The Way Things Had Been

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BEWITCHED

Meg Coulson was a witch.

There was no question about that. Which always led to the­ next question - “Was she a good witch or an evil witch ?” -­as if witches were somehow trained in two different colleges.­ One turning out good witches and the other evil ones.

It doesn’t happen like that. Witches are like doctors­ (whom they closely resemble) or lawyers (whom, unfortunately,­ they resemble in some aspects) or any other professional person. They are all trained in the same sort of way and learn­ the same sort of things.

They can be good witches or bad witches the same as­ doctors can be good (you’re cured) or bad (you’re not) Just­ the same as lawyers who get you off, so that you can spend the loot, or get you put away so you wife does it for you.

The difference between good witches and evil ones is the­ same as between (let’s keep to doctors) good doctors who go to­ Africa and treat lepers and evil doctors who dig up bodies and make Frankenstein monsters. It is all a question of the person­ concerned.

In may cases the same person can be both - depending on­ the time of the month or the circumstance. Take Meg, for­ instance. There is no doubt that when she cured Tommy Martin’s whooping cough; or Mrs Watkin’s sciatica; or even Tom Hodge’s drinking problem she was a very good witch indeed. But what do­ you think of a witch who made every new, high priced car that­ Freddy Armstrong bought behave like a clapped out jalopy one­ day after he got behind the wheel? Meg had a real way with­ cars - for good or bad.

But you had to take in the circumstances. When you are a­ very beautiful, 24 year old woman - which is a fair­ description of Meg - you tend to get a bit uptight when you­ are stood up on two different dates to which you have been­ looking forward. That’s what Freddy did. He was very sorry about it afterwards - when the cars started going wonky. He­ was even very sorry about it after he left town - the country, ­and the cars still kept going wonky. But it was too late then. Meg had compressed her normal full red lip mouth, set her well­ moulded chin and put an expire by date on the curse which­ would outlast Freddy. Even if he lived to be 320 years old. I really don’t think he would. It’s not usual.

So you see you have to give the matter some thought. ­Especially if you are going to be receptive to her problem. And I do want you to be receptive since I have a very nice car­ of my own and I would hate it to start acting like - like­ Freddy’s.

Meg’s problem was very simple. She was single and she did­ not have a beau. (Being a witch she tended to be old­ fashioned) This, to a woman who loved marriage, home and kids,­ was vexing.

Yes, she could, and did, cast spells to bring the men to­ her door. Even the men of her village who were petrified of­ her. I mean they had cars too! But they came because, when she­ cast a spell, they had no option.

But the trouble with these general spells is that they are­ not selective. They simply made every man who came within­ their ambit do a cartwheel and come to her door lugging­ flowers that they had bought, pinched or collected on the way.

Like Tug Fergus who was at least ninety and on his third­ wife - not suitable. Peter Marks who was at the other end of­ the stick, being fifteen and very wet behind the ears. Joe Fawn­ was 28 and divorced (twice) and, as he spent most of his time­ in the various jails in the area, he was not much good. And­ when you discounted the postmen, milkman and dustmen she did­ not have much real choice.

Because she was very fastidious and demanding. In fact, she­ knew just the sort of man she wanted to be the father of her­ children.

His name was Greg Ranford.

He was ideal. Don’t you think the idea of Greg and Meg a­ harmonious combination? Besides which he was 29 - which she­ considered a good age. Tall and blonde as a Viking - which she­ adored. Only his profession was doubtful - he was an­ accountant.

You know what accountants can be like ? Grey suited men­ armed with adding machines and accounts books which they had­ to consult every time before they ordered the next drink. But,­ after a little study, Meg found that Greg was not like that at ­all. He walked with a laugh in his step and poetry in his­ head. Now how much further can you get from the stereotyped­ accountant?

You are probably now thinking that the answer was simple.­ All she had to do was to cast a spell specifically aimed at­ Greg and then order her wedding dress.

Well - she knew that too. But there was a problem - there­ always is. To cast a specific spell you had to have something­ of the person concerned. Like nail clippings, or hair or even­ an article of personal clothing. No - I am not going to be more­ specific. Your local witch will be able to tell you. I mean­ there are limits, you know.

Once she got any of those items she could start ordering­ that wedding dress. But - she couldn’t get them !

The men in the village knew almost as much about witches’­ spells as did Meg. Especially when it applied to them. Nail­ clippings were carefully destroyed. When they had their hair­cut they practically counted every strand and made sure that­ all were burnt. And their items of personal clothing were­ sealed in vault like structures.

Looking at Meg you might think that they were mad. After­ all Meg looked the sort of woman that poets have gone bananas­ about trying to think up fresh eulogies of praise.

But Meg was a witch - which is where I began. How many men­ do you know who would willingly take a witch into their lives­ to rule and dominate them for ever more. I mean marrying a woman that you loved is bad enough. But a witch !

(And in saying this I am just trying to explain the­ totally incorrect and wrongful attitudes of the men of the village. I could not condemn this strongly enough as I do love­ my car!)

So Meg’s problem was to - somehow - get a particle of Greg­ to enable her to obtain the whole of Greg. And this was on her­ mind as she hurried into the village that fateful Saturday morning. She was determined to make or break her marriage­ effort. It was a very auspicious day indeed.

That was according to her horoscope. She had cast it that­ morning and all the omens were in her favour. Especially the­ romantic ones. She had even cast Greg’s horoscope and it indicated the same thing. Which was good - and bad.

Sorry to be confusing like this but that is the way it­ gets when you are in the realms of witchcraft and magic. You see, Greg’s horoscope indicated that he was very prone to a­ love encounter himself that day. That was good. Provided that­ love encounter was with her.

If it was with any other woman.....!!!!

Well, if you had seen the look on Meg’s face when she­ considered that aspect you would have shuddered to think of that­ poor other woman, and of Greg’s car as well.

Meg decided that Thelma’s tea and coffee shop would be the­ best place to start. Firstly she could have a good cup a tea­ and a Danish. Then she could also pick up all the gossip that was going. Thelma was very happily married to Ted Davis. And­ that had been something that Meg had very ably arranged.­ Thelma was, and remained, very grateful.

Because Meg was in a hurry she did not display her usual­ caution in her headlong rush through the streets of the­ village. Or maybe it was the Fates who looked after the­ Designer of Horoscopes. In any event she turned the corner of­ Thelma’s shop, into Main Street, and crashed full into the person who was about the enter the same place.

Meg pitched to the ground and a very worried and disturbed­ man hung over her.

“Are you hurt? I am very sorry - but you came from out of­ nowhere - which is what I expect is your normal style.”

“Coming from nowhere is not my normal style,” snapped Meg­ who was rather shaken. “I came from around the corner. How was­ I to know that you were occupying the entire landscape ?”

Then she looked up - straight into the blue eyes and­ worried face of Greg Ranford. Straight away her anger vanished­ and the half conjured bad spells she was thinking about (circumstances remember!) turned into thoughts of witchery­ guile.

“Well, don’t just stand there. You might help me up!” The­ words had a bite to them but the tone was honey.

“Oh yes, of course,” groaned Greg as if he was the one who­ was hurt. He gingerly reached down and - fearfully - touched­ her.

“I don’t bite,” she snapped. Really miffed. What she­ wanted him to do was to crush her to his manly breast and pour­ words of love in her ear. Not treat her as if she was­ contaminated or liable to explode.

“No,” moaned Greg. “You don’t bite.” Clearly he would have­ been happier if she did. He slid his hands under her arms and,­ with one quick movement, lifted her up, stood her on her feet, and stepped smartly away before her feet retouched the­ pavement.

“You seem fine,” he said with a sigh of relief.

She glared at him. “Is that all it takes to satisfy you?­ I seem fine? As it is I think my ankle is badly sprained.” She­ managed a convincing sort of half crumble that made her grab­ the wall for support. “I am also suffering from the traumas of­ the collision to such a degree that I think I am in need of some supportive medication - until such time as I get back to ­my place and really get to work.”

Greg went a little white at her words. “S-sus-supportive­ medication,” he stuttered. “I’ll call for a doctor. Right away. Won’t be a moment.”

“Doctor - absolute nonsense,” she snapped. The last thing­ she wanted! Moreover Dr Trimble would never come near her.­ Being a doctor she had not touched his car. But every dog in the village would make it a life ambition to use his leg for a­ lamppost. Which is what happens when a doctor writes to the­ local newspaper regarding "so called witches practising­ medicine”.

“Nonsense? ” yelped Greg. “Why?”

“Because all I need is a comforting cup of tea.” She­ managed to get that out quite convincingly plaintive. “Which,­ if you were any sort of a gentleman, you would have offered me. Especially as we are outside a tea shop.”

“Tea - tea shop. Oh yes, yes,” agreed Greg. “The very­ thing. Tea.” He tried to slide past her to get to the door, and­ keep space between them.

She decided that it was a good job she was in love with­ him as well as wanting him to father her children. Really, the­ way he was behaving was really very irritating. She would have to do a lot of convincing him about the worth and merits of­ witches.

“And how do you think I am going to be able to get inside­ on my virtually broken ankle ?” she asked grimly. “You will­ have to provide me with some sort of support to get me to a table.”

Then ensued a rather strange interlude whereby Meg, and­ her imaginary virtually broken ankle, did her level best to­ cling to a man who was trying to give her support without­ actually touching her. On an unbiased evaluation, Meg­ definitely won the encounter.

By the time that they reached the table with a gleeful ­Thelma, tipped off by a surreptitious Meg wink, hovering, Greg­ looked more like a man destined for the condemned cell than­ one about to provide tea.

With tea and Danish on the table Meg looked at him­ severely. “Why ,” she demanded ” do you persist in treating me­ as if I had the plague ?”

“If you had plague I could be sympathetic and helpful," groaned Greg. “But you haven’t. You are a woman who is taking­ an unfair advantage of your position to make life hell for­ others.”

Meg raised delicious (in any other women) eyebrows in a­ pixie face and sipped from her cup. “Explain.”

“All women are devious, deceitful and unscrupulous­ persons. Especially any of the breed that are looking for a husband.”

“How well you put things,” said Meg with frost on the­ edges.

“Women use a variety of concealed supports under their­ clothes to achieve a lure impression which is lost in the­ bedroom,” grumbled Greg as he murdered a Danish on his plate.

“My form,” smugly said Meg. “Is all my own and remains­ that way - even nude.”

Greg choked on a gulp of tea. Coughing his way back to­ clarification he continued. “Normal women wear more makeup­ than any normal man can afford to pay for, for the same reason.”

“Whereas I,” said Meg thoughtfully. “Wear a smidgen of­ lipstick, a hint of mascara for those special evenings. All of­ which, plus my creams, I make myself.”

Greg inspected the glowing face before him. Thinking he­ had tea in his mouth he gulp. “Well - yes. That maybe - but­ you don’t need those things. You have OTHER THINGS.”

“Such as?”

“Well - every one knows that you are a witch. So you must­ use witchcraft to make men fall in love with you. Especially­ men that don’t want to fall in love with you - or anyone.”

Meg raised those incredible eyebrows again. “Do you happen­ to know of someone I have bewitched to be in love with me?”

Greg looked at the mess in his plate that was all that was­ left of the Danish. “Yes,” he said. “Me.”

There was a nice cosy feeling inside of her. “So you are­ in love with me?”

“Yes.”

“And you think that I have bewitched you?”

He nodded miserably. “Yes, what other reason is there?′

She considered. “It could be the beauty of my raven wing­ hair that can cascade to my waist.”

He looked. “It is nice. Does it really reach your waist?”

“Yes. It could also be the incredible beauty of my face­ with its emerald green eyes, dainty nose, luscious lips, pearly teeth and milk white skin.”

Greg picked up his tea but, as his eyes were devouring her­ face, he did nothing with it.

“The milk white skin goes all over me,” she said­ thoughtfully.

Greg put his cup down, almost in his saucer, and shook.

“And then, of course, there is the rather lovely body­ which we have already noted.”

Greg was fighting a last ditch stand. “Lots of women have­ all that and I have managed to escape falling in love.”

“But none of them have it as wonderfully put together as­ me. Nor were any of them me, - which makes a difference.”

“Yes - you’re a witch.”

“No. I am your mate. And you know it.”

He had to drive her home, of course. Even had to carry­ her into her cottage since she could not walk the distance to­ her door. As he placed her on her couch she stretched in a way­ that brought the perspiration to his forehead.

“You know,” she said thoughtfully. “If this is the way you­ feel now, once I have cast a spell, you will have no hope.”

He backed away. “But you need nail clippings - or hair.”

“Yes,” she said. Opening her hand and disclosing the hair­ clipping in her hand. “I always have a small scissors with me­- and when you carried me in just now...”

He sat down in a chair abruptly. “So I haven’t a hope.”

“None.”

“What do I do now?”

She considered the matter. “Your best move is to come­ here, kiss me, and ask me to marry you. I am rather old-fashioned that way.”

When he had done all that he sat with her and looked at the­ milk white skin and - everything else. “Exactly what did you­ use to bewitch me ?”

She smiled her witch smile. “Just me - and love.”

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