Magic potions – do you believe in them? Short story by Colin Devonshire

Fortune

‘It is so exciting. I am so lucky, imagine, to be the girlfriend of a pop star,’ Gloria said. Her friend, Jessy, raised her eyebrows again.
‘Yes, you are the luckiest girl in our village,’ Jessy said.
‘Do you think he will buy a Ferrari or a yacht?’
‘I’ve no idea what famous people do with their money. Anyway, I wouldn’t plan on spending his money. He hasn’t got there yet.’
‘I know, but he has been recruited to take Super Mack’s place in the number one band,’ Gloria said, preening in front of an imaginary mirror.
‘Sad about Mack, though. He was so young,’ Jessy said as she wandered back home.
Gloria also made her way home from their factory’s production line. But, again, her mobile bleeped with the number one hit record.
‘Yes, hello, darling, how’s things with my very own star guitarist?’
Dave coughed, then mumbled his initial statement, ‘Um, er, I.’
‘Don’t ask me on the phone. You are supposed to get on one knee in front of me.’
‘No, it’s not that. I, um, have to break it off.’
‘Ha ha, very funny. Don’t joke like that.’
‘I’m not joking. My manager told me a “more fitting woman” suits my image. So I have a new punky girlfriend who works for the production company.’
‘What? You can’t. I’ve told everyone we are to be wed.’

Gloria ran the rest of the way home; she slammed the door and ran up to her room. There she collapsed in tears onto her bed.
‘How could he? I’ll teach him.’
Opening her laptop, she filmed herself and posted it live on her favourite social media. Then, rolling up her sleeves, she sliced across her wrists. ‘Don’t fall in love with a pop star. This is what they make you do. Goodbye, cruel world.’
She didn’t die as quickly as she expected. Instead, with blood trailing down her arms, she snatched the Mac from her desk and walked to the well at the bottom of her garden. She set up the computer and continued with the filming and commentary.
‘I can’t even kill myself with blades. But, look,’ she raised her wrists and splattered the screen. ‘Now watch.’
She dived head-first into the well.

Within minutes the social news hit the press. Penny, Gloria’s sister, rushed home. She arrived before the ambulance. Penny peered down but could not clamber over the wall; she only succeeded in passing down the well’s bucket. Then, she pulled it back up, empty except pink coloured water. The ambulance men shoved her clear and fed a rope ladder down. But it was too late; Gloria’s legs and back were broken, snapped at odd angles. Her friends and family were devastated. The pop world was in a frenzy. First, the group’s managers considered sacking Dave before he started, but soon they planned to use the news to sell more tracks.
‘People fall out of love all the time. It wasn’t my fault,’ Dave wailed to reporters. ‘Of course, I’m saddened to hear what happened.’
The band’s manager took him away and shielded him from the world. As a result, he missed Gloria’s fate.

‘That bastard couldn’t even come to see my sister,’ Penny said.
‘What are you going to do?’ Penny’s old aunt asked.
‘What do you suggest?’
‘You want revenge, yes?’
‘Yes, yes, yes, I want him to suffer.’
‘You told me about the pink water from the well. Have you kept any?’
‘I thought you’d ask. Here,’ Penny handed her aunt a bottle.
Auntie Peg flipped the closed sign on the door of her shop and shuttled Penny to the back room. Soon her worktop was covered in phials, droppers and a massive tome with curled pages and a battered leather cover.

The second stage of their plan was to encourage Dave to visit a fortune teller at the market.
Fan emails arrived at the band’s office. One caught Dave’s eye.
“…I visited a fantastic gipsy queen. She told me about you and how you would make it to the top of the pop world. Lots of love from your adoring number-one fanatic.”
He replied, ‘Where and who is this gipsy? I promise you a front-row ticket.’
The third stage is to set up a market stall.
Penny checked the band’s schedule, and on their first free day, she sat in a tent at the market, wearing a bandana and huge earrings and waited.

He peeped under the canvas roof, ‘Can I come in?’ Dave asked.
‘Please, sit. How can I help you?’
‘It seems everything in my life is too easy. Will it all come crashing down?’
‘Please take a card,’ Penny said. ‘Turn it and place it face up on the table.’ She spread the deck facedown on green cloth.
‘Oh, that’s not good?’ said Dave as he saw the “Death” card.
Penny passed him a glass of water.
‘What is this? It’s pink?’
‘Do you see pink?’ asked Penny. ‘It is only water from the tap. Drink it. You will feel calmer.’
His hands shook as he downed the water.
‘With your work, I see a great deal of travel. At first in the UK, but overseas travel will be cancelled.’
‘Why will it be halted?’ He asked.
‘It is odd, but I can see woe and tears. And you, walking like a robot.’
Dave shook, trembled, and then froze in the seat.
Penny handed him another glass of Auntie’s pink water, which he downed in panic.
‘I think you should go. The reading has affected you badly. Get an early night.’ Penny aided him out. Dave staggered home.

‘Let me guess, he was dumbfounded at first, and then the pink potion started working. After that, he got the shakes, and his joints numbed up?’
‘Yes, Auntie, exactly like that,’ said Penny.
‘There will be more strife to follow.’

Dave made it home. His knees were stiff, his shoulders hunched, and his neck locked when a neighbour called out to him to wave.
‘A hot bath, that’s what I need.’ So he ran the tap as hot as he could.
The heat helped, but he worried, ‘It was hard enough getting in. How in Hell’s name will I get out?’
He dropped the soap in the water, scrabbling on the tub’s ceramic; he struggled to grab the bar and soap himself.
‘My fingers are seizing up.’
He stood and used his rigid hands to balance himself on the edge of the bath. He fell back and fought to keep his nose clear of the water. The second attempt worked better, and he rolled himself over and out. Lying there for a minute, then dragged himself along the carpet tiles and into his bedroom. Getting on the bed was impossible, so he pulled the quilt down and slept on the floor.
He remained until the band manager got the police to unlock the house. Dave placed on his bed, and there he stayed. His fingers were rigid.

Penny and her aunt peered into the ICU room. There was Gloria, looking more like an Egyptian mummy than a wounded girl. Wires held her legs up, and white plaster held her chest straight. Only her eyes moved. They brightened as she spotted her relations.
Auntie splashed pink water on her visible joints. Soon, Gloria wiggled her fingers.
‘Oy, what do you think you’re doing?’ asked a nurse, bursting in.
‘Trust us,’ said Auntie as she stared deeply into the nurse’s eyes. Then, finally, the uniformed lass flopped onto the bedside chair and slept.
‘Now, Gloria, you trust me. Your broken bones will heal, stronger than before. And the exciting thing is.…’ She looked around, smiled and said, ‘You will be able to play the guitar.’

The END

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