She had offered to put him up in a hotel, but Charlie was too proud to accept. Not too proud to sleep on her custom leather couch after their big fight, though.
And now he was gone, with his one overnight bag for a 14-day stay.
“Alexa, curtains.” The automated drapes parted and revealed a sleepy city.
What did he say last night? “You need to let your hair down. Get back to your roots. You need to remember who you are.”
What does that even mean?
Still, she missed the smell of his soap. She once told him he “smelled like potential” but he didn’t get the joke. Instead, he told her how he extracted some root into oil, and how every ingredient — even the beeswax that held the soap together — was sourced from their absurdly tiny hometown.
Even the freaking bees never leave, she sighed, remembering that her favourite shops from her childhood must be lit up for the holidays.
She groped for her phone in the early morning light.
She could call him. Or, better yet, she could call a taxi and meet him at the airport.
Catch him at the gates and tell him she was tired of everything she had built over the last 10 years.
Yes! Perfect! No time to change! She threw on a cashmere coat over her pyjamas.
Alexa! Coffee! On cue, coffee magically started sputtering into existence. She swirled excitedly into the kitchen.
Where was her mug?
She had coffee every day at the same time in the same mug: 16 ounces, cartoon fox painted on the side with the words, NO FOX GIVEN.
What soapy Charlie didn’t realize was that witches didn’t find their roots in their hometowns, they found them in their rituals. And he had unknowingly disturbed the first and most important routine of the day.
She turned the penthouse upside down before she found her coffee mug on the obsidian mantlepiece, where she would never think of resting it for fear of leaving a ring-shaped stain.
The mug had been desecrated with Charlie’s pale beige leftover sludge.
She felt sick.
This was not her.
How could she have not seen it?
It was the Hallmark Hex, one of the most powerful curses in use today. It started as innocuous rhymes in the medieval era, then it was distributed in print within curious little cards. Nowadays, it streamed directly into homes, disguised as harmless entertainment.
This insidious curse can bring a powerful woman’s downfall and make her think it was her own idea!
How did he do it? Charlie made soap for a living and owned three shirts. How did he get her to second-guess herself?
“You’ll realize one day, locked in your ivory tower, that you set impossible standards,” he had uttered the spell with such integrity.
Ivory tower, he said. Only it wasn’t a tower. It was the penthouse. And the penthouse had everything.
She deleted Charlie’s number and called her assistant. “Simon! Simon, I’ve been Hallmarked!”
Simon pulled himself together. “THE SOAP GUY? On my way.”
“Simon! Can you bring me coffee?”
“Certainly. Is there anything else you’d like?”
“Yes…” she remembered who she was.
I would like everything.
Image from Canva