Chapter One: Amas Veritas
Have you ever done something you saw in a movie? Like try to do some karate move you saw in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; or pretend to swordfight with your best friend after watching Pirates of the Caribbean?
Well, I confess that I did something I saw in a movie that changed my life forever. And I was just doing it for kicks.
My younger sister made me watch Practical Magic with her one night and I was enthralled. Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman never looked so authentic. And that hot foreign doctor guy from ER as a serial killer and Rizzo from Grease as a fantastic and surreal aunt! I was in love. I fell in love with that movie. My sister just giggled cutely and decided we should plant rosemary and lavender in our herb garden out on the roof of our tenant building. Heh, this sounds weird coming from a twenty-something year old boy, right?
But that wasn't what I did because I saw it in a movie.
For the past three months I had been brooding over the death of my boyfriend, caused by a car accident. He drove off in his car drunk after we had an earth-shaking fight. What happened was I had come over to find the door locked and his car in the garage. I found this very odd that he wouldn't answer my knocks while home, so I took the spare key from under a lawn ornament and opened the door.
I went inside and dropped the key on the counter, calling softly out for him. I heard muffled sounds coming from the living room. I decided to investigate. I wish I hadn't.
On the couch, he was sucking face with a little brunette girl who had a half-full champagne bottle in her manicured hand. Chad didn't see me, neither did the girl. I just stared for a minute before turning around slowly and sitting down in the kitchen quietly. About ten minutes later, he came in with only boxers, hiccuping. Still not noticing me, he went to the top shelf of the far right cabinet. I knew what was in there. And that made my theory hold water. I stood abruptly up, making the chair screech on the tile and him turn around.
His face became white as a sheet as he saw my retreating form.
"Dawn?!" he cried, following after me.
He managed to catch up as soon as I got in my car. When he started to explain, I finally snapped and started yelling at him. Soon it escalated to the point where I was in furious tears and he slapped me. Realizing what he did, he dropped the box he was holding and took a few steps back. I got in my car and drove off.
I heard from his brother the next morning that he'd came home later that night and saw Chad drive off, throwing a empty bottle out the window and a girl in the passenger seat with only her bra and panties. No one knew where he was going, all anyone told me he was heading down the south highway. The girl survived when his El Camino was pitched off the road when he hit a oncoming Lexus. His head was smashed against the wheel and he died on the way to the hospital.
I never found out why he cheated on me, or why he drove off drunk when his father died the same way two years prior. I never saw the girl again, thankfully, but I was sent into a depression for the first month; then I just simply stopped taking care of myself. My parents sent my baby sister to my apartment to cheer up her college-student brother.
So far, she was doing a terrific job.
"C'mon Dawny!" she giggled, taking two steps at a time to the top of the building. The elevator was broken so we had to hoof it seven flights. She said I needed more exercise anyway.
"I'll catch up," I said waving her to continue her bounding up the linoleum-covered steps. Karen gave me a look before disappearing behind another staircase.
She made it to the top before me, holding the wooden mixing bowl on her head like she was an Indian woman coming back from getting water. She stood walked on her tip-toes, twirling around with such grace the bowl barely moved. I wish I could move like her, and she was only fourteen!
There was a garden on top of the apartment building, only a few picnic tables covered with flower boxes.
"M'kay, I guess we just pick flowers and put them in this bowl..." she started, pointing to the bowl on her head and smiling.
"You go first," I said quietly with a smile. She shrugged; her mousy curls bouncing.
"Le'see..." she went along the garden, stopping to pluck a white petal from a rose. "He'll be a gymnast!"
"Nice choice," I mumbled, sitting down on an overturned pot, hugging myself.
"He can do good Elvis impressions," she said, plucking another petal from a different flower. Her and her Elvis...
In the end, she came up with a grey-eyed brunette gymnast who could do Elvis impressions and the tango. Karen smiled at me before sauntering over and handing me the meagerly filled bowl.
"I don't think that's how Amas Veritas works, honey," I said.
Amas Veritas was a love spell that young Sally Owens concocted when she realized she never wanted to die of a broken heart. She made up a guy who she thought didn't exist, making him the one for her. Little did she know, her dream boy was real and comes to investigate when serial killer Jimmy Angelov was last seen by her and her sister.
So I decided what the hell and make myself immune to a broken heart. If we were actually doing this right.
"Doesn't matter! C'mon!" she thrusted the bowl into my hands and pushed me off the clay pot. I stumbled a bit, looking back at her. She flashed me a smile and flicked her mousy hair out of her face. I smiled back and went along the flowers.
"I don't know where to start, Karen," I admitted after wandering around for a minute or two. My sister let out a dramatic sigh and said, "Start with his eye color."
If you caught it, she said 'his' eye color. My sister is the only one in my family to really understand that I'm gay and that isn't going to change anytime soon. My parents had hoped that my boyfriend's death would set me 'straight' and find a nice girl to settle down with. I didn't want to settle down, let alone with a girl.
"He'll have one brown eye, one blue eye," I said, plucking a blue flower and a leaf.
"Copycat," she mumbled.
"Hey, Sally wanted a boy with one blue eye and one green. I'm being a bit more farfetched so I can actually spot my man easily!"
She shook her head with a smile and I continued.
"He'll have dark brown hair, like Aunt Victoria," I said, plucking a leaf from an African violet. "That grows really fast."
"You're gonna pay for his haircuts."
I laughed and plucked a gardenia, "His favorite smell is that gardenia perfume from Chanel."
"He'll be a bit clumsy, but quick on his feet. He'll love sliding down staircase banisters," I yanked out a few more petals from a bunch of pink and orange clusters.
"He'll have a cute crooked smile that makes me melt," I said with a fake sigh, "And never have atrocious morning breath," I added some mint leaves.
"He'll be faithful, sweet, and never forget our anniversary," I added, dropping a few more petals in the bowl. Three things Chad never was or did.
"Anything else Dawn?" asked my sister.
I smiled evilly and pulled a petal from a dark red rose, "He'll be great in bed."
"Ew! Overshare!" squealed my sister, slapping her hands over her ears.
"And....every moment I'm with him...will be magical," I topped off the pile of flowers with a flower bud and turned to Karen.
"Nice ending," she said, patting my arm as she got up. We took the wooden bowl to the edge of the building, looking up at the sky. We waited.
"Aren't they suppose to be floating away right now?" she asked in a whisper. I shrugged.
"Just dump the bowl over and the wind will pick them up."
Holding one side of the bowl, I helped her flip the bowl over and watched our mutilated flower parts fall to the sidewalk below. Some traveled on the wind up the street. We went back to the staircase, rather bummed that they didn't fly away toward the full moon like they did in Practical Magic.
But I didn't fly away when I tried those Crouching Tiger moves either. And we had a crescent moon.
We walked back down the stairs; my sister slid down the banister, giving me winks to make me laugh. It succeeded and I gave her a few swipes on the head before letting her hook onto my back for the rest of the walk.
I woke up the next morning to an empty home. Karen had gone to school and I was once again left to wallow in my self-pity as usual. I was getting behind in my classes, so I decided to do some studying.
There was a racket coming next door. Someone was probably moving in; the apartment was vacant for the past month. I shut my history textbook and sighed. The noise was too much. I needed sustenance.
I pulled on my jean jacket, flicking my ear-length brassy brown hair from my face (and hopefully flattening that awful cowlick in front) and walked out the door with a crumbled wad of cash in my hand. Just as I thought, there was a pile of unmarked boxes next to the door of apartment number twenty-three. The door was wide open and I saw more boxes inside as I passed. Then I ran smack dab into a floating box and fell back onto my behind.
"Oh shit! I'm so sorry!" said a slightly accented voice from behind the colossal box I ran into and dented. All I saw was jean clad legs, red sandals, and two 'power bead' bracelet-covered arms wrapped around a brown box. It slid down the front of the man to reveal a blue-streaked blond head with tinted sunglasses and a worried expression.
"S'alright, should have watched where I was going," I replied, getting up and dusting myself off.
"No, no! I should have been too...Sorry, I've been lugging boxes up all those stairs all day 'cause the elevator broke and I just got a bit out of it after the first ten. Damn, I'm so sorry!" The man set the box down on the others and pulled his stained white shirt down after it had ridden up from carrying the box. He scratched the back of his head, smiling apologetically and shrugging.
"I'm a klutz, it's all my fault, real sorry."
"I heard you the first time," I said flatly, staring at him tiredly with my hazel eyes. The man wiped his dirty hands on his equally dirty shirt and held out one.
"My name's Shasta, I just moved in," he glanced back to his apartment before adding, "Well, in the process of."
"Dawn," I offered, shaking his hand. It was warm and he had a thick, cold silver ring on his middle finger with a piece of amber in it.
I shrugged, I never really liked it. His name, on the other hand, was interesting. He blew a piece of blue corn hair from his eyes under his sunglasses and smiled. His chin-length hair was gelled into tips, going in all directions.
"Well, I got stuff to unpack. See ya later!" he said, giving me a wave as he walked into the apartment. One of the boxes tipped over directly after he waved. Shasta stopped and looked at it. Books spilled out around my feet and I raised an eyebrow.
"Oops," he said, staring at them before dropping to his knees. He started to pick them up and I knelt to help.
"Oh! You don't have to do that."
"S'ok, I was going somewhere out of boredom anyway," I replied, stacking the books in front of me and picking them up.
"Um...mind if we dump them where I was going to unpack them? Save me a trip?" he asked almost pleadingly.
"Sure," I mumbled, following him into the apartment.
What furniture was there, I became aware of instantly. There was a wooden bookcase that took up an entire wall, a few red leather beanbags, a low black table, a small television on top of a gold-painted stool, and a dark stained wood antique vanity with a mirror covered with a silky black sheet. Boxes littered the place and the kitchen was filled with smaller, carefully labeled boxes that sat opened and most of the contents next to them. Odd looking bottles and jars of dried herbs.
Shasta stopped in front of the bookcase and with some effort, got all the books set in with one move. While he tackled that, I read the title of the first book: 'Art of Aromatherapy.' I raised an arched eyebrow and shifted it to read the next one: 'Timeless Botany Secrets.'
'Herbal Remedies for Everday Life'
'Seeing Past: Reading Tarot Cards'
'Scrying For Beginners'
My other eyebrow went up as I went through the selection of books, until they were yanked from my grasp and thrusted into the shelf by the blond who gave a weak chuckle and ushered me out, thanking me a bunch of times before finally getting rid of me at the bottom of the stairs.
"Thanks for the help, and sorry for running into you!" he called, diving back into his apartment with another box.
Staring at his vacated spot for a long moment, I shrugged and ambled to the nearest fast food restaurant for a breakfast burrito.
When I finally returned home several hours later, I found that Mr. "Scrying For Beginners" had removed all of the boxes from the hall and had met Karen. They were chatting merrily when I walked up, flicking the hair out of my eyes and raising an eyebrow at Karen.
"Oh, hello! Did you meet Shasta yet? He's our new neighbor!" declared my baby sister.
"We bumped into each other earlier," the blond said, waving his hand with the ring dismissively.
"When did you get home, Karen?" I asked smiling at her cute excited expression.
"Five minutes ago! It's a minimum day, we were let out early."
"Makes me wish I was still in middle school," said our neighbor with a sigh before rubbing his hands together and saying, "Well, I've got to finish unpacking and figure out what I'm going to do for dinner. See you two arou-"
"You can have dinner at our place!" exclaimed my sister. "I can cook spaghetti really well!"
Both of us stared at Karen for a minute and Shasta laughed.
"Well, since you are so enthusiastic about it, I think I will," he then glanced at me before adding, "If it's oh-kay with Dawn."
"My brother doesn't care, right Dawny?" she said, giving me a look that meant I better not care.
"Not at all."
Shasta makes a sound of surprise before saying, "You two are siblings?"
Karen and I exchange confused glances before nodding in unison. Shasta blushed and rubbed the back of his neck embarrassingly. For the upteenth time that day, I raised an eyebrow in question.
"I thought she was your daughter..." he admitted, tagging on a weak chuckle. Karen scoffed, "He's not that old."
"I'm twenty-two, for your information," I growled, crossing my arms. Shasta smiled apologetically.
One look at Karen and you probably wouldn't believe she's fourteen. Her baby face and short mousy curls were too cute and small to think of her to be a teen. I always was told I was too mature for my age, which was twenty. In comparison to her petite figure, mousy curls, and blue eyes, I was somewhat on the other side of the gene pool. My brassy red-brown hair wasn't ringlets like hers, but it became curly after it gets wet. Most of the time I take a shower and put a handful of mousse so that it has soft curves around my face. We both shared blue eyes, but mine were a deeper aqua color, whereas hers were light teal and green on the edges.
She had long, lithe limbs and could probably be a talented ballet dancer (or even a gymnast!), I was built similarly, but I had a thicker upper body from the weight-lifting class my father forced me into. He thought it would make me manly. I just pumped iron while watching other guys sweating and barely clothed with their own weights. If anything, he gave me my love of the gym and muscle shirts.
"Sounds great! What time should I come over?" he asked, stuffing his hands into the pockets of his faded pants. He had ditched his dirty shirt for an unbuttoned white collared shirt, bare tan chest and abs showing, along with a chunk of disc-shaped jade dangling from a leather cord around his neck. He pushed back his blue-streaked blonde hair from his face.
It was then that something hit me that seemingly just passed me by.
He was drop-dead gorgeous!
It hit me like a ton of bricks and he caught me staring at him oddly for a minute before one of his eyebrows knitted in confusion behind his dark sunglasses. He wasn't that tan but it had a light tone across his skin that seemed to almost make him glow. Though he looked like he was a bottle blond, the hair seemed to match him. I couldn't tell his eye color because those thin-framed sunglasses were in the way.
Then something clicked inside me and I found him not as attractive as I thought a second ago.
That was weird.
"Oh, at four-ish," said my sister nonchalantly. She hoisted her backpack higher up on her shoulder and smiled.
"Four-ish it is. I'm going to go finish packing," he thumbed back to his apartment before going in and shutting the door.
"I like him," my sister stated, standing on a stool in front of the tall stove, stirring pot of boiling water and noodles. Unlike me, she was blessed with the culinary arts and had been taking cooking lessons with our Aunt Victoria since she was four. Karen hopped off the stool and went to our fridge to grab something in a plastic bag. She fished out a head of garlic and returned to the stove.
"He's nicer than our last neighbor," I mumbled, chopping up some tomatoes for our Grann's "special 'ghetti sauce". Everything was usually made from scratch when it came to my sister.
"A lot more nicer. Mr. Kerchin threw his newspaper at me!" she exclaimed, crushing the garlic with the flat side of a large cutting knife. She then set it aside and peeled the cloves. Most people would ask why I would even let her near a large knife since it was only me and her in this apartment. Truth of it being that I didn't trust myself with a knife. Last time I was given something that sharp, I chopped off my father's finger. No joke. Thankfully, it was sewn back on and he regained some movement, but he never really forgave me and never let me near anything sharp again.
"What's with the garlic?" I asked, scrunching my nose at the strong smell. She was chopping it into fine pieces now, quick and short chops made easy work of this. She pushed the pulpy looking garlic to the side of the cutting board with her knife and hopped off the stool to grab a stick of butter and a loaf of French bread she bought on our last shopping trip.
"Garlic bread, duh," Karen said, splitting the bread lengthwise and smothering it with the butter. She took the garlic and sprinkled it on top before popping it into the preheated oven. I passed her the diced tomatoes, which she took, dumped into a saucepan, and added a bunch of spices and herbs before stirring it and putting a lid over it to simmer.
"M'kay! Now we just wait till everything's done!" she said triumphantly.
I sighed, washing the tomato juice off my hands before parking myself in front of the television, picking up the remote and flicking through the channels before landing on the old Bewitched show. Amusingly, I watched it and didn't even hear Shasta come in, lean behind me on the couch, and watch Bewitched for five minutes until he said right next my ear, "I love this show."
Well, that made me jump out of skin and bang my head on his jaw. As I clutched the top of my head, he whined and said with a lisp, "Th'orry!"
"S'ok, no harm done..." I mumble, rubbing the crown of my head.
"Not exa-th-ly," he said rubbing his cheek. A drizzle of red came from the corner of his mouth. "I bhit mah thongue."
"Sorry, that was my fault," I say, motioning for him to follow me to the kitchen where Karen was draining the spaghetti. I grabbed a glass from the cupboard and scooped some ice from the freezer before filling it with water. I handed it to him and he took it with a lispy 'thank you', sipping the cold water. Karen looked at us and raised an eyebrow.
"He bit his tongue," I explained, reaching for the glass as Shasta held it out for me. I lazily lifted my hand and went to take the frosted glass. Our hands brushed and then something weird happened.
The glass shattered and shards littered the floor.
"Sorry!" was the automatic response from Shasta. Looking distressed, he bent down and started to pick up the pieces. I just blinked, wide-eyed for a few seconds before Karen said, "It's not your fault! Don't worry about it! Dawn just broke a dish yesterday!"
"That was entirely not my fault!" I enunciated, kneeling down with a dishtowel to soak up the water. How the hell did that glass break?
"Yes, yes it was!" I stood up and dropped the towel into the sink while a red-faced Shasta mumbled even more apologies as he dumped the broken glass into the trash. Karen threw her arms in the air with a frustrated groan, much like our mother, and went back to extracting the garlic bread from the oven. She had already dished out the spaghetti into three separate bowls but left the sauce out so we could add as much as we wanted.
Thrusting a bowl at each of us, she muttered forcefully, "Go take a seat at the counter, I'll clean up."
Shasta took the bowl, thanked her, and did as he was told. We didn't have any tables, except for the coffee table, so we ate at the countertop on stools. Shasta awkwardly got onto the stool, balancing himself out before taking some sauce and plopping it unceremoniously onto the spaghetti. Karen laid out some sliced garlic bread for us before getting her stool and dragging it across the kitchen to the counter.
"Did you make this?" asked Shasta, pointing with his fork to his bowl while Karen poured herself a glass of milk.
"Yep, Dawn sucks at cooking."
"I don't suck," I say defensively, prodding a meatball before taking a chunk of it to smother in spaghetti then bringing it to my mouth.
"Fine, you don't have the talent for the culinary arts. Does that sound better?" she asked, eating her own large helping of pasta. I have two reasons why she likes to cook: one, she eats a lot for someone her size; and two, she likes being praised for something I, let's face it, suck majorly at.
"This is fantastic, thanks for inviting me," Shasta interrupts politely, flashing a crooked smile and digging in some more.
"You're welcome," we say in unison.
There was that feeling again. One minute I thought of Shasta as nothing special, then I suddenly get an overwhelming attraction to him! It was starting to weird me out. It was like someone was flicking a little switch to testosterone levels or something. The man chatted with my sister easily, complimenting on the food and the weather, then out of the blue he asks:
"Who's Whiskey Girl? I heard the landlord say something about it was the reason why the old tenant moved out..."
My sister wiped her mouth with a paper napkin before answering. "My dog."
"Your...dog?" he said slowly, a little disbelief in his tone. "I haven't heard or seen a dog yet."
Karen got a little sniffle-y and poked at her food, "She attacked our neighbor, the one who had owned the apartment you just moved into, because he threw a newspaper at me. She's a pit bull so the animal control people were really rough about it. We're waiting for the judge's decision on whether or not she should be...be..."
My sister stopped talking, dropping her head into her chest and prodding her food a bit more slowly. Shasta look to me questioningly and concerned. I make a slicing motion across my neck and his lips formed an 'O' before his features turned pitied and sullen, turning back to Karen.
"I'm sure she'll be just fine. She did it to protect you, right?"
Karen nodded, sniffling and brushing her hair out of her eyes.
"Then it seems to me the person who should be arrested is the man who threw a newspaper at you," stated Shasta, picking up his empty bowl and walking into the kitchen to wash it off. "That's assault!"
"He moved to Connecticut to be with his dying daughter. Sob story got the cops all teary eyed," I say flatly, following suit with an empty bowl. My baby sister seemingly lost her appetite after talking about her Whiskey Girl. She put the leftovers in tupperware before stacking them in the fridge, all in silence. Shasta looked worriedly at her then at me, looking as if he wanted to do something to cheer her up.
His face suddenly lit up and he said quickly, "Be right back!" before dashing out of the apartment. We heard his door open, then silence until something crashed in his room. We then heard a string of curses and stuff being thrown into a box before he came back into our apartment. In his hand he held a deck of playing cards.
"What are those for?" I ask as he shook them out the pack and did some fancy shuffling.
"I'm going to do some magic tricks," he said, setting them down on the coffee table, rolling up the sleeves of his collared shirt. Which was still unbuttoned. Then I also noticed he was still wearing sunglasses.
"Why do you wear sunglasses inside? At night?" I ask, squinting my eyes at him. He looked up and shrugged, "Artifical lighting hurts my eyes. I wear these so it doesn't blind me."
"Oh," I shrug too. Good enough reason for me.
Karen came and sat down by us on the ottoman, curiously looking at what Shasta was doing.
"Whatcha got there?" she asked tilting her head. Shasta smiled and fanned the cards out.
"Pick a card, any card. And yes, it is cliché," he said, holding the hand up to my sister. She raised an eyebrow quizzically before carefully pulling out a card from the deck and looking at it.
"Now, I want you remember your card, obviously. Show it to Dawn too so that he can confirm it."
Karen flashed me the card, the Five of Hearts. I nod and she sticks it back in the deck as instructed by Shasta, then shuffles it, and hands it back. Shasta does his fancy shuffling trick, then he fans the cards out to show us that he didn't put the card upside down or mark it in any way. Putting them pack in a pile with a snap of his wrist, he pulled a top hat from nowhere (it was actually behind him, but I didn't see him come in with it).
"Now, I'm going to set this here..." he put the hat on top of the coffee table, before standing up and walking a few steps from it. Karen and I watched curiously as he fanned the cards out, faces to us. "Is your card still here?"
We spotted it between the Jack of Spades and the Eight of Clubs; we nodded in unison. The man smiled before putting himself into a stance and holding the deck out with his left hand.
"Now, I'm going to make each one of these cards, minus yours, make it into the hat," he said, cutting the deck and shuffling it once more. We both raised our eyebrows cynically. With a crooked smile, he flicked the deck with his middle finger before he passed his hand over it.
"Look inside the hat," he said in a low voice. Cautiously, I snagged a peak into the top hat.
Inside sat the Ace of Spades. I blinked.
"Go ahead and pick it up!" egged Shasta, smiling wider. Karen reached carefully in and pulled a seemingly normal and untampered Ace of Spades.
"Wow! How'd you do that?" she asked, putting it back in. Shasta shook his head, placing a finger to his lips. He then got into stance once more, flicked the deck and passed his hand over it. We looked into the hat.
There were five more cards inside.
"Whoa," I said simply. This was an illusion, but how the hell was he pulling it off?
"Mm-hm," he agreed, startling us both by slapping his hands together, before sliding one up and the other down. I expected the deck to be littering the ground, but there wasn't a deck to litter with! His hands were empty! Karen picked up the hat and looked inside. She reached in and pulled out a messy deck. With wide eyes, she looked through it as Shasta stood, feet together, arms clasped behind his back as he rocked onto his heels, smiling crookedly but confidently.
"Where's my-?" she started. Shasta snapped his fingers and turned that hand around to have the Five of Hearts neatly cupped in his palm.
"Holy crap!" she exclaimed as Shasta chuckled and tossed the card with the rest into the hat. "How...how...did you...?"
"That's a secret, m'dear," he said, once again putting a finger to his lips. I was still amazed and dumbstruck.
"That was cool," I admitted, holding my hands up in surrender. I thought it was going to be some lousy card trick. But this was a magic trick!
"Took me forever to get it right though!" he exclaimed, running a hand through his blond hair. Karen was turning each card over and looking inside the hat to make sure there wasn't any trip wire or mirrors to create the illusion.
"Are you a magician or something?" asked Karen, giving him back the hat. He took it and traced the brim between his fingers.
"Or something," he mumbled with a smile.
A/N: I know real magicians. Jonathan and Charlotte Pendragon! They rawk. Jonathan is my sensei. happy dance
Chapter Title: From 'Practical Magic Soundtrack', by Alan Silvestri