Spiking the Punch

“They better not have spiked the punch.  So help me, I will end the whole pack of them!” I muttered under my breath as I swished to the refreshments table in my long satin dress.  It was the big formal Christmas dance at Magik Prep Academy, and I was head of the refreshment committee for this event.  

The werewolves made it their job to disrupt every social gathering, and I refused to let it happen on my watch.

My stomach lurched as I approached the table bordering the stage.  There he was.  Corbin Fang.  Tall, gorgeous, blue eyed, and cold hearted.  He’d just moved here and already he was causing waves in the pack hierarchy.

I tucked a tightly wound piece of dark hair behind my ear, snagging a piece of floating magic and weaving it into my wild, unruly mane to keep it in place.  Flames threatened to erupt from my eyes as my anxiety heightened.  As surreptitiously as possible, I dipped a strand of orange magic into the punch and sighed in relief when it didn’t change color.  All was safe for the moment.

“Everything spit spot?”  Corbin sauntered up and his accent made my belly flip.  I frowned.

“Just making sure every student has the chance to drink without belching fire or singeing their date,” I returned.  I glared.  His blue eyes danced.  “Last year your werewolf buddies put fire powder in the punch.  Do you know what that does to poor unsuspecting creatures?”

“I heard about that one.”  His eyes twinkled.  

I glared at him.

“Dance with me Uptight Girl.”

“Excuse me?”

“Dance with me.”

As if I would ever.

“I can’t.  I have to make sure the punch stays legal.”

He snorted.  “I’ll take care of that.  Hiya!” he called to several other werewolves lounging against the stage looking shifty.  “Not a drop in the bowl.  Understood?”

One of them bared his teeth and another snarled, but at a hard look from Corbin, heads bobbed.  I refused to admit I was impressed.

He was the newly appointed junior alpha of the school-aged werewolves, according to the gossip.  Looked like maybe the rumors were true.

Corbin grabbed my hand and tugged.  I didn’t budge.  My eyes grew rounder.

“Come on.  It’ll be fun.  You can lambast the finer points of being a werewolf while we dance.”  His eyes held a hidden mirth while his comment stung.  I felt fire rising in my eyes and blinked it away.  Not fast enough.

“Hey now.  You’ve got gorgeous eyes.  Flames in your veins?”

I sighed.  “Phoenix.  My grandma.”

“That’s fantastic!  Tell me about it.  While we dance.”  It was the accent.  It did me in.  I let him tug me away from the table to the dance floor.  I cast one more look at the bowl of punch and the werewolves pacing not far away.

“If they put something in there and another fairy grows a tail this year, I will,”

He cut me off.  “Relax.  I told them not to.  They’re honor bound to obey me.”

“Really?”

“Really.  Pack law.  I may be the new guy, but I’m also the alpha guy.  In our bloodlines, Fire Girl.”

“Aida.”

“Aye?”

“No.  Aida.  My name.”

“I know.”  He winked and I bristled.  “I’ve known your name since the second day I got here.”

I wasn’t sure if I should be flattered or consider him a stalker.  I looked at him, trying to hide my general disgust.  Werewolves were all troublemakers.  The whole lot of them.  Corbin Fang was their leader.

“You know, we’re not all that bad.  Some of us are, sure, but not all,” he said, seeming to read my mind.

I digested his words as he spun me around the floor, graceful but firm.  Was I the one who was being narrow-minded?

“Which kind are you?” I finally asked as he twirled me once more.

“I’d tell you, but I don’t think you’ll believe me unless you figure it out for yourself.”  Was that a challenge in his eyes?

“Just like you are more than the partial fire inside you, there’s more to me than fur and claws.”

I bit my lip.  I felt my own phoenix blood stirring. I hated it when people made assumptions about me because my eyes sometimes glowed.  But preconceived notions were often helpful in dealing with the mythical community.  At least, that’s what I told myself as Corbin led me off the dance floor.  His easy grip projected an inner confidence I envied.  

We made it back to the punch table.  I quickly dipped a strand of orange magic in and sighed in relief when it remained unchanged.  

Corbin tisked playfully beside me as he filled two goblets.  He snatched a strand of light blue magic from the air, split it, twisted it, and swirled it into the two cups.  The punch glowed.  It was beautiful.

“Here you go, Aida, my uptight fire girl who secretly wants to let her inner bird fly.”

I gulped.  How did he see me so well? 

“What happens if I drink this?”  

“It’ll make your phoenix fire glow and give you a secondary sight for awhile.  You might see that some people are different than the sum of the rumors surrounding them.”

He winked at me and tipped back his glass.  His deep eyes stared back at me and slowly turned electric blue.  

“You’re just as beautiful on the inside as you are the outside.  Although your insides are still tangled up in knots.”  He quirked a smile at me as he finished his assessment.  Blood rushed to my cheeks.  “What’ll it be, Aida?  Do you want to see me?”

The sudden desire to know who this boy was had me abandoning my cautious nature and tipping my glass back as well.

My fire woke within me.  It rushed through me like sparklers in my blood.  I buzzed with magic and knew the instant it hit my eyes.  I sucked in a breath and looked at Corbin.  

I gasped.  He radiated goodness.  Not the snark, not the alpha, not the rotten werewolf I imagined.  His heart was kind, his intentions honorable. 

I saw him.

“Merry Christmas, Aida.”  

“Merry Christmas, Corbin.”

Seeing Christmas

Music boomed and lights twinkled.  Strands of magic floated effortlessly through the air, only to be soaked up by the ancient stone walls now festooned with tensile and evergreen.

The Christmas Dance.

The one Magik Prep Academy function I’d been dreaming of for weeks.  Tonight was the night Tyler Crawson would notice me. 

I’d had a crush on him for ages but lacked the courage to do anything about it.  Not tonight.

With my best friend Aida next to me and her pep talk still ringing in my ears, I gulped, trying to calm my frantic heartbeat.

“You’ve got this, Girl.”  Aida winked at me.  The flashing red and green lights bounced off her caramel-colored skin.  Her ebony hair, curled tight like tiny springs, absorbed the lights and shadows alike.  I wished it would absorb my anxiety.

“Breathe, Lainie.”  She looked me over once more and nodded in satisfaction.  “That red sequin dress is perfect.  You sparkle like fairy dust.”  Her lips pursed and she reached behind me and plucked a thread of opalescent magic from the air and swished it around the bottom of my dress.  “There.  Now you’re radiant.”  

 A bronze head bobbed on the other side of the room.  My heart seized.  

Target acquired.  

My knees knocked and sweat ghosted my palms. 

“I’m going to go make sure the werewolves haven’t spiked the punch.”  Aida was on the social committee.  The werewolves generally liked to party…alternatively to committee plans.  With a final squeeze to my shoulder she was off, and I was left staring at Tyler’s head as it dipped and weaved about the crowd.

The music was loud.  Too loud.  It vibrated up my legs.

I swept up a handful of my shimmery skirt so my feet wouldn’t tangle in the hem.  The opalescent string of magic soaked into my dress, straightening my back and giving me confidence.

I’d only gone a few bodies deep into the crowd when a hand reached out and snatched mine.

“Kieran!” I gasped as my other best friend released me.

“Lainie.  Wow.  You look…” he trailed off as his eyebrows rose to his dark hairline.  I couldn’t tell if it was the red lights or if the points of his ears colored slightly.  

Searching the crowd again, I found Tyler’s head.  He was only a few yards to my right.

“Looking for Tyler?” Kieran’s broke in dryly. 

“Yes.  Tonight he’s finally going to see me as more than the smart girl in math class,” I practically hissed between my teeth.

Kieran’s expression soured.  

“You don’t want him, Lainie.  You really don’t.”

Anger and the sting of unintended betrayal crept into my belly.  I glared at Kieran.  

“Laine?  Wow, looking hot, babe!”

The voice froze my blood and Kieran could probably see the whites of my eyes. 

Plastering a smile on my face that I hoped didn’t look deranged, I turned.

“Hey, Tyler.”  My voice came out higher than it should have.  Maybe he didn’t notice over the rumble of the music.

Without any preamble, Tyler grabbed my hand and put his other low on my waist and swung me onto the dance floor.

We danced for long glorious moments.  I was in ecstasy.  The song wasn’t particularly slow, but it wasn’t fast.  We moved together, faster than a slow dance, but no weird gyrating.  Which was fine, because it let me savor every second of Tyler’s hands on my waist.

When the song ended, Tyler’s copper-colored eyes gazed into mine.  My hand fisted into his lapel without my permission.  A smile crooked his lips as his eyes roved over my face and one eyebrow rose.  

Slowly he leaned down and his lips caressed my cheek and sent figurative fireworks shooting out my ears.

“Don’t go anywhere,” he whispered huskily against my ear.  “I’ll be back in a few.”

I’m pretty sure I grew roots right there on the parquet floor.

I don’t know how long I stood there like an idiot in the middle of the room, but I came to when Kieran tugged on my hand.

“Kieran, did you see?” I sighed.  “He’s glorious.”

Kieran snorted, his dark elf side showing in his pessimism.  

“You need to see something,” he muttered as he pulled me through the throng of students and out the arched doorway into the quiet corridor.

Kieran stopped us beside one of the heavy tapestries that lined the hallways outside the ballroom. 

“Look.  I…” he trailed off and ran a hand through his black hair.  “I don’t want to show you this but consider the truth my Christmas gift to you this year.”

My eyebrows drew together as he pulled me down the passageway.  We crept to the end where it was deserted.  He motioned with his head for me to look around the corner.

Unsure, I peeked out just enough to get an eyeful.

My hand flew to my silent mouth.  

There was the boy who’d kissed me moments before.  Who had looked at me like I was the center of the world.  The boy on whom I’d hung my hopes.

He was necking a gorgeous red-head.  And his hands…were not in appropriate places.  My eyes burned.

I sagged to a stone bench once we were far away from the snogging couple.  Kieran sat beside me.

“I’m sorry, Lainie.  He doesn’t see you.  Doesn’t know how special you are.”  He hesitated.  “Maybe you should look at someone who has seen you all along.”

The sincerity in his tone jerked my gaze to his.  His chocolate brown eyes swam with vulnerability, and I felt my heart lurch painfully in my chest.

Because he did see me.

Kieran had always seen me.  He’d seen me when I was all awkward limbs and angles.  When I won the science award.  When I burned my bangs off with a spell gone wrong.  When I dropped chocolate frosting all down my shirt. When my Gran passed away.  He’d seen me.  

And for the first time, I saw him, too.

Check in again next week to see what happens to Aida when she goes to check on the punch…

Unicorns

Unicorns are age old, beautiful creatures just like horses, but with a horn, and magic. This week Lacey Scott has gracious offered her story, “The Unicorn Races” for us to enjoy! Check out the sweet little plump Elmas sculpture, also done by Lacey. Check out her other sculptures on Facebook, Here There Be Sculptures, or on Instagram, @heretherebesculptures. Happy reading!

The Unicorn Races

By Lacey Scott

Unicorns were supposed to be elegant and beautiful creatures. With long willowy legs and graceful arching necks, their mystery and magic captivated the hearts and minds of humans for generations—but the ponies of Sobor were not unicorns. At least, not the kind you read about in fairy tales. 

            My family had lived on the secluded island of Sobor for at least seven generations and every single male, going all the way back to my great-great-great-great-great grandfather, had won the coveted trophy in the annual unicorn races. It was a tradition that was expected to be upheld by my father’s son and it probably would have been—except he didn’t have a son. He had me. Me and my nine sisters.

            There wasn’t a rule that said girls couldn’t enter the race, it just wasn’t done, which was probably why there had been such an uproar when I stepped forward into the group of rowdy boy contestants. Even now, as I waited for the judges to decide my fate, I could hear their taunts and petty jabs as they whispered around me. 

            I didn’t realize my hands were trembling until I felt a tug on one. Looking down my brows rose in surprise.

            “Take this, Phoebe!” My little sister, Josephine said. “It will give you luck!” She opened her tiny hand to reveal a butterscotch candy wrapped in yellow plastic. 

            In a family as large as ours, every penny counted, and candy was a luxury we could seldom afford.

             I smiled shaking my head.  “You keep it, Josie.”

            Her lips pressed into a thin line. Then before I could stop her, she stuffed the candy into my pocket and darted back into the crowd. 

            Thirty minutes later as I searched for a place to stand in the starting line, I began to have second thoughts. The judges may have agreed to let me race, but the boys weren’t going to make it easy. 

            “Phoebe!”

            I looked up and a fresh wave of butterflies fluttered to life in my belly. 

            Tag Jacobson waved me over. “Over here,” he called, shoving the boy standing beside him out of the way. 

            I nervously stepped into the empty space beside him as he grinned down at me. My neighbor, Tag, was older than me by a year, but we’d often played together when we were young. I’d had a crush on him as far back as I could remember, and his time spent in the sun on the fishing boats with his father had only made him even more handsome.

            “Don’t let what they say get to you. You got this.”

            His confidence gave me strength and I nodded getting into the starting position. The unicorns grazed peacefully in the field below, completely oblivious to the chaos about to ensue. 

            The horn of the conch shell echoed in my ears and I pushed myself into a sprint. I was small and fast, but I quickly realized that I wasn’t fast enough. The boys pulled ahead of me, their long legs eating up the ground carrying them faster than I could ever hope to be.

            A high-pitched whinny broke through the early morning air. Someone had reached the herd. I urged my legs to move faster but by the time I reached the field only one unicorn stood untaken. My heart sank.

            Like most island creatures, the unicorns had adapted overtime to a life of limited resources, shrinking them down to the size of a large pony. There were no predators to hunt them and that coupled with all the scraps we tossed out had made them lazy with stumpy little legs and large round bellies. They weren’t afraid of humans and had become so commonplace that they acquired their own names.

            I slowed as I approached the lone unicorn. His sleek black summer coat glistened in the early morning sun and he looked up at me through long wavy bangs. 

            “Hi, Elmas,” I greeted.

            Big blue eyes blinked at me before he returned to his grazing. All the unicorns were easygoing but Elmas wore his laziness like a badge of honor. No one ever wanted to get stuck with him. 

            I squinted down the field. The race itself was only a mile, but getting a stubborn lazy unicorn there was the real challenge. Some of the more relaxed unicorns meandered towards the finish line, stopping occasionally to nibble at the grass—much to their rider’s chagrin. Others were feistier, spinning circles and tossing their riders into the dirt. A lot of the boys wanted to try their luck with those, but it was a gamble, just because they were faster didn’t mean you could steer them to the finish line any quicker. 

            I sighed looking back and Elmas. Not once in all the years I could remember had anyone ever gotten him to move an inch—but I wasn’t about to give up.

            Backing up a few steps I took a running jump, throwing myself across his back, but I overshot and toppled off the other side, landing in the grass on my back. 

            Elmas cast me an uninterested glance.

            With a huff I tried again, this time grabbing a handful of his mane and pulling myself up. Once I was situated on his back, I lightly dug my heels into his flank. When he didn’t move, I repeated the motion a little harder, clicking my tongue. 

            His sides expanded as he took in a deep breath but other than that he ignored me completely. 

            I groaned sliding off his back. “Come on, Elmas!” I leaned my shoulder into his rump, urging him forward. “This is important,” I ground out between clenched teeth. 

            He stomped a golden hoof into the ground, tail swishing, but he didn’t budge. 

            Undeterred, I moved to his head, careful to avoid his shiny gold horn and tugged on his mane. You didn’t actually have to ride your unicorn all the way there, you just had to ride it across the finish line. The only rule being that you couldn’t do anything that might harm them. 

            “Emlas, please!” I begged, putting all my weight into it. My foot slipped in the grass and I fell back landing on the ground for the second time in as many minutes. I closed my eyes, struggling to keep the tears of frustration at bay. 

            After a moment a shadow fell across my face and I opened my eyes to find Elmas hovering above me. 

            “Come to mock me, too?” I grumbled.

            His nostrils flared, hot air rushing out as he sniffed around me, his snout eventually coming to stop at my hip. He snorted, nipping at my pants. 

            I frowned, sitting up. I dug my hand into my pocket “What are you—” my fingers brushed against something, the crinkling sound making his perk up with interest. I pulled out the butterscotch my sister had given me, and he whinnied, nearly snatching it from my hand. My eyes widened. I had an idea. 

            “Come on, boy.” I urged crinkling the wrapper. “You want the candy, don’t you?” 

            Elmas slowly began to follow me as I walked backwards down the field. Casting a quick glance over my shoulder I saw that my fellow racers had also been struggling. Most of them still fought with their ponies, with only a few still moving steadily towards the finish line at a snail’s pace. I grinned, picking up speed, and before long I was jogging backwards down the field, with Elmas trotting along after me.

            We gained ground, quickly passing each of the other contestants one by one until there was only one left. My heart leapt up a notch as we passed Tag, moving steadily forward, on a dappled unicorn. Our eyes met and a wide grin spread across his face.

            I could still hear his laughter ringing out across the field when we reached the finish line and I brought a panting Elmas to a stop. He whined as I climbed back onto his back, swinging his head around to try and grab the candy. I removed it from the wrapper, making sure to wave in front of his nose. 

            His teeth snapped together as he tried to swipe it from my hand, but I pulled back and chucked it forward. His eyes followed it as it soared over his head and landed on the other side of the finish line. With more speed than I thought possible for such a lazy beast, he lurched forward, nearly unseating me as he raced forward, carrying us to victory. 

            The roar of the crowd was deafening as I slid from his back, catching sight of my dad as they handed me the well-worn trophy. Even at a distance I could see the pride in his eyes. 

            “That was amazing!” Tag laughed, coming up behind me and clapping me on the shoulder. “Candy, huh? Who knew?”          

            “Yeah.” I averted my gaze feeing my face warm under his praise. I watched as Elmas munched happily on the butterscotch. “I guess he’s got a sweet tooth.”

            He cleared his throat and I looked back up meeting his warm brown eyes. “You know, it’s not that I’m not happy that you won,” he began. It’s just that I was hoping to earn some cool points before I asked.” His cheeks turned pink and he rubbed the back of his neck. 

            My brows pulled together. “Asked what?” 

            “Asked you out on a date.”

            My mouth fell open, eyes widening in surprise.

            “What you say, Pheebs? Do you wanna go on a date with me?”

            My blush reignited as I matched his hopeful smile. “Definitely.”