The Last Magus

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Love’s Labours winning...

Joe and Nat were enjoying their walk together. It seemed to Joe that Nat hadn’t let go of her hold on his waist since they’d set off. They passed people on the road and Joe would greet them cheerily, pass a few comments and maybe even chat for a while. They were always full of smiles and would happily talk to Joe, the hero! Joe reflected for a moment “Is that all it takes? Three and a half months ago I don’t think many of these people would have urinated on me if I was on fire. I save a bank and the local paper prints the story and I’m the hero so suddenly it’s all hail fellow, well met…guess all that fifteen minutes of fame stuff wasn’t crap after all.” Nat would join in the conversations after Joe introduced her and the usual reaction was one of pleasant greeting, then a question of if she was his niece and when he said no just a friend it would change to a mild shock or knowing look. All in all though with the temperatures warming and the spring making its first tentative steps after the bleakness of the winter Joe didn’t mind a few scornful looks of disapproval.

They were walking now arm in arm along a quiet stretch of road that if they turned right at the next junction would take them past the local shop and the pub where Franklin Jolly and Paul had just arrived.

“Nat can I ask you a question?”

“Sure Joe, ask me anything.” She smiled warmly squeezing her hold around his waist a little tighter.

“I don’t want you to jump down my throat about it so I’d like you to take a minute and think about what I’m going to ask.”

“OK.”

“Well the way I see it, I’m paying you to be my…”

“Administrative assistant, personal assistant, please don’t say secretary...”

“OK let’s say Personal Assistant, but you’re so much more. You organise my diary, you deal with all the advertising for the magic shows, you help me choose the spells that wow the children, you even remind me when it’s lunchtime…”

“You feel I’m running your life? I’m sorry, I’ll back off, there isn’t so much pressure any more as word has got around about your shows.”

“No! Nat that’s not it…” Joe turned her to face him full on.

“Then what Joe? Come on we’re friends you can ask or tell me…”

“That’s just it we’re friends, as you put it you’re a friend who happens to be a girl. Well given spring is approaching and the fact we seem to be going out together almost regularly.”

“I love those cinema trips I hope you don’t want them to end? You’re so good to take me and pay for everything like you do…”

Joe held up a hand to stop her, “No of course not! I was just wondering if you know…”

Nat smiled and giggled a little, “You have to be the shyest bloke I have ever met Joe Winstanton. Are you asking me to be more than just a friend who happens to be a girl and maybe be your girlfriend proper?” Nat kissed his cheek, “because if you are hero the answer’s yes I’d love to!”

Joe stopped dead in his tracks, his eyes wide, “You would? Oh Nat that’s so great! The age difference doesn’t bother you?”

“Does it bother you if you are asking me like this? Actually Joe I’ve been thinking along the same lines for a few weeks now but was waiting for you to make a move…By the way, on the money side, I could do with a small raise! With the car in for servicing I’ve been using the buss and they’re putting the bus fares up again...then my council tax bill came in and it has gone up, while the utility companies want to increase my direct debit…again! I’d also like to be able to apply to a college this autumn so I really need to save more. So I was thinking if you could be a real sweetheart and we could make it say another fifty a week?” Nat showed Joe her best puppy dog eyes, then giggled.

“For everything you do for me Nat I’d give you the lot! I’ve got a suggestion though...about the bus fares and everything else…”

“Like?”

“Why bother paying them.”

Nat looked shocked, “Joe I’m no criminal, I need to buy a ticket or they’ll sling me off and I’m not walking all that distance to get to your place. If I don’t pay my bills I’ll be evicted.” Joe held up his hand again, Nat was getting him entirely wrong and he was floundering.

“I didn’t mean that Nat…I meant it seems silly for you to be spending money on your rent, council tax, utility bills, bus fares, car servicing and trying to save for college all of it.”

“I’ve got to spend that money Joe, I live in a rented flat the landlord isn’t going to let me NOT pay him! Or do you not want me to go back to college?”

“Oh God this is all going wrong…suppose you didn’t pay because you didn’t have to...suppose your landlord was maybe your boyfriend? Say you moved out to say a curious little house that never has the same number of rooms from one hour to the next. All that rent, tax and utility bills money could then go toward your college course couldn’t it?”

Nat’s eyes widened as the idea finally seemed to have clicked home. She looked shrewdly at Joe for a moment, “First you ask me to be your girlfriend…and now you are asking me to move in with you? Not so shy after all hero!”

Joe hung his head sheepishly, blushing, “Yes I suppose I am. I think it makes sense don’t you? We get on so well together for a start. I’d cover all the bills and taxes, everything, you know I’ve got the cash to do it now, so you could live...with me...rent free. If you want to put something to the extra council tax or utility use that’s fine but I wouldn’t need you to. Then there’s masses of space in my house, hell I could get it almost to conjure up an entire place just for you, so you could have your own room and your own space, I’d swear to stay out unless you invite me…”

Nat hung her head, she shuffled her feet a little uneasily, “Joe I don’t know what to say…I mean it’s a wonderful offer…”

Joe’s heart sank like a rock, “she’s going to say no after all” he thought, he tried to search her face for some hint of what she might be thinking.

Suddenly Nat lifted her head back up, flicking her hair backwards in a whip like motion, she beamed the widest smile she could showing all of her pearl white teeth, “It’s such a wonderful offer the only answer I can give is…Yes Joe! I accept, when can I move in?” With a small scream of joy she almost leapt into his arms, smothering him with kisses as she used the words “thank you” over and over again.

When Joe could finally get her calm enough to release her grip on him he looked her full on, his heart felt like it would melt as he stared into her soft light hazel eyes, his right hand stroked her long dark hair, black as a raven’s wing with the most wonderful shine to it! “Oh my God!” he thought, “Nat you are the most beautiful, wonderful girl I have ever met!” he tilted his head back and stared at the sky silently praying, “please God don’t let me screw this up!”

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