(Image courtesy of my best friend because drawing dragons is a chore!)
I had to lie to him.
But I did not lie to him.
I just withheld the full truth from him.
I could not tell him the love of his life of whom he pined after day after day was sitting in front of him.
And I read his palm. He was insistent about it, as if the lines upon that rugged hand were going to change.
They never did. His life line said he would live well and long. His fortune line said he would not be rich but certainly not poor, and his love line pointed directly at me, no matter how he moved his hand.
Oliver would come to me after every mission he was sent on by the king. He was a royal knight, served the king with issues from kidnapped princesses to tax collecting.
We knew each other well.
"Darcy," he would call and I heard the bell ring above the door to my shop.
He would parade around and startle whoever I was reading at the time.
"Get on," I shouted at him. That meant, Just a moment, make yourself useful.
He admired my potion bottles and my charms. He asked me questions about it all. He was more fascinated by my job than I was.
I could read the future and perform magic unlike the other hoaxes in the city.
And my future I saw standing before my crystal ball as a young woman thanked and paid me.
I took gold coins, tucked them away while Oliver remained on my heels.
"What do you expect now?" I asked. "You know all you can about your future, all about your conscience and soul. I really can't offer you anything else, my dear."
I took his scruffy chin in my hands and squished it.
He took my hand and kissed it.
He was affectionate that way. It still made my heart beat.
"I always have another question for you, Darcy," he said.
"You keep me in business," I teased.
"Indeed. So you ought to be thrilled to have me," he said.
Oliver was big and large like a knight should be. And when he wasn't in that shining silver armor of his, he wore clean shirts and pants decorated at the seams, and brown boots that clicked when he stepped.
He had dark hair and white skin and a crooked smile I thought about often.
And like most knights, he was proud and confident, carried himself like he smited dragons for amusement.
I led him into my magic room, lit the crystal ball with a touch of my hand.
He took a seat, set down the sword he carried on his hip.
"What is your question today, my curious knight?" I asked.
The day I discovered what love rested in Oliver's path was like any other day I had seen him.
But my crystal ball was exceptionally hot to the touch and flashed with colors I had never seen before.
I looked into Oliver's eyes when he asked, "Who am I destined to fall in love with? Forever?"
The question struck me through the chest. I felt tingling magic in my fingertips as I gazed into Oliver's future.
"Life isn't like fairytales," I warned him.
"There must be someone for me," Oliver said.
I looked at myself, as if my crystal ball was a mirror.
I looked into my own eyes. I was smiling.
Oliver was startled when I was startled.
And suddenly the magic was gone. The warmth, the light, myself, disappeared.
I looked at Oliver.
"What did you see?" he asked.
I said, "A woman."
"Clever, Darcy," Oliver teased.
I did not realize I cared so much for this knight who visited me often. And I never thought I would ever see myself in my crystal ball.
And I never felt my heart beat so heavy and wild out of my chest where Oliver's question remained.
"She had red hair," I said.
I had red hair.
My eyes were green.
I was not exactly fair-skinned.
Oliver was very interested, said, "Is that all? Can you tell me more?"
"That is all."
"Well," mused Oliver, "the universe is mysterious about love, isn't it?"
"My visions aren't always true. Do not take them all to heart, Oliver," I said.
"Your visions have never been wrong, Darcy."
Oliver stood. I felt as if a string was tied from my chest to his, pulled and ached me when he stepped away from me.
He threw me a few coins, said, "Thank you, Darcy. I'll be back soon."
I heard the door shutter and close.
"What does that mean?" I hissed at my crystal ball.
My crystal ball was not alive, but the universe was, and I heard it whisper to me. I heard it taunt me as my heart swelled with passion I had never before felt.
I heard it say, You should have told Oliver the truth.
My mother gave me the shop when she died, along with all her books and potions.
And I was reading through those books one calm afternoon, trying to discover why, and how, I saw myself in my crystal ball.
Perhaps I would have to shatter it and enchant another. I could not tell people lies, and if this blasted crystal ball was at the root of it, I had no other choice.
But Oliver was correct. I had never read a false future.
So why was every part of me disagreeing with every part of the universe which told me otherwise? Why did my stomach ache at the thought of Oliver getting himself killed out there? Why did my heart flitter when he kissed my hand?
That was love. I was not blind. I knew I was in love, even if it was sudden.
Perhaps I had casted a spell upon myself in my sleep. That was unlikely but not impossible.
But if I did love Oliver, he would never love me. I was a fortune-teller, a witch. He was a royal knight sent to kill witches.
He never killed me.
Was that love?
I gasped as I felt hands on my shoulders. My third eye must have been asleep.
I looked up from my place on the floor. My books were all opened and skewed about, mostly on the topic of love.
It was Oliver.
I immediately flicked my wrist and sent all my books back to the shelves.
"What are you up to?" Oliver asked, watched with wonder all my books find their places.
I stood, straightened my skirts.
"You should know better than to sneak up on a witch," I scolded.
"Oh no, will you turn me into a frog?"
"I have far worse spells than frogs, my dear," I said.
I moved past him.
"What were you reading?" he asked. "You did not even hear me."
I supposed I hadn't. It must have been his silent, knightly ways.
His knightly ways were overwhelming to me. The far window was open. The light struck his face, seemed to glitter on his skin. He smiled at me.
"Familiars," I lied. "Ever since I lost Sylvester I feel a void in my heart."
My crystal ball glittered with green light.
"Your old crow," Oliver said.
"I'm sure you'll find someone in time," he said.
I had! He stood behind me!
"How can I help you today, Oliver?"
"I want to know more about this true love of mine."
Hells, I thought. Oliver exhausted me.
I went and found my herbs. He followed me.
He watched me press the herbs and slice them into fine bits and then pour them into a teacup.
"What is this? Some potion that should aid with love-seeing?" he asked.
He was full of questions, all the time. I liked that about him.
"Tea," I said. "I need something to be able to deal with all your mindless questions."
"What's the matter, Darcy?"
I poured water into the teacup, touched it with my hands to make it hot.
It was easy because when Oliver asked me such a thing, I felt very hot.
I wanted to tell him what I saw, who I saw. I wanted to tell him I saw myself in that crystal ball.
And I saw myself in the reflection of his questioning gaze.
I looked into that dark tea, watched the steam roll off the top.
"Darcy," insisted Oliver.
"I think I ought to ask you some questions instead, Oliver," I said.
We took seats by the window. That afternoon sunlight was impossible, made Oliver seem handsomer than he was.
Perhaps it was my eyes.
"Go on," he said, "I'll read your future, Darcy."
"I already know every part of my future. I know how I'll live. I know when and where I'll die. Curiosity is vicious, you know."
"I don't come here just for your readings, Darcy," Oliver said.
He took my hand from my tea cup, set his own on top of it.
"I enjoy seeing you," he said.
"It's true. My life is so unexpected and chaotic. It is nice to be here sometimes. You know everything. You're always so calm."
"What do you see, Oliver?"
"Nothing you don't already know."
We shared a silent moment, looked at one-another. I lost myself in his eyes.
He broke our gaze when he stood, kneeled beside me.
I blushed, said, "Oliver, what are you doing?"
"Her name is Malina," he said.
"She has red hair and blue eyes and fair skin. I met her today. I met my love today."
Oliver seemed so passionate about this statement.
And I felt my heart sink in that chest of mine. Had I been standing I would have collapsed.
"Oliver, I told you my readings are not always correct," I tried.
It was a plea. Oliver couldn't have been that blind. He was a keen knight!
"You are always correct, Darcy."
"No, I'm not. Magic is fallible just like anything else."
"Not yours," he said.
"Hells, Oliver! Can't you see?"
He was taken aback by my words, but there also came a storm in the clouds above us.
Lightning struck outside my shop, shattered the windows.
Oliver reached to shield me, pulled me close to him.
In the distance, a dragon.
She spewed fire at us. I locked eyes with her and she moved towards the shop.
Oliver pulled us out of the shop, unsheathed his sword.
There was fire in her wake. This was a dragon made from ash. Her wings were large and faded into the sky like the storm clouds above her. Every whip of her tail sent dust flittering into the air.
We stood before her. She was frightening. But Oliver was not frightened.
He rushed towards her, his sword before him.
When the dragon saw him, there was recognition in her golden eyes.
"Oliver!" I shouted, but with a powerful sweep she struck him with her claws, threw him backwards.
I gathered as much energy as I could from the ground, lifted my arms and struck at this beast.
Green bolts of light. And when they struck her, formed holes in her dark scales.
She hissed at me but did not lunge at me.
She turned to Oliver who writhed on the ground, pressed her claws into his chest.
"No! Oliver! Get away from him!"
I moved towards her. She blew smoke at me, as if to warn me.
I shielded my face, felt tears in my eyes.
"I lied to him," I called. "I told him she had fair skin!"
The dragon turned its head at me, ushered the words from my mouth.
"It was me," I said. "I saw myself in his future."
Oliver groaned, tried to call, "Darcy. . ."
"Let him go! He doesn't die like this!"
But my magic and my readings were fallible.