It’s been a while since I posted a free short…so here’s a contemporary magical realism one for you. Let me know what you think.
Her spell had gone really wrong…like horribly wrong…which was probably why the book came with warning labels that it was only to be used by the most advanced of necromancers. Cassidy had nowhere near that skill level and now the one time she’d dared to try something because she was so desperate for her neighbor to even notice her—it had backfired rather fantastically.
He loathed her.
He loathed her with the fire of a thousand suns…and that was just during the first few hours. The incantation promised it would increase in strength as the moon waxed. By Monday, when the moon was full, he should be on the verge of homicidal rage. Wouldn’t that be nice?
No. No, it wouldn’t be nice at all. It would suck. Why on earth had it gone so badly?
He’d already been over twice to yell at her for even daring to own a dog. The fact that her dog barked…well, he couldn’t put up with that. No one should have to put up with that. He’d lived in the townhouse beside her for almost two years now, and he’d never so much as looked twice at her. How she wished they could go back to that. Now, he loathed her and her little dog too. His face had turned red when he’d told her that he’d drown her little rat if she couldn’t keep it quiet as any sensible person would be able to.
Opening the book again, Cassidy went back through the “incantations gone wrong” section again. There had to be a counter incantation. Normally, one simply waited out such things rather than compound error with error, but he might actually kill her before Monday. Three days was too long to wait.
Unfortunately, it appeared that they’d gone beyond what an incantation could solve. She would need to get him to drink an elixir. The fruit of sorrow? What the hell was that? Why was the infernal book suddenly talking in riddles?
She looked out at her garden. Maybe a tomato? They were nightshades and a bizarre take on the fruit family. The tomatoes in her garden had suffered her dog’s attention and been dug up and replanted several times. They looked sorrowful alright. The leaves looked so dejected she wanted to weep for them…of course that last rage from Chad had put her on the verge of tears all morning.
Luckily, this fruit of sorrow seemed to fix most incantations gone wrong. It was a type of panacea it appeared. That was useful. It might be the only way her sad, sorry tomato plants might be useful.
Okay, she’d do it.
Pulling on her gardening gloves, she went out to tackle the fruit of sorrow tomato plants. She was only out there a few minutes, trying to decide on the most sorrowful tomato, when he came out.
“It’s like you’re useless. Do you not even know how to grow tomatoes? That has to be the ugliest plant I’ve ever seen. Ever,” Chad said in that voice she’d once loved.
She flicked a glance at him over her shoulder. The sneer looked out of place on his face. The few times they’d spoken before, he’d smiled quickly almost as if he was shy, but he clearly wasn’t. Besides, he was too hot to be shy. Cassidy had wanted to run her fingers through his blonde hair since he’d moved in about two years ago. She’d glued herself to her window each time he’d mown his lawn without his shirt on. He was so, so, so hot.
She’d never seen him date though, and she knew he was single from watching him, so she’d hoped….
And now she wished he’d pay a little less attention to her and her hopes were as dead as these hideous and, yes, ugly tomatoes.
His stupid, moronic, useless, pathetic neighbor, whom he’d loved just that morning, was outside mocking him with her continued presence. If he looked at this objectively, which it seemed he was unable to do any longer, she hadn’t changed since he’d used that incantation to make himself more passionate. He’d assumed that the “fiery feelings” incantation would overcome his shyness. Well, it did. It just also turned out that he despised her.
Really despised her. He’d scraped sludge off his shoes he despised less than he despised her.
That was…somewhat unusual if he stopped to think about it.
But he was too inflamed by his feelings to stop and think about anything other than his hatred.
Chad added a glare to his comment so she’d know how he felt. This was real. This was how he truly felt.
His neighbor, Cassidy, narrowed her eyes and said, “I just want to slap you right now. You should know that.”
“I feel the same way, but I’m too much of a gentleman,” he replied. Her ugly little mutt strutted outside, so full of itself for a tiny rat of a dog. “I want to kick your dog too.”
“You weren’t like this yesterday. You must realize you’re behaving erratically,” she said.
“Erratically? This is how I really feel. This is how I’ve always felt,” he said, leaning on the fence that separated their backyards. It was possibly a lie, but it seemed unattainable to him that he’d felt so drastically different toward her this morning when he took into account how he felt now. No, this was real. Anything this strong had to be real.
He hated her. He hated her laugh that he’d loved yesterday. It was too deep now that he thought about it. Though he’d hate it if it was higher-pitched. Any sound she made, he’d hate it. The way she moved…it was too fluid. She moved like a snake, not a dancer. It was clear to him now. She was too tall…too thin. How had he ever thought she was perfect for him? She wasn’t. Far from it. Her eyes and hair—the color of mud. She was so flawed he couldn’t believe he’d ever even taken a second look at her, let alone been highly aware of her presence when she was home.
It was probably because she poisoned the air with her mere presence.
She took a deep breath…and he even despised her for breathing the same air as him.
“This is how you’ve always felt about me?” she asked.
She started crying.
He should have felt bad. His mother had raised him to feel differently when a woman cried, but, hell, it just annoyed him. Shaking off his impulse to turn and leave, Chad vaulted the fence and took the abhorrent crying woman’s shoulders in his hands and shook her lightly while saying, “Pull yourself together now.”
That was almost nice.
That was as nice as he could stomach.
Any further attempt to be nice to her would cause him to vomit all over her, and his mother would probably disapprove of it more than she’d disapprove of him shaking her. He shook her a bit harder. But still not as hard as he wanted to.
See, he was being nice.
This was how he’d always felt? What a horrible fool she was! She blinked rapidly, trying to recover. The tears literally flew off her face as he shook her. He was shaking her to get her to stop crying? This had to be above and beyond a backfired incantation. No one could act like this and not feel some part of it.
Chad groaned and muttered, “You’re getting your grubby tears all over me.”
Grubby tears? She glared at him…even as her tears started feeling more angry than sorrowful. She was getting them all over him…on his face…and mouth, but it was his fault because he was shaking her.
He raised his eyebrows superciliously at her expression and licked his lips.
Then, his bright blue eyes that she’d wanted on her so badly just twenty-four hours ago blinked once—a long, single blink, and his mouth dropped open in shock, and his expression slipped to one of horror.
He stopped shaking her. His fingers even loosened on her shoulders, but he just sat there staring at her as if she’d grown another head.
Now what? Oh never mind. It didn’t matter.
Enough was enough. She’d go away for the remainder of the incantation’s life. A weekend away. It would be nice to spend the next few days healing her wounded pride. She’d been wrong about him. She’d been wrong, but this was outside of enough. No man was worth this crap.
“Get…your…damn…hands…off…me,” she ground out. Her right hand curled into a fist. No matter how much of this was her incantation gone wrong, he still deserved to be punched. Hard.
He blinked again and looked down at her fist.
“Please tell me you’re planning on hitting me because otherwise I’ll need to find a sword to fall on,” he said.
Cassidy exhaled. “What?”
“I’ve been a total ass today, and I’m really hoping this is either a nightmare or you’ll knock me unconscious with your planned punch.”
She loosened her fist…and he groaned and hugged her.
“Cassidy, I’m so sorry. I can’t even begin to tell you how wrong I’ve been or begin to explain what was wrong with me. I swear, everything I’ve said today was a lie.”
Her heart and her head both hurt. This about-face was confusing.
“You had to believe them. Just a little,” she whispered.
He smelled really nice, and his warm arms were doing wonders for her bruised heart. She felt so happy and so secure in his arms.
Still, he’d said some truly awful things today. It had to have come from deep inside him.
“No, not at all. Everything was a lie. Everything.”
“You had to have felt it somewhat.”
“I didn’t. This was my fault though. I did something really stupid this morning. I don’t expect you to believe me, but I’m a necromancer, and I performed an incantation this morning and it went completely sideways somehow. It was never supposed to make me act like this. I swear I’ll make it up to you. I’ll mow your lawn for the next year. I’ll take your dog for a walk every day twice.”
Another necromancer? Well, they weren’t that uncommon. Magic was even an accepted study of schooling in colleges these days, even if half the world still believed it was hooey. Cassidy was taking her classes online.
“You’re a necromancer?” she asked. “Wait! You said you were going to drown my dog! He isn’t going anywhere with you.”
“No, that was just part of wherever the incantation went wrong. I know most people don’t believe magic can be that strong, but….”
Cassidy took a breath. “I’m a necromancer too. I’m only a level one, though.”
He froze, and then he pulled back to look at her, but kept his arms around her. Chad’s eyes looked soft and caring. And she almost believed…almost.
“You threatened to drown my dog,” she repeated.
“I’m swearing off magic completely,” he said. “I’ve never had an incantation go this wrong and…I’m so sorry.” His arms dropped to his sides, and he looked back at his house. “I should go see what I did wrong. I feel like I should report to my mentor and request some sort of disciplinary action. Maybe he can turn me into a newt or something.”
Even though his expression was sour and full of disgust, his words made her laugh.
“Into a newt?”
He glanced back at her for a moment and then away again. This was how he normally treated her.
“What incantation was it?” she asked.
His mouth twisted in a wry smile. “Fiery feelings. I wanted to get up the guts to talk to you.”
“Me?” she asked, her voice squeaking. “If you had a problem with my dog, you could have talked to me about it at any time.”
Chad laughed. “No, it had nothing to do with your dog. Your dog is a cute little monster. He’s never bothered me before today. I wanted to ask you out. Instead I’ve been tearing into you all day…and I may honestly request disciplinary action.”
“You wanted to ask me out?”
No. No way. Impossible. But…was it? He liked her? He wanted to ask her out?
He nodded, still not meeting her eyes. “I’m completely socially inept. I thought this would help.”
“You did talk to me,” Cassidy said.
“Yes. I did.” Shaking his head, he sighed.
“I have a confession to make, Chad.”
His stillness was her only indication he was listening.
Clearing her throat, she went all in. “I did an incantation this morning too.”
“I did the ‘see me in a new way’ incantation.”
“On yourself?” he asked, confused.
She couldn’t bring herself to say it out loud, so she whispered, “No…on you. I wanted you to notice me.”
Chad’s eyes met hers, and he smiled. “We’ve been at cross purposes today, Cassidy.” Reaching out, he took her hand in his. “Can I take you out to dinner tonight to make up for this morning?”
It sounded good, but he’d barely said two words to her in the years he’d lived next door to her…up until today…when he’d made her cry.
“How do I know this isn’t more of you being mean? How do I know you’re not just messing with my head?” And messing with her heart, but she didn’t add that.
“How can I prove it to you?”
“I don’t know. You barely even know me,” she said. Okay, so maybe he’d said more than two words to her, and they’d had a few conversations over their fence, but it had been mostly about the weather and her garden. Her pathetic garden. She glanced down at her tomatoes.
Still, it wasn’t as if he liked her—certainly not as much as she liked him anyway. He couldn’t possibly.
Her heart was beating so loudly he must be able to hear it.
Oh he knew her. He knew her. His heart was pounding, but it was time to really talk to her, and not as he had been all day. Even if he’d been yelling at her, he had been talking to her today. The rant earlier about her dog had been quite long…which was a shame actually, but he could talk to her—he’d proven that. It was time to prove that he could say nice things—in a normal voice without yelling and snarling.
“Your dog’s name is Toby,” he said. “You take him for a walk before you leave for work at 7 a.m. unless you’re running late…in which case you shout a promise to walk him extra long when you get back at 5:22…roughly. Your eyes are the color of cinnamon and now I know they break my heart when they’re full of tears. You cut about six inches off your dark chocolate brown hair about two months ago and you favor ponytails. I love it when you sit on the back porch and listen to Sinatra during the summer. I love the way you laugh at Toby. You looked fantastic in that green dress you wore a week ago to some formal event…which is why I decided it was time to do something about how I feel before some other man realized how incredible you are.”
She swallowed, and Chad held his breath. She’d felt so good in his arms earlier. Even if she told him to go soak himself, he’d had that.
“It was my sister’s wedding, and that’s why I decided it was time to do something about this too. I’m sick of being alone. I wanted someone. Well, not someone, I sorta wanted you. I wanted you to notice me at the very least.”
Chad reached out and grabbed her other hand. “You didn’t need an incantation to get me to notice you. I’ve noticed your every movement from the day I moved in. I mow my lawn twice as much just so I have a reason to be outside at the same time as you.”
She looked down at their joined hands. “You didn’t need an incantation to talk to me.”
He laughed. “No, maybe not. Both our incantations seem to have back-fired on us. I seem to remember there are several warnings about crossing incantations…which we did.”
“I was worried the moon waxing would make you cross over to homicidal rage.”
It would have been nice if he could deny that was a possibility, but that crossed incantation had made him into a monster. “I’m glad you countered the incantation.”
Cassidy tipped her head. “How did I do it?”
“Your tears. Tears of sorrow are almost always an effective reversal.”
“Ohhh.” She looked down at the pathetic remains of her tomatoes. “That’s what they meant by fruit of sorrow. Well, that makes a lot more sense.”
“So, can I take you out to dinner?” he asked.
Cassidy smiled up at him with those cinnamon-colored eyes of hers sparkling. “Yes, but if you make me cry again, I should warn you, I’ve got a rather impressive right hook.”
“Cassidy, if I ever make you cry again, I’ll want to see both your left and your right hook…and Toby can bite me.”
“Okay. It’s a deal.”
He decided to take a chance—a rather bold chance—and seal the deal with a kiss. What he’d intended to be nothing more than a brush of lips became so much more than that. Passion flared between them and sweet, beloved Cassidy pressed herself against him. He poured his feelings into kissing her…so she’d know how he really felt. Perhaps that incantation hadn’t faded entirely…or, perhaps she was right, he really hadn’t needed it after all. Fiery passion. And he was seeing her the same way he’d seen her all along…which was exactly perfect.
Copyright © 2014 by Wendy Sparrow
If you liked Incant Me, you’ll love Stealing Time.