“Oh, come on Jani, that’s no way to treat your brother’s friend!” No doubt seeing the impassive expression on my face that said ‘I don’t care’, my mother told me, “It’s just as likely that he came to see Ken.” Before I had time to object, she told me, “Stay here, I’m going to get your brother.”
A minute later, Ken burst out of the front door and juddered to an abrupt stop, as he took in Harry and his strange immobility. “Well,” he managed after a few seconds, “That would be so cool, if it wasn’t Harry.”
“But it is, so it’s funny,” I told him. “We could just turn him around, and see how he reacts when it wears off, and he finds himself leaving.”
I could see from mum’s expression of disapproval that she didn’t agree with me, even before she said, “Don’t be so cruel, we have no idea what he’ll be like when your spell fades. Now, Jani,” she commanded with parental authority, “Stay with him, and apologize properly as soon as he can understand what you did to him.
The fact, which took it’s time before it hit me on the chin, was that I had no way of knowing what Harry would be like when the freeze ended. When he did move, the change was so smooth it was clear he never noticed what happened. Regardless, I was most contrite, and almost shouted, “Sorry Harry, it was a mistake.”
Blinking, he asked, “Whoa, how did you move so fast, and what mistake?”
“Ken is waiting inside to tell you,” I told him, and rushed off to hide in my bedroom where I banged my head against the headboard at least five times for being so stupid. After that, I just knew I was stupid, but not why.
Predictably, it wasn’t long before my traitorous brother knocked on my door, and asked me to come downstairs. Since I felt guilty after what I inadvertently did to Harry, I relented. Of course Harry, who had none of the internal conflict that had me in a total turmoil, was all effusive. “Jani,” he said, all the while closing in on me like a homing missile, “what you did was so amazing! I knew my best girl was something else.” With that last word, he gave me a bear hug and kissed me, but fortunately only on the forehead. I don’t know what I’d have done if he had gone for my lips.
Before he could go any further, my dad, whom I hadn’t even known was home, came out of his den, saying , “Good morning. Oh, hello Harry, it’s just as well you’re here.” This distraction let me wriggle away from my captor, and I listened carefully, as his attitude said he had something important to say. “A lady from the coven called me,” he said, trying to make sure he had our full attention. “They want all of us not only to formally join, but to go through some ceremony. You too, Harry.” Having his attention on my dad allowed me to edge further away from him.
“What does that mean?” Ken asked.
Dad took the opportunity to flop down is his favourite easy chair. “I asked the same question,” he said, while making himself comfortable, “and let me tell you what answer I got. Excepting for Janice, we will all have to attend this ceremony next weekend to awaken our witch powers, and then later we’ll have to spend a lot of our spare time learning about them. We will also have to get registered as members of the supernatural community. Oh, and Harry, Stefania wants to see you and Janice together as soon as it’s convenient. She said she had an answer to a question Janice asked her.” Since Harry looked mildly surprised, before turning insufferably happy, my dad made a point of saying, “She said she had to tell you both about it together, and I have no idea what it’s about.”
I had a good idea, and it gave me a certain amount of hope. I really wanted her to have a solution to the problem of our most unnatural mutual attraction. It was getting to be much too stressful. Harry was happily ignorant that I was trying to find a way to get rid of it, and I wanted him to stay that way.
Although I really wanted to see Stefania at once, I had to wait until Wednesday evening. That meant three whole school days of alternatively being feted for my new powers, and then being mercilessly ribbed and teased for ‘letting my hair down’ (and skirt up, or was it down too?) at the party.
Harry drove me there in his car, and it was a fraught journey for me. He was acting so like a gentleman, and it was all I could do to stop myself from fondling his knee, he looked so handsome. I kept telling myself that Stefania had most likely found a cure, and all would soon be well.
Naturally it was a profound relief to step out of the car when we got to the coven house. I even let him take my hand in a weak moment as we walked inside, reminding myself that it was hopefully his last chance to do so. We were expected, and Gina led us straight to Stefania’s study, where two matching chairs stood facing her desk. Gina followed and took a seat nearby.
When we were all comfortable, she began, “Harry, you have a rather strong crush on Janice, don’t you?”
He clearly hadn’t expected that question, so it was a few seconds before he replied, “Well, yes, I’ve adored her forever, and have always known she would be the one for me.” Not what I thought to hear either.
Stefania asked him, “Why didn’t you say anything? Surely you should have told her, after all, some other boy might have made a move, and you could have lost her.”
His expression brimming with confidence, Harry said, “I somehow knew it wasn’t time until very recently.”
Stef nodded her head, “I had a feeling that was the case. Gina did some research for me. You know about the Grand Working we did last year, well my old High Mistress added an extra working at the same time that encouraged witches to be attracted to other witches.”
I couldn’t help interrupting. “You mean the crush I have on Harry is just a bit of magic?” I shouldn’t have spoken.
Harry naturally put his own spin on her words. “Jani, I’ve waited years for you to say you wanted me!” He stood, and pulled me up into an embrace. “I’ve never been happier.” He crooned, as his lips found mine. I was unable to tear myself away, drowning in the first real kiss of my life.
It can’t have been that long, but it seemed like forever, until Stef’s loud coughing brought us back to earth. The kiss had been wonderful and fulfilling, but what had I been doing? Harry let go of me, and we both sat again, me rather abruptly since I was so mixed up, and him sporting a triumphant smile. “Believe it or not,” Stef said when she had our full attention, “that working had nothing to do with your attraction to each other. Gina found everything out, so I’m going to let her tell you.”
“Thank you, Mistress,” Gina said, as she stood, and leant on the desk facing us. “What you have is something very special and very rare.” I was starting not to like the way things were going, and Gina’s next words didn’t help. “It seems that when two witches, whose powers are going to be exceptionably compatible, grow up together, as you two did, then it’s your untapped powers that draw you together. In most cases, you would have become close friends from the time you first met, and in a few years completely inseparable. In your case, as Janice’s powers are so unusual, we believe her end of the bond didn’t manifest until her powers became active.”
That was it. I shot up, almost knocking my chair over backwards, and asked rather stridently, “But what can we do to end this bond?”
This question almost floored Gina, as she visibly tightened her hold on the desk. “But why would anyone want to break something so wonderful? Janice, Harry here is the best man for you in the entire world, chosen by fate to be everything for you.”
Before I could come up with any dramatic histrionics, Stef held up her hand, and said, “Harry, Janice originally came to me looking for a way to sever your bond, so she could go back to being normal, or at least as normal as possible. You see, she didn’t understand what was going on, and neither did we.” Turning to me, she said, “There is no easy or short way to cut it. The only way is for you to separate, and not see each other at all. If you do that, then it will slowly fade, but you will still yearn so much for each other that a relationship with anyone else will be virtually impossible for years.”
“I read about one such pair,” Gina said, to clarify Stef’s point. “The boy died of one of those childhood diseases that so often killed children well into the last century. After that the girl, who was very pretty, and did not lack for suitors, couldn’t even talk to a boy her age for over ten years.”
Harry could probably feel the waves of unhappiness rolling off me, so he started stroking my hair, saying, “You’ll always have me, I’ll never let anything happen to you to make you unhappy. I love you.” I had neither the energy nor the inclination to push him away. Damn I was so conflicted. Harry had actually used the L word, and I had no idea what to say. At least I didn’t think he expected an answer in kind.
The situation was deteriorating rapidly, and I simply sat numbly, waiting for the next axe to fall. So naturally, it did. “There is actually an upside to this, Janice,” Stef said, no doubt unsuccessfully trying to cheer me up. “When you complete the bond, your powers will intertwine, and you will both become much stronger. Any special talents he manifests will become yours, and vice versa.”
It took me a while to ask the crucial question, “What do you mean exactly by ‘complete the bond’?”
I could see Stef starting to blush, so it wasn’t much of a surprise when she rather haltingly admitted, “Up until recently, my answer would be that you just needed to get married. Nowadays, while that would be preferable, and no doubt will be inevitable, I would say that having sex would do the job nicely.”
I got up and rushed from the room, vaguely hearing Stef shout, “Harry, don’t follow her yet.” I didn’t know where I was going, so I ended up leaving the house by a back door, and bounced off a couple of trees before I sat down next to one, tears already streaming down my face. After a while, when the tears stopped, I was at last able to think. Even then, it wasn’t an easy process. Slowly replaying what I had heard over and over, eventually one thing jarred. It was when Harry said that even though he had been crushing on me for years, he knew it wasn’t the time for him to say anything. That’s when I took the time to examine things from his perspective. How difficult must it have been for him to feel that I was the only girl for him, yet to also have a nagging little magical spirit on his shoulder. all the while whispering, ‘Wait a bit longer, not yet, not yet, now isn’t the time.’? Had all his teasing antics just been his way of keeping his distance until he could speak?
Perhaps Harry wasn’t quite as obnoxious a boy as I once thought, so I got up, brushed myself off, and made my way back towards the house. I decided that since he hadn’t had it as easy as I imagined, and because I was still deep down a teenager with rampant hormones, that I should give our relationship a chance. The crucial fact was that not only would I be unable to have a meaningful relationship of any sort with another boy for years, but I would also be condemning him to a similar fate. I wasn’t that cruel, and the kiss had been really something.
When I found my way back to Stefania’s study, they were all still there. “Sorry,” I told them, “this is all getting to be a bit much.”
Harry, of course, jumped up the moment he saw me, and gave me a bearhug. It seemed he had also got the message that it was me or nobody, at least for a decade or so, and was doing his best to be good. “Jani,” he breathed, “I want to do everything right by you.”
I actually hugged him back. Suddenly it wasn’t me against him, it was us together, sharing an extremely unenviable fate where we had to learn to look past each other’s faults, or endure a string of empty years. Perhaps being with him wouldn’t so bad after all.