I couldn’t remember if it was a love potion gone wrong or a love patron which was part of P.T. Wyant’s Wednesday Words prompt. Along with a snowstorm and a marble on February 16, 2022 at ptwyant.com.
I decided to do both. If there’s any place you can find both, it’s at the Navel…
I’d never seen snow before.
A spiral of snow flakes spun around the head of the slender individual who entered the Navel.
The narrow spaces of the shop widened. Were they trying to accomodate our customer?
“Welcome to the Navel.” I could never manage my mother’s boisterous tone or Damian’s dazzling smile. My greetings always felt subdued as if I wasn’t sure if I was welcoming or not.
The visitor took no mind. “Thank you. I’m looking for a love potion or perhaps a love patron? My beloved is giving me trouble.”
Not a snowflake touched the ground. They continued to spiral around the visitor’s head like a spinning veil. A veil of snowflakes, how bizarre.
Appropriate for the center of all things bizarre, something ‘Brie constantly claimed the Navel was. She was going to be seriously envious of that veil.
“A love potion or a love patron?” I was intrigued. “What’s a love patron?”
“Oh, I suppose it’s someone or something which empowers lovers.” The customer waved their arms out of billowy sleeves worthy of an arachnocratic lady, but this was no arachnocrat. This individual was far more androgynous, gazing with a remote expression at something which wasn’t there with stormy silvery eyes out of a dusky golden face. Their eyes reminded me of Juno’s or Hebe’s. “Rekindling old passions by patronizing time and intimacy lovers have allowed to slip away, but a potion might do the same.”
“I’ll see what I can find.” Yes, this was bizarre, but bizarre was the Navel’s specialty. If this customer was here, something was waiting for them. I just needed to find it for them.
I turned around to find a boy my age standing there, a boy with lustrous dark eyes and a mop of glossy black hair. His short tunic reminded me of the attire in the Gardens of Arachne, but he wore a wreath of leaves, not flowers.
In his hands, he carried a bottle filled with greenish-yellow liquid.
“Um, hello,” I said, trying not to jump. I hadn’t heard him come up behind me.
“Hello.” He smiled, lowering his dark eyelashes. “The customer wished for me. I came. Take me to them.”
Too surprised to argue, I accepted his offered hand.
Objects often came and went as they wished, responding to a customer. This was the first time a person actually appeared.
Hand and hand, we moved over the customer with snowflakes falling over their head.
“You!” They lifted a hand to point a finger at the boy. “What are you doing here?”
“You wanted me. I am here.” The boy let go of my hand, lifting the bottle the level of the customer’s eyes. “Bearing your other desire.”
“Desire embodied, passion in a bottle.” The customer shut their eyes. The snowfall intensified upon their head, letting out a low howl. “Do you really think it’s that easy?”
“Do you?” The boy countered, advancing upon the customer, still brandishing the bottle. “You still found the path to the Navel. You still found me here.”
“Is this a place where one’s wayward loves find themselves drawn back to their abandoned lovers?” The walking snowstorm took a step back. “You may be carrying a love potion, but just how are you a love patron?”
“Why not?” The boy stopped, holding his ground. “Why must you be the one to support me? Why can’t I support you? Why can’t a beloved be a love patron?”
“It’s not how it’s done.” The customer shook their head. “It’s a lover’s duty to guide, protect, and support their beloved. Just as it’s a beloved’s duty to inspire and reinvigorate the lover with his beauty.”
“The way it’s done isn’t my way.” The boy held his head high with dignity and pride. “I want to care for you. I want to banish the storm hanging over your head. Won’t you let me?”
He still offered the bottle.
Silent, unsure if I should say anything, I watched the snow fall upon this strange customer before they reached for the love potion.
“I was going to trick you into drinking this,” they confessed to the boy. “Perhaps I am the one who needs a draught of liquid passion.”
They raised the bottle to pale lips. No frost or ice touched the vessel, although the snowflakes gathered upon the hands holding it.
They took a drink. A greenish-yellow light ran through their slender form, illuminating it with their swallow.
The cloud overhead disappeared. Color entered the strange customer’s cheeks, no longer obscured by a veil of snow.
They drew a shuddering breath, began to cough and gag.
“Ah, you’ve poisoned us!” The customer raised a hand, warding off the boy. “This is a trick!”
“No trick.” The boy smiled sadly, but there was a dangerous glint in his eyes. I’d seen such a look on Damian’s face. “It was a love potion, but it’s also poison to monsters incapable of love.”
Relish and sorrow in equal measure filled his voice when he looked upon the customer, clawing at his throat.
I had the strangest premonition, a vision of Damian standing where this boy stood now. Gazing at the Lady Duessa, clawing her own throat with many hands. Looking at the woman who’d dominated his life with the same regretful triumph.
“What have you done?” I whispered. I took a step closer to the customer who’d fallen to their knees.
“Don’t touch them!” The boy moved between me and the fallen stranger, catching them in their arms. “I would not share this monster with any other prey for I’ve both loved and hunted them for too long.”
“What do you mean?” I gazed at the boy, cradling the robed figure with especial tenderness. “Did you just poison them?”
“I wanted it.” The customer gazed at the boy in hungry adoration I understood only too well. “A love potion or a love patron to bring you back to me. To make you mine completely, even if it meant dying in your arms.”
“I know.” How gentle and merciless the boy’s manner was. “I was more than willing to be yours if it kept you from feeding on the lives of any other young beloved who might catch your eye. If it meant you were mine and mine alone.”
He bent down to fasten his lips to the customers. The two of them seemed to melt together, becoming one beautiful statue of marble. There was no telling where the lover ended and the beloved began.
The snow began to fall over both of them, right in the Navel. Obscuring them, making them disappear.
For a moment I saw a pale-haired young man I’d remembered in flashes, holding a dark-haired boy. The boy looked up at him with adoring green eyes.
Those eyes changed color. Many hues swam in the irises. I saw myself, lying in the arms of Damian, gazing down at me with tender ruthlessness.
The snow vanished, not leaving a melting flake upon the floor.
I wiped away my tears, not sure why I was crying.
“Welcome to the Navel, center of all things…Christopher!” Gabrielle appeared in the silver disc upon the floor, her welcoming expression turning to one of worry. “What’s wrong? I thought there was a customer. Are you all right?”
“Don’t worry.” I brushed the tears away, managed to smile. “There was, but I handled it.”
I wasn’t sure if that was true.