the one that got away

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic


a girl's night out with a twist

Submitted: October 31, 2017

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Submitted: October 31, 2017

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“Where’s the bloody hairdryer!”

Through the living room came Alison, wet hair up in a pink hand towel wrap, a girl on a mission, with her blue eyes set in deep concentration. “Look, there’s no bloody time!”

“Ali’s got a new man,” teased her flatmate, Marion, who was lounging on the sofa in the tatty dressing gown she slung on at weekends.

“Not another one,” said Jessica from the adjoining kitchen where she was busy preparing their dinner, her signature dish, chicken and pasta salad.

“At least, I have a man,” said Alison. Disappointingly, those words had sounded more forceful in her mind.

The girls' accepted call-and-response routine never grew old.

“The bloody phone battery is dead,” said Alison, eyebrows raised in exasperation. “Look, I’m late - really bloody late. Where the hell is it?”

“On the coffee table under the latest issue of Vogue,” shouted Jessica through the door. And sure enough there it was beneath the glossy magazine promising 50 tips to get your man where you want him.

“Getting a man is the easy part,” Marion said, voicing what both the girls felt as they glanced at the cover. “The difficult part is not letting him slip through your fingertips.”

Alison batted her eyelids at Marion as if swatting away a fly, “Well, don’t be so clumsy, then,” and swanned back into the bathroom with a dismissive shuffle, then a bang as the door shut to. 

Yes, she thought, finally on track.

Well, until the catalogue-bought dryer blew, nearly blacking out the whole house prompting cries of dismay from her flatmates in the neighbouring room. Damn! So much for going for the best brand. To console herself, Alison opened her make-up bag to see if she could find anything special for the occasion, but only ended up throwing the whole lot away into the bin after smearing her fingers crimson with a broken off lipstick that had come loose inside. Likely out of date anyway. That birthday gift from her mother had gone to waste after all; she had warned her it would. Checking the time on the cheap digital watch hanging off the medicine cabinet door, she saw it was getting late, and set to work on getting dressed. Screw the make-up!

Eighteen years before, the last dance of the college year had been hers, in the arms of Simon the star basketball player of that year’s season - a clumsy dancer and a worse kisser. On the way home sat on the steps of the victorian council hall in a blizzard of fall leaves, he confessed she was his first. Much had changed since then. Many of her friends had moved away. The doctorate had become a way of showing them all what she was capable of. The ones she still kept in touch with at least.

Damn it! Only twenty minutes left before she had to leave. I have to accept I am not going to look any better, she thought, as she checked herself in the mirror. There was no getting rid of the panda eyes from nights up studying for her contemporary witchcraft thesis. The grey streaks in her hair made her look older than her twenty-eight years, but they also gave her authority, so she was loathe to dye them out. She would do as she was and not be ashamed of it.

All that remained was her man. Scrabbling around the back of the cabinet below the washbasin, she found the battered cardboard shoe box beside the aspirin, mouthwash bottle, and the screwed-up hair bands like mini-sasquatch. Tentatively, she slid off the box lid and parted the cushioning strips of newsprint to reveal tiny glass vials stood up proudly to attention before her gaze. Vial after vial passed inspection through her hands. Some she held up to the light so they shimmered mercurially, others pulsed dimly as if nearing extinction. What surprised her every time though was the warmth they generated: a liquid, pulsing heat that simmered under her skin and made her heart beat faster.

Finally Alison picked one out. Here was her molten man ready to erupt from the mouth of the glass vial in liquid spumes of smoke. In a few moments, there he would be, the one she had bumped into outside a city bar by chance while he was waiting for friends who never came. The one who was so pleased to meet her he couldn't wait to explain how his whole life had moved on since college - no more basketball, but many happy Sundays dunking hoops with his twin daughters. Yes, he had been her first kiss too, but she hadn't the heart to tell him. It had been her first true sensation of conquest. She was never going to to be able to let him get away again after that. And she didn't.

It was a simple matter to pack the box away. Who’d have thought getting a man could be so easy. All you needed was a strong net and enchanted water -  basically diluted bath salts blessed with incantations thrice. Oh yes, and a lot of patience. After three years single, she had a lot of that. All the girls had a lot of that. That was why they had set up the coven; Jessica went on the prowl, Alison was all about magick research, and Marion got their prey safely in the vials. However, what they bagged was for all three.

And if one of the chosen beaus got ideas, it was a simple matter to show them the price of disobedience. What was set free could soon be bottled up again. You only needed to demonstrate it once. After all, who were they going to complain to? Not that they were going to complain, not in return for an eternity of romance, or possibly guilt-free sex. What wasn’t to like. True. They were were never going to see their family, friends, or partners ever again. But in the big scheme of things thought Alison, what was the big deal. It’s not like she had ever needed them. And the best thing was it seemed to make them even more thoughtful as dates. Alison didn’t know how the entrapment spell did this, but it did. Like a submissive genie, an obedient Ariel, or a tamed lion. Definitely more amenable than the men she used to date in her pre-vial days.

With five minutes left, she picked one out. Gripping the vial, she pressed her thumb against the side of the cork that tapped its contents, but in her impatience pushed a little too hard. Alison had no time to shout out as the little vial, wet with condensation, flew up out from her grip before beginning its interminable descent to the bathroom floor. Damn! Damn! And bloody damn! she thought in those endless seconds as the vial twirled precariously in the air. It landed in an anticlimactic silence, and began to roll away from her on the threadbare carpet. Just as suddenly, it came to a stop before a gap in the floorboards and hovered there precariously as if held up by her own desperation. But before she could reach for it, the vial plunged down, and moments later, she was on her knees looking for it, the mobile phone light in her hands. After three terrible minutes, she saw the glint of the vial in between greying cotton wool buds, and a dead roach cemetery. Every attempt she made to reach it was thwarted by the inch-wide gap. Well, she’d get him out sometime. Her priority, tonight, though was to find a partner for the reunion. If she had taken the best man on the night of her last day at college, she was damn well going to take the best man for her reunion, Nothing was going to spoil her moment.

She wondered what her man in limbo was thinking as he lay pulsing light dimly like a throbbing vein in his vial under the floorboards of the girl's shared bathroom. Oh well, back to the cardboard box. She began to rifle through it for her next date. The tingle of electricity she felt in her fingertips might have been destiny, or a side-effect from the fused out hair-dryer. Either way it was a sign. This time she wasn’t going to open the vial in the bathroom.

Underneath the floorboards, the light of the 60-watt incandescent light bulb reached out a tentative hand to the tiny vial in which Simon, 29, lay an ethereal smoke ghost, entombed down in that dark recess. Then the hand vanished as Alison switched off the bathroom light with a click, new beau in her handbag ready for his big unveiling, and her pumps thudded away towards the awaiting night.


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