The train came to a slow stop breaking her out of her daydream. Meira had been envisioning the massive cup of coffee her body and mind currently begged for. The cup stood an excellent thirty centimeters tall, and the brim sat a good ten centimeters wide. The steam gently rose off of the white and tan striped foam, bringing the scent of roasted beans and hazelnuts to tickle the inside of her nose. She had brought the cup to her mouth for a long, glorious sip when the brakes caused her body to jerk slightly forward. “Damn it,” she whispered under her breath. Several passengers carried various pieces of luggage and deboarded around her. Taking a deep breath, Meira grabbed her bag and suitcase from the rack above her seat and followed suit. “Time for a new adventure.”
Her walk through the station drew odd stares from people as she pulled her luggage behind. Many others had set their luggage to follow them hands-free. Meira had not been gifted with this ability, which was exceedingly noticeable. Adjusting the strap on her backpack, she shook off the nervous feeling and headed out of the station. She pulled up her phone to find the map the company had sent to find her new apartment.
The world has changed significantly in the last five years since the magical Society overtook the major news stations. The Society had determined the non-magical world to be ready for the truth. Magic and magical tales were all real. Skeptics worldwide had their hearts shattered as they and many others suffered existential crises as everyone began questioning everything. Eventually, this calmed down when magical and non-magic companies realized the increase in consumers. For Meira, this meant a job opportunity. A magical company wanted to do business with non-magical clients and required a liaison. After completing the lengthy application process, Meira relocated to a magical town where the company was headquartered. Hence her train ride and complete upheaval of life.
Having cleverly negotiated her relocation, the company had paid for movers and found her an apartment. She had already shipped most of her belongings and furniture, so all left was to find the building and open the door. “Hercules had easier tasks than this,” Meira said as she wandered around, trying to get a signal. The magical towns were still technologically backward. “2005 called. They want their spotty signal back.” Finally, she managed to get 3G and pulled her maps app. She typed in the address the company had sent, only to find that the app still needed to be updated for this town. “Damn it. Wizards...magic...” she grumbled, walking back to the train station and finding a local paper map. She opened it. It was blank. “Oh, come on!”
A woman walked up behind Meira and tapped her on the shoulder. “Excuse me, are you Miss Connor?” she asked. Meira turned around to see a very smiley woman with a sign reading Meira Connor. She nodded to the woman and opened her mouth to say something when the woman cut her off. “Oh good! The company has sent me to fetch and introduce you to our town. I know that it might be a bit overwhelming. Well, I don’t actually know. I was told you might feel that way, which is perfectly fine. You are free to feel whatever way you want. You do feel okay, don’t you?”
Meira nodded again. “Thank goodness! Let’s get you to your new apartment, shall we? Here take this,” the woman continued and handed Meira a paper map of the town. “We haven’t gotten all of the non-magical technologies, but we have a decent map. We have tied it to your aura, so all you need to do is tap it and say, ’Where to? Then tell it where you want to go. The map will do the rest.” Meira took the map and was about to try it out when the woman grabbed her arm. “Your building isn’t too far away from here. Let me lead the way.”
When they arrived at the building, Meira saw it looked pretty standard. “Your apartment is on floor 4. Inside, everything is modeled after the apartment buildings you have in the non-magical world. I can assure you that the elevator is in full working order, or at least the building supervisor told me earlier today that it is. Well, go ahead, make yourself at home. My name is Shelley, and if you need anything, my number is 972-505-2315. I think I can send you the contact….” Shelley fiddled with her phone until Meira put her hand on Shelley’s and took the phone. If a few quick moments, Meira sent herself the contact and handed back the phone. “Thank you, well, welcome, and I will see you at the office.” Shelley shook Meira’s hand and practically ran away. Meira didn’t know quite what to think of the whole interaction.
Once in the apartment, Meira looked around her new home and noted that it had been outfitted with appliances for a non-magical tenant. Taking a turnabout, the kitchen, Meira frowned that she didn’t have a dishwasher. “Beggars can’t be choosers, Meira,” she said to herself. Next, Meira began unpacking her things. Once settled, Meira opened her laptop to find the social scene. The browser failed to load. She looked at the network settings, but no networks could be found. “Of course, they haven’t installed the Wi-Fi,” she said in the living room. She decided the time for coffee had arrived and went out in pursuit of a cafe. Exiting her building, Meira promptly ran into a curly red-haired woman roughly her age.
“I’m sorry,” said Meira as she helped the woman pick up her skeins of thread. “Do you cross stitch?” she asked. Meira’s voice was uncommonly soft and soothing. This had been a big motivator to choose her major in Communications. So many people found themselves almost instantly calmed when she spoke. The woman smiled.
“Yes, I do! It’s one of the new non-mage hobbies I have picked up! Isn’t it just so?” She asked. The excitement rolled off the young woman, and Meira couldn’t help but smile.
“My mother taught me when I was young. Is it popular here? Maybe I should pick it up again,” said Meira softly, wrapping the young woman in a warm scarf of vocal friendship.
“Your mother taught you?” Asked the woman, now calm. “You’re a non-mage, aren’t you? Oh, you have to come to my sewing circle! You’re the first non-magical person I’ve ever met, and you know how to sew. You have to come! You absolutely have to!” The woman’s excitement ramped back up. “My name is Gwen, and you have to come! What’s your name?” Gwen held out her hand for a shake.
“Meira.” She tentatively took Gwen’s hand and found herself suddenly in the trapping depths of a deep bear hug. “Oh, you’re a hugger.” Gwen releases Meira with a chuckle.
“Yep! And you are going to be my new best friend!” She locked her arm with Meira’s, and they walked to Gwen’s apartment building. Meira stared up at the impossible height. The top of the tower disappeared into the clouds. “Hold on tight!” Feeling sucked inside herself and pulled out again left Meira with nausea as she suddenly found herself in a foyer. Meira collapsed into the nearest chair. Gwen, taking in Meira’s condition, summoned a glass of water. “Oh goodness, I’ve forgotten my manners. Drink this, slowly.” She handed Meira the glass before disappearing into the next room.
After about ten minutes, Meira felt right again. “Where do I put this?” She asked, referring to the glass.
“Huh? Oh!” Gwen peeked from the other room and waved her hand to banish the glass. Meira breathed deeply, accepting that she would have to get used to this. “Come, come, come! I want you to sit next to me!” Meira entered the living room and found an area much more extensive than she had imagined, with many cozy places to sit and sew. She sat next to Gwen as several pops followed by voices indicating the rest of the circle had arrived.
“Gwenie, do you get the colors I wanted?” ask a red haired woman.
“Yes, I did,” said Gwen as she handed over the skeins of thread from her bag. “Emma this is Meira. Ladies, this is Meira. She is a non-mage, and she knows how to cross stitch. She will be joining our circle today so please be welcoming.” Meira waved as the ladies came into sitting room. “Meira these ladies are Emma, Patricia, Jane, Constance, and Elizabeth.” The ladies waved back to her and sat around the room in chairs that appeared out of thin air.
For the next three hours, Meira observed and was observed by the sewing circle. The members asked her many questions as they set their needles to stitch without intervention. Apparently, the group didn’t grasp how to sew but let their magic do it. Gwen had retrieved a spare pattern and supplies for Meira, who set about stitching by hand. The group marveled at her diligence and delicate touch.
“This must take you forever!” Commented Patricia, a member of the circle.
“Yes, a pattern this size and this complicated will take me a few months to complete,” said Meira. She gazed up from her hoop to see shocked faces around her. Then, fearing she had upset them, she added, “but there is love in every stitch. Each stitch is a moment of my life I have given to this work, so I will need to give it to someone who will appreciate the piece of my life I give.” The members stopped to reflect on Meira’s words, and a calm peace descended in a somewhat noisy room. She smiled at the group and returned to her work.
Tom replayed the scene using the spell on the walls. His pen made notes in his notebook as he spoke his thoughts aloud. “It appears the suspect used the pilfered alchemical ingredients to make a temporary gold. While gold can be made from lead, the effect doesn’t last more than a couple of days, meaning that the suspect had to make the drop of leprechaun gold before the mark figured out the con.” Tom loved this work as it gave him the thrill of solving puzzles and catching criminals. However, sometimes it could be dangerous, and he was often sent on undercover missions because he was in Special Ops. This recent suspect had been working in the area for some time. They had managed to outsmart Tom and his team at every turn.
A piece of paper lay on a table near the edge of the large makeshift alchemy lab. Tom summoned it over to read. “Such an abomination as the mixing of the mage and those without will not be abided by the people,” read Tom aloud. “Rather wordy for me.” This confirmed something he had already suspected; the suspect was trying to launder the leprechaun gold for authentic currency.
“Shit,” said Tom as he sent the page to the evidence box with a wave of his hand. “This isn’t good.”
“What’s that, Tom?” asked Bart, Tom’s partner.
“They’re laundering the gold. How many of these labs have we busted so far?”
“This would make three. Do you suppose there’s more?”
“I would estimate at least double this number which means they’ve already had success laundering some. This just got far more complicated. Damn it!” Tom summoned his notebook to review his notes when a specter light alerted him to his appointment. “Double damn! Bart, I need you to finish boxing the rest of this. I have a dinner to get to.”
“Gwen still doin’ that sewing thing?”
“Yeah, at first it was cute, but now I have all these pictures I don’t know what to do with. Of course, she could slow down a bit, but you’ve met Gwen, the woman’s a flying a broom,” said Tom. Bart chuckled.
“Sure, I can finish here, but can you say hi to Patricia if you see her? I know I don’t stand a chance seeing as she’s been out with your brother, but a man can dream.”
“Sure thing, Bart. Although, after being out with my brother, she might be ready for an actual relationship. Don’t give up hope.” Tom put away his pen and notebook before stopping at the office on the way to Gwen’s apartment.
After most of the afternoon had passed, the members slowly started to depart, and Meira gathered her work. “You can take it with you if you want,” offered Gwen. Meira nodded and began putting the cross-stitch supplies in her laptop bag. Gwen walked into her foyer as her brothers arrived. “You’re on time. That’s a first!” She hugged them both.
“How are the ladies?” Asked Phillip as he always did. Gwen rolled her eyes. As a celebrity, Phillip liked to keep his image as a heartbreaker and usually picked low-hanging fruit from one of Gwen’s many social gatherings.
“Well, let’s see, Patricia is still waiting on your second date, Constance still hates you, and the rest are eagerly hoping to be your next fling,” said Gwen. All the sewing circle members had left, so she felt no qualms about saying this. Phillip smiled smugly at Tom, who rolled his eyes and shook his head. Tom had little patience for Phillip’s love life.
“Gwen?” Came the soft, soothing voice from the sitting room. All the members of the circle had left save one. Both brothers noticed the new voice and stood at attention. A wave of calmness radiated from Tom’s ears over his entire body. Phillip adjusted his collar and ran his fingers through his hair. Gwen narrowed her eyes and pinched Phillip hard when she saw him prep himself.
“Oh no, you don’t! Not this one! You leave this one alone. She’s too good for you!” Gwen left the two men to check on Meira. Tom chuckled, and Phillip looked a little insulted. In the sitting room, Meira needed help finding enough space in her bag for the thread without tangling it. “Ah, worry not!” said Gwen as she waved her hand. The skeins organized themselves in a summoned fabric pack which slid perfectly into the laptop bag. “Come with me. I want to introduce you to my brothers.”
Meira followed Gwen into the foyer. She saw a tall, handsome man with grass-green eyes and chestnut hair standing in a pose next to a slightly shorter man with black hair, blueberry eyes, and a black goatee. “Hello,” she said softly. Both men smiled warmly. Tom felt the urge to walk over to the wavy brunette and wrap her in a warm, familiar hug. This impulse set him off balance as he resisted.
“Boys, this is Meira, my new best friend,” said Gwen. Tom stifled a laugh. Gwen had a new best friend every week.
“I’m Phillip,” said the tall man and put out his hand.
“Are you a hugger too?” asked Meira as she hesitated to give her hand. All of the social interaction had started to wear on her.
Gwen laughed, “No, Phillip is a kisser, though, so he will likely try to kiss your hand.” Tom noted Meira pull her hand back slightly.
“You wound me, sister, dear!” exclaimed Phillip. “If the lady prefers, I would simply like to shake her hand.” Meira squinted her eyes, tilted her head a little sideways, and tentatively extended her hand. Phillip laughed with a full-throated laugh and shook her hand. Tom saw that Meira was not impressed and wondered if she didn’t realize who his brother was.
Her smartwatch chimed, reminding her of the run she had planned to take. “I must go,” said Meira after retrieving her hand before it could be assaulted with a kiss.
“Of course,” said Gwen, “I had quite forgotten that I had pulled you in off the street and forced you to join my circle. Will you come back next week? Same time, the same place?” Meira nodded and walked out the apartment door, causing both brothers to look at each other and then at Gwen. Phillip started after Meira, but Gwen grabbed him. “Don’t you dare! She is not like the others, so you leave her be, or I swear I will tell mother.” Tom took the opportunity to follow the woman he now suspected was a non-mage into the hall. Her slender frame and wavy brunette hair perfectly complimented her silver eyes, and he wanted to steal just one more moment with her.
Pushing the elevator call button, Meira waited. Feeling watched, she turned around to see the shorter brother standing in the hall behind her. She realized she hadn’t learned his name. “Oh! How rude of me! What is your name? You won’t mind if I don’t offer a handshake, will you?”
The soft, warm voice calmed Tom down. “Of course not. My name is Tom, but I must ask, are you a non-mage?”
Meira tilted her head to one side again. “Yes, right, because I’m waiting for the elevator. I just moved here, and I’m a regular person or, I guess, a non-mage. Is that okay?” Tom smiled at her. She liked his smile because it reminded her of a warm afternoon curled up in front of a fireplace roasting marshmallows. The urge to run and kiss him bubbled up from a hidden place inside Meira. The notion was so strong that she took a half step toward Tom.
“It’s more than okay, but the elevator isn’t coming. I don’t know if it has ever worked.” Tom wanted to reach out to her so much that he took a half step toward her. Something about her made him happy. The simple knowledge that Meira existed as an actual person brought fate and destiny into alignment.
“Oh! I suppose I will have to take the stairs. Do you happen to know how many floors it is? Gwen, uh, popped me up here, so I didn’t get the chance to count.”
“Popped?” asked Tom amused at the description.
“The sound you make when you teleport, I guess? You pop.”
Tom laughed. “Yeah, I have never noticed, but I think you’re right. It’s a pop. I can pop you back down if you’d like. I think it’s about 50 floors by the stairs.”
“Oh, that is a lot,” said Meira as she took another half-step toward Tom.
“Nonsense!” said Phillip as he pushed past Tom and took Meira’s arm. Suddenly outside the building, Meira’s nausea had returned, though not as bad this time. “There you are, my dear! You know, I’ve never known a non-magical woman before, and you must be the most intriguing. Perhaps we could talk about you sometime?”
Meira leaned against the side of the building to catch her breath. “Perhaps,” she said before she could think of another answer.
“Fantastic! Until then!” said Phillip, who did kiss her hand this time and popped away. Meira decided she did not like Phillip that much. She walked toward her apartment, wishing it had been Tom who had brought her down instead. Meira stopped on the way and vomited into a bush. She decided she hated teleportation and would avoid it whenever it was unnecessary.
Tom stood next to the now empty spot next to the elevator door, which surprisingly did open. Phillip popped back into Gwen’s apartment in time for Tom to come in the door and give him a good shove. “You can’t just do that, Phillip! As an officer, I must warn you that transporting a non-mage without their express consent is technically assault, and she could press charges if she wanted.” Phillip shoved him back.
“I was doing her favor. I highly doubt she will press charges, especially since she has agreed to see me again,” Phillip said. Tom paled but then became suspicious.
“Is it really assault?” asked Gwen, nervous tension in her voice. The men looked at her. “Popped Meira up here earlier without her consent. Do you think she will press charges?”
“Oh, Gwen, no,” said Phillip hugging his little sister. He shot Tom a glare.
“No, Phillip is right. Meira wouldn’t have stayed if she really thought to press charges. People typically don’t stick around if they feel they’ve been assaulted,” said Tom. “Phillip, on the other hand, didn’t ask her. No, he saw an opportunity to hit on her and grabbed it whether or not she liked it.”
“That is true,” said Gwen as she pushed out of the hug. “Phillip, you have to leave my friends alone, especially Meira. She doesn’t know too much about our world, and she isn’t going to become another name on your list of discarded women.”
“But Gwenie, what if she’s the one?” he asked, using the face of innocence. Gwen didn’t budge.
“She isn’t the one for you, Phillip. I haven’t known her very long, but I know you enough that she deserves way better.”
“Gwenie, you think so little of me?” Phillip grabbed his chest as though he had been stabbed in the heart.
“After this?” she asked while pointing to his display. “I think even less.” Tom laughed. “Oh, don’t think I didn’t see you ogling either, Tom. You might not burn through women, but I still saw you see her.” Tom looked at his shoes, adequately scolded. “You will give Meira space to acclimate before either of you is given my approval.”
"So, you’re saying you might give me approval after all?” asked Phillip, hopeful.
Gwen shook her head. “Nope, you will only get my approval if Meira asks me to approve you. Otherwise, you’re benched.” Phillip and Tom sat down at the island countertop in Gwen’s kitchen. They both looked defeated, and Gwen looked satisfied. “Phillip, you are in charge of the appetizers. Tom, you have the sides. I am going to do the main course and dessert. Get to it, gentlemen.” They all knew the recipes and their roles in putting together this special dinner. They had it every year to remember.
Gwen waved her, and the sitting room shifted to a formal dining room matching the one from their childhood home. The dishes were placed, and the settings appeared. The three sat with two empty chairs at either end of the rectangular table. The chairs would remain vacant, and the plates would never fill. Their parents wouldn’t be coming. They never came to dinner, not physically anyway. Phillip, the oldest, held up his wine glass. “To Mom and Dad, we miss you. We love you, forever and always.”
Tom and Gwen held their glasses and joined in the toast. “Every year hits a bit differently,” said Tom. “What do you think they would say this year?” They all thought about their choices and events over the last year and what their parents would feel about it all.
“Mom would say that Phillip needs to stop philandering around and find a good partner, woman, man, or goat, at least stick with the same person for more than a month,” said Gwen.
“Dad would say that Gwenie needs to stop jumping from hobby to hobby and finally decide what she wants to be when she grows up,” countered Phillip.
“They both would say that we all need to give them some grandchildren already,” said Tom. Gwen stood up and came over to Tom to give him a hug. Phillip patted him on the shoulder. “I know, I know. It’s all for the best. Lena wasn’t ready for that kind of commitment and needed to see the world before settling down. The accident didn’t help.”
“You’ll find someone who is ready, Tomtom,” Gwen said while hugging him tighter. “You’ll find someone who’s ready and who’ll make you so happy. She’s not going to mind your work. In fact, she’ll be so supportive that she’ll practically be at every crime scene cheering you on!”
“I can see it now,” said Phillip. “She’ll be a criminal mastermind doing crime to support her hubby.” Gwen giggled while Tom gave Phillip a canned stare. “The happy housewife by day and cat burglar by night. What a woman she’ll be! I, on the other hand, will marry that nice non-mage woman. Gwen, what was her name?”
“Meira, her name is Meira, and you won’t be marrying anybody with the way you go about things. You’ll be lucky if she doesn’t avoid you like the plague,” said Tom. Gwen smacked Phillip up the backside of his head.
“Don’t you dare think about my friend that way, Phillip. I already said she’s off-limits.”
“Gwen, Bart’s been asking about Patricia. I told him I would talk to you, but I also told him that I couldn’t make any promises,” asked Tom.
Gwen thought for a moment. “Well, Phillip, you took her out on one date but haven’t called her in, say, a month, right? Because you’re a dog who’s only after a particular bone?”
Phillip rolled his eyes. “She had a wonderful time, but I went out with her because she wouldn’t leave me alone. I told her we weren’t a good fit, so if she’s still holding a candle, that’s a bit on her. If Bart wants a go, I don’t see why he shouldn’t take it.”
“All right, I will set something up,” Gwen said. She loved matchmaking and had been quite successful with her friends. If only she could have that same success with her family. Granted, Phillip was a matchmaker’s nightmare, but there was Tom. It had been five years since Lena broke off their engagement right after the accident and right before their parents were killed. Gwen had seen how Tom looked at Meira, like maybe he was finally ready to start dating again.
The dinner continued with its usual reminiscing and viewing memories from their childhood. They each brought their crystal memory catchers and could display the viewings once Gwen had switched the room into a viewing room style. The three sat in comfy chairs and ate popcorn as their younger selves played with each other and their parents. They watched Phillip build a treehouse with their dad and Tom solve household mysteries with their mom. They teared up the first time Gwen successfully rode a flying broom.
After viewing several memories and promising to do better by each other, Tom and Phillip left for their respective homes. Tom reviewed some notes he had made on his case as he brushed and flossed his teeth. Dental health was serious, no matter your magical status. He felt this case would be the biggest of his career and lifetime. He thought about Lena as he reclined on his bed.
After all of these years, different parts of his apartment still contained traces of her. They had lived together for two years, so it made sense that some things had remained the same. The blanket slung over his reading chair had been bought by Lena. The curtains and curtain rods had been her decision too. She wanted the place to be less of a crash pad and more of a home. Sometimes Tom looked at these things and missed her deeply, like now.
Meanwhile, across town, after arriving home from her first friendly gathering, Meira considered her luck that Shelley had been thoughtful enough to stock the fridge with some food. She looked around her kitchen to find cooking utensils. There were none. She could always have fruit and cheese for dinner until she could acquire proper kitchen necessities. She realized that magical people must not need to stock their kitchens with tools. “They must just summon them, I suppose.”
She took stock of her new life. No Wi-Fi, cable TV, a slow cell signal, and cooking utensils, but she did have kitchen appliances and even laundry, plus the elevator worked. Not a bad start for a town that wasn’t ready for non-mages. All in all, it could have been better, and it could have been worse. The real test would be in the office with her new coworkers. She wondered about the magical people she met who most people would be like. Shelley seemed normal despite her lack of tech skills. Gwen also seemed normal for a very extroverted personality. The ladies at the sewing circle seemed like a good bunch, but she didn’t get to know them that well. She would need to go to a few more meetings. Phillip made her cringe.
Then there was Tom. He had been her favorite because of his kindness. The way he had realized that she needed people to be patient and work with her as opposed to show her. She didn’t know how he knew, but he did. Meira wondered what he did for work. Was he a teacher? Then she wondered what everyone did except Shelley. What did magical people do for work? Did they need to work in the same way? Would they have internet access at her office? Would she have a computer? Should she bring her laptop?
Shaking her head to whisk away the questions, Meira grabbed a washed apple and looked out her window. Only now did she realize the lack of noise from traffic. “There are no cars.” The people here didn’t need cars. They had magical teleportation. She saw someone fly by with a package on a broom. “But they still have food delivery?” Some things stayed the same, like the lack of will to prepare food, even if magically summoned. Meira watched the comings and goings, pondering who was walking because they had to, who was walking because they wanted to, and what it must be like to have such a luxurious choice. She bit into her apple and wondered if it had been bought in a store or if it had been summoned and where the food came from. Did magical people starve? Did they have a concept of distress the way non-magical people did? What use did they have for money? Gwen had been buying skeins of thread. Couldn’t she summon them, or was she trying to remain faithful to the art? Was magic everything non-mages thought it was?
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