Melissa

Virga: Act 4C

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A Virga Mystery: BALANCING ACT

ACT 4c: OF PARENTS AND PROGRAMMING

“How many other techno-witches do you know?” I asked.

Melissa’s expression morphed into a frown. “None on Trixie’s level. Even witches thirty years her senior aren’t at her level. Plus I don’t want to tell a stranger about all this Prophecy stuff.”

“Okay. So…?”

Melissa groaned, pressing her palm to her forehead. “Uggghh, it really has to be Trixie, doesn’t it. Of all the… James, is it okay if you’re there when I’m talking about it with her? The two of us are always bickering, and I don’t want to do that with something so important.”

“Sure, Mel, anything I can do.”

“Thanks so much.” And Melissa spontaneously reached out to hug me. “Not only for being there, but for seeing another path forwards here.”

I tried to hug back, despite my arms being trapped by the hug. “It’s fine. You’d have done the same for me.”

“For sure.” She pulled back. “Now, if only we can find a way for me to keep living my life too, despite all this insanity going on. Because I love my parents, but I don’t want to stay with them for months. Particularly not while you and Trixie are off… programming together.”

There was a bit of a hesitation there, which implies to me that Melissa wasn’t only thinking about programming. Seemingly still a bit unsure about my love for her, over any possible lust for Trixie. And to be fair, the last time I’d seen Trixie, she’d been blowing me a kiss back at the motel room, so maybe she wasn’t someone to be casually dismissed.

“Maybe we can move your business to Outer Mongolia,” I quipped.

“Hah. I get the impression these three factions would find me regardless,” Melissa sighed. “No, I think our Agency is done for, given how my name’s tied to it and everything.”

My dad’s remark from earlier in the day came back to me at that point. “Okay, so what if we replace your name with my name.”

Melissa did a double take. “Pardon?”

“What if we put your supernatural agency in my name,” I insisted. “Retroactively even, if there’s a spell for that, so that anyone looking into past cases wouldn’t turn you up at all. This way, we’d still be able to function locally, and any clients we already have would recognize me. Unless you had a ton in the year before I came on board.”

Melissa’s thoughtful expression was back. “We’d need to take that website down that you put up last year, and ideally scrub any trace of me from browser searches – damn it, I think we’ll need Trixie’s help with that one too – but it could work. I can even still be there with you, if I disguise my appearance. My parents shouldn’t object to that, they’ve done it often enough.”

“I’ll take down those old case files too,” I added. “The ones I put online.”

Melissa waved me off. “Don’t bother, you called me Melissa or something in those, right? Might even get people to chase false leads.” She frowned. “Of course, if we do this, I’ll want your assurance that you don’t leave the office without some form of magick protection. Even if it’s only a ward from our usual distributor. After all, the last thing I want to do is put your life in danger simply because I can be kinda stubborn.”

I half smiled. “You, Mel? Stubborn?”

“Ha ha. Promise me, James, you’ll use protection.”

I resisted the urge to interpret that in another way. “I promise, of course,” I said, raising a hand to my heart for emphasis. Then I beamed. “See? Problems practically solved. I knew you had it in you.”

She smiled, and blushed faintly too. “Couldn’t have done it without you. Thanks for that.”

Before I knew it, we were kissing. It was nice. It progressed to french kissing. Then I was somewhat climbing on top of her, and she was pulling my shirt up out of my pants, running her hands around on my back. It was after her leg had hooked around me while I was cupping a breast that Melissa’s hand shot up, pushing my head to the side.

“James… James, no, wait,” she panted.

I swallowed, regaining a measure of awareness. “Right. Not in your parents’ house.”

Melissa’s chest heaved. “I was thinking more we’re real close to disrupting the salt circle here, which would sever the connection back to our kitchen. But yes, good call about my parents’ place too, yes.”

We carefully disentangled ourselves. “Maybe later?” I said, half heartedly.

Melissa gave me a look. “James, remember earlier, when I said I only missed the casual sex a little bit?”

I nodded. I have a photographic memory, after all.

“I’m now realizing it was more than a bit,” she admitted. “Three weeks is a long time, even if I was on my period for part of it.”

I wasn’t sure if Melissa bringing that up was her being blunt, or an attempt to douse my flames of passion. Either way, I started tucking in my shirt. “Let’s say definitely later then,” I rephrased.

She smiled, then turned to the pantry door. “For now, I guess I go back and apologize. Let’s wait on hitting my parents with the Agency name plan until after mom’s pie though? And let’s not tell them about the technology idea at all… it’ll only upset my mother.”

“Okay then,” I said, managing to avoid saying how much Melissa seemed to be acting like her mother now. “You think it will take a lot of convincing?”

Melissa set her jaw. “I don’t care if it does. After all, I’m the one the Prophecy is impacting the most, and it’s my life.”

In the end, as soon as Marissa and Wayne saw how determined (stubborn?) Melissa was about her idea, her parents went along with us. Also, the dazzleberry pie was quite good. I only learned later that it was somehow a mix of both fruits and vegetables.

***

There was, incidentally, a compromise. Melissa also agreed to have a magick listening device in our apartment, to pick up on any kind of trouble, so her parents wouldn’t worry.

I suspected this was also Wayne’s way of keeping tabs on me. Given his suggestion that we still consider living apart, “just to try it out for a while longer”. But no, I’d had enough time away from Melissa, and by now I was more than happy to be be back in my girlfriend’s apartment. In fact, owing to Trixie’s presence, I was also permanently sharing Mel’s bed.

Now, mind out of the gutter, we weren’t having sex all the time. Not with her parents spying, and the wall between Melissa and Trixie’s room not being all that thick. Seriously, you can’t get any alone time in that kind of environment, not without a good soundproofing spell, one which doesn’t require constant concentration after casting.

Melissa does know one. That’s enough about that.

We spoke to Trixie on Sunday morning over breakfast. She had sounded like she was home when we returned late the previous night, but we decided not to disturb her.

After we came into the kitchen, I started by making Trixie promise not to make any commentary until we’d laid out the entire situation for her.

TRIXIE
Commission from Sen Yomi

“I’ll save you time. If you’re getting married, and want me to be the maid of honour, no thanks,” Trixie said, munching on a waffle. She was eating it straight out of the toaster.

“This is not about the relationship between me and Mel,” I assured her. “Not directly.”

“You’re just kicking me out of here under some other pretext, is that it?”

“No.”

Melissa sighed. “Can you not make commentary about a promise to not make commentary? I mean really.”

Trixie sniffed. “Oh, I’m sorry, I forgot I was talking to the person who never commented about me at all for four years.”

I sidestepped, so that I was between them, but looking at the redhead. “Trixie, please?” I requested.

She looked at me, and took another bite of her waffle. For reference, at this point in the morning Trixie was not sporting twintails yet, but instead had yanked all her hair back into one ponytail that fell between her shoulder blades. It helped her look more mature.

“Tell you what, James,” Trixie decided, after chewing and swallowing. “I’ll do it under condition that I’m allowed to take you out for dinner this week.”

“Trix, you’re not dating my boyfriend,” Melissa objected.

“Oh, I’m sorry, did I say date? I said dinner. I think James would appreciate one night of not having to deal with a blue cheese casserole with lemon juice, or whatever the heck it was I saw in the fridge last night.”

“Lime juice. It clears the sinuses,” Melissa grumbled. She was quieter though, I suppose annoyed that she’d been caught acting insecure.

I also had to admit that Trixie had a point. I’d tried to do as much of the cooking as I could when I lived here.

“We can go to dinner,” I agreed slowly. “As long as you’re aware that it won’t lead to anything.”

“Ooh, anything? Both of your minds are just in the gutter then, huh?” Trixie said. As if to capitalize on that, she made a point of adjusting the tall stockings she was wearing (even so, they still failed to reach the hem of her red skirt) and adjusting her white satin blouse (practically fluffing her cleavage).

It’s possible I stared at that a bit more than I should have.

“Agh, I wish we didn’t need her,” Melissa sighed behind me.

That helped snap me out of it, and when I turned to glance at Melissa, she was pressing her fingers to the bridge of her nose. I looked back at Trixie. “Okay, so let us explain,” I said. “No commentary.”

Trixie smiled, but nodded. And so Melissa and I laid out the whole Prophecy and Chosen One situation, along with the factions and the idea that someone – maybe Merlin – had been dealing with supernatural balance for centuries. Trixie’s smile faded, and I think she literally bit down on her tongue a couple times, but she kept up her end of the bargain.

“So with that said,” I eventually concluded, “we need your help with a couple things.” Trixie’s hand shot up, implying she wanted to talk first.

“Go ahead,” I yielded.

Trixie took in a deep breath, then let it out. “Okay, hold on.” She walked all the way around Melissa, who incidentally had merely pulled on another pair of jeans and an oversized green T-shirt after getting up.

“Okay,” Trixie began again. “So you’re telling me that Missy, my plain looking, fashion impaired, socially backwards witch cousin… is going to be single-handedly responsible for deciding whether Earth goes all Shadowrun??”

“Don’t overdramatize,” Melissa said in annoyance. “And what do running shadows have to do with it?”

“Shadowrun. It’s a roleplay game where cybernetics meets urban fantasy. Supernatural creatures and technology, living together. More culture you’ve missed out on.”

“You roleplay?” I said to Trixie in surprise. I didn’t know Shadowrun, but I knew what she was getting at. She hadn’t really struck me as the type of person able to work well in a group.

“Well, no,” the redhead admitted. She shifted her gaze away from me then. “I read fanfic. There’s not much point roleplaying, because I’d never be able to generate a character more interesting than I already am.”

“I’m sure,” Melissa said dryly. “You also seem to think you can get whatever you like by giggling and looking cute, which I imagine is more difficult to manage online.”

“Oh pssh,” Trixie said dismissively, waving her arm. “I get whatever I like by using my high IQ of 151. The giggling and looking cute merely makes other people – especially men – feel better about surrendering themselves to my intellect.”

“You mean surrendering themselves to your–”

“We’re straying from the point,” I insisted, before Melissa could finish her thought. “Namely that, Trixie, do you think your mind would be capable of coding up some sort of artificial intelligence, which would be capable of handling the world’s supernatural balance issues in Melissa’s place?”

The ponytailed witch snapped her gaze over towards me, shocked. She opened her mouth as if to respond, then closed it, then opened it again, then her brow furrowed. “Euh.”

“See, James, I told you this would be beyond our capabilities to resolve in three months,” Melissa said.

“Shut up, Melissa, I’m thinking,” Trixie snapped.

Not Missy, Melissa. This was one of the first times for me to see Trixie going into full-on serious mode. Even as I processed this, she began mumbling to herself.

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Virga: Act 4B

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A Virga Mystery: BALANCING ACT

ACT 4b: OF PARENTS AND PROGRAMMING

“Very well, moving on, the second group is the Rationals,” Marissa said, after shooting her husband a look. “Melissa, they’ll be the ones trying to accost you in order to make a case for your decision one way or the other. Towards order or chaos, as you put it.”

“Are you saying rationals because their arguments will always be rational?” I wondered.

Marissa rolled her eyes. “No, more because they rationalize.”

“And the last group is the Worshippers,” Wayne finished. “Those who believe you’re the greatest thing since slicing bread, or whatever. Their logic is that if they grant Melissa prayers and favours now, good fortune will shine upon them no matter how the final decision comes down.”

MELISSA VIRGA
Commission from Shirley

Mel’s expression morphed into one of disbelief, a good approximation of how her mother had appeared a few minutes earlier. “Worship ME? But how could anyone…” She paused, looked in my direction, then back to her parents. “I mean, that still makes no sense. I didn’t open a supernatural agency for more notoriety, and most clients find me, um, abrasive.”

“Sometimes you’ve got to tell it like it is,” Wayne said, nodding.

“Also, some men like strong women,” Marissa said, with a hint of a smile. She then glanced in my direction too.

“Hey, well, Trixie will ensure that any public adoration doesn’t go to your head,” I offered, trying to find a way to reassure my girlfriend, not to mention move the spotlight away from me. “For however long she’s around the Agency.”

“Ah, yes, about that,” Marissa said. “Melissa dear, you probably shouldn’t operate your supernatural agency over the next three months. It would be like painting a target on yourself. In fact, part of the reason we wanted you here now was to get you to start laying low, where none of those various factions will be able to find you.”

“I also think it’s best if you don’t see James from this point on,” Wayne added, looking sidelong at me. “As much for his safety as anything else, otherwise people may use him to try and influence you.”

Mel bristled. “Wait. Are you asking me to stay here for several months, while you send James away to shut down my Agency?”

“It’s an option,” her father agreed. “Plus, if things go wrong in three months time, you might not be able to continue your relationships anyway, so I think it’s best to end them now, at a time of your choosing.”

“MY choosing?” Mel yelped.

“Don’t worry about what your father says, darling, things won’t go wrong,” Marissa said, glaring at her husband pointedly. “You see how practical this is though, yes?”

I should mention here that, as of this point in my life, I had only seen Mel suffer an emotional breakdown once before. It had happened when dealing with one of her old high school friends, Eric, who had been attempting to contact people from beyond the grave. Some lines you just should not cross, and Mel had been forced to cross those lines herself when dealing with both Eric and another witch named Melody.

That case, coupled with being confronted with her controlling nature at an inopportune time, had almost devastated Mel. Yet at this point in the meal (if you can still call it a meal), I wondered if my girlfriend was about to suffer a second meltdown.

“So,” the young brunette said coldly, and I’d say only barely managing to rein in the emotions I’d seen flickering across her face. “In one shot, you’ve come back into my life, only to suggest I eliminate my livelihood, my boyfriend, and even my choice in deciding how this Prophecy thing will play out,” she said. Her jaw clenched, and I could picture her hands curling and uncurling into fists under the level of the table too. “Do I have that right, mother? Father? Tell me I don’t have that right.”

Her parents didn’t immediately answer, choosing instead to exchange glances one more time.

“She’s not wrong,” Wayne said at last.

Marissa winced. “Well…”

“Both of you, go to hell,” Mel exploded at that, standing up. She threw her napkin down onto the table and stormed out of the room before either of them had a chance to speak again.

Marissa’s expression was now much the same as when her daughter had used sarcasm. “Wayne dear, what was that?”

“A tantrum?” Wayne mused in surprise. “She’s never done that before. What happened to the calm, rational teenager we raised?” His gaze slid to me.

“Your daughter grew up,” I pointed out. “While you were off trying to make her decisions for her.”

Realizing such a comment may have been overstepping my bounds (not to mention thinking a fast exit would be prudent without Mel around to back me up) I added, “But let me go and talk to her for you.”

I rose and swiftly headed out after the girl I’d fallen in love with.

As I left, I heard Marissa say to her husband, sounding very irritated: “I told you we should have eaten the pie first.”

***

I found Melissa curled up into a ball in the pantry, having pulled a tissue out of her handbag for dabbing at her eyes, though I didn’t see any tear streaks.

She looked up as I entered, her expression momentarily angry, until she registered who I was, at which point she merely hooked her arms a little tighter around her legs and stared back at the floor.

There was barely enough room for me to sit down next to her without disturbing the salt circle, but that’s what I did. I then waited, to let her have the first word.

“I forgot I didn’t have a proper room to storm off to here,” Melissa admitted eventually. “What with my parents having moved. This was all I could think of.”

“Just as well, I only know how to navigate three rooms in your parents’ place too.”

She snickered. “I suppose I should have actually practiced this back when I was a teenager. Were my parents confused?”

“Surprised,” I stated. “I came to find you myself, by the way, they didn’t send me.”

The brunette witch turned to look at me again. “The worst of it is, despite what I said, I don’t think I can really blame my parents. They’re on my side here, looking out for me, like always. The problem is this Prophecy nonsense.”

“Which they kept secret from you,” I pointed out.

“Out of concern,” Melissa insisted. “And to do research.”

I nodded. “Okay, so they may be looking out for you, but you really should get to have a say in their decisions,” I added. “I mean, imagine where we’d be if my parents had unilaterally decided to find me different lodgings three years ago, rather than letting me stay with you over the summer. Our whole relationship would never have happened.”

“I guess,” Melissa said dubiously. “But I want to keep you from being a target, and keep myself from being some object of worship, just as much as my parents do. They know that.” She hugged herself even tighter before releasing her legs. “I’m going to have to agree to stay, aren’t I.”

“You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to,” I insisted. “There’s always options, so let’s take a moment to think about this.”

Melissa sat quietly for a short time, then shook her head. “I can’t concentrate. I’m still reeling at how supernatural balance, the thing I’ve been striving to maintain, is suddenly being handed over to me to fix. Me! I didn’t expect to have the whole world on my shoulders when I got up this morning.”

“It’s not really something you can prepare for,” I granted. “Of course, if this plan of your parents works, you may not have to make the decision. That’s the real problem here, isn’t it? That they’re taking this opportunity away?”

She didn’t answer, but I like to think I know Melissa pretty well by now.

I reached out to grasp her by the hand. “Mel, don’t think about this, but right now, off the top of your head, tell me, DO want to be the one to make that call?”

“Gods no.”

“But do you think you’re the right one to make that call?”

“Yes.” She seemed surprised by her own admission.

“There you go then,” I concluded, releasing her. “Now we need to think about why. How about you start with that.”

Her lips pursed slightly. “Huh. I… I guess… if I was chosen out of everybody on Earth, I feel like it means something. Like the Agency means something. Like, not that I should be worshipped, but that my work is important. And that if I pass the buck to someone else on this one, I’d be shirking my responsibility.”

“Stuff like this happens for a reason, even if it’s one that’s not immediately obvious,” I attempted to rephrase.

Melissa nodded. “Not to bring religion or fate into this, but yeah.”

“Which way would your decision go then?”

“Well, towards keeping the balance, obviously,” Melissa replied. “Order above chaos. Thing is, I don’t think I’m ready to handle being a Merlin. I’m barely into my twenties, and now I’ll be doing the balancing job myself, out in the ether, for some indeterminate amount of time? That’s huge.”

“Then what’s wrong with the solution offered by your parents? Surely Merlin is ready to handle being Merlin, and in the end, supernatural balance will still be restored. This will also give the witches of the world time to figure out a better solution, because the situation seems to be getting more press than it was 300 years ago.”

Melissa pushed her legs out, crossing her arms over her chest. “Well, when you put it that way, there’s no issue.”

“Yet there’s something.”

“Yet there’s something,” she repeated back. “It’s weird. The more I think about it, the more I don’t think my parents’ plan is going to work. I can’t put my finger on why.” She frowned. “I wish they’d given me more time to figure it out by myself. Three months isn’t enough time.”

“Okay. So their idea won’t work, but you’re not sure if you can restore order all by yourself,” I summarized. “Meaning we simply come up with a new plan by ourselves.”

She turned to stare at me, smirking. “Oh, right, as easy as that?”

“Why not? I don’t think you’ve lost a supernatural case yet, Mel.”

“There was that one last year, with the pixies.”

I shook my head. “You gave that up voluntarily. Besides, being this Chosen One probably gives you a certain degree of extra insight.” She still looked a bit dubious, so I tossed in, “We can even make it official Agency business, bringing Trixie and her IQ in on it, if that would help.”

“Joy,” Melissa said dryly, I suspect trying to determine if I was joking. “I don’t think Trixie will save the day, James. She’s more into technology, the very thing interfering with my parents’ spell. The only way that girl would be useful is if…” Her voice trailed off, and Melissa looked thoughtful.

“I hope you’re not proposing sacrificing her,” I joked after a minute.

“Don’t tempt me,” Melissa murmured. “No, it’s the technology aspect. Could there be some way of writing a program to handle supernatural balance in my place?”

I blinked in surprise. “Artificial intelligence?”

“Kinda? I mean, it would require integrating technology with magick, but Trixie’s already managed that, insofar as her Rixi is linked to her storage space. That’s not a common thing by the way. For all her shortcomings, even I have to admit that, from a technical standpoint, she really is brilliant.”

I nodded. “Okay, so programming may be the answer. Which doesn’t have to be Trixie. Maybe your parents would be better at handling it?”

Melissa laughed. “Oh, Gods, no, my dad’s even more of a technophobe than me, and by now my mom is dead set on her way of doing things, seeing as she’s invested so much in it already.” She tapped her finger on the floor. “But maybe, another techno-witch…?”

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Virga: Act 4A

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A Virga Mystery: BALANCING ACT

ACT 4a: OF PARENTS AND PROGRAMMING

“Wayne dear, be less blunt,” Marissa suggested, off Wayne’s admission. Fortunately, her tone of voice had returned to something more neutral.

“But why target me?” Mel said, the frustration in her voice obvious to me, and likely everyone in the room.

Marissa sighed. “Melissa, if we tell you, do you promise that you’ll continue to let us handle it our way?”

MELISSA VIRGA
Commission from Shirley

“Oh, of course, seeing as your way seems to involve me continually getting attacked,” Mel grumbled.

This time Marissa simply looked startled. “Melissa, did you just get… sarcastic with us?” Marissa shifted her look of disbelief on to me, her expression morphing into one of disapproval. Her father also looked my way.

Caught under the microscope, I found I could only shrug and smile back wanly. “Yeah, maybe she picked that up from me?” I said apologetically.

“Well, this is what we wanted. Less pure analysis, more emotionalism,” Wayne remarked, briefly drumming his fingers on the table.

“Perhaps we should have been monitoring the situation more closely though,” Marissa said, frowning in concern. “Oracles don’t get sarcasm, they take that sort of thing very literally.”

“Well, you know what I think we should have done all along,” Wayne countered, ceasing his drumming to cross his arms.

“Don’t be silly, dear, she’d have spotted a magick listening device in her apartment from a mile away.”

“Hello! Still in the room,” Mel said, seemingly gaining strength as her anger and exasperation started to bubble over. “What. Aren’t. You. Telling. Me.”

As a matter of fact, the way the tables had been completely turned on her usual know-it-all attitude, this might have been humorous under other circumstances. Poor Mel really was out of her element here.

Marissa sighed again. “Very well. Melissa, darling… in about three months time, you will be given a choice. Namely whether to have the supernatural balance of Earth completely restored, or completely shattered.”

Mel peered closer at Marissa, looking for a hint of deception.

“In the former case,” Mel’s mother clarified, “the rules would again be fully enforced, no magick would be done without appropriate consequences, and other realms would be completely shut out, preventing bleed over. In the latter case, supernatural beings would be seen with increasing frequency, and magick could be done not only by more individuals, but wielded against those without implicit consent.”

Mel made a dismissive gesture with her hand. “Well, that’s a no brainer. Given order or chaos, I pick order. Let’s do it now and get it over with.”

“Unluckily, it’s not quite so cut and dried,” her father said, frowning. “For one thing, maybe the world could use a little shake-up before everyone becomes tied to the supernatural that at present exists only in their little electronic virtual worlds. While automation keeps taking over every industry, and destroying people’s imaginations.”

“Another rather more key fact,” Marissa put in, “is that if you choose to restore the balance – Melissa, you’re the one who will have to monitor and maintain that balance. Indefinitely.”

Mel stared at her parents before shaking her head. “You’ve lost me.”

“Go back to Merlin,” Wayne suggested.

“We don’t know that it’s Merlin,” his wife countered. “All we know for sure is that there is actually someone doing that job now, and that they’ve been doing it for hundreds of years. Trouble is, over time, they’ve lost perspective, and possibly their magick has become corrupted.”

“Which Merlin was smart enough to foresee,” Wayne remarked, stubbornly insisting on using the name. “Hence why he put in this ‘give a promising young witch or wizard a chance to make a choice’ clause that we’re currently faced with. Melissa, you’ll probably want to do the same, if you take over his job.”

With that, Wayne picked up his fork and cut into his pie.

“Dear, how can you eat at a time like this?” Marissa said.

“Hey, now that the truth is out there, I actually feel a whole lot better,” Wayne countered with a shrug. “Not to mention, still hungry.”

Mel still looked a bit uncertain about the whole thing, so I decided to speak up again. “Can I see if I have the gist of this?” I asked. Everyone turned to look at me, and no one objected to my speaking. “So, back in the 12th century, Merlin…”

“Fifth,” Wayne interrupted. “While his stories were from the 12th century, the actual events surrounding Merlin occurred about 700 years before.”

“And we don’t know it was Merlin,” Marissa reminded.

“So, many centuries ago, someone decided that they would monitor the supernatural balance on Earth,” I continued doggedly. “Or possibly they decided to take the job over from someone else, starting at that point. But said person knew that they couldn’t keep it up forever, thus put in some magick clause. And now, in our present, another will be Chosen to either dissolve the position entirely, or take over.”

“Correct,” Marissa said.

I leaned in. “Is it fair to extrapolate, and say that the increase in supernatural incursions over the last few years or decades is because of the current office holder starting to fail at their job?”

“Also likely,” Marissa agreed.

Wayne didn’t respond, as he was now eating his pie.

“Is there some significance as to why August of this year is the turnover?” I continued.

“Not that we’ve been able to determine. Seems random,” answered Mel’s mother.

“Why ME?” Mel said, speaking up again. “I mean, this seems huge. Shouldn’t this be the sort of thing decided by someone older? Or by a full committee, or voted on by a majority of Earth’s population or something?”

“Only one person gets to run this show,” Marissa said in resignation. “As to why you were one of those chosen to receive the earlier Prophecy, and in fact now seem to be the selected Chosen One, all I can say is that power seeks out those who won’t abuse it. Among those, you’ve apparently seemed the most fanatic, or the most insightful, with respect to issues of supernatural balance.”

“The spell needed to choose someone young too,” Wayne said offhandedly between bites. “Given the job takes centuries, you’ll want to start early. Then again, maybe there was a lack of correction factor for how long people live these days?”

“So, then… I have three months to decide whether I want this job, or whether I want to plunge the Earth into chaos,” Melissa said, numbly.

“Well, that’s just it, not necessarily,” Marissa said, now looking a bit happier. “We’ve found a work-around. A spell which can be performed to re-energize the person already managing the supernatural balance.”

“Merlin,” Wayne noted, with his mouth half full of pie.

Marissa shot her husband a look before continuing. “The spell itself will reverse any magick corruption and put off the problem for several centuries, getting you off the hook.” She smiled at her daughter.

“Put that way, it seems like we’re merely delaying the situation, sticking it on someone else,” Mel pointed out.

“Well, yes,” Marissa yielded. “But if you ask me, that’s what was happening anyway. As things are now, you’d end up on the hook for handing the balancing act, until you’d also have to look towards sticking the problem on someone else. With our plan, the only difference is that we skip over your involvement, so that you can live out a proper life.”

I shook my head. It didn’t seem like passing the buck could be as easy as Marissa made it out to be. Otherwise surely this solution would have been attempted already. I said as much, also suggesting, “Is it that the spell itself is incredibly complicated?”

“Oh no,” Marissa said dismissively. “Spell’s fairly simple, just needs about five people to cast. They do give up some of their own essence, but we already found some volunteers for that, myself included.”

“Then what’s the twist?” I pressed.

“The spell can’t be focused onto the right place while there’s electronic devices functioning on the planet,” Wayne said, dropping his fork back down onto his empty plate. “There’s your twist, it’s all about the bloody tech. Well, and related to that, there’s the fact that this spell hasn’t been cast in 300 years, but it seems legit.”

I stared. “You mean to make this work, you have to hit the Earth with some kind of giant electromagnetic pulse first??” I said in shock.

“Oh, of course not, that would be terribly irresponsible,” Wayne objected, shaking his head. “Planes dropping out of the sky, life support machines failing, food spoiling in refrigerators…”

“We have found a way of shutting down, or rather, suspending the entire world’s electronic infrastructure,” Marissa cut back in. “With another spell. For only the couple of seconds we need. But the coordination involved in that is rather intense; we’re still pulling together a group of people both willing and able to invoke it.”

“So that’s the more difficult spell,” I realized.

“Partly,” Marissa yielded. “Also, it’s been determined that the optimal time to shut down all electronics is right around the time when the prophecy decision is going to be handed down anyway.”

“Globally speaking, we need a time with the fewest vehicles on the road, the least number of surgical operations in progress, all those sorts of variables,” Wayne muttered. “And yet it’s always daylight somewhere, so there’s lots to coordinate.”

“I have wondered if the timing of both events is not coincidence,” Marissa admitted. “A calmer time also being good for handing over the responsibility of the balance, assuming it’s not released entirely.”

Mel cleared her throat. “But then, what you’re saying is that I won’t have to make this decision after all.”

“That’s the plan, yes,” Marissa agreed with a smile.

“So what if I want to?”

Marissa’s smile faded. “Anyone wanting to make such a decision probably shouldn’t. But even so, Melissa, why would you take on such a huge responsibility? Honestly, we’d rather hoped to have it all figured out by now, such that you wouldn’t have had to deal with ANY of the Prophecy’s consequences, chief among them being those beings trying to kill you. Obviously, we’ve fallen short. For that, we are sorry.”

The young witch’s forehead creased slightly. “You were going to tell me all this either way though, yes?” There was a pause as her parents exchanged glances yet another time. “YES?”

“Doing that would have been the responsible choice, of course,” Wayne seemed to hedge. “As I’m sure you would have worked it all out eventually.”

Mel’s mother went for a slight shift in the topic. “So as things stand, Melissa, I’m afraid you’re liable to be accosted by three types of people over the summer. Based on our research, and owing to the three-month window between your official nomination, as it were, and the actual decision.”

“Oh, this should be good,” Mel sighed.

“The first group, as you saw, is the crazy ones, who believe that killing you will resolve this entire supernatural balance problem,” Wayne said, seizing the topic shift.

“Will it?” Mel interjected.

“No, darling, don’t be silly,” Marissa said, gesturing vaguely. “The decision would just pass on to one of the other Chosen Ones in the world, we said there were a few. But I suppose when you’re crazy, you think you can eliminate them all, or perhaps it’s merely that they believe one of the others would have viewpoints more compatible with them.”

“Who knows, when you don’t perceive reality properly?” Wayne muttered. “Figures one of them would be a lycan.”

“Couldn’t one of the other possible Chosen Ones send out a hit squad or something too?” I interjected. “To take out Mel and the other candidates?”

“It’s unlikely that they’d want to pull the attention towards themselves,” Marissa pointed out. “But even if that were the case, the Prophecy itself would then reject them as being a suitable candidate for deciding the balance.”

“Merlin still has some control,” Wayne agreed.

Marissa looked towards her husband. “Would you stop already with the Merl–”

“We’re getting off track,” Mel interjected. “Who are the other groups? Who will be after me, aside from the Crazies?”

Previous INDEX Next

Virga: Act 3E

Previous INDEX Next Act

A Virga Mystery: BALANCING ACT

ACT 3e: OF LYCANS AND PROPHECIES

I stared. “Your parents are in our kitchen?” I asked, approaching the doorway in confusion.

Once I could see inside, I took note of the circle of salt on the floor. “Ah! Teleporting,” I concluded. Not to be confused with a circle of flour, used for transformations.

MELISSA VIRGA
Commission from Shirley

“Seemed easiest,” Melissa said. “They actually moved away from the town I grew up in, once I graduated from high school. They also prefer to keep to themselves, so infrequent teleportation visits not only mean I can find them anywhere, but that they can continue to keep people from tracking them down using more routine methods. Like following me.”

I moved into the kitchen. “I suppose their reclusive ways explains why I’ve never met them before,” I remarked.

“Oh, don’t get me wrong, they get out and do stuff like normal people,” Melissa assured. “They just tend to do so in other guises. They were at my University graduation last year, for example.”

I blinked. “What? When?”

“That time I went over to talk to what I said was a couple of my former classmates. It was actually my parents.”

“Your parents…” I searched my memory. “The couple of twentysomethings with dark hair and tie dyed shirts…??”

“That was them. Made to look thirty years younger, of course.” Melissa pressed an index finger to the side of her mouth. “Come to think, they’re a bit quirky too, by your definition. Hereditary trait?”

“I guess this will be interesting then,” was all I could think to say.

Melissa smiled reassuringly as we moved into the circle. “Don’t worry about it. Now, as soon as my parents have mentally given their consent for teleport, the spell should activ—”

***

I found myself in another salt circle, seemingly in a pantry. In fact, the box of salt that had been used for the circle was still right in front of me.

Melissa had remained with me, and setting her handbag aside, she dusted her hands off on her jeans before heading out into the next room, which had to be the kitchen. I poked my head around the door a little more tentatively.

“Hello, mother,” Melissa said brightly, hugging the woman standing by the stove.

“Melissa, darling, good to have you back… and that must be James?”

“Uhm, hey,” I said, stepping out and waving as I realized I’d been seen.

Perhaps it’s a cliché to say this, but Melissa’s mother really did look like an older version of her daughter. Same wavy brown hair, if a bit shorter, same piercing green eyes… I suppose Marissa had an inch of extra height, but other than that…

Then again, I guess you could say their choices of attire were different too. Melissa’s mother actually sported a floor length dress in pale yellow, a contrast to her daughter’s jeans and green t-shirt.

(And if any of you are wondering why, given that this tale is using changed names, I picked ones that were so similar for the Melissa/Marissa, their real names were also very similar. Deal with it. Though, fair point, text medium, no visuals… maybe I’ll refer to Melissa as Mel for this portion of the tale? And I’ll fix this in editing.)

I paused here, not sure if Mel was going to do introductions, but I suppose she figured she’d taken care of that before the teleport. “So, um, do you prefer Marissa or Mrs. Virga?” I asked.

“Eventually you can call me Judge and Jury,” the older Virga quipped. “Though Marissa is fine for now.”

Said in a very non-confrontational tone, so maybe she had some of the humour that I’d always felt I had to teach to her daughter.

“We’re working up to Executioner, huh?” I responded in kind.

“I’m the Executioner,” came a voice from behind me.

I turned, to see what had to be Wayne Black entering the room. A huge contrast to Mel, he was just below six feet tall, wearing a dress shirt and black tie, leading me to wonder if my golf shirt was a bit too informal here. He had what might be described as chiseled good looks, including shorter dark hair with no real sign of baldness (are there spells to handle that?), and he was wearing glasses while carrying a newspaper.

Mel also has a pair of reading glasses, so maybe that was from his side of the family. Of more immediate concern, his tone had held none of the lightheartedness of his wife, making me swallow.

“Wayne, dear, give us a chance to work up to that,” Marissa said. I glanced back in her direction; now I could no longer tell if she was joking or not.

“Yeah, uh… is there a room where I can sit down? Out of the way?” I asked.

“I can show you both to the sitting room,” Wayne offered.

“Well, only if there’s nothing I can help with here,” Mel put in. “Any vegetables to chop or herbs to enchant?”

“It’s fine,” Marissa assured her daughter. “We’re actually going more traditional for James’ sake, with a lasagna. That said you’re welcome to add some marmalade to your individual salad course; I think I will.”

Checkmark for where Mel might have gotten her dining habits.

Around this point I realized I was classifying her personal quirks merely out of nerves, and decided I should stop that and think of an actual topic of conversation instead. Unfortunately, the only things coming to mind were sports or the weather. And geographically, I didn’t even know where on Earth we were. The kitchen didn’t have any windows.

“Let’s head to the next room then,” Wayne repeated.

With no other suggestions, this seemed as good an option as anything.

I lucked out a bit though, in that Mel started chatting with her dad about her latest case about the vampyre, and from there we went to Wayne’s line of work and some of his recent customers, so I didn’t have to do much talking. Even the few questions Mel’s dad pitched at me didn’t seem out of line, related to my degree or my feelings towards his daughter, so I was starting to feel much more relaxed by the time Marissa called us to the dinner table.

We each sat across from our respective partners, the table itself being closer to a square in shape than a long rectangle.

It was during dinner that I realized there was something not quite right. Namely, Mel’s parents were avoiding certain topics. Mel had mentioned the Prophecy thing twice by now, and in each case the subject was changed.

She didn’t seem to have noticed.

Wayne and Marissa also seemed to be gently probing into her relationship with me for more than her job situation, and I saw her father’s gaze seem hopeful when she mentioned how we’d just spent three weeks apart. Only for it to turn disapproving when it became obvious that we’d had intimate relations already. As Marissa served the dessert – some sort of pie – I finally couldn’t keep my suspicions to myself.

“Okay, help me out here,” I said. “Is there a chance Mel is actually some sort of Chosen One, to the point where you’re concerned about my relationship with her? Because you seem to be avoiding any direct discussion about that.”

Mel shot me a look of gratitude then, helping me to realize that she’d picked up on something of the sort, but had been hesitant to challenge her parents on it.

Wayne and Marissa exchanged a glance.

“Your answer is yes, and we’re thinking maybe you shouldn’t see each other for the next few months,” her father responded.

“Wayne, we were going to wait until after the dazzleberry pie,” his wife admonished.

“He brought it up,” her husband pointed out.

Marissa sighed. “You didn’t have to answer so bluntly.”

“Not see each other? Excuse me, you were going to tell me this exactly WHEN?” Mel demanded.

“After the pie, dear,” Marissa soothed. “Is it so bad? You’ve been apart for all these weeks already.”

“He’s already moved his stuff back in,” Mel countered. “Why would you even tell me how to live my life all of a sudden? That’s not like you.”

Marissa exchanged a glance with her husband. “Honestly, we were hoping to have the Prophecy problem solved by now.”

“Bloody technological advancements of the human race,” Wayne groused.

“Hi, sorry. Maybe you should back up to the beginning?” I requested, slowly raising my hand. I knew I’d be lost otherwise.

Her parents looked to me, and Marissa finally pushed her pie a short distance away so that she could clasp her hands on the table. “Very well. Do I assume you already know about the Prophecy that led my daughter to start up her agency, James?”

I blinked. “Um, no,” I admitted, bringing my hand back down.

I supposed I’d never asked. And while Mel wasn’t as uncommunicative as she’d been when we met, as you’ve seen, she still doesn’t tend to volunteer information.

“That wasn’t exactly a Prophecy,” Mel countered. She turned to look at me too. “It’s more a psychic reading that magick families can avail themselves of, once their children turn eighteen. I’d been trying to decide whether I should focus my supernatural interests in a more spiritual way, or a more practical one.”

“We thought it would provide guidance,” Marissa agreed.

“According to my reading,” Mel continued, “I ‘was destined to play a lead role in restoring supernatural balance’. So I went the practical route, with the agency. But these readings, they’re really just mystical fortune cookies, if slightly more accurate ones. You can interpret them to be true or not.”

“Except very few get the particular sort of reading Melissa got,” Wayne rumbled.

“Or to go with my daughter’s analogy,” Marissa put in, looking at me, “it’s like the back of her fortune had the winning lotto numbers on it. If she wanted to play them.”

Mel turned to stare at her mother. “You never told me that.”

“No, well, we knew you wanted to finish your degree, and we had a good deal of thinking to do,” Marissa continued. “That’s part of the reason we went traveling, and took a step away from your life. We figured we needed some perspective.”

“We were able to determine that at least one or two other people had received that same Prophecy style message, in other parts of the world,” Wayne stated. “And ultimately, what it meant in terms of the big picture.” He went silent.

“Which was…?” I prompted.

Wayne looked to his wife. Marissa cleared her throat. “Are we sure we wouldn’t like some pie before we get into this?”

“Mother, what did it mean?” Mel said firmly. She was using that no-nonsense tone in her voice, the one that can get a person to obey without thinking about it.

“Melissa Temetum Virga, do you REALLY want to know?” her mother countered. And though Marissa’s voice was barely above a whisper, the words were delivered with all the force of a jet engine. Hell, her tone sent chills up MY spine, and the comment hadn’t even been directed at me.

Obviously this speechifying was a family trait, and Mel’s mother didn’t like that Mel had tried to use it on her.

Mel immediately looked to me like a five year old with her hand caught in the cookie jar. Meaning not only was she in trouble, but worse, she felt that there was no possible chance of escape. She actually squirmed in her chair, an action I would never have thought possible for someone as in control as she was.

“I…”

And then Mel looked to me. Me, with her eyes pleading, as if begging me to ask the question that had been stolen from her lips. (Lesson learned, do NOT get pushy with Marissa Virga.)

“I think what Melissa means,” I attempted diplomatically, fearing Marissa turning her gaze upon me, “is that this so-called Prophecy is affecting her life now, what with vampyres and lycans attacking based on her name.”

Or at least, her first and last name. Though you should look up the latin for her middle name sometime too – I used the real one – it’s rather informative. Or at least it was for me.

“Mmm. Disturbingly accurate, that three month timeline,” Wayne mused. “If we’d known, we’d have had you come by here a day or so earlier.”

Her father’s voice seemed to give Mel the courage to speak again. “Then I am being targeted,” she concluded.

“You are, and it won’t get any better,” Wayne affirmed.

I felt like this did not bode well for us.

END ACT 3

Previous INDEX Next Act

Virga: Act 3D

Previous INDEX Next

A Virga Mystery: BALANCING ACT

ACT 3d: OF LYCANS AND PROPHECIES

At first, Amy and I simply sat near each other on the motel bed.

“Reality bites, huh?” I offered at last, when Amy didn’t say anything. Amy laughed weakly at that. “Yeah, if it’s not my own internet success tripping me up, it’s having my childhood dreams of genies torn apart.”

My face fell. “I’m sorry. I just meant about the magic school thing being beyond you.”

She made a dismissive gesture with her hand. “Bah, don’t look at me that way, James, I’m being melodramatic. I must confess though, part of the reason I went along with your parents to meet you that first day was because, deep down, I’d hoped their casual dismissal of a ‘supernatural detective agency’ wasn’t necessarily something to be dismissed.” She brought her hand back to rub at her neck. “Of course, your work wasn’t at ALL what I’d expected it to be.”

I tried to smile. “I’d love to say I’ll stick around to help you through it, but… uh…”

“It’s not going to work out between us.” Amy’s tone was as matter-of-fact as Melissa’s, but her expression was anything but neutral. “Because I can’t deal with this stuff like you, and I think you’ve missed having the magic around. Or Melissa. Or maybe they’re one and the same in your mind?”

I coughed. I hadn’t thought of things that way. “I’m sorry if I kept talking about her.”

Amy shook her head. “Don’t be. I’m sorry I ignored the signals.”

“I guess I did too.” I edged a bit closer. Amy was still my friend (I hoped), and she looked so sad that I wanted to hug her. But I worried that it would give off the wrong signals.

“Live and learn,” she concluded.

Perhaps sensing my awkwardness, Amy bridged the distance then, and the two of us met in an embrace. She buried her face for a moment in my shoulder, and when she pulled back, her eyes were misty but her expression overall seemed more composed.

“Just be careful out there, okay James? It really doesn’t seem safe. At the least, it certainly puts my concerns over internet criticism in perspective.” She pursed her lips. “And, can I be honest with you?”

I nodded. “Please do. Friends should be honest with each other.”

Amy chuckled, accepting the label. “Okay then. Thing is… I’m not sure that Melissa’s the best choice for keeping you emotionally stable. I don’t mean she’s a bad person, but in particular if there are people – or beings or whatever – out there after her… but look, I grant that I haven’t known her for as long as you have, so there is that too.”

“Yeah, well, Melissa’s…” I fumbled for a word. “Unique.”

“Everyone is,” she reminded me. “You are too. Make sure she realizes that, and that she doesn’t take advantage of your good nature. She may not even do it intentionally.”

“Uh… yeah, okay.”

Amy shook her finger at me. “I mean it, James. As one friend to another. Make sure that you’re happier with Melissa than you are without her, before you commit yourself long term. Yes?”

I shifted on the bed. “Okay.”

“Good.”

We hugged again, quickly, and then Amy got out of the bed, insisting I at least get some sleep there, despite my protests. I passed out shortly thereafter, discovering in the morning that Amy had apparently done the same at some point, while sitting slumped over the desk, next to her lamp.

We were asked the next day by the motel management whether we had heard anything during the night, with respect to vandalism at their pool. I hedged, saying I’d heard something around midnight, and pointing out that my car window had also been smashed. They simply responded how they weren’t responsible for damage done on their property, as per the agreement I’d signed.

So, as far as I’m concerned, this can be an unsolved mystery for them. Particularly given the fact that Trixie told me Melissa answered “Lycan” when they’d asked the same question of her, and they dismissed her as a crazy person.

***

The rest of Saturday was a bit of a blur.

I got Amy back to our hometown, and then dropped in to see my parents, to let them know that I’d made my decision as far as returning to Melissa. You really don’t want me to bother transcribing that, mostly just my Mom asking whether I was REALLY sure, along with my Dad’s resigned acceptance, provided that I made sure this was something I could make a living at.

He suggested adding my name to Melissa’s agency. More on that later.

I then headed out with a lot of my essential items, bringing them back to Melissa’s apartment. Or rather, back to what felt more like my home, as I’d stayed there right through University.

Remember, if this return to living with her seems rushed, I had dinner with the Virgas on my schedule now, and I kind of wanted to be moved back in by then.

I was brought up short upon my arrival though, discovering that Trixie had, in fact, fully moved in over the past couple weeks, taking over my old room. We still had an hour before meeting up with her parents, so Melissa gave me the whole story.

Apparently the (at present) nineteen year old techno-witch had decided that schooling had nothing more to teach her after her high school graduation, and had subsequently spent more than a year doing mad science in her room while generally driving her parents crazy.

As such, Trixie’s parents had been only too keen to pawn her off on Melissa when she’d called up for technical advice with Amy’s stalker. Meaning for the moment, Trixie didn’t have anywhere else to go.

MELISSA VIRGA
Commission from Shirley

“Two weeks ago, I thought having a technical consultant in house would be a good plan,” Melissa admitted. “At the time, I didn’t realize she’d be such a pain in the ass, and it’ll take some time before we can get rid of her.”

“It’s fine,” I assured Melissa. “Besides, she was helpful in terms of the garlic and vampyre, so she can’t be as bad as all that.”

“Helpful, but a little last minute in terms of the deduction,” Melissa countered.

“To be fair, we didn’t see a connection either.”

Melissa crossed her arms. “Okay, but maybe she’d have figured it out sooner if she wasn’t busy trying to seduce all our other prospective clients.”

I frowned. “I’m not sure those things are connected. Also, she what?”

“I’m talking about that thing Trixie does with getting guys to look at her huge rack, despite dressing like she’s too young to have it. She told me she showed you that pose, yes?”

I tried to think of a good way to answer that, and decided to be evasive. “I think I know what you mean. But not all our former clients were male, and how many have you even had in the past two weeks for Trixie to pull this on?”

Melissa sniffed. “Like, two. Maybe three. Only one case was actually supernatural. Look, James, clients aside, I’m not blind to the fact that Trixie’s personality is quirky like mine, except she’s funnier, and prettier than me. I’m just saying, if you and her try to run off and start a rival Agency, she’ll be a problem for you, so I wouldn’t.”

I peered at Melissa a bit closer. “Hold on. Mel, are you being evasive too?”

Melissa’s cheeks went a bit pink. “Yes. Yes, okay, fine. What I’m saying is don’t have sex with Trixie, despite her being available in your old room. Okay, James?”

“Whoa.” I coughed. “Are you saying that in a ‘hands off my young cousin’ way or in the sense that you think me and her–”

“Trixie’s not a virgin, she’s only a couple years younger – despite how she dresses – and I think she’s into you,” Melissa clarified. “Though, while we’re on the subject, the fact that she’s my cousin makes a threesome out of the question.”

I had to look away from her serious expression, rubbing my forehead for cover. “Oy. Mel, remember, Trixie has hit me multiple times. I don’t think she’s keen on me.”

“James, you’re being your wonderfully naive self,” Melissa insisted. “In smacking you, Trixie was taking the time to clue you in, rather than tune you out. You don’t help someone if you hate them. I think maybe I was singing your praises too much this past week too, which helped make her interested.”

“Okay, well, even if you’re right–” Composing myself, I fully turned back. “Mel, your cousin is not the one I’ve fallen in love with. That’s you. You don’t have anything to worry about, no matter how much your cousin might want to develop a love-hate relationship with me.”

I smiled, hoping that sounded as sincere as I felt. I worried that my earlier facial expression resembled that of your stereotypical guy in the movies who’s been blindsided with the old ‘were you looking at that woman?’ schtick.

“Right. Okay.” Melissa bobbed her head in agreement, then scrunched her face up a bit as she shook her head instead. “But while intellectually, that makes sense to me, being away from you seems to have made me insecure in new ways. I mean, I thought I’d properly planned for your departure, yet despite that… it didn’t turn out right.”

“No? What, the Agency accounts got messed up?”

“Not that.”

“Then did you run into technical issues? Because Trixie seems to have the tech-fu, or whatever you want to call it, more than either of us.”

“It wasn’t a tech problem.”

“Is was personal? Did you miss the… um, er…”

“Sex? No. Well, maybe a bit. Thing is, James, it was more I liked having someone to bounce ideas off of. Because talking to Trixie professionally just makes her get defensive, and talking to her about personal stuff… well, I mostly didn’t. I don’t want to give her ammunition. But I couldn’t shun her entirely, because I didn’t want to run this place alone.”

“So, you missed me,” I summarized.

“Nngh. Yeah,” Melissa forced out. “In fact, about a minute ago, I guess I should have simply said I love you back. If this is love I feel. I’m sorry?”

I smiled. “It’s fine, Mel. I know you. Hug?”

I moved in to give her a hug, and she hugged back, drawing in a deep breath.

“Okay,” Melissa said at last. “Dinner with my parents is in under half an hour. Might as well just put your stuff in my room for now. I mean, Trixie’s not here to complain about your return, so screw her. Not literally.”

I pulled back a bit. “Where is your cousin, dare I ask?”

Melissa made a face. “She’s been gone most of today ‘thinking’. I bet because our whole lycan-containment-fail happened, when it theoretically should have worked. She’s stupidly smart, to use an oxymoron, but that doesn’t translate to work out in the field. I can’t believe I allowed it.”

“Mel, don’t get too harsh. Trixie’s still young. We all make mistakes in our youth, as we learn.”

“She’s not that young,” Melissa sniffed. “But what, you don’t want her to move out then? You want to check out her chest a bit more?”

Having opened my mouth to respond to the first question, I paused momentarily at the second. “Uh, well, I don’t want to barge back in and kick Trixie out if she has nowhere else. But my motive is not to check out her body.”

“How could you not though,” Melissa muttered, only to pull right back from me. “Sorry. Let’s drop it, I think this parents thing is messing with me a bit tonight too. I haven’t spoken to them in months, aside from the dinner invitation, so I’m on edge.”

I had questions about that, but I suspected that asking any meant we’d run out of time for me to get my stuff inside. Or the conversation would somehow loop back to Trixie.

So I simply agreed with Melissa, and put my stuff in my no-longer-ex-girlfriend’s room. When I was finished, I moved up behind her at the desk in the main area, where she was staring at a snow globe.

“Mmm. What time is it?” she said, as my shadow fell on her.

“It’s 3 o’clock,” I responded, noting that the clock in the room still didn’t have batteries. Melissa turned in surprise.

“Oh. Seriously?”

I pulled back and gestured towards the offending timepiece. “No, that was a joke. It’s a ten to seven.”

“Oh. I knew that,” she lied.

Truly, I should have known better than to make a time joke with someone who doesn’t register the passage of time.

“Anyway, let’s go. Doesn’t matter if we’re a bit early,” Melissa decided. “I should probably help chop vegetables or something.”

Melissa reached under her desk, grabbing a handbag. Which for the record, I was pretty sure contained magical artifacts, rather than beauty products.

“Anything I should know first though?” I asked. “Because you’ve, uhm, never actually spoken to me about your family. Like, at all.”

“Haven’t I?”

“No.”

“Huh. Guess I never thought it was relevant. Well, my mom is a pixie and my dad is a dwarf, so I knew from a young age that I’d have height issues.”

I searched her face. “Now you’re joking.” It almost came out as a question.

“Yes. My mom’s name is Marissa Virga, she’s a witch like me, and my dad’s name is Wayne Black, he manages a general store and does alchemy on the side.”

I let out a breath of relief. “Well, okay then. You know, you’re definitely getting better at deadpan humour.”

“Thanks,” Melissa said with a grin, before gesturing towards the kitchen. “Shall we have you learn more about them by simply talking to them now?”

Previous INDEX Next

Virga: Act 3C

Previous INDEX Next

A Virga Mystery: BALANCING ACT

ACT 3c: OF LYCANS AND PROPHECIES

Melissa’s response to my confusion was a shrug. “It’s like I said that night your parents brought Amy over the first time. Before your graduation. My parents were hoping to have you over for dinner this upcoming Saturday in May.”

“You never told me that,” I protested.

A pause. “I was sure I did.”

I ran back through that night in my head, and managed to hit on something. “You said you’d wanted to talk to me about something relating to parents when you went to get my dad his water. You never specified what.”

“Oh.” Melissa rubbed her nose. “Well, I’m specifying now. You good with that?”

“I… sure.”

There was no point arguing about the circumstances. This was Melissa’s way. In fact, it felt strangely reassuring to think that things were going back to “normal” so fast. Honestly, my only hesitation was over the fact that I’d never met her parents before.

But after everything Melissa had needed to handle with my parents, doubting her supernatural connection, it seemed only fair that I give hers the chance to give me the once-over as well.

She half smiled at my acceptance, and with that, I realized just how much I had missed her. I reached out to brush some of her hair off of her face.

TRIXIE
Commission from Sen Yomi

“A-HEM,” Trixie said, clearing her throat incredibly noisily. I realized that face had moved in to within an inch of my former (current?) girlfriend’s, and so I quickly pulled back. Melissa did likewise.

“I’d say get a motel room, but I’m worried you’d kick me out to use the one we’ve got,” Trixie said, hands moving to her hips. “Also, Missy, dinner what now? You never mentioned that to me.”

“Oh, good, so you won’t be offended now that you’re not coming,” Melissa said, raking her fingers back through her rumpled hair.

“No, but I’m wondering if you told your parents we’re dating,” Trixie remarked. “We’re related you know, so that’s a bit twisted.”

Melissa’s face seemed to get redder. “I only told them I might not be able to bring James. This wasn’t a matter of coming with a date either, they wanted to know who I was associating with at work. But you know, even if we weren’t related, your attitude is such that I would NEVER –”

“I think we’d best check on Amy now,” I said, hoping to prevent an argument. I attempted to clear my throat afterwards and just sounded raspy, so I turned and stepped towards the motel room door, reaching my hand out for the doorknob.

Trixie blinked. “Oh, wait, James, I put up –”

As I touched the door, I felt an electrical jolt, which not only knocked me off my feet and onto the pavement a good foot and a half away, but which left my fingers twitching spasmodically for several seconds.

“—some protective scrolls.”

“Now who’s an idiot?” I grumbled back in her direction.

“Well, it stood to reason, didn’t it?” Trixie countered. “You told me to keep her safe, and what did you think those little papers were for? Idiot.”

I glowered. This caused her to switch tactics, clasping her hands behind her back as she pushed her chest out. Despite her maturity, she looked remarkably cute, to the point where it almost felt cruel to remain upset with the freckled witch. “I sowwy,” Trixie cooed.

“Oh, I… uh…”

“Cut that out, Trixie,” Melissa grumbled, moving to stand between us, blocking my view. “He’s working with our Agency again, so he’s off limits to your nonsense. Also, let us into Amy’s room, I need to sit down.”

I saw Trixie stick out her tongue at Melissa as she walked closer, right before winking at me. That said, she then deactivated her scrolls without causing any other arguments.

***

At this point, per Amy’s request, we explained to her exactly what had been going on while she’d been asleep. Of course, some of it she already knew, through me. But Melissa’s account of the lycan was new to both of us, and I also had to fill in some information about Amy’s dream world for the witches. Without going into quite the detail I did above with respect to Amy the Genie, to be sure.

After all, while actual “Jinn” are supposedly neither angelic or demonic, there is an association in folk tales with more evil intentions. Sleep paralysis is also associated with Jinn attacks. I didn’t want to send the witches off on a tangent.

Oh, for the record, I did make contact with Amy again before setting this account down. She’s okay with you knowing more, given the time lag and what this managed to lead up to. It was also during this motel room discussion that Trixie hit me multiple times for failing to understand women. Couldn’t argue either, particularly being the only guy in the room.

“At the risk of sounding self-centred,” Amy said when it was all over, “What exactly is going to happen with Charlie Halko? Is he still going to be stalking me, even without that vampire’s presence?” (She really couldn’t get the hang of elongating the ‘i’.)

“Halko was never stalking you,” Trixie reminded. “That was a dream scenario. And from all the electronic data I went over, I don’t think he was necessarily interested in you, per se. His initial fascination was with lamps, he’d started buying them even before your show existed.”

“I agree you shouldn’t worry,” Melissa added. “I suspect it was the vampyre’s compulsiveness that drove Charlie to monitor you to the degree that he did. You were a wedge he could use. Charlie’s now liable to be a bit hazy about the last few months of his life, plus he’ll probably associate your videos with fear and horror. So let’s classify him as mostly harmless.”

“Ooh, Missy, are you quoting Douglas Adams?” Trixie asked her cousin, expression brightening.

“What?” Melissa asked tiredly as she turned back to the redhead.

Trixie’s expression became a pout. “Sorry, for a moment there I thought you had culture.”

“Though, one more thing, speaking of lamps?” Amy broke back in. From where she sat on the bed, she gestured at the old style lamp on the night table.

The one that had formerly been a knife.

“Yeah, now, that should not have happened,” Melissa admitted.

She stood up to go and examine the object once more. Trixie immediately took Melissa’s place, sitting in the only chair in the room. I continued to lean against the wall.

We had gone to the effort of rubbing the lamp, by the way. No genie.

Melissa turned the lamp around in her hands a couple of times, then shook her head. “Still no signs it’s going to revert. The current supernatural balance is obviously even more out of whack than I previously believed,” the brunette witch concluded.

“Maybe the knife’s transformation has some connection to this Prophecy?” I suggested. “Between that and the three month window that the vampyre alluded to, perhaps we’ll start seeing more of this kind of thing.”

“The lycan mentioned a prophecy too, but I have no idea what it’s about,” Melissa said, starting to sound frustrated. “Trixie? You turn up anything yet?”

“Nopers,” Trixie said with a shrug. She’d done some online searching for it during my earlier dream explanations, and had come up empty. “But remember, I’m a techno-witch. If it’s not published on the web, I can’t find it. You’ll need to research dusty old books in the library with James. If you can keep your minds on research, that is.”

“This isn’t funny, Trix,” Melissa snapped. “Can’t you try the so-called dark web or something?”

Trixie’s grin vanished. “Geez, Missy, I didn’t say I was giving up. But you can’t just call me in and expect me to fix all your problems overnight.”

“Tell me about it. It took you two weeks just to pinpoint Halko,” Melissa grumbled.

“Which is not that long given what little I had to go on. You should have called me in a week earlier, before you started following false leads.” Now Trixie was sounding defensive.

I exchanged a quick glance with Amy, who smiled tiredly and shrugged. It wasn’t just me then – the working relationship between the two witches wasn’t as amicable as the one that had existed between Melissa and I.

I coughed. “You know, we could always talk to other witches, see if they have more information,” I suggested. “Maybe they’ve heard supernatural beings talking about it too.”

“Mmm,” Melissa said, nodding her head in agreement as she put the lamp back down. “Maybe see if any other witches are also seeing a rise in supernatural incidents, or magick forced on the unwilling, that sort of thing. Good thinking, James.”

Trixie rolled her eyes, but said nothing, which at least didn’t create more problems. As far as the Agency goes, I like to think I compliment Melissa’s analysis and Trixie’s tech with a little human interaction.

“Um, about that,” Amy put in. “If I’ve understood James correctly the last couple weeks, weren’t you breaking your own rules tonight? By attacking the vampire, using your magic to contain the wolf when he didn’t want to be trapped, and that sort of thing.”

Melissa turned to look at Amy. “No, because we were up against beings who knew we were witches, and thus expected spells. Moreover, when someone attacks you, they’re implicitly opening themselves up to be attacked back. Passive acceptance.”

“Besides, our spells were basically for self-defence, and we’re allowed to protect ourselves without a backlash,” Trixie added.

“Ah,” Amy said dubiously. “I guess real magic’s a lot more complicated than I thought it would be.”

“There’s special evening courses you can take,” Melissa offered. “Though you’d need a sponsor, you have to show some natural ability, and all the participants tend to be of high school age or less. Well, occasionally first year university.”

Melissa glanced my way. I vaguely recalled her talking about it with me once, but I had been more interested in my journalism goals at the time.

“Ugh, tell me about it,” Trixie moaned. “If I hadn’t had to take all those extra magick courses, I’m sure I could have graduated regular high school two years early.” She grinned at Amy. “Say, have I mentioned my IQ?”

Amy raised her hands, palms out, and waved them back and forth with a wan smile on her face. “Never mind, it’s fine, I think I’ll leave the magic to the professionals.”

“That’s probably best,” Melissa said dismissively. I suspect that I alone had sensed the disappointment in Amy’s tone. Maybe it was time to clear the room, to give Amy some peace and quiet.

I pushed away from the wall, stretching my arms above my head. “Well, at the risk of being rude, it’s something like 3am, and I think we could all do with at least a bit of uninterrupted sleep.”

“3am?” said Melissa in surprise. “I thought it was midnight.”

She gestured at the motel’s clock radio, which had been reset at some point and was flashing twelve.

“Yes, Missy, it’s been midnight for the last three hours,” Trixie said. She rose from the chair and headed over to her cousin, grabbing her by the arm. “Don’t you worry, James, I get it. We’ll get out of your hair, leave you to say to Amy whatever it is you need to.”

Melissa humphed. “Don’t get coy, Trixie. James knows not to hint with me, if he needs time without us, he’ll say so.”

“What he needs is for you to pretend to understand relationships,” Trixie said, pulling Melissa towards the door. “Honestly, you two idiots are made for each other.”

Melissa gave Trixie a look of annoyance, and me a sort of a confused shrug, but didn’t otherwise resist being led out of the room. As Trixie pulled the door behind them, I fired off a grateful smile her way.

Trixie’s response was to meet my gaze, and give me a wink while making a kissing motion with her mouth. I couldn’t tell if the redhead was making an allusion to “kissing Amy goodbye”, if she was trying to give me her own kiss goodnight, if she was simply trying to annoy Melissa, or something completely different.

Trixie was definitely harder for me to read than her cousin.

Only once the witches had left and closed the door did I go to sit on the side of the bed near Amy. It was time to end this particular chapter of my life.

Little did I realize that this would be less like ending a chapter, and more like concluding an entire book – before launching into a new volume, one that had me in a relationship with the Chosen One of a Prophecy.

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