By Alison Lyke
New York had just turned cold for the winter, but dry, so that everything smelled like copper.
“Are you really standing there?” Robert asked, reaching out to touch, but Maggie recoiled, crossing her arms. Robert’s fingers just brushed the edge of her coat.
“Don’t get poetic. Of course I’m here.”
“I- I dreamed of you over and over. And you always look the same.”
Maggie stared at him for a long moment, his sharp features, his long brown hair pulled back and tucked under his ski cap. She might have fallen into him then, she could have taken one step forward. She stopped herself.
“Jesus Christ, are you kidding me.” Maggie pulled her arms even tighter, wishing she could fold inside her own body, “I’m leaving.” She turned and her heels clicked away down the alley.
He watched her auburn hair flutter behind her.
“So what? It’s been seven years Maggie. When are you going to fix me?”
Maggie continued to hustle away, her head bowed against another copper scented gust.
“I love you.” Robert said quietly, bitterly.
She turned and rushed toward him, all fury and fingernails. She meant to claw his face, but he cowered too quickly. Instead she beat at him with her heavy, yellow sack of a purse. She meant every blow.
Maggie shouted and punctuated each shout with a blow to either side of the man’s head, “Don’t say you love me! I don’t care!”
“Please, please.” He begged back, “Please.”
“Hey lady! Stop it over there!” A heavily scarved woman shouted from across the street. She pulled her young son to her other side, ensuring he no longer had a clear view of Maggie beating Robert with her purse.
Maggie pulled back, took a deep breath and smoothed her fiery locks.
“Are you going to hit me again?” Robert asked sheepishly.
“No.” Maggie huffed, “Just don’t ever say you love me anymore. I’ve heard it enough.”
“I haven’t seen you in two years, and it’s the same. I feel like I just saw you yesterday. I’m mean, I’m doing okay, but sometimes it gets bad. My memories of you are like drinking lemonade right after you bite your tongue.”
Maggie looked at him with a mix of shock and mild pity.
“What’s it like for you Maggie?” He asked her.
She shook her head, “Not like that.”
Robert looked at her with mounting hunger, “Please.”
Maggie pulled the covers up over her small breasts, but when she bent to look at Robert, the blanket slipped and uncovered her again.
“Always tears.” She said flatly.
“I’m just happy.” Robert sighed, “We haven’t slept together in four years.”
“No,” she reached across from him to grab a glass of water from his bedside stand. “You’re crying because part of you hates me.” She sipped the water, which was a few days old, lukewarm and unsatisfying.
“I could never hate you.” He choked.
“If I were you, I would hate me. What I’ve done to you is a kind of rape, Robert. Don’t you get it? It’s rape that makes you love your rapist. If I were you, I’d murder me.”
Robert lay silent, lips pressed together, glaring at his ceiling. Maggie pushed his shoulder roughly.
“Hello. Are you in there? Somewhere in there is a man who said he would never be with me. A man who would sleep with every single woman in the room except for me.” She shook him again, even harder, “Are you in there! Where are you, Robert?”
He rolled over to face her, “Can we go again?” He asked.
“No, not again,” she said, “It’ll be seven years tomorrow, so, probably never again.”
Maggie’s apartment was on a third floor with too many steps up and a few extra for good measure. She kept her curtains closed and locks locked, often checking to make sure that they hadn’t suddenly become unturned.
On the coffee table in front of her was a strongly sweet smelling poultice, which she rubbed on a black and red candle. This candle was molded to look like two lovers embracing, with a wick sprouting from each head. After she rubbed the candle, she took the herb mixture and smoothed it over her own lips. Around the lovers candle were seven onyx stones that seemed to suck at the flames when Maggie lit the wicks.
Maggie spoke aloud. Her voice felt small and ineffectual inside the flame lit room.
“Hello, if you’re there Orm'unt'o I’d like to talk to you about taking it away.”
Nothing happened, save a slight flicker of one of the red flames.
“You said at three years to try again at seven. It’s been seven years to the day, to the hour.” She paused, then called “Orm'unt'o,” into the night.
Two, glowing, violet slits of eyes opened in the blackness, yards past the candle’s flames.
“Margret, Margret you still lonely?” The genie whispered in a thick accent, gentle and hypnotic.
Maggie paused, considering lying, but then she spilled, “Yes, miserably so.”
“Why not take him? He still belongs to you. We made him belong to you.”
“He doesn’t want me. He lays next to me and cries. Pathetic. Maggie’s face reddened with anger and shame, “He knows he’s been forced to and he still thinks he loves me.”
“I’ll make it stronger then.” Orm'unt'o hissed and the flames jumped.
“I’ll kill my self.”
“Fine then, I suggest a trade.” The genie leaned forward, toward the candles, bringing light to her wickedly wizened features.
“Is it like Voodoo?” Cody asked, sucking on his cigarette as leaned against the office’s rough granite wall. The ashes from his smoke mixed with the snow catching in Maggie’s hair.
“Not really- a bit, maybe. I guess it’s European magic, but I’m not an expert.”
“Because my grandmother was a real Cajun.” Cody pressed.
“Good.” Maggie said, distracted by the lights of an SUV slowing as it passed them.
“Okay.” Cody took his last drag and tossed his butt onto the ground, blemishing the fresh snow, “Whatever, I’ll do it. I’ll try anything to get my kids back.”
This broke Maggie’s daze, “Really, you’re gonna do it?”
“Yeah, I love Marcia too, a little, but mostly I want my family back together.”
Maggie could barely control her glee, “That’s great. My, um, boyfriend Robert will be there. He’s the one that’s going to really do the magic with you. I’ll be in the next room, though.”
“I never knew you had a boyfriend.” Cody smiled.
Maggie stood by her apartment door, a paper grocery bag full of bound kitchen knives in her arms.
“I’ll be right back, I’m taking these down to Mrs. McFerron’s for the night. I told her that my deranged brother’s visiting.”
“I’m not going to murder you when the spell’s lifted.” Robert chuckled.
“Better safe, you know,” Maggie turned the first of her three door locks.
“One thing I was wondering… Why are you okay with letting Cody do this to his wife?”
“It’s his ex-wife and she’s a stupid cow anyway. He wants his kids back in his house.”
“What are you going to do if he gets like you and doesn’t want it anymore? What will happen to her if he makes her go away like you made me go away?” He asked earnestly.
Maggie leaned forward against the door, suddenly exhausted, “At this point, I don’t care.”
Maggie sat on the edge of her bed, her heavy head in her hands.
“Five more minutes,” she whispered almost inaudibly to herself.
From the other room the sound of Robert’s voice mixed with the deep tones of the genie Orm'unt'o, but she could not tell what they said.
Maggie became overtaken by an abrupt and smooth warmness, as if she’d been sipping on some rich wine. The coolness of her room gave way to vibrancy, and her nostrils filled with an unknown perfume.
Her neck felt long, her head seemed to float away from her body. In this dreamy state, she wandered out of her bedroom and into her living room.
Robert sat on Maggie’s sofa, right where she’d left him. It was the same old brown sofa that always occupied that space, but it looked splendid and shiny with Robert perched upon it. On the coffee table was the lovers’ candle, with smoke rising from the recently extinguished wicks.
“Where’s Cody?” Maggie glanced around her living room.
“He got scared and left. I think your genie was too much for him. He decided not to go through with it.”
“Robert, I think it worked anyway.”
“I know it worked.” He murmured coolly, “You’re not the only one who can make trades with our friend Orm'unt'o.”
“I feel different. I feel really good.” Maggie’s voice was ethereal.
“Yeah, I’m sure you do.” Robert casually, stood up, brushing the wrinkles out of his shirt, “Being in love is the best feeling in the world, isn’t it Maggie.”
Maggie put her hands to her mouth. Robert looked exquisite. She couldn’t believe he’d been in the next room for so long and she hadn’t thought to make love to him.
She moved forward and pressed against him, “Let’s do it.” She moaned.
“Ugh. Get off me.” He scoffed, pushing her away.
She fell back over the table, spilling the wax from the candle. Maggie disregarded the ruined wax, her focus doting on Robert.
“Oh, this is unbelievable.” Robert laughed in astonishment, “Tell me you love me Maggie.”
“I love you Robert.” Maggie gushed.
“Tell me again.”
Unnoticed tears poured from Maggie’s eyes.
“I love you Robert,” She paused, in the final moment before her mind was completely taken from her, she asked, “Wait, what are you going to do with me?”
“At this point, why would you care?” Robert answered.