This piece is one in a chronological series, set in a universe.
Feel free to find the others here, and to browse through any companion piece, set in the same universe.
1. Three Frenemies 2. Fall Coven Meet 3. BeingLovedAgain 4. The Fourth Witch
6. The Three Questions 7. Seed 8. Garden Graveyard Heart 9. The Cook
10. River Witch 11. Rage
12. Reincarnation 14. Hate
15. Rage and Her Spells of Power
17. Truth – Rhymes With Ruth
5. Memory Elephant 12. Reincarnation 13. Memory and Mudbaths
16. OtherSide 18. Pillow Talk With God 19. She, Named E
May 22 – Part 1 Stone Lady Paper Boots Dredge Half Yours, Half His Flower Seller
When You Must End Love Talk Scorpio Rising Pretty Men, Stone Lady
From The Olive Pit to Gratitude Reliability dead girl Soft Witch
I walk up to the riverbank and see his bare foot first, toe wiggling in the wind.
It has been some time since I crossed the river on foot, since Rage disappeared under the river. I’ve walked up and down the riverbank on the other side many times now, but this is the first time I heard the music calling me.
Faint notes on a wooden flute sing in the air, getting stronger as I approach. When I walk up, I see the top of his curly head bent over the instrument. He’s sitting with one leg out, the other bent as he leans over, nimble fingers dancing along the instrument. A tell-tale tassle hangs from the end, and his dark hair is falling in his eyes. He stops suddenly, sensing me around, and glances up at me with smiling eyes, lips still pursed in an almost-kiss.
“It’s for embouchure,” he says, grinning. I wonder for a second if he read my mind like the witches so often do. I’m immediately irritated in the way I tend to be around pretty men.
His smile widens.
So he can read my mind, I guess.
“Hi,” I say, a little stiffly.
“Hey,” he says, putting the flute down. I try not to stare at his unbuttoned shirt, white and bright in the sunlight. “I was wondering when you’d show up!” He says, giving me a mischievous grin. Perfect teeth gleam at me in a smile seconds before his face scrunches up into a sneeze. “I think it’s the dandelions,” he says, rubbing his nose. He is dark like a midnight sun.
“I didn’t know you could have allergies,” I say, laughing. He leans over gracefully, rummaging in his bag, and I can’t help but notice that small lock of hair fall into his eyes again. He automatically brushes it away. He’s annoyingly charming, I think. Then again, that’s always been my type.
“Here,” he says, pulling out a small bottle of Benadryl. He rotates it in front of my face, and shakes it as if to make a point. “Carry Benadryl, save a life,” he says seriously.
“You’re not funny,” I say, the corner of my lips twitching. “I came to talk to you about something specific,” I say. He leans against the tree, hands holding the trunk behind him, tilting his chin at me, as if to say “go on.”
“I don’t think I have a question yet,” I say, thinking about a million thoughts.
“I’m not a jin, you know,” He laughs. “You get more than three!”
“I mean I don’t know where to start,” I say.
“How long does it take to fall in love?” I ask.
“Less than a second,” he says glibly, “Next question?”
“How long should I wait to fall in love?” I ask.
“Why wait at all to love?” He responds impishly, immediately.
“You’re impossible,” I say, crossly.
“I love you,” He says easily and truthfully.
I say nothing, but my eyebrows snap up. “Say it back,” he teases. “You know you want to.”
“NO,” I snap. “I will not. I just met you!”
“That’s a terrible lie,” he says, staring at me. “We both know you’ve known me forever.”
He breaks his gaze and we both stare across the river. It is wide today, like a lake. Deep and still. Reflections of mountains hang underneath the surface. But it’s only daylight here. It is not like the riverbank on the other side, where the sun and moon hang together in the sky.
“Why do you make it so hard?” He asks.
“Make what hard?”
“Everything. It… doesn’t have to be so hard,” he says, softly. I feel a knot in my chest. I’m sure it’s holding my heart together in one piece. I feel it tie itself tighter and feel him sigh as he leans back against the tree trunk. He makes a soft tcch sound. “Come on,” it seems to say. “You don’t have to do that,” it seems to say.
“You’re the first boy here,” I say stiffly.
“That’s quite rude,” he says. “Considering I’m not really a boy. Or at least, I’m not just a boy. And also, it’s rude to change a topic so stupidly and transparently. Whatever happened to your conversation skills?”
“Don’t call me stupid,” I say immediately.
“Well then don’t be – oh fine, I’m sorry,” he says.
After a beat, I say, “I’m sorry for calling you a boy. Tell me about the midnight sun and the afternoon moon. What do they mean? On the other side of the riverbank, the sun and the moon hang together in the sky over the river.”
“Ah! And you’re still crap at changing the subject, but at least it’s an interesting topic change,” he says, picking up his flute again.
I stare at him as he starts playing. He plays for some time. I try to ask him the question again but he raises a finger while playing and shakes his head seriously. Shh, I’m practising, his finger seems to be saying.
“I thought I could ask you anything,” I say crossly.
He pauses his music, and looks up at me, embouchure intact. Without removing the flute from his lips, he says, winking, “You can. But when did I say I’d answer?”