Married now, this is a story from Penny and Zelda’s courtship.
Standing beneath the foxfire lamppost, the vampire needlessly touched up her black lipstick. Her makeup, far more stylish and put together than the normal patrons Sludge entertained, a dive restaurant in Grimwood Swamp, was flawlessly applied. A ruse to draw the approaching witch’s attention to the vampire’s lips.
Penny P. Post kissed at the air in greeting to the witch, whose green-hued happy blush was lost to the swamp light. Penny handed her a black rose.
“Waiting long?” Zelda K. Arcadia smiled at her friend, accepting the gift, happy but a bit confused by it.
“Just got here. I tried to reserve us a table but the troll on the phone just kept growling at me?” Penny said, similarly confused.
Sludge, said troll, loved cooking and hated talking. He named his restaurant after himself so he would only ever have to introduce it or himself, never both. Sludge, both restaurant and troll, were rough hewn, full of warts, and fit comfortably in the noxious, cursed swamp.
Zelda was glad her familiar had recommended her blazer choice. It elevated her casual outfit — not nearly to Penny’s level, who was wearing a black dressed piped with lavender and soft green, making her look like a poison garden in moonlight — but it certainly helped.
“You look… stunning,” Zelda said a bit quietly as Penny browsed the menu. “But is this place okay? We can go somewhere else if you like. Sludge does not seem… like… a normal place… you would pick?”
“They have a dish named after you?” Penny asked in joyous surprise. “Should we get it?” she asked in a conspiratorial tone. A small and secret pact to be made together, kept from the world at large.
“I come here a lot — yes —” Zelda’s words ran together.
“Two ‘Zeldas’ please,” Penny said, immensely pleased, to the ghost waiter.
She turned back to the witch, and looking deep into her eyes for a moment before speaking.
“I want to become your girlfriend.
“We have been spending a lot of time together, I really like you, I want to know more about you — everything about you — so I chose this place because of you, and I think we should date. We have so much in common, we have so much fun together.”
Penny picked up a claw from the table’s appetizer bowl and bit it. Her eyes widened, “Delicious!”, so casually offered, as if she had not just semi-formally requested a major adjustment to their relationship status.
And so much made sense, suddenly.
The beautiful, if over the top, dress Penny wore tonight. The rose. Scented cards and letters, the “good morning” and “good night” texts to her scrying mirror. Books shared, stories where Penny laughed just a bit too long or too loudly or both. Open availability over the last few months — for a meal or coffee or just a few quick words whenever Zelda contacted her first.
“You have been flirting with me?!” Zelda asked in raw embarrassment.
“I honestly didn’t know if you didn’t know or were simply uninterested,” Penny said with a soft sigh but a genuine smile. She wanted more and would be content if it was never offered.
The waiter ghost returned at that moment with a large pumpkin full of eerily glowing yellow-green moss and slime. A second ghost set down two small stone graves laden with eels, night crawlers, bones, and a variety of poisonous fruit slices.
“Thank you,” the witch and vampire said to the ghosts as a third brought torn rags for napkins and two skewers. This ghost lit a candle beneath the pumpkin, enhancing the mossy glow. The slime began to boil, the moss began to melt.
“I’d like that,” Zelda offered meekly in belated reply.
Penny grinned, “I thought you might seeing as they named it after you — ” she said, intentionally misunderstanding. She wanted to her Zelda say the words.
“No, no!” Zelda returned, flustered, her green skin darkening in embarrassment. “I want to date. Girlfriend. You, me.” She paused to collect the debris of her thoughts. Penny patiently waited with a smile.
“I want to be your girlfriend, too,” Zelda said as her mind finally sorted itself out.
Happy to her core, Penny closed her eyes for a moment, a beaming smile on midnight lips.