Its been a while since I joined in on Chuck Wendig's flash fiction challenges, but I had time this week and I really liked his challenge. He ordered us to open up our perfered music player and see what the first song was that came up and use it as the inspiration for this week's story. Once again we only had 1000 words to work with, but amazingly, I used less than the allotted number of words! So I opened my player and got "Strange Desire" by The Black Keys. Et voila!
It was raining the first night I met Owen. His hair was dark and plastered to his head, water rushing off his jacket, making puddles around his boots as the door closed behind him, the bells jingling his arrival. Standing behind the counter I was able to watch him as he looked around the crowded charm shop, clearly confused and a little intimidated. Ronnie kept her shelves well stocked and if you weren’t careful, you could be paying for jars and jars of vervain, thistle thorns and violet blossoms as they tumbled to shatter on the floor.
If I hadn’t offered to watch the shop for Ronnie, she would’ve been the one to meet this green-eyed stranger. When he finally made his way through the maze of the shop he approached the counter, keeping a few feet back. The collar of his jacket was turned up around his jaw and the length of his hair swept forward, leaving very little face for me to see.
“Help you?” I asked.
“Um, yeah,” he said, jamming his hand into his pocket and pulling out a slip of paper. Passing me the damp note he said, “I need these things.” I pursed my lips as I read over the list, noting the very specific list of ingredients.
“You’re haunted?” I asked, the blunt question bringing his head up and he blinked at me.
“These items, you’re gonna do a spirit banishing, right?” I pressed, turning from him to get the white mistletoe berries that Ronnie kept behind the counter because they were so expensive and difficult to get.
He shifted his weight from foot to foot, his hands in his jacket pockets as he tried to look around the store casually.
“Look,” I said as I measured out the berries, “you gotta tell me or I can’t sell you anything.”
“Why?” he demanded, looking at me again. This time I saw the spark in his eyes but his power of persuasion wouldn’t work on a witch so I didn’t look away.
“It’s the law, Green-eyes.” He blinked at me again, the corner of his mouth twitching in an almost smile. Finally he nodded and I went to gather the other items he would need.
“Have you ever performed a banishing before?” I asked, crouched behind a shelf, looking for the alcohol infused carnation petals.
“No,” he replied, his voice muffled by distance and shelves.
“They aren’t easy,” I said as I came around, the petals in one hand and the bundle of black candles in the other. “Ghosts are stubborn, especially if they don’t know they’re ghosts. You be sure to mean it when you do the spell. Most people can’t perform spells like these unless they’re witches or psychics, you know?” He didn’t respond, just kept staring at me, making me feel twitchy. I was just glad he blinked occasionally.
“Um,” the paper bag rattled as I tried to still my hand, placing his items inside. “Do you have red storax oil?” He glanced up at me, pausing in his motion to take out his wallet.
“Do I have what now?” he furrowed his brow at me and I found myself staring at the dimples it caused on his forehead.
“Red storax oil,” I repeated. “I’m pretty sure I know what spell you’re using, after the ritual you’re supposed to keep some of the berries in that oil.”
“Oh,” he said slowly, moving his eyes to the cash register. I quickly punched in his total, the machine letting out a loud chime as the total came up. He tossed a few bills on the counter and snatched the bag. Before I could give him his change he was turning away, making his way towards the door.
“Dude,” I called after him, catching his attention and making him glance over his shoulder. “Your change?” He came back, moving faster than my eyes could track and his fingers were suddenly brushing the back of my hand as he took the cash I was holding. I jumped back when I finally realized he was there, dropping a few of the coins on the glass countertop. The coins spun where they fell until they came twirling to a stop. I was holding my hand to my chest, staring wide-eyed at him.
“Red storax oil, you said?” he asked, his voice a little softer now than it had been before.
“Yeah,” I managed, my voice catching in my throat. “We, ah, we don’t have any right now. The apothecary down the block should have some though.” He glanced to his right as if he could see the apothecary shop through the very walls of Ronnie’s shop. He nodded his head towards me when he pulled his eyes from the wall.
“Thanks,” he said, softer still, I felt a pressure over the swell of my shoulder, grazing my skin along the muscle, as if his very voice carried the caress of warm fingers.
“Sure,” I said, feeling my face flush.
He turned on his heel again and left the shop, the bells jingling again. I swallowed my heart and braced myself on the cool glass countertop. You’d think I’d never met a vampire before.