Cursed(101)

By: S.J. Harper



He takes a last pull of his coffee, sweetened with sugar and a spell to guarantee his security. Zack sets the cup on the sea wall. He drapes an arm casually over my shoulder. “I’ll walk you out.”

When we’re at the car, he opens the door. “See you at the office on Monday.”

He waits until I’ve secured my seat belt and started the engine to turn back to the house. Then, with a wave, he’s gone, disappearing through the front door and pulling it closed behind him without a parting glance my way.

I sit for a moment, staring after him. The empty envelope in my jacket pocket crackles when I lean forward to release the emergency brake. I take it out, crumple it, and toss it on the passenger seat. Loneliness like the cut of a razor slashes at my gut. I wish Liz could cast a spell that would make me forget these last few days. But she can’t. I tried using magic before, to forget other tragic losses, or as Demeter would call them, mistakes. Remembering is part of my punishment, the penance Demeter exacts. I can feel the goddess watching, feel the chill of her smile of satisfaction that I will remember every moment Zack and I spent together. That I will remember how Zack felt inside me and how my body responded to his touch. But worse, I will remember how good we were together. I will think of it every time I look into his eyes and see reflected there not love, but the casual concern of one coworker for another. Mirroring that indifference will be torture. Suddenly I can’t breathe. I roll down my window.

Air rushes in, so cold it burns my skin. I close my eyes. I know what this means. Demeter is here. Her voice comes to me as frigid as the web of ice that now covers my windshield.

“You did the right thing, Ligea.”

Demeter stands on a sheet of ice between Zack’s front door and the car. As she walks toward me, frost spreads across the ground, following her like death’s shadow. Her cobalt eyes are as unforgiving as ever, but her sword is sheathed.

“How many more? How many more will I have to save?”

“Until I am satisfied. And I will be watching you, watching you with this man.”

“It’s over between us.”

Demeter smiles. “For now. He’s different. You and I both know it.”

My phone buzzes. There’s a text message coming in. But the tears clouding my vision prevent me from reading it. When I look up, Demeter is gone. I squeeze my eyes shut, count to ten, then look again at my phone. The message is from Johnson.

Sorry to interrupt your weekend, I read. But there’s a girl missing. We need you to come in.

I get ready to reply when Zack’s front door opens. He’s rushing toward me, coat in one hand, cell phone in the other.

“Glad you haven’t left,” he says. “Johnson sent me a text.”

“Just got one, too. Looks like we’ve got a new case.”

“Never a dull moment or a day off.”

“Regretting that transfer yet?”

Zack shakes his head and buckles his seat belt. “Nope. Hey, a little luck, your special skill set, and my combination of strength, guile, and boyish charm, we might even solve this one.”

To Zack I say, “Let’s go, partner.” To myself I repeat the words I always say at the beginning of every case.

Redemption could be one rescue away.

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