“Why did you invite Ainsley here? Doesn’t he have work across town? Seems pretty inconvenient,” I was sitting on the checkout counter, Chai organizing the display shelves behind me with a magical flick of her wrist. Mercedes wandered the front, holding her new poetry book like a small child as she spun idly.
“I invited him so I could spend time with him, and I thought it would be good for you to talk to him again. You know, grudges take a lot of energy that you could be directing to something better,” she said, her back to me as she examined a new memoir we had on display. “He’s not as bad as you say.”
“Don’t even mention that to me right now. I don’t even know how to respond to all this. Why would he willingly come here, knowing full well that I work evenings!” I tried to swallow my anger, bury it deep down with all the comments I refrained from saying.
Mercedes put down the memoir, tucking her poetry book under her arm. “I don’t know why you’re so set on disliking him. It’s not like he did any-,”
“He abandoned me!” I whisper-yelled, careful to not disrupt the serenity of the store.
Mercedes turned sharply to look directly at me. “All he did was move to a different neighbourhood; I’m pretty sure he doesn’t even know why you’re so mad at him.”
Chai stopped shelving books and disappeared around the shelf, removing herself from the conversation before she could be dragged in. I couldn’t look at Mercedes, so I stared out the front window, watching people glance at the neon sign as they passed by. A small child ran up to the glass and pressed their little face against it, gazing at the new children’s books with the glimmer of curiosity in their eyes.
I worked to compact my anger into a tight sphere within me, putting up a barrier between my feelings and my magic. Mercedes kept her distance as she spoke. “I really think he’s different than back then, like, I don’t even think I’ve seen him cast anything in years. He’s got his friends, and his own life to pursue. This grudge you have doesn’t feel necessary anymore, well, if it ever did.”
“Then why did he leave?”
“It’s not like he moved out of the country or died, Diantha.”
“But still. He promised he’d always be there for me, and he was nowhere to be found when the torches and pitchforks came out.”
Mercedes sighed. “They didn’t come to burn you at the stake, Diantha. Don’t be so dramatic.”
“He would have defended me.”
“From what? You weren’t even put on trial. If you were, I’m almost positive he’d been there to help you. In reality, it was just a misunderstanding. You even learned from it.”
My anger melted within me, the intense swirl of emotions fading as quickly as they’d come about. “It was just so, strange to see him here,” I took a quick breath, collecting myself to finish my thought. “After all the time we spent together, it feels terrible to have a sudden gap left from his departure from my life.”
Mercedes came up to me and took my hands. “What you’re feeling is valid, but there’s no reason for you to still be angry. I know that’s hard, especially after all these years, but I think you should let it go.”
I pulled her into a hug, her arms around my waist as I sat on the counter. “Thank you, Mercedes,” I said into her hair, her head against my chest. My thoughts spun around the possibility of reconnecting with Ainsley. I was curious of how he’d changed since back then, especially why Mercedes said he hadn’t cast anything in years.
“I love you Diantha. Don’t forget that.”
It felt so wonderful to hear her, my oldest and dearest friend, hold onto my feelings as I came down from my fit. I looked over her and out the window, seeing the little kid and their mother come around and open the front door, our signal bell jingling as they entered the shop.
“I love you too.”