After the harsh, love spell, how will Ursa react to seeing Erik Daughtry?
When Ursa's class was over, she had to use the jump box to charge the battery again. She hated doing it. She always thought she would get zapped.
She drove to Daughtry's in a bored, dutiful sort of way. She was actually looking forward to helping her mother at the dress shop and wondered why she hadn't been there in so long.
She pulled into Daughtry's and the car died as it coasted into the parking lot. Daughtry and another mechanic, who could have been Ursa's age, came out and pushed the car in through the bay doors. The young guy was pretty cute.
She handed Daughtry the lunch Cassandra had made for him and sat down in the lobby to read her book and wait.
Erik stood behind the counter and watched Ursa curiously. Yesterday, the girl had been flirting with him, he knew. Today, she couldn't seem less interested. Maybe she'd taken the hint. There was nothing wrong with Ursa; she was simply too young, and Erik had always liked her mother, even way back when he was still a kid and his cousin was with her. However, he'd been flattered as he'd thought about it on his drive home. Ursa was a beautiful girl.
"Whatcha reading?" he asked, opening the wrapping around his sandwich.
Ursa frowned, distracted, and looked up from her book. "Needful Things."
"Huh. You like scary stuff?"
"It's not really scary. It's weird, though."
Erik nodded and began eating, and Ursa went back to her book. He wondered again what had made her attitude toward him change so much. Was she only teasing him last night? No, Ursa wasn't that kind of girl. His curiosity bothered him and he couldn't leave her alone. "I read a bunch of King's stuff in high school," he told her. "I liked the Langoliers."
Finally, Ursa showed some interest. "Yeah, that was a good one! He's got such an amazing imagination. I bet he dreamt that. That's where I get my best ideas: dreams." Ursa smiled warmly. Still, it wasn't flirting.
Erik still couldn't leave her alone. "Do you like to write?" He opened his can of soda.
Ursa nodded shyly. "I like to write weird stuff."
Erik swallowed some soda. "Weird? How do you mean?" This was the most they'd ever talked at a time.
"Well, I'm writing one about a man who gets abducted and falls in love with an alien." Ursa bit on her lip, embarrassed. She cast her brown eyes out the front window.
"That sounds pretty cool, actually. I'd like to read it."
Ursa was taken aback. "Really?"
"You'd probably think it's childish," she said.
He balled up the sandwich wrapper and threw it in the trash. "It doesn't sound childish. Love between two different species? That's pretty deep." He glanced at her and caught her staring. She hastily went back to her book. Why did he feel so interested in her now, of all times? He still couldn't leave her alone. If he could describe the feeling, it was like a vacuum inside her, sucking his attention. Or maybe he was sensing an emptiness in her that he was filling. Nah, he couldn't describe it. "So, let me read it. You have to let somebody read it, right?"
He waited while Ursa thought, again nibbling her lip. "If you really want to. I guess it would be okay..." She dug into her backpack and pulled out a binder. She flipped through it for a moment, then blushed. "Um, no, maybe not..."
Now Erik was really intrigued. What was in it that was so embarrassing? He walked around the counter and stood near her shoulder. "I bet every writer felt insecure about her work at some point. Come on. I won't make fun."
Ursa looked up at him with worry. He found it very cute. "You won't let anyone else read it, will you?"
"Especially not my mother; she'd think I'm sick."
He had to try hard not to grin. "Not a soul. I promise."
Ursa slowly handed the binder over and Erik opened it. "Don't read it now!" she cried, reaching for it.
Erik held it over his head and laughed. "Okay, okay! I'll read it in bed." He wasn't sure why he'd said that, but Ursa's eyes went wide and her cheeks went red. "I mean..."
Ursa flipped her novel open and began reading furiously. Something was definitely strange about her today.
Ursa read the same line four or five times without comprehending. She glanced up at Daughtry who was again behind his desk and looking at his computer. He was older, sure, but that made him a man. She thought of males her age as guys. Though she'd had a few boyfriends, none of them really turned her on much. However, that small comment from Daughtry had sent heat through her. She felt weird about it. She'd known the man forever, and he was practically family. He was Layla's dad's cousin.
Ursa's head snapped up. How did she know that?
She gazed at him again and when he looked up from his computer and smirked, her eyes darted away. What was wrong with her? She was acting like an animal in heat. She tried to focus on her book but she couldn't get into it. All she wanted to do was stare at Daughtry. It made her uncomfortable, so, when the younger mechanic came in and handed Daughtry a clipboard and the keys to the station wagon, she sighed with relief. Daughtry inspected the paperwork, clicked around on his computer, and then made a phone call. He sent Ursa a grimace from behind the counter. "Looks like we can't get the alternator 'til around four."
Ursa frowned. She looked at the clock. It was only quarter to twelve. "Oh, man," she groaned. "I'm supposed to be helping my mom at the shop today." And she'd been looking forward to it.
Daughtry smiled in a comforting way. "Don't worry, okay? I'll give you a ride."
Erik glanced at Ursa. She was in the passenger seat, resting her head against the window. He couldn't believe himself. It would've been easier to have Chris take her to the shop—he had a lot of work to do—yet he'd volunteered. He told himself that it was to see Cassandra. It seemed like he'd thought of that woman once every hour for a thousand years, but since Ursa came in that day he'd been less tortured by the thought of the dark-haired woman.
He couldn't help himself; he glanced at Ursa again.
This time, she was looking back, and as she'd done a few times already, she glanced away from his gaze. He smiled. He liked that. It made him want to bother her more. "So what are you studying in school?"
"For your writing?"
She shrugged. "Well, partly. It's just always been my favorite subject. I like French too." She chuckled. "I guess I just like languages."
"Oh, no shit? I took French. Lemme see..." He scratched his beard. It had been many years since high school French. "Bonjour Ursa. Comment allez-vous?"
Ursa smiled. "Tres bien, Daughtry. Et vous?"
"Tres bien. Je vois... une fille. Elle est belle." He glanced into Ursa's eyes. She was staring, dumbfounded. He chuckled. It was fun to tease her. "I thought you were going to start calling me Erik."
Ursa shook her head slightly. "I was?"
"Well, yeah. You did last night."
Ursa looked confused. "I did?"
Erik glanced at her in disbelief. "Do you have a terrible memory or are you messing with me?"
"Uh... I guess I have a terrible memory. I don't really remember talking to you last night."
"Seriously?" He had a hard time believing that. Maybe she was just embarrassed about how things went the night before. "When I came and brought you the jump box?"
"Yeah, you talked to Layla, right?"
Erik looked at her feeling a little crazed. "Ursa, we talked."
She shook her head. "I really don't know what you're talking about and you're starting to creep me out a little." She pulled the collar of her sweatshirt up to her chin.
She seemed so serious that Erik doubted himself for a minute. It wasn't possible that he'd imagined it or dreamed it up. It had happened. Did something happen to Ursa after they'd parted ways? Did she bump her head or something? He wanted to drop it, but he was worried. He decided to ask Cassandra about it.
Ursa didn't like that Daughtry followed her into her mother's shop, Wandering Woman. She weaved through the circular racks letting the flowing fabrics whisper against her skin. She'd always loved doing that. Cassandra ended a telephone call and welcomed Daughtry, but her eyes were suspicious.
Ursa paid no attention (it really didn't concern her), and she went behind the counter and stood next to her mother. "Thank you so much for coming today, darling," Cassandra said to her daughter. Then to Daughtry, "What can we do for you, Erik?" It sounded more like, "What the hell do you want, Erik?"
Daughtry smiled easily enough. "The wagon won't be done 'til the end of the day. Ursa wanted a ride."
That eased a bit of Cassandra's suspicion. "Thank you. I'll drop Ursa by your shop on the way home." End of conversation. You can leave now.
"Okay," Daughtry said, again ignoring Cassandra's barbs. "Can I talk to you for just a second?"
Cassandra frowned but turned to Ursa. "Can you watch the store for a while, Ursa? I'll be making my delivery."
Ursa nodded. She so loved being alone in the dress shop.
"See you later, Ursa," Daughtry said, grinning.
"Um, yeah, see you." That had grin set off a strange feeling behind her jawline.
Outside, Cassandra looked at Erik in a huff. "What is it, Erik? I'm in a hurry."
"Hey, did Ursa hit her head last night or something?"
Cassandra peered at him coolly. "Not that I know of. Why?"
Erik shook his head. "Is she normally forgetful?"
Cassandra stuck her key into her car door. "No more than the average girl. Why?"
"I don't know, maybe it's nothing. She forgot a conversation we had last night, that's all."
She opened the door and looked back at him. "What conversation?"
He looked somewhat uncomfortable, making Cassandra suspicious. "We talked about the car."
Cassandra peered at him and shook her head. "She's been distracted lately."
"Oh." Erik didn't look entirely convinced.
"Goodbye, Erik," she said and got into her car. As she closed the door, she noticed Ursa looking out of the shop window, so she waved.
She loved her daughters more than anything in the world. More than herself. She didn't like Erik hanging around. If he managed to undo her spell, she wouldn't be able to cast it again. Coldly, she watched as the man climbed into his truck and pulled away.
Ursa watched Daughtry drive away and, shortly after, her mother followed. Ursa rubbed her hands together excitedly and gazed around at the dresses. She scanned the racks until she saw a certain dress: a soft, cream-colored, gown. She pulled it off the rack and adored it, glad that it hadn't been sold. She remembered when her mother had sewn it and she'd wanted it so badly. She hastily took it to the dressing room and put it on. It fit her perfectly, a few shades lighter than her skin, with a skirt that looked like it was made of giant flower petals. She twirled around happily. She reached for the tag. Almost three hundred dollars. Oh, it would be worth it. If only she had the cash. She only had about fifty bucks stashed under her mattress. Her birthday was only a few months away, so maybe her mother would give it to her. She would mention it.
Sadly, she removed the dress and put her jeans and t-shirt back on. To make sure that no one bought it from under her, she put it behind the counter.
She pulled out her book and sat down to read. She often wished that this was her shop and that she could take care of the store and customers, and read or write in her free time. She was reading something about a fox tail but it wasn't sinking in.
For some reason, she thought of Daughtry. Why had he affected her like that? She'd never even thought about him before. And he had certainly never been so interested in her as to ask personal questions like that. She thought about that feeling she'd gotten when he'd mentioned reading her story in bed. Her cheeks warmed, then she shook her head and wrote it off as a result of her neglected love life.
Maybe it was time to think about getting a boyfriend if her libido was going crazy over someone she'd known forever. She did find one guy in her creative writing class attractive. His name was Louis and he was shorter than her, but really cute. He was clever too. Maybe she'd ask him to go for coffee or something. She smiled to herself and nodded, and with that, she was able to read again.
Vix was usually a great student who took classes seriously. Today she just couldn't concentrate and she wished the clock would magically jump forward.
She froze at the thought. She could never take magic lightly again.
Ursa. How was she? Vix couldn't get over the memory of her sister falling limply into their mother's arms last night. Even if Cassandra thought Ursa shouldn't be with Daughtry, it was still no reason to take away part of who she was.
Vix's teacher, Mr. Adams, was staring at her expectantly. She liked Mr. Adams a lot. He didn't treat his students like they were stupid and he was fair to them. He listened and he answered questions and wasn't afraid to go off topic.
"Miss Rehmert," Mr. Adams said. He was tall, with dark-brown hair. He was handsome. Vix had never really thought about him romantically, but what if she were to fall for someone older like him? She could almost imagine it. She was, after all, technically a woman. Would her mother wipe it away?
Vix's eyes widened. "Oh! Yes?"
Students laughed around her.
Mr. Adams tilted his head to peer at Vix. "Are you alright?"
"I asked you whether you thought the main character was, in fact, mad."
"Oh." The Tell Tale Heart. "Well, it's hard to say. I think the author wants you to believe he is."
Mr. Adams squinted at her, trying to hide his amusement. "Why is that hard to say?"
"Well, maybe that old, gross eye really did have some sort of power. Maybe the old man was magical. Or maybe it was just the eye. That's what the main character was so obsessed with. Maybe it really was evil."
The teacher smiled. "That's a lot of maybes. It seems like you wish that were the case."
"It's my habit to take sides with the main character. I want the old tormenting eye gone and I don't want the man caught in the end. I want to believe that he was fighting against evil—not crazy."
There were now whispers around her from the students too bored to pay attention to the conversation. "That makes the story even more tragic if that's the case," said Mr. Adams. "He does get caught in the end. If he defeated evil, he's going to be punished for doing something good, right?"
Vix frowned. "Well, that's true... But if Poe really wanted to make the story great..." She trailed off, feeling self-conscious. How could she presume to rewrite one of the most famous stories of all time?
But Mr. Adams was intrigued. "Please, go on."
"Well... It really would have been great if--instead of just hearing the heart thumping under the floor boards--he saw the eye too. He'd know that its power was still there even though its owner was dead. Maybe he could have had another battle with the eye while the police were in the house. Then he could defeat it once and for all, the police wouldn't suspect and he could live in peace."
"Hmm. Or maybe the eye follows him to jail and torments him forever."
Vix shuddered and someone behind her said, "Oooh. Creepy."
Mr. Adams smiled kindly. "Unfortunately, Miss Rehmert, not all stories, fact or fiction, have a happy ending. And it's possible that this story wouldn't be so well-read if it did end happily."