“He’s hurting me, Roman,” Patrice whined. “Make him stop!”
Roman closed his laptop and set it aside. “Excuse us a moment, won’t you?” The tall, pale man unfolded from the chair and gestured to the sofa. “Do make yourself comfortable. This may take a moment,” he told the young man. Roman wrapped cool fingers around Patrice’s good arm and walked toward the kitchen. She followed along briskly.
“No worries, we have time. First sessions always take a while,” chirped the physical therapist. Roman wished he were better at remembering names. So many years, so many names.
Barely into the kitchen, Patrice whirled. “I don’t like him. He’s hurting me. Make him stop. You can turn him and make him stop!” She clapped her hands, delighted with her solution, but winced as it jarred her shoulder.
Roman summoned the peace he forever displayed. “Patrice, you had surgery. You can’t cast a simple spell until you can wave your arm properly. It won’t happen without physical therapy. I’m not going to eat someone to get you out of therapy. It’s just some pain.” He tried to take the sting out of his words. “Get it over with, dear. I hear they use heat and massage to soothe after the work.”
Patrice’s eyes lit up before she turned away. She left, muttering, “Sure, just some pain. Easy for the vampire to say.” He heard her in the living room. “Okay, Ralph. Let’s get this over with.” Ralph. Who would have thought Mr. Chirpy would be named Ralph? Perhaps Roman would be able to remember such an incongruous name.
Just then, Patrice let out a howl. Roman heard the raw pain in it. Poor dear, rotator cuff surgery at 52. He secretly agreed when their resident grad student/errand boy said, “That’s what she gets for choosing that horrible familiar. The cat nearly broke Patrice’s neck when he tripped her!” Patrice hotly argued it was a mere accident. The cat looked on, yellow eyes narrowed and not a purr to be heard, as always.
When Roman returned to the living room, Mr. Chirpy – wait, Ralph – was laughing and pushing aside the hissing beast with his foot. “I don’t think your cat is too happy with me, Miss Patrice.”
“Neither am I,” Patrice flung at him. She sighed and bent to do the exercise again. This time she merely whimpered foul language.
Roman sat and opened his laptop, scanning the New York Times website. He vaguely heard the therapist speaking soothing words to Patrice amid her groans. The latter stopped, but the former continued. Roman caught some of the instructions. “… take your painkillers… make it easier… shoulder’s a little frozen, have to loosen …” When the quiet continued for several moments, Roman glanced over. Patrice was on the odd massage chair getting the full treatment. His lips twitched in what passed for a smile and he returned to his online newspaper.
“Your range of motion is super! You’re working with the weights and pulley like a pro, Miss Patrice. They’re yours to keep. Use them a few times a week, okay? Promise?” Ralph’s winsome head tilt and teasing tone made Patrice smile.
“Are you telling me we’re finished? I graduated?” she asked. Roman detected a sly tone, very subtle, as he watched from the stairwell.
“Soon as we finish heat therapy and massage, you’ll be rid of me. Two weeks early!” How Ralph managed to be jovial with Patrice throughout all these weeks of her attitude was beyond Roman’s understanding. He nodded in greeting to them as he entered the living room.
“I wouldn’t miss it for the world.” Patrice spoke silkily as she slid onto the chair and lowered the back of her robe. Ralph put the dampened heating pad in place. After a bit, she sighed as Ralph began the massage.
Everything seemed fine, even slightly celebratory. Roman trusted his instincts, though. Something was wrong. He elected to stay, casually scanning Twitter as though it interested him.
Soon the sighing ended. Roman glanced up to see her pulling up her robe as … Ralph, that was it… gathered towels and folded the chair. “There we go, all packed up. Thank you for allowing me to work with you, Miss Patrice.” He turned to Roman, “Ms. Path wants you to know she appreciates your choosing her agency, sir.” Roman raised an eyebrow, but nodded.
“Thank you for the message, Ralph.”
The boy shouldered his bags and hoisted the chair by its handle. “Keep up the great work, Miss Patrice. Feel free to call me if needed.”
“Oh, so kind, Ralph. I don’t think I’ll be needing you any longer.” That sly tone was in full bloom. Roman’s lips pursed as he turned toward her, laptop set aside.
“Patrice, dear,” he began.
“Roman, hush!” she snapped. “I’m just saying goodbye.”
Ralph looked between them, his eyes twinkling. “Nothing wrong with saying goodbye, sir.”
In that moment, Patrice slipped her aged ash wand from her robe pocket. She giggled as she raised it high. Roman spoke sharply, not yet using Command. Hoping it wasn’t necessary. “Put it down, Patrice.”
Patrice spoke the sacred tones as she lowered the wand in a wavy motion toward Ralph. As she raised the wand abruptly, she said triumphantly, “So mote it be!” Roman winced.
The boy, however, seemed unperturbed. Patrice stared until she stomped her foot. “Nicely done,” Ralph told her cheerfully. “Don’t take it personally. It was a well-done disapparition spell. It’s just…” He pulled the collar of his shirt aside.
Patrice growled. “You have a warding glyph tattoo!”
“Several variations, actually. We specialize in working with paras, after all.” He smiled kindly at Patrice. “One doesn’t work for M. Path, Inc. without protection. Goodbye now.” He whistled his way out the door.
“If you still need to make something disappear,” Roman said dryly, “start with the cat.”