Love Drops

For the "Coldtown" competition.

A lonely girl just wants the cute boy in her youth club to pay attention to her. Will the Mystic Shop in town hold the answers?

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1. Love Drops

 

I’m living in a dead-end town and it is the middle of winter. There’s not much to do so I spend my days sitting at the corner table in the Youth Federation clubhouse. It’s in the backroom of the church and on Sunday it’s the local Sunday School with only good Catholics allowed. But today is Monday so tables and chairs have been spread out and the posters with Jesus’s face on them have been taken down although, the Crucifix, missing all of Jesus’s body except his bloody hands and feet, remains above the doorway, judging everyone that enters. It’s just approaching evening so the volunteers are preparing for the after school classes and homework clubs.

The YF leader is plugging in the radio and a handful of kids are playing Jenga at the table furthest from me. A kettle, milk, sugar and teabags have already been placed on the table usually used for the altar. I have already made myself a cup of black tea. The mug is keeping my hands warm. The priests don’t believe in turning the heating on when praying parishioners aren’t here. I remain hopeful that one day I’ll see a cute boy walk through the doors.

I’d probably have better luck looking for cute boys at a café than the back of a church but my wallet doesn’t allow for such expenses.

One of the volunteers here is Hunter Smith. Hunter is twenty-two years old with bronze hair, blue eyes and a body that’s tall, lean and muscular all at the same time. His face is in a permanent scowl like he’s angry at the world. It makes me like him even more because I don’t like the world much either. He looks like a Viking. A beautiful, ferocious, Viking.

Hunter supervises the kids. He breaks up the fights. He doesn’t have to do much. He only has to look at a kid that’s fighting for that kid to lower his eyes and mumble “sorry Hunter”.

He notices me but not in a good way. Not in a “I want her” way, more in a “who’s that weird girl” way. No one notices me in that way. Maybe if I was better at throwing up he would notice me better. But all I can do is stick my fingers down my throat and dry-heave. I’m not even good at puking.

            “Hey, excuse me?” a gruff voice above me says. I look up, startled out of my thoughts. It’s Hunter. He’s wearing a dark green jumper and brown corduroy trousers. He’s like a tree; dark and earthy and his voice is rough like bark or crunching gravel.

            “Uh, yeah?” my own voice is high-pitched. I don’t talk, I squeak.

            “You have to leave. We’re having a kids only event. No adults. Sorry” he is abrupt and he doesn’t appear to be very apologetic. I feel my face burn red. I’m only eighteen. That’s not an adult yet, is it? Maybe is my hair, it’s so light you could mistake it for grey. I mumbled an apology and gather my things. My face burns up. I hear the kids sniggering at me. In my rush to get out I knock over my drink. He swears.

            “Fucking hippy”

I wrap my scarf around my neck tightly. My eyes smart with tears. I shrug on my winter coat and try to ignore the simmering pot of shame I feel in the pit of my belly. I always do this. I always look like a fool.

I walk down the main street. It’s the time of day when it’s light enough outside to see but dark enough not to be able to see things clearly. The outside shop lights are turning on. They all start up in unison with nervous flickering blinks. I stop outside the Mystic shop. I love the blinking lights of the signs in the window that show pictures of eyes the name “Madame Magda”.

Magda is a bit of a town curiosity. She has long flame-red hair tied into a million tight braids interwoven with gold thread and she paints silver stars up and down her dark brown arms. She wears lipstick in the same colours as her hair with the top lip red and the bottom lip gold. She wears corseted dresses made of crushed blue velvet and black silk and when she speaks she does so in the third person. It’s all “Madame Magda thinks this” and “Madame Magda believes that”. But it’s all for show. I was in the line behind her at the grocery store a couple of weeks ago. She had on a tracksuit and uggs and her hair was tucked into a beanie. The cashier called her Maggie. Somehow this makes her magic seem more real. If someone dressed like a witch and told me they were a witch, I wouldn’t believe them but if someone dressed like me and told me they were a witch I’d think it was true.

I pushed open the door to the shop. The chimes tinkled above the door. It looked plain really for what I assume Mystic shop would look like. I see a plain wooden floor and sky blue walls. A desk that looked like it was from Ikea, sits in the middle of the floor with two arm chairs on either side of it. A picture of a cartoon eye hangs on the far wall beside a door-way overhung with long strings of shiny black beads. The shop smelled faintly of incense. The blinking lights on the window flash like police sirens. Magda steps into the room with a flourish. Her skirts spin out around her and the smell of incense grows stronger. She is wearing her usual attire. It seems odd to see her in a corseted dress now after the grocery store.

            “What can Madame Magda do for you?” she says seating herself into one of the office chairs. She speaks in a slightly French accented voice. She opens a drawer in the desk and digs around for a bit before pulling out a pack of cards, “A tarot reading?” she roots around the drawer again and pulls out a small, opalescent globe, “Madame Magda can consult her crystal ball perhaps?”

I sit down across from her and pull off my gloves. The joints in my fingers have become swollen and red from the cold. I rub my hands part to make them warm and because I’m nervous. I lean forward to whisper because it feels like if I speak any louder, someone I know will hear me and barge in here threatening to tell my mother what I’m about to do.

            “Do you do spells?” I ask.  Magda raises one perfectly plucked eyebrow and places a finger on her chin. Her long red nail reminds me of a talon.

            “Does Madame Magda do spells?” she says. She muses for a second before tipping her head back in raucous laughter. She stops laughing to reapply her lipstick; the red had stained the gold, “Of course Madame Magda do spells! What kind do you want? Madame Magda have good luck spells, protection spells, spells to make you forget, spells to make you remember” she glances at me, “spells to make you pretty…”

            “I want a love spell”

Her face changes in a flash and just like that she’s no longer Madame Magda but I don’t think she’s quite Maggie-at-the-grocery-store either.

            “A love spell” she repeats. She’s dropped her French accent and her third person way of talking. I find it relieving that she sounds just like me.

“Oh honey, I can give you something that will make you irresistible to anyone who even so much glances at you” she purrs and opens a different drawer in her desk. I hear the clink of glass as she reaches in and takes out a small green bottle, the kind you might buy liquor in on an airplane. The bottle has a little pink sticker on in in the shape of a heart with the words Love Drops written inside it.

            “All you need to do is inject this into the crook of your elbow. Like this” she shows me how to tie my arm off and she draws a dot on my arm where I should inject myself. When she’s finished, she leans back into her chair and crosses her legs coyly, “Of course, a sterile syringe will cost that much extra…” she trails off and looks at me pointedly. I glance between her and the bottle now on the table.

            “How much is it?”

            “Think of this one as some-what of a free sample. If it works, you pay me; if it doesn’t you don’t pay me squat”

            “Are you sure it’s going to work?”

            “Like I said honey, if it doesn’t work you don’t have to pay me. How much are you going to lose?”

I look at the little glass bottle again. The liquid inside looks thick and dark. If it doesn’t work it’s probably because it’s made of something like sugar or salt water. That wasn’t going to hurt me. If it worked than Hunter Smith would want me. I smile brightly just to convince myself this is what I want.

            “I’ll take it”

Magda grins at me and packages up the little bottle and a syringe. I tuck the package into my coat. I thank her and rush off to the alley behind the shopping centre where all the bins are. No one ever goes down there except on bin-day. I hunker down behind one of the blue recycling bins and pull out the bottle. With shaky fingers, I unscrew the lid and sniff the contents. It smells metallic and stale. I unwrap the syringe and push it into the liquid, sucking up as much as it can carry. A tar-like, black fluid slowly rises inside the clear vial. It definitely isn’t sugar water. That had to mean it was real. I tied off my arm like Magda showed me using the drawstring from my coat and then I pushed the tip of the needle into the spot she marked. I underestimated how much it would hurt. I bit my lip to stop me from shouting out. I pushed the contents into me and bit my lip even harder. My lip started bleeding.

My brain floods with a burning pain that races through my veins like wildfire. My arms flail out; the syringe unlocks from my arm and spins through the air. I hear it break as if each one of the tiny, glass splinters were being smashed into my eardrums. Stabbing pains pulse through my abdomen. A wave of nausea spreads over me and I promptly lean forward and vomit all over my jeans. The vomit is pink and there are smallish black lumps in it. I stare at it until the fire behind my eyes obscures my vision. I feel larger lumps rise in my throat and tumble out of my mouth like hair-balls. My screaming is just gargling peppered with the slop of the black lumps hitting the puke-covered ground. It feels like my insides are being ripped out by a clumsy hand. A lump, larger than then rest, rises in my throat but it sticks. It won’t move.  I touch my throat gently and felt it throb.

Panic replaces the pain for a moment because I need to get it out. I squeeze my hands around my throat and urge the lump out. I can’t breathe. I need to breathe. The lump flops out of my mouth but I feel a long, slimy string attaching it to me. It feels like a baby and an umbilical cord. Actually, a baby and a placenta because there are two lumps. I realise I don’t need to breath about the same time I realise that the two lumps are my lungs and the others, my organs.

My eyes start working when the sky is a clouded blanket of black. There are no stars or moon tonight. The splinters in my ear no longer hurt me. In fact I can hear cars as if they are right beside me. I can hear people too; a group of boys talking and laughing. The pink puke on my jeans is dry now but it looks so gross that I just rip my jeans off altogether. I grind my organs into the ground with my boot heel.

The flood of pain has been replaced by a mysterious rage. I grab the wire-linked fence beside the bins and rip it from its poles in frustration. I follow the sound of the boys. I quickly find them hanging outside a closed down shop on the other side of town.

            “Oo-ee luvie, what’re you selling?” one boy shouts at me. I remember I’m in just a winter coat and knickers.

            “You wanna come over here and have a little sit on my lap?” the boy makes a crude gesture with his hands and pretends to lick the air. His friends laugh loudly, encouraging him. I want to stop them. I close my eyes and when I open them my mouth is tearing out his throat. He smells metallic and intoxicating. He tastes better than anything I have ever eaten before. I blink my eyes and his shrivelled corpse is light in my hands. I discard the skin. I have drank him dry. His friends have left. Pity. I am still thirsty.

I hear two voices; one male, one female. I recognize the gravelly sound of Hunter. He and a girl are arguing. I follow the sound moving so fast my feet do not touch the ground. I see Hunter’s beautiful crown of golden curls before I see the girl. His hair frames his face like a halo, his skin, creamy and pure, was like that of an angel.  The girl is wearing a coat that is two sizes too big. The coat smells like the forest, like the earth, like Hunter. They are laughing now and holding each other. I feel bile rise in my throat. A growl rips from my throat like thunder. They stare at me in frozen horror.

            “Hunter” I call out, “Come to me”

Hunter’s eyes glaze over and he walks to me. The girl cries out and tries to pull him back but she can’t. He is too muscular and strong to be held back by a weakling like her.

            “You want me” I say, my voice is a slippery eel.

            “I want you” he parrots. That isn’t what I want. I want him to say it with all the passion of a lover. I want his eyes to tear up and he realises that I am the only person he will ever care about.

            “Say it with passion” I order.

            “Say it with passion” he repeats. He reaches me and his arms snake round to my back. He pulls me close to him and I am lost in the smells of a forest but something is out of place there. Something metallic. The girl cries louder, a long wailing sound that is too much for my sensitive ears.

            “SHUT THE HELL UP” I scream at her and then I’m with her tearing her throat out with my teeth. I feel Hunter shake his head behind me as if he has just woken up.

            “Sarah?” he says.

My name isn’t Sarah. He screams and suddenly I am beside him gripping him so tight I can smell his blood leek out of him. I stare into those big blue eyes and see a pale girl with red smeared across her face like a garish lipstick, her eyes black as coals and canines extended and sharper than any blade or sword. She looks like a vampire.

            “I could make you love me” I say quietly, “I could make you find me irresistible”

He pisses himself. I let go of him but I’ve accidently floated high above all the shops and the town. He thunders from my hands like a brick but smashes into the ground like a water balloon. I fly down and try to scoop him up but he is just bits and pieces now. He looks like Humpty Dumpty. Nothing could put him back together again. I feel a dull ache deep in my chest. I fly to Madame Magda’s and crash into the door. It shatters and showers Magda with a thousand wooden splinters where she sits, her feet propped up on her desk. I try to get in but something stops me from entering.

            “You back here to pay me girl?”

            “You ruined it!” I scream at her from the street, “You said he would love me!”

            “I said he would find you irresistible. And he did. For a moment. I saw it in my crystal ball” she sounds not real. Sarcastic.

            “You said he would LOVE ME!” I screech and rush at her with the intent to kill but I am thrown back from the door way. I fly at the window head-butting it and breaking that too. I rip the lights from outside, letting the wires fizz in empty sockets. I see her standing just beyond my reach at the edge of the doorway. She smirks and shakes her head.

            “Love ain’t love if you got to buy it, honey”

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