She walked hurriedly down the street, eyes darting from shop window to shop window. She swore this was the right place. But she had just been out for a walk before, not paying that close of attention. Was it one street over? No, she knew it had to be right here someplace.
There was a loud bang in the alley closest to her and she screamed. She stifled an hysterical giggle when she realized it was just a cat knocking over a trash can.
She checked her watch, she should have at least an hour more. Where was that shop?
The shop keeper watched from her window running her fingers through darkness, petting the shadows that trembled at her feet. "Not yet, she's not quite ready yet."
After looking for another half hour, widening her search out street by street she gave up. She would have to come back again. She laughed as tears streamed down her face. Easier said than done.
It had all seemed so simple. Almost a lark. A few drops from the purple bottle and he would love her again. Things would go back to the way they were. She met him for coffee to give him back a few things he had left at her place when he walked out. She was able to put the potion in his coffee cup as she left. She remembered feeling a little foolish then. Why would she believe this would work? She had probably paid a lot of money for water in a pretty bottle. At the time she had believed in the possibility. The hope. But now she knew that it really was time to let things go. My god, she had just tried to roofie her ex-boyfriend! Time to get a grip and move on.
Then he texted her.
Then he called.
Then he showed up after work with flowers and an apology. Begging her to take him back.
Of course she did. This was what she wanted. Dinner and dancing that night. Making love until dawn. It was the reunion she had dreamed of, but even better. Eating breakfast the next morning the look in his eyes. Oh it was sublime. It was like all he saw was her. All he heard was her. All he needed was her again. It was perfect. The weekend flew by with the only interruption being the awkward conversation between him and his now newly ex-girlfriend.
She had been a little shocked at how cold he had been. Even when they had broken up it had been a tear filled exchange laden with all of the tired cliches about time and it isn't you, it's me. This was just...abrupt. "I don't want to see you again. Ever...No I'm not kidding. Why would I kid about this? Don't call me. Ever," and that was that. Stony faced and devoid of care. That was what she saw. Then he hung up the phone and turned back to her. The smile breaking. Light filling his eyes again. Just so happy. She couldn't help but smile back. This was right. This was the way it was supposed to be.
Monday he didn't want to go to work. "We should stay here with each other all day. Wouldn't that be great?" She had laughed and agreed but said they still needed to work. Bills to pay and all that. And so they headed in to work. A little late, but there. Then around 10 the receptionist called her out to the lobby. He was there. He wanted to take her to lunch. "It's only 10 am."
"Then we can go for brunch."
"I can't go now. I am in the middle of a project. Lunch isn't until 12:30." She had laughed at the time. He was so eager to spend more time with her. It was awesome.
And he did. And then he waited after lunch for her to get off work. Texting her every few minutes. She wrote it off to his feeling guilty for leaving her. Knew that it would cool off soon. But it didn't. Her boss called her in to his office. "You have to say something. We can't have him just sitting out in the lobby all day."
So she did. "You have to go back to work."
"I quit. It was taking too much of my time. You should quit too."
"I can't quit. If I quit we would have no money."
She explained it over and over to him and he finally seemed to understand. And he swore he wouldn't wait for her in the lobby anymore if it wasn't what she wanted.
So he would wait in his car.
Or on the street corner.
Or in the little restaurant where she sometimes grabbed lunch.
He would just materialize next to her as she walked down the street.
He would be sitting a few tables over in the coffee shop when she met clients.
He even followed her in to the ladies' restroom one day when she was out running errands on her lunch break.
"I just can't leave you alone. I need to be near you. It's just not life if I'm not with you. You have to understand that, right?"
She would wake up in the middle of the night to find him leaning over her watching her sleep. If they were sitting together on the couch watching TV and she got up to go to the kitchen he would follow her. Always a hand on her back, or her shoulder. Grasping and grabbing. He never gave her a moments peace.
His friends had started calling and coming around. They were worried. He never wanted to go out with them. She tried to encourage a boy's night out but he wouldn't hear of it. The same cold look on his face when he told them to leave him alone, he didn't want to hang out anymore.
Today she had convinced him to go visit his parents. They were so worried about him. He hadn't called or come by in months. He finally agreed when she said she wouldn't make him go again, but he had to this once. It was important to her. She had taken the time to try and find the shop. To get an antidote. A cure. Anything. And she hadn't been able to find the shop.
When she got home he was waiting outside. Pacing the street. She saw him in the distance before he noticed her.He was a shadow of his former self. He must have lost 20 pounds in the past two months. He wouldn't eat unless she forced him to. She never saw him sleep. He had stopped going to gym. She took a deep breath. This wasn't how it was supposed to be. Then he turned and spotted her. "OH MY GOD I WAS WORRIED!" He broke out in to a run to reach her. Wrapping her in his arms tightly. "Where were you? You weren't here when I got back and I didn't know where you had gone. Your car was still here and the engine was cool and the mileage hadn't changed but you were gone. You didn't answer your phone and I couldn't find you on Track my iPhone."
She reached in to her pocket and pulled out her turned off phone. "The battery must be dead. I'm sorry. I just went for a walk. I didn't expect you back so soon. How are your folks?"
And his face went back to stone. "I won't be seeing them anymore. They aren't a part of my life until they can accept what makes me happy. I love you. That's all they need to know."
They fought that night.
She told him she needed some space. Just a little time alone.
He apologized again for ever leaving her.
She said that wasn't it. That she just really needed a little time on her own. That he should get back to work. Spend time with his friends. Reconnect with the world.
He shook his head no and told her that all he needed was her. That she was all he wanted. That his love for her left no room for anything else.
She was insistent. He needed to give her some room.
Finally he seemed to understand. He apologized again for ever leaving her. He told her he understood what the problem was now. And then he left.
She slept soundly that night for the first time in a long time. Nobody watching her breathe. The next morning when she got up she reveled in how quiet the house was. How peaceful it was to be alone. She knew now that she had to break up with him. He would get over her. She knew that he would. He would get back to his own life and she would get back to hers. Lesson learned.
She walked in to the kitchen and there was a box on the counter with a note propped in front of it. She shook her head. He had come back in the middle of the night. She couldn't believe it. But then she half smiled to herself, well at least it looks like he left breakfast.
She opened the note. "I figured out what was wrong. You are still worried about me leaving you for her again. I wanted to prove to you that I will never leave you again. My love for you is complete. I will never love anything more than I love you. She is my token to you."
She heard a low moan and a chant and it took a minute to realize it was coming from her own voice, "Nonononononononono" she reached out and lifted the corner of the box and saw his ex- girlfriend staring back at her.
He spoke from behind her, "See? Now you don't ever have to worry again."
As she started to scream a shop keeper across town released her shadow pets, "Now she's ready. Go bring her to me." And she turned to the empty bottles marked "Madness"
"I do love a return customer."