By Andy Betz
My alarm went off at 5am today, as it does every day. I arise from my bed alone, as I do every day. I eat alone. I work alone. I vacation alone. I watch TV alone. I go home to an empty apartment built for two.
There must be a better way to live. I took cooking classes. I learned golf. I began participating in bar trivia. I spent my Saturday mornings at hardware stores. I did all of this to meet someone. So how did I fare?
I am still alone.
I watched videos of pole dancing. I bought sexy clothing to match my new attitude. I walked with a wiggle. I flashed some leg. I even played the role of the dumb, helpless blonde.
I will always be alone.
My mother told me to get a cat (or two).
I am not that lonely.
But, I gave in once and dated a married man. He promised he would leave his wife. I promised to perform as he asked. In the end, he lied, as I knew he would. I do aerobics and yoga. It wasn’t enough. I almost gave in when he asked for a threesome.
I am that lonely.
I am Lynn McCrackenberger. I want to find the man of my dreams who will find me as beautiful and accomplished as I have worked so hard to become. He will be taller than I, a bit older, distinguished, well-educated, and have a short easily-spelled last name such as Smith or Jones.
I want him to love me just half as much as I would love him.
I am at that point in my life where I believe I must begin to settle for what I want so I can settle down with what I have. Mine is a very discrete age in which to have this philosophy. I have to make the most of every day.
I want all that need to see me to see that I am “available” and more than a bit “naughty”. So, today I opt for the steamy sophisticated look.
Heels that are too high. A wrap dress that is too short in length and plunges too low for business décolletage. My hair is piled high and my makeup is daring. The office is too cold to go without a bra, but I am too formidable to let one stand in my way. Lastly, I flip a coin as to whether I will go pantyless.
It lands tails. Mr. Lucky may see an eyeful of garter tops on a well-manicured estate if he plays his cards right.
I take my time and begin my drive to the office. I am not needed until 11am for I worked late last night. Because of this, I am going to that quaint boutique I saw last week. It has perfumes and oils and such. A new perfume might just add that je ne sais quoi I require.
The shop is a diversion worthy of the effort.
I enter without reservations and am greeted by the proprietor, a woman of similar years and build. Her long raven hair, peasant skirt, cotton blouse, and bare feet say gypsy, but her demeanor is anything but. She offers me a few minutes of serendipity to find what I seek, to no avail for most items are not labeled and what few that are, are encrypted in a language unknown to my studies.
“Excuse me, do you have any perfumes for sale?”
With that one sentence, I begin a conversation in which I find myself trusting this woman. She asks a series of small questions, each directed at learning more of my needs and my character. I feel a kinship with her despite our never having met previous to today. Her name is Lavinia and she is originally from Romania. She stocks a vast array of old world cosmetics and even older world charms.
I am very familiar with the former, but not as much with the latter.
“What is your hope for today?” Such a simple question to ask. I have nothing to lose and I explain that I am a woman on the prowl to seduce a man. I am in need of a new perfume, something exotic, possibly intriguing, that will help me ensnare a husband.
“Is that all you want? You are beautiful. You do not need a perfume. You need an enchantment.” Lavinia’s accent was pure Central Casting.
I looked at my watch. I had nearly ninety minutes before I was due at work. I had the time to listen.
“Are you the adventurous type? Someone who can live the life she wants? Do not answer if you have guilt or uncertainty. This I must know.”
I informed Lavinia that female lions do most of the savagery and the entirety of child raising. I was capable of this entire spectrum without hesitation.
Lavinia moved to the door and locked it. She pulled the curtains closed. She indicated that conversations such as ours were best conducted without external interference. I focused on her smile when she uttered those last two words. She focused on my attire during the same period.
“An enchantment is a spell I cast that will, shall we say, force the recipient into unleashing their potential and discarding their inhibitions. The person receiving the enchantment will discover the first person they see to be simply irresistible. Such a person will agree to acts of passion, acts of pleasure they have never thought of previously. Would you like to know the price?”
I informed Lavinia that the price was moot because I didn’t believe anything she said. I went as far as to boldly pronounce that no such deception could work on a lay person or one so educated as myself. I literally challenged her otherwise.
And there was that smile of hers again. I watched her lips when I should have listened to the words originating from them.
ta ta re bo
ta ta re te
ta mi re fo
ta mi re she
I found myself walking to her outstretched index finger, luring me with her come hither stare. Now standing face-to-face, Lavinia touched my hair. I reached out to her hand and laid my face on her palm. Moving her thumb across my chin, I opened my mouth and permitted it to enter. Never breaking eye contact, I licked and then sucked on her thumb. Lavinia pulled the knot holding my dress and opened it for her pleasure. I stood before her as she touched what she wanted. Her hand felt so soft and yet so firm in their progress. I leaned forward to kiss her.
Once again, I found myself wanting to pleasure her in manners I myself was only now learning. She moved my hands to her rear and whispered I should raise her skirt. In doing so, Lavinia had me lick her index finger as she began exploring.
Between the kiss, her touch, and eventual taste, I never expected her to pull away at the critical moment of synchronicity. I leaned forward for more, standing nearly naked before her. I wanted to do what she wanted me to do.
Then I felt the pain. It began near my heart and radiated outwards eventually settling in my head. It was never searing, nor as forgiving as dull either.
I opened my eyes as Lavinia leaned back against the counter top licking her finger as if it was a Popsicle. I reached out in desperation only to hear her laugh at me.
“Well Miss Lynn! Now do you believe in the power of enchantments?”
I must have looked like a cheap hooker standing before her. The more I thought about what she said prior to her arcane spoken words, the more the pain in my head increased in intensity.
“You would be best to think less and begin to readjust yourself back to something more presentable. I will make us some tea while discussing the price.” I found my handbag and walked to a large mirror where I re-wrapped my dress and checked my makeup. Lavinia was correct in that these simple tasks took my mind from the analysis that caused my headache. I went with her advice once I smelled the tea she made for the two of us.
Turning around, I placed a small smile on my face as she beckoned me to the table side to indulge in a blend from her country. I noticed hints of chamomile and a pinch of orange. She told me it would help. Her eyes confirmed she had my best interest at heart.
“We have a saying in my country, perhaps you do also. The saddest lies are the ones we tell ourselves.” I nodded in agreement as I sipped the beverage.
“Good. Then we understand one another.” Lavinia leaned in closer so as to make the next sentence worthy of her effort. “I cannot tolerate one who is not true to herself. Did you enjoy what we did?” Feebly and with more than a little embarrassment, I told Lavinia that I did.
“If you could enchant another, this man you desire, would you find such an action from him equally enjoyable?” I placed the tea cup back on the saucer and without thinking, let my hand trace from where Lavinia first touched me toward where she last touched me. I did not have to speak to answer her any more clearly.
Lavinia was in a joyful mood to see my reaction, both during and after, was merely a taste of events yet to come. She raised her tea cup and motioned me to do likewise.
I felt no pain, no ache, only bliss as we sipped.
“This is good that you are in such spirits. It is not good to conduct business after conducting business.” Double entendres are known to be universal.
“You wanted to know the price of the enchantment. Now is the time to learn.”
Lavinia calmly began explaining a most unusual pricing system.
“The first cost depends on the duration of the enchantment. For what we experienced, I waive the financials. Do you wish this man would always find you irresistible?” I told her yes.
“Then the enchantment must be permanent. The cost will begin at $1000 a month to keep this man beholden to you.” I nearly choked when I heard the price.
“There is more. If at some future time, you wish to remove the enchantment for reasons entirely of your own, you fall out of love, you grow tired of him, the price is $10000. Only I can remove an enchantment I place. Only the person the enchanted desires may ask. Should I perish before you have a change of heart, the effect is permanent, but you will still owe the $1000 per month to my heirs.
“Are there any additional costs?” Lavinia nodded there were. “The next cost is paid not by the person wanting the enchantment, but by the receiver of the enchantment. Whoever becomes so enchanted will lose half of the time they were enchanted from their life.”
I almost dropped the tea cup in horror at that statement.
“What this means, Miss Lynn, may I call you Miss Lynn (I nodded in agreement), is the twenty minute tryst we engaged in cost you ten minutes of your life. You may not retrieve this time, nor is there any magic that could aid you if you wished to do so. It is simply the price one must pay for being enspelled so.”
I had to make a hasty calculation. The man I want to ensnare is already 36 years old. He most likely should live another 36 years. However, should I enchant him, he will only live another 18 years, dying at age 54. That is 216 months. Should I go through with this, he will pay with his youth and I will pay with my income.
Now I was worried. “Is that the final cost?” Lavinia responded with a simple, but stern, “No”.
“The final cost is the most persistent cost. I speak of the pain you endured. A person, once enchanted, will either find pain in their heart or pain in their head; never permanently both. You first found pain in your heart because you and I have no love between us. The pain found your heart empty, but your mind racing in an attempt to rationalize your actions. It moved to where it could remind you of your actions. As soon as I distracted you with the tea, you began to stop thinking, and the pain slowly subsided. Eventually, with time, it will disappear of its own accord.”
“However, you man will not suffer as lightly as you. Should you enchant a heart that does not need enchanting, he will feel a trembling, striking, persistent pain each and every time you forsake him. Such a man will redouble his efforts to find love with you. He will redouble his pain if you cannot find love for him. Oh yes, you can pay to have the enchantment removed and free the man from finding you captivating, but you cannot pay to have the pain removed. It will only increase. It will eventually kill him.”
I asked Lavinia for a moment to think. I want my target to want me, but do I want him to pay more for the exchange? Is it fair to even ask?
“I looked at my watch and realized I had to be at work. It was an awful excuse to create and an awkward one to use, considering the circumstances. As I rose, I offered my outstretched hand before I departed. Lavinia knew superficial when she saw it.
I heard her remind me of the “saddest lies saying” as I left.
I never heard her say under her breath, “She will return. They always do.”
I spent the rest of my work day flirting, almost whoring, with the new associate, the man I chose to be my future husband. He showed interest when I leaned over his desk and even more interest when I cornered him in the supply closet to rub him in a most forward fashion. I offered him the possibility to reciprocate after work. One more feel and I left him with the supplies at his most turgid state. The clock indicated it took him another ten minutes to review enough baseball statistics to redirect blood flow back to his brain where it was most needed.
By 5pm, I watched the rest of the staff leave before I went to the corner office of Mr. James Smith (a perfect name indeed) to find him back to his pre-statistical moment.
For the second time today, I unknotted my dress. I told him I wanted a ring. He pulled me close and lowered me to “earn it”. I had no objections.
For the next hour, I gave of myself in every manner plausible. During the same period, I permitted James to defile me in every manner possible. Nothing was off limits. I screamed in his office. I prayed. I cooed. I had trouble breathing then I made sure he had the same difficulty.
I endured every act. I never said no to a single one. James got what he wanted. I told him there was more to be had and it would only cost him a ring. He accepted my proposal.
During round two, I wore that man down and then out. He was dehydrated. I asked him if he was curious or perhaps experimental.
James became nervous. I became ferocious.
I was going to get my ring if it killed him.
Close to the end of the second hour, James had nothing left in which to give. He cried uncle. He begged for mercy. I reminded him of the benefits of marital bliss. It could be like this forever.
I returned his wrinkled tie once I untied his wrists. If he could no longer perform, he could at least watch. Never breaking eye contact with my all but betrothed, remaining just out of his reach, I continuously whispered a mantra of “put a ring on it” as I self-defiled concluding in a crescendo he won’t soon forget.
All that remained was for me to exit his office wearing nothing but a smile. I carried what little clothing I did have and made my way to my office to be somewhat more presentable (I am now remembering this morning with Lavinia).
James texted me later that night. My answer was marquise and solitaire.
My alarm went off at 5am today. I am exhausted. I feel like I aged thirty years in one day. Every muscle aches. I need to soak in a tub for a week to recover. However, I am not the Queen I yet wish to be.
I check my phone.
James left me a voicemail. Said he enjoyed the frivolity. He wants another round at his place tonight. He has not gone shopping yet.
I text James back. If you can stand, I will be there by 8pm. I will bring the handcuffs.
James is not getting away this easy. I called Lavinia at 8am and revealed all she already suspected. She can meet me at 7:30pm. If I have the funds, she will cast the enchantment.
I agreed to her terms. Somehow, I believe she knew I would call.
My day at work began with a conference call with James and a client. Neither end included a video connection. That permitted me to text suggestive ideas to James and flash him visual ideas that would be otherwise lost in translation.
At the conclusion of the conference, I reminded James that his lunch hour would be the perfect time to do some shopping. With that, I turned on my heels and left him in the office to think about what may be.
At the conclusion of the day, James was nowhere to be found. I smiled the smile of someone who knows more than she lets on. It was written on my face. A quick check of my phone discovering no messages and a quick check of my purse to discover enough cash, defaulted to waiting for 7pm to leave work. I have extra clothes in my car as a contingency should my plan work. James owns a nice house, discovered via a real estate internet search. He also is a graduate of two distinguished schools of higher education receiving both his BA and MBA. A paid background check internet search revealed many checks in similar boxes I find most desirable. I might have to take tomorrow off using one of the many accrued sick days I have at my disposal.
Hell, I might take the rest of the week off.
By 7pm, I am made up and perfumed to look like the wanton woman I clearly am. The drive is refreshing and I have to admit, I am more than excited. By midnight, I could finally have all that I have ever wanted and so much more. James is a catch and soon he will think the same about me.
I pull over on the street in front of James’s house because his driveway already includes two cars. The first I recognize as belonging to James, a dark blue Mustang. The second, I have never seen before, a tan Mercedes sedan. Should I be worried? I check my phone for texts or messages from Lavinia. Nothing. It is nearly 8pm and I begin to be worried.
That is, until James opens his front door. Seeing me, he greets me and invites me.
As I exit my car and walk toward the door, it is such a relief to have him display such gentlemanly manners. I would kiss him on his doorstep if it had not been for the other guest that night, Lavinia.
Lavinia, the enchantress who I hired to ensnare my future husband, is standing in front of me wearing a spandex dress revealing most of her cleavage and rear when she walks. She is made up to be a cougar ready to pounce. What is she doing here before me?
James took my look and then cleared his throat. “Lynn, I would like you to meet Lavinia, but I wonder if you two have already met before. Have you?”
It was a long, awkward silence with the three of us standing at his front door. I did not want to disclose the events of our encounter to James nor did I want to disclose the events of our encounter to Lavinia. However, looking at Lavinia, looking better than I look, my hopes against such disclosures are now the least of my worries.
Before I could speak, Lavinia reached for my hand and guided (almost pulled) me into the house. “There is no cause for worry for the night is young and love fills the air.” Still holding hands, she walked with me to a large sofa and sat daring close. It was all she could do to hold the hem of her dress at a respectable level. Such a display did not go unnoticed by James. He excused himself to make us drinks.
I had to ask. “What are you doing here dressed like that?” Lavinia permitted this one question before she replied. “Lynn, you must relax, tonight I am here as a jeweler. I will display my wares and you will pick the one you want. However, he is indeed what you call, a catch. If the two of you cannot find a solution, I will be there to pick up the pieces of a broken heart myself.”
I wondered whose heart, mine or hers, she would repair by morning.
James returned with a tray of margaritas and we all toasted to love and all of its blessings. I am not feeling comfortable with the awkwardness, so Lavinia gave James the nod to begin what he had to say.
Rising from his seat and resting on one knee before me, James said he did love me. Yesterday helped (perhaps more than he imagined), but it was more than that. He too felt lonely and wanted someone who he could share his life with. James then, directly, proposed marriage by asking me to be his wife.
At this moment, Lavinia was invisible. I jumped up and hugged James as I wept. I said yes and yes and yes again and again. We were to be one.
That is when I noticed Lavinia beginning to chant, almost at a whisper, barely discernible, but identical to how she enchanted me.
ta ta re bo
ta ta re te
ta mi re fo
ta mi re he
She finished before I could stop her. I listened and heard the last word differently than before. Just as I asked, Lavinia directed the enchantment directly at James. Even if I was the first person he was to see, I would be an accomplice in the eventual murder of a man who loved me enough to marry me without the need for Lavinia’s assistance.
I did the only thing I could think of. I ordered James to close his eyes until I, his fiance, told him to look.
Then I turned to Lavinia.
“Is that not what you wanted? It is not my fault he chose me to purchase your ring. You have all you wanted (now she looked with her hungry eyes over James), perhaps so much more. I will take my money and depart.”
Lavinia was correct. I have everything I wanted. She held up her part of the bargain. James sat there, on that chair, with his hands over his eyes, waiting for instructions. As a small child awaiting a birthday cake and presents, he had no idea the fate that awaited him tonight.
“Lynn. Sweet Lynn. Tell him to open his eyes and gaze upon his true love. He will eventually. What if he sees me first? He looks healthy and I shouldn’t, but I would make love to him until his heart gave out. I might even take out a rather inexpensive series of life insurance policies on him to create a future cash flow. I believe I may require such capital in 18 years.”
“The choice is yours. Take him and live with what you know or leave him to me and I will use him. In this country, you shoot beautiful stallions simply because of a broken leg, no?”
For that moment, the proposal, the ring, and most importantly, the choice were all mine. I wanted the first two so desperately I thought I needed the last. Lavinia turned to face James, striking a pose akin to my sordid deeds yesterday at the office.
However, as the song lyrics state, when you cannot choose, you really did choose (or something like that). I lost my initiative to act.
As did Lavinia.
James, in the confusion, rose from his seat and stumbled over Lavinia’s case of engagement rings. He had to use his hands and arms to break his fall.
Instinctively, he opened his eyes, despite my orders not to.
The first person he saw, the person he became completely enchanted by, became equally enchanted to him.
James looked at himself in his living room mirror.
The enchantment spell kicked in immediately.
In the ensuing days, I acted as the executor of James’s estate (so to speak). He no longer went to work. His income became nil. His savings did so soon after. James became the most non-employable narcissist that would not, could not function in society. He became destitute and a ward of the court. He would spend the remainder of his shortened life in perfect bliss once his guardians installed the mirror he so coveted.
I am on speaking terms, to this day with Lavinia. Since James de-facto chose himself, I am not financially responsible for enchantment payments. Lavinia could reverse the enchantment, but only at the insistence of James for the reasons she initially narrated to me. There was little chance James would ever grow tired of himself. Thus, he will never suffer the pain from enchantment.
She did permit me to keep the engagement ring James initially selected (and paid) for me. It featured a one carat marquise solitaire diamond on a platinum band. “In my country, such rings only curse the second woman who wears them. You must keep it.”
I wear the engagement ring as a widow wears her wedding band. I think of James as mine that way. However, I am reminded of what Lavinia once told me.
“The saddest lies are the ones we tell ourselves.”
Of this, she is correct.
It would be criminal to think otherwise.
Bio: The works of Andy Betz are found everywhere a search engine operates. Andy has written many great things that have been posted to The Yard: Crime Blog, including, “Water” with Jaysa Brown, “The Less You Have, the More It Hurts To Lose It”, “I Knew Her as Tigist“, “How My New Life Began“, “Et Tu“, “Senny” with Dounia Saunders, “Oleander“, “The Best Advice I Ever Got“, “If I Ask Your Opinion“, and “As the Sun Sets“.