Aphelion Issue 230, Volume 22
July 2018
 
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Recipe for a Love Spell

by L. J. Beckley




VIK



2 red roses for love and passion

3 pinches of rosemary for air and peace

A dash of sugar for sweetness and sincerity

3 cinnamon sticks for spice in the bedroom

A lock of your suitor’s hair

A twist of hope

3 drops of blood to seal the spell



Love potions aren’t the most complicated spells in the world, but they are the most requested, the least effective, and have the greatest potential to backfire. Most of the time I made a point never to do them, but my resolve always weakened in the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day.

Not that I advertised. A witch in the middle of Conservative Central, Oregon? Oh no. There was no advertising that. I want all my flesh unburnt, thank you very much.

Yet the desperate still found me.

I blamed my sisters. Plus Angela Whitmire, who I’d given a draft for cramps two months ago. No one could keep their damn mouths shut. Over the past couple of weeks, I’d had not one, not two, but eight separate women sneaking up to me in between the stacks of the Canyonville Public Library pleading for something to take away their single status.

I’d caved.

And now here I was on the outskirts of the Umpqua National Forest on a Friday night, making love spells under a waning moon. I’d driven to the most isolated spot I could think of and hiked off-trail until I’d found a clearing that would suit.

Fourteen candles--the double of lucky number seven--and a spell circle later, and I was up to my wrists in hair, roses and spices. I finished twisting the last of the charms into a lover’s heart sachet and sat back onto my heels.

Love spells don’t require entrails or hard-to-find ingredients, and the instructions aren’t particularly difficult. At least, not for me. I’d required my clients to gather the lover’s hair, and it would be on them to make the tea, drop the blood, and say the charm.

One last bit and then I was done with my part.

As I opened my mouth, I saw something move beyond the light cast by my candles. I shoved my glasses further up my nose, squinting into the darkness. Aside from candlelight flickering on my lenses, there was nothing.

On to the spell then.

I laid out the individual charms onto the blanket I’d set down to prevent damp and forest contamination. Eight little bundles stared back at me, looking pathetic and alone. All for lonely women and the men they hoped to snare. I sighed. And no hope for a lonely lesbian like me, I thought. Go small town, USA.

“Come on, Vik, just get it over with,” I muttered, and steeled myself for the final part one last time. I closed my eyes and sang ‘The Power of Love,’ feeling the magic build, swirl and flow into the love sachets to the rhythm of the song.

It’s 1999. Incantations are so 17th century.

Plus, it’s not like spells require actual singing ability, just rhythm and intention. The song was entertaining and gooey with love and hope, even if I sounded absolutely nothing like Celine Dion.

Finishing, I opened my eyes, feeling like someone was watching me. The clearing was still empty. Nevertheless, I flushed at the thought that someone might have heard my off-key screeching to one of the stars of pop music.

The back of my neck prickled. I turned on my hearing aids, feeling itchy between my shoulder blades. Hurriedly I gathered up my things, wrapping the charms individually and stuffing them into my battered backpack. As I extinguished the twelfth candle with a soft prayer to the moon, I paused and looked up.

A pair of amber eyes glinted off the candlelight at the edge of the trees.

They were staring straight at me.

My fingers froze, hovering above the flames of the thirteenth candle as the biggest wolf I had ever seen stepped into the clearing. Its feet moved silently on the forest floor. I hadn’t seen it because its fur was as black as the moonless night.

Its lips curled back, revealing canines as long as my fingers.

“Oh crap,” I whispered.

It took another step forward until it reached the edge of my circle.

I whispered a prayer to the moon goddess Kuu. Please hold.

The massive creature’s nose sparked as it hit the edge of the barrier. Its head jerked and it sat down with a floompf that would have been funny it if wasn’t going to eat me. The wolf gave me a look that seemed way too intelligent for an apex predator and bared its teeth again.

A howl split the sky.

The wolf jerked its head towards the sound. Two more howls joined the song. The wolf glanced back towards me, tongue lolling out almost playfully. My gaze was riveted on those teeth. It turned back and raised its muzzle towards the sky, joining its pack.

I yelped at the harsh feedback in my ears, eyes squeezing shut in pain as I frantically turned down the hearing aids.

When I opened them, the wolf had vanished.

I grabbed the rest of my things and didn’t stop sprinting until I was safely back in my Cherokee with the doors locked and the engine running.


*****



RHIA



Form in the shape of a lover’s heart

Boil the sachet into a tea

Prick your marriage finger

Let three drops fall



“Are you sure she was a witch?”

I bristled at Axel’s condescending tone and crossed my arms. My elbow accidentally bumped into Ben’s head, smooshed as he was in the middle of the bench seat of Axel’s old Ford truck. He growled and swatted my arm away without even looking up from his Harry Potter book.

“Yes, I’m sure. She was, like, burning candles and making weird, smelly, lumpy…things,” I replied with as much dignity as I could muster after flailing for the right words. “And I don’t think she was the New Agey kind. I’m certain this one was real.” I rubbed my nose. It still tingled from hitting that sparking, invisible barrier. “Like, really certain.”

Axel pulled into the Canyonville Public Library parking lot, and I groaned. Ben closed his book, hugging it to his chest and bouncing up and down with excitement. “Do we really need to go in today?” I asked. This was not how I had planned to spend my Saturday afternoon.

Axel rolled his eyes. “Ben needs the latest Harry Pooper--”

Potter!” the pipsqueak interjected.

“--Potter book,” Axel concluded smoothly. He ran a hand through his black hair and checked the rearview mirror.

I raised an eyebrow. “And it has nothing to do with that new library assistant everyone has been talking about?”

Axel flashed me a grin. “Nope. Nothing at all.”

I reached over Ben and smacked my cousin’s arm. “Liar.”

“Rhia,” Axel begged. “C’mon, please just come in? I need a wingman.”

I snorted but opened the door. Okay, so the rumors I’d been hearing about Canyonville’s latest city employee were intriguing, to say the least. Of course, there had been some pretty nasty racial slurs mixed in with comments of how pretty she was. I gritted my teeth, then smoothed them into a smile. Well, at least I wouldn’t have to be the only one to suffer the assholes of Douglas County. My lips pulled into a smile. Maybe I’d finally have someone who understood me. On the race thing. Not the werewolf thing, obviously. That was a secret the pack kept semi-well.

Ben raced ahead of us, pushing through the glass doors with a squeal of delight. Eight years old, and already a bookworm. He slammed to a halt in front of the circulation desk, where a thin, black girl with glasses and braids sat. My jaw dropped. It was the witch from the forest.

I paused at the door, Axel bumping into me. Red and pink paper hearts were everywhere. The scent of old books, Elmer’s glue, printer ink and industrial carpet flooded my senses as the door whooshed shut, and I sneezed. The girl looked up, eyes widening as she saw me, then her face settled into a neutral expression. I didn’t blame her. Aside from the nearby Cow Creek tribe and me, non-white people were few and far between.

“Excuse you,” she said politely, and turned back to Ben, a soft smile on her face.

I walked up behind my youngest cousin as he babbled rapidly about the latest Harry Potter and how Mrs. Smith had promised to hold it for him as soon as it came in. The girl nodded and smiled, although her eyes were riveted on his lips.

Her scent hit me as she reached under her desk and handed Ben a book. Smoke, dirt, coconut oil and a complicated mixture of herbs and spices that I couldn’t decipher. It was a delightful bouquet I wanted to sniff for hours.

“May I help you?” she asked. She spoke each word carefully, like she was savoring it. She looked me over, and I was so conscious of my beat-up jeans, crummy B.U.M. tee-shirt and frizzy black hair that I wanted to curl up into a ball behind the counter. She was so damn cute and I was a wreck and there was no way in hell she would be interested in me. Then I caught a whiff of female pheromones and just about died. I pulled myself up and smiled as Axel caught up.

“I-uh, um.” Axel bumped into me, trying to push me aside. Oh hell no, cousin. I decided to take a gamble. “I wanted to find some books on wolves…in Douglas County,” I said. Axel stiffened.

“Oh! What a coincidence.” Her lips twisted in a smile that was rueful and a little embarrassed. “I was just searching for that this morning, and to be honest, aside from some wackos in old copies of The News-Review, there haven’t been wolves sighted since the mid 1900s.” Despite the assertion, there was something about her that didn’t seem convinced.

“Oh,” I said, feigning consternation. “That’s odd.” Suddenly, I remembered another thing about last night. “Uh, in that case, do you have a copy of Celine Dion’s The Color of My Love? I think it has the song ‘The Power of Love’ on it.”

She blinked, looking like she was frozen. “That’s…a very interesting song,” she said slowly.

Axel was looking back and forth between us, confusion pouring out of his pores. His nostrils flared and his shoulders slumped. With a mutter of “Some wingman,” he followed Ben off into the children’s section.

“I heard it last night and was hoping to hear it again,” I admitted.

I grinned, letting my teeth show, just as I had smiled at her last night, and rubbed my nose. Her eyes widened and her mouth parted in a little “oh” of surprise.

She leaned forwards in her chair, despite the fear that was mixing with the attraction. “That was you?” she whispered, looking back and forth to make sure no one heard us. Her scent spiked with interest and a dash of arousal, not the fear I had smelled yesterday night. “You’re a--”

“Yep,” I replied quickly, just as quietly. I held out a hand. “Rhia Blackbourne.”

She took it. Her grip was strong, her hands the perfect temperature but rough from a life of working. “Vik Lotvall,” she said, almost absently. She shook her head as if to clear it, and smiled at me. “Um, would you like to get a cup of coffee or something sometime?”

“Are you asking me on a date?” I teased.

She flushed, tinges of pink showing on her cheeks. “Tomorrow, maybe?”

“Tomorrow’s Valentine’s Day.”

She reddened further, looking down and then up. I felt myself blushing too, and darted a glance around the library. Aside from Axel and Ben, it was nearly deserted. No one watching. She saw the same and relaxed.

She bit her lower lip to hide a smile. “It’s a date,” she whispered back.

I grinned back, giddy with exhilaration. “In that case, we’re going to need some different music.”


Consume under

A pale February moon

In two moon’s time

Love will be yours




THE END


2017 L. J. Beckley

Bio: I am a lover of science fiction, fantasy and things that go bump in the night. I've been an elephant-ride ticket seller, a sometime historian, a Marine, a museum docent and a librarian. I was born and grew up in rural Oregon.

E-mail: L. J. Beckley

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