Photography by Gale Zucker. Model Ali Weiss
At first she didn’t know a spell had been cast upon her husband. They had known each other since they were children. They’d grown up together and went to school together and loved only each other and had married young. Their lives had been braided together for good times and bad. For years they were not only lovers but also best friends. There had never been an unkind word or an argument. Then the woman began to notice small changes. They were so tiny, like a moth in the palm of your hand, but fluttering, all the same, full of life. The first change was that he could not sleep. He left their bed when the stars came out and wandered through the woods. He lost interest in their farm. The fields were left untended and the cows came to the barn crying to be milked. Then he did not answer when she spoke to him. He did not even seem to hear her. His thoughts were elsewhere; he seemed to speak another language. He said words she hadn’t heard him say before: betrayal, secret, lie. He did not eat the meals she offered him. He came home from his walks with his boots neatly polished to a fine shine, as if by magic. He wore a sweater she had never seen before. And then one day his pale blue eyes turned green.
Then she knew. Something had begun.
She went across the meadow to her dearest friend’s house, a friend so dear she was called Darling, for she was so sweet and good. The woman told Darling of her fears. She was losing her husband a little more each day. “It’s the witch,” Darling told her. Darling was plain- looking, but she dressed well. She always made certain her black leather boots were polished to a fine shine. “The witch has enchanted him. You must go to her and beg her to let him be.” The dear friend gave her a small bottle. “Drink this when you’re in the witch’s presence and it will protect you from harm and force her to tell you the truth.”
So the woman went to the twisted tree where the witch had lived for a hundred years. Everyone knew the witch was best left alone. Witches are easily angered and one never knows how they will react to an accusation, but the woman who was losing her husband was desperate. She knocked on the oak door. When there was no answer she let herself inside. There was the witch at her spinning wheel. The yarn she spun first appeared to be the color of the earth, then it shifted to the meadows in spring, then at last it became the color of the tree where the witch lived.
“Who asked you to come here?” the witch said.
“Please,” the woman begged, “let me have my husband back. Don’t take him from me.” “You can have him,” the witch told her. “I never wanted a husband. How dare you accuse me!”
The woman reached into her pocket and took out the bottle that Darling had given her for protection. When she opened it the room smelled like almonds. Just as she was about to drink, the witch threw a knitting needle that shattered the bottle. The liquid burned everything it touched. Sparks of the poisonous fire of envy sparked around her on the earthen floor.
“Whoever gave that potion is the one who is enchanting your husband,” the witch said. “She wished to do away with you so she could have him for her own.”
The witch and the young woman sat at the table. They had become allies. The witch mixed up a tea made out of the leaves of the tree that was her home. The fragrant green tea would make the husband sleep for as long as Darling’s spell was upon him. “While he sleeps this is what you must do if you still want this man. Knit a circle and do not stop. Knit it as long as infinity, for love that is true never dies, and love that is meant to be cannot be stolen.”
The young woman took the yarn the witch gave her. It was the color of the earth and the trees and of the sort of love that could defeat envy. She gave her husband the tea and he fell into a deep, untroubled sleep. Then she set about with her knitting. On some nights she heard footsteps outside. They circled the cottage. On other nights someone beat her fists against the door. She heard her dearest friend’s voice calling to her husband, but she didn’t answer. She kept knitting. She knit through the summer and into the fall and through the winter, and when she was done she looped the cowl around her throat and woke her husband. When he saw her he recognized the way she loved him and he remembered that he loved her in return. They never spoke about the friend again, and they never saw her either, nor did anyone else in their town, although the old witch sometimes comes to the market wearing good black leather boots, polished to a fine shine.