Shadows & Spells - Book cover

Shadows & Spells

Rowan Hill




“Oh God, noooo, pleasepleaseplease.”

The stack of papers ignored my pleas and slipped from the manila folder onto the grotesque elevator floor.

With two hands full of schoolwork, laptops, and a to-go cup, all I could do was watch as they fell haphazardly into a dark stickiness I hoped was something benign, like Dr Pepper.

The only other passenger, the cute blond from the third floor, looked over his shoulder at the papers just as the elevator pinged.

He grimaced, the implication of shit ~outta~ ~luck~ clear on his boy-band face, and he stepped out and turned right.

What. A. Dick.

Blowing my bangs away, a long, much-needed sigh escaped my lips. Holy mother, was it Friday yet?

Between a difficult, ornery committee member asking for more dissertation evidence and my sophomore class being the biggest load of assholes I’d ever taught, today was definitely up there for the worst of the year.

The only lucky thing was that it was nice weather for November in Seattle. I hadn’t needed an umbrella, and I wasn’t freezing, so that was something.

The elevator pinged for my floor, and I jammed my foot into the door to stop it from closing.

I put my things on the floor outside and then scrambled to pick up my freshmen’s midterms, and I discovered the stain was definitely not Dr Pepper.

Juggling the worst day of the term in my arms, I walked to my apartment and tried the handle, hoping. It turned, and I pushed the door open.

“Goddammit, Chad,” I muttered. It had served me today, but would my boyfriend ever get it through his beautiful head that you should lock your door when you live in the crappy area of Seattle?

Slowly, I placed my things on the entryway table and slipped off my shoes, and I was immediately confused. The foyer looked…clean. I called out.

“Babe, did you tidy up? We should definitely, absolutely have sex right now.” I added a laugh to show that I was somewhat joking, but not really if it went that way.

I listened for a response as I hung up my jacket. Nothing. The dishwasher was definitely running in the kitchen. I glanced at my watch. 6 p.m.

Chad would have finished his classes around four, and he always beat me home unless he went for Friday night drinks with his med school friends.

Walking to the living room of my one-bedroom apartment, I called once more. “Chad?”

“In here, Kelly,” he replied.

I rounded the hallway to see him sitting there on my crappy, comfortable fake-leather couch. I was speechless. The apartment was nearly spotless. Chad never cleaned.

It wasn’t that he was dirty, but wiping the counters and cleaning up always seemed to fall on me.

“Baby, let’s open the wine, because you are most seriously getting it tonight. I. Am. Turned. On.” I emphasized with clarity and waggled my eyebrows.

I went over to the couch and leaned in to kiss him. He grabbed my hands to stop me.

That was when I really looked at him. Slightly red-rimmed eyes and an aura of sadness.

I knew that face. My features contorted to mirror his. “Oh God, who’s hurt? Is your mom okay, or is it Lisa? I’m sorry. God, my phone died around fourth period.”

He started shaking his head. “No, Kel. Everyone is fine. It’s not that.”

I nodded, though my heart had already started its race out of the gate. “Okay, okay, good, okay. Babe, what is going on?”

He tilted his head, and his mouth gaped like a fish sucking air. Looking down at his feet, he inhaled a long breath, holding back a sob. Ear-length hair fell over his face, and he was hidden from me.

Confused, I looked around at the apartment for an answer.

His laptop and textbooks were gone from the small desk; his shoes and scarves no longer adorned the hallway coatrack; his dirty laundry was no longer on the floor around the hamper.

He hadn’t cleaned at all. His stuff just wasn’t here.

I glanced back at him. He was still staring at his shoes.

“Babe, where are your things?” Tears started to pool in my eyes, and my heart was now well into its marathon sprint.

He finally had the courage to look at me, mouth still gaping.

Fuck. He was leaving. He couldn’t even get the words out.

“Kel, it’s not working.”

A sudden sob I couldn’t control escaped, and I shook my head in disbelief, trying to stop the traitorous tears from forming. “What? What do you mean? I… I don’t understand… You, we, are happy.”

My heart was in full gallop now. It wanted out of its cavity in my chest. I had to place my hands over it to stop it from bleeding out.

Jesus, my heart hurt, and my hands were doing nothing to help the pain. Tears pooled in my eyes and ran freely down my cheeks.

Outside the window, the dependable Seattle rain started pinging the glass.

He shook his head. “I haven’t been happy for a while. I think you know.”

“I…we…you never said anything. How can I know if you never said anything?”

We told each other “I love you” every day, we had great sex every night, and we lived in relative peace in my tiny, crappy apartment while we both went to grad school in the day.

How did any of that say unhappy?

“I just… This doesn’t make sense,” I garbled between the sobs racking my chest.

I watched him, still sitting on the couch, his hands wrapped around each other. He looked torn.

He wasn’t sure. Maybe I could salvage this. I wanted this. Chad felt like home. I didn’t want to lose another sense of home.

“Chad, I just… I think you’re making a mistake. I love you, and I… I feel like we’re ‘right.’ I just…” I shook my head a final time, the sobs letting up some. “This doesn’t make sense to me.”

He stood, stronger and more confident. “I know, and I’m sorry. It was a wonderful two years, but I just don’t ‘feel’ it anymore, I guess.”

With my head in my hands, I looked up at him, disgusted with the way I likely appeared, my shoulder-length auburn hair probably half pulled out by now, a splotchy face, and crazy eyes.

He looked down at me with his own green eyes in a puppy-dog expression. It was clear he was already in mourning. There was no saving this. He’d already done this in his mind.

Our relationship had ended sometime earlier today, and I hadn’t even been here for it. I’d been teaching a bunch of jerks when my house had crumbled.

“Well, I think I should go,” he stuttered.

I jumped up. “No! Wait. Listen, it’s late; you can sleep on the couch and move your stuff tomorrow.” I motioned outside to the now pounding rain. “It started to rain.”

I paused. I hadn’t actually seen any boxes of his things near the door or outside. Where was his stuff?

He was still looking down at his feet. “No, Kel. It’s okay. Thanks anyway, but I think it’s just best if I get going.”

“Where are your things, Chad?”

He finally met my eyes. “I moved them to a friend’s house. They helped me earlier this afternoon. I’m going to stay with them for a few days.”

I sharply noticed his lack of gender pronouns. My heart took up its race again.

“Is… Is there someone else?”

His face flashed guilt before turning angry. There was certainly someone else.

“No, I am not having an affair. Now I am going to go. I left my key in the bedroom, and I’ll call you in a few days, okay?”

My sobs started up again as he turned his back and walked to the foyer. The door closed with finality.

Placing my hands over my heart again, I pulled my shoulders down and together, trying to ease the pain in my chest.

Sinking to the rug on the floor, I curled over and allowed the crying to control my body.

Fuck, that just happened.

Chad, the man I’d loved for two years, the student I’d supported with my TA position and research job while he went to med school…

My best friend who I could always gossip with, the man who I’d had fulfilling sex with, had just left me for another woman.

I’d been blindsided, and now I was nearly blind with tears.

I wailed into the floor, and above, I vaguely heard the buzz of a strong electrical current in the ceiling light, the room brightening fractionally.

I ignored it and let my body do whatever the hell it wanted.

Another woman. Chad was certainly attractive with those high cheekbones and surfer-blond hair. It had always been his brain that had done it for me, though.

Was it his microbiology partner? God, she was stunning. Dark, petite, and soon to be a medical doctor.

I was tall, athletic, and had an Irish complexion, and I’d soon be a doctor…of plants. There was no way I could compete with that. Did I want to?

Another long wail came out of my lips, though I didn’t even feel it now.

The buzzing escalated, followed by the sharp clang of glass breaking and falling onto my back. Sharp points poked through my thin shirt, shocking me out of my sobs.

The living room was immersed in darkness, and rain pounded the windows, the wind driving it in waves against the glass.

I lay there in the dark, listening to the tempest outside while feeling my heart calm down. Its race was over, and it had certainly lost the last round.

After I lay for a minute in the fetal position, my breathing became normal. I wiped my face on the rug, then pushed myself to a sitting position and looked up.

A faint night-light from the kitchen illuminated enough for me to see that the light bulb in the ceiling light had exploded, and the glass had fallen on me and the rug.

I gave a final wipe to the remnants of my tears before letting out an annoyed sigh at the broken socket.

Fuck, I hated being a witch.

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