Starlight, Part 2 — New Short Story

girlwithstars

Here is part two of Starlight. If you haven’t read part one, you can find it here.

Starlight, Part 2

“Find the letter ‘J’?” Angie said.

“Yes,” Maia replied. “Now let’s go.”

She held out her hand, and Angie took it.

In the next moment, Angie found herself floating in the air. She and Maia floated right through the wall and out into the night air.

Suddenly, they flew off into the night.

Angie could see the ground streaking by below her and the stars streaking by above her. She should have been terrified by the height and the speed, but somehow, all she felt was a great calm.

Maia and Angie flew on, and before long, they were flying up to a house and then through another wall.

They floated gently to the ground in a dark room. Even in the dim light, Angie could tell the room looked familiar.

“This is my old room in my parents’ house,” she said.

“Yes,” Maia replied. “What you need is in here.”

“The letter ‘J’?” Angie said.

“Yes.”

“But I don’t have any idea—” Angie turned to see Maia walking casually through a wall.

Angie went to follow her. Instead, she bumped face-first into the wall. She went to the door and found that it was locked.

Angie pounded on the door. “Maia! Let me out. This door must be stuck or something.”

“The door will open when you have found what are looking for,” Maia said from the other side of the door. “And not a moment before.”

Angie pounded on the door again. “Maia?”

There was no reply.

Angie turned to her old room and switched on the light.

Her bed and desk and trophies were still there, so the room still looked familiar, but now a lot of the floor space was taken up with boxes—her parents were using the room for storage.

Angie tried the door one last time but found that it still wouldn’t open.

She turned back to the boxes—she supposed she’d better start looking.

She began opening the boxes. Many of them belonged to her parents. But some of them were hers.

Angie decided to focus on those. They seemed the likeliest place where she would find the letter “J.”

She opened up more boxes.

Some of them held childhood items—toys and books and clothes. And some of them were from later years—college and her first job.

Angie began to sift through all her old things.

She found things that made her smile, a few things that made her cry, and even a thing or two that made her laugh out loud.

And then she found a box with her old camera and several long envelopes full of photographs.

She had not forgotten that she used to take photographs, but somehow she had pushed that fact to the back of her mind.

The first envelope contained Angie’s earliest photographs—the very first she ever developed herself. There were photos of her parents, her house, her friends, and one beautiful photo of jasmine.

Angie paused as she took that one out—it had always been one of her favorites. The photo was of the jasmine bush that grew at the back of the house. The white flowers and their dark leaves looked lovely in the black-and-white photo. Even though it was one of the earliest photos she had ever taken, Angie had always felt there was something special about this one. There was power and mystery in it.

She paused. Could this be the “J” she was looking for?

She wasn’t sure.

Angie continued to look through the other photographs. She found many more pictures of friends and family, trips and vacations, and quite a few more studies of flowers. But nothing really stood out to her.

And then she found the picture of Jason.

It felt like ages since she had seen him—had it really been that long? In reality it had only been two years. But a lot had happened in that time.

She set everything else aside and took a long look at the photograph.

Jason was smiling, looking away from the camera, and even though the photo was black and white, Angie could see with her mind’s eye just how blue his eyes were.

She’d loved his sense of humor. She’d loved his ready wit. She’d loved him.

Could he be the “J” she was looking for?

Angie continued to look at the photo of Jason. She really had loved everything about him—but he certainly couldn’t have said the same about her.

Jason had always said that he loved her, but he hadn’t liked her friends—they had been the first to go. Then he didn’t like her hair or her perfume—he had gotten her to change those too. And even though he’d consented to the photo Angie held in her hand, he hadn’t liked her interest in photography either. He’d told her that she was no good—she had no eye for a picture—and that photography was frivolous anyway. He’d told her she should be focusing on a serious career instead.

So Angie had given up on photography—let it disappear from her life. And eventually Jason had disappeared too.

As she looked down at his smile, Angie realized there was no way he could be the letter “J.” She didn’t know what the letter “J” was or what it was supposed to represent in her life, but she knew it wasn’t him.

Angie sifted through her photographs until she found the picture of the jasmine again. She held it up, and she was amazed once again by the power in this simple photograph—somehow she had captured something special in this moment.

Angie felt something stirring in her that she hadn’t felt in a long time.

If anything was the letter “J,” it was this jasmine photo. It was the best work she had ever done.

At that moment, the door opened, and her mother entered the room. The hall behind her was dark, and she blinked blearily in the light of the bedroom.

“Angie?” her mother said. “Honey, what are you doing here?”

“I—was just looking through some old things,” Angie said.

Her mother frowned. “How did you get in the house?”

“I—uh—” Angie thought back to Maia—she could hardly tell her mother that a starlit woman had flown her through the sky.

“You must still have that old key,” her mother said. “It’s good to see you even if this is a little unusual. Sun’s coming up. Come with me, and I’ll get you some breakfast.”

(Part 3 is in the next blog post. Click here to read it.)

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Starlight, Part 1 — New Short Story

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Starlight

by Catherine Mesick

“Star light, star bright,” Angie murmured to herself.

She looked at the single star in the sky—the first star of the evening—but she couldn’t bring herself to make a wish.

There were no more wishes left in her.

As she watched, the sky grew darker, and more stars came out. Angie sat in the grass and watched the night sky fill up as if with diamonds. At one point, she saw a shooting star streak across the sky and fall toward the earth.

Once upon a time, Angie would have made a wish. But that time was long past.

She watched until the falling star disappeared from her sight. Then she went inside.

Somewhere in the middle of the night, Angie was aware of a light in her room.

She sat up, and she saw a woman standing in front of her. The woman’s hair and dress seemed to be made of tiny lights—they looked like little stars.

Angie stared at the woman for a moment, and then in the next instant, the woman was gone.

Angie looked around in her dark room—the only light that was visible now was the red numbers on her alarm clock.

She went back to sleep.

In the morning, Angie was tempted to text her best friend about the dream she’d had about a starlit visitor, but in the end she decided against it. It was really too fleeting a dream to be worth mentioning.

Angie went on with her Saturday. She went to her usual places, did her usual things, but somehow something was missing—a light had gone out in her.

When friends invited Angie to dinner that night, she turned them down.

She sat instead on her porch that evening and watched the sun setting. Then she went inside, and eventually, she went to sleep.

Somewhere in the middle of the night, Angie woke up again. Standing in front of her once more was the woman dressed and crowned in stars.

This time the woman didn’t disappear.

“Hello,” she said.

“Hello,” Angie replied.

“My name is Maia,” the woman said. “I’m here to be your guide.”

“My guide?” Angie asked.

“I heard your wish yesterday. I’m here to help you fulfill it.”

Angie shook her head. “I didn’t make any wish.”

“You most certainly did,” Maia said.

“No,” Angie replied. “I didn’t have a single thought in my head that could remotely be called a wish.”

“You didn’t wish with your mind. You wished with your heart.”

“I didn’t—”

“Never mind the protests,” Maia said. “Your wish was received, and I’m here now.”

“This is a very strange dream, I’m having,” Angie said.

“Not a dream,” Maia said. “Now get up. We—or rather you—have a lot to do.”

Against her better judgment, Angie got out of bed and stood next to the starlit woman.

“Now then,” Maia said. “I have two-and-a-half tasks for you to complete.”

“Two and a half?” Angie said.

“Yes. And you mustn’t neglect that half. It’s just as important as the two full tasks.”

Maia fixed her with a piercing stare.

“Task One. Find the letter ‘J.’”

(Part 2 is in the next blog post. Click here to read.)

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Enchanted Wine, Part 2 — New Short Story

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Here is part two of Enchanted Wine. If you haven’t read part one, you can find it here.

Enchanted Wine, Part 2

He spent the rest of the day wandering the town. At dusk, he turned his steps toward home.

Then he stopped. He walked instead to the ridge where he had seen his brother walking. He sat down at the top of the ridge and watched the sun set.

Then he fell asleep.

He awoke just before dawn and watched the sun’s rays peek over the horizon. He sat and watched the sun climb into the sky. Then he got up and walked to his house.

As he approached the front gate, a servant, Mateus, came running out to meet him.

“Master Eduard,” Mateus said, “where have you been?”

“Who is in the house?” Eduard said abruptly. “Is Adelina in the house? What about my brother?”

“Miss Adelina is in the house, yes,” Mateus replied. “She came over to comfort your mother, who was greatly distressed. When you didn’t come home last night—”

Eduard interrupted. “And my brother?”

“He is asleep.”

“Asleep?” Eduard said. “But the morning is well on its way.”

“He has slept many mornings away these past two weeks,” Mateus said. “Lately, he stays up very late in his room.”

“Thank you, Mateus,” Eduard said curtly. He was disappointed—he would have liked to have dealt with his brother first. Instead, he would go see Adelina.

He turned away from Mateus and went into the house.

He found Adelina sitting alone in the front parlor.

She jumped up when she saw him and ran to hug him.

“Eduard! We were so worried about you!”

He stepped back from her. He’d expected to be angry when he saw her, but now that she was in front of him, he felt all his anger melting away.

“But what is it? What’s wrong?” Adelina said.

Eduard glanced around. “Where is my mother?”

“She had to lie down,” Adelina said. “The worry was too much for her. When you didn’t come home last night, she couldn’t help thinking about the accident—”

“Yes, my accident.” Eduard sighed heavily. “Can we talk for a moment?”

“Of course, my love,” Adelina said. She sat on a sofa.

He winced at the endearment but sat down beside her.

“Do you love me?” Eduard said.

“Yes, of course,” Adelina said—but her smile seemed forced.

Eduard sighed again. “It has come to my attention recently that my brother is in love with you. And I think maybe you love him too. Is it true?”

Adelina hesitated. “I agreed to marry you. And I am happy to do so.”

“That sounds like you do love him. I need to know—just tell me how you really feel.”

“I agreed and—”

“Adelina, please. Just tell me.”

She was silent for a moment.

“Yes,” she said at last. “I love your brother.”

After another pause, she went on in a rush.

“We didn’t plan it—Cayo and I—we just fell in love. I really was happy to marry you. When this was arranged, and I first met you, I thought you were so wonderfully handsome. I was happy planning the wedding we were going to have. And then I met your brother, and I just knew. I knew right away that I loved him.”

Eduard nodded his head. Then he stood.

“Thank you for telling me. You are free now, if you wish. You don’t have to marry me if you love someone else.”

He left the room.

He went upstairs to his own room and stood for a time looking out the window.

Then he went to his brother’s room and opened the door.

He found Cayo lying on his bed, sleeping soundly—he didn’t wake up when Eduard walked into the room.

Sunlight was streaming into the room, and still Cayo slept on.

Eduard stepped closer to his brother.

Cayo’s face showed plainly that he was deeply asleep—his mind was far away in the realms of the subconscious.

He slept, but he didn’t seem happy. Something in his face seemed deeply troubled.

Eduard wondered bitterly if Cayo were unhappy because he had failed to crush him with that boulder. But somehow, that didn’t seem to be it.

Eduard turned away and left the room.

He met Mateus in the hallway.

“Your mother would like to see you, Master Eduard,” Mateus said.

“A little later,” Eduard said irritably. He was sure she would make a scene—just as she had on the morning of his accident.

Eduard brushed past Mateus and walked toward the stairs.

Then he turned back.

“You say my brother has slept many mornings away lately?” Eduard said to Mateus.

“Yes, sir,” Mateus replied.

“What about the morning of my accident?” Eduard said quickly. “Was he sleeping then?”

“Yes, sir.”

“You’re sure about that?”

“Yes.”

“You’re certain he didn’t go out first?” Eduard said. “And then come home and go to sleep?”

“No, sir,” Mateus replied. “Master Cayo went to bed around midnight the night before. I remember because we were all so relieved that he went to sleep at a reasonable hour. Then he didn’t stir until there was all that commotion over your accident.”

“He didn’t leave his room until after I came home?”

“That is correct, sir.”

“He didn’t go out walking along the high ridge near the hills?” Eduard said.

“No,” Mateus replied. “That had been Master Cayo’s habit until recently. He stopped it when he started sleeping at odd hours. I believe it coincided with Miss Adelina’s presence in the house every day—when she began coming here to plan the wedding.”

Eduard winced at the sound of her name.

“Tell my mother I’m going out. I’ll be back every soon.”

He went down the stairs.

Eduard left the house and hurried to the shop of the woman with the wine.

He burst into the shop, and she looked up. She didn’t seem surprised to see him.

He was relieved to see that the shop was empty aside from her.

“I need to ask you a few questions,” Eduard said.

“I thought as much,” she said. “Pray have a seat.”

Eduard sat opposite her as he had the day before.

“Can you see what your customers see when they drink the wine?” he asked.

“Yes,” she replied.

“All of it?”

“I see what you see. I feel what you feel.”

“I need to ask about the timing,” Eduard said. “Were the visions in order? Did my brother go walking along the ridge, then fall in love with my fiancée, then start sleeping?”

“Yes,” she said.

“Was he asleep on the morning of my accident?”

“That I couldn’t say,” she said. “But we didn’t see him pushing the boulder. The vision didn’t show anyone. That tends to indicate it was an accident.”

“Why didn’t you tell me that?” Eduard said.

“I don’t know it,” she replied. “That is how I would interpret it, but I don’t know anything your relationship with your family.”

“That is how you would interpret it,” Eduard said softly. His heart felt a little freer. “That is how I interpret it now too.”

He sat for a moment in silence.

“So my brother didn’t try to kill me,” he said at last. “But I have lost my fiancée.”

She looked up sharply. “What do you mean?”

“If he loves her, and she loves him, I can’t stand in their way.”

She looked at Eduard, and he noticed that there was a touch of green in her dark eyes.

“There aren’t many who would say that,” she said.

“It must be tough for you,” he replied. “Seeing so many difficult and troubling things.”

“It is sometimes,” she said. “There aren’t many who would say that either.”

“May I ask your name?” Eduard said.

“It’s Lia,” she replied.

“Lia,” Eduard said. “You said if I had any questions, I could come back. Did you know I would return?”

“Yes.”

“How?”

“I saw it in a cup of wine,” she said.

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Enchanted Wine, Part 1 — New Short Story

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Enchanted Wine

“Are you sure you want to do this?” she said.

“I’m sure,” he replied.

“There’s no going back after this,” she said. “Once you know the truth, you know it. You can’t undo it.”

He looked at her in the dim light. Her face was partially obscured by a gauzy veil, and a cloth covered her hair completely. He wasn’t sure he would recognize her if he saw her again.

“I don’t know your name,” he said.

“You don’t need to know it.”

“It would make me feel more comfortable,” he said. “My name is—”

She held up a hand quickly. “No. No names. The less we know about each other, the better this will work.”

He fell silent.

She was silent also, and after a moment, he hazarded to speak.

“So how does this work?”

She waved a hand. “You see three cups before you. Into them I will pour three wines—very rare vintages. You will ask a question over the wine. Then you will drink. Each drink will give you a piece of the truth you seek.”

She paused. “You have to decide if you really want to know. Maybe it’s better not to.”

“I need to know,” he said. “I’m ready. Pour out the wine.”

She gazed at him for a moment. Then she nodded. She stood and turned to three gold ewers that rested nearby. They were small and likely only held one serving of wine.

She poured each one into a cup, and he could see that they were different colors. The first was very pale, the second was a deep red, and the third one was so dark that it was almost black.

She sat back down. “Ask your question and drink.”

“There was an accident,” he said uncertainly to the wine. “A boulder came crashing down from above. It very nearly hit me. As it was, my right arm was badly scratched by a chunk of the boulder that stuck out. I had thought—as I said—that it was an accident. But then a friend told me he had seen my brother up on the ridge that the boulder came from. My question is—did my brother push that boulder over?”

She looked at him. “Now you may drink.”

He drank the pale wine, and immediately the scene in front of him disappeared. He saw instead a bright, sunny day and a high ridge of white rock. He saw his brother walking along the ridge and looking down to the dirt path far below. The scene shifted, and he saw his brother walking along the ridge again—apparently on a different day. The scene shifted several more times, and on each occasion it showed his brother walking along the ridge at different times of the day and in different weather. The last time it showed his brother looking down at a figure that he recognized as himself. His brother was looking at him sadly.

“That’s me,” he whispered.

The vision faded, and he could see the three cups again.

“Interesting,” she said. “You may drink the next.”

He lifted the cup of deep red wine and found it to be sweet and very spicy.

The room faded away, and he saw into a different room.

He saw his fiancée standing by a window. Her dark hair was pulled back in a loose knot, and there was something pensive in her expression. She appeared to be waiting for someone.

In the next moment, his brother rushed into the room, and he hurried over to the fiancée.

He took her in his arms.

It looked as though the brother might kiss the fiancée, but she shook her head and stepped back. Instead, the two of them stood side by side and looked out the window.

The vision faded, and he felt his blood boiling.

He looked over at her, and he thought he could see sympathy in her eyes.

“You may drink the last,” she said.

He lifted the cup of dark wine and drank it. He’d expected it to be bitter, but instead it was mild and pleasant.

The scene in front of him changed, and he could see a dimly lit room. A lone figure slept on a bed. Time passed, but the figure didn’t move. Eventually, the figure rolled over, and he could see the face. It was his brother.

The vision faded.

“So that’s it,” he seethed. “My brother tries to do away with me because he wants my fiancée, and then afterwards, he sleeps like a baby. He feels no remorse for pushing a boulder down and nearly crushing me.”

“I don’t know that that’s what it is,” she said.

“I do,” he said. He stood up abruptly. “Thank you for showing me the truth.”

She looked up at him, and he was arrested by the sight of her dark eyes. There was something in them he couldn’t quite name. Sympathy—yes—but something else too. He had a sense that she understood exactly what he was going through.

“I can’t counsel you on what to do next,” she said. “But if you have any questions about what you have seen, you may come back and see me.”

He nodded once and left the room.

(Part 2 is in the next blog post. Click here to read.)

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Thanks very much for reading!

You can check out my books on AmazonBarnes&Noble, Kobo, and Apple.

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Passion Flower, Part 3 — New Short Story

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Here is the final installment of Passion Flower. If you missed Part 2, you can find it here.

Otherwise, read on!

Passion Flower, Part 3

They rode on in silence for a moment.

“Where are we going?” Samantha asked.

“I don’t know,” Jackson replied.

Samantha looked over at him in surprise.

“You don’t know?”

“No.”

“Then what are we doing?”

“We just need to stay ahead of him while I think,” Jackson said. “A car is the best way to do that.”

Samantha stared out the window into the night and watched the road streaking by.

Then she turned in her seat and looked out the rear window.

“Is he following us?” she asked.

“Yes,” Jackson replied.

“I don’t see any headlights behind us,” Samantha said. “The road is dark.”

“He’s following us just the same,” Jackson said.

“Who is he?” Samantha asked.

“His name is Lux—or at least that’s what he calls himself. It’s Latin for ‘light.’ A lot of his powers derive from light, so I suppose that’s fitting.”

“And who are you?” Samantha said.

“I told you, my name is Jackson.”

“Yes, but—”

Jackson gave her a wry smile. “I know what meant. I’m sort of an investigator. I track magical criminals.”

“So, Jackson the investigator,” Samantha said, “what does Lux want this flower for?”

She glanced down at the flower in its pot.

“That passion flower is literally a passion flower,” Jackson said. “It can profoundly affect your emotions. Lux’s powers are cool in terms of emotions. He can summon great power, but he can’t get into anyone’s head. With the flower, he could control people on a very deep level.”

“Lux could use the flower to control people’s emotions?” Samantha said.

“Yes.”

“That’s too much power for one person to have,” Samantha said.

“I agree,” Jackson replied.

“So how do we stop him?”

“We?” Jackson said, flashing his wry smile once again.

“I’m in the car, and it’s my flower,” Samantha said. “So this is my problem too.”

“You’re right,” Jackson said. “My best plan so far is to stop him with this.”

From underneath the flowerpot between them, he produced a small, square box made of glass.

He held it out to her. “Be careful with that. Whatever you do, don’t open the lid.”

Samantha turned the glass box over in her hands.

“What is it?” she asked.

“It’s a prison,” Jackson said.

“A prison?”

“Yes. We just have to convince Lux to step inside it.”

“And how are we going to do that?” Samantha asked.

“I haven’t thought of that yet,” Jackson replied.

“It’s so small,” Samantha said. “I don’t see how he could fit much more than a toe in here.”

“Trust me, it works,” Jackson said. “All we have to do is open the lid and get him to step over it. If you have any ideas about how to do that, I’d love to hear them.”

“Could we just leave the flower out in the open and hide or something?” Samantha said. “And then we could jump out with the box and catch Lux.”

Jackson shook his head. “It’s too obvious. He’d spot that a mile away.”

“What if I acted as a decoy? I could jump out of the car and run with the flower, and when Lux goes to chase me, you could jump out behind him.”

“Again, too obvious.”

Samantha was quiet for a moment. She thought back to the flower shop and all the plants that were on display—what if there was a way to use them as camouflage?

Samantha continued to think about all the plants, and suddenly she had an idea.

“What if we use mirrors?” she said.

“What do you mean?” Jackson said.

“I think we could set a trap for Lux at the flower shop,” Samantha said. “Do you think you could break in there?”

“Not a problem. Breaking and entering is kind of my specialty. What did you have in mind?”

“I’ll explain on the way,” Samantha said.

Jackson and Samantha reached the flower shop in about ten minutes.

“You’re sure you want to do this?” Jackson said as they got out of the car.

“I’m sure,” Samantha said. “Can you buy me some time?”

“Absolutely,” Jackson said. He shot a quick look down the road. “Let me get the door for you first.”

Samantha glanced down the road too. She still didn’t see anything, but from the way Jackson was acting, she figured Lux couldn’t be too far behind.

Jackson hurried to the front door of the flower shop, and Samantha followed him. He produced a key from his pocket and waved it over the lock. There was a small click, and Jackson pulled the door open to the jangling of bells.

“That’s it?” Samantha said.

“It’s easy when you have the right tools.” Jackson cast a worried look over his shoulder. “You’d better get inside. I’ll lock the door behind you.”

Samantha hurried inside the shop with the flower and the glass box, and Jackson closed the door behind her firmly. She heard another small click as the door was locked once again.

Samantha stood for a moment in the dark. It was hard to see anything, but she hesitated to turn on the light—she didn’t want to let Lux know anyone was in the shop just yet.

She moved forward cautiously and bumped her knee on a display. A moment later, there was a flash of light outside the window, and Samantha glanced back in alarm—she had a feeling Lux had just arrived.

She hurried forward.

Luckily, Samantha knew the shop well, and her eyes were growing accustomed to the dark. She began to move the many mirrors that were positioned around the shop, and she placed them near the big mirror that was mounted on the wall in the back.

Then Samantha positioned the flower in the right spot and settled down to wait.

She didn’t have to wait long. There was a burst of light from the front of the store. Then the door flew open to a great jangling of bells.

“Look out!” Jackson cried. “He’s coming! Get the box ready!”

Samantha huddled down in her hiding spot.

A moment later, she saw another light spring to life and hold steady.

The light began to move toward her swiftly.

Soon Samantha could see a man’s image reflected back to her in a nearby mirror—it was Lux. He had white hair with streaks of black in it. He was carrying what looked like a column of flame—a torch without a handle.

Samantha could also see a reflection of the passion flower.

Lux moved toward it and then past it.

In a moment, he was standing in front of her.

“Foolish girl,” Lux said. “You sought to trick me with your maze of mirrors. But it won’t work. All I have to do is get rid of you and your little glass box, and then I am free to take the passion flower.”

Samantha stood up quickly. She threw an object over Lux’s head.

“Jackson, here’s the box! Catch!”

Jackson caught the object and ran away with it.

“And that was even more foolish,” Lux said.

He swung his torch, and a stream of light flew out and struck Jackson in the back.

Jackson fell to the ground.

Lux turned back to Samantha, who was once again crouched down on the floor.

As he did so, his foot crunched on something, and he looked down.

Lux’s heel was rest on the open lid of a small glass box.

He looked up at Samantha in surprise.

“I wasn’t trying to trick you with the mirrors,” Samantha said. “Just distract you.”

Lux’s face had just a moment to register dismay. Then his face and his body turned into vapor, and the vapor was sucked into the glass box. The lid on the box fell shut with a snap.

Samantha hurried over to Jackson. He was lying on the floor, and his shirt had been burned off his back. Lying next to him was a little ceramic figurine of a basket of flowers.

Samantha knelt beside him. “Are you okay?”

Jackson groaned. “I think so. I’m just a little singed.”

He sat up suddenly. “Where’s Lux?”

“He’s in the glass box,” Samantha said.

“Show me,” Jackson said.

Samantha helped Jackson to his feet, and she led him over to the box.

Jackson picked it up, and even in the dim light, Samantha could see the vapor swirling around in it.

“That’s him all right,” Jackson said softly.

He smiled at Samantha. “Your plan worked. Thank you.”

“This plan needed two people,” Samantha replied. “We work well together.”

Jackson glanced around. “I see about four passion flowers in the mirrors. Where’s the original?”

Samantha led him over to the passion flower, and Jackson picked up the pot.

Samantha looked at the flower, brightly colored, even in the gloomy shop.

“I suppose you have to take that with you,” she said wistfully.

“Well, I’ve been thinking about it,” Jackson said, “and nobody knows that you have the flower except for me and Lux.”

He held up the glass box. “And Lux isn’t going anywhere. If I take the flower with me, it will soon be common knowledge that it’s in my possession. I think it may be better if the flower stays with you.”

“I can keep it?” Samantha said. “Thanks.”

“After all, you did buy it,” Jackson said. “So it’s really yours anyway. Of course—”

“What?” Samantha said.

“It is a dangerous object in some ways. So I should probably stop by from time to time, just to check on it.”

Samantha smiled. “You want to come by to visit the flower?”

“Yes,” Jackson said, looking a little flustered. “It’s only right I should keep an eye on it. And if I happened to see you too, so much the better. Maybe we could even go out and get some dinner—when you’re not caring for your new plant.”

Jackson held out the flowerpot, and Samantha took it.

“So what do you say?” Jackson said. “Would you like to plant-sit together?”

Samantha smiled again. “I think I would like that.”

******************

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