(a Magical Midlife Mom flash fiction story, told from Melissa's point of view)
It had been a long day.
I rubbed my temples as my computer slowly shut down at a snail’s pace. One might assume I had an ancient computer, but actually, it was a top-of-the-line model bought just a few months ago. Unfortunately, even that didn’t help the poor machine stand a chance against the strong fae magic swirling around the Stronghold Salem office building.
And today the building had been exceptionally packed with fae visitors. Not only had a group of deer shifters come through so Gabriel could warn them to quit walking on their hind legs and freaking locals out, but the fae prince (and my child’s father…long story) had stopped by with a pair of guards to discuss his upcoming coronation.
Their presence had kept me busy, not only to make sure both groups had enough to eat and drink, but Gabriel had me sit at the table during each discussion. He didn’t just treat me like the average office manager, he respected my opinion and wanted me involved in Stronghold’s important decision making.
It made me proud of my new job, but it also made me very tired.
Gabriel left to escort the prince back to the Southern Court, leaving me to drive home alone. I checked in on the only other person at the office before I left: Vanessa, Gabriel’s warrior angel in charge of security. I found her in the office’s lobby, tidying up the reception area wearing a sharp black suit. She’d been called in to guard our front door while the prince visited.
“I’m heading out,” I called out to her. “Need anything?”
“If you don’t mind, there’s a little shop downtown I’d like to visit.” She gave me the address to a place relatively close by.
“I’m happy to, although I’m surprised you’re not walking there. That seems to be more your style.”
“It closes in twenty minutes, and I want to pick up some bath bombs before they close.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Bath bombs?”
“I’m allowed to like bath bombs,” she answered defensively. “They’re locally made and smell divine. I especially like the lavender ones.”
“You’re right,” I said quickly. “That sounds wonderful. Maybe I’ll pick up a couple for myself.”
She didn’t reply as she locked up the office and headed with me to the elevator that would lead us to the underground parking garage, but she did relax a little.
Of all the fae I worked with on a regular basis, I had the hardest time getting close to Vanessa. She rarely ditched her no-nonsense attitude and kept her private life to herself. I’d worked with enough people to respect that and decided not to waste time with idle chit-chat as she sat in the passenger seat of Dirt Dash, my aging beige hatchback. The fact that she didn’t complain about all the random papers scattered in the backseat of my car only enhanced her stoic professionalism.
Even with the shop less than a mile away, it was still rush hour in downtown Salem, and near Christmas to boot. It took us five minutes to make it the same number of blocks, red tail lights stretching in a long line out the dashboard to match the tinsel decorations on the streetlamps. Crowds flooded the streets as the walk signs came on, bustling from shop to shop.
“I’ll have to drop you off,” I told her. “Parking’s going to be a nightmare.”
Unfortunately, parking turned out to be the least of our worries. As we waited for the light to turn green, a mob of young people with matching red sweaters and elf ears suddenly stopped right in front of our car in the crosswalk. They formed a blockade line to face us.
I wrinkled my nose. "What in the world...?"
Vanessa stiffened, as if prepared to do battle.
Their leader, wearing a green and white scarf, suddenly yelled, “One…two…THREE!”
They burst into acapella song, shifting their hips and waving their arms. Their harmony was atrocious, huffing to the beat of their strange dance. As they spun in front of my headlights, I realized what they were doing.
“It’s a flash mob,” I groaned. “We’re stuck here.”
Cars around ame honked furiously. They’d figured out the same thing too.
My ears perked up. “Are they honestly singing some bizarro version of Last Christmas by Wham!”
Vanessa turned to me, confused. “What’s ‘wham?’”
“It’s the sound your heart makes as it drops to the bottom of your feet when you hear this song.”
My clever joke was completely lost on Vanessa. She gritted her teeth. “Don’t they realize how disruptive they are being.”
“It’s probably some sort of social media stunt.” I pointed at two guys in puffer coats with nice looking cameras, recording from either side of the line dance. “They probably don’t care, and they’ll disperse before police arrive.”
Vanessa grabbed the door handle. “This is outrageous.”
My eyes widened as she exited the car. “Vanessa? What are you doing?”
She slammed the door in response.
My hands gripped the steering wheel, wondering if I should follow her. Vanessa could take care of herself, which is why I worried more about the flash mob performers. She would flatten them without a second thought.
Or at least, that's what I thought she would do as she marched straight up to the scarfed leader, hands drawn up in fists.
But before I could leap out of the car, her hands flung out wide, leaving her body prone. She inhaled a deep breath before belting out a familiar tune.
Her literal angelic voice cut through the awful Christmas pop song. It silenced not only the flash mob members, who stared at her in wonder, but the honking cars. I half expected her wings of light to burst out of her back, but thankfully they didn’t, meaning no one had any idea that she was using her alluring magic on them.
She continued to serenade the intersection with her song, slowly moving toward one of the sidewalks. The camera-man moved out of her way as she ushered the line of red sweaters to follow. Then, still singing, she waved frantically at me.
Oh, that’s right. I was immune to her thrall, at least on a magical level. I’d been more frozen by the sheer audacity. She wanted me to drive on. The light was still green, so I eased Dirt Dash across. None of the other drivers followed me, though, too enraptured by Vanessa’s voice.
That turned out to be a stroke of luck because there was an empty spot right in front of the bath shop, clear on the other side of the street. I changed three lanes and eased into the spot, then dashed into the shop as Ave Maria swelled behind me.
By the time Vanessa had stopped singing, I’d exited the shop. Behind me, the clerk turned the “Open” sign to “Closed.”
Vanessa noticed the change and frowned. “Did I do all that for nothing?”
“Not for nothing,” one of the puffer-coated camera-men said, enthralled in her wake. “You sound like an angel.”
Vanessa gave him a menacing scowl. “And I can crush you like one too if you don’t leave immediately.”
Snapping out of his stupor, he recognized the genuine threat and skittered away.
I stifled a laugh. “Don’t worry. I bought several of your favorite lavender bombs. I also snagged a few peppermint ones, just for the season.”
Her grimace faded, not into a smile exactly, but something resembling gratitude. “How much do I owe you?”
“Absolutely nothing. Just getting that flash mob out of the way was worth every penny.”
She took the bag from me, clutching it to her suit. “Thank you, Melissa.”
“Anytime.” I held out a palm. “I think I feel a drop. Would you like me to drive you back to the office?”
She started to shake her head no, but then relented. “That would be nice.”
We dove back into Dirt Dash, waiting as a steady flow of traffic swirled around us.
A thought popped into my head. “Actually, you could do one thing for me.”
She glanced at me warily. “Yes?”
“Could you sing Ave Maria again? I missed the good parts while buying this stuff in the shop.”
Vanessa relaxed and began her gorgeous rendition of the classic song. It sent chills up my spine that had nothing to do with magic as I pulled back out onto the road. She really did have the voice of an angel.
And I swore, as she held onto one of the song’s longest notes, that she did smile, just for a teeny second, clutching her lavender bath bombs in her lap.
Read more of Melissa's magical adventures in the Magical Midlife Mom series.