This story is by Breanna Troutman and was part of our 2017 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Mina Barclay was not the meddling type. She never took an interest in gossip or schemes, believing a person’s business was theirs alone. Despite the spell being for herself, it still felt odd. Not odd enough, however, to keep there from being two perfect rounds of a sizable Honeycrisp and jar of honey tucked into her bag. To Call a Lover. She read the instructions at least ten times over since starting, mulling them around like a flavor on the tongue. After donning boots and a coat, she scooped the nine seeds from the counter into a palm. Not all of them had been retrieved in one piece, but they would do. She no longer questioned the process, only whether to follow through.
She pictured him then, as vividly as the day they met. It stopped her heart to remember how dark his eyes were; how many promises his hands had held and smothered just as tenderly. Her chest tightened, like every time before when she held her breath waiting for the storm to pass. She relived the scars, inside and out, in her mind’s eye. The whole ordeal was like a song she knew every word of but hated herself for singing along. One that reminded her why she stopped listening to music altogether and chose isolation as safety, time and time again. If only to avoid falling victim to it once more, she threw herself out the front door and Autumn welcomed her.
The brisk air served as a healthy reminder to breathe, clearing the clouds from her mind. There were far better ones to look at outside anyway, illuminated by the full moon’s glow. Oak trees lined the street on either side in various shades of red. As she walked by each, she considered the seeds in her hand and the traits they would represent. The spell’s author made a point to remind the caster that these should be personal rather than physical. Forgiving, she thought, then poured the feeling of it into a single seed before releasing it to the breeze. The same was done with each and every one of them as she asked for a type of love not yet known. It comprised of kindness, loyalty, honesty, strength, intelligence, humor, thoughtfulness, and, just for flavor, something between optimism and realism.
It took all her strength to do so but Mina managed to keep his image from her mind while casting. The last thing she wanted to do was call such an old wound back to her. She did, however, think of the new love as having blue eyes. There was no telling if they would but she enjoyed the contrast between lovers. At the very least, it helped keep them separate in her thoughts while she performed the next step.
She found her favorite tree to lean against. Delicate but determined fingers pulled the apple halves from their hiding place. She took a moment to admire the empty stars nestled in their centers before covering both pieces in honey. The first she placed on the ground at the base of the old oak. A gesture of sharing. The other half she promptly devoured. Although Mina did not exactly expect it to work, she found it comforting to consider that someone like that may exist. That the past could be laid to rest and from it, something better could grow.
The following day Mina set to put the whole thing out of her mind. Life had other plans. It wasn’t until mid morning that she remembered her promise to attend the Apple Festival. Though reluctant, she wasn’t about to back out. She armed herself with the same cozy apparel as the night before and set out. In spite of her best efforts, she spent the trip wondering about the spell. First, if it had worked, then fear for what may happen if it did.
Swarms of smiling faces, bubbling laughter, and shrieks of delight greeted her upon arrival. Stands overflowing with the latest harvest and the treats crafted from them already had Mina salivating. Every piece of nature and celebration was alight with the palette of Autumn. It was an incredible display that always soothed her soul best, granting a brief peace of mind.
As she should have suspected, a familiar taint soon set over the magic. Memories that ended poorly mixed with the bright scene. Each passing stranger became a suspect; someone she may not want to see. Ocean eyes darted from one to the next as she weaved through them, doing her best to keep her breathing even and expression clear. No matter her love for the festivities, it always took more exposure than she was comfortable with. There was always the risk of an unpleasant ending.
The call reeled her attention back to the moment at hand. She recognized the voice instantly, greeting the woman jogging her way with the same warmth as each time before.
“Hi Colette,” she breathed, embracing the sweater-clad beauty she had known since age six. They were breaking into the years of adulthood together, but she never lost the mischievous sparkle to her eyes. It was always more prominent through the holidays but that day it was especially true.
“I want you to meet my colleague, Dany,” she introduced, beginning even before they had fully broken their hold of one another. As they did, she angled herself toward the nearby stranger who had eluded Mina’s notice.
Dany offered a sheepish smile and raised palm as greeting. Mina mirrored the gesture. With a subtle tilt of her head, further inspection of the new woman began. She studied the dark shades of her cropped hair and the icy hue of her eyes while asking, “So you’re a pediatrician too?”
The new addition gave a single nod of her head and ran a hand through her hair before returning it to the safety of her coat. “Yeah, I just transferred to this hospital a couple months ago. Moved from the next state over for the position.”
“Well, I hope you find it to your liking,” Mina offered, tension softening some with her sincerity. It appeared to have a similar effect on her new company whose upturned lips seemed to do so more naturally as Dany thanked her.
“Alright!” Colette clapped her hands together before extending them ahead of her body. “Onward!” With that, she lead the way through the hustle and bustle. The three of them sampled baked goods and ciders, then onto the crafts. It was a wonder what some people could make out of an apple, the trees, or with such simple things as inspiration.
Mina lingered by a stand with jewelry. The sign boasted their handcrafted origins and each piece reflected something beautiful from that time of year. She traced her finger over a collection of beads and stones that were colored, and some even shaped, like the changing leaves. It reminded her of something similar he had gifted her years prior. Deflated and not wishing to waste the money on anything less than practical, she carried on.
Another anxious sweep of the crowd around them had her half expecting to see him there, towering over most of the participants as the lover he had replaced her with dangled from his arm like an ornament. The search turned up nothing, but she still had trouble relaxing. Colette gave her hand a gentle squeeze of encouragement. It served more as an anchor, keeping Mina from being swept away by swells of doubt or abandoning her attempts at joy altogether. In time, even Dany’s presence contributed something comforting. They discovered numerous common interests and opinions which made for a welcome distraction.
By the end of the day, they were reluctant to part. It was drawn out with an exchange of phone numbers and talk of upcoming events. “I was also wondering if you would like to get a drink sometime. It doesn’t have to be a date, but I would like it to be. If you’re interested. I’d like to get to know you better, Mina.” Her voice was strong and clear, confident.
Mina was not entirely sure what to do with her request. It hadn’t occurred to her to view the woman that way, but she did not find herself entirely opposed either. At least not to the idea of spending more time together. She thought back to the night before and had to resist the urge to laugh. If the spell had worked, it certainly had a funny way of manifesting. She looked to Dany. Maybe loneliness had become more compelling than fear or she felt like a gamble. Whatever the reason, she nodded. “Alright. It’s a date.”
Dany beamed. “Perfect. I’ll call you.” Then she slipped into to the night, leaving Mina at the mercy of a bouncing and squealing Colette. She who was, in fact, the meddling type.