It began like a million days before it. Blue sky dotted with wispy clouds. Slight breeze: just enough to tickle your cheeks. A chill in the air, but soon to be gone as the sun warms the earth.
But it wasn’t an ordinary day for Thomas. He had just graduated from high school, so no early alarm, no classes, no plans.
After breakfast he headed out to meet up with Saul, his best friend of many years.
Saul had something that Thomas had always dreamt of having: magic.
Saul wasn’t a showy magician like you’d see on television. He couldn’t levitate people or saw them in half or escape from a gazillion locks before drowning in a pool of water.
He could, however, predict the future, which came in handy when gambling on which of their favorite teams would win. Today they were going to try Saul’s skill on dating.
Thomas had fancied Marisal for years, practically drooling over her long brown hair and curvy body, while Saul was in love with Janice, a brilliant brunette who had outscored them both on the ACTs.
The problem is that Marisal’s family only permitted her dating boys with some degree of magic, which ruled out the unhmagical Thomas. Thomas, with Saul’s help, planned on convincing her parents that, by association, he was an ideal candidate.
Saul’s problem was that Janice controlled various types of magic, from elementals to wizardly powers, such as altering substances and making things disappear. Her magic was way beyond Saul’s, which meant that they had never been in the same class, starting from preschool, since her skills had emerged at birth while his took time to reveal itself.
Sitting before Saul’s computer, the boys scanned which of the local baseball teams was at home. Fortunately, because of the easier commute from Fremont, the Oakland A’s were playing the Houston Astros. The Astros were sure to win, meaning that Saul wouldn’t even have to use his magic when making a prediction. He would need it, however, to convince Janice’s parents to let her go to the game with him.
“Okay,” said Thomas, “so how can you help me?”
“Well, let’s do a search,” Saul said as he typed in appropriate words.
Up popped links that seemed promising. The first one they chose suggested flowers of the non-magical kind, a box of chocolates and a good book. “I can do all that,” Thomas said, “but somehow I don’t think that will make a difference.”
The next link said to buy an amulet that promised love at first sight. “Let’s do that,” Thomas said. “Where do we get one?”
“Easy,” said Saul. “Mieve’s shop on Mowry. She carries a variety of magic items.”
The boys took off walking as neither owned a car. Along the way they spotted a kite flying over Jason’s house, no string attached. “That’s cool,” Thomas said. “I wish I could do something like that.”
“No use dreaming of what you don’t have. Concentrate on what you’re going to ask Meve for and how you can use it on Marisal.”
Meave’s shop was nestled into a corner of a strip mall just past the intersection of Cedar and Mowry. Neon lights blinked off and on, advertising a variety of potions and spells. Thomas’s attention was called to one appropriately titled, Call me Honey. “That’s what I want!”
“Don’t decide before you talk to Meave,” Saul said as he opened the door.
Three walls were lined with shelves full of vials, tubes and bottles. The labels were both colorful and intriguing. While Saul moved to the romance section, Thomas scoured them all, picking up one item after another, putting most back, but tucking the rest in the crook of his arm.
“Stop! Those things can be dangerous in the hands of a non-magical person,” Saul said. “In fact, even a skilled user can wreak havoc with just one of those if he doesn’t know what he’s doing. Put them back.”
Thomas put one back, but carried the rest tightly against his body, shielding them from his friend’s view.
Meave appeared dressed in t-shirt and jeans. Her hair was closely cropped, hugging her scalp in a tightly curled hood. “What do you boys want?”
Saul nodded toward his friend. “He has no talents, but he wants to woo someone who does. And her parents only approve of magical boyfriends. Can you help?”
She tapped her fingers against her chin, her eyes scanning her shelves. “Well, I’m not supposed to do this, but you seem like nice kids. I’ll only sell a potion if you agree to supervise.”
Saul nodded and Thomas smiled.
She sauntered over to the romance section and pulled down three different vials. “This one adds sparkle to the user, making him appear more attractive.” She held up a blue liquid, saying, “This sends out a signal that is designed to attract a target, but it often reigns in the wrong person.” She handed Saul the last vial, which was filled with smoke. “And this one is to be opened only in the presence of the target. It is the strongest, and therefore the most dangerous.”
“Can we take them all?” Thomas asked.
Meave carried them back behind the counter. She closed her eyes as she stood silent. “I see unexpected results if you use all simultaneously. Therefore I can’t legally sell all three to you.” She put the third one on the shelf behind her. “Only two. Only these two, but you still cannot use them at the same time. Do you want them anyway?”
Thomas nodded. After purchasing the potions, the boys returned to Saul’s house. They opened both packages so as to read the instructions.
The one which would work on Thomas said he’d have to sprinkle it liberally on his face five minutes before encountering the person he wanted to woo. “I can do that,” he said. “Easy.”
The blue vial had to be opened within about three to five feet of the target. “That’s going to be tricky,” Saul said. “How do you plan on getting near Marisal?”
“Let’s just go over there. When she opens the door, I’ll uncork the vial and wave it under her nose.”
“Where will I be?”
“Nowhere near. I don’t want her to fall in love with you.”
The boys meandered down Smith Street, past a park and elementary school. Marisal’s house was at the corner of Allendale. It was easy to spot, primarily because of the gigantic plants in the front yard, all improved by Marisal’s mother’s gardening talent.
Thomas opened the first vial just as he stepped up to the door. He knocked. Footsteps. He held the blue vial up before his face, ready to pop the cork. The door opened. Thomas released the potion, then gasped.
Marisal’s face did not fill the doorway. Her brother Nathan stood there, all six feet of him, broad shoulders completely filling the doorway.
“Look who’s here,” Nathan said as his eyes slowly opened wider and wider. “You’re looking awesome,” he said with a wink.
“Marisal,” Thomas said as he took four steps back. “Is she here?”
Nathan leaned against the door frame, one hip suggestively thrust forward. “No, but I am. Want to come in?”
Thomas turned and ran down the sidewalk, putting as much distance as possible between him and the house. Saul caught up with him in front of the school. “So, what happened?”
“Nathan. Nathan happened, that’s what.”
Saul laughed a deep, throaty bellow. “So he’s in love with you?”
Thomas threw both vials into bushes near the park. “This stuff is crap.”
“Okay, so let’s work on my problem. How do I convince Janice’s parents that I’ve got powerful enough magic?”
Thomas shrugged. “Just be yourself.”
They crossed Smith Street and headed north toward a fairly new complex of condos. They found Building C, then climbed to the third floor. “Only talented families live here,” Saul said. “Be careful. Don’t touch anything. Not even the handrail. Everything will be protected. It could be dangerous for you.”
Saul rang the bell at Suite 307. Janice answered. “Hi,” she said as a smile brightened her face. “Come on in.”
The boys found seats in the front room. Janice sat in between, slightly closer to Saul. “Thirsty?” she asked.
“Sure,” the boys said in unison.
Janice snapped her fingers and two glasses of cola appeared on the coffee table before them. Saul leaned forward and indicated that Thomas was not to touch, but not in time.
Carelessly ignoring his friend’s command, Thomas tipped the glass to his lips and took a huge gulp. Immediately he began twitching from head to toe. His body stiffened, throwing his head over the back of the couch.
“What happened?” Janice shrieked.
Saul hustled to his friend’s side, cradling his head. “He has no talents! He’s been poisoned.”
“Didn’t you warn him?”
“Of course. I saw this happening, so I told him not to touch anything.”
“What do we do?” Janice said.
“Do you stock any antidotes?”
Janice went down the hall. After a few minutes she returned carrying a small brown bottle. “I think this might work.”
Saul held it in his free hand, closed his eyes, and began humming a low-pitched sound. He nodded, opened his eyes, and told Janice to pour some down Thomas’ throat. As soon as the tiniest drop touched his friend’s tongue, the tremors stopped. The next drop unfroze Thomas’s body, collapsing him into the couch. The last drop eased his breathing.
“He’s going to be okay,” Saul said as he handed the bottle back to Janice.
“Thank goodness you knew what to do! Wait till I tell my parents. You’re amazing.”
Saul blushed as he returned to his seat, Janice tucked against his side. He slowly put his left arm over her shoulders. She leaned her head against his and planted a kiss on his throat.
“So,” she said, “what are you doing this afternoon?”
“How’d you like to go to a ballgame?”
“Who’s going to win?”
“Astros. But the As will hit three homeruns and two doubles. It will be close.”
With that, Janice left a note for her parents. Before they walked out the door, they lifted Thomas’s legs in order to make him more comfortable. Saul gave his friend a thumb’s up as they closed the door behind them.