Disclaimers: The characters and story are mine and no copyright infringement was intended. This story came to life from a dream I had. I had seen part of the movie "Practical Magic", and pieces of that settled into my dreamscape, causing this story to surface. I highly recommend reading Alice Hoffmans book Practical Magic.
Love/Sex: Nothing explicit but it does cover same sex attraction.
Violence: No, but a couple of pumpkins were carved up!
Language: One small 4-letter word.
Thank-you: Thank you to Stacia for beta reading and for some wonderful suggestions and to my sister who reminded me of a teacher that we both loved when we were small.
Feedback: If youd like to comment on any aspect of the story, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.
Spells Really Do Come True
by Deb K
Its October 30th and Im sipping a steaming cup of pumpkin-spice coffee in a crowded liberal coffee shop in Burlington, Vermont. I paint murals, and the local chamber of commerce has commissioned me to design some historic scenes on two of the buildings downtown. I almost turned down the work thinking it might be too cold this late in the season to be exposed to the elements for long hours, but for some unexplainable reason I felt almost drawn to come here, so I accepted. Ill be finished tomorrow and now part of me wishes I could stay longer. This country is gorgeous in autumn and the colors must be peak right about now. None of my paintings could ever compare to the hues that Gods palette creates in the fall, and sitting here looking out this window at the falling leaves Im awestruck at the beauty of this land.
Two small girls just walked by outside hand in hand, one dressed up as a witch and the other as a vampire. Their Halloween festivities seem to be well underway and the smiles on their faces remind me of my best friend when I was that age. I havent thought about her in years. Her name was Payton and we were inseparable. We saw each other every day from the time I was five years old until my family moved from Ohio to Minnesota when I was eleven.
Payton and I had a crush on the same teacher in fifth grade. We had no idea what that meant when we were ten years old, but of course now I understand why my hands would sweat when her tall frame leaned over my desk to inspect my homework. Even now, I find it hard not to smile when I think of her. She had the shiniest long dark brown, almost black hair and the bluest eyes Id ever seen, and when Ms. Kenny smiled all the cares in my tiny little world fell away. I loved going to school that year, but of course thats because I loved Ms. Kenny.
Paytons family was kind of odd, but that never stopped me from spending endless hours at her house. In a town where most families were either Catholic or Baptist, it didnt take much for a practicing Pagan household to stand out. I cant say exactly what they believed in, but I do remember that it was way less scary to me than the evangelist over at the Baptist church who used to shout and wail about the wages of sin equaling death.
Now that Im older, I understand the gentle and compassionate nature of the people who practice Wicca, seeking to find spiritual alchemy. But back then in that small town, people were harsh and mean with their comments. Paytons last name was Lewis, but most people called them "The Munsters" or "The Addams Family". Id hated the cruelty but Payton, ever the comedian and blessed with self-confidence, would just point her finger and cast a fake spell, wishing the intended target a bad case of acne or food poisoning. Of course the couple of times that the kids actually did become coincidentally afflicted, the gossip would spread that Payton really was a witch. That never fazed her, though, shed just laugh and milk it for all it was worth. She loved it when the other kids were scared of her.
One of the things that Paytons mom did around All Hallows Eve was to make a big pot of soup in a big black kettle. Shed call it her brew and stir in ingredients all day long, stopping to make some rhyme when she added the next spice. Mrs. Lewis was always making analogies about this or that. She said that soup was a lot like life it could be simple or savory and depending on what you added to it, it would either be filling or leave you hungry. Back then, Payton and I would just nod and act like we understood what she was telling us. Of course, now I think she may have been one of the most insightful women Ive ever known.
One Friday night late in October when Payton and I were young, we sat at her kitchen table carving our pumpkins. Mrs. Lewis was making us caramel apples and listening to our conversation. We were giggling and carrying on about falling in love. Wed decided that we wanted the same thing in a husband, so we were making up our dream man. Mrs. Lewis in the spirit of the holiday decided to encourage our silliness and told us that we could cast a spell that would ensure wed find everlasting, true love in our future. She sat down with a piece of paper and wrote down the qualities we verbalized.
Payton said she wanted him to have green eyes like mine, but after some discussion, we finally agreed he should have sky-blue eyes, like Ms. Kennys and like her own. We decided that he should be tall and have dark brown hair, wear cowboy boots, and love animals. The last thing that Payton threw in, completely on her own, was that he should have a small heart-shaped birthmark on his chest. I laughed heartily over that one, but agreed to it nonetheless.
That night, under a full moon with the stars shining bright, we went out into the yard and made a small circle of candles. Mrs. Lewis lit a bundle of sage and danced around the grass, letting the smoke from the herbs filter around the site. She placed a clay pot in the middle of the circle and pulled out the paper with our dream mans qualities listed on it. As Payton and I held hands around the candles, Mrs. Lewis lit the corner of the note on fire, then dropped it into the pot. The flames danced around the bowl and as a cold wind blew up, the ashes rose and swirled up to the stars and dispersed into the heavens.
God, I havent thought about that in ages. I wonder if Payton ever found her dream man? I hope shes happy, whatever shes doing. As for me, Ive found glimpses of happiness in the arms of various women over the years. I guess since that spell was conjured up with a man in mind, it couldnt apply to my life. It was just a bunch of Halloween hijinks anyway.
A cool breeze blowing in from the opened coffee shop door rouses me from my daydreams. As I look up, the natural beauty of the tall woman who just came in strikes me. Shes walking up to the counter and I cant help but stare. I finally pull my gaze back to the window and admire the fall colors once again, and then I bring the cup to my lips and draw in another long sip of coffee.
"Would you mind if I joined you?" she asks.
"Um, no, of course not. Have a seat."
She sits and smiles at me and for some reason Im completely at ease. Im usually nervous around beautiful women, but not now. Not with her. I feel liking talking to this woman. "Do you live here?"
"Yeah. Ive been here, what -- probably 18 years now, I guess. Im from Ohio originally." She adjusted her long legs under the small table.
"Really?" I said, laughing. "So am I."
"No kidding. Well, it is a small world, isnt it?"
Her dimpled smile grows wider as she reaches her hand across the table. "Hi, my names Payton. Its nice to meet you."
I know Ive stopped breathing for a moment. My mind races. This certainly couldnt be the same Payton. But Payton is such an unusual name; I cant help but wonder. I get myself together and grab her hand. The warmth of it sends a tingle through my spine. "Hi. My names Rachel."
She blinks and her eyes narrow. I see something, a recognition of sorts, and then she tilts her head, studying me. Her bright blue eyes have me mesmerized and Im lost in the comfort of some familiarity. Neither of us is speaking. Were still holding each others hands.
"What part of Ohio are you from?" she finally asks.
"My God. It cant be. Rachel? Rachel Overton?"
I feel giddy, almost lightheaded. "Payton Lewis?"
The next thing I know, I feel her sturdy arms close around me in a warming hug. I draw my hands along her sides and they want to keep going, exploring. My entire body is pulsing.
"I cant believe its you!" She pulls back from our embrace.
"I cant either." The room is spinning.
"Jesus! Its been so long. What are you doing here?"
I feel adrenaline course through my body like a raging river. I take a long breath to settle the waves. "I came into town to paint murals for the chamber. Im just about finished."
"You mean the ones downtown?"
"I was just admiring those. Theyre beautiful, Rachel. You were always so talented like that. Im not surprised that you became an artist." Shes still staring at my face like she cant believe its really me.
"Thank you. I love what I do." I slap my leg playfully, trying to wake myself from this dream. "So tell me, Payton, what are you doing these days?"
"I went to vet school at Michigan State, then I opened a practice out here specializing in large animal medicine." She takes a sip of her coffee.
Im still in shock. I cant believe that I was just thinking about her and her family. "Hows your mother doing?"
Her smile returns. "Well, believe it or not, she lives with me. After Dad passed away last year, I insisted she move out here. I had plenty of room in my house. I told her that if she didnt mind the three dogs and six cats, I had a place just waiting for her."
Her face beams with love. Their bond was something I always envied, and now I find it an admirable quality in my friend. Im staring again but I sense that its okay with her.
"This is so weird," I begin. "You wont believe this, but I was just thinking about you."
"Really? What were you thinking about?" She lazily brings her legs around and crosses them. I look down and notice her black cowboy boots peeking out from the bottom of her faded blue jeans.
"Do you remember that night your mother made a list of qualities that we wanted in a husband?" I ask and feel a blush wash across my face. I know that Im opening the conversation up to questions about sexuality, but I dont care. I need to tell Payton about my thoughts.
"Oh God! I forgot about that, but now that you mention it, yeah, I do remember that." She looks at me again and my heart rate increases.
"Do you remember what was on our list?" The pounding in my chest is ringing in my ears now.
"Well, lets see . . ." She brings the tips of her fingers to her mouth and looks sideways, lost in thought. "If I remember correctly, we said he should have green no, blue eyes, dark brown hair, wear boots and love animals. Wasnt that it?" Shes fidgeting some now and looks kind of uncomfortable. I wonder if Im making her feel this way.
"Thats right, but there was one other thing. You said he should have a heart-shaped birthmark on his chest. Remember? I thought that was the strangest thing back then. Do you remember why you came up with that?" Im chuckling and she swallows and leans back in her chair.
"Did I really say that?"
"Yeah." I decide that it was a very long time ago and maybe she just doesnt remember that part.
"Did you ever meet your dream man?" She puts her elbow on the table and rests her head in her hand.
Shit. What do I say? A simple "no" would suffice, but for some reason only the whole truth is good enough for her. I want her to know me, even after all these years. "No, Payton. The problem is, is that I was never looking for a dream man. Its a special woman that Ive been searching for, but I havent found her yet."
She looks at me, kind of dreamy-eyed, then I feel her hand along my cheek and her long fingers running through my short blonde hair. A strange sensation is running along my skin. "I do remember the birthmark comment I made."
"You do?" I have no idea why I feel paralyzed or why she first said she didnt remember that part.
"Yeah." She turns so that no one but me can see and she reaches down and unbuttons the top two buttons on her shirt. Im still not moving and now my breaths are coming in short gasps. Whats happening here? She draws back her white cotton blouse and brings the top part of her bra back with it. I look at her tanned skin and start to tremble. There in unmistakable view, I see the small mark. Its a dark, plum purple and it resembles a heart.
"I had a huge crush on you then, Rachel." She lets her shirt close and pulls her hand away, not looking me in the eyes. Her voice is shaky. "I guess I guess I thought that if that spell really did come to fruition, that Id want you to find me as your one true love."
Im lost beyond words. The door opens and a cold breeze blows in, bringing with it a bunch of fall leaves. One lands softly on the table in front of us. To me its like the ashes from that childhood note finally coming back to earth, finding their home. I do the only thing I can do. I lean over and lift her chin, then gently, gently touch my lips to hers. I feel her surprise melt away and her mouth respond. When I pull back shes smiling at me.
"Maybe spells really do come true." I cant believe I just said that and I study her face for a reaction.
"Why dont you come home with me, Rachel?" She covers my hand with hers and squeezes it tenderly. Her blue eyes sparkle and I think I see desire hidden there. "Mom would love to see you again, and shes got a big pot of soup on."
I feel a huge smile sweep across my face. What was it that Mrs. Lewis use to say . . . lifes like a pot of soup depending on what you add to it, it can be filling or leave you hungry. I feel like Ive been hungry all my life.
"Im starving, Payton."
The end or perhaps the beginning.
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