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A foggy white double crystal in the approximate shape of a heart

Story 6: The Ghost and the Espresso Machine

I had to go back to the Lovegood Café. I didn’t want to, but I had to retrieve the Soulmate Stone before I could rage quit—preferably on a busy Friday or Saturday night—and they could all kiss my ass. The only question was, could I act normally now, knowing what I knew? The video I’d taken had surprised me. Without any proof, I’d always kind of assumed it was either Chef or his sous-chef. They had the easiest access to all the food, and Chef legit went ballistic if anyone went near his precious romance risotto. My surprise came from...

Fair of Wonders

Fair of Wonders

The Fair of Wonders waited in the gloam,a shining, trembling sparkle of the night.Shay found herself drawn to it from her home,the miles’ journey feeling like a flight.Right at the gate, three women greeted her—Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos three.Their vague predictions held a strange allure,combining farce and subtle flattery.Her head alive with words, Shay walked the rows,her eyes alert, on lookout for a prize.From in between the dark ‘twixt tents arosea face that she had learned to so despise.“It’s you,” Shay hissed, voice tinged with bitterness,“Have you come back to take him from me now?”The other woman, wreathed in youthfulness,drew...

Story 5: Silver Lining

Story 5: Silver Lining

**CONTENT WARNING for implications of sexual assault and brief descriptions of blood** I crept through the door to the kitchen. Only a couple prep chefs were here and I had my excuse ready, not that I would dignify them questioning my presence in my place of employment, but I wasn’t exactly known for being on time. Let alone showing up on my night off. Not like the rest of my … family … had done much to support this quest. No money. No house. I was on my own. Working three jobs to stay afloat and fulfill their mission. Guess...

A slice of watermelon on a wooden table with the word "Summertime" seemingly carved into it

Summertime

Grandmother promised thick slices of watermelon, if only the three girls could shuck the corn before dinner time. They worked as fast as their tiny hands allowed, gripping great soft handfuls of silk and squealing at the wet-boot sound of the leaves tearing away. When they ran back to Grandmother, raising the large bowl of squeaky-clean ears for her to see, they were rewarded with the melon they had earned: a slice each, as large as half their head. Carrie, Etta, and Fern clutched their bounty and fled to the creek to consume it. “Come back in time for dinner!”...

Story 4: Love on the Rocks

Story 4: Love on the Rocks

The things a girl puts up with, and not just for money to pay for essentials like rent and food. While that was a big motivator for my continued employment at the Lovegood Café, it wasn’t the only reason I stuck around. Biding my time. Waiting until I fulfilled my role in this charade, and then I’d be free from this romance hellhole. I leaned forward, cleaning the sticky mess and clearing last night’s dirty dishes and flatware from the bar, the length of the counter was marred with now-dried condensation and food-crusted plates. I jabbed my ribs on the...

Law of the Unknown

Law of the Unknown

“Welcome,” said the reedy voice, a thin stream of nasal syllables flowing down Main Street, “to Judehiah Dooldy’s Travelling Spectacle of the Sinister and the Sublime!” Unbeknownst to the crier, an enterprising boy skulked beneath his feet, under the temporary wooden stage set up by the travelling show-folk. Rex Summerfield reached the far end of the hastily-nailed board contraption and raised his head like a prize bloodhound, turning his keen senses outward. Usually he used his ability to catch the sound of a lizard’s swishing tail to catch the aforementioned lizards. Now he was trying to pinpoint any telltale sign...

Story 3: A Rosie By Any Other Name

Story 3: A Rosie By Any Other Name

I wiped down the counter for at least the tenth time. The circular motions were swift, curt, practically sanding the surface with each swipe of the soft cloth. Fucking assholes better not leave all the cleaning to me again, I muttered as the sticky mess finally disappeared under soap suds. Damn new hires not doing the bare minimum… “Hey Liv, missed ya last night,” Chef said over the clatter and clang of dishes, pots, and pans being put away. Cooks scurried behind him readying sauces and that goddamned romance risotto. The earthy, complex aroma wafted through the still-empty restaurant. “What’d...

Droplet Drummers

Droplet Drummers

Cool breeze through the kitchen window. Jezi smiled wistfully as she raised her mug to her lips—not to drink, just to breathe the steam. Today, every sensation she experienced at a heightened state. Late-summer’s radiated warmth, yes, and the coming of fall’s chill to tickle the senses; but also the wedding. “The wedding,” Papa said, filling the kitchen doorway. He raised his arms and pursed his lips in a smile hiding tears. “My love, you glow.” “I always glow, Papa,” Jezi said, smiling too, her own tears threatening to burst out in sobs. But she contained it—as she always did,...

Story 2: Dodging A Silver Bullet

Story 2: Dodging A Silver Bullet

Dozens of hopeful couples murmured private conversations in the (recently renamed) Lovegood Café, busy, no matter that it was a Thursday. But this was the new usual. I rolled my eyes every time I saw the new logo, all swooping calligraphy and red hearts, trying to capitalize on the fame of their “romance risotto.” It all clashed horribly with the randomly hung St. Patrick’s Day clovers and wee lil pots o’ gold with fluttering crepe paper rainbows. “Yo, Liv!” Chef called from the kitchen. “Only got a few orders left. Sucks to be you.” And he flashed a shiny pair...

All Hands on Deck

All Hands on Deck

“I’ve gathered you all here today because…” Hanna chokes on her words mid-sentence and muffles the rest of it with her over-long sweatshirt sleeves. “…because I’m pretty sure Chloe is a demon.” There are four others gathered around Hanna’s platform of gym mats: Priya with her twin endless braids; Leo of the bottomless closet of basketball shorts and Nike t-shirts; Ruby with her fuzzy, untamable curls; and Malik, uncharacteristically keeping his opinions to himself. They all look up at Hanna with a gentle combination of affection and concern. “Hann, Chloe is a raging bitch.” Ruby reaches up and tweaks Hanna’s...

Wine glasses hanging upside down in a bar bathed in red and blue lights

Story 1: How The Rumor Spills

I sighed. Of course they wanted the risotto. Who didn’t these days? But I smiled and placed the order, along with their drinks, ignoring the hopeful, dopey smiles on their faces. Ignoring the smirk on the chef’s greasy face as he asked, “So, Liv, any bets to how many orders tonight?” No. Because it was always ridiculously high. And I didn’t even want to think what would happen if we ran out. I don’t know how the rumor started, but it didn’t take long for it to spread as fast as poison coursing through living veins. Fridays and Saturdays had...

Tears of a Sock Monkey

Tears of a Sock Monkey

Chatter and giggles greeted Jess as she approached the bus stop. God, everyone here hated her. And the feeling was totally mutual. It was too late to fake some vague illness. Mom would see right through that. Especially since she had a math test first period. She ignore the just-too-loud conversations with their pointed words–weirdo; she’s coming this way; slut; nerd–and stood as off to the side as she could, a blank expression instead of the designer makeup contouring the girls’ faces. She shuffled, a mindless drone, to first math. She hadn’t studied for the test. She hadn’t needed to....