Part One: Potent Changes
Posted on 2012-07-15
When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself, and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
Desiring this man's art, and that man's scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts my self almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate;
For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.
-Shakespeare's Sonnet 29
She's okay, I guess, but not nearly pretty enough to tempt me. I'm not here to salvage the evening for some ratty wallflower because she couldn't manage to find a partner.
Liam Darcy's words echoed in Lizzie's mind as she wandered the streets of her hometown. Last night, she had smiled defiantly into his pompous face, dancing and laughing more than she ever had before- if for no other reason than to prove him wrong. But now, in the light of day, she was having a harder time believing that he had been wrong. Sure, his words had been hurtful, so much so that she wasn't sure if she could ever forget it; but … did that make them any less true?
Hadn't her mother, just this morning, said the same thing? What did you expect, Lizzie? Men aren't into extra-wide hips this season. She had even tittered at her own joke though she's been repeating it for years. Even Jane, Perfect Jane, had leaned closer sympathetically and patted her arm. Everyone has their own strengths, she had said. Everyone had their own strengths was Jane's favorite saying; it meant, You have a lot of things going for you. Don't focus on beauty so much.
Lizzie closed her eyes, and tried to calm her frustration. This wasn't anything new. Especially not if your sister was Perfect Jane Bennet: Captain of the Cheer Squad, Class President and Prom Queen all rolled into one - and that was just her high school achievements. Thus far, uni had been so much more of the same. She had become quite the fashionista even having some of her designs featured in a magazine. Not that Lizzie even understood what 'fashionista' was even supposed to mean. To her, clothing talk was tantamount to driving nails into her eyes. She was a geek through and through, but that didn't mean she was any less of a girl than Jane, right?
She sighed. All she understood was that when she stood next to Jane, she somehow felt …less. It wasn't even anything that Jane exactly did though it was part of it. No, it was more about how the world reacted to her sister. Jane was admired wherever they went; Lizzie was ignored. Her sister was the golden girl, the one who was going to go far and make everyone at home proud, and Lizzie just wasn't.
That didn't even begin to cover the opposite sex's reaction to Jane. Since she turned fifteen, she was never without a boyfriend while Lizzie was never even asked out on a date. And why would they? Lizzie glanced down at herself and winced. She avoided looking in mirrors for a reason; she was pudgy now; she was only going to get fatter later. What guy would want to deal with that? Certainly not an attractive one.
Yet, she longed for those romantic movie moments! She wanted to experience being asked to dance by the most attractive man in the room. Or overhear a guy's compliment about how good she looked. But, more than anything, she wanted someone to look at her the same way they looked at Jane.
She slowed her walk as the realization hit. His comment hurt so hard because she had been hoping for a very different reaction from Liam Darcy, young fantasy author extraordinaire. She had seen his picture a hundred times on the back cover of her favorite books, and had acknowledged his attraction when friends asked. If anything, he had always just been a distant celebrity crush, like when she'd put a David Tennant poster on her wall. They were lovely to look at, but it didn't mean anything more. Last night, though, she realized that had changed.
When he had walked into the room, she heard herself gasp at how handsome he was. Sure, he hadn't been smiling as he entered the party room and therein laid the first clue to his almighty jerkiness. She smiled ruefully at her own shallowness. How could she have not seen it? Because, last night, all she had seen was his handsomeness, she thought bitterly. She sighed, at the time, he just looked so good. Still did if she let herself admit it. Maybe it was how deliciously dark his hair had been that set her heart to beating faster. Or how bright blue his eyes had been in contrast to that hair. Or maybe … she sighed again. All she knew was that there had been something in his sweeping gaze that had her shivering with pleasure, longing to draw closer. So for the next half hour, that's what she did; she shadowed him. She winced; how could she have been so stupid? At the time, she had just wanted to find out more about him. Him; not the picture at the back of the book. And maybe, she now admitted to herself, in the vain hope of being asked to dance. But really, that was no excuse for being such a weirdo.
She had been standing near the refreshment table when everything changed. Liam had been scanning the crowd dubiously, leaning again the edge of the table. In the half shadow of her corner, he looked even more sullen than before. With his mouth was set in a straight line, he very much looked a modern lord of the manor. Mr. Rochester come to life, and very disapproving of all her surveyed. Watching him, she half expected the guy to just leave, and she wouldn't have blamed him. Because of the crowded room, it was disgustingly hot; if she had had her choice, she would have bolted too. She had watched as Jane's new Flavor of the Hour, Charlie Bingley, walked up and started a conversation with Liam. She was surprised, how did they know each other? She hadn't seen who'd come in with Liam because she'd been too focused on the author to pay attention to anything else. She couldn't understand a word they said because the music had effectively turned their words to gibberish. Still, it was clear that the new arrival was trying (and failing) to get Liam out onto the dance floor.
But then she saw Charlie glance in her direction, and then point her out to Liam. A thrill of excitement shot through her; he was going to introduce them, she was sure, and she knew that she couldn't keep the hope from shining in her eyes. Then Liam turned, and they eyes met for the briefest of seconds. She watched in dismay as he immediately looked dismissively away.
That was enough to kill her hope; he could have just left it there. But as the room around them grew strangely quiet with even the music moving on from loud and energetic to slow and soft, she watched in growing horror as he opened his mouth.
And she heard his answer.
"She's okay, I guess, but not nearly pretty enough to tempt me. I'm not here to salvage the evening for some ratty wallflower because she couldn't manage to find a partner."
She remembered closing her eyes in humiliation, feeling the prickle of barely repressed tears against her eyelids. She had vowed to not give him that satisfaction; she would do something that she rarely did: she would dance. She then opened her eyes and with determination made her way onto the dance floor. As she passed Liam, she made sure to look into his eyes and smile defiantly. Always keep them guessing, she told herself.
But he just stared impassively back. No flush of embarrassment crossed his features. No sudden need to look away. There wasn't even a flash of contrition in his blue eyes. She knew by looking at him; not only had he meant every word, but he knew that she had heard him- and he didn't care. She saw in those eyes what someone like her meant to someone like him. Ratty Wallflower, he had said. A waste of space, he'd meant. A nothing. Looking away, she turned and lost herself on the dance floor. It was a long time before her anger and humiliation allowed her to leave it again.
And now it had driven her into the streets, searching for she knew not what, dwelling on her inadequacies. She shook her head in self-disgust. A party and some hurtful words had turned her into a mess. "He wasn't even attractive," she scoffed aloud, "Regardless of what he looked like; he opened his mouth and proved his ugliness. But …"
Just as she was set to continue her personal tirade, she felt something trip her. She fumbled a little on her feet, but she somehow managing to stay upright. Then, Lizzie looked around for the cause of her clumsiness, but found only an empty street. Not a soul even gazed out at her from the various shop windows. Strange, she thought, it's only 3 o'clock. Even looked back the way she'd come, still no one. Gazing at the surrounding buildings, she noticed that they looked antiquated and worn like a cluster of windswept fossils. Brief flashes of hidden color hinted at a past life of beauty which time had eroded away. Unreadable graffiti further masked its former glory, and told Lizzie that she might not remain alone for long. A chill shot up her spine, but she shrugged it off. Now was not the time, because she realized as she looked around that her situation was growing more complicated by the second.
She was lost. Not a shop or a sign or a scrap of street art looked familiar. And she had lived in this city all her life! Surely, she hadn't walked THAT far. With her luck, home was just a few streets away, and she was just being an idiot. She could see tomorrow's headline flashing across her mind: LOCAL GIRL LOST IN HER OWN BACKYARD: Local girl, twenty-three year old Elizabeth Bennet was found wandering aimlessly only a mile from her house. Experts advise Ms. Bennet that if she continues to get lost so easily, it may be best if she just stayed home…
Shaking her head at her own silliness, Lizzie turned to go back the way she'd come. But as she walked past an alley, something caught her eye. It was an old brown loveseat, slightly grungy; the kind anyone could find a thousand times over in at a dump. Yet, here, it had been transformed into something magical: a piece of an enchanted forest plopped down right into the middle of a dirty city. A gnarled old tree stood guard over it; its branches hung over the couch protectively. In the exact center of the loveseat, there, sitting slightly uneven, sat a solitary burgundy pillow, just waiting for someone to sit down and join it. The whole scene was framed by a small lawn of grass and slowing fading pieces of white mist.
It was so strange that Lizzie found herself walking towards it before the decision to investigate had consciously entered her mind. It looked like an image in a child's picture book or maybe one of those posters found in elementary school libraries. She half expected to find some juvenile subscription like READING IS MAGICAL, hiding under the line of grass. But as she drew closer, the more real the image became. It told a story as surely as the pages of a book. She saw the corners of thin children's books sticking out from behind the pillow, and a large purple stain came into view; a tell-tale sign of clumsy little hands holding wobbly cups. A pair of fuzzy rabbit ears peeked out shyly in one couch corner; the rest of the toy lost under the cushion. Lizzie had stumbled upon a child's oasis, and it wasn't alone.
As she stepped out of the alleyway, she saw a little shop adjoined the oasis. If the couch and tree were a piece of an enchanted forest, then this building was like grandma's house. It wasn't large, not by any stretch of the imagination; at least compared to the stores around it. Still, it was … charming, that's the right word. Bright white with forest green trim, it stood out from the rest like a red rose in a field of daffodils. But that was just the problem, it didn't fit in with everything else. There were no store windows next to its dark wooden door. A garden of flowers lined every visible wall, and spread out to affect the couch's lawn like a private meadow. In short, it was far too homely in an area where she had expected only industrial. She was almost afraid to walk up the short path to the door. It felt too much like she was trespassing.
The only thing that assured her that it was indeed a little shop was the large old-fashioned sign. It hung above the door, and was made of slightly lighter wood. It said:
As she read it, she laughed its absurdity. Potions, indeed. Who'd believe such nonsense? But even as she convinced herself that it was ridiculous, the curious part of her was taken over by what if? What if it's real? The more she thought about it, the more curious she became, and the more determined she was to have a look inside. In a few quick steps, she had opened the door and stepped inside.
For the first couple minutes, Lizzie could do nothing more than stare; it was the strangest store she had ever entered. At eye level, the store was hospital sterile with a simple white tiled floor. Aisles of metal shelves were surrounded by yet more shelving along its walls, and an old fashioned register stood on top of a wooden counter. But above her head was a completely different story. Flowers and plants of various stages of drying hung down from the ceiling as though Nature herself had decided to invade this little shop. Some hung down so low and looked so brittle that she imagined one touch would send a cascade of leaves and bits of twig to the floor. And yet … not a leaf or a speck of dust marred its whiteness. If the jungles of the ceiling were at war with the urban floor, then they were surely losing.
But even stranger than the décor was the merchandise. Bottles and bottles lined every shelf in every color imaginable. Blues, greens, purples, reds, they were organized according to color, but the shapes were all over the place. Tall ones next to square ones with short bottles next to hourglass shaped ones. The store was awash with this mismatched rainbow; an after-a-storm sky looking up at a ravaged earth.
Lizzie started to take look around but she couldn't quite shake the not quite empty feeling of the shop. To her eyes, it looked as vacant as the street outside. No one stood at the register or could be seen moving about between the shelves. Not a footstep could be heard or the rustle of someone pushing aside a clump of plants. It was completely silent. And yet …. She was sure someone was there. She could feel it in the prickling on the back of her neck. She could hear it in the unnatural silence. She just couldn't see them. It was … unsettling. Disturbing enough that Lizzie moved towards the door. Even silent streets were better than haunted shops. But before she could walk through, something on the shelves caught her eye, causing her to forget her unease.
It was a simple white sign with big black block letters; it read, PHYSICAL ENHANCERS. Intrigued, Lizzie reached for the nearest bottle. It was tall, thin and brown with a thick wax stopper. She could hear the liquid inside slush about as she picked it up. A neat rectangular label was stuck to the back:
"Regenerative hair," Lizzie muttered, "What nonsense. Bet it's just filled with cheap dye." But now she looked at all the bottles with new eyes. What else does this shop sell?, she wondered, and she smiled as excitement made her heart beat faster.
Now she began to notice all the little signs spread out amongst the bottles. ANTIDOTES, read one near shelves of clear and yellow bottles. FAMILIAL ENERGIZERS said another surrounded in green. The deeper Lizzie went the more amazed she became at the labeled products. Under the sign FANTASICAL REALISATIONS, she picked up a little purple bottle with a simple wooden cork. Its label read:
Intrigued, Lizzie kept the bottle in hand as she continued combing through the shop. Why not?, she thought mentally shrugging, what harm can it do? Suddenly, an image invaded her mind of her lying vacant and drooling in a hospital bed, but she stubbornly pushed it away. It wasn't like it was going to work anyway, but if it did … the idea was too captivating to be ignored.
Yet, she knew that there was something more for her here. Something important. The more she looked around, the more a feeling of fate filled her mind. Here she was in a store where fantasies, abilities … love could be distilled into little bottles and sold to anyone. Even her. Especially her. After last night, it couldn't be a coincidence, and that was the scariest thought of all. Regardless, she couldn't walk away. There was something here just for her. Something that could change everything. She knew it, and she wasn't going to be to leave behind.
Then, there it was. Under the heading of EMOTIONAL ENHANCERS, Lizzie found a subsection simply entitled Love Potions. Unlike the other shelves, this one was divided into subcategories. A white label "Sweethearts" was taped to a shelf of mismatched pink bottles while "Lusters" tagged a shelf of brick red clay jars. As she looked over the wide variety of products, a bright red perfume bottle caught her eye. It stood on a shelf marked "Passions," and as she picked it up, she felt a steady warmth against her palm.
A chill settled in Lizzie's gut as she read those words. Could someone really bind another to them like that? Enslaving his will and overcoming his reason? Forever? Things like love couldn't be real if they were drugged into life, could they? She imagined being the infected one and shuddered. To become a mindless emotional slave to someone would be hell. She couldn't do that to someone else. She couldn't force him. It just wasn't right.
But as she moved to replace the bottle, Liam's soul-crashing words invaded her mind again. "Not nearly pretty enough to tempt me…Ratty wallflower" If this worked, she would be MORE than pretty enough to tempt anyone. To have a guy look at her as if she were the only woman in the world? To look into his eyes, and see love and desire for HER burn there? What wouldn't she do for something like that? The thought alone was … intoxicating even as wrong as she knew this potion was. Her arm shook in time with her inner battle even as she felt the familiar burn of want in her chest.
"Ahh, one of our bestsellers," said a mild voice behind her, "But did you really come in for something like that, love?"
Lizzie jumped. As she hurriedly replaced Burning Love back on the shelf, she yelped in surprise as the bottles clinked together and started to fall. She was forced to juggle a few as they tried to fly off the ledge. Yet, somehow she managed to put everything back into place. As she turned to face the speaker, her face burned in embarrassment. But from considering buying "Burning Love" or simply being caught alone in an empty store, she didn't want to know. When she saw who was behind her, she forced herself to relax. It was just a woman.
She must have been older than Lizzie because her braided brown hair was highlighted with silver. Yet her skin was very smooth- excepting her multi-colored hands, where the remains of countless substances stained her fingers. She was dressed simply in jeans and a dark blue t-shirt, and seemed to be in the middle of sweeping the already spotless floor. A name badge dubbed her Marge, though her name could have been anything and it would have fit; she was that nondescript. But her eyes, they were beyond extraordinary. In the light of the shop, Lizzie could have sworn that they were every color of the rainbow and yet, no color at all. They looked into Lizzie's eyes in such a knowing way as though Marge had heard every one of Lizzie's thoughts, forcing her to look away shamefully.
"I-I'm sorry," she stammered, the Living Dreams' potion suddenly slippery with sweaty from her hand, "I'll just get this and go. Is that alright?"
Marge looked thoughtful. "Why would a pretty lass like you have need for love mess abouts?"
She had a very soft English accent; her voice reminded Lizzie of her grandmother, understanding and kind. She felt a sudden urge to trust her. Before the thought had even fully formed, she heard herself blurt out, "I'm not pretty! I'm very plain. Everyone says so." Tears prickled at the corners of her eyes, and she felt them start to run down her cheeks. "I can't even get asked to dance."
She took a deep breath and returned Marge's sympathetic gaze. "I'm not pretty," she repeated more quietly but with the same certainty.
Marge was silent for a seemingly eternal moment. Lizzie could feel her sizing her up. She tried not to fidget, but was unsuccessful. At one point, she thought she heard Marge murmur something like "-in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes." Then, Marge really spoke and Lizzie was sure she had imagined it.
"Burning Love won't make you happy."
Lizzie was caught off guard. "Huh?"
"That potion won't make you happy, love." She shrugged and laid the broom against the opposite shelf, "Well, you might enjoy it in the beginning. Everyone loves to be adored. But a day would come, sooner rather than later, when it would be too much. Every day, you would know that each 'I love you' was forced from him. That in a natural world, he probably wouldn't have looked twice at you. It would sour the world for you, and you would tried to unsuccessfully push him away. But he could never leave. You'd be miserable, and you'd take him with you."
"Only if it had worked," Lizzie muttered defensively. Hadn't she thought the same thing? But it was still stung to hear.
Marge smiled enigmatically. "My potions and elixirs always work."
She reached down plucked out a ruby red crystal bottle off the shelf labeled 'Eternals.' She gazed at it for a moment before handing it to Lizzie.
Lizzie looked at Marge incredulously. "True Love's Game?"
Marge nodded. "That's what you really want, love. Every gentleman who could love you will be drawn to you. They will not be able to help it; they will notice certain things about you that will just reel them in. And by the time the potion has run its course, you could have a love to rival the storybooks."
The little bottle tingled in her hand, and she thought about all the pointed remarks she'd endured over the years. Not only the most recent ones from Liam, but also earlier ones from her family and people at school. Look at what she's wearing …Fat heifer… no guy wants to date a girl who looks so dumpy, sweetheart … not nearly pretty enough … ratty wallflower. Her greatest fear was living her life without ever finding love. And now, here in her hand, might be the end to all of that. Or maybe it's more of a beginning, she thought. How could she say no?
"I'll take them," she said decisively, clutching her two potions tightly in her hands.
But as she turned towards the counter, Marge's voice stopped her. "Two words of warning, pet," she said.
Lizzie just looked at her.
"First, do not drink the two potions too close together. Mixing them even a little bit is dangerous, and they will never be able to act in their destined ways. Promise me, love, that you will wait at least a month before using the second one?" She waited until Lizzie had nodded before continuing, "Second, True Love's Game has a catch. You have to choose your eternal love and let him know before six months are up. And choose well or you may never find happiness."
Lizzie swallowed. "How will I know who to choose? How will I let him know?"
Marge only raised an eyebrow.
Lizzie sighed. "That's part of the game, I'm guessing."
"Do you still want to buy them?" Marge asked gently.
Lizzie looked down at the glittering ruby bottle in her hand. Could she really risk everything for one chance at finding true love? As every romantic daydream flew across her mind, she knew the answer was a resounding yes. Her hand tightened reflexively around the little container as she confidently looked Marge in the eye. "How much do I owe you?"
When she left the shop, Lizzie was slightly embarressed to find that she knew exactly how to get home from here. She couldn't imagine what had made the street look so unfamiliar before. Or so empty. She watched as several people moved slowly down the street looking in other shop windows. Weird, she thought. She shrugged before looking down at the small paper bag in her hand. As she thought about her new purchases, she smiled brightly and realized that really, getting lost hadn't been so bad after all.
Posted on 2012-07-18
From the Journal of Liam Darcy
Blast Charlie! Blast him straight down to hell! I told him that I wasn't here to mess about with the locals! He KNEW that I only agreed to come and visit because he SWORE that there would be no distractions! That I would be able to work in peace! I should have known better. Charlie couldn't turn down an invitation if the fate of the world depended on it. And of course, he couldn't have possibly gone on his own. Nope, not bloody Charlie. And then I had to go and put my foot right in it. I will never forget the look in that girl's eyes. She looked as though I had destroyed something precious right there next to the refreshments.
To be honest, I thought she was just another fangirl. I mean she looked like one, wearing jeans and a colorful hippie top exactly like a plain clothes convention goer. Plus, she seemed to recognize me. After doing so many ComicCons or Fantasy Conventions, I know the exact moment when they recognize me. They get this star-struck wide-eyed look on their faces like they saw a bleeding solar eclipse or something. Well, I wasn't at this thing as Liam Darcy Author of the Dragonium series, waiting for the nerds to congregate and ask the same stupid questions. I was there at that "party" on my own damn time, and as my own damn man. She could have bloody well dealt with it.
But she didn't. I tried to ignore her. Really I did. But bugger it if she wasn't suddenly everywhere. She was at the refreshment table while I was by the cheap fake fern or standing in the nearest corner while I sat in the chair by the door. It pissed me off. I watched out of the corner of my eye as she sort of followed me around the room. I wanted her to just get it over with and SAY what she must have wanted to say so we could move on. But she never did...well anything. So, now that I have to wonder if maybe it hadn't all been a simple coincidence? I don't know, but it had been a smallish room for a dance. Maybe it had all just been innocent.
Still I had had enough on my mind already without the added worry of some would-be fangirl. Georgie emailed me today. She sounded so guarded. As if she was writing to a stranger or something. I'm worried that she's having night terrors again. And it's all my fault. Thought I could handle it on my own, never even warned her. Bloody Wickham! I wish I could eviscerate the little prick. But with Georgie as bad as she is … I will have to leave it alone. At least until she's better. Now this girl is another unwanted addition to my already high mountain of problems. That final look in her eyes, I can't get it out of my mind. I know that Georgie is the person I should be focusing on, not some sad, shy co-ed. But I can't seem to get past the heartbreaking stare of her green eyes.
Looking back, I knew as soon as Charlie walked off the dance floor and moved towards me that this would become a nightmare. Our talk is still running through my head. I've always had a good memory for conversations; it's part of my job. This one wouldn't have been anything special, but because of what followed, I doubt I'll ever forget it.
"Darcy, lighten up. You look like an idiot, standing about and glaring. They'll all think you didn't want to come," he said once he thought I was within hearing.
"I didn't."I answered, rolling my eyes. Sometimes Charlie can be as dense as a brick wall. But maybe he was only kidding. I remember thinking then that it was hard to remember why we were even friends.
"But they don't have to know that," he replied back, pausing to smile at some blonde on the dance floor, "Just smile and act like you're enjoying yourself. That's all I'm asking. Heaven forbid, but you might have some fun by accident."
He then actually tried to physically push me into the throng of dancers! I turned and glared at him, wondering briefly whether Charlie had always been such a prat or if he was just drunk. By the end of the night when he was stumbling about and muttering about 'an angel's wishes', I knew it was a little bit of both. Then, he smiled only unapologetically and said, "Come on, man, not even you can be so indifferent in the presence of so many pretty girls."
As I watched him glance again at that blonde, I grew suspicious. Had someone put him up to this? Looking back, it seems obvious. He was too fidgety, always moving his hands about and glancing at that bloody blonde every few seconds. I began to wonder if she hadn't asked him to ask me if I would dance with her. Bloody women. Sometimes I really hate them. "I don't know what you mean."
Strangely, now that I think about it, Charlie almost looked relieved when I said this. I guess he didn't what to encourage me poaching his bird. He looked around for a replacement. After a moment, his eyes focused on someone behind me. "How about her?"he asked, pointing, "She looks very nice, pretty too and you know … available."
Curious, I turned to look. When my eyes met those of my would-be fangirl, my anger at Charlie boiled over. It was that damnable hope still in her eyes that did it. All my life but especially since I became famous, women have been giving me that look. They have these starry-eyed expectations of me, maybe because of how I look or how much money I have or because of something they've read. They think they know me when they don't know me from Adam. And I am so so TIRED of it! In that moment, looking into this girl's eyes, I wanted to push those expectations out of her mind once and for all. I wanted someone to see ME as just a man - even being a jerk seemed better than some pedestaled idol - no matter what the cost.
So I turned back to Charlie, and said as coldly as I could, "She's okay, I guess, but not nearly pretty enough to tempt me. I'm not here to salvage the evening for some ratty wallflower because she couldn't manage to find a partner."
Even as the words left my mouth, I regretted them. No one deserves to be insulted especially a girl I haven't really met. As though Fate agreed with me, the whole room went quiet just in time for her to hear every word. I watched as she moved away from the refreshment table and out towards the dance floor. Then she turned and looked at me. The thought crossed my mind that I should try and tell her I'm sorry. But as soon as our eyes met, the words died on my lips. I was just … too stunned by her gaze to do much of anything.
Her eyes were the darkest green I had ever seen. Or maybe will ever seen again. To my horror, they grew even darker as I watched tears them fill with tears. Tears which I had caused. Then she blinked, and not a single one fell. Afterward, she forced a smile before disappearing into the dancing masses.
During the rest of the evening, I caught glimpses of her, dancing, talking or just laughing. She looked like she was having a great time. You would never have known how close she had been to tears only a few hours before. But I knew. She never looked back in my direction. But I could still see her unshed tears in my mind's eye. The hurt that her pride had forced her to swallow because of what I said. And now, after writing this, I realize how brave she was. Not to mention how much of a prick I am. Cause really none of this has been Charlie's fault. He hadn't made me say those things. He only forced me be there. Those words were all me, and I have never felt more ashamed.
Posted on 2012-08-24
With every step she took away from Which Brew? and the mysterious Marge, Lizzie had felt more and more the fool. Who in their right mind would trust a POTION to change their life? You'd have to be either crazy or desperate to even consider it. And things weren't really that bad, were they?
By the time her house came in sight, she had hidden the little bottles away in her purse. There was no way that she was going to tell any of her family how close she had come to taking a love potion. She remembered the time that Katie had experimented with hair dye, and ended up with clown red hair. Even now, she could hear her father whistling circus-style music as he passed her sister in the halls. It happened so often that even Jane was humming the songs. In the end, Katie never dyed her hair again.
She cringed as she thought about what could be in store for her if they ever found out. She could already hear them singing "Love Potion Number 9" as she walked into a room. Or they'd start humming it in the hallways. She'd go mad before the week was out. Not to mention the "You're such a disappointment..." lecture she was sure to get from her mother. Yeah, best to keep everything on the down low. What they didn't know won't hurt her.
She tried to act causal as she walked into the house, moving slowly but confidently towards her bedroom. It didn't work.
"LIZZIE! WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN!"
She cringed, but reluctantly turned to face her mother. Before Time had stepped up its relentless attack, Ashley Bennet had been a very attractive woman. With hair still as red as ever and bright sea-green eyes, it was easy to see that this was Jane Bennet's mother. Yet, clothes and make-up that worked for some 20 year olds, didn't necessarily look as good on a 47 year old body. Lizzie didn't need a degree in fashion to know that the dress her mother was wearing now wouldn't have looked out of place on a street corner at three in the morning. Years of trying to banish the effects of age had only succeeded in making her look older and more artificial.
Her glory days, if she had ever had any, were long over, and she knew it. Often when Mrs. Bennet looked at her daughters, an air of desperation seemed to engulf her. It was in her eyes, mostly; this almost panic-filled look as if she reached for something precious, and it kept slipping through her fingers. She knew that the only limelight she'd ever see now would be shining off her daughters. Having a daughter like Jane must have been a great relief to her mother, but Lizzie … that was another story.
They just didn't get along, and they hadn't for years. Her mother didn't talk to her so much as lecture; it was a good day if they managed to ignore each other. That used to be a common occurrence, but lately things had changed. Lizzie had lost her job at the local bookstore a few months back, and she hadn't been able to find a new one. Seeing his daughter's frustration, her father had offered up a temporary solution; if she agreed to do a few extra chores and make dinner a few times a week, then he would be willing to pay for the next semester of school and the occasional little bit extra. Relieved, Lizzie had agreed. Yet, lately, she'd come to regret it.
Though it was certainly a contributing factor, it wasn't really the work load that had her down. No, it was the way her mother treated her. Overnight, she had become an employee, not a daughter. Her mother now felt entitled to a say in how Lizzie spend her day, calling her at random times and demanding to know where she was, what she was doing, and why she wasn't doing something productive for the family. Then, she would give Lizzie a list of errands and chores that she needed done by the end of the day. These lists could become seemingly endless as her mother added to it constantly as new tasks occurred to her.
Her controlling reach extended to her daughter's shopping habits; Lizzie was no shopaholic, but her mother resigned every dollar Lizzie spent on herself, no matter how small the amount. She hated to see a cent wasted even when the 'waste' was only her opinion. Lizzie remembered one time she bought a new backpack for school, and when her mother saw it, she couldn't stop vomiting up criticism.
"How much did you pay for that ratty looking thing? You never did have any taste. And what a drab little color. If you'd come to me, I could showed you where you could get something pretty and for half the price, I bet! But you never could accept that someone else might know better than you! Well, look where it's got you! Living off our charity like some entitled like princess with a trashy little bookbag. Paid for with our money! You don't see Jane settling for leeching off her parents, do you? No, she's out there working for her next gig and dating men with good prospects. Honestly, I despair for you, Miss Lizzie. I've told your father that he should have let you fight your own battles. That if he had just shown you a little more tough-love, we'd all be better off. But he had to fix your finance mess. Well, I won't have you wasting our money, Lizzie, I just won't!..." And on and on and on. One would think she was stealing food out of her baby sister's mouth, the way her mother carried on. It made her head hurt just thinking about it.
She shifted uncomfortably, and tightened her arm around her purse. What would happen if her mother found the results of today's little adventure? Nothing good, she knew. She fought the urge to hide her purse behind her back. Don't draw attention. Be calm and maybe this'll be quick and painless, she told herself. Well, almost painless, she amended realistically.
"I asked you a question, Miss Lizzie, and I expect an answer," she continued in a quieter but no less angry voice. But Lizzie had barely opened her mouth to answer before her mother started talking again. "You didn't even think about any of us, did you? Before waltzing out about town on your own? Spoiled, selfish brat. We needed you here! There were chores to be done, things to get ready, but where was Miss Lizzie? Nowhere to be found. But that was your plan all along, wasn't it? As soon as it is time to work, you slither out and leave it for the rest of us. What are we paying you for? Lazy, ungrateful …Well, I won't have it!"
Lizzie sighed; her mother was itching for an argument. Again. "I didn't know that we had any special plans, Mom," she answered quietly, "And I thought I had finished today's chores before I left."
Ashley Bennet's eyes narrowed. "What day is it?"
Lizzie blinked, confused. "What?"
"What …day…is…it?" Her mother slowly enunciated each word like she was talking to a small child. Or an idiot.
"Saturday," Lizzie answered just as carefully.
"And what makes this Saturday so important?"
Her mother's continued patronizing tone was grating on her nerves. After such a late night, Lizzie had still gotten up to make sure that the things that needed to be done were done just like she did every day. The least her mother could do was let her have the rest of the day to recoup. Her late night had even been her mother's fault. She hadn't wanted to go to the party, but her mother had insisted that Jane could not go alone. So Lizzie had gone along because it was better than staying and dealing with the fallout. Look at how well that had turned out.
She could feel all the words that she wanted to say bubbling up the back of her throat; yet, she clenched her jaw against them. Oh, she wanted so much to just let it all out like one big verbal expulsion! Still, ultimately, it wouldn't be worth the momentary satisfaction. One word would be enough to start another world war in the Bennet household, and the rest of the day and night would be shot to heck. She couldn't win especially when her mother was in this mood. Don't start a fight … it will take all night. Don't start a fight … it will take all night, she chanted to herself and didn't answer.
It was just as well because her mother answered for her. "It's the Saturday before Jane's birthday. Did you forget or are you really that selfish? Well, which is it?" She paused, glaring at her daughter. Yet she still didn't give her much time to answer before continuing, "Per your sister's request, we're having a little dinner party in her honor next Friday. Everything must be perfect. So the bathrooms and kitchen need to be cleaned as soon as possible. We can't leave everything to last minute AGAIN, Lizzie. Don't think I forgot about last time! When the upstairs restroom didn't get completely cleaned, so we had to hide the disgusting tub behind that old shower curtain. Dirt everywhere… disgusting! And why? Because Little Miss Lizzie was too busy to do her part for her family. Never again! I've never been so embarrassed! Then you came down in that awful bag dress, and I just about died of shame!"
You bought it for me. Aloud she asked, "When did we decide to have the party Friday? I thought we were going to wait until next week."
Her mother scowled. "Well, if you'd only take the time to listen to the rest of us, you'd know! But that would be too much to ask from Lizzie! It would take too much time away from her precious books. Do you even care about your sisters' prospects? Or their feelings?"
Lizzie took a fortifying breath. Here we go. "What are you talking about, Mother? What prospects?"
Her mother gave her a look that screamed her poor opinion of her daughter's intelligence. "Charlie Bingley is renting the Old Netherfield House round the corner. Jane met him in town last week, remember? Clearly they hit it off because she told me that he hardly left her alone last night! He owns one of those big helicopter manufacturing companies, and he's loaded. I bet some of his friends are even richer! Think what this could mean for Jane!" She watched her mother's eyes glaze over. What it would mean for you, you mean, thought Lizzie inwardly scoffing at her mother's priorities. "I knew that she can't be so beautiful for nothing! She's going to be such a star! And what class she'll bring into our family! Then, Katie can have a chance to meet someone grand! Can you imagine?"
Lizzie couldn't hold back a small disbelieving sigh, and Ashley Bennet's eyes focused again on her daughter with a scowl. "What?"
"Katie is only 17 years old, Mother. She can hardly be in the market for a husband."
"Not yet," her mother corrected, "But it's never too early to begin preparing for these things. It's something I've learned from experience." Lizzie winced; her mother only talked about experience when she was referring to her. To her mother, she lacked any worthy feminine attributes at all; this long-held belief had been cemented as fact in Ashley Bennet since Lizzie was a little girl. Her mother had never forgiven her for quitting the child pageant scene at age seven. Jane had loved it and been good at it, but Lizzie… she hugged herself protectively. She didn't like to think about those days. The hours of poking, prodding, and pushing for a few minutes before silent staring judges, and all chorographed to the soundtrack of her mother's 'loving advice.' Jane had thrived, but Lizzie had always felt two inches tall. Sometimes she still felt that way. Like now.
"You were so cute as a little girl, all ribbons and cute little dresses! But you never let me guide you towards your full potential! Always fighting me on EVERYTHING until Rich had no choice but to let you quit. Now, look at you. A book addict using her parents' money to feed her addiction. You've really let yourself go. Young men court with their eyes first, honey, and you're certainly not going to get a second glance the way you're looking."
Her mother took a step forward; her face was now inches from Lizzie's own, but her daughter stood her ground. Even with tears prickling in her eyes, she refused to concede anything to her mother even space. "You've become a fat failure, Miss Lizzie," said her mother too sincerely, her breath reeking of peppermint, "And the sooner you realize this, the sooner you can start to change. I wouldn't bother to tell you these things if I didn't love you. Yet, you're still fighting me, and I'll be damned if I let it continue!"
Lizzie just stood there stunned; her mother had never insulted her so straight-forwardly before, and to claim love as the excuse was like a slap in the face. She had thought that she had gotten past the hurt years ago, but she'd been wrong. Lizzie felt like that shy little girl all over again. Her mother's plainer dress-up doll, seeing the angry disappointment on her mother's face as her daughter failed to bring home the big trophy for the third time. Lizzie realized at that moment that that had been when her relationship with her mother had begun to change. Seeing her daughter's failure as a little girl, she stopped being a mother and became a critic, and that would never change. She felt defeated; her shoulders slumped a bit, her arms now dangled at her sides.
Then, her mother struck, grabbing Lizzie's purse from off her shoulder.
"Hey!" Lizzie shouted, reaching for her bag, but it was too late. She heard the two bottles clink loudly together, and she knew from the look on her mother's face that she had heard it too. Don't open it, Lizzie silently commanded, but her mother was already taking out the potions.
"What's this?" she asked, and Lizzie watched in amazement as her mother turned the little potions round and round in her hands as though the label was invisible.
"Organic Perfume," Lizzie answered, managing to hide her smile at her mother's confusion. She was just so relieved that the conversation was moving on that she almost felt optimistic again. Almost.
"Perfume? Why would you buy perfume? What would you even need it for?" Lizzie's anxiety level again as she watched her mother uncork Living Dreams.
With each movement of her hand, her mother filled the room with an astonishing variety of scents: the tantalizing smell of cherry blossoms and strawberries, the exotic subtleties of jasmine, the refreshing essence of the world just after it rains, and some that Lizzie couldn't even name. They twisted and flowed into one another, the scent changing with each breath. It was a delicate balance that magically never became overpowering.
It was like nothing Lizzie could ever remember smelling before and yet it reminded her of so many things. Springtime and walking through the park with her family on Easter Sunday or watching the sunset over a lake, her face kissed by a breeze colored by the fragrance of wildflowers and contentment. Movie moments that she had always envied played through her mind. Family outings as she'd always wanted them to be; hopes she had tried not to allow herself to have joined in the parade of pleasant thoughts. She relaxed as these half-remembered dreams and unspoken longings pervaded her mind, soothing it into a state of semi-consciousness.
"You never wear it," her mother continued unabated in the background, "Even when I'd especially laid it out for you, ribbon-wrapped, you never …" she trailed off, and Lizzie looked up in time to see her mother's expression change.
The angry look in her eyes softened, and though her skin was usually too tight for pleasant expressions, she smiled the first real smile that Lizzie had seen on her mother's face in, she couldn't remember how long. It was small, but it made her look … not dreamy exactly but thoughtful as though she recognized that something lovely was beginning to fall into place. Absentmindedly, she re-corked the bottle and put it back into Lizzie's purse, which she then calmly handed back to her thoroughly shocked daughter. When her mother's expression returned to normal as the scents cleared away, Lizzie almost breathed a sigh of relief. Her mother angry, yelling and judgmental, she could handle, but silent and thoughtful? That's was just too weird.
"Your father will be home in a few hours," her mother said, as though nothing had happened, "I expect dinner finished, the laundry folded and the guest bathroom cleaned before he gets here or so help me, Miss Lizzie, you won't see a dime of your wages for this week!"
Lizzie didn't reply. She simply turned towards her bedroom and walked away. For once, her mother didn't press for an answer and just let her go. After a step or two, she glanced back and saw her mother staring vaguely in her direction with that same thoughtful expression on her face. She was so quiet that at any other time, Lizzie would have been worried. Never in her life had her mother just let her go like that; she saw such a lack of a reply as a sign of blatant disrespect. And, after everything she'd just said, she was now so silent … creepily so. But today, Lizzie's mind was too full to worry about her mother.
She turned away and continued towards her bedroom, shaking her head slightly in wonder. That smell … there weren't words to describe how enchanting that had been. It filled the room in a matter of seconds and changed … well everything. She almost swooned under its influence and felt more content than she had in years. She could still feel its effects in the back of her mind, tugging dusty old dreams out into the light and making them seem more possible than she had ever thought before. And her mother … that proved the existence of magic. She had been in the middle of a truly awful lecture, and suddenly it was over. Her mother hadn't even been angry anymore. It was a miracle.
All of that had happened because of its smell. So how much more potent would drinking the potions be? Just the thought boggled the mind and filled her with a very giddy impatience. Like a kid on Christmas morning, she couldn't wait to open her new toys and try them out.
She sighed as she walked into her room; much as she wanted to take it now, it would have to wait. As usual, she had chores to do. And really, she thought as she absentmindedly gazed at the movie posters covering her bedroom walls, this was something that should be done in private. After all, who wants an audience at a time like that? She shrugged and smiled as she carefully hid the potions in the top drawer of her dresser. Patience is a virtue, after all, right? Besides, she thought as she left the room, with all the stuff I have to do, time is going to fly by.
But it didn't.
She'd always thought her home was a decent size. Not large exactly especially when compared to some of their neighbors, but big enough. Today, though, it seemed so…cramped. Hours, she was sure, must have flown by as she cleaned the bathroom. Yet, when she had finished, the clock only declared that one hour had elapsed. Faced with a dismal amount of clothes to fold, she knew that this afternoon would continue to drag. She wanted to be in her room, taking that first step towards a better life. Instead …she cursed under her breath but sat down and began the process of taming the mountain.
She felt off; her movements a little jerky and unfocused, but she didn't care. Her mind was consumed by the contents of one little drawer in her room. After feeling the effects of the smell, she no longer doubted that the potion would work. Now, endless questions flooded her mind. What sort of changes were about to happen? What would her potential admirers be like? Would they be tall or short? Would they make her laugh and take her on romantic walks through the park? She had zero relationship experience. With only the movies and stories as her guide, her imagination ran wild, and her anticipation skyrocketed.
Lulled by her rhythmic folding, she slipped easily into daydreams. She imagined that they would meet at Jane's dinner party on Friday. Tall, dark and handsome, he'd be a friend of a friend or maybe even a party-crasher. He'd walk in, look around, and their eyes would meet. Enchanted by his electric gaze, she'd watch a slow dazzling smile spread across his face at the sight of her, and she'd just know that he's her forever guy. They'd talk for hours, and …
Someone shook her and she nearly jumped out of her skin. Heart pounding, Lizzie looked up sharply and found herself looking into Jane's blue eyes. "Lizzie," she said with concern, "Are you alright?"
Remembering her daydreams, Lizzie felt her cheeks burn with embarrassment. "Fine," she said, her voice shaky from her crash back to reality.
Naturally, Jane looked unconvinced. "Really? You seemed really out of it when I came in. Are you sure?" she replied. Then, she looked uncertain for a moment before continuing in a softer voice, "I heard about what happened at the party last night. I can't believe anyone would say something so cruel. And within your hearing too." She shook her head in sad disbelief.
Lizzie winced. "You know about that?"
Jane nodded. 'Everyone's talking about it." She paused before reaching over and placing a comforting hand on her sister's arm. "Do you want to talk about it?"
Lizzie thought for a moment. So much had changed since last night and for the better, in her opinion. She now had a way out of the rut that had been her life for so long; she supposed she had Liam to thank for that. She'd never be a ratty wallflower again. She smiled, I bet he just loves to be of service. "No, I'm okay, Jane, really," she answered, "Remember what Dad always says? 'Just be a duck and let the insults roll off your back like water'" She laughed. "It's about time I took some of the old man's advice."
Jane sighed. "Okay," she said dubiously, "If you're sure. But you know that I am here for you, if you need me."
"I know." Lizzie's smile warmed with affection for her sister. Yeah, there were times, a lot of times, where frankly, life would be so much easier if her sister was a Plain Jane instead of a Beauty Jane. She was annoying and far too preoccupied with appearances, but sometimes Lizzie couldn't help but love her anyway. "Thank you, Jane."
Jane looked down, shyly embarrassed. "You're welcome."
They sat in companionable silence while Lizzie finished up the last of the clothes.
"So," Jane began, "What are your plans for dinner?"
Lizzie thought for a minute, glancing at the clock on the wall to make sure she had enough time. "I'm thinking hamburgers. Mom bought some frozen fries that last time she went shopping so it should be easy."
Jane nodded. "Need any help?" she asked.
"Not with the food, but if you could put these clothes away, I would be eternally grateful."
Jane agreed and Lizzie left her to it. The kitchen wasn't a large room but it was manageable. Lizzie whistled unconsciously as she got out everything she needed and started the grill. She felt calmer now that she'd talked to Jane and heard the gossip from the previous night. This potion thing … it was no longer a slightly naughty bit of magical excitement, like some weird adrenaline high. No, now this felt like the right thing to do, as though it was her destiny or something. True Love's Game had been brewed just for her, she knew, and whatever happened after she took it, that was meant to be too. It was a strangely comforting thought.
She had finished dinner when she heard her dad walk through the front door. She began putting his plate together just how he liked it (Except for the onions. She never touched them if she could help it.) She had scarcely put the fries on the plate when her dad walked into the kitchen. Richard Bennet was a tall man, and had been quite a looker when he was younger but time had turned him portly. He was a professor of literature at the local community college, and Lizzie could tell with a look that today had been a long day. He just looked done in; his entire face dulled by whatever had happened at work. She knew from experience that he would need quiet, and so she simply handed him his plate before starting to prepare her own.
"Hey, sweetheart," he said, "How was your day?"
"Pretty good," she answered, "Did some shopping."
"Anything good?" His smile was tired but Lizzie was glad to see it. He really didn't smile enough.
So she smiled back. "I think so," she answered innocently.
"Good, good," he replied already walking towards the doorway, "You'll have to tell me all about it later."
Lizzie waited a few seconds for him to get out of deafening range before grabbing her plate and yelling at the top of her lungs, "DINNER'S READY! COME AND GET IT!"
"LIZZIE!" she heard her mother call back. "Couldn't you have just brought it to us?"
Not so long as my family has working legs. "Sorry," she said loudly, "But I'm already down the hall!"
Smiling a little at the music pulsing from Katie's room, she reached up and knocked on the door. "Hurry up, Squirt," she shouted over the din, "Before Mom and Jane eat it all!"
The music didn't even pause.
"DINNER!" Lizzie bellowed. No response.
Lizzie sighed and turned the knob. Walking into her sister's room, she was surprised by how much it had changed. She didn't make a habit of invading Katie's privacy, and it had been a while since she'd taken a proper look around her sister's sanctuary. Sure, there were still plenty of teen scene posters of actors and musicians hanging from her walls, but around them were several beautiful hand-drawn pictures. Black and white roses, colorful landscapes and animal silhouettes stood out as artistic gems; their details lovingly sketched to realistic proportions.
In a line above the bed's headboard hung a hand-drawn fashion show. All the models were faceless and irrelevant, but the clothes they wore … even Lizzie could tell that some of them were beautiful. From bright colors with dramatic lines to formal black, each piece was unique. Some were dresses, both causal and ballroom appropriate, while some looked like pant suits. There was a golden, modest two-piece swimsuit. By the time her eyes fell on Katie, Lizzie realized that while she had known for a long time of her sister's artistic talent, she hadn't known that it had developed into a passion.
As Lizzie crossed the small room, Katie didn't even look up from where she sat in the middle of her bed; she was too busy drawing. As she looked at her little sister, Lizzie was struck by how much Katie looked like a shorter dark-haired version of Jane. Yet, she couldn't remember her mother ever treating her the same way as their older sister. She never had to participate in child pageants nor did their mother ever make such a fuss over Katie's beauty. True, their mother never forgot that she had a third daughter, but she didn't really pay much attention to her either. With a flash of guilt, Lizzie realized that her mother wasn't the only one.
She didn't know what was going on in her little sister's life; she had no clue want her goals or ambitions were. Heck, now that she thought about it, she didn't know much of her basic likes or dislikes either. Lizzie had been so caught up in her own drama that she had missed out on her sister's life. Katie would be graduating high school in a year, and she didn't even know her future plans. Well, she thought, There's still time to change that.
"Katie!" she called as she placed her plate onto the dresser.
Katie jumped, slamming her sketch pad upside-down on the bed; her eyes still glazed over as she looked up, her mind still lost in the world of her drawing. As she focused on her sister, she scowled in annoyance. "Lizzie," Katie said as she reached over a finally shut off her music, "What are you doing in here?"
"Well, I was walking by and the thought popped into my head, 'Katie might like to know that dinner is ready.' So…" She smiled at her sister's embarrassed blush.
"Oh," Katie replied, looking away, "You've been calling for a while now?"
"A bit, yeah," her sister answered.
Awkwardness descended for a moment before Lizzie asked, "So what are you working on?"
Katie looked up, her fingers fiddling with the back corner of her sketch pad. Slowly, nervously, she turned it over and handed it to her sister. She didn't say anything, and after the hand-off, her attention turned back to her bed's coverlet. After giving Katie a brief glance, she looked down at her sister's latest drawing and gasped.
It was a beautiful gown with a half-drawn ballroom background. The top half was a very streamlined bodice, slim-fitting and lovely, framed by simple ruffled sleeves. The bottom half was a wide rippling waterfall of fabric. A bright sapphire blue, little silver stars peeked among the folds of cloth, trailing up into a butterfly constellation embroidered on the bodice. It was a dress that a princess meets her prince in, and Lizzie loved it.
"It's beautiful," she said awed.
"I designed it," Katie replied simply.
Lizzie looked up sharply; her eyes sweeping across the drawn fashion show. "But that would mean…?"
Katie nodded. "Yep, they're mine too."
"How long have you been doing this?"
Katie shrugged. "A year or so maybe." She paused before saying quietly, "I just realized one day that it wasn't enough to make beautiful pictures. I wanted to help make something that made people feel beautiful too."
Then, she turned to Lizzie and said pleadingly, "Please don't tell Mom."
Lizzie looked confused. "Why not? Fashion is one of the things Mom thrives on."
"No, it's something she has to have her say in," Katie insisted, "She could never be simply a proud mother. She's become my harshest critic, always putting her two bits in on my every design. She'd never see any beauty in my visions because she'd always be looking for ways to improve it. Her suggestions would drive me nuts!"
Lizzie couldn't argue with that. Her mother drove her crazy now; she didn't want to think about how much more frustrating it could be if her mother really tried to mold her. "Okay," she promised, "I won't tell Mom."
Smiling, Katie pulled her into a hug. "Thanks, Lizzie."
"Okay, okay," she said, embarrassed. Hugs weren't something that she was used to; her family wasn't exactly known to be affectionate. Uncomfortable, she quickly pulled away, and went over to pick up her now lukewarm burger. "Try to get dinner before it becomes uneatable."
"Okay, I just want to finish this. Won't a minute," came her sister's reply, but as Lizzie closed the door, she heard the music start up again.
She shook her head, thinking that no matter how much some things changed, other things never did. That must be why someone invented microwaves, she continued, so their little sibling could taste hot food for once. She thought about all she had just learned about her little sister, and was amazed. Sometimes she still thought of Katie as that little girl in pigtails dancing to the Alphabet song, but she had grown up. She wasn't simply her baby sister anymore; she had become a friend.
When she reached her room, she wolfed down the burger like she hadn't eaten in ages, which, now that she thought about it, was the case. She'd been too busy and upset to eat this morning, and there hadn't been time in the afternoon. And what an afternoon! She smiled as she finished her first meal of the day, her eyes lingering on the now all important drawer. It was time.
Slowly, with all the ceremony of Galahad picking up the Holy Grail, she opened the drawer and took out the little bottle of True Love's Game. Turning it over in her hand, she read the instructions:
Lizzie felt her palms start to sweat and butterflies fluttered about in her newly filled stomach. The words may never find true happiness played on a loop through her mind. This was madness. Was she really going to bet her entire happiness on one bottle of liquid? Could she risk it all on only the possibility of happily ever after? She looked around at the posters on her walls. There was always a moment in stories where the hero or heroine did something incredibly stupid for a cause that ended up not being worth very much. It changed everything, often not in a good way. Now, faced with her own can't-come-back-from-this moment, she had to wonder if she was about to make her own stupid choice. Would she come to regret drinking this potion?
And yet … she knew that she would regret and wonder what if for the rest of her life if she didn't take it. So there wasn't really a choice anymore; she'd already made it. "It's better to risk everything and fail, then to never have a chance at all," she told herself softly.
Quickly, before she could second guess herself again, she popped the cork. Instantly, her room was filled with the scent of freshly cut roses and crisp mountain air. It was a soothing smell, a promising smell, and she felt her body relax as she breathed it in. I'm doing the right thing, she told herself, it is destiny. Carefully, she brought the bottle to her lips and drank it every last drop.
Posted on 2012-08-27
Today was a superbly unproductive mess. I wish I could say that it was unique. There's not much worse than a blank computer screen at the end of a long day. Richie is already on my case. He's not going to be happy when I ask for another extension. I might have to actually beg him to get it approved. This book has already taken longer to put together than any of my others. It's so humiliating to have to ask for even more time, but I'm out of options. I can't manufacture more time on my own, and I am NOT going to put my name on crap.
Frankly, at this point, I want to lock all of my characters into a room, light a fuse and blow them halfway to hell. That would be so satisfying and so tempting. Yet… I have heard about what happened to Sir Artie Doyle when he killed off Sherlock Holmes. Riots, hate mail, the whole shebang; if her hadn't brought the detective back, I bet he would have never lived it down. Now, I'm not as good a writer as Sir Arthur, but my readers would crucify me if I gave them a book where everyone dies horribly. Despite what Charlie and Rich think, I can learn from other people; it just isn't necessary very often.
Yet, everything about this latest book is so FRUSTRATING! I haven't heard any of my characters' voices in months. And the plot … I read through what I have managed to write …it's abysmal, a waste, and hardly a decent plot at all. I have no choice; I'm going to have to cut my losses and start over. Blast it.
If my writing disaster was the only one of my recent troubles, I would almost be grateful. But … Caroline turned up this morning. I would be halfway to Pemberley already if Charlie hadn't asked me to stay. That boy can never stay alone in a new place; he has to have friends around to keep up his social courage. He's actually fairly shy; he's terrified of walking alone into a room of unknown people. But if he brings a friend, it's a completely different story. Don't know why, but it's the strangest thing. With even one friend at his back, he transforms into the life of the party. I guess some people just can't handle being alone. I wonder if his girls knew this about Charlie, would they look at him the same way? Probably.
Much good this arrangement does me. Not only do I get dragged to parties and things, but now I have to deal with the supreme psycho sister herself. The minute Caroline saw me, her shrewd little eyes glittered with greed, and she sunk her claws into my arm. I still have the marks! I know why her nails are always red; it's because she paints them with the blood of her victims. I was forced to pry her hands off with my fingers and hide in my room for the rest of the night. That harpy may be Charlie's sister, but I wouldn't trust her as far as Pluto. I hope tomorrow is better. Write you later.
I just woke up from the strangest dream. Well, it was hardly a dream really. More like a series of short scenes stuck on repeat. The first was a solitary image of a small black vial cradled in a small female hand. There was a small label on its side but I was so far away that the lettering was little blurry squiggles. Then, I watched as the contains of this vial was poured in to a small glass of cloudy yellow juice. Then, there was a woman. Everything about her was blurry and half-formed except for her eyes. Her beautiful green eyes. They stared into mine so pleadingly that I reached for her only to catch her as she collapsed. Then, everything started all over again. When I woke up, my fingers itched to write it down. I don't know what led to these moments or who is involved but it seemed like a great story climax to me.
Unbelievable! When I came back from breakfast, I found Caroline in my room! She was lying down across my bed and fiddling with my laptop! How did she even get in here?! I could have sworn that I had locked my door when I left. When I asked what she thought she was doing, she bleeding smiled and said, "Oh, Lele, you know how much I love your little stories. We're such good friends, you wouldn't mind if I had a tiny peek of the next one, do you?" Disgusted, I glared and told her that I bloody well did mind and to not let the door hit her arse on the way out.
Or at least that was what I wanted to say.
What I actually said was that I didn't like to share a work that I hadn't completed. Bad luck, you know. I also implied that by disturbing me she had thrown off my writing routine, and it would take hours to get me back on track. She smiled an insincerely apologetic smile, but in her manner, she seemed almost triumphant at my explanation like in her own twisted mind, she heard something encouraging that I would never say. I was so mad that I couldn't stop myself from slamming the door behind her as she left. She'd never take a hint even if I slammed her with it, and you can't fight crazy. Which leaves diplomacy. Still, the bloody bint is going to drive me to my grave before the month is out!
After she was finally gone, I assessed the damage. It appears that she hadn't managed to crack my password. Thank heavens that I had the foresight to change my password before I left on this damn trip! Now I have to go shopping for a new lockable laptop case. I'm also fairly sure that I can get Charlie to let me change the locks so no harm done. Yet. I'll have to stay on my toes though, heaven knows what she planned to do once she accessed my computer. Makes me nervous just thinking about it.
I also keep thinking about that dream. Wondering what I'd seen that had inspired it and what I am going to do with the scenes it's given me. This dream was so different from my usual, almost like a fading memory. And those eyes … they kinda reminded me of that girl from the other night. That's not so surprising considering how that night ended. Still, the pleading in those dream eyes seemed to be about something much more important than being asked to dance. There was a whole story in those eyes, and I can't wait to discover what it is. Looks like my writer's block may be coming to an end.To Be Continued . . .