A VIRGA MYSTERY
Net Worth: Entry 2d
Fortunately for me, at the moment, the entity’s attention was on Annie… while Annie was managing to focus on Frank, and not the blue energy being that started sinking down into him.
“Did you think that by not saying anything, I wasn’t hurting?” she challenged him. “Damn it Frank, you keep talking about yourself. Didn’t you learn anything about me during that time we spent together?”
“I could say the same,” Frank cut back. “I mean, I liked to think what we had was more than physical, but ever since April, it became harder and harder to figure you out. I kept wondering what was going wrong, and you wouldn’t tell me!”
“I didn’t know what was happening with me either! Not until…” Annie’s hands clenched into fists, glancing at Melissa out of the corner of her eye. She took in a deep breath. “Look, I think you’ve said enough,” she told Frank. “We’ve both moved on now, can we get to the banish–”
“Like HELL I’ve moved on,” Frank interrupted, a spark of electricity appearing at his fingertips. “The pain at being ignored, it’s still gnawing at me months later. Gosh, I was such a damn inconvenience to you, wasn’t I? You must have wondered why couldn’t I just leave you alone.”
“After all, I was the last one to know it was done, wasn’t I? Everyone else we knew had it figured out, but no, not me.” His fingertips began to glow blue. “You know,” Annie’s former boyfriend continued, his body now shaking slightly. “You know, if you die, then at least I won’t have to keep hoping that some day, somehow, you’ll finally EXPLAIN yourself to me. Finally I’ll get SOME sort of closure!”
Annie took a half a step back, concern and worry on her face.
“This isn’t good,” Melissa muttered, a little redundantly.
Of course, Melissa’s major problem now was that she couldn’t act directly against the entity, not so long as Frank was at least partially accepting it’s control. The whole ‘performing magick on the unwilling’ situation. As to me, I was starting to wonder why I’d stuck around for this ceremony in the first place, as Melissa had suggested to me that I go elsewhere. (Oh, right, it was so I could write this story up for you.)
“Look, Frank…” Annie began again, but he didn’t seem to be listening anymore. I became aware of a scratching noise at my bedroom door.
“All you had to do was tell me WHY!” Frank practically screamed at her. A tear ran down his cheek, glowing electric blue. “Not even necessarily why we split apart, because yes, I could see there were differences, I wasn’t completely blind, but why cut me out of your life? Did I have absolutely ZERO net worth as far as you were concerned?!”
Annie took another step back, slipped on one of Melissa’s stray desk papers, and fell to the ground. Frank took a step forwards, raising one arm, a ball of blue energy forming within his palm. Melissa let out what I think was a latin curse and began making mystical gestures – which I suspect involved that backup plan of destroying our entire building.
And me? Well, I went to check out the scratching at my bedroom door. Why? Because it felt like someone should, and I was the least preoccupied person in the room.
It turned out to be the right thing to do.
Tabby shot out of my room and into Annie’s arms, without, it seemed to me, a paw even touching the floor. Frank froze upon seeing the cat, caught off guard – no one had mentioned to him about Melissa bringing Tabby here, along with all the other things Annie had wanted for her overnight stay. (No one had told me either, for that matter.)
In retrospect, closing Tabby up in my room in order to keep him safe might have been the luckiest mistake Annie made that night. Because it was at this point, when Annie blinked down at her pet, then back up at Frank, that the presence of the animal could give her a measure of inner strength.
It’s worth adding that her red barrette began to glow faintly. Something that makes more sense when you remember that it was the one item that Melissa’s illusion spell couldn’t duplicate. Remember how Annie’s witch powers were recent?
“All right,” Annie said quietly, staring up at her ex-boyfriend. “You want the truth? Then here it is.” She stumbled back to her feet, the rest of the room going deadly quiet. Even Avril had given up her crooning in the nearby apartment.
There was a boom of thunder, in my opinion a little late (or perhaps, early) for proper dramatic effect.
“Last April, I found that I was able to conjure objects,” Annie said. “Nothing big. A pencil. A thumbtack. Water into a glass. It freaked me the heck out… and I found that I couldn’t talk to you about it. Because whenever I tried, you wouldn’t listen, or you changed the subject. Which is when I realized that you had started to take me for granted.”
The sparks flashing around Frank’s palm died down. Annie began to pet the cat in her arms, though her gaze remained fixed on him. I noticed a tear running down her cheek now too.
“I didn’t want to believe it,” Annie continued. “You felt like one of the good ones. But with that huge change in my life, all the other things became harder to ignore. I finally realized that the only way I could deal with my own issues was to cut things off with you completely. So that I wouldn’t be tempted to return to you, prolonging the inevitable. It was for both our sakes.”
“BOTH of us?” Frank said, a spark of electricity jumping about in his hair. “I–”
“Just LISTEN for once!” Annie shouted, and now it was Frank’s turn to take a step back. “Listen, and for that matter, think about what it means to be female in today’s society! To have ridiculous standards imposed on us. To have stupid terms like ‘friend zone’ bounced around. And then to add to all that the fact that apparently I can do magic and didn’t know why or if I might hurt you or someone else we knew. I needed time. So, I cut myself off. What would you have done in my place?”
There was a silence that seemed to stretch on forever, but in reality I’m sure it lasted only seconds. “All right,” Frank murmured, his voice sounding loud after the stillness. “In retrospect, I should have listened better.” He gestured at Annie’s glowing accessory. “And here I thought your new hairstyle was a symptom, rather than the barrette itself being the problem.”
“That’s a magick amplifier,” Melissa said idly. “Attuned to her family, or I might have realized sooner. Annie, for the record, if you take it off, you might not have to deal with the magick any more.”
Annie reached up to touch the object. “My mom found this in our attic. Gave it to me for my birthday. When I wear it, I feel some sort of connection… but yes, I think today’s the last day I will ever put it on.”
“Oh.” Frank half smiled. “In that case, do you think that our relationship might…”
“NO, Frank,” Annie said, putting Tabby down. “Because Melissa’s genealogy spell also showed me that we’re actually related. Turns out my father had an illicit affair, he was secretly your father, so things can truly never be between us.”
Frank’s eyes grew wide. “Wait, what? We’re siblings?”
Annie chuckled. “No. But I figured you were expecting some extra dramatic twist, like in those shows you liked to watch. So you can use that, if you want a more mundane explanation than a magical barrette. Or me not wanting to look back.”
Frank stared. Then he laughed. “Touché. Geez, I was so busy looking for one specific thing that I did. But it’s never as simple as that, huh?” He shook his head. “I’m sorry, Annie. It is time to move on. And as they said once on CSI, truth brings closure.”
Annie nodded. “I’m sorry too, maybe I should have made more of an effort to get through to you.”
Frank shook his head. “You tried. A relationship takes two.” He then gasped and collapsed to his knees, slamming his hands up against his temples. “S-Speaking of… agh! It’s… still trying to control… quick, k-kill it already!”
“About time you asked us,” Melissa grumbled, quickly stepping forwards while holding the orb of hex out in the palm of her hand. “Annie?”
The dark haired woman turned to glance at Melissa, blinked then nodded. She reached out to place her palm overtop of the orb as well. The two witches then turned their attention to Frank, who returned their gaze, his panicked look somehow at odds with his posture, and his eye colour – which was that same electric blue from before.
“F,” Melissa began slowly. “E… D… C… B… A… 9…”
“Yaaaaggghhh!” Frank shouted, coiling up from the floor and jumping at Annie. “Your power is MINE, witch!”
“8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1, ANNULLARE!” Annie finished rapidly in place of Melissa.
I caught my roommate smiling at the other woman as a wave of red light pulsed out from the orb of hex, rippling through the whole room, freezing Frank in mid-jump. (By the way, annullare here means destroy. Which leaves Melissa’s earlier latin remark at the light switch as the one for you to look up. After all, it’s important to be well educated.)
The air crackled at that point, everyone catching a bad case of electrostatic (including Tabby, poor thing), and from Frank’s throat there came the death scream of an evil internet entity. The creepiest part being how Frank’s mouth wasn’t open.
It was all rather hideous at the time, though the only way I can think to describe that sound now, after the fact, is to say it was like a 1200 baud modem connecting to a phone line. Assuming you’ve ever heard that. Maybe you’ve come across the sound by seeking out retro noises on the web.
At any rate, the scream soon died out. Blue sparks showered the area, then dispersed without a trace, and I was left with something of a tinny feeling in my mouth. I found out later that the power had cut out for the whole building.
Frank dropped to the floor, unconscious.
“Good,” Melissa concluded, letting out a sigh of relief. She raked her free hand back through her hair. Which, by the way, did not help to unfrizz the static at all. Predictably, it was kind of cute. “You handled that perfectly, Annie. Carry a small magical charm with you at all times, and use that latin phrase if you ever get attacked again,” she concluded.
Annie’s knuckles were white as she maintained a death grip on the orb I’d bought (little more than a small crystal ball, really). “Do you… do you think this sort of thing is LIKELY to happen again?” she inquired weakly.
“If you’re serious about taking off the barrette and not practicing magick in future, probably not,” Melissa admitted. “Particularly now that you have a way of defending yourself. After all, while fledgling witches are prime targets, they’re damn hard to pinpoint without help, and not worth the effort when they’re on their guard. Of course, to be on the safe side, if you’re ever running sensitive personal information though a computer, don’t have it hooked into anything else, hmmm?”
Melissa took a step towards her desk, and ended up partially pulling Annie with her. She stopped. “You can let go of the orb now,” the experienced witch added, glancing down at where their palms were joined.
“Oh…” With some effort, Annie lifted her hand away from the crystal. She looked down at the unconscious Frank, whose head was being pawed at gently by Tabby. “Will… will he be all right?”
“Oh, sure,” Melissa said easily, moving to put the orb of hex away in a file cabinet. “He’ll probably have a bad headache, but that’s all. Almost lost him, of course… really would have helped had he told us the full extent of his issues with you beforehand.”
Annie flushed a bit in the cheeks. “Our relationship was hardly your business. Though the things he was saying there… was that all the entity’s doing?”
Melissa made a vague gesture in the air. “Not entirely. The dialogue was him, though I doubt he would have spoken any of it aloud if it weren’t for the merging. Now, you’ll receive my bill for the orb in the mail. I’ll grant you a discount since I might have occasion to use it again. And on the bright side, the rain seems to be easing up, so you can head home now if you like!” She smiled.
A distant rumble added credence to the fact that the storm had begun moving off. I’d barely noticed the status of the weather what with all the excitement inside the apartment.
“I… home?” Annie said dubiously, turning to look out the window.
“No, no, it’s fine, you can stick around here,” I broke in quickly, reasoning Annie might not want to be alone just yet. “I don’t mind you and Tabby using my room. I mean, I’m too amped up to sleep now, and Frank may want someone to help him home when he comes to. Plus according to my watch it’s already…”
I paused, shaking my wrist. My watch had stopped working at 11:45. I suppose it was a good thing that my computer hadn’t been in the area. “Well, it’s at least midnight,” I ventured.
“Midnight?” Melissa said in surprise. “It can’t be that late, can it?” She paused to check her own wrist, then the desk and the wall. She still hadn’t put clocks in any of those places. “Though you could be right,” she yielded. “Hey, it’s awful dark in here too. James, do you know where I might have put our flashlight?”
“I left it in the fridge when I went there for a drink,” I remarked. “While we were waiting for Frank. I needed the light because of how said fridge was unplugged and I didn’t want to accidentally pour myself your beet and jalapeño juice.”
Annie looked from Melissa to me and back. “You two are very weird,” she decided.
Well, I could hardly argue with her there.
Again, there’s not a lot more to say in the epilogue. Frank came to reasonably quickly and bowed out of the apartment looking embarrassed. I accompanied him part of the way home, just to fill in the gaps, as Annie slept in my room. When I got back, Melissa actually did have the courtesy to offer me the use of her bed – she wanted to do some paperwork – but upon reflection, I decided I wasn’t ready for a look inside Melissa’s bedroom just yet. I dropped myself into a chair with a blanket.
Related, this little crush on Melissa that I’ve managed to not make subtle in the slightest? Well, given this look at how a relationship with a witch can turn out, I’ve decided I’ll be trying to curb my youthful enthusiasm as much as possible.
Still… I couldn’t help but grin like an idiot when Melissa belatedly thanked me the next morning for letting Tabby out, salvaging the whole situation and all. Knowing her, it was nice that she not only noticed that fact, but took the further step of acknowledging me. It also led to the following exchange, beginning with my remark, “Pretty soon, I bet you won’t even be able to forget that I’m living here.”
Melissa shook her head. “Please, James. I don’t ever forget about you,” she stated. “You’re simply not quite what I expected in a roommate. I’m having to adjust, that’s all.”
“You mean adjust to my interest in your cases?”
She eyed me. “Frankly, yes. I had expected teasing, hoped for tolerance, and somehow got acceptance. I may even be trying to provoke the more typical reactions, instead of what you’re giving me.” She put her hands on her hips. “On top of that, there’s also your interest in my appearance. The way you look at me sometimes, it’s… mmph, well, it’s time I was going to class.”
Melissa swiftly grasped her purse and philosophy textbook and hurried out of the apartment before I was able to pull myself together and ask for clarification. Was she saying my crush was jeopardizing everything? Or was she saying I had a chance with her? My heart beat faster. I tried to get it to slow down.
Perhaps it was time to find myself a study partner in first year who wasn’t Adam. A female one, that is, and one who wasn’t a witch, which might allow me to avoid things getting complicated in the apartment. It’s to my benefit that Melissa hasn’t shown any interest in reading these accounts thus far.
Either way, as far as the case is concerned, the electrical activity in our area that night was attributed to the storm, and it barely made the news. I got my laptop back, and have since taken to making sure I’m not on the net 24/7, as well as ensuring that the little trash bin icon is emptied regularly. As to Frank and Annie, I will say Frank got in touch with us a couple of days after the incident, thanking us for inadvertently providing him with closure.
I suppose one can hope that those two at least resumed talking with each other on occasion… after all, to believe such a thing gives a measure of hope to the messed up interpersonal relationships the rest of us manage to get ourselves involved in. Wouldn’t you say?
END CASE 2
NEXT CASE: Borderline
ASIDE: Hope you enjoyed the second case! It required a bit more editing than the first, both for technology and pacing. How much did you call in advance?