Oops. I got busy writing this past week and didn’t get a new chapter posted. Sorry. I’ll post two this week to make up for it.
Fear of Falling
Amethyst woke feeling like she’d been sick with a fever—dizzy, a little fuzzy, physically lighter than she should. She opened her eyes, pulled her arms out of the warm cocoon of bedding and stretched.
Happiness flooded through her. She lay for a moment looking out over the familiar landscape of her bedroom, the rumpled sheets, the dresser mirror reflecting way more light peeking through the blinds than usual when she got up.
Caramela’s tail whapped a good-morning greeting on the comforter and she, too, stretched, front feet paddling the air. Amethyst reached over and grabbed one. That led to a game of hide-and-seek feet, Amethyst grabbing Caramela’s toes, and Caramela opening her wide, pink mouth in play bites and snatching her feet away. Getting rowdy, the dog launched herself off the bed and ran off down the hall.
Amethyst laughed, rolled out of bed and padded to the closet to get dressed. Seeing the violet dress hanging inside, she suddenly realized why she felt happy. Just as suddenly, the happiness spluttered out as if doused with a fire hose.
She scuffed on slippers and slouched down the hall to let Caramela outside. Late morning sunlight shining through the stained glass panel hanging in the kitchen window scattered color across the countertop. She picked up her phone where it rested in a pool of garnet light.
Melodie had texted her around 9:30: call me.
Again at 10:15: U up? call me!
Then again a little after 11:00: Get up. I’m coming over.
Amethyst squinted at the clock on her phone: 11:14. She dropped the phone and hurried back to the bathroom to get ready.
The doorbell rang. She spat out a mouthful of toothpaste, wiped her face and hurried to the door.
A young woman with hot pink hair and wearing a green polo shirt embroidered with Bella’s Blooms stood outside holding a vase of flowers. Amethyst, trying not to wince at the color scheme, thanked her, took the flowers and carried them into the kitchen.
Purple roses and green hydrangeas tied with green and purple ribbons sprouted from a tourmaline vase, green glass streaked with purplish pink. The vase looked like it might have been hand-blown. Not the sort of thing found stock in a flower shop.
The symbolism was obvious: Jas’ green and her purple. Something tugged under her heart as she pulled the little card out of its envelope.
It bore only one word: Magic.
Amethyst leaned on the kitchen counter and sank her head into one hand. The doorbell rang again.
Caramela’s gruff barks turned into a welcoming wag and a pit bull grin when Amethyst opened the door to Melodie.
“Well?” Melodie said by way of greeting.
“Oh, Mel,” Amethyst said and led the way to the kitchen.
Melodie headed straight for the flowers on the breakfast bar. She picked up the card, which Amethyst had left on the counter.
Her brows went up and she cocked her head in a question. “Here are flowers in a very nice vase. Here’s this card.” She waved it, then pointed it at Amethyst. “Then there’s the look on your face. What happened?”
Amethyst filled a kettle and got mugs and a couple of tins of loose-leaf tea out of cupboards. “About what you’d expect. Party, dancing afterwards.”
“Yeah, yeah. And after that?”
“We came back here.”
Melodie tapped the little card on the countertop.
Amethyst got out bread and peppered turkey breast for sandwiches. “Well,” she said to the inside of the fridge as she took out lettuce and mayo. “We kissed.”
The sound of the card tapping on the countertop abruptly ceased.
“If he did anything like he did when he kissed you a couple of years ago,” Melodie said, “I will personally go kick his ass—wizard or not.”
Amethyst would’ve laughed at the picture that made, but couldn’t quite manage it. “No. Nothing like that.”
She pulled out the cutting board and started slicing a cucumber. Melodie moved around the kitchen, taking out plates and a knife and applying mayonnaise to bread.
“It was…” Amethyst closed her eyes. “Awesome.” She turned a bleak look on Melodie. “If he hadn’t stopped, I have a feeling we would’ve ended up doing it right there in the living room.”
Melodie opened her mouth to say something, closed it again and frowned. “He stopped. So…is that the problem? You’re feeling embarrassed and rejected?”
Amethyst felt absurdly close to tears. “I don’t know what I was thinking, agreeing to see him like this. Romantically.” She cleared her throat. “I’m going to have to break it off.”
Melodie looked at the flowers, then back at Amethyst. “Wiz, I hope you know he’ll be blindsided. And somehow I suspect Jas Harker isn’t the kind of man who takes blindsiding well. If you break it off, you’d better be ready to have no relationship.”
Amethyst splayed her hands on either side of the cutting board and closed her eyes again. “I know. It’s unfair. It’s despicable. But I can’t start falling for him again.”
Melodie wet her lips. “Far be it from me to try to talk you out of this, but why not?”
“I like…being…with him. This morning…” God, it was so hard to get the words out. “When I woke up, I was happy. But Mel, what if he hurts me again?”
Melodie was silent a moment, folding turkey and cheese slices onto the sandwiches. “The problem is about more than that binding, isn’t it?”
Amethyst nodded, not trusting her voice.
Melodie put the sandwiches on plates and set them on the breakfast bar. Amethyst hitched onto a stool beside her and bit into her sandwich. She had to chew a long time before she could convince her throat to swallow. Beside her, Melodie worked on her own sandwich.
“If you’re worried he’s only after a casual fling,” Melodie said, “I think the multiple marriage proposals might put a dent in that theory.”
“Yeah. But what else does he want?”
Melodie’s eyes went round. “Oh.” She put down her sandwich, wiped her fingers on a napkin and put her hand on Amethyst’s. “Wiz, what do you want me to say? Because ordinarily I’d say the problem is you are starting to fall for him, and it scares you. If we were talking about anyone besides Jas, I’d say you’d better take a deep breath and wait before you do anything as drastic as breaking it off.”
“But we aren’t talking about anyone else. I’m heading down exactly the same path I did two years ago.”
“Is it really the same path?”
Amethyst curled her hands around her mug, letting the warmth seep into her cold fingers. “Not really. I know him better now. He’s not just some amazing fairytale prince who popped into my life to sweep me off my feet. Mel, he’s been trying hard for a long time, I have to give him that. But if I still feel this way now, after everything he’s done to show me he made a mistake, is it going to be any better a month from now, or two months, or six?”
“You’ve also been keeping him at arm’s length for a long time. If you let yourself get closer…” Melodie trailed off, looking troubled.
Melodie gave a short, humorless laugh. “I think you already know the answer to that.”
Amethyst lifted her mug to drink, then put it down again, staring into it. “See? We both keep coming to the same conclusion.”
“I know,” Melodie said. “So why are we both so miserable about it?”
* * *
Amethyst sat staring down at her phone. Some fifteen minutes ago, Melodie had hugged her and left her to her fate. She’d been sitting exactly like this since, the sandwich with a single bite out of it by her elbow, her tea gone cold and the flowers on the counter accusing her.
She could take the coward’s way out and send Jas a text. Plenty of people did just that. But he deserved better. She put her head in one hand and closed her eyes. He deserved to be blindsided in person.
Well, one thing for sure, she didn’t trust her voice. She picked up her phone and tapped in a text:
I owe you a coffee. My house 2PM?
A text came right back: I’ll be there.
Thank god he didn’t add a kissy emoticon.