AN: Heyo! Uh, I think the ending was a little bit rough? Let me know if I should try and clarify more things. Just, uh, this is the last part! I literally started it last night and finished it up this morning. So, yeah! Feel free to rip it to shreds!
Edited, but not entirely edited. I added two lines.
Sarah slid the cardboard carrier for the iced coffee onto the desk. “The mint mocha is for me and the… pumpkin spice is for you.” Emelia couldn’t help but linger on Sarah’s periwinkle blazer, once again in awe at her companion’s bold fashion choices. In fact, she was so smitten that she almost forgot to take mock umbrage to Sarah’s disgusted tone.
“I don’t entirely understand your problem with pumpkin spice coffee. If they’re going to offer it all year, then I’ll take them up on this offer all year.” Emelia tapped the aloe vera plant to stop it from dancing and grabbed her coffee in what she hoped to be one smooth motion. “It’s not entirely my fault. If the companies didn’t try to feed into my consumerist ways, then I wouldn’t bite.”
Sarah smiled wide — Emelia also couldn’t help but notice the cute gap between her two front teeth — and put on a strained tone of voice, as if she were speaking to her hotel customers again. “I’ve been gettin’ coffee for us for… eight weeks now? Honey, I’ve bought enough pumpkin spice for a life time. You’ve drank enough pumpkin spice too — how about you try peppermint or just mocha mint?”
Emelia stuck her tongue out and then kicked a barking tome from under the table, absently going through a checklist of all the magical things she needed to shut down — God, god, god, why don’t I just switch to being a non-magical bookshop. That’d certainly work better for this relationship. “You would honestly need to tie me up to ever force me to drink something that has mint in the title.”
Sarah leaned closer, her face almost a foot from Emelia’s. “That can certainly be arranged.” She winked.
"That's a bit forward," Emelia laughed.
Sarah shifted awkwardly.
Emelia found herself almost entranced with the glittery gold makeup and the endless sea of hot chocolate in her eyes, but then managed to compose herself and clear her throat. “Well, if I’m going to keep this business related, then I guess I’ll have to give you your books. Uh, I’ve given you the crochet books… and the books on voice acting…”
Opening up the lefthand drawer, she barely even had to look through the broken wands, half-empty potion vials, and loose pamphlets to find the two books she was looking for. “Here you go!” She handed them over the desk.
Sarah took a sip of the mint mocha iced coffee, raising her eyebrows and examining the front cover of the two small books. “Gardenin’? Ouch, Emelia, I’m wounded.”
Emelia laughed, trying to quell the raising electric current in her chest of apprehension. “You had me thinking that magic existed, Sarah! Oddities over by your grandmother’s house? I thought I might have had to call a psychic. But no! Your plants just needed water… and an exterminator.”
The jovial expression that Sarah wore quickly turned to something else — something a bit more serious. Her eyebrows furrowed, and the lights in her dark brown eyes went out. “Can I have a seat?”
“Uh, yes, sure. If you head down the religion aisle — you know where that is — and then turn left, there should be some barstools over there. Feel free to take one and come back.”
Really, Emelia shouldn’t have had to worry about Sarah finding magical stuff through her own mishaps. Klaxius, early on into her apprenticeship, had remodeled the shop in such a way that the magical sections required spellcasting to get into. It was supposed to be more friendly to the non-magic folk. There were instructions written on the walls which only trained wizards understood, given the cryptic markings. (It sucked for the sorcerer children who used to hang out in the bookshop, since they weren’t trained in the ways of magic.)
However — and anxiety buzzed in the back of Emelia’s mind whenever she remembered this fact — Emelia had been more lax in her protection. She’d invited dancing shadows for the walls, openly read tomes about curses, and kept information about gold-to-dollar exchange rates out in the open. She could halfway console herself that the normal patronage was dwindling down, but that was a lie. A less sensible part of her mind told her that this was to lean into the magical theme of the bookshop, but she knew it was out of a childish spite.
A childish spite that could cause her to lose Sarah.
Without much thinking, she slid her wand down its holster and pulled it out. A familiar copper taste tickled the inside of her mouth, signaling a worse form of anxiety attack. Emelia started to prepare one of the stronger spells to calm her fears — trying to do so quickly enough before Sarah came back, muttering the Latin words under her breath, but—
“Emelia, please stop.”
Her breath caught in her throat. Emelia looked up to see Sarah staring at her.
“If you’re doin’ what I think you’re doin’ — suspected that you’re doin’ — then I’m going to ask you to stop.” Sarah’s usual smile was pushed away, with a stony somber expression gracing her face instead.
“It’s— it’s not what you think, Sarah.” Emelia took her trembling hands and placed her wand down on the desk right next to the coffee. “Let me— let me explain.”
Sarah walked over to behind the next, set down the stool, then hoisted herself up on it. She towered over Emelia. “I’ll explain some stuff first, Em.”
Emelia started chewing on her lower lip. A familiar barking started to come from under the desk, and she kicked at the cursed tome again to get it to stop. Not now, not now, not now, not now, not now. Her thoughts spiraled beyond her control, and her soul felt like it was about to leave her body, only grounded to mortal flesh by the fact Sarah was there.
“Well, how do I explain this…” Sarah extended the “sss” sound, cocking her head to the side and looking down at Emelia. “You can stop hiding magic from me. The jig has been up since day one.”
Sarah gestured over to the aloe plant, which had started its dancing again. “When I see you watering that plant, it’s pretty obvious that it’s not a toy. It’s cute, though.”
“Klaxius would kill me if he had the chance. A piano needs to drop on my head right about now.” Emelia leaned back into her leather chair, closing her eyes and letting out a slow breath. “Anything else?”
“You wear that outfit all the time — even when I invite you to my house— and people in your type of outfits come in and out of this shop all the time. At a certain point, it’s not a cosplayin’ thing. Only so many people can cosplay as Dumbledore. Ya get that?”
Emelia removed her wizard’s hat and worried fingers through her own tangled hair. “Gandalf cosplayers. Uh, we have about two of those. But yeah.”
“And I can’t think of anything else that would explain this… vibe in the shop. Sometimes the vibe is conflicting, but other times it’s just this overwhelmin’ sense of… you. Everywhere.”
“God, I’m so sorry, Sarah. I didn’t think that you would catch on—“
“My great grandmama was a witch who specialized in gardenin’.”
Emelia’s mental filing cabinets quickly sorted through her memories and automatically pulled out the sense of dejectedness that she had felt. An old sense of magic that had died. “Oh.”
“Yeah, Em. Oh. That’s exactly what you have to say to me.”
“I’m sorry—I’m just, I’m not supposed to let non-magic folk in on this—“
“What sort of start for a relationship is this supposed to be?” Sarah’s voice edged on the end of accusatory, but she kept a hushed, soft tone.
Emelia’s heart skipped a beat. “Relationship?”
A small smile crept onto Sarah’s lips. “We’ll get back to that later— I just, I want answers. Okay?” She held out her hands, offering Emelia a chance to hold them.
Emelia took her up on the offer.
The backroom was a nice place to be — away from prying ears and eyes, away from the front of the shop. Well, most would consider it to be a nice place to be. Emelia tended to avoid it like the plague, trying to compartmentalize the heavy memories by just never visiting the compartment in which they were contained.
Sarah leaned against the wooden shelving, crossing her arms over her chest. The dim lightbulb, flickering ever so gently, caused her golden eye makeup to glow against her jewel-toned umber skin. “Spill, wizard.” She let a smile play on the corner of her lips.
Emelia brushed off the coating of dust on the barstool and climbed up on it, surveying the room and brushing over the scorch marks on the wall. She didn’t look towards the lefthand corner, turning her attention to Sarah again.
“What would you like to know?”
Sarah rolled her eyes. “What spell were you about to cast on yourself?”
Emelia started chewing on her upper lip, just now noticing how restricting her robes felt inside, and how sweaty her palms were getting on the wooden stool. “Calm emotions — a modified version. It’s for, uh, anxiety.”
“That’s not exactly saf… no wonder you turn into a robot.”
“You’re suppressin’ stuff hardcore, Em. Magic? Emotions? That’s a terrible mix. Pray tell, oh bookish wizard o’ mine, are you trained in psychiatry? Did you study this?”
Emelia turned her face away from Sarah’s gaze, her cheeks burning . “Yes—well, no. No, I didn’t study this in-depth. I read a few books on it.” She kicked her feet at the legs of the stool. “You sound like my mentor.”
She intended to come off as playful, maybe a bit abashed, but she couldn’t exactly control her tone and bitterness seeped into her words. She rolled around the taste on her tongue before hunching forward a little bit, trying to suppress the knot in her stomach.
“Speaking of your mentor!” Even with the bounce in Sarah’s tone, she didn’t exactly sound happy. “You need to tell me about him. Or just… what happened. You carry yourself like there’s this fifty year burden on your shoulders.”
For the first time in half-a-decade, Emelia started to cry. Hot tears started racing down her face and she wasn’t even sure what to do with it.She angrily tried to wipe the tears away with the hem of her sleeve, but more just kept coming and coming and coming and—
She slid off of the barstool, ready to bolt out of the backroom and find a spell to transport the bookshop to where she wanted to go. But before she had a chance, she was engulfed in a hug by Sarah.
“It’s okay, Em.” Sarah said into her ear. “You can tell me.”
Emelia stood there, grossly sobbing into the crook of Sarah’s neck, trying to figure out how to explain her life. What’s there to say about the apprenticeship? What’s there to say about the curse? Blood oaths? “I’m… tied to this shop until I can,” she hiccuped, “find another person to run it. I-I-I can’t leave for more than a day at a time, or else the shop automatically teleports somewhere new. I,” she remembered Klaxius’s old, betrayed face and his twinkling blue eyes, “I’m stuck here. I-I wanted to travel the world, Sarah, and I’m stuck here.”
Sarah hugged her tighter.
Emelia sobbed some more.
“My-my mentor he-he wanted me to take over the shop… he had raised me to take over the shop…” Emelia closed her eyes, trying to forget the magical curses that they had hurled at each other. The scene kept on playing over in her head, like it was on a projector. “And I wanted to travel to Greece, study the ruins… learn more. I-I had read all of the books here, so I w-wanted hands-on experience.”
She broke away from Sarah’s grasp, stepping backward and towards the scorched wall. Towards the floorboards. Towards the memories. “H-he made me take a blood oath, th-threatening to burn the shop down if I didn’t. I-I have to stay here. I can’t leave. I can’t travel. I can’t attempt to break the curse.”
Emelia moved away the broken cardboard, staring at the blood-stained wood beneath her. With relative ease, she managed to lift the floorboards up. Faint light from a shimmering blue magical shield filled the room. “The-the books are under here.”
Sarah was slow to speak. “So… someone else needs to take over the shop? Is there anything else, Em?” She moved forward, the floor creaking behind her feet.
“I lived in NYC and London and New Guinea. The-the shop moves around on its own. I I-I can’t break that until-until someone else decides to take over, but-but I’m never close enough to anyone to start the transitio—“
She felt a hand on her shoulder, and looked up to see Sarah. Sarah, with her understanding stance and kind face. Sarah, with her dull receptionist job and dying garden. Sarah, with the nicest voice Emelia had the pleasure of hearing.
“I’ll ask again, Em.” Sarah extended a hand to pull Emelia up. Suddenly, they were both face to face. “Are you hiring?”
A wave of relief crashed down around Emelia. She wiped away her tears. “Y-yeah, I guess I am.”
Before she could say anything else, Sarah leaned in and murmured, “Can I kiss you?”
“Y-yeah, I guess you can.”