Chapter Two

"That's right!" CC scouted at the TV, sloshing champagne onto the carpet as she raised her glass dramatically. "Click him off, girlfriends! Jack Nicholson wasn't cute, anyway—it was the three of you who really had the magic the whole time."

CC hardly noticed her unsteadiness as she got to her feet to dance the Woman's Magic Victory Dance while the movie credits rolled.

"Mr. Phone." She took a break from her Victory Dance to catch her breath. Fleetingly, she wondered just who had eaten all that KFC.

Mr. Phone seemed to be smiling at her from his place on the couch.

"Do you know that women have all the magic?"

He didn't answer.

"Of course you don't—you're a phone!" CC giggled. "You didn't even know I was twenty-five instead of twenty-two." She laughed until she snorted. "But you do now. And after watching that most excellent movie, you should know that women have magic, too."

Mr. Phone seemed skeptical.

"It's true! Didn't Cher and Michelle and Susan just prove it?" CC wobbled, but only a little. "Oh, I see what you mean. You think they have magic, but you don't really believe that an ordinary woman, like me, could have magic."

CC couldn't be entirely sure, but he appeared to be willing to listen.

"Okay. You may be right, but what if you're not? What if women really do have something within them, and we just have to find it? Like they did." CC felt the spark of an idea, and her brow wrinkled in an attempt at concentration. "They didn't believe it at first, either, but that didn't stop it from working. Maybe it doesn't matter if you're ordinary-looking, or if you're new somewhere and you don't have any friends yet." Or, CC's mind added, if your birthday has been forgotten. "Maybe all it takes is a leap of faith."

And a milky light flashed in the corner of her left eye, breaking her concentration.

What the…? A little shiver of trepidation fingered its way down the nape of her neck.

The light was coming from behind the closed drapes that shrouded the patio doors leading to her balcony.

CC checked the VCR clock. The digital numbers read 10:05 p.m.

"Must be the streetlights," she told Mr. Phone, but her eyes remained riveted on the captivating glimpse of brightness. The sliver of light she could see had an odd quality, totally unlike the sterile brightness of streetlights.

"Could be headlights from a parked car." But as she said it she knew it couldn't be true. Not in her top floor apartment. Car headlights didn't shine up. They also didn't have a quality of warmth that made her want to bathe herself in them.

CC's feet took her to the drapes before she consciously told them to move.

"You asked for some magic," she whispered. Slowly, like she was moving through the sweet twilight between awake and asleep, she reached up and parted the curtains.

"Oh…" The word came out on a breath. "It is magic."

The full moon hung perfect and luminous above her as if the goddess Diana herself had placed it there as a birthday offering. It bathed the riot of potted plants that crowded the balcony in a warm, opal-like glow. She quickly unlatched the glass doors and stepped out into the gentle warmth of a late October night.

CC's balcony was large, and it looked out on a greenbelt that divided the apartment complex and an upscale neighborhood. The amazing balcony was the reason she had decided to stretch her budget and afford the rent for the pricey apartment. She loved to sit there and let the comforting sounds of the greenery melt away the tension that too often clung to her from work and could even stubbornly stay with her through her kick-boxing class and the warm bubble bath soak she so often took after class. She had spent many evenings there, as was evident by the comfortable wicker rocking chair and the matching whatnot table that was just the right size to hold a book and a glass of something cold. Nestled in the middle of the lush plants was her favorite piece of balcony furniture, a mini version of a chimenea.

Tonight the creamy color of the chimenea caught the moon's caress and reflected its light like moonlight off the sands of an exotic beach.

Suddenly, she tilted her head back and spread her arms, as if she could embrace the night. The full moon filled her vision and she felt her body flush, like she was being saturated in the light of another world.

And her head snapped up.

"It is true," she said to the listening night. "It must be true."

And an idea was born, conceived of champagne and moonlight. CC grinned and whirled back through the open glass doors. Practically skipping, she rushed to her bedroom, already unbuttoning her air force uniform. The dark blue skirt and light blue blouse pooled with her pantyhose and bra.

"Step one."

Naked, CC pulled open her pajama drawer and pawed through it until she found the long, silk nightgown that lay at the bottom, ignored for her more practical cotton nightshirts. A uniform is good for work, but not for magic, she told herself and pulled the pale gown over her head, loving the erotic feel of it as it slid down her naked body.

"I will wear this more often," she promised aloud.

"Step two." She moved resolutely to her spare room, which she had recently begun to set up as an office. So far she had only had the time and money to buy a computer desk and chair for her five-year-old computer. Her books were stacked neatly on the floor, waiting for the bookshelves that she had promised them. She flicked on the overhead light and started searching through the piles of old textbooks, accumulated over the past seven years while she haphazardly took college classes, never sure which field she wanted to major in. CC combed through texts that ranged from Anatomy and Physiology lab guides to Basic Business Accounting 101.

"Here you are!" She pulled out the medium-sized text that had been hidden under an enormous Humanities tome. It was entitled, The Matriarchal Era—Myth and Legend. CC fondly remembered her semester of Women's Studies and the witty Professor Teresa Miller who had made that class one of her all-time favorites. She could still hear Ms. Miller's expressive voice reading aloud words that had been authored in an ancient time when women had been revered and even worshipped.

"Where is it?" she mumbled to herself as she scanned the index, her finger lightly going down each row of names, finally stopping near the beginning of the G's.

"Gaea!"

She sat back on her heels, turned to page eighty-six, and read aloud: "Gaea, or Gaia, was an Earth goddess, the Great Mother, known as the oldest of the divinities. She ruled magic, prophecy and motherhood. Although Zeus and other male gods took over her shrines during the emergence of the patriarchal insurgence, the gods swore all their oaths in her name, thus ultimately remaining subjected to her law."

CC nodded her head. This was exactly what she had been looking for. Gaea was the Mother of Magic. Flipping back to the index she turned pages till she found the R's.

"Rituals! Earth Ritual page one-fifty-two." She shuffled through the slick, white pages and made a victorious exclamation when she found it. "Ha! I knew it!" Silently she read the ancient invocation, tugging on her bottom lip in concentration. When she had finished reading, she took the book to her desk and sat quietly for a moment, then with a satisfied smile she wrote a single sentence in blue ink on a piece of plain white Xerox paper and folded it once. Bending the page to mark her place in the text, she headed back to the living room, book and paper in hand.

This time when she stepped onto the balcony she brought with her the book, the piece of paper, a clean champagne flute filled with cold water, a box of long-handled matches and a determination that showed clearly in the square set of her shoulders.

The chimenea was just big enough to hold one block of fragrant pinyon wood. Deftly, she fed its small mouth and lit the dry pinyon. Then she moved to a long, thin planter that was hooked to the wrought iron balcony railing. She caressed the velvety leaves and bent to inhale the tangy fragrance of mint.

"It's a lucky thing that I have such a green thumb." She smiled.

Choosing carefully, she snapped off the tops of several of the larger plants.

The spicy scent of burning pinyon rose from the chimenea like mist. The smoke hovered around the balcony. Clearly visible in the moonlight, it twisted and lifted in the warm breeze like ocean waves. CC's breath caught in excitement as she hurried to position herself in front of the chimenea. She placed the cut mint on the little table next to the glass of water and the piece of paper, then she opened the book to the turned-down page. With a growing sense of excitement she cleared her throat and began to read.

"Great Mother, Gaea, ripe creatress of all that exists, I call upon you to be here with me now."

As she fell into the rhythm of the ancient ritual, the tentative quality left her voice and she felt an unexpected rush of feeling pass over the hair on her bare arms, almost like a spark of static electricity.

"I need your guidance as I strive for spiritual knowledge and growth. Help me also with…" CC paused. Here in the text there were the parenthesized words priestess states her purpose. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes, concentrating with all of her heart and soul, then she repeated, "Help me also with creating magic in my life."

Reopening her eyes, she continued to read. "I wish with all my heart to accomplish my desires in a positive way. Reveal to me the direction to take. I await your guidance and aid."

A breath of air touched the pages of the open book and for a moment it quivered and felt alive in her hands.

CC shivered in response. The night was hushed, like a lover waiting for her beloved's next words.

"I give my desires and dreams into your keeping."

With one hand she held open the book. She used her other hand to fan her fingers slowly through the drifting pinyon smoke.

"By air, I create the seed." The smoke swirled in lazy, dancing circles.

With the same hand she reached for the piece of folded paper, on which was written a single sentence in CC's compact cursive hand, "I want magic in my life." The wish filled her mind… Oh, please, she prayed.

"By fire, I warm it."

The paper went into the fire and caught instantly ablaze with a fierce, green flame.

Through her mind brushed the thought that it shouldn't have done that—it was just a simple piece of copy paper. Nothing about it could have made a wild, green flame. CC's heartbeat increased erratically, but she forced her hand to be steady as she took the crystal glass filled with cold, clear water and with delicate flicks of her fingers she scattered it in a small circle around the chimenea.

"By water, I nourish it."

CC stepped within the newly made circle. It glistened in the moonlight like lacework made of mercury. She bent back to the table and gathered the sprigs of mint in her hand.

"By Earth, I cause it to grow."

She tossed the delicate plants into the fire where they sizzled and glowed. She watched as they began to dissolve. For an instant CC thought they looked like some kind of exotic seaweed, and she could actually smell the salty tang of the ocean.

"From spirit, I draw the power to make all things possible as I join in the power of the goddess." With a burst of emotion CC dropped the text to the table and completed the words of the ritual as if they were written upon her heart. "Thank you, Gaea, Great Mother Goddess!"

As if in response to her invocation, the breeze shifted and cooled. The pinyon smoke spiraled up, diaphanous and glowing with the light of aquamarines. Transfixed, CC watched it disappear into the moon-drenched sky.

The breeze continued to increase, and CC impulsively raised her hands over her head, fingers outstretched as if she could capture the moon within them. Slowly she began to sway, letting the wind move her in time to the symphony of the night. Her bare feet found their own dance as they followed the circumference of the damp circle. The wind licked her body, drawing the silk of her nightgown against the warmth of her skin.

CC looked down at her body, and felt her eyes widen in surprise. Usually she thought of herself as too petite to be considered sexy, but tonight the moonlight mingled with silk, casting a spell on her body. Through the thin fabric her breasts were clearly visible and her small, perfect nipples felt sensitive and tight as they puckered against its softness. She swung her leg forward in a graceful dance step that had lain dormant within her since grade-school ballet lessons. The nightgown molded itself to her thighs, making her feel like she had just stepped from the canvas of a voluptuous Maxfield Parrish painting. The moonlight caught the ripples and folds of silk, giving life to the pale color and turning it into frothing sea foam. She laughed aloud at her unexpected beauty and twirled on feet that had wings.

"I have magic!" she proclaimed to the night.

Shadows flitted across the balcony, and she looked up to see wisps of clouds, like half-formed thoughts, beginning to obscure the face of the attendant moon. The wind increased,

GODDESS OF THE SEA

and CC's dance kept time with it, mirroring the tempo of the swaying trees.

The deafening crack of thunder should have frightened her, but instead CC felt like the coming storm had originated within her body. When the blue-white shard of lightning pierced the sky, it only fueled her appetite for the night, and she whooped, adding her own voice to the tempest.

Like a ripened fruit the sky burst apart, sending a rush of whimsical rain to join in her celebration. CC spun and twirled and laughed aloud. She reveled in every instant. She noticed how her plants seemed to move their leaves with her, and how the falling rain glistened amidst them like faceted jewels. Her eyes were drawn to the mundane stretch of blacktop parking lot below her, and she was amazed at how the rain had transformed it into the glasslike surface of a mysterious, shadow-covered ocean.

CC lifted her arms and pirouetted as the rain swathed her in damp majesty. She laughed aloud and believed she clearly heard the sound of another woman's musical laughter—and for a magically suspended moment their voices merged, filling the balcony with joy and love.

Then the sky exploded with another flash of light, and the rain roped down in a torrent. CC realized that her drapes were billowing wildly within her apartment and rain was drenching her living room carpet. Still laughing, she scrambled wetly through the open patio doors and pulled them securely closed behind her.

Shivering a little in a puddle of sopped carpet she should have felt melted; instead she felt invigorated. CC held her arms away from her body and watched as drops of water, sparkling like diamonds, slid down the soaked cloth of her nightgown.

"I have never been this alive." She was compelled to speak the words aloud. She shook her head, letting the water float around her, and ran her fingers through her short curls.

"I will let it grow," she promised.

And she realized her hair wasn't all she was ready to change. She was going to break her own mold.

Walking lightly, she made her way back to her bathroom and pulled a thick towel from the linen shelf. On the short dresser next to her bed she lit a candle that she had bought from a quaint little boutique aptly named the Secret Garden. She breathed deeply, filling herself with the candle's delicious vanilla-rum fragrance. The sweet scent drifted around her as she flicked the thin, damp straps of the gown from her shoulders and let the fabric slither from her body. Standing in the candlelit room she began to towel-dry, rubbing her already sensitized skin with light, circular strokes. Her hair was almost dry when she slid naked between the coolness of the clean sheets. With fingertips that were on fire, she caressed herself. Closing her eyes she moaned and arched into her hand, delighted and surprised by the exquisitely electric sensations that cascaded through her body.

As velvet sleep swept her away, CC was sure she heard a woman's laughter, the same magical laughter she had heard while she danced in the rain on her balcony. CC's lips curved into a smile, and she slept.

And while she slept, CC dreamed that a man's voice called to her in deep, seductive tones. Her dreaming body responded to that call and strained forward, but she felt unusually sluggish. In her dream she opened her eyes. She was surrounded by a veil of liquid blue. I'm underwater, her sleeping mind acknowledged.

Come to me, my love.

The rich voice sounded within her mind, and CC's pulse jumped.

Yes! She tried to yell her answer, but in her dream she was mute.

A light shimmered over her head and she peered up, squinting into the brightness. Just above the surface of the water a shape appeared. CC floated up, and the shape took on form and became a man. He was dark and exotic. His hair fell around his wide, bronzed shoulders in a black wave and his eyes laughed down at her. Through the ripples of the crystal waves she could see his easy smile as his outstretched hand beckoned to her.

She tried to reach up and take his hand, but her arm felt leaden. It would not obey her desire to respond.

The man's handsome face saddened. He looked lost and the voice inside her head was filled with longing.

Please come to me…

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