There was a letter at my door. It was addressed from Olivia. I hadn’t heard from her in quite some time, so I eagerly shredded the envelope open, unsure of what to expect.
“Dear, Valerie. This town is small, so I don’t know if you’ve heard the news yet. I’m hoping you haven’t, as I wanted you to hear this directly from me. I have fallen in love. I know, I don’t believe it myself, either. His name is Quail. We had a very small and secluded wedding ceremony — close family only. I’m sorry you couldn’t be there, but it was sudden, and we wanted to keep it hush. I am expecting. I have quit the coven. Life can change in the blink of an eye.”
My jaw dropped. I was in shock. I scanned the handwriting a little closer to make sure it was actually her — surely, this must be a joke! The note continued, telling me that she wanted to meet up at a certain time and place in order to catch up — before her baby would arrive, and who knows when she’d have time to see me again after that point.
I let out a heavy sigh and dropped the letter on the floor. Of course, I was excited to see her again. But, Olivia? Marriage? A baby on the way? It all seemed so unlike her. There had to be more to the story. It couldn’t have “just happened” as she seemed to imply.
My heart sank when I spotted her glowing face. We were meeting up for tea. I ordered a cup of chamomile to ease my nerves at the discomfort of who my friend had transformed into. Her stomach was sticking out tremendously — she was much further along than I had pictured.
I wanted to be polite, I really, really, wanted to be. I wanted to give her a forced smile, and cheer her on with that cliché, “I’m so happy for you!” And if she was someone else, like Annabella for example, I certainly would have. But this was Olivia. This was the most honest, straightforward, and blunt woman I’d ever known. Surely if the roles were reversed, she’d be doing the same.
“What happened!?” I blurted out.
“Crazy, isn’t it?” She smiled.
“No — this is beyond crazy. Seriously, what happened, Olivia? You’ve never wanted to be married, or have children. You’ve always wanted to stay in the coven. This wasn’t supposed to happen to you.”
She paused for a moment, and then with a shrug, answered, “these things — they just happen.”
“No, they don’t,” I refused, shaking my head.
“I didn’t plan any of this.”
I placed my hand on her shoulder, looked her deeply in the eyes, and stated in the most serious tone, “we’re witches. We plan every single detail of our lives.”
She let out a tiny smirk, “there’s a force that stronger than all of us — even witches.”
“What is this ‘force’ that you’re referring to — is it God, or is it society?”
Now, she was growing frustrated, “look, I didn’t meet up with you to be belittled. I wanted to catch up and reconnect.”
“I’m not belittling you,” I defended myself.
Before I could say any more, she continued, “I know it’s scary, Val. I get it. Did I ever expect myself to go down this path in life — no. What about Annabella’s separation from her husband? Did anyone expect that — no! I’m still a witch, and I’m still me… sometimes, you’ve gotta go where the wind takes you.”
“So… you’re saying, you were walking down the street one day and accidentally just slipped into the arms of a perfect man and then found a baby growing inside of you?”
“Not literally, but… metaphorically… yes.”
I sighed with an eye roll.
“How about you!?” She eagerly changed the subject, “what have you been up to? It’s not all about me, after all.”
“Working long shifts at the bakery,” I moaned.
“What else? Have you met anyone?”
I paused to take a deep breath. “Well… sort of.” I didn’t want to tell her that this ‘man’ I met was a god — a lord — the dark lord. “It’s complicated,” I added.
“That’s great!” She cheered. “What do you mean, ‘complicated’?”
“Um…” I stalled, “basically… he was obsessed with me — like, borderline stalking me. And he was also threatening any man who tried getting close to me. But he was always hiding from me. So, I had to confront him. We sort of got somewhere… but as soon as I returned interest in him, as soon as I told him that I wanted to be together, he ran away from me,” I let out a sarcastic chuckle and an eye-roll, “isn’t that always the way? A man will chase after you until you chase him back — then he runs for his life.”
“Oh, heavens,” she widened her eyes and shook her head, “a real man doesn’t do that.”
I let out a slight giggle to myself, because he wasn’t a man at all, but a god. I debated telling Olivia that, in that moment. Would it make the story sound any better, or far worse? I decided against it, to keep that little tidbit to myself.
“When is the last time that you saw him?” she asked.
“It’s been months,” I pouted, “but I’m working on something.”
“I’ve continued my witchcraft study, in solitary, ever since I left the coven a while ago. I’ve almost perfected the love potion. I’m going to use all of my powers to bring him back to me.”
“Careful, Val,” she shook her head in disapproval, “you of all people should know that love potions and spells are the most dangerous of all. Why don’t you stick with protection spells?”
I looked down in slight shame, “it was just a thought. I probably won’t go through with it.” And now I was the one who was eager to change the subject — “have you seen Arthur lately?”
“Yeah!” She nodded, “he’s married now, too.”
“That’s incredible,” I half-smiled.
The two of us spent the next hour or so catching up on family, and some little things. After parting ways, I had this bittersweet aftertaste in my mouth that I couldn’t get rid of.
I began reflecting on my younger days, how Annabella and Olivia sorted their way through life. Annabella had rushed to get married at the tender age of thirteen, only to separate several years later with many kids, turning to schoolteaching to bring her joy and satisfaction. Olivia had stuck with the coven for quite a while, only to find herself trailing down the expected road of marriage and motherhood, a bit later in life.
And what about me? I lost my parents at the beginning of childhood, only to never find their ghosts. I lost my aunt at the beginning of adulthood, forced to leave the coven and make a living for myself. I never expected love, and then I found it, only to lose something that was never even mine to begin with.
Was Olivia right, about not trying to control every single outcome in life — including the really, really big ones? Was it wrong of me to attempt witchcraft on the Dark Lord in order to win his affections for good?
No — I decided — she was wrong. I had to do this.
It was the strike of midnight. The kitchen was dimly lit with candles. I held a tall, black candle in my hand and waved it in clockwise circles, chanting, “come to me, Dark Lord!”
After repeating myself thirteen times — there he appeared on the opposite side of the room. We faced each other from the two sides of the long table.
My heart was racing faster now, but this was no time to be cowardly.
“You came,” I whimpered with tears of joy.
“I was here the first time you said it — but I wanted to hear you say it twelve more times.”
I couldn’t help but giggle, unsure if I should be upset or amused.
“Oh,” I moaned in relief, “can I meet you in my bedroom? I’ll prepare us some drinks.”
He walked right up to me until we were only inches apart, he lifted my chin so that I was looking at him directly in the eyes, towering above me.
“You’re a funny, little human,” he smirked.
“What?” I blushed.
“You really think you’re powerful than me?”
“W-what do you mean? Of-of course not,” I stuttered, completely taken aback.
And then he stroked my cheek like I was a baby.
“I know what you’re planning to do.”
“I’m-I’m not… I’m not planning to do anything,” I gasped, a little bit terrified for my life.
Oh, God, oh, God, oh, God, he knew. His demeanor was calm, but was he angry, bubbling up underneath the surface? Was he going to punish me? Was he going to kill me?
His hand was still on my face, and now it was moving down towards my neck. I felt myself quivering.
He simply let out a soft smile, “I’m not mad, you know. I think it’s adorable.”
“What are you talking about?” I asked, still trying to play dumb, even though it was definitely useless at this point.
“I don’t think you understand,” now his hand was on my arm, and I could breathe a bit again. “Trying to make me fall in love with you — I’m already in love with you. I’d play along, but I’d rather save you the time and effort.”
I furrowed my eyebrows, “I’m confused.”
“Exactly,” he nodded, “like I said — you don’t understand.”
“Make me understand.”
“You never should’ve confronted me, Valerie. You should’ve let me remain in my cave with my crystal ball, or hiding in the corners, invisible. The line between god and human is never meant to be crossed — most especially this dark entity, me. I could’ve watched you safely from a distance, and you could’ve continued to pretend not to see me. I don’t care if you’re a witch with superpowers, you’re still nothing but a mere human. What nerve did you have to confront me!? How dare you!? And now my feelings for you have grown even stronger, but you’re still nothing but a little girl.”
Tears streamed down my face. And now his hand that had traveled from my face was gripping my wrist tight.
The Dark Lord pulled me in tight, and then I felt my vision go blurry. He spun me around until the room began to melt, and I stood still and speechless as my vision sharpened once again — but I was no longer in my kitchen — I was in another world.
And then I saw myself. But it wasn’t me, it was another version of me. She was dressed in all black. Her face was covered too. She was walking hand in hand with the Dark Lord, it looked like they were walking through town. No one was allowed to see her — me. My body, my hair, and my face all covered in a black veil.
I was isolated from the world. I worked at a candle-making shop, and he stood right beside me, always watching me. I wasn’t allowed to speak to any other man. This was the only time I could leave home — to work. We had all of our groceries and necessities delivered to the house.
We lived deep, deep in the woods, where no one could find us. We never left home — again, except when I went to work. We were reclusive from society. But we had many cats… and soon, many kids too.
This was my life as wife of the Dark Lord. It was intense and all-consuming. I was imprisoned. Was I happy? — I wasn’t sure.
I opened my eyes, alone in bed. That was no dream; that was a visit to an alternate reality. The Dark Lord was gone, and it was likely that I may never see him again.
He had left me with an odd sense of closure that created more questions than answers. I found peace knowing that somehow, in another dimension, we were together. But this was no ordinary marriage — I was his prisoner. He didn’t want anyone else touching me, talking to me, or even looking at me. He was so possessive that I was no longer allowed to be my own person.
I thought I seemed happy, being so devoted to him. But maybe he only chose to show me the good parts. Maybe, in this alternate reality, my obsession for him fades, and I begin to feel oppressed and abused. I mean, realistically, could I actually give up my identity for love? Is that real love, or is it abuse — to rip away your partner’s freedom due to your own insecurities? Or is it a freedom in itself, to give yourself up completely to one person, and turn your back on the rest of the world? There’s a thin line between love and abuse, between devotion and oppression, between partnership and slavery.
Olivia’s words continued to haunt me — that you can’t live your life trying to control every single outcome — most especially the big, big ones. Maybe it was time to let go.
Shortly after that night, I decided to quit the bakery, sick of feeling overworked. I used my savings to jumpstart a business, where I sold potions and charms, and provided spell magic for costumers. My only regret was that I hadn’t launched my business sooner, but I had never fully believed in myself until now.
It was a dark, starry night. I looked up at the sky, finding more stars than usual. And then — I couldn’t believe it! — There they were! My parents were up in the stars! They were watching over me this whole time. Their vibrations were too high to visit this world as ghosts. I still could not physically see them, or hear them, but in that moment, I felt them like never before.
I wish I had gotten the opportunity to prove to the Dark Lord that I could’ve been his wife, no matter how extremely unyielding that life would have been. For the rest of my life now, being the wife of the Dark Lord would only be a fantasy. And maybe that was his ultimate way of keeping me captive to him.