Magic For Hire (draft)

I expanded today’s Twitter microfiction into a bit of flash fiction.

Magic For Hire

Julia hears a car in the drive and checks her watch. Stephen is prompt, she’ll give him that. Before opening the door, she checks that she looks sufficiently witchy. It would be a pity to disappoint him. Her yoga pants and Doctor Who t-shirt are covered by a light poncho thing that looks a bit like a robe, oversized pentacle pendant. She opens the door and looks him up and down. He follows directions. He’s dressed all in black. “We leave at sunset,” she says. “Wear these bones as a talisman.” She hands him a necklace fashioned from the bones of a chicken she roasted for dinner last weekend. “Whose bones are they?” he asks. She ignores the question. “You’ll have to wear a blindfold.”

“Muggles aren’t allowed to know about your circle, huh?”

She gives him a sharp look. “None of that Harry Potter nonsense or I’ll charge you double. Or call the whole thing off.”

He looks abashed. “Right, sorry.”

They’re usually uncomfortable, and inappropriate jokes are a manifestation of that. She actually thinks it’s a little funny, but if she isn’t serious, he doesn’t get his money’s worth. She makes sure the blindfold is snug and leads him into her back garden. Her little house only has one bathroom, and it’s drafty in winter, but it backs right up to the woods, so it was worth every penny. She leads him on a circuitous route, doubling back a few times. Their circle isn’t all that deep in the woods, but you have to know you’re looking for it. He shudders, and she figures he’s wondering about now what he’s done, if she’s led him blindfolded into the woods to kill him in some unholy rite. They usually start to question their decision, but they don’t like to show too much fear. “Is it much farther?” he asks, his voice tremulous.

“Not far now. Shhhh. We’re approaching the sacred grove. The spirits need quiet.” She reaches into her pocket and quickly texts Samantha so she can prepare the coven. Stephen’s steps are slowing a bit. “It’s not too late to change your mind. The dark forces aren’t for everyone, you know.”

“No, no. I’m ready. I want Leah to like me.”

“Remember, I can’t make her like you. I can make you more attractive to her.”

“Right, that’s enough. That’s all I need, a chance.”

Despite herself, Julia feels a little sorry for him. He doesn’t seem like a bad guy, but he needs some confidence. She’s providing that, at a fraction of the cost of the several months of therapy he probably needs. Some of them give off such negative energy that she refuses their business. She doesn’t want to send trouble after another woman.

The clearing looks more like an open-air living room than a place of magic. Stephen would be disappointed. No witches are riding brooms or cackling, and there are no warts at all. Taking off the blindfold would demystify witches for him, and that wouldn’t be very kind. He needs the mystery, and it’s either the blindfold or decorating the grove and making everyone play dress-up. She did that once, and it was such a hassle she charged extra, claiming a complication with the energy needed to perform the requested spell. Which was sort of true. 

Annemarie looks up from her book as they approach and rolls her eyes. She is a third-grade teacher and doesn’t approve of Julia’s chosen career, though she’s sometimes amused by it.  She’s lounging in yoga pants on one of the carved stumps they use as chairs. They’re surprisingly comfortable. Samantha and Louise are playing cards at a low carved table. Only the candles they’ve lit all around the grove seem remotely witchy. Everything else has a middle-aged book club vibe. 

Stephen is shaking in earnest now. Poor dear. He probably thinks she’s about to slit his throat. She could, too. She has a dagger right over there. But that would be messy, and she has no particular urge to do so. She mutters a few words and hands him a lit candle. “Hold this.” She walks around him, saying the rhyming couplets she’d made up for just such an occasion. She could cast a real protective circle and a real spell, but Stephen doesn’t need that, and there’s no point in bothering the gods or spirits with something this minor.

Annmarie stifles a laugh as Julia pours water on Stephen’s head. They may as well amuse themselves, just a bit of harmless fun. Stephen has relaxed now, and is holding the candle with a sincere intensity that is rather touching. He really believes this will change his life.

She walks him back out of the woods by a different route, just in case. They really don’t like to be bothered. She takes off his blindfold. “The next full moon is Thursday. Dive into the lake at midnight and swim in three clockwise circles.” 

“Midnight as in right after 11:59 Wednesday, or after 11:59 Thursday?”

She’s impressed. Most people aren’t this attentive. “Wednesday night. And the circles are clockwise as you’re looking down on the lake from above.” She takes pity on him. “And they don’t have to be big circles. Just the gesture is enough.” She’s made people swim a mile before if they were irritating enough, but she was almost sorry she’d charged Stephen the full $2500. She has no doubt that he’ll follow her instructions. He’s beaming at her. He has no regrets about the chunk of change he turned over to her.

She watches him go, looking like a new man. It’s amazing what even the idea of magic can do. And it’s a living, after all. Win-win. She’s amused at the thought of the midnight swim he has coming up, but that’s the extra touch she throws in for the deluxe package.

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