“Hey Kayla, it’s like ten ‘til eight. Want me to start shutting down?”
I looked around at the empty shop and shrugged. “Sounds good to me. Whose turn is it for clean-up?”
“Yours.” Sam wrinkled her nose at me. “I had to clean the coffee off the walls last time, remember?”
“Oh, yeah.” I grimaced. Some idiot had came in yesterday with those stupid roller shoes on. Thought he’d be all smooth and roll up to the table where a pretty girl about his age was minding her own business. Needless to say, it didn’t go well. The brakes didn’t work or something, and he crashed right into the wall, splattering himself and the girl with hot coffee. Turned out, she was a harpy, and didn’t particularly care for being scalded or for her book to be ruined.
I’m not sure what she cursed him with, but he ran out of the store like his ass was on fire.
Catching the towel Sam threw me, I shot her a salute and began wiping down tables littered with crumbs and sticky from spilled coffee.
An hour ago, we had tables full of college students and businessmen, sipping their potion laced drinks and taking advantage of our free wifi. Now, the tables were clear and the moonlit street outside was almost as deserted as the café.
I was pulling down the blinds over the store windows, when the chime over the door rang. Looking up, I saw a young woman poking her head in the door.
Her pale blonde hair was up in a high ponytail, with a couple strands hanging down to frame her pointed ears. She had the slim body of an elf, in the compact frame of a faerie. My guess was either a half-breed like me, or a pixie.
As soon as she saw me, towel in hand, her face fell. “Oh no, please please tell me you’re not already closed?”
I glanced at the clock. Eight o’clock on the dot, and Sam was probably almost done with counting down the register. I opened my mouth to tell her ‘come back tomorrow’ when my magic sent a tingle down my spine. I bit back a sigh and slung the towel over my shoulder, smiling as I approached her. “Just let me lock up real quick, and I’ll be right with you.” I motioned her further into the store, locking the door behind her and flipping the ‘Open’ sign to ‘Closed.’ I moved to the counter where she was waiting. “Now, how can I help you?”
“I just need a large cappuccino with a twenty-four shot of charisma, please.”
“Job interview in the morning?” My magic was silent.
She ducked her head, bashful now. “Date tonight, actually. I meant to get a drink sooner, but—”
The rest of her explanation faded as my magic roared in my veins. Flashes of light and dark flickered in the air between us. Bruises and blood appeared and disappeared on her face as her mouth kept moving. Hands from nowhere tore into her dark green blouse, exposing even more bruises blooming on her shoulders and chest. I dug my nails into the palms of my hands as her screams filled my ears.
“—so nervous, I’m just hoping to make it through the date in one piece. If it’s not too much trouble, I mean…”
I shook off the last bit of the vision and returned her smile the best I could. “It’s no trouble at all.” I assured her. I bit my lip. “Well, very little trouble, I mean, maybe.” I motioned her closer and lowered my voice, waving my hand at the cappuccino machine next to me. “See, I’ve already cleaned the machine out here, and it’s such a pain to clean, but we have a machine in the back for employees only. I can just pop back there, make your drink real quick, and bring it right out.” I gave her a conspiratorial smile. “I’ll even do it on the house, how ‘bout that?”
Her face lit up. “That sounds perfect! Thank you so much.” The girl gushed.
“No problem, just give me a minute, okay?” I waited for her to settle in a chair by the window before ducking into the back room where Sam had just finished counting down the register. “Look alive, Sammy-girl.” I tugged her ponytail as I walked by. “Last minute customer. I need you to watch the front while I make her drink.” I caught the look on her face. “Don’t worry, it’s on the house. You won’t have to count down again.”
“Fine.” Sam grumbled. “Just let me put this in the safe first.”
I started the coffee brewing as soon as she was gone and leaned back against the counter, rubbing my face with hands as I thought about what I was about to do.
There are certain rules we have in the magic community. The number one being that we cannot change a person’s fate. If a Seer knows that the man they’re talking to is going to be in a terrible car wreck, they are not allowed to do anything that will stop the wreck from happening. They can suggest the man order a drink with a shot of strength or luck from a witch, and hope that it’s enough to tip the odds of survival in their friend’s favor, but that’s it.
As a witch and a seer, the rules seem even more harsh to me. Day after day, I see tragedies easily prevented with a simple word here, or a potion there. Nothing big or fancy. Nothing that would change the world at large. Just a little Luck potion to help a father make it home to their child, instead of dying because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
When I was an apprentice witch, there was nothing I could do for the unfortunate people that came into the café I was training at. The witch in charge of my lessons had watched me too carefully for me to slip an extra potion mix into the person’s drink. Now I am a Witch in my own right, with my own shop. There are still limits to what I can do, but no longer will I sit idly by.
The coffee finished brewing. Before heading back out to the front of the shop, I grab the extra bottles of Strength and Courage we keep lying around in the back and add a generous helping of each, along with the shot of Charisma she had asked for. I can’t change her fate, but I can give her the strength to face what is to come. Not technically breaking the rules, just…bending them a little bit. Besides, if anyone does think to ask, I can just point out that she did say she wanted to make it through the date in one piece. I was just giving her what she asked for.
I bring her the drink and show her out, locking the door behind her again. Sam helps me finish cleaning up, while I try not to think about the young woman. I did what I could. Her fate was out of my hands. I just hoped she would make use of the advantages I was able to give her.
A couple days later, I’m drinking my first coffee of the day and reading the morning newspaper. On the front page, there’s a mugshot of a man. One of his eyes is swollen shut and both of his lips are busted. He also has what looks like an impressive bruise spreading across jaw. Underneath the image, the the caption screams “SERIAL RAPIST CAUGHT”.
The article doesn’t mention the names of his victims, or how he was caught, but the time frame is right.
I smile and take another sip from my cup. It’s almost opening time…I wonder how many more rules I can bend today?