Life had settled into a nice, quiet routine at 1164 Morning Glory Circle. Too quiet, really, in Samantha Stephens's opinion. The days had become long and interminable in recent months, and Samantha was growing bored. Ever since Tabitha and Adam went back to school following their summer holidays, the house had seemed empty and lifeless, and Samantha passed the time with mundane household chores, resorting to watching soap operas and inviting Gladys Kravitz in for coffee when she felt particularly antsy. Esmeralda popped in on certain days to help with the chores, of course, and while Samantha appreciated her company, she dreaded the inevitable blunders Esmeralda's faulty hexes usually conjured up. Endora materialized occasionally to relieve the tedium, and so did Aunt Clara, Uncle Arthur, Serena, and Maurice, but their visits were few and far between by Samantha's estimation. Everyone seemed busy and pre-occupied with various activities and pursuits, flying off here and there while poor lonely Samantha grew desperate in suburbia. How she envied Darrin and his career, always busy, always on the go. He never had time to sit and feel sorry for himself, and he was only vaguely sympathetic towards Samantha's complaints about staring at the same four walls every day. "Take up a hobby", he suggested. "Get involved in the P.T.A. I'm sure there must be something you could do. What about sculpting? I remember you liked that once."
Yes, once. A long time ago. But it was now 1977, and Samantha's interest in sculpting had gone out with the mini-skirt. She didn't want to take up a hobby...most of them bored her, anyway. And the P.T.A., as vital as it was, had only limited possibilities. What Samantha wanted was something she could really get into, something exciting and rewarding and fulfilling. She still felt that way about being a wife and mother, but that was only a part-time gig now that both of her children were in school. Tabitha and Adam were growing up fast, and Samantha knew that they'd need her less and less as time went on. She missed the feeling of being wanted and needed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And she dreaded the long, lonely days with very little to do. She was depressed and grumpy and unutterably bored, and she'd had enough of moping around and sighing. There was only one way to remedy her current predicament, she concluded, only one thing that would snap her out of this rut. It was a big decision and a little scary, but she knew in her heart it was the right thing to do. What she needed now was a career.
"A career?!!!," Darrin exclaimed when Samantha presented him with her idea. "What in the world do you want a career for? We don't need the money, and you could do a thousand other things that would be a lot more interesting. Besides, you're not exactly skilled to join the work-force. At least, not 'conventionally' skilled, if you know what I mean."
Samantha furrowed her brow and paused for a moment. She loved her husband dearly, but sometimes he wasn't as understanding as she'd like him to be. She'd have to select her words carefully and approach the subject in a manner he might understand. She didn't wish to engage in an argument about this.
"Darrin," she said evenly, her voice businesslike and calm, "I agree with you that we don't need the money. You've created a wonderful life for our family, and I feel very fortunate to have such a secure, worry-free existence. It's not that I'm unhappy...I'm just bored. The kids are in school all day and I've really got very little to do. Please try to understand. I know I'm not experienced when in comes to working in the mortal world, but I've learned to do so many useful things since we got married. I'm sure there must be some sort of job I could do that would put my skills to good use." Samantha paused and then smiled mischievously. "And I'm not talking about 'those skills', so you don't have to worry about that."
"I'm still not sold on the idea," Darrin stated cautiously, "but I'm not going to stand in your way. If you can find a job that you enjoy and that won't take time away from Tabitha and Adam, I'm willing to give it a try."
Samantha's face brightened immediately. "Oh, Darrin, thank you!", she exclaimed, running over to hug her husband. "I promise you that whatever I decide to do won't affect Tabitha and Adam at all, witches honor! And we can always call for Esmeralda if we need her...I'm sure she'll be happy to help out!"
"Great," Darrin muttered dryly. "Esmeralda. She'll be conjuring up Napoleon every time Adam wants Neapolitan ice cream!"
"Wellllll!", Samantha replied, her voice switching to the familiar high tone she adopted whenever she felt dubious about something. "Hopefully it won't be as bad as all that. Napoleon was Uncle Arthur's handiwork, after all. Esmeralda zapped up Julius Caesar. But I'll have a little talk with her, just in case. And if she does zap up Napoleon, or Caesar, or Johnny Appleseed, look on the bright side: our kids will have the best history lesson in Morning Glory Circle!"
"I'd rather they learned history at school," Darrin said, frowning.
"I could always ask mother...", Samantha suggested, pulling out her ace card. "Esmeralda will do just fine", Darrin interjected quickly. Samantha smiled to herself and then kissed Darrin tenderly, settling the matter for once and for all.
In a grand and well-appointed house in a nearby neighborhood, a similar scene was unfolding between the Stephens' friends, Louise and Larry Tate.
"But Larry," Louise demanded, "I ~want~ to work! Jonathan's thirteen now, for heaven's sake! He's busy with school and his friends and he doesn't need me to look after him all the time. The maid does all the chores while I sit here and watch myself grow older every day. I'm bored stiff half the time! I feel trapped, Larry, like I'm missing out on life, and I want the freedom to make my own decisions without having to consult with you all the time. Don't you understand? I can't live like this any longer!"
"Louise, my love", Larry replied condescendingly while he poured himself another drink. "What would my clients think if they found out my wife was working? It would reflect badly on McMann & Tate, and I might lose accounts because of it. No, I'm afraid things will just have to stay the way they are. Take up a hobby if you're bored, or join a club. Look at Samantha Stephens...she's happy, and you certainly don't see her getting wild ideas like this!"
"'Wild ideas'??!!!", Louise exclaimed. "For Pete's sake, Larry! Millions of women work nowadays! You talk as though it's still the 1950's!"
"You had more sense in the 1950's", Larry stated sharply. "You were content to stay at home and be a dutiful wife back then."
"Well, I'm not any more", Louise countered assertively. "And I worked before we got married...or has that little fact conveniently slipped your mind?"
"When we got married in 1954, you promised to love, honor and obey, Louise...love, honor, and ~obey~! Do I need to remind you of your vows?"
"I do love you, Larry. But if you don't let me do what I want, I'm going to have to do something drastic," Louise warned ominously. "If that means packing my bags and leaving you, I'm not afraid to do it! Don't push me, Larry, or you might regret it!"
"Louise, I refuse to listen to another word of this!", Larry said, his face reddening with anger. "You're having a mid-life crisis...that's all it is! I had mine ten years ago, remember? I bought a Corvette! Why don't you go shopping tomorrow and buy yourself a whole new wardrobe? You'll feel like a new woman. Now, sit down and have a drink and put this silly work nonsense out of your head this instant!"
"Why do you think the answer to all of life's problems can be found at the bottom of a bottle of scotch?" Louise asked, her voice tinged with bitterness. "You know something, Larry? I've been wanting to tell you this for years: you drink too much!"
"Louise, stop behaving like a witch!" Larry barked. His temper was flaring now, and he punctuated his words by defiantly taking another sip from his cocktail glass.
"I will not stand here and allow you to call me a witch!" Louise spat indignantly. She was livid now, completely fed up with her husband and his intolerable chauvinistic ways. "I'm leaving you, Larry Tate! I'm packing my bags and I'm taking Jonathan and I'm getting a job! And there's nothing you can do to stop me!"
"Oh, for crying out loud, Louise", Larry scoffed dismissively, "where in the world would you possibly go?" "I'm going to Darrin and Samantha's", Louise announced before flouncing from the room to collect her son and her belongings. "They'll understand what I'm going through...and I doubt that anyone ever uses the word 'witch' over there!"
The Stephens' had just finished dinner when their doorbell rang, alerting them to a visitor.
"I'll get it", Samantha said cheerily, leaving Darrin to finish clearing the table. When she opened the door, she was surprised to see Louise and Jonathan Tate standing on the porch with four or five very large suitcases in their hands.
"Louise! Jonathan! What a pleasant surprise!" Samantha said, instantly sensing that something was wrong. "Why don't you bring your bags in and make yourselves at home. Tabitha and Adam are upstairs doing their homework, Jonathan...why don't you run on up and say hello?"
Jonathan nodded and dropped his suitcases on the floor, then dashed up the staircase to join his young friends. Louise smiled wanly as she watched her son disappear from view. When she was certain he was out of ear-shot, she glanced at Samantha and immediately burst into tears.
"I'm in an awful mess, Samantha!" Louise sobbed as she sat down on the living room sofa. "It's terrible...just terrible!"
"There, there, Louise," Samantha said consolingly as she took a seat next to her friend and gently patted her on the back. "It can't be all that bad. Now, why don't you tell me all about it and I'm sure we can fix whatever's wrong."
"My little boy's from a broken home!", Louise wailed dramatically. "I've left Larry!"
"Oh my stars!", Samantha exclaimed, shocked by Louise's announcement. "What in the world brought this on?"
"He called me a witch!", Louise said, sniffling. "And all because I want to get a job! Can you believe the nerve of that man? I just had to get away from him, so I packed our bags and brought Jonathan over here. We have nowhere else to go, Samantha...would it be too much trouble if we stayed with you and Darrin for a few days?"
"Of course you can stay, Louise", Samantha answered kindly. "We have plenty of room."
Hearing Louise's sobs from the kitchen, Darrin entered the room and walked over to where Samantha and Louise were sitting. "I couldn't help overhearing", Darrin said with concern. "We'll be happy to have you stay with us, Louise. Does Larry know that you're here?"
"Oh, he knows alright!" Louise replied, dabbing at her eyes with a tissue. "But I'm sure he could care less. He seems to think I'm having some sort of 'mid-life crisis' and that I'll come crawling back home begging for forgiveness! But I'm not going back, Darrin! I don't care if I have to scrub floors for a living! I'll never go back to that man as long as I live!" Louise's tears began flowing all over again, and she wailed loudly as Samantha and Darrin looked at each other helplessly.
"Why don't you help Louise take her suitcases up to the guestroom, darling," Samantha suggested to Darrin. "I'm sure she could use a rest after such an upsetting day. I'll make you some tea, Louise, and then we can talk about this again in the morning. I'm certain you'll feel better after a good night's rest."
While Darrin gathered the suitcases piled in the front hall and showed Louise to her room, Samantha sat on the couch and contemplated Louise's predicament. "This is awful!", she muttered to herself quietly. "And the worst part about it is I haven't got a clue how to make things right again!"
After spending a few days sobbing and being gently consoled by Darrin and Samantha, Louise started to examine her life with clear, focused eyes. She realized that she needed to get a job very quickly indeed when she discovered that Larry had spitefully cut off her credit cards and access to their joint bank account.
"The beast!", she said angrily to Samantha while they sat in the Stephens' kitchen drinking their afternoon coffee. "He's trying to force me to come home!" But Louise was having none of it. "This is what I wanted, Samantha," she sighed, resigning herself to her fate. "I wanted my independence, and now I've got it. I need to find a job right away so I can rent an apartment. Jonathan and I can't stay here forever. I don't know how I'll ever re-pay you and Darrin, but I'm determined that I will."
"Don't give it a moment's thought, Louise," Samantha replied as she poured some more coffee into their cups. "Darrin and I wouldn't dream of accepting your money. You're a very dear friend, and it's been a pleasure having you and Jonathan here. You're welcome to stay as long as you'd like."
"Thank you, Samantha", Louise said with a smile, genuinely grateful to have such a warm, caring friend. "You're the best."
Louise started getting teary-eyed and Samantha could feel her own waterworks starting to flow, as well. The two women looked at each other and burst out laughing, wiping the tears from their eyes and bonding in a moment of mutual understanding.
"Things have sure changed since 1964, haven't they?" Samantha laughed while she dabbed at her eyes.
"It's a different world, Samantha," Louise replied. "Equal rights and the economy have changed everything. Sometimes I wish things were still the way they were a decade ago, but another part of me would hate that. I like having choices and knowing that there's a great big world out there just waiting for me! Now I just need to make up my mind about what I'd like to do and get out there and stake my claim!"
"I feel the same way," Samantha confessed.
Louise stared at Samantha blankly, surprised by her friend's admission.
"Don't get me wrong, I'm happy with all of this," Samantha explained, motioning around the kitchen with her hand. "It's just that...I want ~more~, you know? Darrin and I have talked about it, and I've decided to pursue a career. Except now I'm in the same boat you are...I haven't got the foggiest idea about what I want to do!"
"I haven't worked since 1954," Louise stated reflectively. "I don't think I've ever told you this before, but I was an actress once upon a time. I started out as a model, got discovered by Paramount, starred in one lousy movie, and ended up back on television doing commercials. That's when I met Larry...and I've been 'the first lady of advertising' ever since!"
"You gave all that up for Larry?" Samantha asked. "You must've loved him very much."
"I still do," Louise replied sadly, glancing at her diamond wedding band. "But I can't live with him any longer. He treats me like a bird in a gilded cage, and he refuses to let me out to fly."
"Believe it or not, Louise, I know ~exactly~ what you're talking about," Samantha said, an enigmatic smile crossing her face. "Darrin's a wonderful husband and I love him dearly, but I've definitely felt a little 'cooped up' over the years myself!"
"What a pair we are!", Louise chuckled, munching on one of Samantha's delicious chocolate chip cookies.
"Hey! Maybe we could find a job together? You know, so we don't have to face the cold, cruel world all by ourselves."
"I like the way you think, Louise," Samantha agreed. "I've never worked before and I could sure use a little moral support. But who would ever hire a matched-set of inexperienced gals like us?"
"Why don't we start our own business?" Louise declared, her smile brightening with hopeful inspiration. "I'm sure there's something we could do together, and working from home would mean we wouldn't have to be away from our kids all day!"
Samantha paused reflectively, mulling over Louise's suggestion. "You know, I'll bet there ~is~ something we could do from home! We could be our own bosses, set our own schedules! What a wonderful idea, Louise! But whatever will we do? All I'm skilled for is cleaning and cooking and..."
"That's it!" Louise exclaimed, munching on another of Samantha's heavenly home-baked cookies. "Cooking!"
"Cooking?" Samantha asked, not quite following Louise's train of thought.
"Sure! You're a great cook, I'm a great cook! We could start a catering business!" Louise explained. "I'll bet we'd be great at it!"
"Louise, I love it!", Samantha declared excitedly. "But what will we call our business? We have to have a name!"
"Well, seeing as how Larry thinks I'm a witch", Louise offered mischievously, "why don't we call ourselves 'The Witches Cauldron'!"
"'The Witches Cauldron'??!" Samantha exclaimed, slightly horrified at the thought.
"'The Witches Cauldron'", Louise stated assuredly, her mind settled on the name. "And we can ask Darrin to design a sign for us to hang outside of your house, something cute with an ugly old crone stirring a pot!"
"That's ~cute~?" Samantha asked skeptically, crinkling her nose with undisguised disdain.
"Sure! It's not like we're a couple of old crones...that's the cute part! Don't you get it?"
"Oh, I get it", Samantha replied. "It'll just take me a little while to get used to it!"
"It's all settled, then", Louise said happily as she rose from the table and picked up her purse from the counter. "I can't wait to get started! In fact, I'm going to rush out right now and buy some cookbooks! I've still got a little money stashed away that Larry doesn't know about!"
With that, Louise strode confidently from the room and out to her car, leaving Samantha to ponder their new business venture.
"'The Witches Cauldron'?" she repeated dubiously, hoping the name would suddenly sound like music to ears. She paused and considered the name for a moment. "Oh, dear...that will never do! I don't even want to ~think~ about what mother will say!"
Cringing, Samantha leaned forward on the kitchen table and buried her head in her hands, dreading Endora's reaction to this latest bit of news.
"Well, I always knew it would come to this!" The sound of Serena's shrill, trilling voice startled Samantha, breaking the silence with a jolt.
"Serena, don't you ever say hello?" Samantha asked with annoyance, glancing around the empty room. Just then, Serena materialized out of thin air, her skin tight pink satin jumpsuit clashing vividly with the avocado refrigerator.
"My cousin, a short-order cook!", Serena cooed, her words dripping with disdain. "What's the matter, Sammy...Dum-Dum can't pay the bills?"
"His name is Darrin, and we can pay our bills just fine, thank you very much", Samantha replied.
"I couldn't help overhearing you and Louise chatting about your drab domestic doldrums," Serena continued, taking a seat at the kitchen table. "Wouldn't it be more honest to say that you were hanging around uninvited...like a ~bat~?"
"I resent that, cousin," Serena trilled. "But I'll forgive you because I'm in such a good mood." It occurred to Samantha that there was something different about Serena since she'd last seen her. After leaning forward and staring at Serena intently, she realized her raven-haired cousin was now sporting long feathered locks. Samantha smiled with amusement and asked: "Say, what did you do to your hair?"
"Don't you just love it?", Serena answered, oblivious to Samantha's mirth. "I had it done yesterday. It's called 'The Farrah'! Isn't it outta sight?"
"Well, that's one way of putting it!"
"I think it makes me look foxy!" Serena countered, vainly patting her new coiffure.
"Foxy?" Samantha repeated the unfamiliar word, confused by Serena's use of the latest lingo.
"Oh, Sammy...you're such a square!" Serena replied, rolling her eyes dismissively. Samantha got up from the table to fetch a coffee cup for Serena before sitting back down.
"Let's dish!", Serena squealed excitedly while Samantha poured the coffee.
"What's Lou-Lou so steamed at Cotton-top about, and why have you decided to become glorified waitresses together? I demand to hear all the sordid details...dreary as they might be!"
"Louise is mad at Larry because she wants to work and Larry's against the idea," Samantha explained.
"She's been living here for the past week, and I've just ~got~ to figure out a way to get them back together! And we're not planning on working as waitresses...the correct job title is 'caterer'."
"I fail to see the difference," Serena declared, her nose in the air. "Greasy food and aprons are all the same to me. And what's this 'Witches Cauldron' nonsense you were prattling about? 'Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble', Sammy...when did you decide to 'come out'?"
"You know...fly out of the closet on your broom for everyone to see?" Serena explained, giggling naughtily.
"I'm not 'coming out', Serena," Samantha replied with a frown. "And the name was Louise's idea. I haven't the heart to say no to her after everything she's been through over the past few days. I'm sure we'll come up with something more appropriate later on. Right now I'm more concerned about helping Louise get back on her feet again...and hopefully back together with Larry."
"Say, cousin," Serena said, leaning in conspiratorially. "I just thought of a perfectly brilliant idea that might help you with at least one of your problems!"
"What's that?" Samantha asked, leaning in closer to hear Serena's plan.
"Guess who got picked by the Witches Council to organize the 1977 Cosmos Cotillion?" Serena hinted playfully. "And guess who just decided to hire you and Louise to prepare hors d'oeuvre for the five hundred best and brightest witches on the guest list?"
"Oh, Serena, NO!!!" Samantha protested, sitting up straight in her chair. "That's impossible! The Cosmos Cotillion is next week! How could we ever whip up that much food on such short notice?"
"I'm sure you'll think of a way", Serena replied, smiling wickedly as she twitched the end of her nose with her finger. "Fine, so I can zap something up...but how will I explain the Cosmos Cotillion to Louise?"
"Just tell her it's a magician's convention," Serena replied airily. "Blindfold her and explain that the party's being held at a top-secret location...she'll never know the difference!"
"Serena, that's terrible!" Samantha exclaimed. "I can't blindfold Louise! She'll think I've gone crazy!"
"Well, you're just going to have to do it", Serena said with a petulant look on her face.
"Because if you don't, Sammy, you'll end up missing what might be your one and only chance to reunite Lou-Lou and Larry."
"What do you mean?"
"I've decided to invite Cotton-top to be my date for the evening," Serena announced, ending her statement with a naughty wink. "You know how he flirts with me, Sammy...and you know how jealous it makes Louise."
"Serena, that's the worst idea you've had yet!"
"By the way, the cotillion's theme is 'Disco Fever', so glam it up a little and slap on some sequins for a change," Serena instructed.
Before Samantha could reply, Serena stood up and walked to the center of the room. "Taa-taa cousin...see you on the dance floor!" With a cheeky smile, Serena snapped her fingers and instantly disappeared.
"Serena, you get back here right this minute!" Samantha sputtered, exasperated by her cousin's sudden departure. "Serena? Pretty please? Ooooh, Serena!!!"
To be continued......
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