Okay, so this kind of took me forever. It turns out incorporating 10 words into a story is much harder than 5 words. I need a nap, but I hope you like this installment of The Assistant. If you'd like to see earlier episodes, go here.
Even before I broke up with Cal, he hated Geoff. The first time he tried to pick me up from Madame Beaumont’s place, Geoff answered the door and told him I’d already gone home. I spent the evening cleaning out the Jungle Room, thinking Cal ditched me. When we finally met up and figured it all out, Cal went off.
“Frippery doesn’t even begin to explain that guy, Kate,” he said. “It’s disturbing, how phlegmatic he is when he’s clearly duplicitous.”
This is how Cal swears. When he gets really worked up, every other word is some archaic thing that sounds like a disease.
“He’s really weird.” I’d only been bound by Madame for a week, and I wanted more than anything to explain and couldn’t. “Maybe he forgot I was there.”
“You’re defending him?” He paused, his lips pursed. “Is there something going on between you?”
“What?” I burst into laughter. “Cal, that’s the stupidest thing you’ve ever said. Geoff’s a freak.” I took his hand, the only hand I ever wanted to hold. “I have the best boyfriend in the world, and he shouldn’t be jealous of that suit-wearing fop.”
He squeezed my hand. “Fop. Nice. You have quite the talent for perspicacity, you know.”
“Thanks?” I wrapped my arms around his waist, sure that his worries were ridiculous.
I was wrong.
I watch the two of them stare at each other—the guy I love and the one who made me love him—wishing I could disappear.
Cal points at Geoff, all playfulness gone. “He’s going with you? Of course. Your boyfriend convinced Madame to take you along. That makes more sense.”
“It’s not like that! He’s not…” My mouth closes without my permission. I may have broken through some aspects of the potion, but talking about what happened is still infrangible.
Cal folds his arms. “Not what?”
“I’m not…” My lips won’t even mouth the rest.
Geoff sighs. “I think what Kitty is trying to say is that I’m not…romantically involved with her at this time, Calvin, my boy.”
Cal’s jaw drops. “You mean, you broke up with her?”
“She broke up with me four months ago, if we’re getting technical.”
My face goes warm. “Um, I gotta find my parents.”
“Your Dad’s in the north field,” Cal says. I don’t dare look at his face, hearing his softened voice is enough to make me weak.
I rush out the door and grab the first golf cart I can find. I don’t know what’s worse, Geoff actually being honest or Cal knowing I’m single. Geoff can’t possibly have said that out of the goodness of his heart; there’s a motive I don’t know about. And now Cal will wonder why I didn’t tell him, and I still can’t explain.
Dad likes to walk through the vineyard everyday, staring at the grapes and leaves and branches like he can control exactly how well they grow. I don’t understand it, but he doesn’t seem to mind. He also doesn’t mind me going to Hawaii. I don’t even have to beg, and here I had a whole speech prepared.
“I’ll tell your mother,” he says as he gives me a hug. “Have fun for once. Don’t let Madame boss you around too much.”
By the time I get back to the house, Cal’s gone. Geoff’s in my room, and he doesn’t talk as I pack a small bag. I can feel his eyes on me. I know he wants me to ask why he told Cal the truth, but I’d rather not give him the pleasure.
“Not very loquacious today, are we, Kitty,” he finally says. “You must be curious.”
“Nope.” I zip up the bag, feigning as much disinterest as possible. “Let’s go.”
“As you wish.” He holds out his hand. I hate that I have to touch him to teleport, but I put my palm in his. After the spell turns me inside out and back again, we stand on a long stretch of abandoned beach. I put my hands to my knees for support as the numbness fades. “You used to handle teleportation much better. Seems you’re out of practice.”
“Shut up. You’re the one who almost landed us in the ocean.” I force myself to stand straight, unable to hold in the chuckle. “What I would give to see you ruin that suit.”
He straightens his lapel. “And after I told Calvin for you.”
I scoff. “How gracious of you, to partially get me out of the curse you put on me. Geoff, you sweetheart.”
He clenches his jaw. “The Old Crone lives just over that ridge. Try to find some manners before we greet her. She doesn’t take well to disrespect.”
I follow him in silence, trying to pay attention to the scenery. Hawaii is just as stunning as the pictures, but the green is different from Napa, deeper in some ways. It doesn’t scream of hard work like the grapevines, no, it’s a relaxing green. It’s paradise to me, though I wonder if the natives see it like I see my home.
Once we reach the ridge, I spot the small hut. I expected to see a mansion, since that’s what most sorcerers prefer from what I’ve seen. A small, skeletal woman stands out front, hunched over a stone table. She holds a cloth the color of hollandaise, wiping up water.
She looks up when Geoff stops, her eyes so light I’m sure she’s blind. “You can tell Millie I’m not interested in helping.”
“Now, Magda, you can’t still be upset about her raiding your alliaceous garden. You had plenty of magic onions, and that demon was right on her tail.”
“She had time to ask! It’s only proper to ask!”
“Quite right, please allow me to apologize for her. You must know our plight. It wouldn’t take but one little peek into Arielle’s intentions,” Geoff says softly.
“No.” She goes back to wiping the slick stone table, which seems to be producing the water on its own. The cloth never gets full, like the sorcerer version of a Shamwow.
Geoff sighs. “If not for Madame, won’t you please take a look for this poor girl? If you don’t, Madame’s bonding spell will strangle her.”
My eyes go wide. Madame’s leash hasn’t been tugging at all, which means Magda must intend to help. Strange. I wonder why she pretends to resist.
The Old Crone looks at me, and even though her eyes are blank I can feel her seeing straight into me. “What reason do I have to care if she dies?”
Geoff puts his hands in his pockets. “Let’s not play this game.”
He smirks. “You must know better than I do who she is, that there’s no reason Madame would bind an average mortal.”
I can barely breathe, let alone speak. What are they talking about?
The Old Crone doesn’t look up from her work, but a grin tugs at the side of her mouth. “I’ll need wild jacamars.”
“Of course, Magda.” Geoff bows. “Which colors?”
She lists them off. “Vamoose!”