From the 2008 issue of True Love Magazine:
Sometimes, you just have to fall in love with a witch. . . .
I sat in my car close enough to listen to the purring of the bulldozer’s engine, observing a group of people in front of the bridge—thinking only about how much this delay was costing me.
I heard that a group of locals were complaining about the destruction of this bridge. They called it a local landmark, but I couldn’t see anything all that remarkable about it. I mean, it was just a covered bridge that looked as if it belonged in a time gone by.
A young woman who appeared to be the leader of the group stood in front of the bridge, flanked by her followers. What she lacks in size, she made up for with determination. She’s not beautiful in the traditional sense, but she’s so cute I couldn’t take my eyes off her. When it comes to beauty, I’ll take cute over beautiful any day. If I believed in magic at this point, I would have sworn I’d been enchanted.
After I slammed my car door, everyone turned to look at me. As I passed the guy on the bulldozer, I said, “We’re not going to get anything done today. You might as well go to a job where you can actually get some work done. I’ll try to straighten out this mess and get back to you.”
“Sure, boss. Anything you say. Good luck,” he said and glanced toward the unruly crowd before shutting down the engine.
I glanced down at the gravel crunching beneath my feet as I strode toward the group. When I came face to face with the brown-haired girl, she stuck out her pert chin in defiance.
“I didn’t realize that tearing down an old bridge was going to cause such a commotion,” I said.
“If you read your mail or answered your telephone, you would have known that this is more than just an old bridge. It’s a landmark, part of our history. And no one here wants it torn down.”
I looked at the group and said, “Folks, the bridge isn’t going to be torn down today, so you can go home.” I then turned to the young woman and said, “My name is Clyde. Could we go someplace and talk?”
She gave me a look that said she wasn’t sure whether or not she could trust me, as I looked into her dark brown eyes. Then she accepted my outreached hand in a handshake. “Hi, my name is Denise, but my friends call me Dee.”
I smiled and said, “I’d like to be friends, so is it okay if I call you Dee?’”
“Only if you agree not to tear down the bridge.”
“I can’t promise you that, but I will listen. And you can tell me why this bridge is so important to you.”
Denise began walking, so I followed her. As we approached the bridge, all I saw were rotted boards and rotted timbers. This structure would not be safe for automobiles to cross.
“There’s a legend,” she began, “that this bridge was enchanted by a witch back in the 1700s. Lovers who declared their love and kissed each other on the bridge would be granted a magical bond and would be in love forever.”
“So, you believe in magic and witches, do you?”
She smiled and said, “Of course. Don’t you?”
“I could have sworn a few of the women I’ve dated are witches, but there was never anything magical between us.” I was being flip, but the pain from my last relationship was still pretty fresh. And I’d be carrying that baggage for a while. More than anything, I wanted a fresh start.
Denise laughed and said, “Maybe you just haven’t met the right woman yet.”
“Is there someone special that you’ve kissed on this bridge?”
“No, not yet. But I want the bridge to be here when I meet someone special. I want to be able to seal our relationship here, like my mother and father have . . . and her mother and father before her.”
In spite of myself, I couldn’t help but feel the love she felt for this dumb bridge, and I wanted to tell her I would save it for her.
We continued to walk around. The situation did not get better. There was nothing that could be saved. The whole structure would practically have to be rebuilt. Even then, it would not be big enough to handle modern automobile traffic. I couldn’t think of a way to save the bridge.
“I inherited the property when my grandfather passed away. I plan to reopen the hotel, and I’d like to be a part of the community. I certainly don’t want to cause trouble even before I get moved in,” I said.
“I’d like to see the old hotel open again,” Denise said, looking in the direction of the hotel. “It was special. And I don’t think I would mind having you for a neighbor.”
“I plan to hire local people to help me get her back in shape, then I plan to buy the food we serve here from local merchants and hire local people to help me run the place. So, you see, my plan will benefit the whole community, not just me.”
“That sounds terrific.”
I took a deep breath because I knew Denise was not going to like what I was about to say. “I like urban legends as much as the next person, and I think your story is romantic and that’s good, but don’t you think the bridge would be a small sacrifice if we could improve the economy for the whole neighborhood?”
“No!” she exclaimed. “We have to save the bridge!”
I pointed out the problems with the rotten wood and told her how much it would cost to rebuild. The only reasonable solution would be to tear down the bridge and build a new one.
Denise’s gaze met mine and I felt lost in her big, brown eyes. “I’ve got a personal reason to want to save the bridge. You see, I’m a witch.”
I laughed. “Well, you’re stubborn and a little annoying, but you’re cute enough to get away with it. I wouldn’t call you a—”
“I’m a witch! It’s true. My mother is a witch. My grandmother is a witch. I come from a long line of witches. My great-great-great grandmother was the witch who enchanted the bridge.”
“Okay, in that case, can’t you just enchant another bridge?”
“I don’t have the power my grandmother did. A witch as powerful as she was doesn’t come along all that often.” She looked at me and said, “Spells get stronger over time. A new spell could never be as strong as my ancestors’. It just couldn’t. . . .”
“So, magic spells age like wine,” I said, and touched her face.
She jerked and pulled away from me. “You’re making fun of me.”
I felt hurt that she would think that about me. “I’m teasing a little bit, but I would never make fun of you. I love your story. It’s . . . really romantic. But I’m stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place. I could tell you that I would save the bridge, but I don’t see how I can. I have to have a bridge for my guests to be able to get to my hotel. Without it, I have no business. Can’t you see the position I’m in?”
“Yes,” she said. She looked down for a moment, and then looked back at me. “But you are renovating the hotel. That’s going to take some time, so you don’t have to tear down the bridge right now. Give us some time to think of something. Would you at least do that?”
“Okay, but if we don’t think of something—”
“We’ll think of something,” she insisted. “We have to.”
I was starting to feel hungry and I wanted an excuse to spend more time with Denise. “So, is there some place around here we can get something to eat? I’m starved,” I said, trying to change the subject.
Denise smiled. I was convinced she could walk into a freezing room and warm it up just by smiling. “As a matter of fact, there is. It’s not far. We can walk,” she said as she took my hand and began leading me down the road.
As we walked, we left the road and followed what looked like a bicycle trail, just wide enough for us to walk side-by-side. Tall trees shaded the mid-day sun, and the gentle murmur of the creek flowing beside us gave the place a serenity I’ve never felt anywhere else. If there were a place where magical things could happen, this would be it. This was a far cry from the bustle of the city I was used to, and it was already beginning to feel like home.
The fragrance of hickory smoke wafted through the air as we approached a log building with a sign in front that said: Crenshaw Family Restaurant.
“Let me guess,” I said as I glanced at Denise, “your last name is Crenshaw.”
“Good guess,” she said and smiled.
She led the way through the front door. Inside the dining area was filled with booths and wooden tables and a bar along the wall that separated the dining area from the kitchen. The far wall was framed by a huge fireplace and woodbin. The effect was old fashioned and homey. I loved it.
Two of the ladies I’d seen at the bridge earlier emerged from the kitchen area. The older of the two women walked up to us and looked us over. “I don’t see any injuries, so I guess everything worked out okay.”
“Clyde said he would help us find a way to save the bridge,” Denise said in an excited voice.
“Clyde, is it?” the lady responded. “I’m Lola and this is my daughter, Iris. She’s Denise’s mother.”
“Nice to meet you,” I said and smiled as I shook hands with each of the ladies.
“I’ll be back in a minute,” Denise said, then disappeared into the back.
“I guess Denise explained how much the bridge means to us,” Lola said.
“Yes, Ma’am. She did,” I said. “I hope we can figure out a way to save it.”
“I’m sure if we put our heads together, we can think of something,” Lola assured me.
“The bridge is important to the community,” Denise’s mom said in agreement. “We have to find a way to save it.”
At that moment, Denise showed up carrying a chicken drumstick. She handed it to me and said, “Eat this now. It will keep you from starving while I pack us a picnic basket. We can eat at the bridge, if you don’t mind.”
“Sure; that’s fine with me.”
I made small talk with the two Crenshaw women as Denise packed our lunch. I learned that Denise’s father died when Denise was a baby. He was killed in a military training accident. Her grandfather died of pneumonia a few years before that. After her father’s death, Denise’s mother and grandmother opened the restaurant.
A few minutes later, Denise returned, carrying a blanket and a picnic basket. She handed me the picnic basket and said, “Okay, let’s go.”
We retraced our route and placed our picnic on the blanket on the creek bank beside the bridge. I tossed a pebble into the water and watched the ripples it made. We ate barbecue chicken and drank iced tea. I planned to have a restaurant at my hotel, but I quickly decided that it wouldn’t serve barbecue. There would be no competing with the Crenshaws’ barbecue.
“Save room for dessert,” Denise said, removing a chocolate cake from the picnic basket.
“I can always make room for chocolate,” I assured her.
“Me, too. Chocolate’s my favorite food.”
I smiled as we looked at each other.
“So, what are you thinking?” she asked.
“I was just thinking that nothing says lovin’ like something from the coven.”
“That’s bad,” she said and laughed.
“I know,” I agreed and laughed, too.
I propped up on an elbow and looked at the bridge. “You know, even if I could save the bridge, a lot of the rotten wood will have to be replaced. It won’t be the same bridge when I’m finished.”
She shrugged and said, “I know. But replacing a few rotten boards will be okay, as long as the heart of the bridge is still intact. And its heart is sound.”
I smiled a dumb smile and said, “I didn’t know bridges have hearts.”
“They do,” she insisted. “This one does, anyway.”
A frog jumped onto our blanket and I reached out and touched him before he jumped away. “Is that an old boyfriend who had a fight with you? I think he still likes you.”
Denise grinned, then gave me an exaggerated dirty look. “You’ve got a totally wrong idea about witches. We’re not evil or mean or—”
“Ugly,” I interrupted.
“Thank you,” she said, blushing. “Real magic isn’t the way it’s portrayed on TV.”
“Probably not,” she agreed. “Real magic uses natural forces, for good . . . to help people, not hurt them.”
“So you can’t use spells to make people fall in love with you?”
She laughed. “Only in the movies.”
I smiled again as I looked at her. At the moment I was feeling totally content, something I hadn’t felt in a long, long time, so maybe there was something to this magic, after all.
That night, back in an area of the hotel I turned into my apartment, I scanned the blueprints of the hotel lying on the drafting table.
What did I get myself into? A hotel this far out in the middle of nowhere wasn’t going to make a lot of money in the first place, so how could I justify spending more money restoring a bridge I couldn’t even use for automobile traffic? I’d literally have to build another bridge and also restore this one.
I looked at the drawing. The old bridge was not built in an ideal spot. If I built another bridge further upstream, I would have a creek bed that has more gravel that could better support a larger bridge. The road would also be straighter and give a better first view of the hotel. Yes, that’s what I’d have to do.
I had an idea. I’m not sure if it was inspired or insane, but what if I used the old bridge and its legend to attract honeymoon couples to my place? I could build my hotel with the idea of catering to honeymooners. I could build a bike trail that would follow the creek and cross the old bridge. Couples could take their time and enjoy the view and serenity of the creek and maybe even picnic along the creek bank, the way Denise and I did, and then seal their marriage with a kiss on the bridge! I could build hot tubs and maybe a heart shaped swimming pool with a floating bar!
I was so excited that I began to draw, making necessary changes to my blueprints.
Sunlight poured through my window before I realized how long I had been working. I must have been running on pure adrenaline because I wasn’t even tired—just excited. I took time to take a shower and shave and change clothes before I started out to find a place to get breakfast.
Okay, so there was never any question about where I was going to get breakfast. This time I drove, and inhaled the fragrance of hickory smoke as I parked my car outside the restaurant. A few other cars were scattered about the parking lot, but it was far from full.
Denise carried a tray to a table as I walked in. “Sit anywhere you like,” she said as she placed the couple’s food in front of them. They smiled as they caught the look that passed between us.
I was starved, so I ordered a huge order of pancakes, eggs, and sausage, along with toast and orange juice. After Denise turned in my order, she came back out and sat with me until my order was ready. I was so excited as I told her about my idea for the hotel.
Then I saw the look of shared excitement change to a look of horror. “I’m sorry, but you can’t do that. That’s so crass—and commercial! No. I’m sorry. No. I would never charge a couple to kiss on my bridge!”
“I never said anything about charging couples to kiss on the bridge. I would never do that. All I wanted to do was to provide a romantic atmosphere for couples, some of whom would be on their honeymoon.”
“Heart shaped swimming pools and hot tubs . . . that sounds like a carnival atmosphere to me. Why don’t you just sell tickets to kiss on the bridge?” A tone sounded, letting her know my food was ready, so she jumped up and brought my food out for me.
By the time she placed my food in front of me, I was beginning to lose my appetite. “What’s wrong with wanting to create a romantic atmosphere for people who are in love?” I paused and looked at her. “People going into marriage today have about a fifty-fifty chance that their marriage will some day end in divorce. Why wouldn’t they want a romantic atmosphere and maybe share in a little magic to improve their odds of having a happy and long-lasting marriage?”
Denise sat with her elbows on the table and her chin propped on her fists. “In order for the magic to work, the couple has to really and truly be in love. Half of the people who get married today don’t know what real love is. They don’t have a clue about what marriage is supposed to be. Promising them that the bridge’s magic will work for them would be a lie.”
I sat and pushed my food around on my plate. My initial enthusiasm now vaporized. I could go on with my plan with or without Denise’s blessings. But, for some reason, having her on board with me meant more to me than it should have. “I’ve got to go,” I said as I got up from the table. “I’ve got some thinking to do.”
“You haven’t finished your food.”
I shrugged. “I guess I wasn’t as hungry as I thought I was.”
Denise’s words were still ringing in my ears the next day, as my contractor began working on the new bridge. I also decided to do general maintenance on the hotel, rather than start any major changes. I looked over my drawings again and again, trying to figure out if what Denise said could be true. I finally decided to go to the old bridge and remove some of the rotted boards.
One by one I ripped off the old boards and threw them into the Dumpster I rented.
As crazy as it sounds, at some point I began to talk to the bridge. I asked, “What do you want? Is what I planned to do wrong? Give me some sort of sign.” Unfortunately the bridge was uncommunicative and I was frustrated when I knocked off for lunch.
I stocked my kitchen and decided to eat in, rather than go to Denise’s restaurant. She was the last person in the world I needed to see right now.
After I finished my lunch, I sipped coffee and sketched on an art pad. In my drawing, the old bridge began to take on a new shape. I would keep the original frame, but make renovations that would enhance the appeal of it. I added a clock, whose hands were made from the gnarled roots of a tree.
I also made changes to the hotel. The hot tubs didn’t disappear, but became smaller and more intimate. The colors became subtler and in earthy tones. The floating bar got moved to make the pool more intimate. Rope lighting replaced lamps. The size of the hotel was scaled down to accommodate fewer guests at a time.
Denise cleared her throat, making me jump because I didn’t hear her come in. “I’m sorry. The door was open, so I just—” she explained.
“It’s okay.” I paused and looked at her. “What can I do for you?”
“It’s just . . . I didn’t want to leave things the way they were yesterday. I brought lunch . . . as kind of an olive branch.”
“Thanks, anyway, but I’ve already eaten.”
“Okay, so maybe you’d like some chocolate pie for dessert.”
“Pie sounds good,” I said. She removed the pastries from a hamper.
“Can I look?” she asked, referring to my drawing.
I hesitated, not sure I wanted more criticism, but said, “Sure; go ahead.”
She looked at my rendering of the bridge, then began to smile. “Where did you get the idea for the clock? That’s incredible. I love it.”
“I don’t know. I guess it just popped into my head.” I smiled as she looked at my drawings.
“This is much better. This will make people feel more like guests, rather than customers. Thanks, Clyde.”
After I finished my pie, I said, “I’ve got to get back to work.” I started toward the old bridge.
“Can I watch?”
“No?” Denise seemed surprised.
“Okay; grab a pry bar and a hammer.”
She laughed, then picked up the tools and followed me.
Actually, I could probably have worked faster by myself, but it wouldn’t have been as much fun as having Denise to laugh and talk with. Our conversation seemed so natural. She told me what it was like growing up as a witch. I shared stories about when I was growing up. I told her about my dream to build my own place, which I was going to call Serenity.
At some point I gave in to an urge and leaned in to kiss her. Denise jerked away frantically, and moved away from me. My feelings were hurt and I looked at her to see if I had totally misread the situation. “It was just going to be a kiss. What’s the big deal?”
She looked down before looking back at me. “Anywhere else a kiss wouldn’t be a big deal. But here it is. Here it’s a very big deal.”
“Okay,” I said. “I guess we should call it a day. Thank you for your help.” I gathered up the tools without looking at her, then headed back to the hotel.
“You’re welcome,” she said and walked toward their restaurant. It was then that I realized I didn’t even know where she lived.
Oh, man. I did misread the situation. I kicked myself for thinking Denise was attracted to me. I would definitely have to show more restraint in the future or risk losing our friendship.
The next several days passed without me going to her or her coming to me. A part of me was hurt, but another part of me thought the separation was a good thing. It would give my feelings time to cool down. I concentrated on my work and worked from daylight to dark, until I was too tired to go on. Then I fell into my bed and fell asleep from exhaustion. And if things weren’t screwed up enough, I dreamt about kissing a witch on her sacred bridge.
The next morning I decided I wanted to see Denise. If we were going to be friends, I couldn’t let what happened seem like a big deal. So I decided to eat at her restaurant. I decided to walk because I needed the exercise.
As I marched up to the front door, I inhaled the hickory smoke and began to relax. There’s something about hickory smoke that’s like a tonic for the soul. Inside, Denise and her mother were waiting tables as I entered and sat down.
Denise smiled and said, “I’ll be with you in just a minute.”
I waved and picked up a menu. As I decided what I wanted to eat for breakfast, I overheard a muted conversation. I looked up to see Denise’s mother and grandmother talking to each other and exchanging glances at me. When Denise walked over to my table to take my order, Denise’s mother gasped. They both came over to my table.
“The bridge has been talking to you,” Iris informed me. “You have an aura.”
I felt a little uncomfortable. “I hope that’s a good thing.”
An older lady at a nearby table said, “It’s so nice to see young people in love.”
“What?” I asked.
“When Denise stood next to your table, your auras merged. That means you are destined to be in love. You are soul mates.”
I was embarrassed and laughed. “What? Are you some kind of witch, too?”
“As a matter of fact, I am.”
I was beginning to think I should have eaten cereal at home this morning.
Denise informed me, “Several of our friends are witches.” She then turned to the woman and said, “Clyde and I just met recently and we’re getting to know each other. We are definitely not in love.”
“You may not know it yet, but you are in love,” she said with certainty. “Give it time, and you’ll see.”
I looked at Denise. “I don’t even know where you live.”
“Actually, we live right here. Our house is next to the restaurant.”
I looked at Denise’s grandmother and asked, “If the bridge is talking to me, what is it saying? I haven’t heard anything.”
“You won’t hear anything, but everything you do will be influenced by what the bridge tells you to do.” Lola smiled at me and then looked at Denise. “I’ve never seen a couple’s auras as strong as yours. You two have powerful magic.”
I looked at Denise. “We haven’t actually been out on a date yet.”
“No, we haven’t,” Denise confirmed.
“So, if I asked you to go out on a date with me, would you?” I asked.
“You’re just going to have to ask me and find out.”
“Okay, would you go out on a date with me?”
“I’d love to,” she said, smiling.
Everyone around applauded and Denise blushed and took a bow.
Our first date was to the harvest dance. There, I met more of my neighbors and we celebrated their excellent harvest this year. Everyone said their good luck was influenced by the magic of their friends, who were witches.
This was a totally new experience for me. To me, going dancing meant going to a club and learning new hip-hop moves. But I was actually having the time of my life at a square dance. People swirled around the dance floor in time to the music.
Later we ate a picnic lunch. My neighbors told me how they met their significant others—and that they all kissed on the bridge after they were married.
During the next several months, Denise and I dated and worked to get my hotel ready for guests. I hired several of my neighbors to help me with this project, but they became friends, as well as employees. My old life seemed as if it happened a long time ago, and for the first time in a long time, I was really happy.
Finally, the day came when Serenity was ready to be opened for guests. This was also the day I asked Denise to marry me.
We walked hand in hand to the old bridge, where we first met in the afternoon sunlight. I looked into her big, brown eyes and said, “I love you, Denise. Will you marry me?”
As she looked back into my eyes, I could feel the power of the bridge. There was real magic here. “I’d love to be your wife,” she replied. “I want to have your children. We can teach them about love and magic and an old bridge.”
We then kissed and experienced the true power of the bridge. I felt like I was living the story from a romance novel. “Wow,” I said. I couldn’t think of anything else to say, but that said it all.
“Wow,” she agreed.
“I guess that only leaves one question. Where would you like to go on our honeymoon?”
She smiled and looked at me. “Where could we possibly go that’s better than Serenity?”
After our wedding, we spent the next two weeks making love, walking or biking by the creek, soaking in a hot tub, or swimming in a swimming pool. I felt so insanely in love that I wanted to try every fairy tale cliché I’ve ever heard, so I asked for one of Denise’s shoes. Then I poured champagne in it.
Denise laughed hysterically as I sipped the champagne, then immediately made a horrible face. I smiled at her and said, “Okay, maybe that wasn’t such a good idea. I’m sure champagne would taste better out of a glass slipper, rather than a leather one.”
I felt as proud as a new papa the first night we had guests in our hotel. We gathered around the swimming pool and each of us held a champagne glass and I said, “My dear guests, I feel like Mr. Roarke from the TV show, Fantasy Island,”
I looked at each of these honeymooners and said, “I know a lot of you came here not believing in magic. But you won’t leave that way. Enjoy. And if you ever need to recharge your magic, remember, we’re here. Now, go have fun!”
As the couples scattered to make their own magic, Denise turned to me and asked, “If you get to be Mr. Roarke, who can I be?”
I traced her lips with a finger, then kissed her. I thought for a moment and said, “Hmm . . . can you say, ‘The plane! The plane!’?”
She hit me.
That year was the most magical year of my life. I got to save the heart of a bridge—and marry a witch! Now, how often does that happen?