Hat Trick
First Trick of the Show
You simply don’t know when you’re doing something for the final time, when you’re never going to see a face, or a place again. Every single day, you unwittingly leave something behind forever. But sometimes, you have the unsettling feeling that it’s the last time. And if you ignore that feeling, you’ll miss the same opportunity as I did.
The first time that feeling hit me was as I was walking my younger cousins to school. I passed by all the usual food places and vapid clothing stores with bright blouses in their windows, and didn’t have to think anything of it.
But there was something different on the block, something that I hadn’t seen before. A tiny new shoppe, shaped like a block had opened up in a place I didn’t know was for sale. The school was right ahead, so I didn’t need to worry about getting my cousins there late–I had a few seconds of time to see the new shoppe. I took the first step towards the new store on my block, towards the moon shaped wind chimes, underneath the three bright, neon signs, advertising for the shoppe.
We have Crystal Balls on sale!
I almost went in before I realized that it was only a place where they sold cheap tricks for the mind’s eye. I had seen that sort of place in movies.
I couldn’t believe that we were actually walking inside a Magic Shoppe with my cousins who were supposed to be in school, seeing as hardly any of us believed in magic.
“Tell me why we’re doing this again?” I grumbled.
“Because it’s magic!” My littlest cousin cried.
“How do you know it’s magic, Cole? It’s just a store, and I’m late,” My eldest cousin, Bethany scolded him.
I elbowed her. I wasn’t about to let her squander and squash Cole’s little dreams about goblins and magic and mystery.
“It wasn’t here yesterday! Shoppes aren’t supposed to just appear over night! It’s magic!” Cole insisted, dragging me inside by the hand.
I was pulled into the Magic Shoppe, the only one I had ever seen in Melbourne. I tried to block out the sounds of Cole’s dismay as he realized that no one was in the shoppe.
“We should leave. Someone must have left the door open on accident,” My favorite cousin whispered.
I didn’t want to admit that Aubrey was my favorite, but she was the only one who listened to me, and she loved my pink hair. I had to agree with her.
“But we can’t leave now! Check this place out! It’s perfect,” Beth cried, gesturing to the fully furnished store.
The place was new, but it didn’t smell that way. It emitted a stench like cinnamon and cloves, and mothballs. Crystal balls were stacked into a ceiling tall pyramid, and the walls were covered in tapestries, depicting scenes of gore and horror, of war and magic. I looked down at the carpet, and almost vomited at the design. The King of Hearts, blown up to a massive size, stood underneath me.
“Someone must have stayed all night decorating this place,” I gulped.
I sidestepped the King and the blood from his cartoonish head. I knew that I had to get out of the Magic Shoppe. My Aunt would be furious if Cole, Aubrey and Beth were late to school. The humidity of the Shoppe was creeping up on me, and I wondered why there wasn’t an air conditioning if everything else was installed already.
I tumbled into the Tapestry as I tried to get away, and it came crashing down over my head. As I was enrobed in it, I felt the full weight of it on me, and heard a tinkle of Beth’s laughter. I tossed the Tapestry at her.
“We have to put this back up, before the owner comes back!” I cried, “I don’t want them to think we’re all leave the neighbourhood already, even if his sense of decorative style could use some work.”
As I picked up the quilted design to hang it back up, I realized that there was something that I had revealed behind the Tapestry. Rows and rows of costumes were hung up, beautiful gowns, suits, and scaly dresses. I ran my fingers over them, feeling every fabric from silk and velvet, to faux leather and and polyester. There had to be hundreds of them. The owner was some sort of collector. Or some kind of weirdo. I tore down the other Tapestry, and found gold, gold and jewels. I gaped.
“And they just left the door open?”
I turned around to see Beth fondling a sapphire ring. I slapped it out of her hands.
“It doesn’t belong to you, and we’re not taking it. You don’t know what type of person the owner is, and this place shouldn’t be here.”
I whirled around, to see Aubrey wearing one of the costumes. She had an eyepatch covering both of her deep-set lily pad colored eyes, and she wore tan slacks and a loose fitting black shirt. She held out a plastic sword and me, and growled.
“I’m a pirate.”
My eyes widened. She couldn’t be wearing one of those costumes! We would be caught, and I didn’t want my cousins to be in an even worse situation than they were going to be in when they got to school. I had to look after them, like I had been doing all year. And letting them be truant wasn’t going to show my Aunt that I was responsible. She was constantly judging me in the most hypocritical way.
I tried to drag her out of the door, until I saw Cole. He was decked out in all black, including new shoes. He seemed proud to look like me.
“You didn’t!” I breathed, “Take that off!”
“But you like black clothes! I’m the Thief! Look at me!”
“Cole, we have to go!”
“But what about Beth? She hasn’t gotten to show you her costume!” He insisted.
Beth leapt out in front of me, knocking down a wind chime which let out a morose clanking. I shook my head as I saw what she was wearing. She had on a buttercup yellow dress, which looked like candy against her red hair, so frilly and puffy that the skirt filled up a third of the shoppe. She was too old for dress up, and I was getting sick of trying to control my family. She held up a black, draping dress to my face, and smushed it into me. I snatched it from her hands.
“Fine. We’ll play dress up for a few minutes, if it makes all of you happy.”
I went into the back room to change, and subsequently found out that the black dress fit me like a glove. It was soft, and it hit the floor lightly, like a kind, dark cloud.
As I stepped out of the room, in my new dress, Beth handed me a gold locket, which I pulled over my head.
“Now, we can play as the Queen, the Thief, and the Pirate! So, who are you, Heather?” Beth asked.
“I’m...no one. We don’t have time to make up a million new personas. We have school, remember? I’ve tried on the dress, now everyone get into your normal clothes.”
“Well...there’s one problem.”
Beth gave me a wide smile, and giggled anxiously.
“We, erm...can’t take them off. We’ve been trying, but they’re stuck to us.”
I tugged at my collar. Tinny music was streaming out of a radio I couldn’t see. I pulled at the seams. Nothing was happening. I nearly choked while grabbing the locket, trying to pry it off my neck. Red lines appeared around my collarbone, as the necklace sunk into my raw skin. Not even my spiked shoes would kick off, and they belonged to me. I didn’t like to admit it, but Beth was right. The costumes were stuck to us, and she was probably going to use that as an excuse to skip school.
I had my day off, as I went to a fancy Private school...but I wasn’t going to let anyone skip just because of an outfit.
“I suppose you’ll just look weird. It’s your own fault that we’re in this mess. Beth, I know you hate school, but you’re not in control of the world. You’ll get your dress off after school, alright?”
I hated playing the parent, but there was nothing else that I could do to keep them safe.
“Fine,” she acquiesced.
I ushered my cousins out the door, and sent them on their way. A Thief, a Pirate, and a Queen, ready to learn maths.
As I left the Magic Shoppe to get back to my Aunt’s apartment, I didn’t feel right, walking home alone. It just felt like the last time I was ever going to experience something. The only problem was that I didn’t know what I was missing.
As I walked home, I began to feel increasingly ill. My stomach was turning itself inside out, and my mouth tasted like copper and dew, with a hint of spoiled cheese. I fought the urge to double over, trying to remember something comforting. I had written songs, and I struggled to recall a single verse from any of them, despite the fact that I had three journals filled with them.
What else was comforting? Nothing was really very helpful, but I was an optimist. I would think of something, sooner of later.
Then, I suddenly felt my stomach get stabbed with an invisible weapon. The dress that I couldn’t take off was suddenly cutting off my circulation, and the locket was taking away my oxygen. I dropped to the ground, dry heaving, and I felt eyes on me. It was a passerby, a man, or maybe a boy, who had come to help me up. My ears ringing as he pulled me up off the smooth sidewalk, I could only think of one thing:
It was the last time.
But what was the last time? What was I missing?
“I’ll help you get to your apartment,” the young man said.
I looked up at him. I trusted him. But I also trusted my Aunt, and she had always told me not to let anyone else bring you home if you don’t know them.
“I-I’m fine,” I lied, clutching my stomach.
“You’re not fine.”
“I’ll be fine, alright?”
I stumbled away from him, past the tall, glimmering buildings, sweltering in the heat. I was sweating, dripping, my dress plastered to my legs. I straightened it, paying meticulous attention to the hem, and I could justify why that was important when the world was falling apart before my eyes.
I turned back to the young man, wishing that I could accept help, and knowing that I couldn’t. He called after me, but I was already gone.
I tried to comfort myself, but I knew that everything was wrong.
It was the last time.
The dress had encircled me, but I was running, sprinting for my life. The apartment was two blocks away, and I could make it before I collapsed if I only tried hard enough.
Then, I heard my phone ring, a bright buzzing that pierced my eardrums. It was Beth, I could tell by the tone. I picked up. I always picked up.
“Heather,” I heard Beth’s voice whisper, “Please take us home.”
“This isn’t another...another ploy to get out of school, is it?”
But feeling my own stomachache, and hearing her pained voice, I knew that it wasn’t.
“They say that...our fever is really, really high, according to the nurse. Cole doesn’t look too great. Neither does Aubrey.”
A fever! It was just a fever! The dress wasn’t “magical,” and the shoppe was just an eccentric new store. I just had a fever, which I had probably picked up from my cousins. We all lived pretty close to each other, and we were always near one another, so it was bound to happen sooner or later. I could just pop down to the apartment, force my stomach to accept soup, and go to the doctor later if I absolutely had to.
I was about to reply, when the phone dropped out of my hand, into the street. I watched in fear as it shattered into a million pieces, the plain black phone that I had never thought to put a protective case on. And I dropped out, too, onto the sidewalk.
The last time.

Keep Reading

Chapter 2

Second Trick Of The Night/The Grand Stage

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