Beaumont was one of those cities that were big enough to deserve the title but in which it was difficult to go anywhere without running into someone you knew or at least knew of. This was especially true for Olivier Dubois, the owner of the most popular flower shop in the city. No matter the occasion, Zephyr Lily was the place to go.
"You're all set," Olivier said after scanning the young man's identification card and handing it back to him. "You should get your receipt in a couple of minutes, and your order will be ready for pickup by Friday. If it's ready sooner than that you'll receive a notification."
The other guy thanked him and left after giving Olivier a hesitant smile and wave at the door.
"You cannot be serious," voiced Rainier Chastain from the corner where he sat, still staring at the front door as if waiting for the boy to return.
"C'mon Rain," Olivier was focused on closing up the business for the day. "Flirting with the customers is part of the job."
"Whatever, I just don't like strangers coming here for who knows what reasons. You do know that we live upstairs, right?"
"You're overreacting a bit, don't you think?" Olivier was now locking up the store. "Besides, give me more credit than that, my wards are not completely useless you know."
It was true that it had been a steep learning curve but Olivier was now confident in the protection his spells offered them.
"Liv, do I have to remind you why we moved here in the first place?" He jumped off the counter, shifting as he approached his best friend and roommate. It was a rhetorical question, there wasn't a single moment the thought left his mind. Both of them knew that the wards wouldn't be enough against the demons from their past.
Rainier towered in front of him, obstructing the path towards the stairs. He was one of those people that intimidated everyone, not only by how freakishly tall he was, but also because of his permanent frown. The fact that the older guy did not miss a single workout session also helped. Olivier, although thanks to his friend also exercised frequently, had a far less impressive build. Mostly due to his height, barely surpassing the one hundred and sixty centimeters.
“I can’t protect you when you’re this reckless,” Rain let out the air from his lungs, suddenly looking drained of all energy. Yet another thing that was constantly on Olivier’s mind.
Both headed towards the stairs in silence, there was not much left to be said. Rain was right, allowing a complete stranger to enter the shop so easily was an unnecessary risk. As much of a rarity as it was, having set the Zephyr Lily almost too far into the forest to be inconvenient for most casual costumers. Olivier locked the iron gate behind him, activating the usual wards as he reached the second floor, the hallway in front of him growing darker by the second and leading to another flight of stairs. When they finally reached the top floor Olivier turned to close the trapdoor that served as main entrance to their apartment. He then decided against taking a shower and heading directly for the bed, dragging his feet the last couple of meters and barely remembering how long it took him to fall asleep.
He was at the New Year festival again, the music and chatter tangled together making it impossible to to distinguish one from the other. Rain wasn’t with him, which was no surprise since he wasn’t allowed within the circle, but he was with someone. Silver hair entered his line of vision as he turned to the music. He was dancing, Olivier realized, dancing with that person with the silver hair.
He couldn’t see their face, just the long locks shining under the full moon.
Olivier woke up sweating for the seventh consecutive night. He did not need to look in the mirror to see the bags under his eyes, he could feel them as well as the fatigue that they accompanied. Lately, his dreams wouldn’t let him get enough rest from his sleep, particularly because they were never exactly the same every night. They meant something, most of his dreams did, but in this case he couldn’t precise what their meaning was.
Habit told him to reach for his grimoire, but he knew it would be useless. The only thing he could remember well enough from his dreams was that person. He attempted to squeeze the memories out for another ten minutes before giving up and falling back on the bed, sighing in frustration. As he looked at the clock on his bedside table he felt a sudden weight on his leg. He was about to kick the foreign object out when he realized what it was.
“Good morning to you too, Rain.” He said as his familiar crawled into a ball on his chest seeking Olivier’s attention. Rain was a black cat with heterochromia, one eye silver and one eye blue, or at least that was how he portrayed his essence for the comfort of regular humans. The reality was far more exciting, but Olivier had seen his true form only once in his entire life and the memories of that day were blurred and chaotic.
“You’re going to make me jealous if you keep thinking about that person,” said the feline through their telepathic connection.
“It’s not like I can control it,” he answered. “Besides, you have nothing to worry about. I will probably never see them again, it was the New Year festival. You know how many tourists we get around that date.”
“As if the old man would allow a foreigner to be the main performer, especially this year.” Olivier could sense Rain’s annoyance about the subject, which was surprising considering how apathetic the cat usually carried himself about the people of the town. However, his familiar was right. The New Year festival wasn’t a mere celebration, it was a replenishment ritual and a culmination ceremony.
“Well, there is only one way to find out who they are,” Olivier stood up, slightly pushing Rain to the side, ignoring the angry hiss from the cat. He walked with decision toward his office. It was a small secondary room slightly bigger than a walk-in closet, its walls lined with shelves and cabinets filled with different herbs, spices and roots. He kept sorting through the jars looking for the ingredients he needed when Rain patted in the office.
“Please tell me you’re not doing what I think you’re doing.” The tone on Rain’s voice had dropped even more due to his annoyance. Olivier ignored him, picking up a jar that contained mugwort and setting it next to the other psychedelic herbs he had separated on top of the small table in the center of the room. “This is an incredibly stupid idea, I hope you know that.”
“Yes, I am conscious of that fact,” he sighed in response “but I have nothing to go on with, you know there is nothing I can search them with on the internet, and if I hope to have a decent night of sleep any time soon I need to know what my dreams are trying to tell me.” Olivier was now preparing the concoction with the herbs he’d collected. Once it was done, he poured it in mug and sitting on the floor of his room he drank it.
After drinking the potion it took only a minute for him to feel its effect. The warm liquid burnt slightly in his gut as he closed his eyes and voiced the incantations loud and clear. He had learned the hard way to never mutter a spell. He could feel his blood boiling in his veins until he felt nothing. He opened his eyes again and saw himself sitting in front of the fireplace with Rain next to him.
“This will never stop being weird,” he thought, reaching for Rain’s mind, “Where’s the closest gate?”
“The bathroom mirror,” answered the familiar, his voice filled with dread. “Now, be careful and come back quickly. Once you cross the gate I won’t be able to follow you easily and I can’t cross it myself. So I can’t save your ass if you get in trouble on the other side.” They were now in front of the mirror, which, once Olivier touched it, started to glow and undulate as if made of water. “Promise you’ll be careful,” Rain pleaded one last time.
“I’ll be right back,” was all the witch responded before stepping into the beaming white light.