A Virga Mystery: BALANCING ACT
ACT 1c: OF WITCHES AND DEMONS
Where were things headed, with me and Melissa? Towards a couple of lovers, partners even, who fought magical spirits by chanting in latin? Or were we always meant to go our separate ways?
“You need time to think too, huh?” Amy said ruefully, obviously reading something in my expression. “That’s fine. Just keep me as an option then, I suppose? Along with the job thing? I’ll do the same, because that trick with the card was pretty cool. I’d be game to see more of that.”
I smiled wanly. “Yeah, hey, maybe we can make it such that you wouldn’t need wigs for your show,” I joked. Amy simply stared. “Alright, that was pretty lame, sorry.”
“No, hey, it’s fine. You have seen the show then,” Amy remarked. “Cool.”
I shrugged. “Yeah, well, maybe I’ve looked up a few people from those days. Once or twice. I don’t know if I ever watched a full episode.”
“It’s fine. It’s something.” Amy smiled. “Hey, you ever look up what became of Kyle, that annoying trumpet player who sat behind us?”
I shook my head. “Nope.”
“Plays tuba now. It amuses me to think of him lugging that thing around in a marching band.”
“Hah. I guess you never know where life will take you.”
“I guess you don’t,” Amy said.
She stared at me for another moment, then glanced upwards once more. For a short time, we both simply looked at the ceiling.
“So, is it safe to leave Melissa with your parents for a prolonged period of time?” Amy said at last. “Your mom in particular didn’t seem that fond of her, both when we spoke at home, and in person up there.”
I quickly looked at my watch. “Heck! Yeah, we’d better get back up there.” I stood. “You going to be okay?”
The young internet celebrity nodded, extending a hand to allow me to help her up. “Oh, sure. I get flustered when things don’t go the way I expect, that’s all. It’s why I script religiously and avoid live shows.
She smiled, I smiled back, and we hurried upstairs.
I was glad to see that nothing had really changed. My parents were still sitting on the couch, and when I peered into the kitchen, Melissa was still there. More specifically, leaning back against the fridge with one leg slightly bent, a glass of water sitting on the counter next to her.
She turned to look at me. “Safe yet?” she questioned, by this point looking rather contrite. “I can stay here until they’re all gone, if that’s easier.”
“You should probably at least apologize to Amy before she goes,” I remarked.
Melissa rubbed her nose. “Right. I guess she wasn’t in on it? Damn. And me still trying to get the hang of apologies, seeing as I’m so rarely wrong.”
Her hand flew out in a vague gesture. “Oh, yes, yes, I know, whenever I have a ten out of ten for accuracy, I get zero points for style.” Her tone became a little gentler. “I really am sorry, James. This day’s been a little stressful for me, but that’s no excuse to have blurted out to your mother about… us.”
“Yeah, well… let’s defer that conversation until we’re alone,” I suggested.
“Okay.” She reached up with her hands and raked them back through her hair, long locks of it flowing about her shoulders like water over a waterfall. (I swear, I like her for her mind too.) “Apology first then?”
I nodded. Melissa followed me out of the kitchen, bringing the glass of water to my dad. She then looked towards Amy.
“Sorry about earlier,” Melissa said. “Shouldn’t have dragged you into my conflict with the Conways. Let me know if you want a peace offering. I could get you some water too, or even a broccoli scone with chestnuts.”
“Um, no thanks,” Amy responded, shaking her head. “At this point I think I’ll just kind of hang back until it’s time to head out.”
“Which we’ll probably want to do very soon,” my father observed, lifting the water glass.
My mother looked up at me. I could now read her expression as resigned. She took in a long breath. “You use protection, yes?”
“Buh?” Amy said, her eyebrows going up.
“Mom! Not the time to be jumping to conclusions about how far we’ve, uh…”
“All right, all right,” Helen Conway sighed, raising her hands. “Just, James, don’t run off and elope, okay? We do want you to be happy, and if you’re happy with… with Melissa here… well, then we can get on board with that. Given enough time.”
As much as I might have wanted to get on mom’s case about eloping immediately after I’d said not to jump to conclusions, I had to grant that she was making an effort to bridge the gap. As was Melissa, who I could tell was visibly holding her tongue despite having been referred to like some woman I’d found on the street.
I forced out a smile. “I’m not about to elope,” I said, honestly.
“Right then, we’ll see you tomorrow?” my dad concluded, putting his empty glass down on the end table. He can drink fast when he wants to; it’s probably good that it wasn’t anything alcoholic.
“Right,” I concurred, moving towards the door in mild relief. This lasted all of half a second, until I saw Melissa peering much more closely at Amy, who was trying not to look uncomfortable at the other girl’s sudden scrutiny.
“Uh, Melissa…” I cautioned.
My diminutive roommate turned to look at me briefly, before shifting her gaze back to Amy. “You’re having trouble sleeping,” she diagnosed. “Slight bags under the eyes, which is not itself an issue, and yet – are you having recurring dreams?”
“Well, sometimes?” Amy said, caught off guard by the question.
Melissa turned to look at me. “Is Amy some sort of local celebrity?”
“She does reviews on the internet?” I answered, trying to figure out what Melissa had seen.
Melissa walked a quick circle around Amy. “Wow, I’m an idiot for missing this on my first pass,” she concluded. “Your hair is faintly tinted blue. I think your dreams are being hijacked by a demon. Would you consent to sleeping with me?”
“Excuse me??” chorused, well, possibly all of us in the room.
“Ah!” Melissa held up a finger. “That came out wrong. What I mean is, would you consent to letting me watch you while you sleep? Hm, still not great… oh! How about this.” She walked over towards her desk as she spoke. “Take a charm with you, sleep with it instead, and let me read it tomorrow. You’re still coming to James’ graduation, right?”
“I… I’m not sure anymore.”
“You should,” Melissa assured. “You may need our help. His help,” she amended, perhaps realizing that she was (again) not making the best impression.
She pulled open the lower drawer, where I had organized a number of her mystical trinkets, and pulled out a small pendant. “We can offer a reduced rate too, since you’re a friend of the family. Or, hm, possibly we even do this one gratis,” she amended, seeing the incredulous looks that my parents were now giving her. “As a show of good faith.”
Melissa walked back over to Amy, and held the pendant out.
Amy turned to look at me, the expression on her face implying she wanted some guidance as to whether Melissa had just lost it. Or perhaps she was buying into the supernatural aspect, and was concerned that this pendant might not change colour, but rather come alive and throttle her in her sleep?
“It’s fine,” I assured my former schoolmate. Even though I had no idea what that particular pendant was for, I trusted Melissa. “Treat it like another aspect of those things in life we’re not generally aware of.”
Amy nodded slowly, finally taking hold of the pendant. She looked at it closely before slipping it around her neck.
“If you’re quite through with your supernatural theatrics, Melissa, we’ll be on our way,” my mother said, trying and failing to to keep irritation out of her tone. She looked towards me. “See you tomorrow, okay dear?”
“Yeah. For sure,” I agreed.
I ushered our guests to the door, standing there until they were out of sight a few floors down. I then closed the door and leaned back against it, rolling my eyes to the ceiling. “Oh God, could that have gone worse?” I said, mostly to myself.
“Well, sure,” Melissa remarked. “After all, I didn’t actually mention to your parents that we’d been having sex. I kind of wonder about whether your mother was guessing, or trying to catch me off guard.”
This time I did facepalm. “Melissa, Mel, sweetness, please, don’t make me think about sex with you right now. I’m feeling rather emotionally mixed up at the moment.”
“Angry with me?” she asked.
“Yes. No. I’m not sure,” I said, pulling my palm away from my face and looking towards my… roommate? Co-worker? Lover? All of the above. Damnit, why did she have to be so infuriatingly amazing?
Melissa met my gaze. “You know, you can run off with Amy if you like,” she offered. “The day things escalated between us, we did agree no strings attached. In fact, you leaving with your degree was always one of the possible outcomes I’d considered for the end of the month.”
My mouth opened and closed for a moment as I tried to find the words. “H-How can you just stand there and say that?”
My roommate (because using “lover” in this narrative feels wrong) merely shrugged. “I could say it from the other side of my desk, but I might have to say it a little louder to be heard.”
“You know what I mean. You’re acting so… so… calm and rational!”
It’s hard to describe the look Melissa gave me at that comment. It basically conveyed the fact that I’d just said the most obvious, and by extension, stupidest thing ever. Her words, at least, were an attempt to be comforting.
“James, you’ve known me for four years now. Calm and rational is how I operate. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m going to have to adjust to your absence the same way I adjusted to your presence. But whether you decide to stay or not, life goes on. Supernatural balance must be maintained.”
I threw my arms out to the sides. “Then our whole relationship, it’s meant nothing to you?”
Melissa pursed her lips. “Is that what you’re getting from this? If it is, it’s not what I meant. What I mean is, I care too much for you to keep you here against your will.” She gestured back at her office area. “This is where I belong. It comes first. I’d love to continue to share it – and my bed – with you, but let’s face it, my life is not your life.”
She sounded so sincere. It was tough to stay angry with her. Which kind of made me angry. Though at this point I was just directing my anger at the world. “Well, it’s not like I can just go back to how I was living my life before, not after everything you and your agency have shown me,” I complained.
“You say that merely because you haven’t tried,” Melissa suggested. “Perhaps you should take a vacation away from all this. Spend some time with Amy. Who, admittedly, might be the unwitting victim of a Somnibulus demon, but if we get past that, she seems nice and normal. Maybe normal is something you need.”
“Yeah, well, maybe I’ll just go do that then,” I shot back at Melissa. Was I was trying to make a veiled threat? If so, it was a poor threat, given that I was simultaneously agreeing with her.