady Rae’s bed.
But Rae wanted her there, didn’t she? She had basically invited her to do whatever she wanted. Ada couldn’t understand that. Nobody had ever been that nice to her.
So Ada decided she had to do something for Rae. The next morning, she got to work. She cleaned the house, removing all the dust and dirt. She was very careful not to touch the strange objects more than necessary.
While she cleaned, she thought. What was she going to do after this? She had spent so long thinking about killing Quinn, that she hadn’t considered what would happen after. She couldn’t stay with Lady Rae forever. The woman liked her, but she was an important sorceress. Ada would have to find a job, and a place to live.
Suddenly, it hit her. She had solved one problem, but her life was still a mess. Her parents were dead, and her friends had all left her. They could never understand why she was so sad, and they had all liked Quinn. She couldn’t be around them anymore.
She had nobody. She fell to the floor and started crying.
‘Oh you stupid, stupid girl,’ she muttered to herself.
And then she felt something warm on her back. She looked up to see those beautiful yellow eyes, looking through her like glass.
‘My dear,’ said Rae, ‘what is wrong? Why are you crying?’
‘Oh, it’s nothing!’ cried Ada. ‘Tell me. Is it done?’
‘Yes,’ said Rae. ‘Quinn is no more.’
Ada let out a sigh. ‘Thank you. Then I will leave you.’
She stood up, cleaned her tears away, and walked to the door. She didn’t want to leave, but it was easier this way. She had a life to build, and this woman had already been kind enough to her.
‘Wait,’ said Lady Rae.
Ada stopped at the door. ‘What is it?’
‘Ada, I have something I would like to ask you.’
‘Me?’ Ada was confused. What could a powerful sorceress want with her?
Rae got down on one knee, and Ada was even more confused.
‘Are you hurt?’
Rae took Ada’s hand.
‘Do I have something on my hand?’
Rae took a ring out of her pocket, and held it up. A yellow stone shone on top.
‘Ada. For hundreds of years, I have lived in this town. Once, I liked to help others. At first, I used my magic for the people. I built houses for them, fixed broken windows and killed monsters that came from the Dark Forest. But year after year, the men came to my door. They gave me presents, they asked me to marry them, and when I said no, they screamed at me and called me a nasty sorceress.
‘So many years ago, I locked away my heart. I stopped going outside, and I stopped helping the people. I told myself that they were stupid, weak, and that they did not deserve my magic.
‘And then, one day, a girl with a magic more powerful than mine walked into town. Her magic was different. All she needed was fried fish and kind words, and just like that, she broke the lock around my heart.
‘I know that you do not know me well, and I know you are hurting because of that man. But Ada, I promise you, I will do everything to protect you. You’ve shown me that there is still good in this world, and I’ll do everything I can to add to that good. Ada, will you marry me?’
‘Oh,’ said Ada.
Now she understood. And she knew her answer.
Rae smiled and pushed the ring onto her finger. It fit perfectly, like a key in a door.
If you enjoyed the story and want to say thank you, you can buy me a coffee on Ko-Fi. Just go to EasyStoriesInEnglish.com and click the orange button that says Buy me a coffee! Then you’ll be able to send me $3 so that I can buy a coffee, but really, I’ll probably get a bubble tea. And I’ll think of you while I drink it! Thank you for listening, and until next week.