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.”
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.
“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?”
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.