Flash: Falling for Aspen

Photo by Sean Odell (Unsplash.com)

Rating: Mature

Dozens of golden maple leaves fell around Andy as Aspen leaped into his arms, kissing him after his proposal. He didn’t expect such as strong reaction to his invitation to shack up together. They had reached the point something needed to change, and he knew it. He didn’t want the change to be them breaking apart.

After several kisses, Aspen slid down his body until both her boots were back on the sidewalk. “Thank God, I thought you were going to ask to marry me.” She said leaning against his chest.

Andy winced, reaching his arms to hug her tight. “Don’t you want to marry me someday?”

“Good grief, no. Marriage never goes well in my family.”

The man held her tighter, thinking back on the two divorces Aspen’s mother had gone through since they started dating back in high school, from husbands four and five, and the family gatherings he had been dragged to during their ten years of dating (today being the anniversary) with the dozens of children brought by her sisters, aunts, cousins, grandmothers, and the original matriarch, her great-grandmother, none with a single father in common. Most of the married femlaes sporting visible bruises from their husbands.

“I’m not like anyone else.”

“Not now, Andy, but you would be,” Aspen smiled up at him, the happy escaping a little from her eyes, shading them with the sadness never far from her crystal blues in recent months, “But maybe we can beat the curse. Love without marriage. Just promise to never ask to marry me.”

“What if I ask?”

Color drained from Aspen’s face, like winter following autumn. “I would have to say yes.”

Blinking, his mind stuck at the thought, both ecstatic and deeply scared. Eventually, Andy asked, “Have to?” emphasizing the lack of choice.

“Part of the curse.”

“Okay. Maybe we should talk about the ‘curse’ before moving in together.” Andy dropped his hands down and took a step back.

In a very small voice, Aspen said, “I can’t.”

“Can’t or won’t?”

“Can’t. I love you too much.” Her head tilted sideways looking up at him. “But maybe Glassy can, she hates your guts.”

“The feeling is mutual.”

Douglas, or Glassy to her friends and family, was Aspen’s next older sister and had done everything in her power to break up Aspen and Andy, including sneaking into his bedroom one night naked and taking pictures before he was awake enough to realize which sister was in his arms as he came awake. He was fourteen and like most boys that age, not operating much higher than hormone function at the time. It was the first and only time he punched a woman.

“Yeah,” Aspen took his hand and they started walking again, enjoying the autumn colors. “You know, as much as I would love to live with you all the time, buy that house we just saw and settled down, it’s just a bad idea.”

“No, it’s not.” Andy squeezed her hand, “I want to have children with you, grow old with you, and not marry you if you don’t want to.”

“Me too.” Aspen leaned against his shoulder.

Sighing, Andy looked around to see where they were in town. They had meandered around for hours just talking, like they did whenever he picked up her from her mother’s house and they didn’t go out for food, or straight to his house for other activities. Today Aspen was on the rag and both of them had had a holiday function at lunch leaving them both really full even after work, so they walked.

“We are two blocks from Glassy’s house. Let’s get this over with.” Andy turned at the corner. Aspen hesitated, then squared her shoulders and followed.

Far too soon for the butterflies in his stomach, the two of them were knocking on the purple door interrupting a screaming fight. Glassy’s first husband, married right out of high school when she had gotten knocked up, had left her years ago. After suing for abandonment, she had bounced around between losers until she found the present gem she married during the summer. The jerk opened the door in the overly appropriate wife-beater shirt and sweatpants, the later trying to escape from his belly overhang. “What?!?”

Behind him, in the living room the very pregnant Glassy wiped at a bleeding cut on her lip.

Aspen sent her sister a look and Glassy shook her head, shrugging her shoulders like, “what can we do?”. Frowning, Aspen talked politely to a man who clearly had just hit her eight-month pregnant sister. “Hello Matthew, I was wondering if Andrew and I could talk with Douglas.”

“No.” And Matt tried to slam the door in their faces.

Andrew’s hand stopped the door, and Matt couldn’t move it an inch further. “I think you need to go for a walk and cool down.”

“Fuck you.”

“Either that, or I can give you fat lip to match your wife before I knock you into next week.”

“Andy…” Aspen cautioned.

“Glassy, call 911 if this fucker lays a hand on me.” Matt’s lips curled back in a challenge.

Andrew, nearly three inches shorter and forty pounds lighter than the older man, stared back. Without breaking eye contact, he said, “Glassy, I mean to marry … no, wait … live with your sister in sin in that house on South Water Way, fucking her nightly instead of when your mama approves, as soon as we can pool our money. She says you need to tell me something before I do that.” Andrew took a step closer, pushing the door wider, making Matt take a step back so both he and Aspen were in the house.

“Aspen?” Glassy sounded sadder than Andrew had ever heard the bitch sound.

“I’ve got to try Glassy.”

“You’ll just end up…”

“I know.”

“And he…”

“I know.” Aspen swallowed audibly. “But I got to try.”

“Matt, take that walk.”

“Fuck you.”


Andrew still staring into Matt’s eyes, saw them unfocus. The man dropped his hand from the door, stepped around Aspen and him, and walked outside in his socks. Blinking his dry eyes, not sure what to think, Andy watched as Matt walked down the gravel driveway and turned right like a automaton when reaching the sidewalk.

“Did that give you pause, puppy-boy?” Glassy growled, crossing the room to a box of tissues, snapping Andy’s attention back to the house. “Because there is more. Lots more.”

Andrew eyes assessed the room, seeing if the new data changed anything, lingering on Aspen. He kissed her on the lips, took her hand in his and went to the couch to sit down. He would likely need to sit down for the rest of this. Once both he and Aspen were sitting, he squeezed her hand with reassurance, kissed her one more time, before turning his full attention to Glassy, who glared at him with pure hate. “Shoot. What is the curse?”

“My God, Aspen, you told him about the curse?”

“Only that there was one. Tell him, please.”

“The curse great-grandma Wiggins dumped on us, her decedents, a fallout from a war with another coven, is as follows – near as we can tell, because it ain’t like the other coven wanted us to know how to untangle this mess. Because we tried. None of them are alive now, so the curse can’t be broke.”

“You killed them.” Andy started rubbing Aspen’s knuckles with his free hand.

“Nah, the rule of three did that. What you do to others returns three times to you. Stupid fuckers. They could have stopped this at any time, but they didn’t.” Glassy pressed the dotted red tissue to her lip another time and pulled it away to evaluate the results. Satisfied she had stopped bleeding, she wadded it up and tossed it on the breakfast bar between the kitchen and living room. “All this because great-grandma couldn’t keep her skirts down around other women’s husbands.”

“That is unfortunate.”

“’Unfortunate’, puppy-boy, it’s hell. It’s hell for me, going to be hell for Aspen, and will be hell for our daughters.”

“Daughters … okay, I’m an idiot. You guys only have daughters.”

“Five generations now and counting.” Glassy rubbed her belly. “My Flora has it, both our witchy ways and the curse. And this little one will too.”

“Aspen wanted me to know about the curse.”

“I’m getting to that. But I guess I should hurry up. Matt’s walk is just to cool him down. Being away from me and my curse should do that in minutes.” Glassy looked at Aspen instead of trying to kill Andrew with her dagger eyes. “Last chance before loverboy knows all.”

Aspen leaned against him, like she wanted to somehow be absorbed into him and his strength, and pressed her lips together.

“Right.” Disgusted didn’t even capture the expression on the pregnant woman’s face. “First, we get pregnant at the drop of a hat.”

“Um, Aspen and I have…”

“I know you have; we all know you have. The coven’s been casting spells for your dates to keep that at bay. But moving in together, she is going to be as big as a tree before you can say Abracadabra.”

Red flushed Andy’s face as he realized, if what was just said is true, Glassy and Aspen’s mom knew every time they had had sex, starting when they were sixteen.

“Second, we have to have a man.” Glassy snarled. “Not the ‘one day my prince will come’ longing so you got someone to open the pickle jar. No, we get physically sick going more than two months without someone between our legs once our mense starts. Fortunately spells can hold that back for several years so we ain’t got middle schoolers pushing out the babies. And by sick, we throw up at first and then it gets to the point we can’t eat. For about a month we can force food down, but eventually we starve to death. But if knocked up, no morning sickness, so there is that.”

“I guess that is a bright side.”

“Sure is Dudley-do-right. Fuck, no. If things are typical, your girlfriend is going to pop out four different girls from four different guys, while depending on spells to keep it down to only four. We use all our circle time on damn contraception spells.”

Now Glassy’s lips twisted into something plain mean and evil. Andy had thought she always looked that way, but this was another level different.

“Now to what the curse means to you, and I am going to love watching you fail like everyone before you have. You will fall in love. Can’t help it when you fuck us. Comes free with the curse package. You are a little different because you two started dating at twelve and didn’t concemate for a very long time. Longest couple on record, but you haven’t taken it to marriage level.

“Most men ask, being in love and all, to get married pronto. For our part of the curse package, once we’ve had sex, we can’t say no to spiraling the relationship down the drain. Want a marriage – ‘oh, yes, my sweetheart’ – pops our of our mouths before we can stop it.”

Hearing the sweet girlish voice come out of Glassy’s mouth was disconcerting.

“Want a baby, ‘oh, do me now’.”

And that, Andrew could spend his entire life without hearing again.

“I need your life’s savings. We can’t fucking say no.”

“We can.” Aspen interjected.

“Not really. If it makes our men happy, we will do it. Tie me up, tie me down. Spank me. Whatever you want, dear.” Glassy slammed her fist against the wall behind the chair she leaned against. “But each time we give in, that love turns to hate. The worm of the curse eats it up. The men lose respect, of themselves and us. And, here is the killer of the curse, you will get angry enough to hit us. And once done, the second time is easier. Most men run after hitting a pregnant woman; and if they don’t, the coven removes them to protect the baby.”

“Why is Matt still around?” Andy growled.

“Because I want him to be. He is an ass, but I love him. Plus he hits like a girl, so mom hasn’t taken matters into her own hands yet. Once Fauna is born, though, he will leave. That is the final bit of the curse. The man can’t love his child. He can feel the baby’s powers developing and it drives him away. Longest man to last was Great-Aunt Maple’s Benny; the man was as sensitive as a brick. Took him until the baby’s first words to bolt, nearly eleven months. And he only had hit her three or four times before he left. The curse barely affected him.”

“Did men hang around before your line were cursed?”

“Not often.” Aspen answered from his shoulder. “Witchy ways are gender polarized, pushing males away and drawing in females.”

“Why haven’t you told me you’re a witch before now?”

Glassy interrupted before Aspen spoke again. “That would be the gag spell we put on the kids so they don’t spell the beans. Kids talk, and a lot of witches got burned because of their children had diarrhea of the mouth, so we do a preemptive strike. After that, habit takes over. Because Aspen liked you so much, puppy-boy, we kept the spell up and would have renewed it last full moon if she hadn’t made herself conveniently absent. As an adult, she had to be present for the casting.” Glassy turned her death glare on her sister.

Aspen stuck her tongue out in return, before saying to Andy, “I wanted you to know.”

“Thank you. So what does witchy ways entail?”

“Well, you two can take that part of the conversation elsewhere, because I see Matt limping up the driveway.” Glassy shoulders slumped as she looked out the window, the weight of the world returning. “I need to help him.”

“Glassy … Douglas.” Andrew stood, not sure what to say next.

“It’s too late for us.” Glassy waddled over to the door. “Too late for you too, but maybe you can pull a Benny and surprise us. You’ve been doing that for a long time already, Dudley.”

“His name is Andrew, sis.”

“Whatever.” Glassy said as she opened the door and took her husband in her arms when he came in, confused and apologetic for slapping her earlier.

Andy and Aspen closed the door behind them. Standing on the stoop for a moment, watching the leaves scatter in the wind across the still green lawn, Andy blinked against the brightness of the setting sun.

“She tried to charm me when I was fourteen, didn’t she?”

Aspen looked up, clearly surprised at the observation. “Doubleganger shapeshift, fairly easy since we are related and she had access to everything I owned, followed by a lust spell, likely from hair she pulled off my clothes. If you had done what she was trying to do, you would have loved her instead of me.”

“I shouldn’t have been able to fight it.” Andy frown at their joined hands as they stepped away. At the corner, they turned towards Aspen’s home.

“We added you to the list in the grimoire of those who tossed it off. Since we started keeping track in the 1500s, only four men and seventeen women have thrown off that spell. That includes you. Before you, no one under the age of thirty. Most over the age of sixty, the rest deathly ill. We figure being lust enhancing, you need a libido for it to work.”

“So, a no. I really shouldn’t have been able to fight it. Not then, not now.”

“Nope. But you did because you loved me.”

They walked back, the twilight changing everything around them to secrets and mysteries. A block from Aspen’s mom house, Andy stopped, drawing her close again, pulling their joined hands up between them, “I love you.”

He kissed her knuckles one by one, staring at her blue eyes hiding behind her glasses.

“Live with me, be my love. We will all pleasures prove.” Andy dropped on one knee among golden fall leaves covering the sidewalk and pulled her down onto his leg. “With curses banished, singular and always by true love’s constant kiss.” He puckered his lips to her in invitation.

“I love you.” Aspen grasped his ears, aiming her lips for his.

(Words 2755; first published 6/30/2019)