I leaned against the brick wall and crossed my arms over my chest. Looking up, I watched as fluffy white clouds moved slowly across the sky. Blowing out an impatient breath, I said, “Done being a baby yet?”

Luke groaned. 

He was bent at the waist, his hands on his knees, and yes, he was acting like a baby. “It is not that bad, and you’re not going to convince me that it is.” I rolled my eyes.

He glared at me. 

“Dude, enough with the evil eye. I get it. You don’t like teleporting. This would go a lot faster if you’d just man up.”

“I can’t believe you just said that to me.” He stood up, avoiding eye contact by looking up at the clouds.

We stood watching the clouds drift by in silence until I couldn’t hold my tongue any longer. “You really could have stayed home.” Then softening my tone, I added, “I know you’re dealing with something that, for some reason, you haven’t wanted to talk to me about.” 

It bothered me. I bit my tongue again, forcing myself to keep quiet. Whenever I felt myself going to a dark place, I went to him. It hurt that he was going through something, and I didn’t know how to help. I looked at Luke. I just couldn’t let it go. “You were there when it seemed like the darkness was surrounding me. You made sure the light could get in.” I gave him a quick hug. “I just want you to know I’m here.” I released him and thumped his shoulder. “You ready?”

He was quiet for a long moment before responding, “Yeah.” He smiled. “Do you want to try calling Bella again?” 

I sighed. “It keeps going to voicemail. I just talked to her a few weeks ago. She’s probably at work.”

“And you’re sure this is her building?” 

“Pretty sure. I’m hoping we’ll be able to catch her on her way in.” I looked down the street. It was filling up with people, so I scanned the faces, trying to pick hers out of the crowd. 

Luke took my hand and, with his eyes on the crowd, said, “It’s not that I don’t want to talk to you…it’s just business. Something happened a few years ago, and it seems someone is having a hard time getting past it.”

I nodded. “If there’s anything I can do, I will.” There were very few people in this world that meant something to me, and I’d do whatever I could for any of them. I read somewhere that you never really knew what you looked like unless you could see yourself through someone else’s eyes. Well, I knew what everyone saw when they looked at me, and I knew what I saw. They saw a beautiful woman. I saw a monster. Luke was one of the few people that saw past both, to who I was beneath everything. I would do anything for him. 

He squeezed my hand. “Is that her?” 

I followed his line of sight. “Yes!” I pulled him along the sidewalk, calling out, “Bella!”

Her head whipped around, and her face lit up when she saw me. “Medusa! It’s been a while.” 

I smiled. “I’ve tried calling a couple of times.”

Her face flushed. “Sorry, I’ve been having trouble keeping a cell phone working.”

“Your magic?” I asked.

She bobbed her head, her dark hair falling over her face. Her gaze fell on Luke.

“Oh, sorry.” I made introductions and stepped a little closer to Luke, feeling possessive. I saw the interest in her eyes, and I didn’t like it. “I was hoping you could help me with something.” Lowing my voice, I leaned in and whispered, “A spell.” 

Bella finally tore her attention from Luke and smiled. “Let’s go up to my apartment, and you can tell me what’s going on.”

We waited as she unlocked the door, then followed her up the stairs in silence. 

“Can I get you guys anything?” Bella asked.

Luke and I both declined, anxious to see if she’d be able to help. I quickly explained what had been happening over the last few days. 

She listened in silence until I finished, then asked, “You need a spell to protect your mind? To keep her from reaching out?”

“Yes. Is it something you can do?”

She chewed her lower lip and looked uncomfortable. “I’m not sure. My magic isn’t that strong. I can manage charms, but anything bigger has the potential to do just as much harm as good.”

My shoulders slumped. I didn’t have a backup plan. 

“Does she need something bigger than a charm?” Luke asked. 

Bella was quiet for a long moment, then her face brightened. “I don’t think she does.” She turned to me. “A charm should work. You’ll have to wear it while you’re sleeping, but it should be enough to keep anyone from having any control over your mind. I have just the thing. I need to run back down to my friend’s shop.” She jumped up, seemingly excited to help.

“Should we come with you?” I started to stand, but she waved me off, so I relaxed back onto the couch and breathed a sigh of relief. Assuring us that she’d be back quickly, she slipped out the door, leaving Luke and me alone. 

Luke put his arm around me and pulled me close. “Looks like you might get the quiet holidays we  were hoping for. If the charm works, maybe we can just take some time for the two of us?” he asked hopefully.

I leaned into him. “If this mystery witch is as powerful as we think she is, she’ll eventually find a way around the charm.”

Sighing, he said, “I know.”

“I hope we find her quickly. I’m not sure what to do with her once we do, though. She could look at me while I was in Gorgon form. I won’t have any defense against her.”

“Yes, you will. Me. You’re not alone. I’m not the only one that would do anything for you either.” 

I looked around Bella’s small apartment. It had a warm, homey feel, and the smell of herbs and spices hung heavily in the air. Bookshelves lined every bit of wall space. Some of the books looked old, and my fingers itched, wanting very much to pick up one and flip through it. It felt intrusive, though, so I relaxed and leaned into Luke. Stuck in random places all over the room were small stones and crystals. I wondered if the air carried magic as well as the scent of herbs. “Maybe we can get a protection charm for you while we’re here. I wish I would have thought to ask about it before.” Now that I thought about it, extra protection for Luke was a great idea. 

“You’re the danger magnet,” he replied, laughing.

Before I could think of a sarcastic response, Bella rushed back in. 

“I have the perfect thing. Bloodstone. I put a charm on it, then had my friend give it a boost. It should last a couple of weeks, but then it will need to be recharged.” As she spoke, she pulled a small smooth stone out of a leather pouch and held it out to me. 

I carefully took the stone and turned it over on my hand. It was such a deep green it looked almost black, and it had a smattering of red splashed over it. “It’s beautiful.” 

Bella sat next to me and said, “Bloodstone is a powerful healing stone. It will help direct your spiritual energy and keep evil and negativity at bay. It will also ground and protect your soul. Every night before bed, take it out of its pouch and dip it in a bowl of cold water. Then, put it back into the pouch and wear it while you sleep.” 

“Thank you so much.” We visited for a little while, then said our goodbyes. After Luke stalled for an unreasonable amount of time, we teleported home. 

Medusa (Jennifer Morton)
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