With a Love Sorceress I'll Make My Romance Last!
It was the day my girlfriend broke up with me.
“Jun, you never listen!”
She shoved the flowers in my face and I stood there, stunned into silence, as the petals fell onto my shirt. Then, she ran away.
“Amamiya!” I shouted after her, but too late. She was already gone, vanished into the crowd of the busy streets on a Sunday afternoon.
I was left there in the park, alone. I felt around my jacket pocket and brought out the box within. Numbly, I popped open the lid and stared at the silver ring.
It had been a year since we started dating. I thought she was the one.
We were supposed to wander around the movie theater and shops where we had our first date. After going to her favorite restaurant, I’d suggest a stroll. We’d reach the park to say goodbye, but suddenly, I’d get down on my knee and propose. She’d say yes, and it would be perfect.
But none of that happened. Instead, I was standing alone and Amamiya was in tears, already on her train home.
Where did I go wrong?
All I did was suggest a movie.
The next day, after work, I had a bit too much to drink.
Dressed in my workman’s suit, I blearily hung onto a coworker’s shoulder. I slammed my beer onto the table and shouted, “Who needs a girlfriend anyway?”
My coworkers were pretty well sick of my complaining, but I was too drunk to care. At some point, my business partner Ohta helped me pay my tab and walk outside.
Once the cold air hit me, I started murmuring a slew of apologies to no one in particular. I wiped my face with my sleeve until it hurt, determined not to cry in front of my coworker.
“Jun Hiroyuki,” Ohta said my full name with a sigh, catching me before I bumbled into an alleyway. “It was a workplace romance. I told you it wouldn’t last.” With a shake of his head he added, “And now I have to deal with you two avoiding each other at the office.”
“I thought it was real this time!” I shouted back in my defense. “But it’s the same with every girl I ever date. They all tell me the same thing: I just don’t listen!” My voice cracked. “I thought Amamiya and I were different!”
From my suit pocket, I pulled out the box from yesterday. I don’t know why I was still holding onto it, or why I carried it with me all day. Frustrated, I threw the box at Ohta. It bumped into his tie before falling to the sidewalk. When it hit the ground, the box opened. Ohta knelt and saw the shine of the silver ring within. His expression hardened, realizing the situation.
Ohta brought the ring to my face. I held down a burp, trying not to be sick.
“Hiroyuki,” Ohta said again, forcefully this time, “you and I have been working together for awhile now. You’re twenty-three years old, you’ve got a good head on your shoulders.”
“Senpai!” I mumbled emotionally, never having heard him compliment me before. In my drunken state I tried to hug him, but he pushed me away.
“You know I’m a realist,” Ohta grumbled, “but for once I’m going to suggest something…absurd.”
“Absurd?” My head rose. Even though I was dizzy from the beer, I could tell this was strange.
“There’s this woman I’ve heard about.” Ohta pulled out his phone, and searched for the words ‘Love Sorceress.’
I leaned closer to take a look at the website that loaded. The Love Sorceress website had a purple background and was covered in brightly colored text, with a picture of a woman dressed like some mystical fortuneteller. The layout looked like it had been coded in the early days of the internet, maybe by someone in middle school. I laughed and stumbled against a nearby lamppost.
“Ohta! Did you drink more than me?” I accused with a grin.
Ohta clicked his tongue. “My wife suggested this so-called Sorceress, saying that Madam Claire was the only reason my wife and I ever got married.”
“Madam Claire!” I laughed even louder. “What a name! Does she do fortunes too?”
Without answering, Ohta shook his head and pulled me along, forcing me towards the bus stop just a ways ahead. As I tumbled onto the metal chair, nursing my headache, I heard my phone buzz. Ohta had texted me a link to Madam Claire’s website. Against my better judgment, I opened it.
‘Troubles with love?’ the large text read. ‘Are you told you don’t know how to listen?’
I turned off the screen and angrily put the phone in my pocket. What did some lady in a costume know?
“Don’t miss your bus home,” Ohta warned, pushing my head upright as I started to fall over. “I need you to show up for work tomorrow.”
“Senpai,” I mumbled again, amazed he was being so nice.
Ohta frowned. “Amamiya is going to call in sick for the next week because of you, and I need you to do her work.”
I let out a quiet ‘boo’ of disappointment, realizing Ohta’s sentiment only related to the workload. I brought out my phone again to check the time and make sure the bus was still coming.
Then, I saw the Love Sorceress website was still open. I scoffed and went to close the page. Yet for some reason, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. My finger hovered above the screen, unwilling. The purple website was as garish as ever, yet I couldn’t look away.
Somehow, Madam Claire’s picture stared me down with a knowing smile.
One week of overtime, and I was ready to sleep in bed and do nothing. As predicted, Amamiya hadn’t shown up to work once. So to distract myself from thinking about her, I threw myself into my job. Finally reaching Saturday now, I wanted to take a bath, eat a large meal, and watch television all day.
...So why was I spending my precious Saturday morning sneaking around a desolate back alleyway instead?
A rat dashed past my feet, making me jump and nearly lose the phone in my hand. The GPS said the building in front of me was supposed to be my destination, but it was a run-down building without an entrance in sight. I checked around the corner: still no doorway. The walls were covered in years of dirt and graffiti. I checked the address one more time. This was the right place.
I’d worn my work suit, thinking I’d want to use my position as a businessman to let the lady know I wasn’t interested in any magical nonsense. Now, I was seriously regretting my decision of attire. I felt more likely to get mugged than anything.
Just as I was about to turn around and head home, something flickered.
I glanced down the building one more time. Suddenly, I saw a purple door that I swore wasn’t there before. Wondering if I was still a bit hungover (because every night this week had been met with a few drinks) I shook my head and approached the doorway. I grabbed the golden door handle and, with a gulp, pulled it open.
What waited within was a bit underwhelming: the room was dark, small, and barely adorned. Only a few colorful tassels hung overhead, waving in the wind from the alleyway. As the door closed behind me and cut off the breeze, the tassels fell still, and I felt trapped.
In the center of the dark room sat a woman. Her hands were folded atop an ornate table, her legs crossed in her seat. She wore a purple dress that draped down her figure, made with a shimmering, satin fabric. A shawl covered her shoulders, and a transparent swath of fabric draped across her face, covering her nose and mouth. She held a mystical air, as though one look from her hazel eyes and she would see right through me. Most stunning was her curls of strawberry-blonde hair, tumbling long and free. She had to be a foreigner, but I didn’t care where from: she was beautiful.
For a moment, I was at a loss for words. But then I saw the oversized witch hat sitting on her head. My expectations dropped as I realized this lady was probably just an avid cosplayer offering love advice for the desperate. I sighed and held up an apologetic hand.
“Sorry, I have the wrong place.” I reached for the handle to leave.
“You loved her, didn’t you?” the lady suddenly asked.
My hand jolted. I froze.
“Amamiya Inoue,” the woman said the name of my girlfriend with a small smile, raising her hand to cover her mouth. “You thought, with her, things might last forever.”
“Where did — where did you hear that?” I stammered.
The mysterious woman laughed and leaned forward against the ornate table, her gaze meeting mine.
“What if I could offer you a chance to try again?” she asked.
I felt my heart leap in my chest. Slowly, I stepped closer.
“I am Madam Claire,” the lady introduced with a flourish of her hand, “and you are Jun Hiroyuki.”
I nodded. A small warning in my mind told me I should be worried. How did this woman know my name? Or Amamiya’s name, for that matter?
Madam Claire raised her chin, smiling. “So I ask you, Mister Hiroyuki: what would you do if you could try it all again?”
“I don’t know,” I answered honestly. “Maybe I wasn’t good-looking enough, or rich enough. I thought if I couldn’t afford nice dinners, I could pack her lunches and take her on picnics. She always smiled when she said my name. I thought I was doing the right thing.”
Madam Claire brought a finger to her pursed lips. “So you would try to be richer, and more handsome?”
“Well of course, I mean, anyone would!” I let out an exasperated sigh. “But there’s no point. She’s already blocked my number.”
Madam Claire waved her wrist my direction. “Would you be willing to learn her language?”
I rubbed my forehead. ‘Learn her language’? What did that mean? I assumed it was another misgiving of my hangover.
“I’d be willing to do anything,” I mumbled in defeat.
“Anything?” Madam Claire repeated, her voice eager — almost sinister.
Amamiya’s face flashed through my mind. I thought of her smile, and how I wanted to be the one to bring that smile to her face for the rest of our lives.
“Anything,” I affirmed, gripping my fist.
The last thing I remembered was the sound of Madam Claire’s laughter, as the world went dark.