War-N-Wit, Inc. - The Witch (7 page)

BOOK: War-N-Wit, Inc. - The Witch
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like you're a controlling asshole
, I thought, but
whatever got him out of here the quickest.

"Sounds good," I affirmed, in a
fever to whip out my cell phone and hit a certain number even as I derived a
bit of satisfaction from the thought of Scott actually fixing something for
to eat for a change. And I was
getting shaky, I hadn't eaten a lot at lunch and really hadn't stopped since
I'd gotten home, because then I might have to think.

He was back in five minutes with a mug of
tomato soup. I took it, wondering how in the hell he'd been engaged to me for
six months and didn't know that though I loved tomatoes, I didn't like tomato
soup and used it for cooking purposes only.

"The oven timer dinged while I was in
there, I took those cookies out and turned it off."

"Great. Thanks. I'm fine now, you go
on. I'm just goin' drink this and collapse."

"You're sure you're really all right?
I mean, you're not sick or anything, are you?"

The expression on his face
me to confirm I wasn't sick. And
I knew I shouldn't take that personally; I'd never known a man who wouldn't
rather do almost anything else other than take care of a sick wife or
girlfriend. Well, except clean a toilet.

"No, I'm fine. Go on. I'll call you

"When you get up, remember to lock the

"I will."

The minute the door clicked I clunked the
mug of soup down on the coffee table so hard it sloshed and pulled my cell out
of my pocket.

"Hello, baby girl."

Well, at least he was alive. And he didn't
sound shook up, but there
something different about his voice.

in the
was that?" I

"What was what?"

"Don't get cute with me! Something
just happened, I know it did, there was this—this
—that hit me out of nowhere—"

"I'm fine. Real gully-washer coming
wasn't paying enough attention. I
a little, that's all.
Got my attention, though."

"It got a hell of a lot more than your
attention! The muscles in the back of your neck went rigid and you damn near
hyperventilated, so don't tell
was nothing!" I shouted furiously. "Not to mention that echo shouting
'Not now!'"

"I believe it was 'Not now, damn
it,'" he said calmly. "Made me mad as hell, I can't get killed
, of all times. I just found

"And why the hell weren't you paying
attention if it's raining all that hard? And why the hell are you talking on
the damn phone if it's raining that hard?!"

"Because you called
And I was—well, really, I'm about wiped out,
precious. Didn't tell you because I figured Miss Responsible would insist we
reschedule today, but I was up most of last night running down a military man
who thought he was immune because he was on base, like I don't have passes to
all the military bases."

trailed after me around a mall for four freakin' hours in Christmas crowds
which exhausted
when you've been
up for how many straight hours?!"

"For a hell of a long time now, but it
took me a lifetime to find you and almost a month to get you to commit to a
definite day and there was no way in hell you were getting out of it."

, you! You're a stupid

See? You do care. And you're coming along really fast, too, picking all
that up, my precious half-witch, half-bitch,
girl. Don't
nothing's going to happen me. I'm a
warlock guarded by an angel. Who's a

I didn't say anything for a moment.
"Asshole," I repeated.
And hung up.


Chapter Eleven


I don't remember much of the next few days.
I think I was in automated, self-defense shut down mode. Stacy didn't ask any
questions and I knew she wouldn't until I indicated I was ready to talk. We
were sisters. We knew each other inside and out, even with the five years age
difference. I'd always taken it for granted all sisters did and for the first
time, courtesy of Magic Man, I wondered if she and I might take the sisterhood
thing to a level past that of other sisters.

But it wasn't fair to keep her in total
suspense and I wasn't ready to explore any possibilities that we communicated
on a deeper level than most sisters. So on our first smoke break of the next
morning post Chad Garrett a/k/a
I merely
volunteered the information that I was still monogamous. Her reply was succinct
and to the point.

"Shit. Not for too much longer, I

"I'm—processing some things," I

He pretty much left me alone to process on
that Friday, last work day before Christmas on the following Monday, other than
a few humorous emails. I sent a few humorous emails in return, but that was
all, until I forwarded him my personal email address right before leaving.
Saturday and Sunday passed in the blur of holiday visits and family and friend
get-togethers that
Christmas Day itself.

And during the course of Saturday's
pre-holiday revelry, I became aware that I was
to become aware of—what? I wasn't sure.
A subliminal hum running through the air and under the ground?
An increasingly bright luminescence that began to glow around everything and
everyone I saw?
Not exactly.
Not yet. But it
was—forming. Wasn't it?

I sent a text Saturday night, hoping that
he was engaged in Christmas business rather than stake-out business, but there
was no reply. I reminded myself again that he had family and friends and
holiday events too, and Saturday became Sunday.

The subliminal hum seemed louder that day,
the luminescence shone more brightly and nowhere did it shine more brightly
than in my baby sister's face as she sat by our parents' fireplace on Christmas
Eve during my family's traditional festivities. Unless she was looking at
Scott, that is. How, I wondered
had I missed that?
of her
dislike for him.
I sent another innocuous text that night, but again,
there was no reply.

Monday, Christmas Day, I stared out the car
window as it ate up the interstate miles on the way up to Scott's parents, that
ever-present hum and luminescence still haunting me. About half-way there, the
quality of sound and light changed. A giant "
sounded in my brain and all at once, I wasn't just
the subliminal hum or just
the underlying luminescence.

I was part of it and it was part of me and
I knew, knew with absolute certainty that there
an underlying power, a grand magic and music of the universe.
Everything and everyone was
intertwined. And in that connection was the ancient, universal truth, lost and
twisted and forgotten through the ages. Before there had ever been a
"Bless you, my child", there had been a "Blessed be."
The religion of the old ones.
And I knew why modern
conventional religion had never been enough to fulfill me and bring me, for
lack of a better description, inner peace though I had no doubt it did for
others and though I'd always been more than slightly envious of those for whom
it did. I was a witch. I was one of the ancients.

In the next
I backslid. Oh, my God! I was going to die and go to Hell!

It only took a moment for the serenity to
return. No, I wasn't. I wasn't abandoning anything, I was expanding it. God was
the power and the music and the magic of the universe. I'd just found It.
Or Him.
Or Her.
I was pretty sure
the power was gender neutral. Life itself was magic. All you had to do was open
your mind and let it find you.

I looked over at Scott. It was Christmas. I
owed him a normal Christmas Day with his parents. In one sense, I hated this
happening at Christmas, though it was undoubtedly the best Christmas present
I'd ever had in my life. I didn't want to leave him a bad memory associated
with the Christmas
though I had no illusions
this was going to scar him for life. He wanted to marry me because I was
suitable, sensible by his standards, at least most of the time anyway, and low
maintenance. The world was full of suitable, sensible girls. I supposed from
here on out, I wasn't going to be considered sensible by anybody's standards,
other than the standards of a certain Magic Man by the name of Chad Garrett.
And Stacy.

I pulled out my phone and slid the keyboard

"Who you texting,

Why had I never noticed that he always
wanted to know who I was calling, who I was texting, who I was emailing? And in
that moment of oneness with the world, I knew it wasn't his fault and that it
wasn't fair to expect him to be something he wasn't and never would be.

"A friend," I said and a text
"Merry Christmas! Love
went flying out over the cell towers of Georgia.

The response took all of two minutes.
"Thank God as that's the first time uve
said love to me…Merry Christmas to u baby girl…should I come? Love u more than
n almost deserve."

I smiled. I'd known that
'Love u'
was going to get his attention.
"Not yet"
I sent back.
"Still processing… but soon"

I didn't bother to close the screen.

"Glory Hallelujah!"

I gave Scott his normal Christmas Day with
his parents. It was easier than I'd thought it'd be. I seemed to have a new
gentleness, a new understanding that didn't carry with it resentment of what
people weren't, just acceptance of what they'd never be. And on the ride home,
I gazed up out of the window and watched the stars dance in an intricate ballet
of shimmering light against the black canopy. I'd never fully appreciated that
dance before.

I didn't intend to return his ring that
night but he forced the issue when it became apparent that he didn't intend to

He stared at my outstretched hand extending
it back to him.

"You're joking, right?
Not funny, Ariel, not today."

"No joke. I'm sorry, but this just
isn't going to work, Scott. And I wouldn't have done it today if it hadn't been
obvious you didn't intend to go home."

"Just who doesn't it work for?
Works for me."

"Not for me."

"And you don't care about anybody or
anything but yourself, is that it?"

I closed my eyes. The question used by
every individual I'd ever known my entire life any time responsible,
self-sacrificing Ariel didn't do
what was expected of her. But this time it wasn't going to work.

"Oh, I care," I said.
"Just not enough."


Chapter Twelve


The next work morning, I sent my sister our
private signal of the need to go indulge our filthy habit. "Right now,
right now?" went speeding through the BLAH email system. The level of
urgency in any such request was indicated by the number of question marks and
exclamation points that followed the last "right now". Sometimes,
depending on the level of stress being experienced at the moment by one or the
other of us, they stretched out for a whole line. This one indicated an
ordinary smoke break. I didn't want her to think I was having a panic attack.

"On my way," she responded, and I
got up and headed for the parking garage.

She was already in the front seat, already
lit up, and turned to face me as I got in.

"Ready to tell me about it?" she

"I am, but not on a smoke break.
Whatcha' doin' tonight?
How 'bout pizza?
place or yours?"

"Mine. Yours has Scott vibes.

"Joint sister
homemade pizza."

"What're you going to do with

I held out my left hand for inspection.

" she almost shouted.

"Yeah, I got that reaction from
somebody else recently, too."

"Wonder who? You're really going to
make me wait till tonight?"

"For that?
Oh, yeah. But I do want to ask you something now."

"Okay. What?"

"What if—" I

BOOK: War-N-Wit, Inc. - The Witch
3.05Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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