You ever write a short story based on a tweet? No? Well, I did (if you don’t want to spoil the ending, don’t click until you’ve read the story). Anyway, this story took waaaay longer than any other story I’ve written, I had to edit it a lot more, and it basically drove me crazy for two months. So please please PLEASE like it. Or at least tell me you did.
“I’m here to collect my due.” The voice scared the shit out Lex, making her nearly leap off the couch. She threw a hand over her chest, feeling her heart pound beneath it as she muted the television. The woman standing at the entrance to her living room looked vaguely familiar, but Lex couldn’t place her.
“How the hell did you get in here?”
“I’m a witch; I can go wherever I want.” She smiled slightly. “Well that, and your front door wasn’t locked.”
“Amy.” Lex said the name the second it popped into her head. But the Amy she remembered from high school was different—soft, tentative, naive. This woman was all angles, skin pulled taut against high cheekbones. The mousy brown hair once thrown into a messy ponytail was replaced with sleek, chin-length auburn hair. Her once-kind brown eyes were narrowed and gleamed hard in the light reflected off the lamp on the side table. “What happened to you?”
“Life. Mostly.” Amy smiled again, but it didn’t quite reach her eyes. “But I didn’t come here to catch up. I came here to collect.”
“Collect wh—” Lex began, but then she remembered. Her eyes widened, incredulous. “You can’t possibly be serious.”
“Oh but I am.”
“Well, as you can see,” said Lex, gesturing around her immaculate apartment, devoid of the merest hint of children, “there is nothing, or nobody, for you to collect.” She stood up, walked over to the small kitchen and poured herself a generous tot of whisky. Amy followed; Lex tipped the bottle toward her, and at her nod, poured her a glass as well. She didn’t bother with a toast before taking a healthy swig. “Nope. No baby here. Or any way to make one now, even if I wanted to.”
Amy’s icy expression cracked, ever so slightly. “You’re single? Really? But you—” She took a drink from her own glass to cover up the slight flush that crept into her face.
“I always said I wanted to focus on my career.” Lex drained her glass, and poured some more. “I thought that was what Arden wanted, too. But then one night, while we’re sitting on the couch watching Netflix, he turns to me and announces he wants a baby. Just like that.” She paused, remembering. “Like he’s telling me he wants a goddamn sandwich.” She set her empty glass on the counter with a dull thud. “When I said I didn’t, he just…packed up and left,” she said, softly. She blinked a few times, willing the prickling heat of tears away, then met Amy’s eyes. “So, I guess you’re out of luck.”
Amy hastily looked away, but the edge to her face was gone. She set her own glass down, and walked back to the living room, sitting on the edge of the couch. Lex followed her but stood in the hallway; something about Amy’s expression kept her from coming any closer. She looked wary, like a cornered animal, her gaze fixed on some point on the wall in front of her. Then she shrugged and took a deep breath, turning back towards Lex.
“The spell, the one we did—” she blinked, squaring her shoulders. “The one I did. It…changed me. I wasn’t ready to do a spell that powerful. I learned, after, that you need to prepare yourself to do a blood spell. You need to be able to arm yourself, psychically.” A rueful smile curled her lips. “To avoid becoming part of it.”
Lex couldn’t stop the gasp from coming out, as an icepick lodged itself in her stomach. “You mean you can’t…” She forced the words out, dreading the answer.
“I can’t have children.” Lex let her breath out, relieved, while Amy’s smile became more sardonic. “You thought I was going to say that I couldn’t have sex, didn’t you?” Lex nodded, heat filling her cheeks. “No, all my lady parts are functional. Well, almost all of them.” The smile faded. “I’ve wanted kids for as long as I can remember. To have a daughter. To continue my bloodline. But I can’t have that. Not anymore.”
The icepick thawed, becoming a warm, sick feeling of guilt. “That’s why you’re here. You want my firstborn, because—”
“Because I can’t have a child of my own.”
Lex didn’t know what to say. Couldn’t think of anything to say that would make this better. She swallowed the lump of guilt, replacing it with indignation. Much easier to deal with. “But…even if I end up having a child someday, what makes you think I would just give it to you?”
“Oh, you’ll have a child. You have to.” Amy stood up and put her hands on her hips, her expression hardening once more. “After all, you can’t go back on a bargain with a witch.” She took a step towards Lex, who backed up until she was pressed against the hallway wall.
“You can’t make me.” Lex’s words didn’t even sound convincing to her own ears. She crossed her arms so Amy couldn’t see her hands shaking. “I think you should go.”
“I will. But I’ll be back.” Amy stalked away, brushing past Lex. She turned back, just before reaching the front door. “You’re right. I can’t make you have a baby. But you will have one. Magic has a way of…working itself out.” She winked at Lex, then left.
“Hey have you got—you’ve got to be kidding me.” Lex rolled her eyes as she opened the bathroom stall door and saw Amy, leaning against the sink, legs crossed and arms folded, a smirk on her face. “What are you doing here?”
“The same thing you are, I imagine.” She slowly pulled herself up to standing, then reached in her purse, pulling out a tampon. “Need this?”
Lex wished she could say no, but she was desperate. Normally she carried her own, but she had switched bags and forgot to re-stock. She was also two days early. She reached forward only as much as she needed to grab the tampon before stepping back into the stall.
“You’re welcome.” She could hear the mocking tone in Amy’s voice, and it made her cheeks flush with annoyance.
“Yeah. Thanks.” She stayed in the stall for several moments, hoping to hear Amy leave, but no such luck. She couldn’t stay in here forever, she supposed, so reluctantly, she came out. Amy was leaning over the sink, applying a fresh coat of lip gloss. She puckered her lips, then catching Lex’s eye, winked at her through the mirror. Lex could feel herself blushing again, so she bent her head and avoided Amy’s eyes as she washed her hands. What was it about Amy that made her feel so awkward? She had never felt like this around anyone berfore. She didn’t like it.
“Hey, why do I seem to run into you everywhere all of a sudden?” She asked, covering her unease with hostility. She straightened up, glaring at Amy. Amy’s eyebrows rose, and she smiled coldly.
“Because I’ve been following you.” Lex was expecting a shrug at best, a lame excuse at worst. She wasn’t expecting honesty.
Amy shrugged. “I needed to know if maybe you were pregnant, and didn’t know it.”
“Well, I guess you got your answer, didn’t you?” Lex retorted as she headed for the door. Then she paused, turning back to Amy, who still stood at the sink, lip gloss in hand. Instead of the smug smirk she was expecting, Amy looked pensive, her face relaxed and eyes unfocused. She looked like the girl Lex had met in high school.
Amy peered through the coffee shop window, but it was difficult to see through the condensation. Someone who looked like Lex sat at a small table, staring intently at her laptop screen. Then she brushed her hair off her shoulder while absently biting her lower lip and Amy knew it was her. She felt her pulse quicken, and her hands, which were icy-cold in her pockets moments ago, began to sweat. She fought the urge to wipe them on her jeans before reaching for the door. A blast of warm, coffee-infused air hit her face, making her pause for a moment before going in. Lex didn’t even notice when Amy sat in the chair across from her and placed her cup of coffee behind the laptop screen.
“This seat taken?” Amy asked. Lex’s head snapped up as she startled, nearly spilling her coffee. Amy began to reach for her arm to help steady it, but Lex narrowed her eyes, so Amy let her hand drop back onto the table and pasted a sardonic smile on her face. “Or maybe you’re meeting someone?” She asked, slyly.
“Er, no.” Lex blushed, then looked towards the door and back at her laptop. She was staring intently at the screen, clearly hoping that Amy would leave. Then when she realized that wasn’t going to happen, she sighed and reluctantly pulled the screen down, still not meeting Amy’s gaze.
“What? No Chris?” Amy’s eyebrows shot up over her cup, trying to seem like she didn’t care about the answer. Meanwhile, her pulse was so fast and hard she could feel it in her ears.
“Wait. How did you—?”
“Who do you think put him in your path?” She leaned back and crossed her legs, trying to appear nonchalant. “Clearly, you weren’t having much luck meeting anyone on your own.” Lex looked pissed; she pursed her full lips and narrowed her eyes until the green was nearly invisible. She slammed the laptop closed, shoving it in her bag with much more force than necessary.
“Did you even bother to talk to him before shoving him at me? Or was he just a good set of genes to you?” She spat, jumping to her feet. Amy opened her mouth, but Lex cut her off. “He spent the entire date talking about his ex, throwing out veiled hints about how much prettier she was than me, how much thinner, how much classier.” She jerked her coat over her shoulders, hoisting her bag on her shoulder. “It was one of the most humiliating evenings of my life. And now I know who to thank.” She bent down, bringing her face inches from Amy’s. “Don’t do me any favours. I can find someone on my own, when I want to. If I want to. I. Don’t. Need. Your. Help.” Then she stood up and stomped to the door.
Amy watched her go, her stomach dropping like a stone in a pond, her hands growing numb. She should be disappointed that she was no closer to getting the baby she wanted, that she needed. But she wasn’t. Instead, she felt terrible for making Lex so upset. She didn’t know how to make it better, so she decided to make it worse. She squared her shoulders and fixed a hard look on her face, glaring at a place just above Lex’s head.
“Time’s wasting, Lex, so you’d better get on it. Tick tock.” For a moment, she wasn’t sure Lex heard her. But then she saw Lex clench her hands into fists, her nails digging into her palms. She shoved the door open and stormed out without a backward glance.
Lex spent a long time sitting in her car, waiting to calm down enough to drive home. She couldn’t understand why she was so angry. Sure, that date was definitely in her top ten worst dates ever, but she wasn’t even that riled up in the midst of it. What made her so mad tonight? She thought about it while she sat, drumming her fingers on the shifter. Was it that Amy was so smug, like she expected the date to go badly? Or was it that she was pawning her off to whoever she thought was worthy, seemingly without even consulting Lex? That she was treating Lex like nothing more than a set of genes? Bingo. Lex could feel her face getting hot as her fingers clawed around the shifter so tightly they began to cramp.
“I’m not a goddamn baby factory!” Furious all over again, she started the car, backed up sharply, and headed home.
I’m really sorry. The text message came from out of nowhere the next day.
Who is this? But Lex knew exactly who it was.
It’s Amy. Lex didn’t reply. Instead, she turned her phone over, placed it on the kitchen counter, then sat in the living room and turned on the TV, determined to ignore it. It worked for about two minutes, until her text tone sounded. Damn it. Should have put it on silent. Hating her lack of self-control she went back to the kitchen.
I shouldn’t have fixed you up with that guy. I shouldn’t have fixed you up at all. In my defense, he looked really good on paper.
Yeah, well. Looks aren’t everything.
I get it. I crossed a line. I won’t interfere with your life anymore. Lex had to read the message twice to be sure she read it right. She was free of this ridiculous obligation? Just like that? I can’t make you have a baby if that’s not what’s meant for you. There was a pause, then another message.
I just never had a spell not work out the way it was supposed to. Lex didn’t respond, didn’t know how to respond. I mean, it did what it was supposed to, the message continued, but it’s not complete. It’s like reading a book and closing it before you get to the ending. It doesn’t feel right. But life isn’t a book. So, what I’m trying to say, badly, is that I’ll leave you alone.
But what will happen to you? Lex didn’t even realize she cared until this question appeared on her screen.
A shrugging woman emoji appeared. Then another pause. I’ll survive. I always do. I’m actually a pretty powerful witch now. Maybe that’s why this bothers me so much.
Sorry not sorry?
A sideways laughing face emoji. Then, a moment later, the last message. I have to believe that the magic will work itself out. But I know now that I can’t force it. Live your life. Have children; or don’t. You won’t have any more interference from me.
Amy was true to her word. Lex didn’t hear from her. For the first couple of days, she checked her phone with every message, half-expecting it to be from her. A few times she caught herself looking around for Amy when she sat in a coffee shop, or even just walking down the street downtown. She told herself that she was relieved, that she was off the hook. But she couldn’t shake the feeling of obligation she felt. She hated owing anyone anything, and the fact that she essentially reneged on a promise nagged away at her, like a constant weight pressing on her shoulders.
Lex started dating again, choosing men who seemed to want what she wanted, to focus on their career instead of a family. But after just a couple of dates, she stopped replying to their texts. With each one, she felt like something was missing. That thing; that spark; that tingly, breathless, jolt you get whenever to you think about them. Then, one night, while mindlessly flipping through Netflix, looking for something to watch, she had an idea. She dropped the remote and smacked her hand to her shaking head. Why hadn’t she thought of this before? It was perfect.
“Wow, you actually knocked.” Lex stepped back to let Amy in, closing the door behind her. She was expecting a smart-assed remark, but Amy just stepped into the hall, her face flushed. She looked apprehensive as she took off her jacket, glancing nervously at Lex through the corner of her eye. Of course. She didn’t know why Lex had asked her to come. Lex was bursting to tell her, but not in the hallway. Instead, she bit her lip to keep from blurting it out and led Amy into the living room.
Amy perched herself at the end of the couch, hands folded in her lap, looking at the floor. All the coldness and hardness of her features were gone, making her look younger, like she did in high school. Well, except for the high, angular cheekbones, which were now as pale as the rest of her face. Lex resisted the urge to touch her shoulder as she walked by and sat at the other end. Her heart started to hammer in her chest and she felt jangly and breathless. What if Amy hated the idea? But why would she? She was getting exactly what she wanted.
“So—” she began, her voice shaking so badly she could barely get the word out. She took a deep breath and tried again. “I think I have a way to get you what you want.”
“You what?” Amy snapped her head up to look at Lex, her expression startled.
“I have an idea. To get you your baby.” Lex smiled broadly, not able to contain her excitement. “I could be a surrogate. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before! I could do that artificial insemination thing, carry the baby and then give it to you. We don’t need to waste time finding me a match, and you get your child.” Lex paused, watching Amy’s face, expecting her to get excited, too. Instead, she looked like she was about to burst into tears.
“You would do this, for me? But I was so horrible to you…I was such a…” Amy shook her head.
“Well, yeah. You were. But I did make a promise, and I won’t break it.” This wasn’t going the way Lex expected. She thought—or rather, hoped—that Amy would be thrilled with the idea. It didn’t even occur to Lex that she might have to convince Amy to go along with it. She took a deep breath. “It’s only nine months. Who knows? Maybe I’ll enjoy being pregnant.” She looked over at Amy but she still looked miserable. “I can have all the ice cream I want,” she joked, trying to break the tension. Amy raised her head, turning away from Lex again, and Lex realized she was crying. On impulse, she slid closer to Amy, reaching for her hand. “What’s wrong?”
Amy flinched, jerking her arm away as if she had been burned. “It’s—” she started, her voice barely loud enough for Lex to hear. She stood up, still not looking at Lex, her arms folded around herself as if she was trying to shrink. Lex felt the burning sting of tears forming in her own eyes.
“Amy, I don’t understand. I—”
“I’m in love with you, okay?” she cried, turning to face Lex. Tears dripped from her chin and her nose began to turn red. Then she smiled, tremulously, shrugging her shoulders.
You—you’re—?” Lex was stunned, and having a hard time getting words out of her suddenly dry mouth.
“I’m in love with you,” Amy said, slowly. The smile vanished. “I fell in love with you in high school, when we did that spell. Then you broke my heart when you stopped talking to me afterwards. I tried, very hard, not to fall in love with you again this time. It didn’t work.” She sighed, dropping her arms to her sides. “I don’t want you to have a child for me. I want you to have a child with me, but I know that’s not what you want.” She started to head towards the door.
“Wait!” Lex was on her feet and reaching for Amy before she even knew what she was going to say. It didn’t matter as long as Amy didn’t leave. “I love you, too.”
Amy froze, but didn’t say anything for several moments. Lex took a step forward, her heart pounding in her chest. Of course she was in love with Amy; she had been since that moment in the kitchen, when Amy told her she couldn’t have children of her own. It was why she was so hurt that night in the coffee shop. It was why she lost interest in every man she’d met since. It was why she was willing to carry Amy’s child for her. She took another step towards Amy, and then another, until she could reach forward, grab Amy’s arm, turn her around, and kiss her.
Lex had never kissed another woman before. Amy’s lips were softer and more yielding, her face smoother than any man’s. It felt amazing. Amy buried her fingers in Lex’s hair, pulling her closer, and Lex pressed herself against Amy, feeling giddy, her whole body sensitized. She didn’t want to ever stop, but after several moments, Amy pulled slightly away. Her eyes were still red and slightly watery, but she was beaming, an elated smile on her face that Lex was sure matched her own.
“I told you, didn’t I? Magic has a way of working itself out.”