I was still in my early twenties. I felt so young, yet according to the society I was living in, I was nearly considered an old maid. Heck, my childhood best friend, Annabella, had already been married, given birth to four babies over the years, her eldest daughter now eleven-years old, and then separated — by age twenty-four.
Growing up, our school teachers taught us as young girls that the greatest accomplishment you could do in life, as a woman, was to marry and bare children. They told us how the gods and goddesses made our bodies ready for womanhood around the age of thirteen, but that the ripest age to marry and birth children was eighteen. Each year beyond eighteen, they say, the body grows weaker and weaker, until the great Mother Goddess of Fertility diminishes your birthing power.
But then I learned something completely different from the witches at the coven. They told us “the great secret” — that there is no limit to a woman’s destiny. They told us tales of women in their thirties, forties, having babies. They told us tales of women in their fifties and sixties, who could not physically produce children, but could raise children in many other ways. They told us tales of women in their seventies, eighties, who did not look to raise children, but fell in love and chose to get married at this time.
The elder witches told us that there was no rush. They said, “if you want to be a wife, then so be it. If you want to be a mother, then so be it. If you want to be anything beyond that, then blessed be.”
These days, I was so busy that I couldn’t imagine having a baby — let alone a husband. It had been several months now since I last saw the dark lord. I felt that with time, I was regaining my sanity. I could feel him attempting to take control of my life, and I would not let that happen.
As I would walk through town to pick up groceries and toiletries, I often saw mothers — pushing their strollers or holding hands with their little ones. I wanted to be one of those mothers so badly.
But then there was another part of me: the woman who worked her butt off at the bakery every day simply to make end’s meet, who spent all of her free-time not relaxing, but studying witchcraft in hopes of making it as a spell caster someday.
With each set of the sun, came yet another painful reminder that my time was limited… or was it? I mean, that’s what all of my school teachers wanted me to believe — that my time was limited. Those were the same teachers who told me that “magic” was a dying art, that witches and warlocks were to be feared, that the supernatural was anything but natural. And they were the same teachers who would have called me a demon if I revealed my powers to them as a young girl.
Continuously, I had to remind myself of the witches of the coven — telling me that there is no limit to a woman’s destiny.
It’s actually quite funny how I was once told that eighteen-years old would be my peak of beauty. Each year past that, I found myself growing prettier and prettier. Now, I don’t mean to sound like a narcissist — I believe I’m just as pretty as the next girl. But one thing’s for sure, is that I am much prettier than the girl I was a few years ago.
I thought, maybe that’s why men rush to marry women while they’re only eighteen — because they do not want her to know how beautiful she is about to become in the following years.
From eighteen to twenty-four, I watched my body grow curvier, from a ruler to an hourglass. Both my chest and my bottom became fuller and rounder. My lanky and boney arms had turned to muscular rock. My hips were defined. My stomach was a roadmap rather than a blank canvas. And this was only the beginning.
Our teachers told us that you stop growing after eighteen. They told us that you reach your full potential by eighteen. They told us that your life is over at eighteen. They were wrong.
My life was only beginning. I was physically stronger — I could walk much further, stay on my feet much longer, and work up to twelve hours a day. I could lift over fifty pounds — carry bags of flour and sugar from one area to another without breaking a sweat. I could push, squeeze, and knead the dough with ease. In comparison, during my school years, I could barely make it through the day — nothing but sitting on my butt for six hours straight.
I was smarter. In my school years, I was the slowest reader in the class — now, I was blowing through books from cover to cover every single day. In my school years, I used to cry at the kitchen table when aunt Lilac told me I couldn’t have any dessert unless I studied first. Now, I was studying every single night — not because someone was bribing me with ice cream, but because I was making the choice to push myself.
I was far more outgoing, more socially adept, more charismatic and charming… I could go on and on! But it was true, some girls — and plenty of boys, too — did peak at eighteen. That’s because they chose to.
I was a strong and independent woman, but that didn’t mean I was immune to loneliness. I lived alone, in a small cottage, in the middle of the woods. It was nothing but my cat, Heka, my ghost-cat, Oats, plus the occasional ghost visitors — everyone from aunt Lilac to the random stranger who barged into my home after having just entered the afterlife — and me.
I sure had a lot to be scared of — burglars, bears, sociopaths, wolverines, vampires, evil spirts, and worst of them all: spiders. But knowing that angels were watching over me helped me sleep at night.
Yet still, beyond fear, was loneliness. I tended to keep myself so busy, from working at the bakery to studying witchcraft at home, that I didn’t have enough time for loneliness. Yet on this starry night, with the full moon’s light shining through my window and keeping me from falling asleep, I was feeling lonely.
I knew that he was there in my energy field. Whether he was physically watching me, or energetically thinking of me — he was there. All I had to do was accept his presence, and he would appear.
Tonight, I was feeling so weak, that there was no choice left but to let him in. And so, I closed my eyes and attempted to relax. I didn’t have to call out to him or chase him down. All I had to do was accept him.
And there he was. Standing tall in front of me. Looking at me: a little scared, a little curious, a little thrilled. And I smiled back, as I was sitting on my bed. We both gazed at one another. There was nothing to say. Nothing that needed to be said.
He leaned in closer to kiss me and then I felt my mind leaving my body. The next thing I knew, we were laying in bed together, holding each other. And once the trance had passed, my mind returned back into my body. He had fallen fast asleep.
I turned over and peaked at my black cat, Heka, from the corner of my eye. She stood there in the corner, like a protector carefully keeping her eye on me. It was so strange, not being alone. In that moment, it did feel right. So I shook him out of his sleep to wake him up; I couldn’t wait any longer.
“Okay,” I whispered.
“Huh?” He was incredibly groggy.
“Okay!” I whisper-screamed, with a big grin.
“Okay, what?” He furrowed his eyebrows.
“Let’s do it,” I eagerly nodded.
He paused… looked at me for a moment, looked at his body underneath the blanket, and then looked back at me, “didn’t we just…”
“No, no,” I shook my head, “let’s be together,” I told him, passionately grabbing his face with my hands, “my dark lord,” I nearly whimpered, “let me be your light… or your darkness… let me be whatever you choose.”
His face went blank, which was completely unexpected, and he pulled back from me. “Valerie…”
“We’re meant to be,” I urged.
“I can’t,” he shook his head.
“You…” I stuttered, “you… you can’t?”
“No,” he insisted.
“You can’t what?”
“I…” he began, but I cut him off —
“Let me explain! I understand that I have to give up a lot for you, and I am totally okay with that! You can take my freedom, you can do whatever you need to do so that you never have to worry about losing me. I’m willing to give up everything,” I emphasized, “everything.”
He nearly chuckled at me, and I could tell that he was about to deny me again, so I continued before he could respond.
“I will quit my job. I will work where you tell me to, or I won’t work at all, if that’s what you want. I will cut off any man — any person — to be with you.” And then I anxiously turned to Heka, “just don’t make me cut off my cat, please,” I whimpered.
“That’s not what you want.”
“YES IT IS!” I roared at him. “You mean, it’s not what you want.”
“It’s not what anybody wants.”
“What don’t you want? My freedom, or me?”
“I have to go.”
“WHERE?” I shouted furiously, “to your cave? To your crystal ball so you can keep on watching the world in silence? Don’t you want to live? Don’t you?”
He looked at me angrily, yet still blank.
“Well?” I shoved his shoulder.
He still stood there, frozen. I could see that he was torn, that part of him wanted to flee while the other part of him wanted to fight back. Which side would win?
“Don’t you want to live?” I repeated, pushing him harder now.
“And you don’t?”
“I want to live for you.”
“Someone is already living for me — and that’s myself — and that’s all.”
“But you love me!” I shouted at him. I knew it was bold, but it was my last resort. I knew there was something bubbling up inside of him, so close to exploding. I was inches away from it happening.
“Why don’t you cool down,” he suggested all too calmly, which really made me even more furious.
I screamed back, “why don’t you go FU— “ but he had disappeared before I could finish.