Sleight Of Hand
by Juanita Dark

Spiral down down down down down down down.
Well desire looks just like you with an uzi nine
Mr Bitterness - Soul Coughing

(It starts with chaos.)

"What do you want?"

"Well, your wife off my back, for starters." 'Ex-wife'. You want to correct him. You don't. He continues: "Then, maybe fifty grand a month."


"Fifty grand."

"Yeah." Flat, matter-of-fact. "If they don't have it, they can certainly get it. Just put on those, uh, cute little outfits."


"They don't have them anymore."

"Heh. Well, they better find them. I wouldn't try anything if I were you. All right? This is just a copy."

(That grows to intention.)

"I can find the original."

"Oh yeah? How?"


"Well, I have certain powers, too. But I'm trying very hard not to use them. Very hard. I don't like what they do to me."

It meets with indifference.

"Yeah, ok. Whatever, pal." His back is to you. "Guess I'll just sell this to the highest bidder."


"I can't let you do that."

Meets with ignorance. "Try and stop me."

A flick of the fingers - a turn of the wrist - cracks flame like a gavel. You are justice with your eyes wide open. The curve of this cruel spiral twists you forward on a straight line with the inevitability of a bullet.


He's gone.

The elevator door chimes, restoring order.

Just you, and Phoebe.

"Is he here?"


"Miller. Edward Miller. You said he was coming."

(But chaos again encroaches...)

"Oh yeah. Um... I- I took care of it."

And she takes a step back.

"What do you mean? What does that mean?"

She already knows; her hand flutters then presses down hard on the elevator button.

Your mind would say you could do without her, but your heart would say differently.

Right now it's pounding, pounding with each move you take forward and each step she takes back. You call it a two-step; she calls it an invasion of personal space. Her space. Not yours. Your dance of love has become a hunt. And running is all she has in mind.

"Phoebe, he was going to expose you..."

Far, far away from you.

"What was I supposed to do?"

The elevator doors chime and open, her back suddenly against the elevator wall as if you've just doused her in scalding water.

Perhaps here your mind would diplomatically suggest you let her go - but your heart would know better - it wants to love again. And love begins and ends with her.

"Phoebe, wait..."

Your mind is already forming apologies - rational words that cannot take back actions - but she's not pacified, she's terrified. That baffles you. She must know you'd never hurt her. Your hands stay in your pockets like holstered pistols but it doesn't matter. The doors still close like midnight on a face that won't forgive you.

Another mistake.


So many ways to hurt her. She's made of glass and you're throwing stones.

Kindly, your mind does not repeat that to your heart as one hand reaches up and rests heavily against the doors. Closed.

Resting your head against the cold shell of her retreat, your breaths are shallow, and unkind. Your heart is still beating.


Her heart had been racing too - but not with love.


You skip town but you still like to go for walks in the park. You like the green.

Green reminds you of horses, which remind you of when you were a boy. No cars. And no one looked twice at a man walking through the park with his hands in his pockets. Parks never really change.


Leaves swirl in wind spirals, here and there - green and gold, and ivy. Joggers jog; lovers have eyes only for each other as they walk hand in hand, paths wide like aisles. Parents run after their children, and children flock around park performers like disasters with ice cream waiting to happen. More still, cluster around a man with helium-filled balloons, clusters of them rising around him like clouds - multi-coloured, airborne grapes.


There's a magician at the corner of your path, by a tree, an island in a sea of children. His hands move deliberately as young eyes follow, chasing the disappearing trinket. You lean against a wall and watch but your mind is elsewhere.

(cognition that grows to intention)


Phoebe holds your hand to her chest, you can feel her heart beating. You can hear the smile in her laugh though her back is to you, your chin on her shoulder. Her wet hair tickles your nose as she holds your right hand palm up in the thick of your embrace.

"You have a strong life line."

You nudge the shell of her ear with your lips - her skin is hot from the bath - like yours. "You read palms?"

She pauses and you can picture her expression. Warm. Quixotic. "No, I'm guessing."

"A witch that can see the future is guessing."

"That is correct."

"In that case, I can see the future."

You tense as you mimic one of her premonitions. She's facing you when you open your eyes, amused.

"What did you see?"

"You and me, and..."

"And..." Her lips purse in that inimitable expression that you find cute - and a tease.

You venture forward hoping not to raise her carefree hackles - it's enough that she nearly backed out of your engagement but then, the confusion with the ring had taken care of that. If Phoebe appreciates anything romantically it's obstacles.

"Lots of children."

She smirks but it's a canny one. "And how far in the future was this vision?" she baits.

"Oh, far," you say as her hands play with the front of your bathrobe for a moment. "Far, far, in the future."

"Then that's a very, very good forecast."

Happy but satisfied she turns again leaning back into you, her towel robe cushioning her like bunny fur. Soft.

You kiss her neck:

"Are you sure? Because I could think of more things to do than forecast."


Your hands drift to the knot of her robe but she stops you there, entangling your hands with her own. You find yourself stroking her fingers and kissing her neck again.

She sighs. "Hmm, You wouldn't think the absence of a ring could cause so much relief."

"As a rule, a wedding ring that's been used six times by the same grandmother might not be a good omen for an engagement."

"I could get you a ring. One that hopefully won't turn you into a 50's version of a model housewife."

"Somehow I don't think that would impress any potential client who might want to hire an ex-demon lawyer who is part of no firm to speak of."

"Who knows, it might appeal to a whole new side of the market."

You smile. "And for my next trick..."

She shifts and turns to kiss you so that she's sitting in your lap. Your hands land on her legs and drift. The palm of on hand closing on her inner thigh.

Her arms circle your neck, as you break your kiss and she tenses, breathes in suddenly and shudders, it's almost like another premonition.

You release her leg, realising that you were squeezing it too tightly - realising you forgot for a moment; that particular trick was one you could only pull when half of you was demon. Allowing the energy in your hands to fall so low that you don't form balls of trapped voltage but low pulses of energy that carried under the skin contracting muscle, making Phoebe pant. It was a pleasurable little trick. But -

"What just happened?"

Her shoulders rise and fall as if she just felt something.

She's embarrassed. For a moment you worry. You're supposed to be human.

She catches it. "Relax," though her voice wavers slightly. "It wasn't you."


"Well not directly anyway."

Your mind grasps at the only recognisable possibility. "You had a premonition."

"Of the past." She says it slowly and carefully, as if explaining it to a dim relative.

"Of the past?" you echo, still oblivious.

She drags you along with sentences. "I think... I wanted it to happen... so much that... I..."

"Oh." You realise her train of thought. If it wasn't so sneaky you'd actually be a little disturbed.

"My magic, not yours. And an accident, so no personal gain."


"None at all." She slides next to you and considers it. (declaration) "With love; there is no personal gain."


She kisses you again and again. And again.



The hands re-appear producing a colourful bunch of flowers. The children applaud the magician's sleight of hand, as you tumble out of the warmth of your own memory.

She might forgive you but she wants her own life. One separate from yours.



Your heart's still beating but your hands are cold. The children either scatter, or are pulled away by their respective parents, nannies, and guardians. Birds swoop down momentarily with the hope of food but eventually fly on, finding none.


Turning your back on the crowds you walk away.



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