Boulder City Chronicles — Part 2 — Granting Wishes

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"Part 0" has intro. Two worlds merge and their races have to coexist; the job market fluctuates and some breeds get left behind. Decades after the dimensional tear, people are content to live out their lives as if this were the norm. Some are less content, however, to simply accept this New World.

Well, everything certainly had fallen apart again. Kerin stood in the pouring rain, black hair glued to her tattooed face as the falling water worked its way over every inch of her dark-clad body before reaching the ground and sinking through the curb grate at her feet and into the rotten sewer. To be honest, she wished she could do the same.  Turn into a puddle and just crawl away from this awful mess she found herself in.

In the middle of the street, moonlight glinting off of its matted fur, was the angriest werewolf she’d ever seen. She couldn’t say she blamed him for his rage, but that didn’t fix the predicament she was in. The beast’s arm was wrapped in a thick gauze that had stretched visibly with his transformation. As the rain ran over it, soaking the white wrap, it started to turn pink from the still-bleeding wound beneath it.

“Look at what you’ve done to me!” the creature growled angrily, though she could hear the sadness in his voice. The worst part was, she didn’t even feel bad. In fact, this was pretty damn annoying. “Look at what you’ve made me doooo!” The last syllable turned into a long, pained howl, and she couldn’t help but roll her eyes at him.

“Oh please, you did this to yourself,” she said nonchalantly, trying to pretend that she wasn’t at least a little afraid of the monster that stood in front of her. Frankly, werewolves were pretty terrifying because they were always in some kind of emotional distress, and that was never an easy situation to deal with.  That, you know, and the giant teeth and claws and incredibly strength. “We had a deal, and it’s time for you to uphold your end. I’m sorry it’s not how you wanted it, but it’s not like I’m coming out with a dozen roses and a box of chocolates for my effort, either, you know.”

The creature roared again, at least managing to avoid the cheesy howl this time. She always hated dealing with werewolves, especially at the end of the contract. As if the victim wasn’t obnoxious enough, now he just had to have been given super powers and a terribly loud voice to whine about the misfortune that he’d signed up for in the first place.
“The contract clearly states that, after six months of service, your time is up.  If during that time you break the contract, it becomes void. I’m sorry, but that’s just the way it-”

“No! I’ll sign another one, then. I’ll work for another ten years if I have to, just please, turn me back.”

The soaking wet tan woman turned her eyes up to the moon and away from the monster in front of her daringly. She had no intentions of giving him what he wanted, but it couldn’t hurt to look like she was at least considering it. The whining dog went silent as she stared at the orb in the sky as if thinking really hard. “It’s a full moon now, so there’s nothing I can do tonight. But, I’ll tell you what,” she said, turning her golden eyes back down to look at the creature. What a pathetic beast he was, and the whole street smelled like wet dog. She wanted this over with. As if the discomfort of standing in the rain talking to a giant emotional puppy wasn’t bad enough, she knew that the noise must have attracted attention. People were probably watching through their windows, whispering about it all, and this was going to be very bad for business if he didn’t calm down quickly. “Come talk to me tomorrow at the shop, alright? You won’t be back to normal, obviously, but I’ll make an exception at the door this time. Okay, Nate?”

He grabbed at the wound on his wrist as is breathing calmed, nodding solemnly with a quiet whimper. His body shuddered, fur whipping about and sending water spraying every direction. Kerin took the splash to the face like a champ, closing her eyes but not turning her head against it. Not that it would do any good anyway since she was already soaked. “Thank you,” he said with a smile, as if she’d just given him another chance. In truth, she was just going to have to turn him away tomorrow anyway, but at least it was solved for now. At least she could get out of this rain. The beast moved in to hug her and she held out a hand to stop him. The motion was ignored, however, and two muscled arms covered in soaking wet fur that felt like it was made of wires wrapped around her comparatively-tiny body and squeezed. Any mere human would have been crushed, but lucky for her she had tougher skin than most. Much tougher.

When the stinky werewolf released her, he scurried off into an alley. She heard a crash, a cat scream, some sort of verbal cursing, and then the street was silent but for the sound of the rain falling. What a pain in the ass, she thought, and immediately set her feet to walking home.

Thankfully, the streets were usually pretty quiet at night in Boulder City. At least, unless you were unfortunate enough to run into someone. Mostly, the only people who came out at night were the nocturnal sorts, and that meant either party animals or just plain animals in general. Of course, you had your werewolves and vampires, whether she liked it or not they were a part of nature just like everything else. But they weren’t really much of a problem. Vampires, especially, tended toward the clubs where they could get their freak on. There was always some human around who had a fetish for that sort of thing, willing to give up their blood and lust to the first thing to flash a shiny pair of fangs their way. Yeah, they weren’t really a problem, anymore.  The older ones kept to themselves, anyway, and they were the only real threats. The ghosts were what had most people hiding in their houses, and they weren’t your Casper-the-Friendly types. They were all harmless, technically, but some of them were…well…unsettling to say the least.

For example, eight years ago there was this dwarf who was sitting on his balcony minding his own business, smoking a pipe and having a beer. For whatever reason, his wife came through the door behind him. She said something to him, he grumbled, and the two started fighting. Then, he climbed up on the rail of the balcony, six stories up, and jumped to his death. From what Kerin could figure, he’d probably had quite enough of the old bag’s shit, and at that moment figured that jumping off his balcony was better than listening to her nag another minute. Since then, though, he haunts the place. Not in the “I’m gonna eat your heart” kind of way, or anything like that. His ghost sits on that balcony every wednesday night, smoking a pipe and drinking a beer. He gets up and walks to the railing, climbs on top of it, and stands there looking down for a good ten minutes before he jumps off the edge again.

So, it was stuff like that keeping people in their homes at night, mostly. When you’ve got the spirits of the dead lingering around killing themselves all over the place or watching you with jealous eyes, it becomes cozier to stay indoors.

Of course, there were some actual threats of being out at night, besides just the creepy stuff. Every city has them: the thugs and gangsters and all around jerks. Nocturnal types, those who are comfortable in the dark not because it’s in their blood, but because they’ve got something to hide. In this city, being blood-thirsty is a genetic trait, and you’d have to be an idiot to think you were some flavor of special just because you eat people. You can’t help it if you’re a carnivore, and nobody is going to judge you any more than they’d judge a giant for being tall. There were countless clinics and blood banks and butchers and so forth scattered around the city, and most (if not all) of the carnivorous types shopped for their favorite kind of meats in those ways.  No, it was the ones who decide to screw up people’s days that really made the streets a cold place to be at night, and that’s not reserved for ghosts and ghouls and succubi and “monsters”.

Of all the weird shit in this city, though, Kerin’s job was probably the strangest. She worked in a small shop owned by a local witch, a short woman draped in black who never left the building. She’d come across this job by accident one day, the same way all their customers came around. The Witch (the only name Kerin knew her by) owned a wish shop, a slim building just on the outskirts of the city. Most people didn’t even know it was there because they couldn’t see it. Kerin didn’t really understand how all that worked: if it was the Witch controlling when you could see it, or some sort of spell or something. Magic wasn’t really up her alley, despite her now having made quite the lifestyle out of it. The shop was invisible to most everyone, except those who were drawn to it, or those who had already been there, or had reason to be there, or whatever. That’s what the Witch said, anyway. People who showed up always wanted something, something they couldn’t get just by trying a little harder.

The building was pressed between two other buildings that each stood alone, which led Kerin to believe that anyone who didn’t see it just saw a dark alley or something there. It was a dark grey, and stood four stories high to match the height of the neighboring buildings. Most places here had shops on the lower level and living quarters upstairs, and this building was no different. What was different was that this was the only place in town Kerin knew of that didn’t have locks on the doors. When she’d first moved into the apartments upstairs, this had been something she really wasn’t okay with. Somehow, though, the magic made sure that you could only get in if you were welcomed, or something like that, because nobody had ever gotten into her apartment, or broken into the shop. Her pessimism declared that it was only a matter of time, but she’d been here three years and still had no issues.

Kerin opened the front door to the shop, soaking wet. She wished there was some sort of spell on the place that could remove the water, and figured that if she was a witch she would have made sure to enchant the doorway with something that made people’s clothes comfortable and clean when they came in. It couldn’t be that hard, right? No manner of wishing she was dry would make it so, though. A soft voice greeted her in the dim light of the first floor. “I could grant that wish, if you want.”

She waved a hand dismissively at the disembodied voice. “I’m still working off the last favor you did for me, so I’ll take a pass this time.”

The voice laughed a little, and the dim light in the room grew brighter, illuminating the mostly empty shop. Shelves decorated the walls, empty save for a few items collected from what Kerin could only assume were unwitting customers. There was a small table with no chairs set just a few steps ahead of her, pressed against the wall as if waiting for someone to come in with heavy hands, but nothing ever ended up on it. The farthest side of the room from the door was covered in blankets and pillows, and in the mess of purple and blue fabrics sat the Witch, dressed in black and cloaked from head to toe, her face hidden beneath the shadow of a cowl. Kerin had seen her face, once, but she couldn’t remember anything about her features. Another spell, probably, but she’d figured out by now not to question any of it. Questions were only answered with riddles, which just formed more questions, and frankly she didn’t have the patience for talking to witches.

The soft voice spoke again, “So, the wolf was undone.” It wasn’t a question.

Kerin ran her fingers through her soaking wet hair, drops of water pouring from it like rain. “Yeah, he made a big scene in the streets, so I told him to come back tomorrow. I’ll let you deal with him.”

“Did he attempt to bargain?”

“Something like that. He wants to sign another contract. I don’t know, I just didn’t feel like standing in the rain any more so it’s the only thing I could think of.”

“What was his undoing?” she asked calmly.

Kerin shrugged. “Couldn’t say. I found him that way, and he was just an ugly mess. Mad, too. Hopefully, he’ll be calmer tomorrow.”

“I am sorry that it didn’t work out.”

Her words sounded genuine, but Kerin couldn’t help but laugh. “Yeah, I’m sure you are. Listen, if you don’t need anything else from me tonight, I’m gonna get to bed. It’s been a trying day.”

The woman extended her hand to the doorway that led to the hall between the shop and the stairs. “Rest well for tomorrow. You will need it.”

Kerin waved over her shoulder as she moved toward through the door. Everything that woman said made her uneasy, like somehow there was a threat or a promise hidden in every word. Her wet combat boots banged loudly on the wooden steps as she hurried up the three flights to the top floor attic that she stayed in. ‘Rented’ wouldn’t be the appropriate term, really. Kerin had originally happened across this place like everyone else: on accident. She imagined it was weirder for everyone else who had lived in this city for years and suddenly seen a shop where there had always been nothing, but the first day Kerin had gotten into town her feet had led her to this building. A part of her wished she’d never found this city, but then again she was technically living for free (by monetary standards, anyway).

At the top of the tight stairway was a door, half the size of a human and probably originally intended for dwarves or goblins or something small like that. She opened it to pitch blackness, and crawled up the remaining few steps into her attic apartment. The room filled with light the moment her feet touched the floor, something she’d found unsettling for the first year or so she’d been here, but was now learning to be grateful for the little things even if she didn’t understand them. The Witch’s explanation for the lighting had been simply that “The house knows”, which didn’t do anything to make her feel better about it. She might as well have said “the walls have ears and the floors have eyes”, because somehow that would have actually been less creepy.

Kerin had been living very modestly: a pile of blankets in the far corner of the attic being all that she had for a bed. It was actually incredibly comfortable, considering the blankets were piled on a hard wood floor. In the corner opposite the ‘bed’ was a safe, the dial on the front sticking halfway off of the door and bent in a way that made it look like a giant metal hand had squeezed it into submission. Which, in fact, was almost exactly what had happened the first time Kerin forgot her combination. She could be a woman of infinite patience in some situations, but little things like that weren’t something she had time for. If there was a faster way in, she was going to take it, and only three months after purchasing the safe she’d forgotten the combination and broken the lock off with her bare hands. After that, she’d hired a dwarf to come up and see what he could do to fix the thing, but the man’s only response was that she clearly had a pest problem she’d need to take care of first. Once it was determined that Kerin shouldn’t be allowed to have to remember a combination, the dwarf set to installing a different kind of lock. Melded to each side of the safe were long bars on hinges that wrapped around the top and bottom of the door. Where the bars from each side met the other, there was a metal loop. Through that metal loop was a chain that linked the two bars together, and the middle of the chain was held tight with a thick master lock that took a key.

As soon as she got upstairs, Kerin set to checking the lock and the bars and chain to make sure they hadn’t been tampered with. Once satisfied that all was how she’d left it, she stripped off her wet clothes and laid them out on the floor. She didn’t really have any other furniture to hang them from, so that would have to do. Moving to a pile of black cloth in another corner, she grabbed up solid black slacks, underwear, and a tank top and dressed herself again before falling into the makeshift bed with a sigh. She laid with her eyes wide open staring at the ceiling.  The light that the house had provided dimmed until it was dark, and she fell asleep with her eyes still open.

Kerin slept through the entire night without any disturbances, which was unusual. Her paranoia would often wake her up.  Sleeping with one’s eyes open, the slightest movement would stir her from her rest. Nightmares often haunted her as well, a thing she told nobody about.The witch could probably get rid of them, if she wished it, but Kerin wasn’t really interested in being any more in debt to the woman than she already was. Thankfully, this night had been good to her, and she remembered the eerie words of the witch the night before. “Sleep well, you’re going to need it,” or something like that. So, despite her wonderful sleep and feeling well-rested, Kerin walked down the stairs that morning with dread in her heart, only to find that the Witch wasn’t even there.

Normally, when one gets to work and finds that their boss isn’t there, one expects to feel relieved. There was, actually, a part of her that was relieved, but more than anything she was suddenly scared. The woman had never not been there before. In fact, Kerin wasn’t even sure that she was able to leave that room until now. She’d only seen the Witch leave her little perch of pillows one time, but never the room itself. Still, she was gone, and Kerin wasn’t really sure what to do. Trying to convince herself that this wasn’t something that she needed to worry about, the woman set to her daily tasks. She turned the open sign around (though why they even had that when nobody could see the place was beyond her), dusted the shop, and checked the schedule to see if there were any appointments. She hoped there weren’t any too soon, if the witch was going to be gone long. While Kerin might have helped tend the shop and attend to their customers, she really couldn’t do anything on her own in this place. She wasn’t magical, and didn’t have the slightest idea why anyone was walking into that place to begin with.

When Kerin had first come upon this shop, she didn’t even know why she was going in. At the time, she had been looking for apartments, and this was the last place she would have wanted to live, just by looking at the outside of the building. Maybe she’d been cooped up in CCI labs for too long, or maybe it really was the magic luring her in. The witch insisted that she had a wish that needed to be granted, and Kerin had told her that she’d just gotten her wish granted, so no thanks. The witch, though, just laughed at her, then said that she obviously didn’t know what her wish was.  She then offered that she was free to live in the attic, free of charge, and to work off her debt in the shop for as long as she stayed.

Kerin should have found it odd at the time that the woman knew exactly what she was looking for, but instead just found relief in the fact that her search was over so quickly. Frankly, she didn’t know much about renting from people, and didn’t really have any skills for the working world. While not as useless as a human, Kerin was at a drastic disadvantage: she had absolutely no idea how this world worked. But, that was then. Now, she’d figured it all out, being a quick study, but still couldn’t bring herself to leave this place. She didn’t get attached to things easily, but it just felt…it just felt like nothing good would ever happen if she left. Perhaps it was part of the spell on this place; maybe the witch didn’t want her to leave. Or, maybe, Kerin really did have a wish, she just didn’t know what it was yet.

It was never good to have too much time to think, and Kerin found her mind going places she normally wouldn’t let it wander as she waited for something, anything, to happen. There were no appointments for the next week, which was no surprise, so the only person she expected to come around was Nate. As if on queue, at the moment she remembered he was supposed to be showing up, she saw the werewolf’s visage through the window. He was looking around in front of the store, a confused and panicked expression on his face. Kerin quickly lept to her feet and went to the door, not wanting him to get all worked up again over nothing. As soon as the door opened, he noticed the shop. Odd, she thought, that he’d been here before but wasn’t able to see it this time. “You’re late,” she lied.

He looked to her with an excited expression, “Oh, there you are!” The monster rushed toward the door and inside as if he expected the building to disappear if he didn’t hurry. , The monster had to crouch his hulking body to get through the doorway.  Once inside, he stood in front of the door ringing his hands together nervously before deciding that having them at his side would be best. Kerin pretended not to notice, moving toward the small table that nobody ever used.

“You look like you’ve calmed down some,” she mused, putting the table between them. There weren’t any chairs, but she liked feeling like she was at a counter. Having an object between herself and the overly-clingy werewolf was really the true comfort in it.

Nate nodded in response, licking his lips with his thick black tongue before talking. “Yes, I…I’m sorry about last night. It was…well, I wasn’t really myself. You know how it goes. I uh…I understand, you know, if you don’t want to…to give me another chance.”

Kerin sighed. “Why don’t you first tell me what went wrong? I couldn’t get anything out of you yesterday.”

Nodding again, more excitedly this time, the man was doing a great job of keeping his high energy under control. She could see how hard it was for him to act so human right now. It was almost admirable, but more than a little pathetic. “Well, it’s like this, you see, I…well when I came here with my wish, I don’t think I understood the rules. That…that witch, she said I wanted Ashley to love me. And…I do…or…I did. But when that witch made me human, and you started to teach me how to…control myself…so that…so that she would be able to see me as a man and not a monster…well…I…” He scratched his head nervously, an offhanded motion at first that after a moment turned into a vigorous itching. Kerin cleared her throat, and his hand dropped quickly to his side again. He smiled, but it really just looked more like he was threatening her with his teeth.

“You what, Nate?” she asked, having a hard time hiding her impatience.

“I…well sometimes you spend a lot of time with a person, and the things you want change. And…well you start to feel things, and I spent so much time with you learning how to act like a human that I…”  He looked at her with puppy dog eyes, and she couldn’t take the beating around the bush any longer.

“You fell in love with me,” she answered for him, and he nodded slowly with a whine. He opened his mouth as if he was going to explain further, but she really couldn’t stand listening to him talk anymore. She held up a finger, and he snapped his jaw closed, watching her expectantly. “You changed back because your wish didn’t apply anymore. The spell was broken because it was made under the pretense that you wanted Ashley to love you. If that’s not what you want anymore, then obviously we can’t help you get it.”

He nodded anxiously. “I know, exactly. So…I need to talk to the witch. I need to know what she can do to make it so that you can love me.”

Kerin just stared at him a moment, and her tanned face started to turn red. At first, Nate thought she was blushing, but then he saw the crease in her brow, her nostrils flare, and her lips curl up. Her hands were in fists at her sides just thinking about the fact that, if the witch were here, she might very well try and grant that wish. She thought about keeping her mouth shut, calmly telling him no, leading him out, and hoping he still couldn’t see the building. When she opened her mouth to do just that, though, a slew of smutty language flew from her lips instead. Somewhere amongst the cursing, she’d managed to use complete sentences. “You are pathetic, you know that? Why not just try to find something that works as it is. What are you going to do, come back here and keep on wishing every time a girl isn’t good enough for you? You know, if you really loved her, you would have kept on loving her. And if you really loved me, then you would leave me the hell alone, because if you love someone you want them to be happy, and the only thing in the whole world that would make me happy right now is you NOT being my problem anymore!”

She stepped out from behind the table to move toward him, though even she didn’t know why, and the beast of a man flinched. He pulled away slightly, as though she were going to attack him (which she wasn’t, but it was still a good move on his part), and Kerin realized how loud she was screaming. That realization caused her to lower her voice, though only slightly. He was still here. Why was he still here? “This was a business transaction, Nate,” she said between gritted teeth. “Just because you don’t want what you were given anymore doesn’t mean you don’t still owe for services rendered,” she continued, stepping toward him.

The wolf shook his head. “Owe?”

Kerin nodded, repeating the words she’d heard the witch say hundreds of times before. If she wasn’t here to make ends meet, Kerin would have to, and damn did it feel good to be the one to do it this time. “There’s balance in the universe, and it has to be upheld. There’s a constant give and take, and if you take something, you must give something of equal value. What the witch did for you was big: she changed your entire body to make you something you weren’t, so that you could have something you weren’t supposed to have. So, in exchange, I’m going to take something that you are supposed to have, make you the real monster that you-”

“That’s enough,” sounded the soft voice from behind Kerin. Her hair whipped around her face as she turned to look at the pile of pillows and blankets, only to find the witch sitting there. Before she had the chance to find out what that was all about, the witch spoke again. “Nathaniel Draper,” she addressed the werewolf in the doorway. The beast whined in response. “Your wish was for love. Did you receive it?”

The wolf thought for a moment, then shook his head. “I…I don’t understand.”

“You wished for the woman to love you. Does she?”

He looked out the doorway, as if considering running, then turned his eyes back to the witch. “I…don’t know. It…it doesn’t matter anymore.”

The witch lifted her head slightly, and even through the shadows Kerin could see a smile on her lips. “Oh, but it does.”

The tiny bell on the door rang as a young woman walked through, her expression bewildered. Nate gasped and backed up to the wall, pressing himself against it. “Oh, I’m sorry. The sign said you were open,” the woman spoke softly, ringing her hands in front of her nervously. “I-I’m sorry if I interrupted anything.”

The witch replied, “Not at all, my dear. Your timing is perfect. What is your wish?”

“My wish?” the girl asked, then looked at the faces all around the room. She didn’t seem to recognize anyone, then looked at the witch. “I don’t understand. I was just passing by and I-”

Kerin sniffed irritably. “Listen, lady, we don’t have all day. You’ve got a wish, everyone who comes here does. If you don’t tell her, she’s going to get it out of you anyway, so you might as well just give it up.”

“Oh,” she replied quietly, putting her hands over her mouth. “I-I see. Well, I can’t just tell complete strangers my secrets.”

The witch spoke again, her smile still lingering beneath the shadow. “You have no secrets in this room, dear.”

“Would you stop being cryptic and just tell her what she wishes for and grant it so we can get on with this ordeal?” Kerin asked, although it was more of a demand.

The witch glared at her. She couldn’t see her eyes, or most of her face, but she could feel the gaze on her skin. Or maybe that’s just what she expected. After a few moments, the witch responded. “Your heart is aching for someone, someone who does not know. But you are worried that he hides things from you, so you have not pursued anything with him. Recently, though, he has disappeared, and now you worry that his secret has caused him harm in some way. You wish to find him, to know his secret, so that you can help him with whatever it is.”

The room went silent, and Kerin turned to the girl who held a wide-eyed expression. Kerin grinned at her, “Told ya.”

The girl stammered, “How did you-”

“Don’t bother asking,” Kerin warned, and the girl nodded.

“Yes, yes it’s all true,” she said, moving toward the witch with haste. She seemed very passionate about the topic all of a sudden, and knelt on the floor in front of her like a child begging. “Please, if you know anything, I just want to know if he’s okay.”

The witch shook her head. “That is not your wish, child. What is your true wish. Tell me.”

The girl took a breath, and nodded. “I wish that Nate was here, that I could see him again and have the chance to…to show him that I love him.”

Kerin busted out laughing, slapping her hands over her mouth so hard that she could feel her fingernails digging into the skin. She hadn’t meant to, but she couldn’t help herself. The young girl looked at her with a disappointed expression, and Kerin waved a hand to try and tell her to continue as she tried to block the sound with her palms.

“Your wish is my command,” the witch said, and motioned toward the werewolf at the front of the store. The girl’s eyes followed her hand, to rest upon Nate who by now was hiding his face in the corner.

“I don’t understand,” the girl said quietly, before a look of realization came over her face. “N…Nate?” she asked.

The wolf whined and shook his head, but the girl got to her feet. “This…this is what you were hiding from me. This is what you really are? You’re…not human?”

The wolf whined again, covering his face with one of his gigantic paws. The girl ran to him and wrapped her arms around him tight. He removed his hand from his face, looking down at her in surprise. “You…you don’t care?” he asked, licking his lips again with his long black tongue.

She shook her head against his fur, her head only coming up to the middle of his chest. “I’m so glad you’re okay,” she said, crying.

Kerin had finally managed to stop her laughter, mostly because the scene was making her feel a little sick. She looked back to the witch. “Well, that answers that question,” she chuckled, referring to whether Nate had gotten what he’d wished for or not.

The witch nodded. “Nathaniel,” she said, and the man turned his eyes up to her with a smile. “Your fee is as follows: to keep one love, and forget another. Is this the love you choose?”

He didn’t even look at Kerin as he nodded excitedly. “Yes, yes, thank you so much.”

The witch nodded. “Then it will be done. Thank you for your business.”

Nate and the girl left, and Kerin stared incredulously at the witch. “What the hell kind of retribution is that?” she asked.

“What do you mean?”

“He didn’t lose anything. How is that payment?”

“But he did lose something. To lose love, no matter how small, is a great sacrifice, one not made lightly.”

“What does that even mean? He didn’t lose love.”

“He has given up all memory of you, and all of the feelings attached. The moment he left this store, you no longer existed to him. That is a love lost, a part of him that will never be replaced, an empty hole in his memories. Hopefully, the love that he left with will be enough to make up for the hole. If it is true, it will be.”

Kerin rolled her eyes. “Geeze, I didn’t take you for a romantic.”

The witch smiled. “You are welcome, by the way.”

She raised a brow. “Me? Why am I welcome?”

The shrouded woman chuckled slightly in response, but didn’t reply. Kerin narrowed her eyes, but wasn’t about to try and understand her. “Where did you go, anyway? Where were you all day?”

“I was here.”

“No you weren’t.”

The witch nodded. “Just because you do not see something, does not mean it does not exist.”

“No, but when I don’t see something, I assume it isn’t present.”

“Just because you cannot see something does not mean it is not there.”

She narrowed her eyes at the woman again. “We’re not talking about you anymore, are we?”

The witch smiled. “We are talking about many things, now. Did you rest well last night?”

Kerin hesitated, then replied. “Yeah, really well actually. Why?”

“Looking out for your well-being is all. I am glad to hear it. Could you do me a favor? I seem to be out of sugar. Could you run to the store and get some?”

“Why don’t you go?”

“If I went, then what would you do?”

“Good point,” Kerin resigned. She didn’t believe for a second that the old bag actually needed sugar. In fact, there was no kitchen even on this floor. Maybe she had one on one of the other two floors, but Kerin hadn’t ever seen anything but doors up those stairs. Still, there wasn’t anything else for her to do for now, not with that case closed, so she grabbed a light jacket and walked out into the mid-day sun to run her errand.

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