by Vince Nolan and Roger Swift
Once upon a time there was a typical red-blooded American girl with hair the color of an early summer sunrise, wide jade eyes, and a pert upturned nose (the perfect compliment to her friendly, welcoming smile) who happened to bump into a typical red-blooded American boy with dark hair (parted to the side and greased with Pomade as was the style of the time) in the summer of 1964. They became good friends and found themselves together whenever he wasn’t working or she wasn’t nestled snugly under her somewhat overprotective mother’s wing. This all-American boy, Darrin Stephens, soon found himself telling his lady, Samantha, how much he loved her and didn’t want to spend even one more day without her at his side.
“Darrin, is this a proposal?” she asked expectantly, almost triumphantly.
“Yes, but not a very good one. I’ve never done this before.”
“Well, why don’t you just say, ‘Will you marry me?’” she suggested and held her breath.
“Samantha,” he began, falling to one knee and offering her a small black velvet box, “I love you. Will you marry me?”
“Yes. Yes, Darrin. I will.”
And at that moment, Samantha’s mother, Endora, suddenly stopped combing her fiery red hair and wrapped her arms around herself as she shuddered. She studied her reflection in the mirror, which seemed to stare back at her of its own will, and wondered where her daughter had gotten off to without her this time. “Is she flying away from me already?” Endora wondered and barely blinked an eye when her reflection answered, “Yes.”
Samantha and Darrin married in a private civil ceremony on September 17, 1964 and honeymooned in Atlantic City, New Jersey—a short, but remote enough distance from his home and work life. They were the typical all-American couple...except it so happens that the new Mrs. Stephens was a witch. And she confessed this to him on their wedding night after silently praying for two things: his unwavering love and acceptance of her unique heritage, and that Endora would let her have at least one week alone with Darrin before expressing her reaction, which Samantha knew would not be favorable. Her first prayer was answered.
“You’re a what?” Darrin said incredulously.
“I’m a real-live, house-haunting, broom-riding, cauldron-stirring witch,” she replied slowly and deliberately. He wouldn’t believe her until a subtle demonstration of her extraordinary abilities convinced him.
After carefully weighing as many of the pros and cons as he could imagine, and pushing his mother’s lifelong devotion to normalcy and propriety aside, he came to a decision.
“I love you,” Darrin told Samantha their first night together as man and wife in his Manhattan apartment, “and I can’t give you up.”
She ran into his arms and hugged him tight, deliriously happy and content with the knowledge that someone in the universe loved her exactly as she was—differences and all. “You’ll see,” she cooed in his ear, “I’m going to be the best wife a man ever had.” And silently she glowed with a victory that surpassed merely finding a mate, but finding one who could show her a brand new way of life and a love that had to be nurtured, not conjured.
“I know you will, honey.” He held her tenderly and wondered how much of an adjustment he was in store for. Being married was a new enough experience, but marriage to a witch? He wouldn’t have admitted it to his bride, but the possibilities frightened him.
Samantha sensed his apprehension as she gazed into his eyes, her hands clasped affectionately behind his neck. “And I promise to try to curtail my witchcraft. I want to be a normal married woman for you.”
A low, yet piercing cackle in Endora’s familiar tone filled Samantha’s head just then as she heard, “We’ll see, dear. We’ll see.”
In spite of Darrin’s less than successful first meetings with almost all of Samantha’s kin, those first few years were an extension of the initial jolt of romance and excitement that accompanied their courtship. They moved into a spacious home at 1164 Morning Glory Circle in Westport, Connecticut where each day offered Darrin new awakenings about his wife’s seemingly endless assortment of magic tricks. And Samantha, despite her mother’s almost ceaseless efforts to the contrary, became the typical housewife and then mother to a daughter named Tabitha who—despite being the product of what Samantha’s family considered a “mixed marriage”—showed truly amazing witchly abilities and a precociousness the family had not encountered since Samantha was a child. By the time she was 3 years old, Tabitha was already skilled in levitation, teleportation, and transformation. While Darrin frowned at her magical progress and looked to his wife to squelch their daughter’s powerful budding talents, Samantha did so only half-heartedly, herself proud of Tabitha’s power and control and inwardly relieved that her mortal marriage did not stunt her offspring’s supernatural abilities.
The Stephenses’ marriage was a success and their family thrived in spite of the considerable magical ripples Samantha’s relatives made in their otherwise calm mortal sea. But in time even those cultural clashes struck a balance of sorts: Darrin maintained and protected his family’s guise as the typical American suburban unit and Samantha kept witchly influences at bay with the reluctant, yet skillful use of her own powers. Any magical trouble her side of the family got them into she was always able to set things right again, then resume doing the dishes by hand or waiting in grocery store checkout lines, happy to have Darrin and Tabitha to love and nurture.
In Samantha’s mind she had done something far more magical than anything her supernatural associates could boast: she had found true love and acceptance with a mortal who saw her the way she saw herself, as a woman first and a witch second.
At the same time Darrin earned their keep at the New York-based advertising agency McMann and Tate where he had already proven himself a capable and creative executive before meeting his magical destiny. His boss, Larry Tate, a tall man with thick white hair and a charm usually reserved for snake oil salesmen, considered Darrin his right-hand man despite an unwillingness to show it with a long overdue promotion.
And despite the magical and mortal obstacles in their way, the Stephens were happy together and went about the business of their days like any other fully functional American family...almost.
Another Sunday gave way to Monday and Samantha awoke, dressed in a fetching red top and blue Capri pants and began her familiar routine of making breakfast for Darrin and Tabitha the mortal way. Tabitha sat in her booster seat blithely playing with her favorite toy, a brightly colored stuffed pony, until Samantha took it away to clear her place for cereal. Tabitha concentrated on the pony across the room, put her finger to her nose and moved it in a juvenile imitation of one of her mother’s more frequent methods of accessing her supernatural abilities by twitching her upper lip.
Samantha sensed Tabitha’s use of magic and plucked the pony from midair before it reached the young witch, who pouted at her spell being intercepted. “Tabitha, mustn’t twitch,” Samantha scolded. Using her power of premonition she sensed her husband’s approach. “And Daddy’s coming,” Samantha warned her.
“Good morning, beautiful ladies,” Darrin said cheerfully as he kissed his daughter on the forehead and embraced his wife. He searched the table for the coffee pot. “Where’s the coffee, Sam?”
“Coffee? Oh, you were quicker coming down this morning than usual, darling. I’m afraid it’s not ready yet.”
“No problem. I’ll make sure Tabitha eats her cereal while I wait,” he answered amiably.
“Thank you, sweetheart. My, but someone’s in a good mood this morning,” she remarked as she scrambled his eggs.
At that moment Endora appeared behind her son-in-law wearing lavender and green silk robes, her standard witch’s garb, and make-up more befitting a cocktail party than an early morning visit to her daughter’s house—again, Endora’s standard. She held an ornate silver cup of steaming hot coffee out to her son-in-law. “Here you are, Donald,” she cooed.
“Thank you.” Darrin absently went to take the cup from her as he wiped cereal from Tabitha’s chin. He leaped to his feet with the realization that his mother-in-law had magically appeared and conjured up the coffee.
Although Darrin had grown somewhat accustomed to the magic around him, he knew his mother-in-law delighted in defying his and Samantha’s “no witchcraft” rule. And he impulsively gave her her desired reaction every time: almost instantly his smile faded and an affected sneer—reserved just for Samantha’s brood—replaced it. When he spoke his tone lost any signs of civility and courtesy and took on a powerful combination of annoyance, fear, helplessness and irritation.
“On second thought, no thank you, Endora,” Darrin said through gritted teeth. “How many times must I remind you that I refuse to accept anything created by witchcraft?”
“Oh relax, Dimbulb,” Endora drawled in a deceptively soothing tone. “I was only offering you a cup of coffee, not the Pyramids at Geeza.”
Endora, pleased as always with her son-in-law’s reaction, petted Tabitha. “And how’s my little witchlet today, hmmm?” she said sweetly.
“Hello, Grandmamma,” Tabitha chirped her standard greeting and laughed as she always did when her playful grandmother popped in.
“Molehill or mountain,” Darrin pressed, “it’s still—” he began, then his eye caught Tabitha’s. “M-A-G-I-C,” he spelled out in a whisper.
“Yes, it is,” Endora replied, “and I have a few more tricks up my sleeve, too.” She raised an arm over her head and concentrated on Darrin, fully intent on turning him into a frog. She mentally recited her incantation and brought her arm down to target and execute.
Samantha leaped in front of him as quickly as a bodyguard spotting a sniper. “Mother, don’t you dare!” she half-warned, half-begged.
“Very well.” Endora lowered her arm hesitantly. “But I don’t understand you, Samantha. I mean, a witch with your abilities and background married to this mortal fool and surrounded by his kind.”
Samantha steeled herself for this all too familiar argument and wondered how to lock out a mother who has no need of doors—then mused whether or not she even wanted to try. Although life with Darrin was everything she had wanted it to be, Samantha knew she couldn’t entirely escape her roots. Her last four years living in the mortal world had made her aware of that. How different she felt from them. And how hard they were for her to understand. She considered Darrin a wonderful guide through the land of the mortals.
“Mother—” she started.
“I don’t understand why you and Tabitha don’t come home right now with me,” Endora continued.
“Try again, Sam,” Darrin said. “She was only listening to herself. And Endora, as we’ve been over a hundred times before, she loves me. That’s why we stay together.”
“Yes, Dumbo, but would she still love you as an iguana?”
“Mother, stop it,” Samantha said listlessly. She knew a simple plea would not stop Endora once she had an idea in her head. “I know you don’t like it, but I love him and I’ve never been happier. And your granddaughter loves him, too, if that strikes any chord in you.”
“Give up, Sam, you’re getting nowhere. But I have to get somewhere and soon.” Darrin kissed his wife good-bye.
“Good-bye, Daddy,” Tabitha said and raised her blond head up so Darrin could kiss her as well.
Endora looked at her granddaughter smile at her father and actually concentrated on the familiar scene for the first time. She wouldn’t admit it yet, if ever, but she recognized the happiness the mortal seemed to bring Tabitha and Endora doubted anyone else could ever replicate that feeling in the little witch.
When Endora looked up from Tabitha, Darrin was gone and Samantha was looking at her curiously. “Penny for your thoughts, Mother?”
“I-I was just thinking...” Endora briefly toyed with being direct with her daughter, but a few millennia’s worth of omnipotence and pride made it hard to concede. “…what a shame it is that you didn’t marry one of those handsome warlocks you use to date, like George or Rollo or...”
Samantha took a deep breathe and exhaled slowly. Eight o’clock Monday morning was no time to have this debate and she told Endora so. Married life and motherhood had given Samantha the impetus she needed to be more direct and forthright with her mother. How else would Endora realize this wasn’t just a passing fad or a momentary preoccupation? If nothing else, she inherited Endora’s pride; and Samantha was very proud of her family and all that she and Darrin had already accomplished together. “Thanks for the visit, Mother dear, but I’m never going to regret my marriage, not even in a thousand years’ time.”
“No need, my girl,” Endora sighed in mock defeat and prepared for takeoff by raising her arms over her head. “I regret it enough for both of us.” She waved her arms, brought them down and disappeared before her wrists met her waist.
Tabitha looked up at the ceiling, “Good-bye, Grandmamma. I love you.”
Endora’s voice alone wafted back into the kitchen and echoed throughout the room, “I love you, too. Grandmamma will see you soon.”
Tabitha smiled proudly at being able to reach her grandmother on the wind as she often observed Samantha do. Although too young to verbally articulate it to the grown-ups, Tabitha was having fun with her powers and anxiously awaited the next way Endora would teach her to use them.
Samantha looked up at the ceiling, too, and sighed, “Oh, my stars. Tabitha, will things ever change between them?”
Her expression softened as the child looked up at her. “It be ok, Mommy. You see.”
“Good morning, Mr. Stephens,” Betty Wilson, Darrin’s secretary at McMann and Tate said as she noticed him walk in the office.
“Good morning, Betty. Is Mr. Tate in yet?”
“Yes, sir. He’s with a Mr. Smith in his office.”
“That gives me just enough time to dump my stuff on my desk and head in there. If Mr. Tate sticks his head out tell him I’ll be right in,” Darrin cheerfully instructed as he went into his office, the morning’s in-law trouble a distant memory as his head filled with the business of the day.
He put his briefcase on the desk and turned to walk back out the door. He stopped short as Endora’s determined gaze met his eye. “Do you really have to do that?”
“You can’t run away from it forever, Dum-Dum,” Endora said, ignoring his question. “You’re going to have to face the facts sooner or later.”
“I’d love to stay, but I’m expected in a meeting, so—what facts exactly?”
“The fact that your wife is a witch. I’m a witch. Even your adorable offspring is at least a half-witch. There are more witches in your immediate family than mortals, you know.”
“These are facts I can’t deny, but they’re not new.” He glanced at the door and hoped that Larry didn’t decide to use it just then. Explaining his mother-in-law would be less problematic if she wasn’t in her flying suit. “Endora, if you’ve got a point to make then please do so.”
“The point is the fact that we’re witches seems to be the only one you’re interested in. Have you ever even asked Samantha how it’s all possible? Or exactly when she was born? Or me for that matter?”
“I’d assume it was around the time of the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria’s maiden voyage,” he shot at her.
“You’re lack of imagination and natural curiosity is only equaled by your lack of humor,” she retorted.
“Endora, it’s not that I don’t appreciate you swooping down and stirring up the cauldron, but those questions would only open a whole new can of worms for us, believe me.”
“Very well, but I would think that you had gotten all of the facts before marrying my daughter. You mortals are so cautious and suspicious by nature.”
“That should prove me the exception then, shouldn’t it?” He smiled as Endora had no reply. “And Samantha didn’t tell me she was a witch until after our wedding, as if you didn’t know.”
“Then I would say it’s time you were given the proper options to make this choice,” Endora mused, more to herself than Darrin.
“What choice?” he asked and looked down at his feet in frustration. On one hand Darrin knew that Endora loved Samantha a great deal and that their bond was too powerful for him to break, but so was his and Samantha’s. He wished Endora could see that he respected their mother-daughter relationship out of love for his wife. Why couldn’t his mother-in-law do the same out of love for her daughter? If not for her witchy tricks and no-mortal-is-good-enough-for-my-daughter attitude, Darrin often thought he would like his mother-in-law just fine.
“Whether or not to stay married to a witch,” Endora said. Darrin looked up then and simultaneously saw her disappear and his office door open.
“Darrin,” Larry said as he walked in with a tall, distinguished man behind him holding a bowler hat in one hand and a book in the other, “we were expecting you in my office.”
“I’m sorry, Larry. I had to reply to a message as I was heading there.”
“You see, Mr. Smith, there’s the kind of detail-oriented man you’ll have at the helm of your book’s promotional campaign,” Larry said as he smiled at the client. To Darrin he gave a half-stern, half-pleading look and said, “This is Mr. Smith, Darrin, one of Great Britain’s top philosophers and author of the country’s latest best seller Know Yourself, Know Others.”
“It’s an honor, sir,” Darrin said, shaking his hand.
“Now you are flattering me a bit,” Mr. Smith said. “I’m just a thinker. A brilliant one, but just a thinker. We’re a dime a dozen. France has Voltaire and Sartre, Germany has Nietzsche, even you Yanks have Einstein. England has me.”
“Well, I guess honor was the wrong word,” Darrin said and endured an uncomfortable half-second of silence.
“Stephens, have you ever stopped and wondered?” Mr. Smith began and ended.
“About what, sir?”
“Everything, chap. Why are we here? What is our ultimate purpose and function? Are human beings the only intelligent species in the universe?”
“Well, I can’t say that I have, Mr. Smith,” Darrin admitted sheepishly. Smith looked at him with a raised eyebrow.
“You will, Stephens, you will, after you read my book,” he said and thrust a copy into Darrin’s hand.
“Read it?” Darrin said and noticed the thickness of the tome in his hand.
“Of course,” Larry interjected quickly. “How can you work on this campaign without knowing the product?” At this last word Larry noticed a pained expression come over the author’s face.
“Please, Mr. Tate, I realize that crass commercialism is essential to the success of our venture, but I must insist that you recognize this volume for what it is—a great work of art.”
“Heh heh,” Larry nervously squeaked. “Of course, my apologies. Darrin, I want you to drop everything and get cracking on absorbing this work of art.”
“This great work of art,” Smith corrected.
“This great work of art, Darrin. And we’ll discuss some preliminary promotional ideas tonight at eight o’clock when Mr. Smith, Louise and I see you and Samantha at your house for dinner.”
“My house? For dinner? Tonight?”
“Very good, Darrin. You really have an ear for languages,” Larry said dryly and to Mr. Smith, “Come along, and I’ll introduce you to the head of our art department. I’m sure she’ll consider illustrating your philosophies a challenge.”
“As well as an honor,” Smith said. “See you tonight, Stephens.”
“Looking forward to it,” Darrin managed.
“We’ll be there with bells on,” Larry chimed in.
“Bells on?” Smith repeated. “Oh, yes, American slang. It does take getting use to.”
As Larry shut the door Darrin caught his ear, “Lar, why my house again?”
“Your account, your house. I don’t make the rules, Darrin.”
“Of course you do—you’re the boss.”
“Hey, that’s right,” Larry chuckled. “Thanks for reminding me. Call Sam and set it up, ok?”
“Aye aye, captain.” Darrin gave his most sarcastic salute and dialed the house.
Samantha was just coming downstairs from putting Tabitha down for her nap when the phone rang. She sensed her daughter stir slightly at the sound and quickly twitched her upper lip. The receiver floated to her outstretched hand.
“Oh, hi, Darrin. How’s your day going?...You’re apologizing in advance of what? A new client and the Tates at eight?...Sweetheart, it’s fine. Tabitha’s down for her nap and—” just then Endora popped in next to her daughter. Samantha jumped slightly. “Mother!”
“Samantha, we’ve got to tell Durwood the facts if he wants to see this marriage through.”
“No, Darrin, I didn’t say ‘Mother.’” Samantha grimaced at Endora. “I said ‘oh, brother’...No, I’m not changing my mind about tonight. I was distracted, darling. That’s all....I love you, too. Think you can sneak home early and give me a hand?...Ok, but try sweetheart. I miss you, too...Bye.”
Endora stifled a disgusted exclamation until Samantha hung up. “Really, dear, you act as if you’re still honeymooning.”
“So what if I am?” Samantha said. “Who says the honeymoon has to end?”
“I would imagine the obstetrician,” Endora replied coolly.
“Ho ha!” Samantha crossed the dining room to the kitchen to start dinner preparations.
“And the Witches’ Answer Sheet,” Endora hurriedly called after her.
Samantha stopped in her tracks as she raised her hand to push open the swinging kitchen door. She slowly, almost cautiously, made her way back to Endora and looked her in the eye. “Mother, why did you bring that up?”
“Why do you think, Samantha?”
“Only one reason I can think of—you’ve found the perfect way to destroy my marriage.” Samantha worked to maintain an even tone.
“You call it destruction, I call it a test,” Endora smirked.
“Mother, have you talked to Darrin since this morning?”
“Yes, I have. And I was appalled.”
“Utterly! And I don’t know at what more, his ignorance of our history and potency or your embarrassment at sharing it with him.”
“I’m not embarrassed, Mother, I just—”
“Oh, please, Samantha. That boy thinks witches are all just twitch, wham, and zap. He doesn’t have even a rudimentary knowledge of our abilities, like where they came from and how they work.”
“So? Why, Tabitha knows more about how she accesses her talents than her own father does.”
“Mother, Tabitha is a witch; she should know. Darrin is a mortal. You know as well as I do that the more he knows the more freaked out he’s going to become.”
“Samantha, are you trying to dissuade me or make it irresistible?”
“I’m trying to impress on you that this is not something to fool around with...even if it would prove your point.”
“He may just surprise you, you know. Look at all he’s been through so far. And he’s still here,” Endora reasoned.
“Well, that’s true,” Samantha had to admit. But she knew this was different. Seeing magic firsthand was one thing, but having a blueprint for it was something else entirely. “But even so, Mother. This isn’t a risk I’m willing to take.”
“Isn’t it Darrin’s decision, dear?”
Samantha blinked in disbelief. “You got his name right. That can’t be good.”
Endora put her arm around her daughter. She knew Samantha had been nervous in this marriage from the start, but now she seemed almost terrified for its survival. As much as Endora hated seeing her offspring in such a state, she couldn’t think of a better way to rid herself of Darrin once and for all. “I just think you should be honest and open with Darrin about everything. Isn’t that what good marriages are based on?”
“Were you honest and open with Daddy all of the time?”
“I said, ‘good marriage,’” Endora almost spat out. “Let Darrin read the Witches’ Answer Sheet, Samantha. Don’t have your marriage plagued by any more doubts. Tell him the whole truth about yourself. Then give him the freedom to accept you with all of the facts at his disposal.”
“Gee, I never thought of it like that,” Samantha said sincerely. “I guess as long as he wasn’t asking questions, we were happy ignoring the details.”
“I’m no psychologist, my girl, but even I know that that can’t be healthy.”
Samantha paused a long moment before speaking again. “All right, Mother. I’ll give Darrin the Witches’ Answer Sheet myself. Ok?”
“But I’ve come so far already, Samantha!” Endora protested.
“Mother, please! Darrin needs a courier who’s more sugar than strychnine.”
“Very well. When are you going to do it?”
“I’ll wait for the right cue. Tonight is bad though. Darrin is bringing home the Tates and a client, Mr. Smith. He’s a published philosopher. Maybe you saw his book in London your last visit? Know Yourself, Know Others?”
“No, dear. It doesn’t ring a bell. But a philosopher in the house should make for an interesting evening,” Endora mused, formulating a plan.
“It certainly should. And I’d better get moving with dinner.” She kissed her mother and walked toward the kitchen. She turned back to Endora. “And you promise you won’t give the Witches’ Answer Sheet to Darrin before I do? Witches’ honor?” Samantha held her index and middle fingers on either side of her nose in the witch version of the Boy Scout pledge.
Endora grudgingly returned it. “Witches honor. I promise not to show Darrin the Witches’ Answer Sheet.” Content that the subject was mercifully closed for the moment, Samantha smiled at her mother and disappeared from view on the other side of the kitchen door. “But I didn’t promise not to show it to anyone else,” Endora chuckled. “I wonder what a philosopher would make of such a document.” And with that she raised her arms and disappeared.
“Honey, I’m home,” Darrin said early that evening as he walked through the front door. Samantha rushed in from the kitchen already dressed for dinner in a subtly sexy black silk dress with a satin navy blue bow at the back and appropriately low black high heels. “And what a formal greeting,” he laughed as he admired her look.
“Oh, you,” she chuckled coyly. “I just thought for once I’d save myself some time and be ready well before company arrives. Tabitha’s already been fed and is in her room waiting to say hello to Daddy, who is later than usual, I might add.” Samantha crossed her arms and feigned annoyance.
“I know, darling, and I’m sorry to stick you with all of the preparations as usual, but I had to concentrate on absorbing as much of this book as I could before dinner. I figured staying at my desk after everyone left would ensure me some peace and quiet.”
“Well, I think I’m ready to bluff my way through an evening discussing this ‘great work of art’ with its author.”
“You mean it’s that good?” Samantha took the book from Darrin and read the front and back covers.
“Well, the author seems to think so. Sam, have you ever been to England?”
“Oh, yes, darling, of course.”
“Are all English men as intense as the one I met today?”
“Well, in person Shakespeare wasn’t nearly as stuffy as people today make him out to be.”
“That’s nice to kn—” Darrin stopped. “I didn’t realize it had been that long since you had been to England.” Samantha gave Darrin a shy grin. “Nevermind.”
“At least for tonight,” Samantha muttered to herself.
“I’d say it’s going to be an interesting evening, for better or worse.”
Endora appeared behind Samantha just then wearing her usual lavender and green robes. She waved silently at Darrin. “Make that worse,” Darrin said as his expression audibly soured.
“Uh-oh, I know that tone,” Samantha said without turning around. “Hello, Mother.”
“You look lovely tonight, Samantha.”
“Thank you. But what are you doing here?”
“You called me to babysit, didn’t you?”
“No, I didn’t, Mother. The Tates and Mr. Smith are coming here tonight, so Tabitha is fine.”
“Oh, I must be getting confused in my...creeping middle age,” Endora said wistfully.
“Let’s face it, Endora,” Darrin said, “in the Middle Ages you were middle-age.”
“Darrin!” Samantha chided. “That was uncalled for. Now you apologize to Mother right now.”
“You’re right, Sam. Endora, I’m sorry.”
“As am I,” she replied.
“For what?” Darrin quickly picked up the cue.
“This,” and Endora pointed above his head. A bucket of ice water appeared and poured down on top of him.
Samantha gasped and gave Endora a disparaging look. “Ta, dear. Enjoy your evening.” And with a dramatic flourish Endora disappeared, leaving the echo of a hearty laugh in her place.
Samantha snapped her fingers and a bath towel appeared, which she handed to her dripping wet spouse. “Darrin, you’d think after all of these years you would have learned that Mother always gets the last word.”
“Well, I had to shower for dinner anyway.”
“Daddy!” they both heard from the nursery.
“You better go say hello to your daughter and then get dressed. They should be here soon,” Samantha gently prodded him. “Tell Tabitha I’ll be up in a minute to tuck her in.”
As Darrin came downstairs after dressing he noticed the empty bucket still floating in midair. “Uh, Samantha?” He said, not seeing her in the living room. Then the doorbell rang.
Samantha dashed from the kitchen and called out behind her without looking back, “I’ll get it, Darrin.”
“No, Sam, wait.” But she had already opened the door.
Mr. Smith was the first to walk in. “Nice place you have here, ” he said more as a courtesy than an opinion, and noticed the bucket. “What is that?”
Samantha used the opportunity of taking off Larry and Louise’s coats to turn them away from the bucket as she quickly waved her hand and made it disappear.
“What is what, Mr. Smith?” Darrin asked coolly as he walked down the rest of the stairs to greet them.
“Stephens, I saw an old-fashioned wooden bucket hovering in midair right above where you’re standing.”
“A bucket?” Larry said and laughed nervously.
“Is this a test?” Louise asked cheerfully. “A philosophy riddle or something? ‘When is a bucket not a bucket?’ Something like that?”
“Louise, please,” Larry said.
“Nevermind,” Mr. Smith said and took Samantha’s hand. “You must be Mrs. Stephens. Your husband didn’t mention you were such a lovely woman.”
“Thank you,” Samantha said indifferently.
“You know, Mrs. Stephens,” Mr. Smith said as he linked an arm in hers and walked them toward the sofa, “where I come from all women are extremely attracted to highly educated and incredibly intelligent men such as myself.”
“Really?” Samantha said in genuine disbelief. “It’s a shame there aren’t any English women here then.”
Larry laughed and elbowed Louise to follow suit. "Sam’s a real card, Mr. Smith.”
“Real card?” Mr. Smith reiterated. “More of that American slang. You people never tire of it, do you? But if she was a card I’d guess the Queen of Hearts.”
“How sweet,” Samantha said, rising from the couch. “If you’ll excuse me, I’d better see to my dinner.”
“Need some help, Samantha?” Louise offered.
“Thanks, Louise. But I’ll be all right,” she said, and then whispered in her ear, “Maybe you can run a little pass interference for me with the ‘philosopher.’”
“No, thank you,” Louise giggled. “I have a pretty good idea what his philosophy is already.”
“Say, who can use a drink?” Darrin offered, clapping his hands together for attention. “I know I can.”
“Me, too,” Larry said and Louise nodded. “Our usual, Darrin.”
“And for you, Mr. Smith?”
“Nothing alcoholic, Stephens. I want to be sharp for discussing your ideas for my campaign,” he said with a touch of disdain as he watched Darrin hand Larry a Scotch and soda. “And I’d imagined you gentlemen would, too. Right?”
Larry stopped the glass just before it met his lips. “Uh, right,” he relented and handed Louise his glass.
“Well, just let me bring Samantha hers in the kitchen and I’ll be right with you,” Darrin said as he turned to go.
“That’s ok, Stephens,” Mr. Smith said quickly and snatched the drink from his hand, “I want to get a glass of water anyway. I’ll take it to her.” And before Darrin could utter a polite word of protest Mr. Smith was already at the kitchen door.
Darrin turned to follow and Larry grabbed his arm, “Where are you going?”
“Where do you think? In the kitchen to make sure he doesn’t put any of his philosophies to the test on my wife.”
“Darrin, relax,” Louise said. “Samantha is as annoyed at his behavior as you are.”
“Besides, we have to huddle quick before he comes back,” Larry added. “Now what did you come up with for him?”
“I have five ideas.” Darrin showed Larry the fingers of his right hand and curled them up tightly, “and they really have punch.”
“Darrin, this isn’t helping. Do you want to blow this account?”
“No, of course not, Lar. But I don’t want to use my wife as bait either.”
“You’re right,” Larry agreed.
“Yes, Darrin, I can’t ask you to treat Samantha like that.”
“Thank you, Larry.”
“We’ll use Louise instead.”
“Hey!” Louise said, standing up. “I’m not going to be—” and the rest of the words froze on her tongue as Samantha came back into the living room with Mr. Smith on her heels, dabbing a fresh wet spot on the front of his sports coat with his handkerchief.
“Dinner should be ready in about ten minutes, everybody,” she said. “Darrin, would you make me another martini, please?”
“You finished that first one awfully quickly, Samantha,” he said.
“Oh, I didn’t finish it, darling.” She looked in the philosopher’s direction. “I spilled it.”
Darrin turned to the bar to make her drink and froze midstep. Samantha, Larry, Louise, and Mr. Smith all were motionless as well. A peal of thunder and a crack of lightning erupted in the living room as Endora appeared next to the philosopher. She laughed and pointed to the coffee table. A piece of ancient looking parchment materialized. Thick red lettering scrawled across the top read: “The Witches’ Answer Sheet.” Endora snapped her fingers and the document slid in between the pages of a magazine on the table.
Endora made a vague motion around Smith’s head and incanted, “This English mortal on foreign soil, will find the sheet and over it toil, to bring the answers to light for Derwood, then let all but the Stephenses forget what they should.” She let out a witchy cackle, raised her arms and simultaneously unfroze the room and disappeared from view.
Samantha glanced all around, sensing magic had just happened that she was not privy to. Mr. Smith noticed her look of apprehension. “Anything wrong, Mrs. Stephens?”
Darrin brought Samantha her drink and put an affectionately proprietary arm around her waist. She put her head on his shoulder in response. “Nothing at all now, Mr. Smith.”
“How....” Mr. Smith groped for the right word, “charming.” He gritted his teeth. Then a bell rang inside his ears and his actions ceased to be his own. He sat down on the edge of the couch and took the Witches’ Answer Sheet from where it was hidden inside the magazine. “What’s this, eh?” he mused and read out loud. “‘The Witches’ Answer Sheet.’ What a curious title.”
Darrin turned pale and hugged Samantha tighter, more to keep him on his feet than as a sign of affection. She quickly leaned in to support him, but felt wobbly herself.
“The Witches’ what?” Larry asked.
“Answer Sheet, Tate,” Mr. Smith replied. “And from the looks of it this document must be several hundreds of years old.
“Really?” Louise said, taking a closer look.
“Most curious,” Mr. Smith commented. “The paper is faded and yellowed to an extent I’ve never seen before, but notice how it’s completely intact. By all rights this sheet should have disintegrated when I touched it, but it’s as strong and sturdy as a page printed today. Here, look how legible every character of lettering is, even in blood red.”
“Blood red?” Darrin said quietly to Samantha.
“Well?” she sighed in a tone he knew meant the explanation would not be a simple one.
“Darrin, where did you get this?” Larry asked, hoping his interest matched their client’s. “It’s probably worth a fortune.”
“Wh-what? That?” Darrin stammered. “I-I can honestly say this is the first I’ve seen of it, L-Lar.”
“It reads almost like scripture, listen to this,” Mr. Smith said excitedly. “‘At the start of everything the Creator populated the heavens with a hierarchy of angels. Archangels served as the highest order below the Creator and mortals fell in line below the angels. The Creator then made the earth and put the mortals on the soil to care for their new world and those creatures called out of nothingness to inhabit it. The seraphim were given dominion over the natural order of things and the cherubim were charged with invisibly overseeing the mortals on earth.
“‘The Destroyer however, who was cast out of the heavens by the Creator and occupied a strata below the mortals under their living earth, made his own minions, similar in form to the mortals, and unleashed them upon the Creator’s world. They were called witches and the Destroyer invested them with power over nature: equal to that of the angels, yet opposite in intent.’” Smith paused then and sighed. “What a fantastic fiction.”
“Well, don’t stop there,” Louise pleaded.
“Yeah, go on, Smith,” Larry chimed in.
“Very well. ‘The witches in their mortal guise subtly tore at the fabric of the earth. It was only those with an excessive pride and arrogance in their Destroyer-given abilities that were found out by the mortals and destroyed by fire, only to rise again in new, but equally malevolent forms, such as bats, snakes, spiders and wolves. The balance of nature became that of good against evil. And out of necessity a new order of angels evolved from this conflict and showed themselves to man in his dreams, and to witches in their hearts.
“The oldest and strongest of the witches resisted the internal tug to good and continued the Destroyer’s work. But the young ones, specifically the first generation of witches born on earth, chose to use their abilities, their witchcraft, to aid the angels in keeping the balance of nature.”
“Keeping the balance of nature by supernatural means?” Darrin murmured and looked to his wife for confirmation. She averted his gaze.
“Is anyone hungry? Dinner’s ready,” Samantha said loudly, snapping everyone in the room to attention. “We don’t want it to get cold,” she concluded in a near whisper.
“That sounds great, honey. Shall we?” Darrin said, motioning his company to rise and proceed to the dining room.
“Stephens, please!” Mr. Smith said, clearly annoyed. “Are you telling me after all I’ve just read you have no compulsion to investigate this further? You really are devoid of any thoughts not on your draftsman’s table, aren’t you?!” There followed an uncomfortable silence in which Darrin debated introducing the philosopher’s face to the floor.
“In a manner of speaking, I guess you could say that,” Samantha interjected.
“What?” Darrin said and noticed Samantha’s expression. It told him she had the ball and that he should let her run with it.
“You see, Mr. Smith, my husband has a great respect for your work And he’s been in a bit of a quandary over how to approach introducing it to the American public. Isn’t that right, dear?” Samantha looked at Darrin, who was ready for the pass off.
“Yes. Mr. Smith, you’ve already built a solid reputation among this country’s literary and philosophical communities as one of the best and most versed professionals in your field.”
“True, true,” Mr. Smith said.
“Your hardest sell will be to average Americans,” Darrin reasoned. “So we need to grab their attention straight away.”
“You mean with this Witches’ Answer Sheet business?” Smith asked. “I’m not sure, Stephens.”
“Yes, Stephens,” Larry said nervously.
“Believe me, sir, McMann and Tate are the best and most versed professionals in our field,” Darrin argued. “We know what needs to be done to get this market to buy your book.”
“Use this witchy claptrap for my own personal gain?” Mr. Smith turned the idea over in his head as Larry glared at Darrin.
“Keep in mind all of that detail can be reworked or refined to suit the needs of the book,” Darrin continued. “What I propose is using some of the more fully explored concepts in the Witches Answer Sheet that reflect those in your book.”
“I’m getting the picture now, Stephens,” Mr. Smith said. “You mean like an image of an angel and a witch side by side pitted in battle? Good vs. evil inherent in all man? That sort of thing?”
“Exactly. Guide your readers to, as your book’s title so eloquently states, Know Yourself, Know Others.”
“And the caption could read....it could read....” Larry stumbled.
“Friend or foe? Read this book to get in the know,” Samantha said on an impulse.
“Get in the know?” Larry repeated without enthusiasm.
“Another example of that American slang, eh, gentlemen?” Mr. Smith laughed and playfully jabbed Darrin in the ribs. “Well, that is our audience. I’m sold.”
“And I’m sure the American market will be too, Smith,” Larry said with relief. He jokingly punched Darrin in the arm and whispered, “You son of a gun.”
Darrin smiled and caught Samantha’s eye. He mouthed “thank you” and she replied with a silent “I love you.”
“Well, everyone, shall we dine?” Samantha said, leading her guests to the dining room.
Darrin hung back as the group left the living room and snatched the answer sheet from the table. As soon as he began to read the words the document disappeared. He clenched his suddenly empty hand into a fist and whispered, “Friend or foe. Which one are you, Endora?”
“Well, Stephens, thank you for dinner,” Mr. Smith said later that evening as he shook Darrin’s hand. “I’ll see you tomorrow morning bright and early to discuss the details of the campaign.” The philosopher moved close to Samantha. “And dear lady, meeting you has been the highlight of my trip to the States.” He bent down to kiss her hand, which she pulled away quickly and waved good bye.
“Cheerio, Mr. Smith,”
she said. “Good night, Larry, Louise.”
Just then Endora appeared in front of the Stephenses. “Well, children, how was your evening?”
“As if you didn’t know,” Darrin said, angrily moving toward her.
Samantha put a soothing hand on his chest to stop him.” Sweetheart, don’t you think you owe Mother a thank you?”
“Thank you?” Endora asked.
“Yes. The Witches Answer Sheet gave me the angle I needed to sell my campaign to the client,” Darrin grinned.
“I really must stay close by to oversee my plans next time,” Endora said bitterly.
“It wouldn’t hurt,” Samantha offered. “Then maybe Darrin might not have gotten the account.”
“Thanks, Endora. That yellow sheet is going to make me some serious green,” Darrin gloated.
“But you only saw the first part of it, Derwood,” Endora said, extending her hand and conjuring the Witches’ Answer Sheet. “You haven’t seen the rest of it.”
“That’s true,” Darrin said, taking the page from his mother-in-law. He glanced at it briefly and then ripped it in two. Then he ripped it again and threw the fragments into the air. On their descent the pieces put themselves back together so the page fell whole again to the floor. Samantha smiled proudly at her spouse. “You see, Endora, I could read the entire book that page came from and it wouldn’t change what I feel in my heart every time I look at your daughter.”
“Oh, Darrin,” Samantha gushed as he held her close and kissed her tenderly.
“But what about our ages?” Endora said desperately. “Samantha is more than 300 years old, you know.”
“Mother!” Samantha shouted angrily. “That’s enough!”
“Three hundred years old?” Darrin said awestruck.
“Yes, Derweed. Because of our unique abilities, like quick transformation and time travel, our metabolism is different from you mortals. We age roughly 10 times slower than the average human. Although Samantha looks 30, she’s actually 300 years old.”
Darrin studied Samantha for a moment. “And what a gorgeous 300-year-old you make.”
“And she could live forever if she so chooses,” Endora added.
“Or not,” Samantha said. “If I ever wanted to pass into the next life I’d only have to recite a spell to divorce myself from my powers. Then I would become mortal and—”
“Your metabolism would become that of a human and catch up with your age,” Darrin concluded.
“That’s why you don’t see any 300-year-old mortals walking around,” Samantha explained. “Hard to walk when you’re made of dust, even for a witch.”
“And if that doesn’t shock you, Dumbo,” Endora continued, “look at this.” When Darrin looked at Endora she raised her arms and seemed to disappear, but Darrin noticed a faint bluish, white light linger where she had stood.
“Where did she go?” Darrin asked Samantha.
“She didn’t go anywhere, Darrin. That’s her,” and she pointed to the brightness in front of them. “We all look like that when we’re not in mortal form. How do you think we fly?”
“I’m missing the connection, Sam,” Darrin said.
“Well, humans can’t fly, so we revert to our original form, which is kind of a light source, and travel that way. When we arrive at our destination we reappear in human form again.”
“So you mean witches fly at the speed of light?”
“Yes, Darrin,” Samantha said.
“Wow! I’m impressed.”
Endora appeared in front of them again and looked at Darrin with exasperation. “You’re an idiot! You now know all of this and still haven’t run screaming into the night?”
He kissed Samantha again and turned back to his mother-in-law. “Nope.”
“You’re either very brave or very stupid,” Endora commented.
“Or maybe I’m just more in love with your daughter than you care to admit?” he offered.
“No comment,” Endora said flatly, but wondered silently if she should give this marriage’s motivations further consideration.
“And maybe underneath all her troublemaking Mother has my interest in heart more than you’ll admit?” Samantha asked Darrin.
“No comment,” he said and grinned in spite of himself.
“Mother? You surrender?” Samantha asked hopefully.
“Surrender? Never!” Endora said haughtily. “But perhaps for the moment a strategic retreat is in order. I’m leaving!” With a strong gust of wind and some showy lightning, thunder and smoke Endora disappeared.
“Darling, I love you,” Samantha said. “And you love me, even after what you found out.”
“Samantha, this surprises you?” he asked.
“Well, let’s just say I was on the fence about your reaction.”
“Hey, sweetheart, there are a lot of things you found out about the mortal world after we wed. Did any of that make you less in love with me?”
“No, it didn’t,” she beamed. “I love you and if that’s true then nothing in your mortal world could ever frighten me away.”
“So why did you expect less from me?” he asked plainly.
“Because for a split second I forgot that you’re a cut above the average mortal. And I’m sorry for that,” she answered honestly.
“And I’m sorry if my over-the-top reactions to magic make you doubt being able to trust me with its secrets,” Darrin said sincerely. “That was never my intent. No matter what, I love you and I always will.”
“I know that now, sweetheart,” Samantha said. “And I’ll remember it forever.”
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