A light magic in the darkness of the world…
This witch wanted nothing to do with love, the town of Loving, or the matchmaking festival. I just wanted to lose myself in a book of herb lore and work my earth magic.
Just because I was bitter, didn’t mean I didn’t want to still help people. It just meant I was, well, bitter… burnt, hurt, and for the time being, unwilling to try again.
“Maybe someday, but not today,” I murmured at my raven, Shade. He cocked his head to the side, blinking one beady brown eye at me and cawed softly. I smiled and held a bit of a treat through the bars of his huge brass birdcage. He plucked the offering from my fingers and I was all but forgotten for the time being.
I smiled, and moved through my big house, my grandmother’s house and her mother’s house before her.
We were one of the original families of Loving, before it even was Loving, when it was just plain old Cooper’s Port. After the coven came to town and vanquished Jenny’s curse, my great-grandfather had married one of the witches, and my grandmother had been born with the magic touch. My mother hadn’t had any magic to her, but me? I’d had the talent, and my grandmother had nurtured it with every bit of love and encouragement that I showed any one of my seedlings.
I was a hedge-witch, a healer and an apothecary by birthright and training. I was so good at my craft for smaller ailments, I’d nearly put the doctor in town out of business. I didn’t feel bad about it. I mean, he was close to retirement and even he came to me for treatment for his gout.
“Okay, Shade. Where did I put that –”
I stopped as a knock fell at my door and closed my eyes and sighed. I ran a bed and breakfast out of the house for a regular income and did pretty well. Usually I made a killing during the festival, but I was done with it and had closed this year.
It hurt too much.
I looked at the clock and chewed my bottom lip. It was seven-fifty-four, almost show time. I went to the door and opened it a crack, and said bluntly, “I’m sorry, we’re closed.”
I blinked in surprise when I found myself staring at a strong chest covered in a grey Louisiana State University sweatshirt.
“Oh, I’m sorry. I wasn’t looking to stay, my car just quit on me out on the road and my phone’s almost dead. I was looking to see if I could charge it.”
His voice was pleasant to the ear, as rich and dark as he was. I looked up into his deep brown eyes, set in an equally dark face. His shoulder-length, pencil-thin dreadlocks were pulled halfway up, out of his face, except for a few escapees that hung almost artfully in front of his forehead.
“You, uh, you’re the first person to answer their door,” he said, when I’d stared a moment too long and hadn’t said anything.
“Right, that’s because they’re all at the festival, in the heart of town.”
“Festival?” he asked.
I blinked in surprise for a second time. How could he not know about the festival? It was literally the reason all the people who didn’t already live here were here. The rest did live here full time, and didn’t much have a say in the matter unless they found someplace else to be, like I was trying to do.
“The matchmaking festival,” I said, frowning, trying to figure out if he were pulling my leg or not.
“Never heard of it,” he said, and he was very convincing at looking like he was dead serious. Still, I couldn’t be sure… “Is it cool if I borrow some juice so I can make a call? Or have you got a phone I can use?”
“Sure, there’s an outlet right there,” I said, pointing along the outside wall to where he would find it. “Help yourself,” I said, quickly shutting and locking the door.
“Okay… thanks…” I heard, muffled through the wood. I closed my eyes and rested my forehead against the door, sighing. I hated sounding or feeling like I was being rude but it was almost time.
‘Miriam Eilish, my friends call me Miri.’
Miri… it was a name as beautiful and unique as she was.
Her hair was long, to her waist, and the color of fire, and though I still didn’t understand it, it was the same fire that had suddenly ignited on her doorstep, that burned me up from the inside out with this insane love for her. I ain’t never felt this way about no female before, and I was, for sure, never going to feel this way about anyone again. This was one of those once-in-a-lifetime feels and it was scary as fuck, but I wasn’t the kind to show those kinds of emotions – or any for that matter.
She had gone still on top of me and I throbbed inside her, wishing she would move again, in that sultry dance that had had me roasting over the coals of our passion just a minute before. Her eyes were wide and the pale blue of a high winter sky. That kind of blue was endless, boundless, and it suited her because she was bottom-of-the-ocean deep. I don’t know how I knew that shit, but I did. She was for real, one hundred, and I was still trying to figure out all of this crazy business of how exactly I could love someone so deeply who I didn’t even know.
“What’s the matter?” I asked, softly, worried that I’d said something wrong, especially when she swallowed hard and it looked like she was barely holding back tears.
“Nothing. I, um…” She faltered and I raised an eyebrow and put my hands over hers, holding them lightly to my chest.
“Don’t lie to me, please…”
“I just don’t understand something. I mean, I really don’t understand something at all, and I need to check with someone about it before I say anything else, I don’t want to say anything in error or give you some bad information.”
“For sure, it’s cool… Um, I don’t know if I should stay here, or if you want me to go –”
“No, don’t go!” she cried, sudden and sharp, but looked like she was still reeling. I knew the feeling and it was fucked up, but she definitely knew more about what was going on than I did, so…
“You got anything for me, you know, about this magic shit that’s supposed to be happening to us?”
She swallowed hard again and said, “I don’t know all of it, I mean, I understand the basics – I’ve lived in this town all of my life – but I don’t get why it’s happening to me, especially now.”
“How about you tell me what the deal is,” I said, and she nodded slowly, her expression grave. She licked her lips and the motion was sexy as hell, even though she didn’t mean for it to be. I lay back in the softness of her bed and waited her out.
“A long, long time ago, there was a witch named Jenny Northcutt. She was set to marry a man here in town. Loved him with all her heart, but he wasn’t really interested in her. He betrayed her, broke her heart, and had her executed as a witch. Before she died, Jenny cursed the town.”
I listened to her and nodded when she stopped for too long, staring at me to see if I was soaking it all in alright.
“Okay, then what happened?”
“For years, the bitterness and anger of Jenny’s curse festered and grew. Anyone who moved here experienced untold misery. This was the place that love came to die. The problem got so bad, it took a full coven of witches to vanquish the curse, the power of the spell putting a new, almost-curse on the town, one that reverberates through time and affects us even today.”
“Okay, explain,” I said, and she bit her bottom lip.
“It’s the festival. It sprang up around the curse-laying, which used the power of love, and, I think, some fertility magic to lay Jenny and her vengeful magic to rest. It’s a love festival, and it happens every spring. For one night, beginning at eight o’clock, people fall in love.”
“Like we did.”
“Yes, but the spell is supposed to end at midnight.”
“Okay, and then what?”
She shrugged and said, “And then it’s over. People go back to their lives and it’s like a wild night of drunk sex, only without the drunk and with the intense feelings associated with truly being in love.”
“Okay, but it’s two in the morning right now, and I don’t feel any different.”
“I know, and I don’t either.”
“Explain that, if you can, please?”
“That’s part of the festival and the vestigial magic. If you happen to be in the town with the one you are meant to be with for the rest of your life, you stay in love after the spell has worn off.”
“But you said that was impossible,” I said.
“For me, it’s supposed to be,” she said, and looked genuinely upset and distressed.
“Okay,” I said. “You want to talk about it?” I raised a hand and cupped her cheek, running a thumb along it. She closed her eyes and shook her head.
“Not yet, I want to consult some books, figure some things out. Something isn’t right,” she said. “We shouldn’t still be in love.”
“Why not?” I asked.
“I’d rather not say just yet.”
“You’re asking me to trust you a whole lot right now, you know that, right?”
“I know, and I know you don’t know me, but I promise you, I’m a trustworthy person.”
I searched her face and saw sincerity there, but I’d seen sincerity on a lot of females’ faces before. Still, something about this woman was different. It was like she saw to my soul, but it wasn’t just one-sided. I could feel it, see it in her eyes; hear the pleading in her voice. I nodded slowly.
“I believe you,” I said.
Text Copyright © 2019 A.J. Downey DBA Timber Philips
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
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