Love Is Everything
“You are sure?” Valentine asked in her soft, throaty, sing-song New Orleans accented voice.
I was sure. Heck yeah, I was sure.
I could not wait.
“Finnie,” my friend Claudia hissed from my side and I looked from Valentine to Claudia to see Claudia looked pale and alarmed. “This is crazy,” she went on then elaborated. “Crazier than when you bungee jumped, crazier than when you jumped from a plane, crazier than when you swam with the sharks, crazier –”
I cut her off, saying through a smile, “I didn’t swim with sharks, they just crashed the party.”
Claudia’s eyes got squinty. “You know what I mean. And I’ll throw in treasure hunting with that guy who thought he was the Indiana Jones of this generation but who was, I will remind you,” she leaned in, “not. And that time you nearly got stampeded by elephants when you were on safari –”
I looked to Valentine. “That was unfortunate. And it wasn’t my fault no matter what anyone says.”
Valentine’s eyelids lowered a little, like a cat who was coasting to sleep.
Seriously, this bitch was cool.
“Finnie!” Claudia snapped and I looked back at my friend.
“I get it sweetheart, you think I’m nuts.”
“You are nuts if you…” she leaned forward again, her eyes darting with more than a little obvious distrust at Valentine before coming back to me, “think you’re going to a parallel universe.”
“I can assure you,” Valentine put in smoothly, “she will.”
I looked at Valentine. Her hair was a dark, shining auburn, real as far as I could tell. Her skin was alabaster. Her body was long and very thin. Her descent, she declared, was pure Creole, in other words, her people were there before our people were there (her people being the Europeans and when she explained this to us during our first meeting with her a couple of days ago, after, of course, corresponding with her for months to set up this gig, it was she who added the emphasis). She had a kickass place in the French Quarter. She had major class from her perfectly coiffed head to her killer Jimmy Choo clad toes. She reeked of money even more than me and I was loaded.
And, incidentally, she was, I’d learned from a variety of reliable sources, an extremely powerful witch.
“Okay,” Claudia stated, “say you do this. Say you send Finnie there –”
“Her name, is Seoafin,” Valentine cut in haughtily, her green eyes sliding elegantly to me, “that is far more chic then…” her lips turned down and one nostril quivered delicately, “Finnie.”
The nostril quiver, I thought, was a good touch.
“Well I, and all her friends who know her and love her and don’t want to see her get gouged by someone like you, call her Finnie,” Claudia returned.
Valentine forced her gaze to Claudia (and made it obvious she did so) and she said one word, the ice dripping from it underlining a meaning the word did not exactly have but could not be missed, “Indeed.” Then she looked back at me and her face warmed, slightly. “Sjofn is the Goddess of Love. And love,” her eyelids suddenly fluttered dreamily, “love,” she breathed then she focused on me with a strange intensity that made me, even me, squirm a little, “love is everything.”
Okay, this bitch had style and class but she was whacked.
“All righty,” I whispered.
“Oh my God!” Claudia cried. “This is insane!”
Valentine’s eyes sliced to Claudia and her gaze grew sharp. “It is far from insane. Magic is entirely natural it is not insane. And I will remind you of what I’ve told you repeatedly, this is not something I would normally do. It is because I like your friend, I admire her…” her green gaze travelled the length of Claudia seated in her chair, “outside her choice in acquaintances, that is, and she carries the name of a goddess, and that goddess is the goddess of love, that I’m doing it at all. She should feel honored.”
“I do, totally,” I assured her and Valentine smiled benignly at me.
“Yeah, she should feel honored,” Claudia cut in sarcastically. “What with Finnie giving you a million dollars, she should feel honored. Right”
Valentine sniffed delicately and condescendingly as any uppity bitch would do when money was brought up.
Claudia was a dog with a bone. “So, say you can actually pull off this nonsense. Where’s she going? What’s she going to do when she gets there? And are you sure you can bring her back?”
“She is going to Lunwyn, a beautiful, snow-covered country at the very top of the Northlands. She is taking the place of the Seoafin who lives there who, by the way,” Valentine looked again at me, “actually spells it properly.” She turned again to Claudia. “She will assume the life of the other her. She will be there for the time we agreed, that is one year to this very day, this very hour, this very minute and then, in this very place,” she raised a pale, graceful hand and pointed a long, thin, lethally-rounded, blood red-tipped fingernail at the thick rug on the floor, “I will switch them back.”
“Right,” Claudia whispered, clearly thinking Valentine was a loon.
I grabbed Claudia’s hand and pulled it to me. “Honey, listen to me. Valentine’s been in touch with this, uh… other me. She’s on board and she wants this as much as me. I’ve written a twenty page report on my life and all she needs to know about it to show her the way and she’ll have you.” I squeezed her hand. “She’s going to write to me about what I need to know about her life. It’s all sorted. It’s all good. But if I do this, which I’m going to do, this has to happen very soon. The window is closing.”
Claudia stared in my eyes and I saw fear in hers. “Okay, Finnie, I get this, I get it, I’ve gotten it for years. I get what you want from this. I get that your Dad, your Mom –”
My lungs seized and my back went straight before I snapped, “Don’t.”
She squeezed my hand and kept at me. “I wouldn’t but you’re giving me no choice. You’re giving this woman a million dollars for something…” she shook her head, “for whatever this is and you have no idea if it’s going to work, where she’ll send you if it does and what will happen once you get there.”
I grinned. “That’s the adventure,” I pointed out the obvious.