Twenty Minutes - O.M. Grey / 2nd Place
February 14th - Brian Johnpeer/ 3rd Place
Drowning in Desire - Adrian Ludens
Sister Witches - Heather Whittington
Why hasn't he written? It's been over 24 hours and a text message just takes a few moments. Isn't he thinking about me? Just yesterday he said he loved me, well, almost said it. He said that he feels a great deal of love for me. That's the same thing. Right? Surely his feelings haven't changed overnight. I mean how could they?
No matter what, I'm not writing first this time. Let him miss me. That's what I'll do. Absence. Heart fonder, and all that. Sure. That's what I'll do.
Still no text. At least I waited ten minutes this time. I'll try for twenty now. What can I do for twenty minutes to pass the time? No. Not look at his picture. Not daydream about when we meet again. No! Not remember the night we shared. What else can I do for twenty minutes?
Checking email. Nothing.
Refresh again. Is the Internet connected?
Visit Google Maps.
Okay. Chill. Everything is okay. This is just your fear talking. Everything is okay. How could so much change after just a day? It hasn't changed. Everything is just fine.
Nothing new on Twitter. Perhaps an innocuous DM, just to see if he's okay.
No. No. No. No.
Okay. Focus. What can you do that doesn't remind you of him? Shower! Yes! I'll take a shower. That'll kill at least ten minutes, right?
Gasp! New email. Damn, spam. Not from him. You never hear from him this time of the day. No. You don't need a Xanax. You can do this. You just need to keep busy is all.
It's just been 28 hours. Nothing will have changed in that time. He's still here with you, but he won't be if you freak him out. Don't scare him away. You know this is just your fucked up brain chemicals at work. It's just the way it is.
Still no DM. I wonder what he's doing. I hope he's had a good day. Maybe he needs me! Maybe something happened. Maybe a DM from me would cheer him up.
Go for a walk, that's what. I'll just go for a walk then shower afterward. That'll kill an hour, right? Then I can look again.
29 hours. Nothing. Perhaps he's already seen how crazy I am, and he's changed his mind. That's just ridiculous. You've been very careful to keep it to yourself. Besides, it's just like this at first, when everything is so new and uncertain. You have to find a way to gain confidence. He's crazy about you. That's obvious. You know how your brain works. It's not your fault, but it's not his responsibility to reassure you every twelve fucking hours, either. He has a life. A job. He's got things to do rather than just think of you all day.
It wouldn't hurt to check his Twitter account. Right? Just a quick look.
He hasn't tweeted since last night! See. He's just busy is all. He's not even on Twitter. Maybe his phone died.
This is insanity. Take a chill pill. Yeah, maybe a Xanax.
No! I don't need a fucking pill to be okay. I'm fine. I can do this.
Fuck! Who in the fuck is @MsSexyPants? This first time on Twitter today, and he's talking to @MsSexyPants? What the Fuck? Although it is public, but how do I know he's not DM’ing her, too? He might've been DM’ing her all day! He might have been fucking her all day! No. Her profile says she lives in Seattle and the tweet was harmless enough. Just a reply to a funny quote, that's all. After all, you talk to people all day on Twitter. Flirt, even.
There's nothing to it.
Why doesn't he write?
Oh! New DM!
Fucking Spam. Block. Report Spam.
Everything is fine. Yes. Maybe a Xanax. If you need it you need it. Don't fuck this up this time. It'll be okay. People just need more space than you do. They need more time. Okay. Xanax.
36 hours. Nothing. At least I was able to get some work done. See? Xanax helps. It's okay. If you need it, you need it. It's getting late. If I don't hear from him in the next hour, I won't today. That's okay. I'll just go to bed early. Sleeping helps. Unconscious is good.
Oh! New DM! Don't look. You know it's not from him. Just don't look and read or something. You can't keep being so available. The less attention you pay to him, the more he'll pay to you. Right?
So I looked. Sue me. It's okay because it was from him!
"Thought of you all day. Drinks?"
He thought of me all day! See! Nothing to worry about. Should I reply right away? I don't just want to be a booty call. He cares more than that, right? I'll wait like twenty minutes, then reply. What can I do for twenty minutes?
"Pick you up in 20."
Now I know what to do for twenty minutes! What should I wear? Oh! My hair is awful. What does he see in me?
"You look beautiful."
"Thanks. You look great, too." The butterflies are back. I should have eaten something. Oh! His lips are so soft, and his tongue. Mmmmm.
I press into him and the kiss deepens. He's delicious, and I just can't get enough.
"You know," I whisper into his mouth, "We don't have to go out at all."
I feel his lips pulled back into a smile as I kiss him again. Our tongues mingle and the heaviness between my legs is aching for him. Full, yet empty at the same time. His erection is pressed against my hip, and all I can think about is his cock. I need him inside me. Right. Fucking. Now.
My eager hand slides up his jeans and caresses the bulge beneath. He moans his pleasure and I swallow the sound in another hungry kiss.
"You're so fucking hot," he says between kisses.
Now I smile. See? He's into me, after all.
Our passion mounts, and we move as one away from the front door into the living room. He lowers me down on the couch, and he lays between my legs. His strong arms prop him up over me, and he grinds his erection into my hips as he kisses me; his tongue darting around in my mouth.
Driving me wild knowing that his cock will be doing the same thing before long.
In fact, I can’t wait. Pushing him off me and back onto the sofa, I reposition myself for tasting him. My hands unfasten his jeans and I chance a look up. The smile on his face tells me he knows exactly what I have in mind. I reach inside and grasp him, releasing him with one hand as the other pulls his jeans down over his hips. He helps free himself with eager hands.
Fully erect and gorgeous, I bend over and lick all around the tip while snugly grasping his shaft, and I hear his gasp. With my tongue still touching the velvety helmet I look up at him watching me, allowing him to get this picture full in his mind before continuing. My tongue traces down the length of him and then back up again, wetting him for my love. Hungry for him, I plunge my mouth down over his cock and touch the base with my lips, then slowly pull back, flicking my tongue back and forth along the underside of his shaft.
He lets me devour him in this way until his excitement has him moving with me, urging me on. And this is precisely when I stop. I slide my jeans over my full hips, and he tugs my blouse over my head. He turns to face me, and pulling my bra aside, his mouth finds my nipples, teasing them with his tongue. Sucking. Swirling. Nibbling.
I unfasten my bra and let it fall to the side, allowing him full access to my breasts. He caresses one while pleasing the other with his mouth. His other hand slides up the inside of my leg. I can feel my juices drip onto my thigh just before his fingers begin massaging my clit. Sliding along my moistness, he rubs me until I come, soaking his hand with my orgasm. This seems to make him very happy, both my nectar and my screams of delight. He spreads my lips and eases a finger inside. Then two. Fingering me slowly, then picking up speed.
I hold onto his shoulders as he brings me again, but I want more. Stepping to the side, his fingers slip out of me, but I never stop touching him. Even this far is too far apart. I move closer to him and straddle him there on the couch, easing myself onto his engorged cock. So slowly. Watching the wonder on his face and the love in his eyes as we become one.
We move together slowly at first, never breaking eye contact. Kissing and watching each other and then kissing again, but soon the movement becomes more urgent. My pace quickens, and he thrusts into me, meeting my motion with his fervent hips. He puts his arm around my waist and lifts me up, turning me over onto my back. Never removing himself from me.
He pulls his knees up close to me and holds one of my legs up as he begins to thrust deeper and faster. Each push into me more determined than the last. Faster and faster.
I grab a handful of the fluffy couch and scream in ecstasy, and he doesn’t relent. The sounds of my pleasure only heightening his as he plunges into me again and again and again, until he finally comes himself. And with his final force, he cries out as well.
Breathing heavy. Eyes amazed. Hands clutching.
He relaxes onto my breast, and I stroke his hair.
I can feel him still inside me, gradually shrinking.
Yet we are one.
“Wow,” he breathes.
“I mean. Wow.”
“Yeah. That was amazing.”
He pulls out of me and I feel empty without him there. Cold. I reach out to him, but he’s already relaxed against the back of the couch, catching his breath. He feels too far away and I want him back inside me.
He looks at his watch.
“Oh shit,” he says. “I can’t believe it’s already so late.”
So late? We were supposed to go for drinks? We wouldn’t have even been served yet. It’s only been twenty fucking minutes. Or the other way around. What does he mean so late?
“Do you have to go?” I ask, already knowing what he’s going to say.
“Not yet, but soon.”
I swallow hard. He feels so far away. How can he be so far away after we had just been so close? How can he talk about leaving? I want to fall asleep in his arms. I want to feel secure beside him. I want to wake up beside him and fuck him again.
“Um.” I don’t really like beer, so I don’t keep any in the house. “Wine?”
I get up and walk to the kitchen. My heart swells, thinking of the romantic evening we’ll have. If only it weren’t summer, I could light the fire. Talking. Laughing. Sharing. Drinking until our passion takes us over again. When I return with the bottle and two glasses, he’s already dressed.
He must have noticed the disappointment on my face.
“Um. Of course. Wine?”
“Actually, I really should go.”
“Okay. It’s still rather early, no? We could still go out for that drink if you’d like.”
“Maybe tomorrow. I’ll call you.”
“Okay.” I set the glasses and bottle down on the side table and reach for my jeans.
“No,” he says, taking me into his arms. “I want to remember you just like this. Beautiful and naked. Thank you for tonight. This was just amazing. Tomorrow, okay? I’ll call you.”
Why hasn't he written? It's been over twelve hours, and a text message just takes a few moments. Isn't he thinking about me? Especially after last night! Such intimacy we shared. Don't I mean anything to him?
Just twenty more minutes. What can I do for twenty minutes before I check Twitter again. Just one DM. It only takes a few moments. Aren’t I worth even a few seconds?
What the fuck can I do for twenty minutes?
Alex. Yes. I'll talk to Alex! He always cheers me up. He's always there for me. Just like a good friend should be.
“Alex? Do you have a minute? I would like your opinion on something. See, there's this guy. A new guy, and I really like him. And I think he really likes me too. I mean, he might even love me. The sex is great. Really fucking great, but he always leaves just right after. I mean, like almost every time. He's not just using me for sex, right? He says that I mean a great deal to him and that he feels a lot of love for me, so it's okay, right?”
“Please let me go,” Alex whimpered.
“Did you hear me? What do you think? Do you think he really loves me?”
“Please. I'll do anything. I won't tell anybody and I won't leave you. Ever. I promise.”
“Yeah. That's what Todd said, too. And I believed him, but then he left straight away. Much harder getting him back. How are you today, Todd?”
“Todd is dead you crazy bitch! Todd has been dead for a week now!”
“That was rather mean. You think I'm a bitch? But, you said you cared, too. You said you'd never leave me, and then you did. I'm just making sure you keep your word is all. Making an honest man out of you..”
“Anyway. It's been over twelve hours, and I haven't gotten even a text message yet. But I'm not a guy, so I don't get how you all think. You're a guy, Alex. Do you think twelve hours is too long to wait after sharing such intimacy? I mean, he should want to spend every waking moment with me, right? That's what love is. Don't you think, Alex?”
Danny stumbled in from the garage to the hallway just twenty five minutes short of midnight, and Shari was up waiting for what he had to say. She had been prepared for some time now, six, perhaps even seven months, but had lost count somewhere along the way.
She never thought he would be as bold as to choose Valentine’s Day to break it off. February 14 was their anniversary, for Christ’s sake. On the Valentine’s Day prior to their wedding, he had proposed to her at The Firehouse in Old Town Sacramento.
Danny and Shari had been married two years to the day; most of which had been good. The bad had begun somewhere in July or August.
What she did know was that the bad had begun when Danny picked up a new literary agent, Melissa Nesler. She lived in Sacramento, fifteen miles north of their home in Elk Grove. She’d insisted she could turn Danny’s ham and egg novels into New York Times bestsellers -- if he was willing to invest the time to polish them. Most of that time had stretched deep into the night and, on occasion, the wee hours of the morning. Despite the odd hours, Shari was confident that Danny had not indulged in the blond woman and her very beautifully-crafted breasts.
Earlier that evening…
The phone rang at four-fifty-five. Shari immediately picked up.
“Hi Shari, has Danny left yet?” Melissa asked.
Shari looked over her shoulder. “No, he’s still in the shower.”
“Good. Tell him our reservation has been pushed back to seven.”
Danny slowly filled the doorway, tightening a black tie around the collar of his white shirt.
“I’ll let him know,” Shari said.
“Who was that?”
“Melissa. Your reservation’s been postponed until seven.”
“Son-of-a-bitch,” Danny said.
The grandfather clock in the foyer chimed; it was five.
She picked up a bottle of cabernet and asked if he would like to toast their anniversary. She held up two wine glasses with a smile.
Danny flashed Shari a mean look. “I’ve got a lot of work, Shari. You know I can’t drink. I’ve gotta edit Midnight Whispers with Melissa tonight. I have a deadline.”
“But it’s our anniversary, Danny. Can’t you tell her you’re going to have dinner with me?” Without waiting for an answer, Shari poured wine into one of the glasses.
Danny exhaled as if the question had physically hurt him in some way. “You know I need to put in the time if I’m going to make the bestseller list.” He paused. “Can’t you give me some slack? I’m doing this for us, Shari.”
“Melissa said that you are going to The Firehouse,” Shari sipped her wine while looking at Danny with deviant eyes.
Danny looked baffled. “She told you that?”
Shari nodded. “You are going to dinner with Melissa to our restaurant on our anniversary.”
“It’s a Goddamn business meeting, Shari. Give me a fucking break. We are going to thrash out chapters thirteen and…”
“It’s our God damn anniversary, Danny. Doesn’t that mean anything to you?”
“I’m not going to sit here and argue with you.” Danny grabbed his jacket and pulled his Mercedes keys from its pocket. “You really need to grow up.”
“I’m not the one who needs to grow up, Danny. You do,” she said under her breath and smiled into her wine as she swirled the glass.
Shari took a shower, put on her jeans and a cream turtleneck sweater and patiently waited until seven o’clock. during that time she imbibed another glass of wine. She briefly rummaged through Danny’s closet; checked his jacket pockets, shoeboxes and even shoes but found nothing but a ten dollar bill and a fresh roll of silver duct tape. She brought the tape downstairs and placed it on the table next to the wine bottle. When seven o’clock rolled around, Shari grabbed her car keys and slammed the door behind her.
She arrived in Old Town Sacramento fifteen minutes later and took advantage of the valet parking, since a deluge of rain was soaking the earth with large drops of water. She entered the brick building and was immediately greeted by a semi-bald man wearing a black coat, white shirt and bow-tie.
“Do you have a reservation, ma’am?” the maître d’ asked.
“No, but I’m not planning to stay. I just needed to check up on my husband.”
The maître d’ raised his bushy eyebrows before scanning the room. “If you do locate him, ma’am, will there be any…” he cleared his throat and adjusted his tie, “…trouble?”
“There he is,” she said, spying him in a distant booth. She turned to the blushing man. “No – I won’t make a scene. He’ll get his at home. The bastard’s been cheating for about six months now; I just wanted to see how serious they are.”
“Yes, he’s probably going for the proposal tonight…oh, shit!” Shari ducked behind a pillar. “Did he see me?” she whispered. She knew he had. In fact, she wanted him to see her.
The bald man looked at Danny and shook his head. “I don’t think so.”
“You’ve gotta be my eyes.”
“I beg your pardon,” he said.
“You’ve gotta be my eyes; tell me what they’re doing.”
“I most certainly will not. I have a job to do. If you don’t have a reservation, I’m afraid I have to ask you to leave.”
“Fine!” Shari hollered. All but a few of the patrons stopped what they were doing to glance over at the sudden commotion. Danny was one of them.
“I’ll deal with you when you get home!” Sherri said, pointing at Danny.
The diners refocused their attention on Danny and Melissa, as Shari stomped out of the restaurant.
Shari rolled the tape from one hand to the other, in a hypnotic state momentarily interrupted by the whining chain and the motor of the garage door.
Shari wanted to run to Danny and beg him to stop seeing Melissa so they could get on with their lives together. But no. She knew that was the wine talking. She had already made up her mind.
Danny gingerly closed the door from the garage and made his way through the darkened kitchen where he opened the fridge and pulled out a can of Budweiser. He swallowed three large gulps and placed the can on the counter.
“Happy anniversary,” Shari said flatly. Her voice was monotone and emotionless.
Danny spun as if he’d been shot in the ass by a pellet gun. “Shari!”
Shari flipped the light on and Danny shielded his drunken eyes.
She tilted her head to one side.“Bit too much to drink tonight?”
Danny stepped aggressively towards Shari to put hands on her shoulders, but she refused him by stepping back.
“Look, baby, I’m sorry. Melissa and I had to stay late to edit my novel. I just lost track of time.” Danny wasn’t just drunk, he was hammered.
“No, happy anniversary or happy Valentine’s Day?” Emotion was still void of her voice and face.
Danny pulled out a box of cigarettes and clumsily thumbed one from the pack. He found his mouth with the cigarette and reached into his other pocket for a lighter. He pulled it out, clutching the lighter, and dropped a small blue ring box to the floor. Their eyes followed the bouncing box until it rested at Shari’s feet. They looked up at each other simultaneously and locked eyes until Danny lit his cigarette like he hadn’t a care in the world.
“Fuck it,” he said, sucking from the cigarette. “I wanna divorce.”
Shari gripped the empty wine bottle by the neck as she held it behind her back.
“You want a what?”
Now there was emotion in her voice. Lots of it.
“I want a…”
The wine bottle was airborne in seconds, hitting Danny in the forehead with a hollow, echoing thump and silencing what he’d been about to say. His legs buckled as if they suddenly became unhinged, and he hit the kitchen floor; the cigarette rolled to a smoldering stop. She stooped, picked up the smoke and puffed it while gazing down at Danny. A warm puddle of blood flowed from a gash above his eye. She tilted her head parallel with his. Smoke danced on her next words.
“Can I think about it, sweetie?” she mocked.
She retrieved the duct tape from the dining room table dragging Danny and all his dead weight two agonizing feet before he was in a sitting position with his back against the kitchen island. Shari extracted the end of tape with her teeth, stuck it to the corner of the cabinets and walked circles around the center island and her husband; once, twice, high and low. She then wrapped his ankles and wrists together. By the time she was finished, she had spent the whole roll of duct tape securing Danny to the kitchen island. It wasn’t a fine job. It wasn’t even good job, but he wasn’t going anywhere, and that’s all Sheri really cared about.
She wiped the blood from the floor and picked up the bottle of wine and as she looked at Danny and felt the veins in her neck swell up with rage.
If you’re going to play, you got to pay; and Shari planned on making him pay.
Perhaps an arm and a leg, she thought, or better yet, I’ll pull a Lorena Bobbitt and castrate the bastard; Lord knows he doesn’t know how to use his pecker anyway. I’d be doing him and the women he meets in the future a huge favor. But I’ll be a sport about it, of course. Give him a fighting chance like Lorena did John. I’ll drive up 99 and chuck his dick on the side of the highway…or maybe in the center of the highway.
“What the hell are you doing?”
Shari popped her head up; her face twisted with rage.
“What are you…?” Danny suddenly realized he was immobile, and tried briefly to wriggle from his confinement. Eventually he stopped. “Untie me, Shari! Untie me or I’ll…”
“You’ll what?” she said smiling, the grin growing wider at his prolonged silence. “That’s what I thought. You’ll just sit there like the pathetic little worm between your legs.”
Danny said nothing.
“What is this, not good enough for you?” she screamed down at him, lifting her turtleneck sweater and exposing milky-white breasts.
Danny tried to turn away but the tape on his forehead held him. He eventually closed his eyes.
“Can’t even look at your own wife, Danny? Feeling a little guilty are we or do you just like fat silicone tits like Melissa’s?” She pulled her sweater down, picked up the phone and an olive colored business card from the counter.
“What are you doing?” Danny asked.
“Perhaps we should call your blond tramp over to join the party.”
“Where did you get that?” His eyes were on the card she held in her hand.
“You’re in no position to ask questions. And besides, I’m in a pretty fucked up state of mind right about now, so please shut the fuck up.” She pressed the numbers from the card into the phone. It rang. On the fifth ring, the other line clicked and a sweet voice answered.
“Hi, Melissa. It’s Shari. Danny’s Shari. Can you come by?”
Danny squirmed on the floor.
“You will? Excellent! I’ll leave the front door unlocked.”
“Melissa will call the cops once she sees me like this.”
“Melissa? You mean the little slut who breaks up marriages?”
“She’s not a slut!”
“If you know her like I know her, you would agree.”
“Just because you got the short end of the stick…”
“Now Melissa is getting the short end of the stick…” she said through a devilish grin. On the floor, Danny grimaced. He knew his penis was well below average. It was his Achilles heel.
Shari pulled another bottle of wine out of the pantry, read the label, and placed it on the countertop next to Danny’s Crown Royal. Popping the lid, she swigged down a burning mouthful.
Seconds turned into minutes, and those minutes into strings of ten, before the front door opened and footfalls waltzed through the foyer and into the kitchen.
“Call the police, Melissa!” Danny pleaded, but when a man walked into a view, holding twin gallons of gasoline, he grew frightened.
“You got the money?” the homeless man slurred at Shari.
She pulled a crisp hundred dollar bill from her purse. Nodding, he quickly began touring the lower level of the house, splashing gasoline here and there, over furniture and into corners.
Danny looked at Shari. When she smiled back at him, when he spied a strange little smile playing across her lips, he suddenly grew hollow inside.
Somehow, she knew.
Knew that he’d signed everything, including the royalties for his new blockbuster novel, A Day by Myself, over to Melissa, in anticipation of his upcoming divorce with Shari.
The old man with the gas can stopped and looked down at Danny. “This him?”
“That’s him,” Shari answered.
The scruffy man lifted the can and poured gas over Danny’s head. “Unless yer name’s Houdini, I s’pose you’ll be meeting yer maker tonight.”
“I’ve got more money,” Danny pleaded, spitting the foul liquid from his lips. “Get me out of here and I’ll give you a hundred thousand dollars.”
“I ain’t stupid mister. Y’aint got a thousand dollars. That much money don’t really exist.”
The man’s smile exposed a lifetime of neglected, hit-and-miss, yellow-brown teeth.
And then that mouth spat blood.
Standing behind him, she caved in the old man’s skull with a twelve-inch frying pan. The crunch of stainless steel meets bone made Danny’s stomach churn.
The homeless man collapsed face first on the floor while Shari stood behind him with both hands still clutching the skillet handle. The smell of the man’s opened skull, and the shit the old man had voiced upon death, made him vomit into his own lap.
Shari knelt down, reached into Danny’s slacks and pulled out a Zippo lighter; the same lighter inscribed with their initials on the side that she had given it to him on their third date.
“Don’t do it, Shari!” Danny whimpered. “We can work this out. I promise you!”
She flipped the top of the lighter open and asked, “Think so?”
“I know we can. Melissa’s just a total bitch!” Danny’s eyes were wide, bloodshot but hopeful. He had a notion he was getting through. “She forced me to go out with her,” his voice shifted with anger. “I didn’t want to, but she forced me. Please Shari - cut me loose!”
The flames grew from the carpet to the ceiling and Danny could hear the roar as he watched Melissa enter the kitchen, still shaking her head in disgust.
“Melissa,” he screamed. “Help me!”
Melissa moved up behind Shari…
“Kill her!” Danny screamed. “Kill the bitch!”
She snaked her arms around her, cupping Shari’s breasts, and kissed her ear. “Everything’s going to be okay, baby. Let’s go.”
They left behind the burning house and the screams of a dying man.
Brian Johnpeer makes his fifth return to SNM Mag landing Third Place. His first ever published story debuted here and two of his stories are featured in our BBB anthologies. He hails from Elk Grove, California with his wife and kids. Readers may contact him and visit his Facebook or Myspace for more stories. Brian has just completed his debut novella entitled: Raimy.
Drowning in Desire
I’d formed a massive and instant crush on Erik Watkins the first day of classes. Now he sat on the sandy shore under a starry night sky, talking only to me.
He looked out at the glimmering lights of the lakefront homes across the water and spoke in a low murmur. He described my face, my hair, my body. Not in a poetic way, but just listing off what he liked about me. Except he wasn’t talking about me; at least he was pretending not to.
“She had long brown hair but it was tied back,” Erik explained as if I didn’t already know. “She had the most adorable little button nose.”
I blushed and remained silent. I didn’t want to break the spell. Erik shielded his eyes with one hand -- like my beauty was too much for him to look at without protection.
“Her eyes made my knees weak. Bright green eyes like... God I don’t even know! They weren’t like any pair of eyes I’d ever seen before in my life.”
I widened my eyes and waited for him to look up at me. Thanks to a few high school exploits, I knew what they were capable of doing to a guy. But he didn’t look up. I silently shifted my position beside him to better show off my body and he went on.
“I noticed her in journalism class the first day and was so intimidated I couldn’t even talk to her.”
He shook his head ruefully. I had to give him credit, he could really lay it on pretty thick. Now that he had finally worked up the courage to talk to me, I was going to give him all the time he needed. He had uncovered his eyes and I turned on as much voltage in my gaze as I could, but he just looked at his hands and kept talking.
“There was such a big crowd of people that I wasn’t even sure what was going on but the air stank of tragedy.”
I raised my eyebrows and bit my bottom lip. I was striving for sexy and, but he acted like he didn’t notice. Erik had gone from Quirky Romantic Guy to Depressed Goth Guy all of a sudden. What the hell was he talking about anyway?
“Everyone was talking and yelling all at the same time,” he continued, “only a few people seemed to really know what was going on. One guy -- I think he’s our starting quarterback this season -- was talking real loud about how he’d seen her hit her head when she tried to do a cartwheel, but when someone asked if he’d dove in after her, he shut up real fast. Must have chickened out. A lot of the girls were sobbing. Then I finally saw Mike, this guy who rooms two doors down from me in Thomas Hall. He said a girl had drowned.”
I gasped and wiggled a little closer to Erik.
“Mike said it was a sophomore, but he wasn’t sure what her name was. Said he’d seen her in the cafeteria but didn’t have any classes with her.”
Erik paused again and smiled but he looked like he was fighting back tears. My fingers tingled with the need to gently stroke his face but I kept my hands folded in my lap.
“When the paramedics pulled her body from the water I just couldn’t believe it. She looked so sweet and so beautiful.”
I drew back, scowling at him. What the hell! I mean; I thought he was talking about me this entire time. Instead, he’s pining over a dead girl.
I pulled my knees up under my chin and wrapped my arms around my ankles. Definitely a more defensive posture, I know. But I felt like a little fool sitting there all of a sudden. I started mentally filing through all the attractive girls in our journalism class.
“Her feet and hands were so small,” he whispered. “Like an elf or a little girl.”
Well, I still had that going for me; I stretched my legs back out so Erik could see my toes. I hadn’t said a word since he began talking. I knew if I opened my mouth in an attempt to turn the conversation, he would think I was being selfish or uncaring and that would definitely ruin my chances. I didn’t know who Erik was so broken-up over, but I decided to let him have his moment. It sounded like I looked a lot like the girl, which was a definite plus. And not to sound like a complete bitch, but I had a distinct advantage over her; I was still alive.
Erik slowly rose to his feet and I followed his lead, not too slow but not too fast either. I’d wanted him from the start but waited until he talked to me first. ‘Make them come to you,’ that’s what my older sister Darla always told me. So I kept playing demure -- for now.
We turned and shuffled from the lapping waves and headed back toward the edge of the campus. Lights in the windows of the two closest dorms glimmered in the distance; Thomas Hall on the left and Morgan Hall to the right.
We would have to go our separate ways unless I could coax him into walking me home. I lived in a little apartment just off campus, and the resident assistants who stayed in Thomas Hall were real Nazis about not letting female visitors in after hours.
“Maybe it’s better this way,” Erik murmured. “I could have fallen in love with her, you know? If we were a couple, or even if we would just gone out on a few dates, then wouldn’t her drowning be that much harder for me to take?” His voice broke and he clenched his hands into fists of frustration. I couldn’t think of the right words to say, so I said nothing.
“Damn it! Next time I’m gonna do it. Next time I feel attracted to a girl, I’m going to tell her. I’m going to shower her with affection and I’m not going to let the opportunity pass by.”
“That’s good,” I finally replied. I managed to get the words past my lips without opening them too wide. Erik stopped walking and turned to gape over my shoulder at the lake again.
My throat had a lump in it. I wanted to start bawling on his shoulder.
My eyes burned from fighting back the tears that threatened to spill down my cheeks. My heart ached because of everything Erik had told me about this other girl and because he said ‘next time he wouldn’t hesitate.’ I didn’t know which one of us I felt sorry for most; him or me. I gazed up at his face longing for him to make a move but he ignored me.
Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore. “I’d make love to you right here in the grass if you wanted me to.”
Erik took a step back as if I’d suddenly punched him in the solar plexus. He scrunched his face and shook his head emphatically. Then he turned and jogged away.
I sighed. Some girl he had a crush on had died tonight and he had seen her body. That would be enough to shake anyone up. I had to remember that. Maybe all Erik needed was time.
I felt willing to give him that, but promised myself that we would be together eventually no matter what it took.
I turned and strolled back toward the lake. On the beach I glanced around, trying to locate where we’d sat together. I walked out onto the wooden dock. All of a sudden, I felt like my spine had been hollowed out and filled with ice. This was where the girl had died. I don’t know how I knew, but I did.
I felt dizzy as I saw the girl try to do a cartwheel off the end of the dock. Her thumb slipped between timbers and cracked loudly as it snapped in half. The girl’s momentum yanked her thumb free but by then she’d canted off-course. I watched the girl tumble sideways off the dock.
She hit the back of her head on the weathered timbers as she fell and flopped with an awkward splash into the water. I tried to look away but the events were unfolding in my mind and there was nowhere to hide from the haunting vision. All of a sudden I felt really bad for the girl who had drowned. I also felt guilty about being so selfish when I was with Erik.
Feeling strangely numb, I sat down at the end of the dock, closed my eyes and listened to the sounds of the night.
I bolted awake, realizing I had no idea where I was. Admittedly, this wasn’t the first time I’d felt that way. But I hadn’t been drinking so I felt a little scared at first. I tried to concentrate. I remembered sitting with Erik and later going to the dock by myself. I remembered closing my eyes...
Now I lay there in darkness on a cold metal slab. My own scent assaulted my nose. The silence was complete and I felt lonelier than I’d ever thought possible; solitary and inconsequential. The air was damp, thick and close. I tried to sit up. Instead, I felt a presence rising within me and then from me.
The next thing I knew I was standing in a long room lit by fluorescent rectangles in the ceiling. Pine-Sol barely covered the smell; an unspeakably nasty one. To my right the drawers of an enormous card catalog covered one wall. I shuddered as realization hit me and would have groaned aloud if it were still possible.
I was the one who had drowned! I was the one who had died! The full impact of my situation started to weigh down on me when another thought immediately buoyed my spirits.
Erik had been talking about me, after all! I was the girl he had been mourning last night!
I had to find him; let him know I would always be around for him now.
I moved through the open door. I looked into what appeared to be an examining room across the hallway. A gurney stood in the center of the room. A body covered with a white sheet lay on top of it. A crazy-looking lamp came down from the ceiling. I was reminded of the light they shine on you at the dentist. A silver tray of medieval torture devices sat beside the gurney.
Okay, so they were probably tools used to perform autopsies. That fact did not make them look any more appealing to me. A guy brushed past me obviously without seeing me. He ambled down the hallway and dug a pack of cigarettes out of his back pocket. Unreal. Doesn’t he know that stuff could kill him? I forgot about the guy and focused on Erik.
How did this work? Could I find him? Last night I’d magically sat with him on the beach and walked with him toward his dorm. Did we ever touch? I couldn’t remember. I spoke to him once for sure but after that he ran away. Like he’d just seen a ghost. No wonder he’d acted like I wasn’t there! He couldn’t see me. I know I can make him feel my presence. I absolutely will make it happen somehow. And I’ll make him feel my love for him too. I just need to focus. Think about him; listen for him...
There! I closed my eyes and felt my spirit flying toward him. I soared through ethereal mists. Some of the strands hit my face and reminded me of spider webs. Almost immediately, I felt myself slowing and floating downward. Suddenly, there he was. Erik sat cross-legged on his dorm room bed with a cell phone held up to one ear.
“I know, Ma, but I really thought she could be the one!” he whispered hoarsely. I eased down onto bed beside him. “There was something so special about her.”
I wanted to stroke his cheek and whisper in his ear but waited. That was a message that should come when he was not so preoccupied.
“No, it was not all based on how she looked!” Erik asserted. I felt a twinge as I realized his face betrayed his words. Whether or not his mother was fooled I did not know, but he hadn’t fooled me. Well, so what? He didn’t actually know me, so how could he love me for my personality? My beauty got me to the door of his heart but I never got further than that. I never had the chance. I vowed to find a way.
Erik had stretched out on his bed. Again I resisted the urge to caress him. He switched the phone to the other ear. “I had to talk to someone. I just can’t believe Marcie’s gone.”
I bolted off the bed and halfway through the ceiling.
That mousy girl who wouldn’t stop raising her hand to ask questions in journalism class? He liked the girl in the corner who always wore the cheap department store clothes and had the bad split ends? I floated back down to Erik just to make sure I hadn’t misheard him.
“A lot of people on campus are devastated by Marcie’s passing,” he went on. “Another girl who was in the same class as us jumped into the lake and drowned last night. I think her name was Kathy something.”
My name is Katie, you ass!
“I talked to her briefly last night. Tried to confide in her, you know? It was like talking to a brick wall. I thought all she cared about was herself, but I realize now that I was wrong. She was sad, too.”
I wasn’t sad! I just wanted him to pay attention to me. Last night I thought he was talking about me! Then I tried to be polite and be a good listener and what did it get me? Not a damn thing. Now he thinks I killed myself over some girl I didn’t even know or care about. What an idiot!
I glowered and seethed as Erik blathered on. “I kinda feel bad that Kathy jumped in,” he admitted. He furrowed his brows as he listened to his mother’s reply. He looked like he had last night when I told him I wanted to do him; disgusted.
“I think you might be right. She drowned herself just to be a copycat. That’s really messed up.”
Almost instantly I found myself looking down on a man and a woman dressed like they were ready to perform surgery. Two covered bodies on gurneys now occupied the room I had glanced in earlier. The man was not the same one that had been wheeling the gurneys around earlier. This one was bald and was reading from the pages on a clipboard.
“Subject is Katie Matthews. She was a student at the university. Parents have been notified. They’re driving down from upstate. Subject was found this morning washed up on the shore of Lake Pryor just off the university campus. Pronounced dead at the scene and brought in about an hour ago. Probably been in the water all night.”
He glanced over at my body. “No contusions or abrasions. We’ll know for sure once we’re finished, but it looks like she jumped in the lake deliberately.” That wasn’t true! I’d been thinking about Erik and had just closed my eyes for a few minutes. Maybe I’d fallen asleep and fallen in, but I hadn’t slid into the water on purpose!
I was going to bide my time with Erik. I’d felt confident that we’d connect eventually. But now I wasn’t so sure. He’d treated me almost as if I hadn’t existed; just yammered on and on about Marcie.
“Let’s get back to that one,” the woman caught my attention by saying. She pulled the sheet aside. “We need to start working on the girl from last night.”
“You got it.” The man tossed the clipboard onto my chest and strode over to the other gurney. He pressed record on a little portable recorder and pulled the lamp down close to Marcie’s face. The woman pulled on surgical gloves. “Subject is Marcie Brennan,” she said in a loud voice to the recorder. “Preliminary cause of death recorded as drowning. Subject does have a blow to the head though a likely contributing factor, this does not appear to be the cause of death.”
The man had used a large pair of scissors to cut Marcie’s bikini off. The woman turned and picked up something that looked sort of like a drill, except it had a big saw blade at the end. I hovered closer.
“Stand by for the initial pericardial cut,” the woman announced. I didn’t understand why I was still around but Marcie was apparently long gone. Maybe she’d followed the ‘bright light’ or whatever. I’d heard people say that some spirits don’t move on because something keeps them here. In my case, that would be Erik. Then the most spectacular idea ever conceived popped into my head. I didn’t know what kind of rules governed me now but I had nothing to lose. I concentrated and focused all my willpower on doing one thing.
When I grabbed her wrist with my hand, the woman screamed louder than anyone I’d ever heard in my life. The saw clattered to the floor. She staggered backwards and fled the room, leaving a gibbering stream of obscenities trailing behind her as she ran.
The man reacted differently. He beamed at me beatifically and murmured, “This is a great thing the Lord hath done.” He fumbled with his collar and pulled out a tiny gold cross on a chain.
“Praise God! It’s a miracle.”
My lungs ached and I twisted my head to vomit out the water that remained after the EMTs had tried reviving me. As I coughed the back of my head throbbed angrily. I had suffered even worse migraines and mentally filed the injury away as a concussion at worst. I experimentally wiggled my fingers and toes and hissed as pain seared through my shattered thumb. Forgot about that. I turned my head and looked at the man, who was still murmuring prayers and grinning like Paul on the road to Damascus.
“Can you do me a favor, please?” I asked in a creaky, watery voice that sounded strange in my head.
The guy leaned in. His breath smelled like salami. “Anything; just name it.”
“Call Thomas Hall on the university campus,” I instructed. Despite the pain, I wanted to smile. “Have them page Erik Watkins and tell him that Marcie Brennan survived and wants very much to see him.”
I closed my eyes and waited for my plaything to arrive. I had suffered emotionally for Erik until the day I died.
I would make sure he did the same for me.
"I had another bad dream, Mama!" Kendra sang while jumping down the stairs, her honey blond curls bouncing around her shoulders. She planted her bottom in her seat at the kitchen table and applied herself to her oatmeal.
Her sister, Rissi, stared at her with mouth slightly open.
Gods, it's not fair!
She stabbed her spoon into her mound of mush.
Would it would bleed if I stabbed hard enough?
Her own straight brown hair slid from her shoulders and dangled in the bowl. She scowled and wiped the ends with a napkin.
"Anything different this time?" Mom pulled off her smudged apron, running her fingers through hair that matched Rissi's in color, though not in length. She settled her round body into the chair next to Kendra's, leaning on her elbows with interest.
Kendra shook her head. "No, the usual. Telling me I have a special destiny, that I'm meant for great things and pointing at a pathway leading up a mountain and disappearing into the clouds."
When her sister spooned oatmeal into her mouth, Rissi had to look away with a frown. It wasn’t that her sister was ugly. Far from it, in fact. Rissi coveted her younger sister's curvaceous figure, even if she was ten pounds overweight. If she didn't wear her hair long, people often mistook her for a boy. But,she was definitely not fond of Kendra's chewing with her mouth open. Yuck.
"So how many dreams is that now?" Mom asked.
Kendra swallowed. "Five."
"I don't know. Lost count." She swigged some milk, a drop running down to her chin.
"Seven," said Dad, walking into the kitchen, pausing to kiss Mom on the forehead. Dad resembled Kendra with the blond hair and the famous Haines eyes: green with a darker green ring around the outer edge of the iris. Rissi also shared the eyes. Sometimes she felt sorry for Mom; she was the only one in the family with brown eyes.
Rissi scrubbed her mouth and dropped the crumpled napkin into her bowl. Then she stood up.
"In a hurry?" Dad asked, sitting in the other empty chair with his mug of coffee and his newspaper.
This family is chock full of rituals.
"I'm done eating, so I'm heading to school now." She left the kitchen to grab her backpack from its spot next to the couch.
"Wait! I'll walk with you!" Kendra called.
Rissi didn't wait. She didn't want to hear her parents gushing over how special Kendra was, or that she had the Goddess's hand on her shoulders. The door slammed shut behind her.
She seethed as she walked.
She used to be the favorite. Her parents had bragged to their witchy friends about how powerful she was. She remembered her mother's voice over and over again, "Remember, Marissa. You have to channel that power into positive things or it will eat you up." Wagging fingers, stern faces, yadda, yadda.
Everyone at school knew their family was Wiccan, followers of the Old Religion. Their San Francisco high school had such a diverse mix of cultures, religions and races, nobody really made a big deal out of her being Wiccan.
And then Kendra came along. And now Kendra was getting all the parental attention, what with her visions and dreams of the Goddess.
Personally, Rissi couldn't wait until Kendra was swept away on her glorious mission and out of her hair for good. If she had to listen to one more description of the Goddess's beauty, she would slit her own throat. Or Kendra's.
"Marissa Haines, please come to the nurse's office,” the robotic voice on the intercom blared. “Marissa Haines, please come to the nurse's office."
The page came during the middle of third period, chemistry.
Thank the gods, Rissi thought as she gathered her books and slung her purse over her shoulder. If I pinched myself awake one more time, I'd gush blood.
"What, you sick or something?" Brett, sitting behind her in all his sprawled gorgeousness, tapped his pen on the table.
"Didn't you know the nurse is psychic?" Rissi said, snatching the pen from his hand and poking him in the nose with the flat end. "She knows we're sick before we do."
She handed the pen back to him with a grin and walked out, proud of how smooth she sounded. Rissi passed a few kids that had empty period. They were gathered near the bathrooms at the end of the hallway. She swore she’d heard Kendra's name whispered before the group clammed up and watched her pass. Stopping at the end of the hall, she turned and looked back at them.
No one met her eyes.
Uh-oh. What's she done now?
Rissi shifted her books under her arm and grasped the handle. She let out a grunt as she fell inside the door, dropping her notebook.
"Marissa Haines?" the secretary asked.
The old lady glared at the notebook on the floor. Blushing, Rissi bent to scoop it up.
"Go right in to the nurse's office, please." She pointed her pen toward the hall on Rissi's right as though students were too stupid to know where anything was in their own school.
Nodding, Rissi pushed open the glass door to the nurse's office, finding a pleasant red-haired woman in her thirties. She wore a white lab coat and a flowered blouse beneath it. Rissi almost smiled when she noticed the nurse was wearing jeans and old sneakers, too.
"Thanks for coming, Marissa," the nurse said cordially. "I'm Mrs. Cooper."
They shook hands. "Please, call me Rissi."
Mrs. Cooper nodded. "Rissi, I called you because we have a small emergency with Kendra."
"What is it?"
"We're not sure."
She led the way to the little room attached to the office. The door was closed.
"It happened during second period. Her friends said that she seemed a little out of it, and then suddenly she just ... I don't know. Closed off, I guess you could say."
Mrs. Cooper opened the door and motioned Rissi to enter. There on the cot sat Kendra. She was wearing one of her favorite outfits: a baby doll T-shirt with Hello Kitty on the front, jeans that showed off her hips, and snow-white shoes. Her eyes were staring and unfocused. They blinked occasionally, the only indication that her body was still functioning.
"It's like she's in some kind of trance," the nurse commented, her fair eyebrows furrowed.
"Could you leave me with her for a while, Mrs. Cooper? Maybe I can bring her out of it."
"Sure." She closed the door with a soft clicking sound.
Rissi sighed, looking her sister over. "So what is it this time, Kenny?" That was the nickname she used to annoy Kendra, since her sister absolutely hated South Park.
"Are you getting another vision from the Goddess? Is she showing you the wonderful things you're going to accomplish in life? Are you going to be rich and famous, save lives and live in luxury?"
Rissi paced the room, feeling the anger churning beneath the surface.
"It's not fair. I'm supposed to be the powerful one. I'm the one they had high hopes for." She leaned over and glared into Kendra's still face. "And now I'm nothing? I'm just another schmuck waving around a wand and begging for attention? Forget that! I'm not begging you for anything!"
Kendra sat and stared.
Rissi snorted. "I'll bet you're faking the whole thing. I'll bet you got tired of your big sister overshadowing you all the time, so you had to put on a show."
She dropped her books on the black and white linoleum before looking over her shoulders for any indication that Kendra was faking. She blinked.
The bubble of anger burst inside Rissi's chest. She flew at Kendra and slapped her face. Her head snapped back, but she never flinched.
"Wake up!" Rissi screamed into her face.
Kendra's eyelids fluttered. Her cheek flamed red in the shape of Rissi's hand as she sucked in a breath. "W-What's going on?"
"Where am I? What happened? What am I doing here?" Rissi parodied her sister's voice in a high-pitched squeak.
"Why does my face hurt?"
"Because I slapped you."
"Why did you do that?"
The elder sister rubbed her forehead.
"Do you remember anything?"
Kendra's eyes shone. She jumped to her feet and grabbed Rissi's hands.
"Oh, yes! I saw the Summerland! The most beautiful place in the universe! And the Goddess was there! She told me that I had an important mission! That I would play an important role in the lives of several significant people-"
The door opened and Mrs. Cooper poked her head inside. "Everything all right in here?"
Rissi started to answer, but Kendra rushed forward. "Yes, yes, Mrs. Cooper. Everything is fantastic! I must get back to class!"
"Hold it, hold it, dear." Mrs. Cooper put up her hands and herded Kendra back to the bed. "I finally got your mother on the phone and she's going to be here soon. We'll discuss what happened and what your mom wants to do next."
"If Mom's on her way, I'm going back to class." Rissi gathered her stuff from the floor. "You wait here for Mom like a good girl, Kenny."
Kendra stuck her tongue out.
Rissi threw her backpack on the blue shag carpet and flopped onto her bed, face pressing into the pillow. Normally the bright blue bedspread with yellow flowers cheered her up, but not today.
Soon, the entire high school was talking about Kendra and her "trance." And most didn't bother shutting up when she came around either. Perhaps that's because Kendra's the biggest mouthpiece in the school. If she had no problem talking about it, why should anyone else?
She wondered how much longer it would be until the kids decided the sisters and their Wiccan family were just too darn strange not to mock.
Heaving a sigh, she flipped over onto her back and stared up at the glow-in-the-dark moons and stars pockmarking her ceiling. There was to be a family ritual tomorrow night on the full moon. Rissi wondered if she'd be able to stomach it, watching them build up Kendra's pedestal even higher than it already was.
She was going to the gathering in New York as a representative of the Shadowfire family trad. She'd give a speech about her visions and dreams, and hold a discussion about them with other Wiccans and witches from around the world.
Rissi's gut knotted up so tightly she had to lay her palms on her abdomen.
Maybe I'm getting the stomach flu. Maybe I'll be able to puke all my problems in the toilet. She groaned, knowing that it was impossible.
Suddenly she sat up straight.
Even though the moon was full tomorrow, the power was still extremely strong the night before and the night after. Her parents were out getting supplies. Kendra was studying with a friend, and probably retelling her trance tale for the hundredth time.
No one would be home for quite some time...
A few problems...it wasn't night, so she wouldn't be able to bathe herself or the altar in the moonlight. It would have to be fairly hurried, since she wasn't sure when the others would get home. Did she even have the right equipment?
Rissi dove off the bed and pulled open the bottom drawer on the end table that served as her altar for personal prayers and rituals. She placed a large ceramic tile painted with a black pentacle on the tabletop. Scrounging through the objects she’d collected for various spells, she dug out a pinkish candle shaped like a female figure. That'll do. Now - ribbon, ribbon. Do I have any?
She pulled a length of skinny green ribbon and a roll of wider black ribbon. Black would be the best choice. After all, I don't want to harm anyone, do I? No, I just want to knock her down a peg or two. Black would be good for deflecting negativity.
Ten minutes later, Rissi stood before her altar in her favorite purple velvet robe. Incense burned in the east corner of the table, a small red candle burned in the south, a dish of spring water occupied the west, and a stone smoothed by years from the river guarded the north.
She whispered the invocations, invited the Guardians of the Watchtowers to guard the circle, sprinkled water and salt to bless and consecrate the circle and stood in its center. The warmth built up around her, and a drop of sweat rolled from her temple to her chin.
Now. To work.
Rissi took the female-shaped candle in one hand. The other hand clutched a small bundle of Kendra's hair she'd pulled from her sister's brush. She held the bottom of the candle over the flame of the south candle, then smashed the hair into the soft wax until it cooled. "I call you Kendra," she whispered, fixing an image of the younger girl in her mind.
Holding the edge of the ribbon to the flame, she moved the candle close enough to thrust the hot end of the ribbon into the wax, sealing it inside. She then wrapped the ribbon, covering the pink in a shroud of black.
As she wound the ribbon, she murmured, "I bind your powers, Kendra, rendering you mundane," over and over again.
She thought about Kendra waking up normal: no visions, no dreams, no rampant ego steeped in Goddess bliss. She thought about Kendra sitting at her desk in school, doing homework, eating lunch like any regular girl. No trances, no classroom disruptions, no staring eyes or flapping lips of the faceless and nameless gossipers.
Rissi tore the end of the ribbon into two pieces to tie it tightly around the candle. she lay the candle in a box and clamped shut the lid.
"By my will, you are drawn out of the clouds and back to the earth. Be you bound until I see fit to release you. So shall it be."
She drew a pentacle on the box, clapped her hands and opened her eyes with a smile.
Which may be never.
Rissi shoved her small luggage into the overhead compartment, then picked up her backpack and squeezed into her window seat on the plane. Her heart skipped beats as she thought about her success.
Kendra had developed what the doctor called "excessive fatigue disorder." She’d complained of weakness and aching limbs the day after Rissi had cast her spell. Kendra left the family circle in the middle of it, something that had never happened before. Mom closed the circle early, another first.
Since mental stress was a big cause of her "condition," the doc restricted Kendra to the house for two weeks. Her friends brought her schoolwork, which she was allowed to work on for no more than an hour each day. Kendra had spent the last few days in bed, moaning about her rotten luck.
Rissi, as the concerned big sister, brought her anything she asked for and concealed her elation behind a calm mask.
Rissi was on her way to the gathering, her first time leaving home. She planned on touring as much of the city as she could around gathering hours. Especially Broadway! To see all the brilliant billboards announcing her favorite shows was almost too good to be true.
No one sat in the seats next to her by the time the doors closed. She obediently watched the flight attendants do their spiel, longing to pull out her iPod and watch a movie. Soon the plane nosed into the air. Rissi expected her stomach to heave, but she felt too excited to notice anything unpleasant.
Until a man in first class stood up and brandished the oddest-looking weapon Rissi ever saw.
It looked like a child's toy gun made up of black Legos, Tinker Toys and duct tape. A brief thought of "How the heck did he get that on the plane?" crossed her mind before the man started screaming in a thick accent Rissi didn't recognize.
"We are taking over this plane! Nobody move or you will be shot!"
His partner jumped up and dashed to the cockpit door. There was some yelling, and then the pilots came out with their hands up. Both sported bruises and blood on their faces.
The sight of blood quickened Rissi's pulse. Her fingers clutched at her seatbelt.
The pilots sat heavily in the front row of first class with the terrorist's gun centered on them. His crazy eyes raked over the passengers, watching for any sudden movements.
A drop of sweat rolled down Rissi's cheek.
Why doesn't anybody do something?
Her inner ear itched. She rubbed at it, but the itch persisted. Rissi rubbed until her ear flamed with the friction, but the sensation only increased. She stopped with her hand hovering by her ear. Was she hearing things?
...you are now the chosen...you have the power...stand and cast your will ...
Rissi shook her head like a wet dog. When she opened her eyes, she saw endless blue sky and clouds, not the plane seat in front of her. The clouds coalesced, pink and blue, swirling around until they formed a woman more beautiful than anyone found in the Universe. The clouds formed her dress, sprinkled with stars, raindrops and snow crystals. Her hair streamed over her shoulders, constantly changing colors. Her face seemed to morph into different shapes, her skin into different shades. She was every culture, every race, every woman.
"Goddess," Rissi breathed. She fell from her seat, now just a mound of fog, and landed on her knees, hands clasping.
"I choose you now," the Goddess said, a gentle breeze of sound. "You shall take your sister's place and fulfill her destiny."
"Of course I will, my Lady," Rissi said, leaning forward with saucer eyes. "You only have to ask, and I will do what you say."
Thump. "Hey, what's wrong with you?"
Rissi looked at her lap; one of the airline magazines lay there. The terrorist had thrown it at her while she was in her trance.
"I said stand up."
Rissi moved into the aisle and faced the man, heart thudding. She felt the piercing urge to go to the bathroom, but squashed the idea. She took a few slow steps toward first class.
"Close enough," he said. His thin hairline was soaked through with sweat.
As she studied him, facts popped into her head from nowhere. The flight attendant with the blond wig had brought some of the pieces making up the odd weapon on board, a piece at a time. A security employee had helped her sneak them in. The terrorists each had brought a piece with them.
Her gaze flicked to the pilots, who watched her intently. The one on the left, the dark-haired one, paled when her brilliant green eyes met his. He was in it with the terrorists. That's how they were able to pull this off.
Rissi frowned at him and he looked away. She then focused on the thin guy with the weapon as she felt the plane lurch; they were changing directions. Probably to crash into the White House or something.
He was squawking at her, but she heard nothing.
A spell tumbled from her lips, whispered at first. She gathered the power around her, centering it in her laced fingers. Her palms grew hot and itchy. In her mind's eye, she saw all the different energy colors mingling in her hands: green, yellow, orange, blue, but mostly red. Lots of red.
Light glowed around her fingers and lit up her face, the rings around her green irises shimmering.
The terrorist noticed. His jaw swung loose for a moment, then worked like a baby sucking a bottle. He screamed something at her, veins standing out on neck and forehead. The barrel of his gun lowered until it pointed straight at her heart.
Rissi thought she might burst with the power filling her flesh. She closed her eyes, drawing the last drops of energy in, and squeezed the bundle in her hands.
With a single fluid movement, she lunged forward and thrust her hands out. The energy shrieked as it left her body, her clothes flapping in a sudden fierce wind. The thin man flew back to smack into the cockpit door, the gun ripping from his senseless fingers. The pilots jumped up and dove onto the man, yanking his arms behind him and handcuffing him.
Rissi wavered on her feet. Several passengers came up behind her. When one touched her shoulder, a jolt of pain made her look down and grind her teeth.
Blood flowed from the open wound in her chest, staining her favorite jeans.
Shit. The bastard shot me.
Her eyes rolled back in her head as she flopped into someone's arms. That person lowered her to the floor, but she couldn't really feel anything else. She thought she should be gasping, coughing, spitting up blood, but she breathed easy.
That itchy ear feeling started again. As though the Goddess were speaking to her, Rissi knew the passengers saw her tackle the terrorist. There would be no strange stories of wizard girls in the news. Still, she would be regarded as a hero.
In the sea of faces over her, she saw the guilty flight attendant. Rissi pointed to her.
"She helped him." Her voice emerged as a hoarse whisper.
The flight attendant gaped. Then she scrambled to her feet and ran down the aisle. Rissi heard the sound of the bathroom door lock. More yelling. The innocent pilot had gained control of the plane again. When the other one appeared in the aisle, Rissi's finger slid to point at him.
"He left the cockpit door unlocked on purpose."
After a moment of silence, a couple of passengers rushed him, forcing him into a seat.
Cold enveloped Rissi's body. The fog crept into her sight until she saw only one thing: a young gentleman, clean shaven, crisp black hair and pressed suit with a red and white tie. "We'll get help for you as soon as we can," he told her, his voice gentle. She knew he held her hand, though her fingers were beyond feeling now.
He's the future President of the United States, Rissi realized. That's what Kendra was supposed to do. Save the future leader of our country. Save the man who would become the country's best president in its entire history.
The young man's face transformed until Rissi saw the face of the Goddess smiling at her.
Will you please take the binding spell off Kendra for me?
The glowing face nodded.
Rissi inhaled one final breath.
Time to go.