Thanks to Alistair Forbes for hosting the February 11th, 2018 Edition of SPF. This is a bit of a longer piece. Written for a writer’s course, around 500 Words as opposed to 200 Words or less. I cleaned it up and changed the original a bit.
Credit: J. Carol Hardy
Charlene twists her hair. The potent drink on the bar is her fifth tequila shot in an hour. The hazy, dreamlike atmosphere in the crowded town bar confuses her. Most of the crowd puff away, smoke lingering in the air, twisting above her, a toxic dragon of cigarette stench.
An attractive singer who isn’t local, belts out tunes while strumming his guitar. His catchy music has Charlene humming, her fingers tapping to the rhythm.
When he plays a soft song, the crowd boos. Some men throw beer bottles that smash and scatter glass against the small stage’s back wall. The singer peers around the room, his eyes darting back and forth. A bouncer drags away one of the offenders and the singer resumes his music, belting out cheerful tunes once more.
Charlene chuckles. As per usual, the town bar echoes with boisterous laughter and harmless drunks telling tale tales. Then, the creep beside her, pokes her arm. “Drink it, drink the shot.”
She peers up at him and his putrid breath makes her sick. “I don’t want it. Go away.” He leers and Charlene shivers.
She turns, stumbles towards the cracked vinyl booth where her coat and purse lay. Grabbing them she fumbles, zipping up her coat. The creep follows her and pinches her chin, trying to pour the shot into her mouth.
Warm tequila dribbles from her lips, acrid as she chokes. “No more, I don’t want anymore.” She cuts off his words, the poison of the creep’s lizard-tongue. “I’m going home — alone.”
Charlene teeters, leaning against the worn bar. She presses her hands against the humid backs of people waiting to buy more drinks. In open places, she leans on the bar, tracing it’s antique carvings, the dents on its worn surface. Jerry, one of the bartenders, slides her a glass of water. She nods at him, and swallows, her throat aching.
Past the bar, Charlene leans against a lone stool at a table. The stool wobbles on splintering legs. She grits her teeth, than sucks out a sliver of wood from her thumb. A gift from the table top.
Head spinning, Charlene lands in the quiet of the shuffleboard area, dizzy against the table. She presses her phone, fingers clumsy as she sends for an Uber. She downs more water from her purse. With some clarity, she wanders through sweat-soaked bodies towards the main door.
In the chill of the night, the creep is somehow beside her, waiting to follow her into her Uber. She ignores him, hobbling to a bouncer. “He’s following me, make him go away. He put something in my drink.”
The lie slips out; she doesn’t care. The creep who bought her five shots scares her. The bouncer’s blue eyes bulge. “No problem, Miss. I’ll ensure you get into the Uber alone.”
The bouncer offers the creep free beer to go back inside, and Charlene shivers, the wind biting at her face as flurries fly. She falls asleep inside the Uber, and the driver helps her into her apartment on the third floor. He takes the key from her hand and unlocks her door as she offers him a scrunched five-dollar bill.
“It’s fine. I don’t need help.”
The driver shakes his head. “That man you were running from, he’s bad. He has a different woman drunk each weekend night; he drugs many of them. The bouncer’s my friend, and he made sure you got into my Uber. We’re trying to catch him, but this a**holes too experienced to leave much evidence.”
The fact that the creep could’ve drugged her for ‘real’ makes Charlene ill. She rushes to the kitchen sink, throwing up multiple times.
The Uber driver ‘Ahems’ behind her. “I’m going now. Will you be okay?’
She nods. “Thank God, you’re a good man.”
“Stop accepting drinks from weird strangers. Don’t lead guys like him on. You have to think before you accept more than one drink; especially, in a small town like ours.”
Charlene nods, collapsing on the floor. She knows she’s asleep, but a sharp tempo beats against her temples. She’s half-awake, restless, afraid of the nightmares seeping in; the creep’s leering grin and eyes of a predator.
Tallia heard the chime as the door to her small magic shop opened. She was usually alerted to a customer’s presence ahead of time. She could feel them before they chose to come inside her store and browse. She could especially feel them when they came to her shop with a purpose.
She brushed back her hair, dyed a light purple-hue of grey as was fashionable. Although, she wasn’t much older than her mid-twenties, her business did well. There was always a a demand for certain products she sold. Her Aunt Willow had run this shop for years before her untimely death.
Tallia had kept the name of the shop: Fairy Dust. She had, however, remodeled the shop Aunt Willow had left her to run. She made the shop modern and inviting, but retained its sense of the mystical. She loved her Aunt, but she also loved that the shop was no longer a hole in the wall.
Tallia’s store at first glance, catered to those who were browsing for small treasures or jewelry. Knickknack items which were more magic themed souvenirs or memorabilia, than actual magic.
But hidden among the knickknacks were items which could be powerful if used correctly. The items in the restricted section in the back of the store were more powerful than the ones placed out in the open.
The magical items placed here and there upfront were for decor purposes and to let certain customers know what kind of shop Fairy Dust truly was. Only her regulars were allowed in the back with permission.They knew exactly what they were searching for and how dangerous certain magical ingredients and objects could be.
A man called out to Tallia in the shop after she let him browse around for ten-minutes; she waited to see what the man wanted. The fact she had not felt him coming alarmed her.
“Hello is anyone there?” the man asked.
Tallie smiled at the man. He had bright green eyes and dark hair. He was quite attractive, she thought. Then a shadow was caste over her mind. The man appeared harmless enough, but she knew there was some kind of darkness in him.
She held onto the cross hanging from her throat for a moment. It was a protective piece of jewelry and it also confirmed her feelings there was something odd about this man being here. The darkness followed him around and it unnerved Tallia who was starting to experience a headache.
“I’m sorry sir, I’ve had such a busy morning and I need to take a lunch break and go pick up some food. Is there anyway you could come back after lunch?” Tallia attempted to look as if she was faint from hunger.
The man sighed.”I really need your help. It’s not something that can wait.”
“I’m so sorry,” Tallia replied, coming out from behind her cash register.” I need to leave. I can’t wait for food. My blood sugar is too low,” she lied.
The man appeared exasperated. “Alright, I’ll be back in an hour and a half. He handed Tallia his business card. “You will be back right?”
“Of course, Teegan,” she said peering at his business card, “One needs to make a living, don’t they?”
Teegan Foster smiled at this and left out the front door. Tallia could feel the shadow lessening quickly as he walked away from her shop. She decided she would indeed close the store for today.
She hoped this might encourage him to visit another magic shop in the city, where they were more experienced dealing with darker magic. She didn’t want to deal with whatever Teegan Foster’s problem was, unless she had no other choice.
Tallia wrote a quick sign saying she had become ill and would be closed for the rest of the day. She wrote the number of another magic shop on the sign which was close by, for an customers needing emergency supplies. She tapped the sign on the shop’s front door.
The following day Tallia returned to work refreshed. Some of her regulars had come to the store this morning. She chatted with them as she helped them find correct items for spells and potions.
She swapped stories with them and they laughed at the happenings in each other’s lives. Many of them had known Tallia since she was as a small girl at the shop; her Aunt had raised her.
Sometime later, Tallia’s head started to throb. She clutched the cross around her neck, feeling the dark shadow around a certain someone drawing closer.
Her regulars had left long ago. She was all alone as she sat down on a stool behind the counter. A green-eyed and sharply dressed Teegan Foster came in the door and stopped abruptly in front of Tallia had the cash register. She instantly felt his darkness clouding her mind and making her dizzy.
“Are you feeling better?” Teegan asked her.
Tallia nodded.”I’m fine, I’ll be fine,” she murmured.
Teegan frowned, “I’m sorry, you don’t look well. That’s my fault, here.” She saw him whisper something and the shadow faded and her pain lessened.
“What, what can I help you with Mr. Foster?” Tallia asked, her voice unsteady.
“It’s just Teegan, Tallia. I need a particular potion. Your Aunt Willow was the only one who could make it for me, and her mother before her. I’m positive you know how to make the potion too. She must have mentioned me at sometime; I’m a long time customer.”
“You don’t look so old?”
“I’m older than I appear, much older. But you might not understand such magic yet.”
He came closer to her and stroked her cheek gently.”It’s okay Tallia. The potion I get here, it takes the darkness away for a long time. The pain you feel, the potion will ensure it doesn’t come from me again ever.”
Tallia nodded mutely. When Teegan, touched her, she felt a jolt which was beyond magic. She was attracted to him, more than she would like to admit. But she didn’t trust him.
Instead of looking at Teegan, she stepped away and brought out her Aunt’s old tome from a small room behind the front counter. It was a volume full of customers, spells, and potions from the past two centuries.
Tallia eventually found a page for Teegan, explaining everything she had to do to make his potion. It wasn’t a difficult potion to make and the ingredients seemed normal, she noticed with surprise.
She wondered why Teegan needed it so badly. She also saw the writing of the spell was neither her Aunt’s or her Great-Aunt’s writing. It was a script she had never noticed in this tome before. A woman with skilled and flowing handwriting had first written down this potions recipe.
“It will be an hour or so,” Tallia told Teegan. ” I’m sorry, you’ll be waiting so long. You could’ve called the store and I would’ve made it early this morning.”
“Um, I think you would’ve refused me. You would’ve went home again. Am I right Tallia?”
She flushed. “I wasn’t well, Teegan. Honestly.”
“Sure you weren’t,” he said. His smile was dazzling and he had dimples.
“I’ll wait here for the potion. You’ve a comfortable waiting area in the front there. I can sit and read the news on my phone.”
Tallia peered at her modern but cozy waiting are in front of the store’s large window,” Suite yourself, do you want something to drink?”
“A coffee please, with some milk,” Teegan said.
“One moment,” Tallia replied, feeling uneasy about him.
Although he seemed nice, she wondered what happened if Teegan didn’t receive his potion. What could be worse than the shadow surrounding him? She also wondered how old he really was? Was this potion what kept him from aging? She shook her head at the thought. It wasn’t possible, was it?
Magic often surprised Tallia but not trusting Teegan, she put a bit of sleeping drought and blended it with his milk and coffee. She might require more time than an hour to make this potion.
She wanted to call another magic shop she knew had been around for far longer than she wanted to know. Her Aunt’s store had been relatively a new magic shop, despite it being in the family for generations.
Tallia felt the owner of the ancient store The Black Coven, a man a much older than herself named Jude, might have records what this potion her Aunt made for Teegan actually did. Surely, someone else of his kind had used it as well.
She served Teegan his coffee and he caught her blue-eyes and held them. She felt herself flush. He drank about half the coffee and set in down. He smiled at Tallia, thanking her and meeting her eyes again.
She went to the back of the store to start gathering ingredients. When Tallia came back out front fifteen-minutes later, Teegan was fast asleep. She sighed, trying to calm the hammering of her chest. She felt a bit guilty. Ignoring her guilt, she went to call Jude, hoping he would enlighten her on Teegan’s mysterious potion.