Later that afternoon, I was faced with hard facts.
I was now stuck inside the apartment I’d fought so hard to be in, climbing the walls, wanting out.
Life is so ridiculous.
I could feel it in my body, though. If I went back down those stairs I was done for. I don’t know if you’ve ever felt prisoner to your own body, but it’s enough to make a person hyperventilate. It’s the dumbest thing because it just makes you want to run… but you can’t, so that just makes you more panicky… a vicious circle to the nth degree!
I was pacing the living room floor, a nice dusty purple carpet that was extra plush, but I kept eyeing my purse over by the desk because that’s where Raquel’s number sat.
Did I want her help?
I didn’t know, but I thought I was ready to admit that I needed it.
I went and got her business card out of my purse. I’d looked the spa up online and saw that it was mostly massage therapy, yoga, and reflexology, but she did say there was a personal trainer on staff who’d worked with people like me before.
Meaning, of course, people needing to recover from prolonged time in bed. Not people who’d spent four years dead, but I imagine there wasn’t too great of a difference in how you’d get them back up to par.
I wasn’t as grouchy since Jack, but I wasn’t great either. It felt like a miracle that he managed to stop the pain for a little while, but I was sinking back into it now and didn’t know how to stop.
“Hey, Sabrina, can I talk to you… for a minute?” Charlotte’s head pushed through the slightly opened front door.
~ 1 ~
It looked disembodied. Her long red hair was hanging over one shoulder and she was biting hard on her lower lip, and looking guilty as hell.
I suspected I didn’t actually want to hear whatever it was, but I imagined it was better to be informed than taken by surprise later.
“Of course.” I motioned for her to come the rest of the way in.
She was wearing a royal blue dress that brought out her beauty, the color reflecting her complexion and hair perfectly. I’d forgotten just how pretty she was. When we first met, she was such a shadow of who she’d become.
It was funny, really. A strange quirk of fate. She’d come by Rafe’s apartment with some cookies and a housewarming gift. What she found was me there alone. She was nice enough, but she was timid and frightened and tried so hard to be cold to me, but failed miserably.
Rafe hadn’t left her for me or anything like that.
In fact, I met Rafe the day after he’d signed his final divorce papers, but that still made me the new girlfriend, and at the time, Charlotte was not ready for that.
“I did something terrible, I think.” She was nearly in tears and was clearly hiding something behind her back.
I got a sick feeling that I wasn’t going to like what I was about to know.
“Just… say it. Whatever it is.” I braced myself.
She brought her arm around, extending it as far in front of her as she could. From her fingers dangled a little cloth doll with a patch of dark hair that looked worse for wear.
“What is that?” I already had an idea, but I was hoping to be wrong.
“Don’t be mad.” She licked her lips and breathed heavily.
I instinctively took a step back. I didn’t like the energy coming off that thing.
“What did you do, Charlotte?” I couldn’t unsee it and it was worse not knowing.
“Okay, but you have to understand, they told us you were brain dead. They wanted Nora to disconnect you from life support and… and…” She started
~ 2 ~
I moved closer to her and placed my hands on her shoulders while trying to keep my body away from the little doll.
“I won’t be mad. I’ll always love you and be here for you.” I brushed her bangs from her eyes. “What did you do?”
Charlotte pulled away and paced the small living room floor twice, then turned to face me, the doll still dangling from her fingers.
“I hated her so much. You were as good as dead and they went on as if nothing happened.” She brought her hand up over her mouth and gasped. “Oh, Sabrina, I’m sorry. I don’t mean to hurt you. I don’t know what you want to know about them and what you don’t. Is it okay to talk about them?”
I hadn’t really thought about it one way or another. We had a lot of mutual friends the last I knew, so it seemed inevitable. Before Jack I couldn’t have handled it, but I was feeling a lot stronger … where Rafe was concerned, at least.
“Just tell me what you need to tell me.” I moved to the sofa and sat down, then motioned for her to sit beside me.
She came over and sat the doll on the coffee table in front of us. It was made of cloth, had stitched eyes, that little patch of hair and that was about it.
“When I found out what happened, I didn’t take it well, Sabrina. You’re the only real friend I’ve ever had. Well, you, and Nora now, too, but you were first, you know?” Her eyes were so clear and urgent.
“Yes, I know.” I tried to reassure her.
“I knew it was that woman’s fault. I didn’t know how, but I knew.” She chewed on her lower lip.
I had to let her get the words out however she needed, but I was dying inside. I wanted to scream, just pull off the band-aid, but I didn’t dare because Charlotte had a frightened rabbit side. She was very sensitive and if you came at her the wrong way, she’d bolt.
~ 3 ~
“Oh I did a terrible thing.” Her eyes began to fill with tears, she stood up and began pacing again. “I’d already been online a lot, googling things like how to get back at someone who’d wronged you, how to make laxative brownies, how to frame someone for a crime. Oh my God, Sabrina, I don’t know what I was thinking! I was out of my mind with grief, literally!”
I sat as still as I could. Because despite how much I wanted to tell her it was all okay, I was slightly stunned and horrified.
“Then Elizabeth Valentino called me one day and asked if I wanted to go to this gypsy festival with her.” She drew a breath. “I know that’s not a politically correct reference, but her word not mine and as she is Romany…”
I leaned over the back of the couch and caught her wrist on her next pass, stopping her, trying to force her to focus.
“Yes dear, I get it. Just go on.” I smiled, hoping she’d relax a little.
“I was such a mess, and I went into this booth, I wanted to see if the tarot reader could see what would happen with you. I don’t know if… she told me of a different booth that could help me. Oh Sabrina—” She pulled away and stared right at me. “I bought a voodoo doll!”
She screamed into her hands and bounced on her toes as if she couldn’t contain her own energy.
“Okay, that’s not great but…”
“Then I went over to Rafe and Feffi’s.”
“Oh dear.” I tried to make my mind follow where she may be going next, but I wasn’t as sure I wanted to know now.
“I lied to them about wanting to bury the hatchet and I snuck into her bathroom, stole hair from her hairbrush and bound the thing to her!”
She paced over to the window and paused to quickly wipe tears off her cheeks before she turned back to face me.
“I only did a couple things to it before I realized what I was doing, but now I don’t know what to do with it. I don’t want to hurt her if I destroy it! I don’t know what to do!”
~ 4 ~
She was near screaming now and I tried to figure out how to best calm her down.
“I’m going to go to jail, Sabrina!” She frantically pushed her hair behind her ears. “No. Worse! I’m going to hell! Oh God, I’m going to hell, for sure! Sabrina, you see spirit things, do you see Jesus?” There was absolute panic in every word and every hyperventilated breath.
She looked all around the room and turned in a circle.
“Oh God, Oh God, Jesus is coming to take me to hell! I’m sorry, Jesus!”
I went over to her and placed my hand gently over her mouth.
“Shhhhh.” I looked directly into her eyes and waited for her to look somewhat calm. “It’s fine, Charlotte. Voodoo dolls aren’t real.”
I slowly moved my hand off her mouth.
“But how do you…”
“Shhhh.” I needed her calm. “Because…”
Well, honestly, I didn’t know. There was a lot of magic out there, but in most hands it was benign. Problem was, I didn’t know who she got this from or what exactly she’d done to it.
“Look, Charlotte, people do things when they’re sick with grief. This was…” I looked for a good word to cover it without hurting her. “…misguided. But you didn’t actually hurt her.”
That look of guilt rushed over her again and her eyes said there was more. But how much more could there be?
“What is it?” I steadied myself.
“Rafe took her on your safari, and before they left, I tried to give her the runs so bad she couldn’t get on the plane.” Her face was so pained. “Oh God, I gave someone the shits and now I’m going to hell!”
I ran my hands through my hair and shook my head. Here was just one more thing I couldn’t wrap my mind around.
~ 5 ~
I’d have to work through the little tidbit about my safari later. Right now, Charlotte was the priority. I turned to face her and I straightened as much as I could, trying to ooze authority. I was losing strength fast and I had one shot to say this.
Then I needed to go collapse.
“Charlotte, you are not a witch. You do not have the power to make someone sick. Was it ill-conceived? Yes. Did she deserve it? Maybe. But in the end, didn’t you come around? Didn’t you drop it all?”
I sure as hell hoped she had and there wasn’t more coming.
She nodded as tears streaked her cheeks.
“That’s when I started writing.”
In my time asleep, Charlotte found her voice in the written word and had become a rather popular self-published author. I was impressed and happy for her. Now I think I was even happier, because writer is a hell of a lot better gig than laxative brownie maker.
“I saw what I was doing, but I had so much anger, so much pain and fear. I started writing the Mistress series to deal with it because I felt so empty and so alone.”
For the record, the Mistress series is a series of mystery books about a serial killer who’s murdering mistresses, and it explores the effects the murder has on all the parties involved. I had read one so far, and it was amazing!
“So you turned your grief into a positive.” I moved toward her and placed my hand against her head. “Sweet woman, that makes you my hero.”
And I meant it, because I was yet to figure out how to do what she’d already done.
She hugged me hard and the tears fell even harder.
I realized she wasn’t just crying over what I said, but over all of it. She was crying tears she’d never allowed herself to cry over my supposed death. She was crying over my heartbreak. She was crying over what she’d done. And she was crying because in this moment, it looked like the nightmare may actually be over.
~ 6 ~
“Honey, I need to sit.” I hated to break the moment, but I stood with her as long as I could.
“Oh! Oh of course! Here. Here.” She helped me to the sofa and we sat together. “I missed you so much, Sabrina.”
She sat beside me and released a heavy sigh. She closed her eyes for a moment, clearly gathering her emotions, which I wholeheartedly supported at this point.
“Before you, I was nothing. I was some dumb woman who’d based her whole life on a marriage to a man who saw me as little more than an anchor to his dreams… and not the good kind of anchor. Meeting you changed me. Losing you… I think I lost myself, too, for a while.”
I looked in her eyes and wished more than anything I could have taken away her pain, her loss, but I couldn’t. No one could.
“But you came out stronger on the other side, Charlotte, and that’s huge.” I truly hoped she heard me. “Hopefully, by next Christmas, we’ll all have more to celebrate and less to cry about.”
“I’m just so grateful you’re here, Sabrina. I don’t know how it happened, how you suddenly came back to us, but I’m so grateful.”
I gave her a half smile because I still wasn’t sure how I felt about being amongst the living again. I still wasn’t sure how I felt about the idea that I was basically dead all those years. You hear about people going into the light and meeting with loved ones, but I don’t have any memories after hitting the floor in the Rabbit. I don’t know what happened, or how, all I know is that I have to deal with the aftermath… and the fact that Rafe apparently took that woman on my 40th birthday trip to Africa.
I took a breath.
It was something for another day.
This day was, thankfully, almost over.
Charlotte’s voice drew me back into the room, and I realized just how tired I was.
~ 7 ~
“Just one last thing.”
She chewed her lip again and I instinctively braced for what might be next.
“What do I do with the voodoo doll now?”
~ 8 ~
Additional chapters can be found below.
The Memory of Magic ~ Samantha Lucas
Confession, I had a little too much fun with Charlotte and her voodoo doll in this one.
In truth, though, my heart really broke for her and Nora because I feel like they were the most lost without Sabrina. But over the coming year, I’m going to be working them towards their own happy endings, as well, so stay tuned!
This story is my gift to the world, to remind us all of hope and love and that even crazy dreams come true… if we have the courage to pursue them.
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Sending you love and blessings and great thanks for reading my story! It means the world. ~ Samantha