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The unwanted romance

Once the meeting at the Shifters’ Liaison Office ended, Stefania, the leader of the local coven, told us supposed new witches to come with her, as she was going in the same general direction, and the journey home would give her an opportunity to get to know us. Probably with intent, my brother Ken went to take the shotgun position in her vehicle, only to find himself beside a chauffeur. That made me smile, although it did put me in the back with Harry and Stefania.

Patting the seat beside her, Stefania unintentionally finessed Harry’s effort to sit beside me, grab my hand and do his best to be all over me. Thank god. Instead he was relegated to the row behind us. “I understand that you have only just found out you have witch blood.” Stefania said, easing us into a conversation, as we drove off. Harry, wanting to be included, leant over and said, “For me that would be this morning. Tom’s sons sniffed me out and told me.” “I never thought of soliciting the shifters’ help to identify my latent witches,” Stefania sighed. Turning to Harry, she said, “You and Ken up front must be a little bit older than Janice. When I …we get the chance, we’d like to bring you in, and awaken you.” Taking my hand, she addressed me, saying, “You’re different, Janice. You are one of our ‘oddities’, no,” she said apologetically. “That’s a bit unfair; I should say that you have been unconventionally gifted, and we have to see what you can do. Your agreement to help us is very generous, you know. Predicting the future is a witch gift, but it’s unreliable. The few of us who have it can’t control it very well as it tends to manifest rather sporadically. With you, it seems we can get a prediction to order.”

“Whereas, in my case, it’s rather like Forrest Gump and his box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get!”
                           “That’s true”, she replied, patting my hand. “Now, when can I meet you parents?”

I didn’t know what to say to that, except, “I’ll talk to my mother tomorrow. This evening may be a bit early.” More to the point, I had to speak to her first, and without my father present. This was definitely one hurdle at a time territory.

We arrived home after getting to learn quite a bit from Stefania. Ken got out first to let us in. Meanwhile Harry, instead of taking the offer to be dropped at his house, a couple of streets away, followed me out instead, and took my hand, stopping me from going inside. “Janice,” he said, lighting his face up with an endearing smile full of confidence, “Yesterday I said I would ask you out when you were in a better mood. Please let me take you on a date.” Before I could start on him, he added, “Give me a chance, I’m not the person you think I am, and I really like you.”

I made the mistake of looking him right in his eyes, and had to grab him before my knees gave way. My body was in rebellion with my mind, and it was winning. “Alright,” I managed against my better judgment. “One date only, and If you put even one finger out of line, it’ll get cut off.”

He must have been ecstatic, as he pulled me close, and gave me a passing peck on the lips before I could pull away. “Jani, it will be the best date you have ever had.”

Yeah, right. If it wasn’t a total disaster, it would be, as I’d only been out a couple before, and neither had exactly been scintillating. I dragged myself away from him before he could coax any more involuntary reactions from my willing body, and shut the front door on him with a huge sigh of relief, as Ken giggled at me.

Ignoring him, I stomped upstairs to contemplate the mess I had landed myself in. Lying on my bed, I tried to sort my problems out in my head. No, not my looming ones starring Harry, as I was a long way from being able to process them. My focus came around to those tunes my mum liked so much when she was pregnant with me. I needed to know what they were, and how they might affect me, as it seemed they were the key to my new found witch powers. It was rather daunting, as my mind tended towards the disaster scenarios that might occur. What if one gave me the ability to fly, and then turned off while I was in the air? What if she liked ‘Walk like an Egyptian’? and I was forced to shovel my arms around, and jerk my head for however long I had to, while it played, making me a laughingstock.

Of course there might be others that gave me something a bit more useful, so I struggled up and hoped that my mother wasn’t with my dad. She was alone in the kitchen, cooking dinner. “Mum,” I asked, as I came up to her and gave her a hug, “Can you remember which songs you liked to listen to when I was on the way?”

“Way ahead of you dear,” she said as she pulled a piece of paper from her apron pocket, and handed it to me. “These are the ones I can remember, and there might be a few I can’t.” I glanced at the list, there were about twenty titles there, only some of which I recognized. I mumbled a brisk ‘thank you’ to my mother and tucked the list away. I wasn’t now even sure I dared read it. It was time to get Ken’s help.

Ken and I ended up in my room. He still maintained his was forbidden to me, even though I had bulled my way in there not long ago, and seen the rather too fetching picture he had of me. I didn’t see anything else that might embarrass him, so I put it down to an eccentric desire for privacy or more likely because there were hidden things he didn’t want me to find. Brothers.

“Ken,” I asked, passing over the list. “Look over these titles and please try and find one that might be helpful without killing me, embarrassing me, or turning me into a frog. They were mum’s favourites.”

“I’ll check these out for you,” he told me. He also put on his patent devilish smile, the one that he used when teasing me. “I’ll find something suitable.”

It had been a rough day for me, and I didn’t want to think anymore. Whatever Ken might suggest could wait until tomorrow. Fortunately for me, my dad had gone to work by the time I emerged for breakfast. I plucked up the courage to tell mum, “We met with the local coven leader yesterday. Since it’s confirmed that both of us have witch blood, she wants to meet our parents.” I debated making the admission, but as my mum, I felt she had a right to know. “Harry has witch blood too. I’m pretty sure we are the only ones at school who have it, but at least one of Harry’s parents, and one of you and dad must have it too.” While she tried to digest that zinger, I swiftly added, “Harry and I have developed this crazy mutual crush, and you must know how much I detest him. I’m totally confused.”

Now it was my mother who broke up, and started cackling. “Hoo, hoo girl, you must have known how much he likes you.”

“So he says, but I had no idea until a couple of days ago, and he’s never done anything to show it, in fact his constant teasing and jerking me around has always suggested the opposite! Actually, mum, I have this theory that it might simply be because I’m the only witchy girl he’s ever met, and he’s the only witch boy I’ve met who isn’t family.”

“That’s quite a theory, love.” She stopped, and seemed to think for a moment before she continued, “I think that may be part of it. Try this one on for size. You are the only witch girl your brother knows. In the past when I asked him why he hadn’t ever had even the suggestion of a steady girl, he said, “When I meet one as good as or better than Jani, then I’ll grab her’.” I blinked. Was that why he had that photo of me? “You see dear, if he has that witchy thing going on he may not be fully able to help himself.”

“I hope that’s all it is, and it may be why he’s so keen that Harry and I get together.” I looked away from mum, in fact I wanted to hide and not make the admission, except I knew I’d have to tell her anyway. “I told Harry I’d let him take me on a date.” Quickly I added, “Just one.”

“Did I hear that right?” Ken asked, as he bounded into the breakfast room. “You’re going on a date with Harry? Well, it’s about time!”

“Well, it’s about the first time your bosom buddy has deigned to say anything polite to me, so his attitude had given him no chance at all.” I laid on the disdain. “Not to mention that it’s the first time he’s actually bothered to ask!” Ken can be such a dick sometimes.

I didn’t want to ask if he had chosen a song from the list mum had produced, so I did my best to ignore him as he helped himself to a full plate. I then scarfed mine down, and managed to leave the breakfast table before he could broach the subject. Okay, I was scared. Part of me wanted all this to go away and for things to go back to normal. I would even be prepared to put up with Harry reverting to being a total jerk. Unfortunately, the sane part of me knew that I couldn’t, and would have to adjust to my new reality. That realization made me try to come to terms with Harry and the date I had agreed to. Damn, how could I manage it? What should I wear? Where would he take me? Come to think of it, when was in the mix as well, as he hadn’t said which day. My guess was tomorrow, Friday, as he seemed to be raring to go and oh so keen. Come to think of it, that was the day of the twins’ party, so it could be whenever.

When I saw him at school later, he suggested we go for a snack first, and then on to the twins party. I agreed at once, as being around a lot of other people, most of whom we knew, would help put the brakes on anything getting too far out of hand. It wasn’t until halfway through the afternoon that it hit me. Party equals music for dancing. A lot of it. All it would take would be one number that caught me unawares, and who knows what might happen? Searching around for a solution, I felt stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place. If I canceled out on him, might he decide to dump me? No, of course he wouldn’t, he was far keener than I was, or at least the part of me that screamed for his touch. He would likely think it was a ploy for me to get him alone so we could… No, bad idea. The group atmosphere was way safer. In the end, I resolved to wear some headphones, and listen to my own music. I hoped it would work.

I stopped worrying about the date, as the moment I left the school’s main entrance, I saw Stefania waiting outside, leaning on her limo. It was a no-brainer that she was waiting for me. By the time I made my way over to her, I was flanked by the boys, who were also drawn to her, or was it simply because neither wanted to let me out of their sight? “Good afternoon,” she said in greeting, as we arrived. “Janice, if you don’t mind, I want to borrow you for an hour or so.” Seeing me slightly taken aback, she continued, “I’ve spoken to your mother, so she knows you’ll be with me. Tom introduced us.” She bundled me into the limo, leaving the boys behind, and said, “Sorry about this, but something urgent came up.” When we were safely in traffic, she closed the window through to the chauffeur, saying, “One of my colleagues made a prediction that another shifter was going to be killed.”

“That was it?” I queried. “Yea,” she replied, “As I said, those of my colleagues who have the gift, don’t get much.” She chose her words carefully, as they came out slowly. “I know it’s a lot to ask, but if you were in my position, I’m pretty sure you would be asking the same thing. After all, it’s to save a life.”

Not the sort of request you turn down, now, was it? “Of course I’ll do what I can,” I replied. I hope I can give you something usable.”

“I’m taking you to our coven house, and you’ll meet a couple of my colleagues, including the one who made the prediction. Everyone’s keen to meet you, but I’m going to make sure you won’t be overwhelmed.” It felt like too late for that already, but I did appreciate the concern.

“You have a copy of the song?” I asked, meaning the one that triggered my predictive ability.

“Oh, no problem, we’ve set you up in a comfy chair and everthing. You do appreciate that time may be a factor, so we’ll get what we can from you first. So it would be straight in the deep end. Gulp. I could only acquiesce my agreement. Stefania whisked me into a wonderfully imposing mansion which I did not have a moment to appreciate. That was because I found myself in the promised comfy chair meeting the lady who had the original vision. How did I know that? Well..

“Oh how wonderful to meet you, Janice, I’m Gina. I do so hope you can help clarify what I saw.”

“Gina,” Stefania interrupted, with a modest amount of reproof in her voice. “Let’s not scare her too much. Excuse Gina please, Janice, she’s been so excited.

I took a deep breath and asked, “Are we going to get going?” I was nervous and wanted it over with. Stefania nodded, “Okay.” she crossed to a switch, saying, “Ready?” I nodded, the song started in, and I was elsewhere. Then there was a soft hand on my shoulder, and all I could say was “It’s Mr Henderson, Tom’s boss, and it’ll be soon.”

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