Protection of Magic, The Leira Chronicles Book 3
By Martha Carr and Michael Anderle
They walked along South Congress past all the shops set up to attract the tourists. Down the long hilly ribbon of a street they could see the state capital’s copper dome in the distance.
“You were admirably restrained in Costco,” said Eireka, eating from a bag of Cheetos Crunchy Cheddar Jalapeno. The little tiger on the front was wearing sunglasses and a cowboy hat. “Uh, spicy!” Eireka lifted her chin and closed her eyes, feeling the slight burn in her mouth. “This was one of the things I missed. Everything was so bland in there!”
“You have a little orange dust on the end of your nose. Wipe it off before the troll decides to help you.” Correk bit into a spicy Doritos rolled like a crunchy Cheetos. He swallowed hard, his eyes watering. “This may be a little more spice than I’m accustomed to on Oriceran.” He pounded on his chest and took out another one, biting down. “Can’t stop eating them.”
The phone began to buzz in his hand. “It’s just a text from Leira. She wants to know if we’re at Costco.” He typed no, leaving a dark orange print and put the phone in a side pocket on his suede pants. “Usually holds a small weapon but makes a handy place to put the phone.”
“If I remember correctly, Light Elves take rigorous honesty very seriously.” Eireka watched him, a slight smile on her face.
“That was the truth. She’ll have to ask better questions. Besides, if we take every phone call we’ll never get out of here. All you’ll remember of this day is me standing next to you, ignoring you, talking into the air. If we add a few selfies to the mix I fear my ears will permanently round themselves out.”
“Uh huh, I see your point. Sorry, I’m a little rusty with the humor. Nice glamour though. These things are addictive.” She bit down on another Cheetos. “No, don’t give him one. I can’t imagine that’s a good idea.”
“He’s happily eating grapes. Besides, he’s had his share of orange dust for the week, and I can’t take the orange farts. It’s like the troll is the sausage factory and I’m tired of seeing how the farts are made.”
“What should we see next?” Eireka looked up at the large wooden sign shaped like a cowboy boot outside of Allens boots. “We need cowboy boots. On me. Come on, I have that large pile of money from the hospital. One splurge.”
“A Light Elf in cowboy boots. Won’t be ridiculous at all.”
“Maybe they’ll have a tiny pair for a doll that we can buy Yumfuck.”
“Okay, now I’m intrigued.” Correk tried brushing the orange powder off his hands but only managed to spread the crumbs around his front.
“Don’t move! I remember this one.” Eireka pulled out a wipe, gently dabbing the front of his tunic.
A young man wearing a Grateful Dead t-shirt walked by, his arm around his girlfriend. The girl was wearing a black lacy bra covered by a sheer top that only came halfway down her waist.
“Nice outfit, dude. You heard of…”
“Medieval Times, yes, very familiar. Like being home again,” said Correk, as the couple kept walking down the street. Eireka giggled as she wiped off her fingers.
“Is that the only reason someone might dress like this on the streets?” he asked.
“Yes, yes it is.” Eireka tried to do something resembling Leira’s dead fish look but failed. She broke into laughter.
“Fine,” he said, laughing, “then let’s take it the rest of the way home and try some cowboy boots on this mother.”
“You have been watching a lot of TV,” said Eireka, rolling her eyes.
A tiny rallying cry erupted from Correk’s pocket. “Motherfuckers!” Correk held open the door to the store.
“Nice ventriloquism,” said an older woman wearing a white crocheted vest as she dropped a dollar in his hand. Eireka laughed as they wandered into the store and stood at the end of the aisles, their mouths open, staring at the rows upon rows of boots.
“Can I help you?”
A short young woman with a glossy dark ponytail and bright white teeth stood behind them. She was wearing jeans tucked into blue cowboy boots embroidered with gold thread.
“I want those,” said Eireka, pointing at the woman’s boots. The woman smiled as Correk stared at her teeth. Eireka caught him pulling in just a little magic. She gave him a hard tap on the arm. “She’s not one of us. Those are human teeth or at least made by humans and glossed to perfection. No magic.”
“I thought for sure that was a glamour.”
Eireka shrugged. “Of sorts, just the human kind. Come on, let’s try on some boots. Oh look, they do have little tiny red ones!”
“Those are for dollhouses. The little girls love them. You have one at home?” said the woman, still smiling as she pulled out a box. Eireka didn’t even get a chance to answer. “Size seven, right? I can usually call ’em. What about you, big guy? Ready to join us here in Texas? Maybe start with some roach killer boots? Got just the pair for you. Have a seat.” She pointed to a long bench. “I’ll be right back. Don’t move y’all,” she said, as she disappeared around the corner, heading down a different aisle.
“Why do I feel compelled to obey her?” asked Correk, smiling.
“Texas women are not to be trifled with. Now you know where Leira got that from, along with her fierce loyalty. I wonder if I’ll ever stop feeling guilty.”
“I believe you will, with time. I have this theory. Maybe it comes from living so many years. The bigger picture is a lot bigger. At first, we make so many mistakes, step on other people most of the time without even meaning to. Sometimes things just happen and you end up separated from the people you love. But…,” he held up a finger, “then life takes another turn and suddenly things change. You get these strange do-overs that don’t exactly resemble what you missed or what you wrecked but they’re so close, you know it’s another chance. And if you can just let go and be in the moment it heals even the deepest wounds.”
Eireka put a hand on Correk’s arm. “Thank you for that. I suppose a hundred-year perspective comes in handy sometimes.”
“Imagine how full of myself I’ll be at five hundred years. Keep your eyes open for them, Eireka. You’ll get your chance to share a few moments with Leira you thought were lost. No magic necessary.”
“Like those teeth,” she said, trying to smile.
“Oh, those teeth are amazing! Earth has the most interesting things to offer that don’t exactly have a function but I get drawn to them anyway.”
“Like a moth to a back porch light.”
“Here we go.” The young woman was back with a short pile of larger boxes. “Size twelve I’m betting. Try these on first. Learn to do a little two-stepping in these bad boys.” She pulled out a pair of dark brown leather boots with a buckle across the ankle. “And with your love of costume, you add a pair of tight jeans, a flannel shirt and a cowboy hat and with that long hair, you’ll fit right in. The ladies will be all over you,” she said, giving him a long wink.
Correk started and looked down at the boots, doing his best not to make eye contact again.
“Here, let me help you with the boots.”
“I’ve got it, thank you,” he said, hurriedly. He floundered, pulling and twisting till he got both boots on and stood up, stamping his feet, his hands on his hips.
“I can already see it,” said Eireka.
“What’d I tell you?” asked the woman.
Eireka turned and noticed a pair of boots sitting in a box by another bench, waiting to be reshelved. They were maroon with pearl white stitching in a series of dots up and down the boots. Eireka went over and pulled out a boot, rubbing a finger down the front, feeling the soft leather. Leira would love these. She let out a worried sigh.
“You should get them for her.” Correk was standing next to her, standing a little taller in the boots. “She’ll love them.”
“I don’t know. I used to know.” A lump caught in her throat.
“She’ll love them. Time she got out of running shoes from time to time. You’ve noticed what she wears on her hand.”
Eireka looked up, holding her breath for a moment.
“My old ring. I noticed. The boots would be a start for all the things I couldn’t buy her, didn’t get to see her wear.” She looked at the saleswoman still standing nearby.
“We’ll take all three. Hand me the boxes and I’ll go pay for them.” Eireka held up her hand, stopping Correk before he could protest. “My treat, I insist. Let me do something nice for a cousin. Most I’ve been able to buy anyone in a long time was something out of a vending machine.”
“Ain’t that sweet.” The young woman handed Correk her card. “You ever want to learn how to do a little dancing in those boots, you give me a call. Name’s Brittany.” She gave him another long, slow wink before stepping over the boxes, her hand already out, heading for another group of dazed tourists standing at the ends of the aisles, frozen to the spot. “Hi y’all, welcome to Allen’s Boots. What are you looking for?” At the last moment, she turned around and blew Correk a kiss.
Eireka gave a crooked smile as she slid the boxes onto the counter. “Wear them out,” she said to Correk, before he could pull of the boots. “I want this tiny pair too,” she added, grabbing a pair of the small, hand-stitched red doll boots. She rubbed the soft maroon boots again, daring to hope. “A small do over,” she whispered to herself, a catch in her throat.