Because they both owed first-borns to witches, Richard and Elspeth Garin are the first note in a new love song of the history of witch-kind. Because they did not, as would have been neat and easy, owe the same witch.
The first to arrive on the scene was Datura Williams. Nicely plump and pale blue, she resembled nothing so much as a yew-berry, and she dressed the part, in fashionably tattered garments between robe and dress, both bewitching and bewildering. A real traditional witch, with three cats and a raven at home, all of whom shed on her. Richard cowered appropriately when she arrived at the Garin’s little apartment in a billowing fog to take her payment. Elspeth was not impressed, and why was proven when Aconite (no last name) the rising star of witch counter-culture arrived.
Aconite was the opposite of Datura Williams in every visible way, being tall and conventionally proportioned, her skin dark as the moonless velvet sky, and her clothing impeccably dapper. It was said she once cut a man with her winged gold eyeliner. The two experienced a thing rumored in witch circles, the impossibly rare True Loathing at First Sight, over the bassinet of the newest Garin. Never the less, they did both have a claim under law, and had enough pride that they settled on a shared living situation.
“But my penthouse is in the Upper East Side!” shrieked Aconite. “Do you know how many witches I had to hex to get it?”
“My bog-house has been in the family for millennia!” retorted Datura.
“It’s in a bog,” replied Aconite dryly. “My penthouse can be child-proofed.”
“That’s… actually a very fair point, but we are not giving the child a normal human name like Mary or something. I won’t use it if you try.”
“I’m thinking she looks like a Hellene, after that woman with the beauty curse.” The baby gurgled and slapped a meaty, pink-splotched hand on her pillow before screwing up muddy greenish-brown eyes and howling until her face matched the wisps of red starting to come in. "Or maybe not," Aconite relented.
“Rapunzel is traditional,” Datura insisted, trying to soothe the screaming infant.
“What about Zelda?” offered Aconite, as she wiggled flashing bejeweled talons at the baby, who became fascinated, but more importantly quiet.
“I can live with that.”
So the two settled down to raise baby Zelda, although they had many different ideas about child-rearing. Datura, always the traditionalist, insisted on seclusion to draw out appropriate Prince types. If she was going to move to a penthouse, she could at least take advantage of the tower effect. Aconite called her a sell-out and snuck spell primer board books into the crib. Aconite brought in seamstresses to make baby clothing, and Datura ran them off before tea. Instead, she made all the clothes by hand, which Aconite begrudgingly admitted were very chic, and completely unique. Datura had a nice eye for colors. Datura eventually admitted Aconite had a point in wanting to give Zelda an education, especially after looking over the available Princes. They weren’t worthy of Zelda’s hand at all. No, not ever. One tabloid in particular led to Datura sweeping in on a five-year-old Zelda’s home potions class to level a summary grounding that banned Zelda from ever interacting with the royal family of Lichtenstein. Zelda took that with more grace than Aconite, who laughed so hard the mandrake root almost escaped its gag and Datura had to take over.
Years passed, and many family adventures were had. Datura relaxed enough to suggest a trip to the zoo, and Aconite learned much of the odd traditions had practical roots. Which became very useful when Zelda demanded they free the polar bears, who were not doing at all well in the zoo. She would never have thought to modify a mirror spell to create a better replacement snow.
Zelda went through the first brushes of puberty and confusion, but her mothers were always there to help her. She learned charms for clear skin from Aconite, and when that failed, how to embrace skin blemishes as a part of witchy beauty from Datura. Neither was wrong, exactly, and both helped her feel more comfortable in her own skin. She went to Aconite when the magnetism spell she used out of Datura’s spell book turned out to be a mistake of hand-written accounting and turned her too literally magnetic, with paperclips stuck to her face. That could have gone better for her, but really, she was at fault for trying something like that without supervision. At least she didn’t erase any of her mother’s credit cards.
As tends to happen, when two people raise a child together, Aconite and Datura started to see less and less of their differences, and more and more of the things they had in common. They introduced their friends to each other. When Aconite’s friends didn’t fully appreciate the hard work Datura put into her cooking, Aconite stopped speaking to the worst snobs, and made it up to her child-rearing partner with a new (if used, because Datura said those were best) cauldron and fie upon the Condo Board who said they couldn’t brew on the deck. She liked not having to do the tedious parts of potion making. She’d rather just step in to cackle at the right moments. Datura also revised her opinion of a few friends as well, who couldn’t see how smart Aconite was to digitize her grimoire and load all her books onto an e-reader. Traditions were well and good, and dear to Datura, but it was Aconite’s quick access to a vast, annotated library that saved the day in the toy store fiasco when Zelda was 7.
Years later, Zelda sat her parents down for a talk.
“Mom, Mother. I think you need to know something, and while I normally trust you to figure things out, I really think this is something I should tell you.”
“Of course, dear,” Aconite said reassuringly.
“Well, I’ve been doing reading on the ways people can love, partly because I’m not sure I will want to marry a prince I meet when he breaks in. I’m sorry, Mother, I know you wanted me to be traditional, but tower princess just isn’t me.”
“Oh, well, I did figure when you started rooting for the dragons on your picture shows, instead of the knights,” Datura sighed. “That’s all right, as long as you’re happy.”
“I am. I’m actually very happy with who I am. You were both wonderful to me, and I’m really happy you agreed to send me to Salem University, my roommate in the dorms and I are chatting online. But when I’m off at school, I want you two to be happy, and it occurs to me… well I don’t think you considered what will happen when I leave.”
“What do you mean?” Aconite asked. “We can be happy.”
“Yes, I believe you can. But are you going to stay together? I don’t want you thinking I’m the only reason the other has stayed with you. You’re my parents, for all intents and purposes, and it seems obvious to anyone who isn’t you two that you’re daffy in love with each other. And yet, you put on this weird pretend game of being the Odd Couple. It’s just worrying.”
“Oh,” Dartura said in shock. In her typically atypical fashion, cyanotic blue lips formed a neat, pursed circle of surprise. “I… but we’re witches, we don’t really… well, there’s a reason we go about kidnapping, trading for, or adopting infants, you know. I thought you’ve had the where babies come from talk. Aconite, you did give her the Talk, yes?”
“Did I... of course I did! She’s going to college next fall. A normal human college with normal human social clubs, and normal human parties with normal human boys, and you know what people say about those! I don’t want her getting in trouble because she didn’t know what did what when and such. She’s been learning anatomy for boil placement curses since she was a child, anyway. It’s not that different to understand where the babies come from.”
Zelda sighed. “You know you don’t have to do baby-making things to be in love, right? You two buy each other flowers, make each other’s favorite foods on days when things are hard, and if it weren’t my birthday, I’m pretty sure you’d still make a deal over the day you two met. You both clean up nicely if you’re having visitors, even if they’re here for one of you. I’ve seen you dance around the deck fire together. You have joint business cards, and I’ve had three different tutors ask when you two will tie the knot officially. You should at least think about if you want to, all the good binding ceremony locations book out years in advance.”
Aconite and Datura looked at each other, suddenly struck dumb by how obvious it was. They’d slowly, without noticing, fallen in love. Datura had gotten used to having Aconite’s delivery man bringing her ingredients before she ever realized that Aconite never used half of those and had just added Datura’s things to her own list. She’d only ever seen it as a gesture of truce, but the look on the more modern witch’s face told the truth. That had been one of those tiny, everyday things that can make the difference between love, and True Love.
Aconite for herself, couldn’t imagine a world without Datura’s red velvet sin-cakes baking in the oven, household books being mysteriously balanced after a hard day drove her to bed without doing them, or the recording of swamp noises that filled the halls at night when Datura couldn’t sleep. The plump little traditionalist made her life so much better, just by being in it.
“Right,” Zelda said awkwardly. “I’m going to go pack more, you two have talking to do.”
As she sprinted from the room before her parents could be kissy at each other, Datura straightened her artful tatters. “Do you… agree, that Zelda has a point about us?” she asked hesitantly.
“I do. We both knew something happened back when we met. I thought it was True Loathing, but maybe I was wrong. I don’t know enough of the history.”
“Well, it’s never been mentioned. Ordinarily, we’re supposed to be repulsive. Sometimes confusingly so, like Cerci of legend with her unnatural charms, but on some level repellent. We weren’t made for the love of a man, is how the books put it.”
“I don’t know about you, but I know I’m not a man,” Aconite said. “You know, I wonder… True Love's Kiss often breaks curses….”
“Being a witch isn’t a curse,” Datura said primly. “And true or not, I don’t love you enough to want my powers gone in exchange. Also, I'm not at all sure I even want to try kissing. It seems rather more passionate than I really care for.”
“Oh, I know that, I wasn’t wondering about that, I like my powers. And kissing seems like there's enough of a range of types we can find something calm enough not to upset you. I was wondering can we use what we have… to make a curse remover usable by other people? Maybe there are people who feel about love like you feel about kisses. We could afford that Raven Aviary you want with the money a True Love curse-be-gone would bring in.”
And so they lived happily, if oddly, ever after. Datura and Aconite did some experimenting and patented a True Love powered curse lifting elixir for people without enough time to spend in a coma or turned into a frog and no desire to find a True Love to kiss them. Zelda grew up and became a dragon rights activist on the forefront of the Speak Truth to Tower movement. Richard and Elspeth Garin did quite well in obscurity, and the tale was reduced to a simple theme…
Witch meets Witch.