by China DeSpain
Morganne stirred the concoction carefully. The magical ingredients were delicate, and if she overmixed them, the whole thing would fall apart. She was working with her largest, oldest cast iron pot, giving the ingredients space as she swirled herbs and liquids together with a wooden spoon.
Reaching for her apothecary shelf, she grabbed several bottles. She splashed in a bit of rose water, followed by a viscous red potion she’d gotten from her great-aunt. Next went in a sprinkle of mint, to lighten the aroma. After all, no one would drink a foul-smelling brew, and she had to make certain her targets drank from this blend.
She’d been hired to make certain, after all.
Once everything was melded to her satisfaction, she turned down the flame and left it to bubble. Morganne had to time everything exactly. The party was tonight, and her brew had to be perfect.
Oh, wouldn’t they be surprised when she showed up! She smiled to herself. No one ever expected a witch to crash their party, and she had to admit, it was great fun showing up unannounced. Of course, she wouldn’t be able to reveal her presence until after everyone had sipped from her potion. Obviously.
She hurried to her room to dress, aiming for something inconspicuous. She settled on a simple, knee-length dress made of gray lace, topped with a nubby, oatmeal-colored cardigan. Staid, appropriate, unlikely to call attention. Perfect. With a flick of her wrist, her hair and makeup arranged themselves. Her olive skin was clear, enhanced by rosy cheeks and lips. Her long, thick hair was pulled up in a simple dark ponytail. Unobtrusive and bordering on sweet.
Just the right look for crashing an engagement party.
When the brew had simmered and cooled, she transferred it to a large thermos. She snapped her fingers and transported herself to The Cottage, a beautiful rental hall in the middle of lush, storybook gardens. Morganne grinned to herself. The irony of a witch appearing unannounced in the midst of a fairy-tale setting was not lost on her. Quick as a mouse, she slipped into the kitchen, where the caterers were preparing the engagement feast. A whispered incantation kept them from noticing her.
She removed the punch bowl from the fridge, where the shimmering champagne punch waited. She dumped the whole lot of it down the drain and replaced it with her own brew, which had cooled to a lovely shade of golden-pink. It looks positively refreshing, she thought. Wonderful.
She stashed the bowl back in the fridge and considered her next move. She could pop back home and no one would ever know what she had done. Or she could stay and watch the newly-betrothed couple succumb to her spell.
Well. The choice was clear.
She hurried from the kitchen to the dining room, which managed to be cozy and luxurious all at once. Someone had strung twinkling white lights all across the windows and French doors, and the trees outside were bedecked in them too. The sun was just setting, and cast the entire place in a magical, dusky glow. Of course it was perfect. The couple wouldn’t have settled for anything less.
Morganne found an unoccupied corner near a ficus and wrapped the shadows around herself. She could watch everything from here without being detected.
It wasn’t long before the happy couple arrived and took their place at the head table, with the rest of the guests following suit. Both Alanna and Michael practically glowed with joy. Morganne had known them both since childhood, and she had never seen either of one of them look so delighted. In fact, she and Alanna had been best friends from the age of nine, until Alanna’s relationship with Michael put a strain on things.
Alanna should have known better. You simply didn’t date your friends’ exes, particularly the ones who left broken hearts in their wake. Oh, sure, Morganne and Michael had mended fences eventually, and even reached a place of warm and solid friendship. But it had taken years, and Morganne had nursed a shredded heart after their brutal breakup. Alanna had been there the whole time, mopping up Morganne’s tears and listening to her (figuratively) curse Michael’s very existence.
So when Alanna and Michael got together—and then got engaged!—well, it had been a bit much for Morganne to take. Fortunately for her, she was a witch. Morganne knew how to heal and she knew how to hurt. It was only a matter of choosing the more satisfying option.
That was why, when Alanna’s mother had come to her, concerned about her daughter’s relationship (after all, she’d been there to see the fallout from Michael and Morganne’s breakup, too), Morganne had been all too happy to help. She’d even offered Mrs. Alcott a discount for her services, charging only for the materials she needed.
The cater waiters appeared in the dining room, pulling Morganne from her reverie. As Mrs. Alcott had promised, they carried glasses of punch. They served the room quickly, and Alanna’s mother rose to make her toast.
This was the moment. Morganne craned forward, eager to watch the lovebirds fall under her spell.
“To my daughter and to Michael, who makes her happier than I’ve ever seen. Here’s to a lifetime of love and happiness.” Mrs. Alcott raised her glass, and the whole room sipped as one.
Morganne had crafted her brew carefully. Even though everyone in attendance was drinking it, only Michael and Alanna would be affected. She’d been careful to tailor it to them, by dissolving the tiniest flakes of their skin into the potion. Gross, yes, but necessary. Witch’s work was often unappealing.
Morganne didn’t have to wait long; the effect was almost instantaneous. The couple set down their glasses, and with shining eyes, wrapped themselves up in a kiss. Rose petals rained down on them from some invisible source, and they glanced up, laughing and awestruck.
“What in the world?” Alanna said.
Mrs. Alcott stood again. “There’s something else I need to say. I’ve slipped you a surprise engagement gift.”
Michael and Alanna turned to her, wearing matching puzzled frowns. “Mother?” Alanna asked.
Her mother smiled. “The two of you are more in love than any couple I’ve ever known. I believe your love will withstand any hardships that come your way. But I want you to have more than love in your life; I want you to have romance. And that’s why I commissioned a Romance Punch for this evening. You just drank it, and will forever be blessed by it. The rose petals sealed it.”
“I don’t understand,” Michael began, and Morganne stepped out from the shadows.
“Mrs. Alcott and I worked on it together,” she explained. “It’s our gift to you.” She flicked her wrist, and more petals rained down, dotting Alanna’s hair.
When Mrs. Alcott had asked Morganne to meet her for coffee at Vine and Bean, the local cafe, Morganne hadn’t known what to expect. But the woman’s idea had pleased and surprised her. Mrs. Alcott had been under no illusions about a love spell—those inevitably went wrong—and had instead put forth the idea of a romance charm. Something to keep the couple swooning over each other for the rest of their lives.
“I saw how hard it was for you when you and Michael split,” she’d explained. “And I saw how hard it was on him too. I watched all three of you suffer as you tried to find your footing and friendship again. I don’t want that for either of them.”
Morganne had nodded. When Alanna had first asked for her blessing to date Michael, Morganne had been startled. But when she saw how they were together, she’d understood. They couldn’t stop touching each other, and often spoke in a shorthand language only the two of them could understand. They were meant for one another, and Morganne wouldn’t stand in their way.
However, it didn’t mean she was happy about things. She gave her blessing, yes, but it poked at the scabbed over wound Michael had left in her. The strain between Alanna and Morganne was new and difficult, but Morganne refused to give up the friendship. She’d vowed to make things between them right again.
So she’d whipped up a little healing concoction for the pain and taken her medicine like a big girl. Alanna was her best friend, and Michael had become a cherished pal as well. She wanted nothing more than to be happy for them, and if it took a little magical nudging to get her there, she was fine with it.
She smiled at her friends now. “Thanks to the punch, you will always have roses. You will always have candles and soft music and whispered secrets. You will have a private laugh just the two of you share. You will never tire of the other’s company. Blessings on you both.”
Michael and Alanna raised their glasses and toasted their friend, and then Alanna stood and walked to where Morganne waited.
“I was so sad when you RSVP’d that you weren’t coming. I should have suspected your were up to something.”
Morganne hugged her friend. “I wouldn’t have missed this! I just needed to catch you off guard. If you’d known about the spell, it wouldn’t have worked.”
“Thank you for that. It’s the most beautiful gift I could have imagined.”
Michael stood and joined his fiancee and friend. “Morganne, I’m so glad you made it. Thanks for the spell.”
He grinned at her, and her heart soared. Once upon a time, that grin had been for her, and then suddenly one day, it wasn’t. She had long feared the sight of it would always make her sad. But time and magic had healed her heart. She was truly thrilled for them, and suddenly struck by the certainty that something good waited just around the corner in her own future. She wasn’t sure what, but her witch’s intuition told her that something was coming.
She raised her hands, encompassing the three of them. “I have one more spell. This one’s for all of us.”
Alanna raised a curious brow. “What is it?”
Morgana grinned and flicked her wrists. “And they all lived happily ever after!”
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