A Virga Mystery: BALANCING ACT
ACT 6e: OF MELISSA AND JAMES
“Because,” Melissa answered. She bit down on her lower lip before continuing. “Because I wanted to be sure. James, remember when I visited Alicia? It was to use the orb that I’d retrieved for her. The one that allows a person to look into his or her own personal future.”
I felt my heart beating faster in my chest. “Do I want to know what you saw?”
“I saw more than one thing,” Melissa admitted. “Which isn’t something that’s supposed to happen. Even yesterday, I’d held out some hope for the variation. That there would be a way to mentally train myself, so that Mixi would be sufficient.”
Trixie pursed her lips. “And what more did I need to do? Should I just take my wondrous creation back?”
Melissa shook her head. “Don’t misunderstand, I needed all that you’ve done, Trixie. But it has to be more. And when I finally realized what my role was in all of this, I… I wanted to put off saying my goodbyes for as long as possible.”
I felt a knot forming in my stomach. “Mel?” I said, not liking where she was going with that.
“The orb also let me see the key reason for why I was chosen,” she continued in a rush. “Setting aside my fanaticism with supernatural balance, it goes back to my lineage. There is more power in me than I realized, more power than my parents themselves are aware of. Enough for me to do more than observe the Earth. I have the power to see other realms, James. Other possibilities. Things that I’m not sure Mixi can handle yet.”
“I want to be offended by that, but you’re freaking me out,” Trixie remarked.
Melissa sighed, and held Mixi up. “This device is perfect for maintaining the supernatural balance, which is what we designed it to do. But it can’t recognize when exceptions are needed, or adjust for the rules that exist outside of our realm. A human element is required. One that knows how things have changed over the centuries.”
Trixie flinched. “You really ARE going all ‘Star Trek: The Motion Picture’ on us here, huh?”
“I don’t know what that means,” Melissa admitted. “I will say that the burden will be considerably lessened with this device operating. It’s only, necessary adjustments cannot be made by someone bound in this space-time, and the transition out will only happen when the fractures align. Which will be soon.”
I found my voice again. “So you’re leaving,” I said. “And you knew this yesterday.”
Melissa took a step forwards. I took a step back, suddenly not sure I knew her anymore. After all, if it had been me, I would have spent more time with her. I would have celebrated the rest of the time we had together, not retreated, not kept silent and worked on things by myself!
Her expression did something of a sad crash. “It’s not that I didn’t think you’d understand,” she murmured. “It’s that I didn’t want to make things different between us.”
“Except you did,” I insisted. “You retreated from me!”
She opened her mouth, then closed it again. “I… damn, you’re not wrong. Oh James, I messed up, and now everything is aligning, so I can’t make it right. God, I wish I’d given us more time!”
When I remained silent, Trixie spoke up again. “Okay, so bye, take care of yourself then,” the redhead chirped. “Maybe tweak the stars in my favour a bit? Seeing as you’re running off with not only my prototype Mixi but the original device I had to base it on?”
Melissa looked over. “I can’t play favourites, you know that,” she said. “Otherwise I’d do something to fix this now.”
Trixie smirked. “Just testing you. You pass. You’re normal, and probably not possessed. Albeit you’re more flawed in terms of relationships than I realized, because James has a point. So how are you going to use the next sixty seconds?”
Melissa winced. “I… don’t know.” The part of the roof where she was standing started to puddle a bit, like it was turning into pudding. She returned to looking at me. “I hope you can forgive me in time,” she whispered.
It was that comment which shocked me back to my senses.
Maybe I would have spent time with her, but Melissa, she wasn’t me. That was the whole point; it was why I enjoyed her company. More to the point, Melissa was normally so blunt and straightforward, and here, she’d been evasive. Because of how much she’d cared.
Perhaps, in the end, I’d sort of sabotaged myself? Encouraging Mel to listen to her emotions over the last several years? Meaning she’d said nothing until she’d been sure, and then even beyond that, had found herself unable to open up. Unable to be blunt with me any more.
But all of that, it didn’t matter. Damn it all, I still loved her.
“Just tell me one thing,” I said, thinking back to the conversation we’d had in her parents’ pantry. “Do you really want this? Do you really want to be the one forced to monitor magick in and around the entire world?”
Melissa’s lips quavered. “I do now,” she admitted. “I thought I wasn’t ready, and maybe I’m not. But to see it all laid out – this is what I’ve been trying to do with the Agency, James. But now I can do it on a cosmic scale! Outside of this framework of reality, I could even affect events before they happen. And I want to make that difference.”
“Then you should do it,” I concluded. “And I’ll support you in that. Because I love you. And in the end, that means there’s nothing that needs forgiving.”
Melissa seemed to blur a bit, and it took a second for me to realize it was because I’d started crying. She smiled at me. “If it helps, James, in a sense, I won’t be gone. I’ll be everywhere.”
I tried to swallow the lump in my throat. “It helps.”
A tear ran down her cheek. “I should have been with you last night. But I was worried that, if I was, I’d have second thoughts. I’m sorry.”
“No regrets,” I insisted. “Though, can we at least hug before you fade out, or whatever?”
I opened my arms tentatively, and Melissa threw herself into the embrace. She buried her face into my shoulder for a moment. “There’s a letter,” she murmured. “For you. In the filing cabinet. Trixie has others for my parents. Whether you read your note or not, know that I do love you. Please know that.”
“I love you too,” I assured her. “Now go and show the whole world why.”
I stepped back. Then I noticed what seemed to be a slight inconsistency in the air behind her. Like a bit of a tear in space. This might be the last time I saw her.
And yet, I was briefly distracted by Trixie moving into my peripheral vision. Staring at me suspiciously. I tried to ignore her.
“Okay,” Melissa said, letting out a long breath. “Here it goes.”
She threw her hands out to the sides and looked up into the sky. “Let the balance be restored, and then become attuned to those on Earth… let my power synchronize with the wills and desires of everyone out there… though let me retain my sense of self as take on the mantle of – Libra Magica. ULTIMA RATIO!”
I knew then what it must have been like for Melissa to observe Melody. I dare say that must have been her basis for this spell. Sparks shot out from her, thousands of them, millions, most firing off into the distance, but some seemingly dropping down through the top of the roof.
Attuning themselves to everyone, and feeding the information back to the Chosen One, even as I saw the rip opening larger behind her. She was going to transition.
That’s when Trixie kicked me REALLY hard in the shins.
“OW!” I said, looking over at her in befuddlement.
“You COLOSSAL IDIOT,” she bellowed back at me, hands closed in a pair of fists. “If that’s a ring in your back pocket, you better damn well GIVE IT TO HER BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE!”
Oh yeah. I’d almost proposed again that morning, but I hadn’t gotten up the nerve before Melissa had left the kitchen. I’d figured it would keep until after this was all over.
Now it really was all over. But Melissa herself had said that she didn’t want things to be different between us, not in these last few days, hours, minutes, seconds. Right?
Unless she’d been waiting for the ring.
Trixie kicked me again, and damn it, it hurt. I rounded on her, only for her to jab her finger almost right up my nose. “I SWEAR to GOD, if you don’t move your ass RIGHT NOW James, I am going to turn you into a CHICKEN.”
I’m not sure what it was. Perhaps Trixie had managed to use that tone that gets people to obey without thinking about it. Maybe there’s something about the Virga lineage. Or perhaps it was the chicken reference, which reminded me of the clause in my initial rental agreement with Melissa. But then, maybe I simply didn’t need as much of a nudge as I thought I did.
Before I realized it, I was stepping forward and saying, “Mel!” As her gaze refocused on me, sparks still flying from her body, I pulled the box out of my pocket, opened it, and unexpected words spilled from my lips. “Take me with you!”
Melissa’s hands moved to her mouth as she gasped. “You actually did it. You bought me a…” Her voice sounded like it had a bit of an echo to it. I’m not sure if it trailed off, or if I missed a word.
“Opal. Your birthstone,” I said. Perhaps redundantly, but her body seemed to be growing brighter, and I wasn’t sure she could see. “Mel, this ring means we do these things together.”
“It’s too late,” she protested. “I can’t.”
“Then take the ring at least.”
Her gaze shifted to be one of sheer determination. “No, keep it with you. Remember I love you, and please think of me when –-”
The brightness was so intense now that I found I was forced to blink.
Leaving Trixie and me standing alone on the roof, with Melissa’s unfinished sentence hanging in the air. Gradually, the chain link fence reconstructed itself into iron.
So that’s everything. You’ve now read the story of how I chose Melissa over my childhood friend, only to lose Mel again before the end of the summer.
I think I’ve now been through the traditional five stages, from denial, when Trixie had to practically drag me off the roof three hours later, to acceptance, that being in the form of writing all of this down. Tomorrow will mark exactly three months since she transitioned. There are only a few little gaps that probably need filling in. Well, plus a massive edit job on this whole tale, but let’s deal with that later.
First, the letter Melissa left for me. It said a lot of what she had stated on the roof, maybe because she hadn’t been sure how long she would have to explain things. Several times, it also said ‘I’m sure I’m not explaining this well but I hope you can understand’. It concluded by saying that she will always love me, even always be a part of me – and added in a small postscript, that I should check in with Amy about her lamp.
I did. It had apparently reverted back to being a knife, some time during the three days following Melissa’s ascension. (I’ll use ascension for lack of a better term.) I’m not sure if that was supposed to mean something, but resuming contact with Amy was something of a comfort. Maybe that had been Mel’s intention?
After all, Amy had seen some of what was out there too, giving me someone to talk to aside from Trixie, and it was Amy’s suggestion that I write all this down. She’d apparently looked up those prior three cases online, and thought that I had a good thing going.
The second thing to mention is our parents. In the end, I think mine understood Melissa’s decision to leave, if not the specifics of the magick involved. My mother in particular I think wanted to deride Mel, but they never did so in my presence, and they haven’t tried to set me up with anyone new in the time since.
As to Melissa’s parents, I think her letters to them explained things much as mine did. They’ve even sort of accepted me into the family, despite Melissa’s ultimate rejection of the ring I’d offered to her. There wasn’t a memorial service per se, since Melissa wasn’t dead, but they invited me to a celebration of her life.
Then finally there’s the actual matter of supernatural balance, and the Agency. The latter remains in my name, but at Trixie’s insistence, she’s become a co-owner on paper, with access to the accounts and everything.
I didn’t see the harm. In theory, there will be fewer cases involving people, as things rebalance. But maybe other witches or beings will find it useful, as they adjust to the new (old?) reality out there.
I’m not sure how long I’ll stay. I haven’t quite worked out my future yet. Part of me thinks I should sell the ring I bought for Melissa and move out of the apartment. Part of me cannot bear to part with it yet, particularly not after Melissa’s last words, and Trixie has insisted I keep it as a reminder, at least for a while yet.
I do still have the option of journalism. Maybe there’s a witch faction that runs a newspaper? Or maybe I’ll turn this into a proper novel. Either way, in the end, I guess I’m just glad I got the chance to tell Melissa’s story.
And you know, maybe, just maybe, if you wish really hard for something, and it’s something that can be balanced out in the grand scheme of things… Melissa will hear you, and it will happen.
Just like magick.