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Fiction Mystery Coming of Age

As I sit here, holding a deck of his cards in my hand, I can't help but reflect on the magic that once permeated our lives. It all began with William, my husband, an enigmatic man with a knack for captivating hearts with the flick of his wrist.


I find myself transported back 11 years, reminiscing about The Black Hole, a bar where our enchanting encounter unfolded. Nestled in a dimly lit corner, my favorite wooden booth offered the perfect vantage point for people-watching—a cherished pastime during my college years. The air carried the warm, woody fragrance of aged oak, as if it had absorbed the stories of countless students shared over numerous drinks.


Lost in my surroundings, seeking someone to daydream about, a shadow cast over my shoulder, dimming the light around me. I looked up to find him staring down at me, a smile curling around his lips, leaving me breathless.


"Excuse me," he began. "I couldn't help but notice your drink is nearly finished. Can I buy you another one?"


Flattered by his gesture, I smiled. "That's very kind of you," I replied. "But this will be my last drink."


An eyebrow arched in surprise. "But you just arrived?" he queried.


"So, you've been watching me?" I accused playfully, raising an eyebrow in return.


He folded his arms across his chest, a smirk playing on his lips. "I haven't been doing anything you haven't since you got here," he retorted. "I'm just less conspicuous about it," he added, sliding into the booth and taking the seat across from me.


"Is that so?" I asked, feigning offense. "Are you a professional people-watcher?"


"I wouldn't call myself a professional," he answered. "Most of the time, I merely glance, but occasionally, someone captures my attention," he said, his eyes locking with mine.


My heart pounded like a drumroll in a marching band as I held his gaze. His tousled, dark hair framed a chiseled face, accentuating his sharp jawline and captivating sparkling hazel eyes.


"My friend will be sitting there," I interjected, breaking our silent competition.


He smiled once more, and I couldn't help but feel a warm wave wash over me. "But she hasn't arrived yet," he remarked rhetorically, already aware of the answer.


"Not yet," I replied.


"Great, that gives us enough time to finish our drinks together," he stated confidently, as if I had no choice in the matter. "Unless, of course, you'd rather wait alone?"


Nervously tapping my fingers on the table, I contemplated my response. College had promised unique experiences, and who was I to turn them down? At that moment, I didn't want to refuse him. So, I grabbed my beer and downed its remaining contents, signaling my acceptance of his invitation.


"Tell you what," he broke the silence, his eyes widening as if struck by inspiration. "I'm not sure if you're aware, but to put it frankly…" His fingers toyed with his neatly groomed beard, downplaying what he was about to reveal. Suddenly, his hand flicked towards me, producing a playing card seemingly out of thin air. "You're in the presence of true greatness," he declared, flashing a full smile that revealed a set of perfectly aligned, pearly-white teeth.


I leaned back in awe, my eyes blinking rapidly at his sleight of hand.


"If I can impress you more than this card trick did," he continued, relishing my reaction, "then I get to sit next to you for the remainder of our people-watching."


A flush spread across my cheeks, my body tingling with anticipation.


"What about my friend?" I asked, evading a direct response.


"She can join us in our people-watching," he offered. "I don't want to disrupt your plans; I just want to be part of them."


"Okay," I finally conceded. "But it better be impressive."


"Oh, it will be," he assured me.


With bated breath, I observed his every move. He took my empty glass and deftly concealed it behind a large black napkin, held gracefully in one hand. His eyes gleamed with unwavering determination, as though he had practiced this very moment countless times. Teasing the audience, he flourished the napkin like a magician's curtain, concealing the spectacle that was about to unfold. He gently placed the napkin over the cup, and with his other hand, mimicked pouring from an invisible vessel, as if the liquid was magically filling my glass.


"What's the magic word?" he prompted.


"Abracadabra," I uttered.


He smirked, as if he had read my mind and already anticipated my response. Then, with a slight shake of the napkin, he lifted it to unveil a glass filled to the brim. My eyes widened, and I involuntarily gasped in astonishment.


"How did you do that?" I asked, awestruck.


"A magician never reveals his secrets," he responded, his smile mischievous.


"Is that so?" I quizzed.


"Indeed," he replied. "And judging by your reaction, I assume I've earned the privilege to sit next to you?"


He inquired as though, despite impressing me with his magic trick, I still possessed the power to choose.


"Well, that depends," I answered playfully. "While your trick was impressive, what would truly make it even more remarkable—and secure your seat next to mine—is if the drink matches precisely what I just had."


"Ah, of course," he responded, rubbing his hands together. "Let's hope my magic doesn't fail me now."


I gingerly grasped the cup, feeling its cool condensation wet my hand as I brought it to my lips. His sparkly eyes brimmed with anticipation, unwavering and fixed upon me, as if the outcome mattered more to him than a simple drink substitution.


I opened my mouth and tilted the cup, allowing the icy beer to cascade inside. As the familiar taste coursed through my veins, I lunged forward and quickly covered my mouth to stifle the spray, my eyes widening in disbelief.


He gracefully slid out of the booth and sauntered towards me, taking the seat beside mine.


"By the way, I'm William," he introduced himself, extending a hand emanating a captivating aroma of warm spices and sandalwood.


I swallowed the beer and placed my cup down on the table. "I'm—"


"Wait, don't tell me," he interrupted, closing his eyes momentarily before fluttering them open. "You're... Emily."


I smiled, while connecting his velvety hand with mine as we shook hands, gently shaking my head. "You’re not as good as you think," I told him. "My name is Catherine."


"Catherine," he savored the name on his lips. "What a delightful name."


"Thanks," I replied. "Why Emily?"


"I don't know," he confessed. "I've always had a fondness for the name Emily."


"Well, sorry to disappoint," I teased, tucking a strand of hair behind my ear.


"You didn't," he smiled warmly.


"Mummy, what are you holding?" a soft voice interrupts my reminiscence.


Shaking off the memories, I refocus on the present, where my daughter has approached, her eyes curious.


"Hey sweetie," I call out at her sight. "How was your nap?"


"Just delightful," she answers. "Are those daddy's cards?"


"They are," I answer, holding my hands out as she climbs into my lap.


She nestles into me, and instantly, a sense of calm washes over me, as if the pain I've carried has finally found solace.


"Mummy, when is daddy coming back?" she asks innocently, and with her words, the pain resurfaces.


"Oh, Emily," I squeeze her tightly. "Daddy can't come back," I reply, my voice breaking.


"Why not?" she persists.


I pause, searching for the right words, my chin resting on her head. I vowed to always be honest with Emily, to help her understand the complexities of life. But now, faced with this moment, I struggle to uphold that promise.


"Because, sweetie, when someone dies, they can't come back," I explain, a tear slipping down my cheek.


"Why not?" she persists.


"I don't know, sweetheart," I reply, my voice trembling. "It's just the way things are."


"Maybe daddy will come back," she suggests, digging deeper.


I hesitate, grappling with how to respond. But as I meet her sparkling hazel eyes, so reminiscent of William's, a warmth envelopes me, and I smile naturally.


"You know, like daddy always did with his cards. Maybe all we have to do is say 'abracadabra,'" she suggests, her innocence brimming with hope.


And in that tender moment, as I smile at my daughter, I'm reminded of the magic life holds. From my first encounter with William to our marriage, the birth of Emily, and even through his illness as he continued to share his magic with our daughter.


"Maybe," I reply softly. "Maybe."


"Daddy was the best magician in the whole world," Emily exclaims.


"He certainly was," I reply. "But a magician is only as good as his lovely assistant."


I guide her to the couch and fan the cards out dramatically before her, her eyes widening in surprise—the same sparkle I saw in William's eyes.


"Whoa," she exclaims. "How did you do that?"


"Your daddy taught me," I answer.


"But I thought magicians weren't allowed to share their secrets?" she asks.


"Ah, yes, that's true," I say, smirking. Placing the cards on the table, I flick my wrist, making a card appear as if by magic. Her mouth falls open in awe.


"Let's just say your daddy broke that rule a few times when mommy asked," I admit.


"Wow!" she exclaims, her eyes blinking rapidly. "You’re a magician too? Can you please teach me how to do that?"


I considered giving her the same response William had given us countless times, but then I realized that, just as he had broken the rules for me, I too could defy convention. After all, though William may be gone, his magic doesn't have to vanish with him.


"Yes, I will," I answered. "But remember, once I teach you, you can't reveal our secrets. Because a magician..."


"Never reveals their secrets," she finishes with a smile.


"Good job, sweetie."


I sit there, my heart swelling with love and a bittersweet ache as I watch my daughter, the embodiment of William's magic, mesmerized by the possibilities that lie within her grasp.


As the days turn into weeks and the weeks into years, Emily and I dive headfirst into a world of illusions and sleights of hand. The art of magic becomes our bond, weaving us together in a tapestry of wonder and shared secrets. We spend countless hours practicing tricks, perfecting our skills, and creating our own brand of enchantment.


With each passing day, I see glimpses of William in Emily, his spirit alive in her laughter and the sparkle in her eyes. She possesses the same spark of curiosity and determination that once drew me to him. Through the cards and the tricks we perform, I feel his presence, his legacy, guiding us forward.


As Emily grows older, she becomes a skilled magician in her own right. Together, we perform for family and friends, sharing the joy and wonder that magic brings. And in those moments, when the applause fills the air, I can almost hear William's laughter mingling with the sound.


Years later, as Emily stands on a grand stage for her talent show, her name in lights, I watch from the audience, tears of pride welling in my eyes. She is a testament to the magic that William bestowed upon us, a testament to the love that continues to transcend the boundaries of life and death.


After the final act, as the crowd rises to their feet, showering her with applause, Emily locks eyes with me. The same spark that once drew me to William now resides in her, a torch passed from one generation to the next.


I make my way backstage, where Emily greets me with a warm embrace. We stand there, mother and daughter, magician and apprentice, bound not only by blood but by a shared history of love and enchantment.


"Thank you, Mom," Emily whispers, her voice tinged with emotion. "I couldn't have done this without you and Dad."


I smile, my heart brimming with a mixture of joy and sorrow. "Your dad would be so proud," I reply, my voice catching in my throat.


As we stand there, holding each other, I realize that William's magic lives on, not just in the tricks we perform but in the love that fills our hearts. The magic that once held our lives has transformed into a legacy, an unbreakable bond that transcends time and space.


And so, as the stage lights fade and we step out into the world, hand in hand, I know that the magic will continue. Our journey is not just about the illusions we create but about the love and connection we share—a reminder that the most powerful magic of all lies within the depths of our own hearts.

July 19, 2023 01:39

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2 comments

M. W.
22:45 Jul 26, 2023

Hi Jordan, great job! I really like how you interpreted the prompt, making it a story about the importance and love of family. You write beautiful prose; it really paints a full picture. The flashback was very well-placed with a smooth transition in and out. I love that we get to see her relationship with her husband (back when they first met) and also her relationship with their daughter--it showcases two different types of love that are just as strong. We go from rom-com to family drama, and it's an impressive and emotional range. If I h...

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Jordan Lowery
01:13 Jul 27, 2023

Thank you so much for the feedback! I had a lot of fun with this prompt. :)

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