A long, long time ago, on the same street, in the same town, there lived a pregnant woman, a spineless man, and a witch.
The spineless man was the father of the pregnant woman's baby. The witch was in love with the spineless man, and the spineless man was in love with the pregnant woman.
The pregnant woman lived alone and loved no one.
The witch, madly besotted with the man that was unaware of her acidic passion, went to the pregnant woman. She threatened her; she shrieked curses; she shouted spells that left burnt patches on the walls and knocked over bookshelves.
The pregnant woman waited, patiently, and when there was a lull in the witch's insanity, she simply said, If he wants you, take him, though I would desire to show my child her father, if only for a handful of moments.
The witch cackled madly and exploded a hole in the wall. Hiking up her skirts, she stepped through it, crowing over her shoulder as she did a final insult: I will send you a letter every cold-season; why don't you show those to your little brat instead?
When the witch was gone, the pregnant woman replaced the spilled books upon the shelves and shifted the furniture to cover the singed spots in the butter-yellow wallpaper. The hole in the wall was quickly filled in by a group of village boys, all vying for the pregnant woman's attention. She gave nothing to them but vague smiles and a handful of nickels, and they left, complaints drifting after them in a cloud of surliness.
The witch, meanwhile, went to the spineless man's house and told him of her visit. The man (being spineless) feigned joy, but the witch saw through it, and pressed him. Immediately, he admitted to being in love with the woman the witch so despised; furiously, the witch transformed him to a newt on the spot.
While it was satisfying seeing him wriggling helplessly across the liquor-stained rug, the witch's rage still collected in her lids and slipped down her chin; ruthlessly, the witch ground the newt beneath her heel and set off for the woman's house, intending to do much, much worse.
Scornfully, she shoved through the newly-patched hole and forced the pregnant woman to her feet. The woman's face reflected only polite surprise. Tea? the pregnant woman inquired. There's a kettle steeping, over in the kitchen.
Scoring her nails down the indifferent face she so despised, the witch shook with fury. You - you - you thief! You vile - rotting - man-stealing - thief -
Curses dribbled like wine down her chin; she punctuated every oath with a blow. Blood dripped from the furrows the witch had left along the pregnant woman's perfectly angled chin. Still, the woman made no sound, and her face displayed no reaction.
The witch paused, heaving for breath, and the pregnant woman ventured: The proposal of eloping not go well, then?
You- you- the witch stammered, frantically shaking her by the shoulders. You- you-
Yes, I, the pregnant woman agreed, her head flopping around like a ragdoll's. Anything else we should address?
I curse you! the witch shrieked, pointing at her with a shaking finger. I curse you! Your child will be born dead, and you will die with her, as well! I curse you! Your line will end, and mine will flourish- what use have I for a man so spineless he pretends to feel for me as I do for him, only so I will not grind him beneath my heel as I would a common dust particle?! I will find a new man, but you- you will never hold your child, or raise her! You will die alone! Your child will die, just seconds before she exits your womb- how will that feel? How will that feel, when it is you that has your heart ripped out?! I will be standing by your tombstone, and I will trod on it, and I will laugh! And I will be happy, and it will be you that is overshadowed! And your skin will rot, and boil, and burn, and melt, and I! Will! Laugh!
They remained, for several long, tense seconds- the witch's chest heaving, her bony finger inches from the woman's nose, and the pregnant woman looking at the witch without any trace of fear or grief in her eyes.
Then, suddenly, the pregnant woman laughed. It was a tinkling chuckle, a mocking one, a derisive laugh intended only for formal dinner parties and late-night balls.
The witch's eyes widened, and she breathed faster and faster, heavier and heavier. Did you - did you not - I am not - you - you - you cannot -
Oh, darling, the woman said pityingly, daintily wiping a tear of mirth from her eye. It is you that is cursed, not me. Oh, the tables have turned, have they not?
From out of the witch's throat came a disbelieving croak, much like one a frog would make. How- what- you- no, no, it's not like- I- it's you, not-
Darling, the pregnant woman said, placing a cool palm on the witch's cheek. Oh, darling, let go of your hate, won't you? It is not becoming, my poor, unrequited maiden. It is not attractive.
The hand on the witch's cheek scalded, like it was a red-hot poker, but the witch was rooted in place. Her mouth continued to move, flapping up and down, but nothing came out.
The woman surveyed the witch in a sympathetic matter. Oh, but your hate is deeply rooted, she murmured. It is unfortunate that it must come to this.
It was impossible not to notice that the pregnant woman's bloody furrows were gone, and that her skin was once again perfect and healthy and unmarked.
The witch's skin seemed to be rippling, slightly. What have- the witch croaked. What have you- what have you-
I fixed you, the pregnant woman said calmly- or, was she still pregnant? Her protruding stomach was gone, replaced by rippling folds of clothing, and she was glowing.
The witch's skin rippled and melted and shrank. No, the witch gasped. No.
The woman- the woman with the angel's wings, and the magisterial eyes, and the glowing skin- crouched down, until she was nose-to-nose with the ever-shrinking witch. Yes, the woman said softly. Yes.
I was never pregnant, wicked one, but you were. And, to try to cast a spell on one more powerful than you will never end well. For you, it certainly did not. Quite a mess, aren't you?
The witch's bodily surface was a roiling mess of organs and blood and suffering and inaudible shrieks. The witch was a puddle of her former self, and the not-quite-angel surveyed her, and the not-quite-angel laughed.