A couple of years ago, when I was attending a local junior college, I had a friend named Jen who loved to read fantasy novels. Despite her best efforts, she never got me to read them, but she loved to tell me all about the adventures of sword and sorcery and, to a lesser extent, tales of modern fantasy.
I told her stories about my family, too. On more than one occasion she would burst out laughing and tell me I ought to write my ideas down.
I guess she never actually believed that I come from a long line of sorcerers. Considering how normal I turned out, I suppose I can't blame her.
One day, as we were chatting after class, my mom sent me a text message asking if I could pick up a couple dozen eggs on the way home from school. I mentioned the message to Jen, who got an oddly pensive look on her face. Then she said, “If your mom's a sorcerer, why's she texting you?”
I drew a blank. “Because she's out of eggs?”
“No,” Jen said, “I mean, doesn't magic cause modern things to break or something?”
“Why would it do that?” I suspected that whatever she was on about had something to do with the books she liked to read. Though I'd never been interested in those types of stories myself, I was truly intrigued by the idea that magic and modern technology might not work well together.
“Well, because magical energy and things like electricity might interfere with one another.”
“You are aware that our bodies send out lots of electrical impulses, right? I mean, it's just a force of nature, like heat or sound.” I was picturing someone having a heart attack every time they managed to cast a spell.
Jen frowned. “I hadn't thought of that. I guess it's not electricity, then, just modern gadgets.”
“So what, anything invented after 1353?”
“All right, all right, I get it,” Jen said. “But why would a sorcerer use a text message when she'd have magical alternatives?”
“You mean, like a journey book, where she writes a message on her end and it shows up on mine?”
“Yeah, something like that.”
“Well,” I said, drawing out the answer for effect, “I guess it's because a journey book requires human blood and the cell phone company just wants a two year contract and a monthly service fee.”
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Belinda’s collection of potions was extensive and many of her customers believed in the power of her brews. They were probably crap, especially those offering up money and wishes, because if she really could brew them, why would she need to sell them? Others, such as those offering weight loss or hair regrowth, might have been legitimate–I had no real way of knowing.
Then my eyes fell on a tiny vial with the word “MAGIC” on the label. I picked it up and turned it over to read the details: “Tap into magical energies you never knew were there. You’ll be able to cast spells and brew potions. Curse your neighbors and find true love. $15.95”
“Impossible,” I muttered. Surely, if such a thing could be, my parents would have fed it to me years ago.
“That stuff is crap,” Evan said.
I jumped. I had almost forgotten he was there. He stood by a bulletin board, where he had been staring at pictures of Belinda, her friends, and her family. “Belinda mostly knows how to brew love potions, and even then she keeps the strongest ones to herself…the ones that truly ensnare the mind and heart.”
I replaced the vial of MAGIC, with just a tiny twinge of regret, and moved on to Belinda’s love potions. She had one full shelf dedicated to love, decorated with pink hearts and red roses. A lot of these potions were in the form of perfumes, creams, shampoos, and most especially–chocolates. The bottom third of the shelf was dedicated to boxes of chocolate candy in different flavors and potencies.
While a strong love potion will ensnare the mind and the heart, most of the weaker love potions are what you might call suggestive magic. They could cause you to feel affection, adoration, or arousal, but they typically left the higher brain functions intact.
At random, I picked up a bottle of perfume from the top shelf and read: “Induces powerful lust. Spray on your intended and make sure you are the first person they see. Lasts about an hour.”
The thing you have to understand about any magic is that there are good ways to use it, and bad ways to use it. The concept of black magic is a hotly debated topic among sorcerers. Even death, in self defense, is a shade of gray. As I stood there, reading the functions of the various love potions, I thought of all the innocent and harmful ways they could be used. A couple in a committed relationship might have a lot of fun with a spray of lust. On the other hand, using it on an unwilling victim…
I shuddered as I replaced the bottle and accidentally knocked one of the neighboring bottles of perfume to the ground. It shattered, splashing perfume all over my open-toed sandals.
“What happened?” Evan asked, his voice hard and alert. I could hear him moving closer.
“Stop! I don’t want to see you right now.”
“Which potion was that?” Evan asked, still in that hard-edged voice of command.
I pointed to the row of similar bottles on the top shelf. “Lust.”
One of the little bottles floated away from the shelf, but I did not turn around to see what Evan was doing with it. Instead, I started looking through my purse for a pack of tissues to clean the mess off my feet.
“Cassie, I have some bad news for you.”
“Worse, you mean?”
“This potion doesn’t take affect until you actually look at someone. Your hour starts then.”
“Crap. I don’t suppose there’s an antidote?”
“Sure,, but it will take me about three days to brew, once the moon is full.”
“Okay.” I considered my options as I wiped the mess off my foot and started gathering the tiny shards of glass. “Well, I guess I could-” I stopped, I had nothing to put at the end of that sentence. I kind of hoped Evan would have a suggestion, but to my surprise, he started laughing at me. “This isn’t funny.”
“Come on, it is a little funny.”
Maybe it would be funny in a few days, if I didn’t die of embarrassment first. “I suppose I could call my boyfriend.” I didn’t want to explain any of this to him, and though I trusted him, I didn’t really want him to become the object of my uncontrolled lust for an hour. I just didn’t know what else to do.
“Who are you seeing?” Evan asked, all traces of amusement gone.
“Braden,” I said.
“Braden Walker. He was a year ahead of us in school. He was on the football team.”
“Oh. I think I remember him.” Evan paused for a long moment. “You know you could do better, right?”
“It’s none of your business.” I had to fight the urge to glare at him when I said that. He barely knew Braden, so what made him think he could make any judgments? Besides, I didn’t know why he thought I could do better, when I had done very little dating in high school. I hadn’t known if my family name scared people off, or if there was something fundamentally wrong with me, but Braden had at least restored my confidence that the latter was not true.
“Listen,” Evan said. “I need to do another spell. It’ll just be a few minutes. We’ll figure something out after, just don’t look at me until I’m done.”
“I get that.” I sounded more annoyed at the admonition than I should have, because his quip about Braden still stung.
Within seconds, I smelled candles and incense, and heard Evan muttering under his breath. I found a trash can by a nearby desk, and tossed the damp tissues inside. Then I spotted a black day planner on top of the desk. It was the sort of thing that ancient relatives used to buy me for school, but I never used. Belinda seemed to have liked it, though. Nearly every page through the end of July was covered in notes and reminders.
Over the weekend, she wrote, she had rented a cabin in the woods by the lake. She should have been back, though, because in about half an hour, she had a dinner date at Hodge Mill with Sheriff Adams. I blinked and re-read the name several times to be sure I had seen it correctly, but unfortunately, I had. My old boss and friend had been acting a little strangely that afternoon, but I hadn’t guessed he might be under the influence of a love spell.
“Finished,” Evan said. I heard him gathering up his supplies. “This isn’t good. I suspected it this afternoon, but now I’m sure–there’s no threshold on this home. Which either means Belinda has permanently moved, or else she’s dead.”
“Do you think she had something to do with your cousin’s murder?” I asked.
“I don’t know what to think. I can’t come up with a reason she’d do it, but then again, where is she?”
“I found her day planner,” I said, holding it up over my shoulder so Evan could see. “She was supposed to go to the lake this weekend, and she’s got a date tonight at Hodge Mill. You’ll never guess who it’s with.”
“I know it’s a long shot, but I figure we should go to Hodge Mill and see if she shows up–or if the sheriff does. After that–”
“Cassie,” Evan interrupted.
“How much do you trust me?”
“Turn around,” he said.
“Did you figure something out?” I said, my heart beating a little faster. “Some way to stop the potion?”
“But you said-” I never got a chance to finish, because just then, Evan moved into my field of vision and I turned to stare at him properly.
In all the years I had known him, I had somehow missed the fact that Evan has the most incredible blue eyes. They sparkle like diamonds when he laughs, and darken like the sea when he’s angry. At that moment, I thought I could swim in those eyes. I had never spent much time looking at his lips before, but I suddenly became aware of just how kissable they were. I started towards him, my focus set on those beautiful, kissable lips.
I couldn’t move. Something was forcing my body absolutely still.
“Sorry about that,” Evan said, not sounding sorry at all. He swung a satchel over his shoulder and started out the door. I found myself following behind him, but I wasn’t the one moving my legs. “Nothing to do but let it run its course. If you want to hate me in an hour, I’ll understand.”
At the age of 16, Christine was diagnosed with Stargardt’s Disease, a condition that effects the retina and causes a loss of central vision. She is now legally blind, but has not let this slow her down or get in the way of her dreams.
When she's not writing, Christine teaches workshops on writing, usually at Savvy Authors. She also offers professional editing services. She maintains a book review blog on her website with occasional writing tips thrown in for the fun of it.
Christine lives in the Kansas City area with her husband and two children.
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