The Witch sat at the other end of the sofa, nursing a half-empty glass of bourbon. Or half full, if you were the optimistic type, which I’d never been. It came from my finest stock; a bottle of Yamazaki bourbon old enough to be the daughter I’d never had and expensive enough to fund her first year in college. Perhaps there was a bit of irony there, but if she noticed it, she never said and if there was one thing I’d learned about Sam in my time with her, it was that she had a tongue sharper than folded steel.
“18 years?” Sam asked.
“No,” I said. “It’s been about 21 since we made our arrangement. College, remember?”
“I meant the bourbon,” Sam snorted.
I nodded while Sam took another sip. She wasn’t an unattractive girl, but neither was she my type. When one invoked images of a Witch, you always envisioned something shriveled and worn, like a hairy raisin beneath a pointed hat, but the truth was far stranger. She was an ordinary girl wearing knee-high boots and leggings, looking for all the world like a soccer mom who’d gotten off at the wrong floor. Never before had I heard of a blonde witch with a pixie style hair cut, but I guessed all the old shriveled raisins had to start somewhere, right?
“Mmm. Smooth finish. It sort of dances on the tongue there at the end doesn’t it?” She asked. She swirled the amber fluid in her glass, holding it up to the light. “Hints of berries and oak. And am I picking up a touch of chocolate?”
“You’re avoiding the issue,” I sighed. “It has been twenty one years.”
Sam set down her glass and crossed her arms. She had the kind of piercing gaze that reminded me of a school teacher, the kind who wanted to be mad at you but somehow always understood. Perhaps in some ways, Sam was my mentor. After all, it was her who’d secured my wealth and with it the power that’s cousin to it. I could’ve lived for a dozen lifetimes before I’d spent what I’d been given, but it still didn’t sit right in my gut that I couldn’t uphold my end of our bargain.
Not wouldn’t. Couldn’t. She used to joke halfheartedly that I was intentionally avoiding women to make sure my firstborn didn’t end up her ward. I’d never considered such an option before then, but when even her indirect intervention failed to turn up any results, we were both stumped. It wasn’t that I was unattractive. In fact, I had enough money that even the most prudish woman or man would’ve seen it within their hearts to overlook my flaws. Life just didn’t work that way, however.
“It’s not that I don’t believe in you Jonathan,” Sam sighed. “It’s just that maybe you could use a little help.”
“After all this time? Boy, where do I sign up?” I said with all the sarcasm I could muster. “You don’t think I’ve been trying? And what were you doing between now and then? Cheerleading?”
Sam ignored me. “I mean, I thought we had it in the bag with what’s-her-name…”
Sam frowned. “No. The other one.”
“Is she the one that looked like a librarian?” Sam asked, taking another sip of her bourbon.
“No,” I said. It was my turn to frown. “That was Sophia. You mean Zoe?”
Sam snapped her fingers. Instantly, my potted chrysanthemums wilted and dropped all of their petals. “Yeah. Zoe. You two got really serious for a while there. What happened? You had it in the bag with her, man.”
I shrugged. In truth, we just weren’t compatible. She was like every other girl I’d seen come through my door; high heels, a tight fitting dress, and wearing enough makeup to spackle a hole in the wall. They all had cutesy names that sounded more and more like precious gemstones the more desperate we got. By that time, I’d had enough.
I sat next to Sam with my own glass, staring at the contents within. At this point, I wasn’t sure how much longer I had before I hit my mid-life crisis and stopped being able to have kids. Were there still dad’s in their forties or fifties? I still had time. At least, that’s what I kept telling myself.
“How about I give you some advice? I could teach you some of the things I’ve picked up,” Sam said. “Maybe you’re just not approaching women the right way. Tell you what. Pretend I’m a girl at the bar. You’ve just walked in. Hit on me.”
I shrugged and sighed. “Can I buy you a drink?”
“God, no wonder,” Sam snorted again. “Try again, but this time, try to smile.”
I stared at Sam, noting for perhaps the first time that her eyes were gray. Not the kind of color you could mistake for blue or a light green, but true steel gray. How many years had passed before I had the courage to even look her in the face? Sam was intimidating and she knew it. Perhaps the old adage was true; familiarity bred contempt, but was it contempt I was feeling or something else?
“You have pretty eyes,” I said. The words escaped my lips before I could reign them in.
“I know,” Sam said. “Now buy me a drink.”
I kissed her instead. It was so unlike me, I couldn’t tell you why I did it. After all, what man truly knows what he’s going to do before he did it in a moment like this? A part of me wondered if she would turn me into a tadpole for my boldness, but then her lips yielded to my own and the kissing turned into a mutual affair. I heard her set down her glass and felt her other hand running through my hair. A murmur began in her throat and worked it’s way upwards, ending at my own lips. We clung to each other that night like we were starved, waterlogged, and adrift upon the sea and in the morning, she was gone.
It wasn’t two months later that she showed up unexpectedly in my bathroom, defeating all of my security. I stepped out of the shower to find her crouched over the toilet, emptying the contents of her stomach into the porcelain basin.
“Listen here, fucko,” She managed before she started anew.
“I take it our arrangement is complete?” I grinned. A part of me enjoyed the delicious, unplanned irony of the situation. Another part of me wished only to see her more comfortable.
“How about I get you something with ginger in it?” I asked.
A very pregnant Sam nodded, puking once more into the toilet.