She had always been able to get away with bloody murder. But not this time. No. This time, she was caught between a rock and a really hard place. Literally. She was trapped between the wall and me. Myself, Mr Rock.
After weeks of using my extraordinary powers to clean up after her, I had decided that enough was enough. She could no longer abuse my hospitality in this manner. It was high time that I took matters in my own hands.
She was a brave one, this feisty little thing staring back at me defiantly. Completely refusing to feel the guilt of her actions. Under normal circumstances, I would have probably still been cleaning up after her. I was a softy when it came to females, and Boy! did she know that. But today, the circumstances were anything but normal. The mate that they had chosen for me could be landing on my doorstep any minute now; I had no option but to get rid of this orange fur ball before her presence was known.
I quickly recalled the words to the special spell that would eliminate her and all evidence of her existence from this Universe. It was a tad stronger than the occasion warranted but you didn’t know her the way I did. This one could find me no matter where I hid. With a little flurry of my arms I had my wand resting between my fingers. I cleared my throat and prepared to rush into the spells when she opened her mouth and said – “Meeeeowwwww?”
And I just couldn’t go through with it. Oh what the hell! It was just a really messy feline after all. My mate had better get used to having another female around.
Knowing she had won, Ginger, my unwanted reluctant companion, swiped her paw on my trouser before stalking off to continue her siesta. As I stood cursing my generosity, the inevitable happened. The doorbell screeched painfully in protest at being awakened so early in the morning. I hoped my mate was as tone deaf as me, else we had already started off on a wrong note. As I raced down the stairs, I waved a hand across my body and settled my disheveled hair and thudding heart into place. I thought I was well prepared as I opened the door.
If I hadn’t known Miss Lumi better, I would have definitely suspected some foul play. But I did know her. And this was just not the kind of trick she would play.
There, standing in front of me, was a younger version of Miss Lumi herself. Like she had time traveled and come to her future. Or had cast one of those age-reversing beauty spells that wicked witches are notoriously good at. You can try your hand at guessing if you wish. Go as wild as you want, witches are wilder than your wildest imagination! But while I could believe the worst of her, I couldn’t believe that Miss Lumi would do something like that to me. Not when she knew how I felt about her.
“Mr Rock? Mr umm Faegan umm Moody Rock? Is that you?” she asked while peering up at me. Oh curse that name! For sure she would not want anything to do with someone with that name. She was staring up at me like a mole just out of it’s burrow. Was she one? A mole, I mean. It wasn’t unheard of for animals to be turned into people, or vice versa. It was only much later that I realized that I had forgotten to take off my Invisible cloak after my confrontation with Ginger. That pesky cat had ruined the first impression I had planned to make with my appearance. Or whatever was visible of it.
It says a lot about a woman’s courage if she is willing to walk into the house of a man she cannot see. It says more about her confidence in her skills as a witch that she would do so without the slightest hint of fear. The last Bachelor’s I had attended, all the mated wizards had shared their horror stories. In the black of the night, sitting by the light of a flickering candle, each had recounted tales that had sent goosebumps down our spines. All of us unmated innocents had huddled together in fear of the fate that awaited us. The session had ended abruptly, but just as scarily, when the wives had started calling to find out their partner’s whereabouts.
In the world of magic and extraordinary powers, no one ever carried something as ordinary as a cell phone or a pager. Why depend on something that any other person could use when you had special powers at your disposal? So when the wives called, they had to use other means of communication. Like sending their pets with a message.
To a bystander it might sound like a simple and maybe even a harmless way to communicate. But you forget that we’re talking about witches here. Wicked witches. Nothing could ever be simple about women who kept dragons, goblins, poltergeists and God knows what else, as pets. These pets would undoubtedly convey the message with the same amount of ire that their mistresses displayed while relaying the message. The wizards had to be armed and prepared at all times, especially if it was way past their bed time.
My continuous failures in securing a stable relationship had convinced me that there was only one thing left for me to do – arranged marriage. The Council had declared that no wizard who had lived past the century was allowed to remain unmated. They believed that too much of freedom would make them unruly and lead to the inevitable downfall of magic as we know it. We could either choose our own partners or leave it to the Council to select an appropriate mate for us. Either ways, once the decision was made, there wasn’t much that we could do about it. Though I was resigned to fate, I couldn’t help dread the deed.
I am getting ahead of myself here. It’s not like I was scared or anything, but standing on the verge of the line that would change my marital status, I was assailed by a case of nerves. Cold feet, you know? It’s perfectly normal.
Miss Pebbles, like her name suggested was a prim little thing. With her neatly coiled bun and petite body snugly wrapped in a warm fur-lined coat, she could have been mistaken for a librarian in a mouldy old library. Her unlined smooth cheeks were still flushed a little pink – was it at the thought of meeting me? And then, I looked down. Going by the size of her feet, and the lack of any snow on her pretty pink sandals, I came to the obvious conclusion. You can’t judge a book by its cover. Since she had definitely not walked all the way here and magically appearing at someone’s doorstep was so yesterday’s style…how HAD she managed to come to me? I looked at her with new eyes.
The question was still on my mind when she started talking.
“Mr Rock, I know we haven’t been properly introduced yet but since we will be mated shortly, I think we can safely dispense with all the formalities. As you know, I am Miss Prim Pebbles. I am a sixth generation witch with a lineage that would probably leave you quaking in your boots, but let’s not get into that. The only person to put the fear of God in you should be me, and I have complete faith in my abilities to do so. You and I will get along famously, so long as you follow exactly what I say…”
By the continuous movement of her lips, I knew that she had not finished talking yet. But as her words slowly seeped down my ear canal and lodged themselves deep into my brain, I knew that someone had made a mistake in pitting us together. I just hoped that someone was not me.
“…and my sweet little Tiny would be perfectly at home in your backyard. I hope you have the required License for Illusions when practicing in public? Should I call her home now? I think Tiny is getting a little tired by now from all that hovering around above your house.”
She was looking at me questioningly. Oh God, she had asked me something and I had been too busy wool-gathering. What had she said? C’mon brain, remember! Ah, that’s it! Something about making room for her pet Tiny. Phew! That was easy. How much space could someone named Tiny take?
I led her to the backyard and proudly gestured at the lavish deck and pool that I had set up in honor of her visit. The sparkling blue water worked so well with the white tiles around the pool. Even the mosaic of the Devil at the bottom of the pool seemed innocent in the daylight. I gave a self-satisfied smirk and looked over at her. She had a tiny crinkle on her forehead that was slowly melting down her face. Her head shook left to right as she pondered about all the invisible lapses in my judgment. And when she finally looked up, it was with an expression of utter resignation that she said –
“I can’t believe that you didn’t even take the time to read my dossier. I did spend an unholy amount of time preparing it for you, hoping that had covered every point that would make our start together perfect. I had very specifically asked for a hot pool with lava on one side and a fresh iceberg on the other for Tiny. The center would need to be empty so that she can easily fly or land from here. Your backyard is completely different. Now I will have to do everything myself. But I just hope that this is the first and last of the misunderstandings between us. Oh dear, this doesn’t bode too well for us…”
A pool of lava? An iceberg?? Dossier??? It was like she was speaking in a different language altogether. I had never received any information about her except a phone call from the Ministry announcing their decision to mate me to a Miss Pebbles and that was that. They had not even shared her Christian name! What had I gotten myself into?
“Umm..Miss Pebbles, who is Tiny exactly? And why does she need a pool of lava AND an iceberg both? I am sorry but I think your dossier might have gotten lost in the mail. That happens sometimes. But the good thing is that you are here now, so you can tell me firsthand what exactly you want.”
“Well, Mr Rock. I must say that I am surprised by you, and there isn’t much that surprises me. From the dossier that they handed over to me, you had come across as a wild unpredictable sort of a wizard who badly needed a strong taming hand. But maybe they were hasty in judging you. I find that you are quite amenable and that’s a good sign. Tiny is my pet dragon who majored in Psychiatry. She graduated at the top of her class and is a very successful shrink with a long client list. Alas, she suffers from a case of identity crisis. While the mirror shows her that she is a dragon, she remains unconvinced. The iceberg is the latest in her quests for Self. She is trying to figure out if she is the Abominable Snowman. You’re lucky that you didn’t meet her when she was going through her goldfish phase. It was really difficult trying to find a bowl big enough for her to fit in!…Shall we begin making her new home now?”
Miss Pebbles really knew her stuff. A snap of her fingers and my lovely pool was now filled with smoking hot lava. The Devil was in hell for sure. Another little twirl of her fingers and the iceberg stood majestic and tall at another corner. She pushed her fingers apart and the backyard stretched to fit her needs. When she was finally convinced that she had created the perfect home for her pet, Miss Pebbles waved a red ‘kerchief in the air. With a rush of wind, a shape pummeled down from the sky and suddenly Tiny was home. I don’t know what I had been expecting but with a name like that, you definitely couldn’t have guessed otherwise.
Tiny, the red scaled dragon, was as big and round as my Aunt Andrea had been before the blue whale had swallowed her. We hadn’t seen the whale for a few months after that. I still remember the many nights we had debated over dinner whether it was case of indigestion or overeating. Thinking correctly that commenting on her size would be the worst mistake of my life, I greeted Tiny with a smile and a warm hug. The hug became slightly warmer than I intended when she blew out a gust of fire above my head. Miss Pebbles looked on in approval, as if watching over her two children playing and getting along. I had a sneaky feeling that I was in way over my head.
In a matter of days, Miss Pebbles and Tiny had settled down comfortably in my house. I was the only one who felt like a stranger there. The rooms had taken on a disgustingly pink tint and there laces and doilies every where. The curtains were frilly and floral; there was a carpet in the sitting room instead of the tiger rug that had covered the stained floor. Even the screeching doorbell had been replaced by a sweet tinkling thing that made nauseatingly melodious music. If this was a preview to my married life, I was ready to run away!
Though I had been living with foreboding, I knew that I had finally reached the ends of my tethers the day Miss Pebbles decided to put her indelible touch on me. As a generous host, and prospective mate, I had given her free reins in every other aspect of our life. The only thing that I had kept for myself was my small room with its dark and spooky interiors and my closet full of classic Wizard-fashion. I had worked hard to accumulate all the pieces in my collection and knew for a fact that many would give an eye, a tooth and maybe an extra set of heads to get their hands on it. But one day, Miss Pebbles walked in to my sanctuary and put her mark on it.
Now, there was sunlight in the room, a pretty pink cover on the bed and not a single speck of dust in sight. If this wasn’t horrible enough, I opened the closet to find that all my classics had been laundered! And ironed! Now they no longer radiated menace. It was as if they were suddenly too respectable to spook anyone. To add insult to injury, my twisted nasty stick of magic had been straightened out and polished. The smug little fella refused to let me hold him till I washed and sanitized my hands!
I was in a panic. I had to do something. There had to be someone who could help me. I knew none of the wizards would dare interfere in this “domestic issue” and the Council would shirk off all responsibilities once Miss Pebbles had been invited across the threshold. I needed a strong witch. Someone with a mind of her own; someone who despised competition; someone who could be made to see reason. And that was how I found myself at Miss Lumi’s house.
After my last encounter with Miss Lumi and the moon dust, I had turned into somewhat a recluse. (Read about my experience here) I had not answered the door when she had appeared with a pot of tea or my favorite shortcake. I had hidden deep down in the cellar when I thought she was using her powers to check inside the house for living presence. I had bolted all the doors and windows so that her poltergeist couldn’t enter. In fact I had done everything possible to ensure that she stayed away from me. She spooked me and there weren’t many witches who could do that.
“Miss Lumi? It’s me again. I am really sorry for the appalling way I behaved the last time, but I really need to talk to you. I don’t know anyone else I can turn to. You’re the only one. Please Miss Lumi open the door. Please help me!” I was almost on the verge of tears as I shouted my plea through her shut door. There was no response. There had been none these past two hours that I had stood there ringing her doorbell.
“Ahem. What seems to be the matter, dear? Why are you sitting at my doorstep? You know, it’s not very seemly to see a grown wizard cry. You should have tried something more manly instead. Come inside, we can talk over a cup of tea. I could just kill for one right now,” said Miss Lumi as she parked her car and got out.
I felt a little abashed that I had used the spell to make tears appear in my eyes, but if she had not come right then I am sure that I could have squeezed out a few real ones on my own! Didn’t they say that anything was fair in love and war? With Miss Pebbles and her Tiny taking up all my space and my life, it was most definitely an out and out war.
“Miss Lumi, I uh didn’t hear you coming. I thought that you were…”
“Playing tit for tat you mean? Ignoring you the way you have been ignoring me? You should know better, dear. Moody is your middle name, not mine. I have been right here waiting for you to get over your sulking. Now would you come inside or do you want to stand here and have the entire conversation? I have just driven over five hundred kilometers without using any magic whatsoever. That kinda thing tires out an old woman, you know.”
I was intrigued as I followed her inside. Miss Lumi never traveled anywhere. Not for anyone. But she had driven over a long distance and I couldn’t help but wonder why.
Miss Lumi was quite similar to Miss Pebbles in more than just appearance. She was too proper and organized for my taste. Her penchant for doing things in an orderly fashion might have held her in good stead. But curiosity was killing me and I had to struggle to remain in my seat while she went about pottering in her kitchen. Only once the tea had been made, poured into cups and handed over, did she finally settle down comfortably in her armchair and looked at me.
“What seems to be troubling you, my dear boy? I have never seen you so unstrung.”
“Oh no, Miss Lumi, you can’t derail me now. We will talk about the reason for my anxiety in a bit, first I want to know where have you been? What was so important that you had to leave suddenly? Where were you driving to? What…”
“Ok, ok I get your point. If you’d just let me catch my breath I will tell you my tale. It’s a highly frustrating one since I didn’t manage to catch the witch who was behind all the chaos. Yesterday evening as I sat gazing at the moon, I received a call of distress on my crystal ball. It had been several decades since anyone had contacted me like this. I was more than mildly surprised as I saw who the caller was. It was my best friend from my alma mater. She is one of the top witches on the Council now, you know. We drifted apart when she chose politics and I, solitude. I wondered why she remembered me after such a long time.
Turns out that as the Minister of Illicit Affairs, she has been receiving several complaints from wizards from all over the country. There is a witch on the loose who has been taking advantage of innocent unmated wizards. When she knows that someone is expecting a mate, she lands up and makes herself at home. She takes control of their life slowly and once she has sunk her claws in deep, she moves away. Leaving behind a trail of broken hearts and spirits, she moves on to her next victim. The psychic ward at the Center is full to the brim treating cases of love-sickness and depression in wizards that even high doses of Freedom To Do Anything has not been able to cure. I need to find this witch. The Minister has been trying to keep this news under cover. We all must try to avoid the widespread panic that it would cause. Only a few mated wizards have been brought in the loop to help us keep a look out. I had gone to visit the last place where the witch had been reported. But by the time I reached, she had already moved on. I wonder who’s the next unlucky target…Yes, what is it dear?”
Like a kid with a frog in his pocket, I couldn’t control my excitement. I squirmed and fidgeted in my chair till Miss Lumi had to pause her tale to ask me. The words gushed out of me in a torrent as I unburdened my troubled soul. I had solved Miss Lumi’s and my problem in one fell swoop.
As I sat with my legs propped up on the coffee table and watched an old horror movie on the telly, I kept imagining the confrontation between the two formidable women. With relish, I popped another fried ant into my mouth and snuggled deeper into the armchair. I hoped it would be a long night for Miss Pebbles. After all, she had finally found her perfect match.