Author's Note: This is quite different from what I usually write. It was written in one sitting in a fit of inspiration, and I haven't really looked at it since.

I noticed that, in fantasy, love spells always seem to go wrong. What would happen if one worked exactly as it was supposed to?


The fire was always burning. All through the day, and all through the night (which was probably a fire hazard, people kept saying, but the house never burnt down. Obviously.)

He got up every night and went downstairs to check it was still burning. She knew, but she never thought anything of it, not for far too long.


It was six o'clock, the fire was burning and Julia was making dinner. Over the sounds of frying onions and bubbling pots, she heard someone running up the stairs.

"Erica?" she called. "Why're you going upstairs? I thought you were doing your homework or something?"

There was a pause, and then the sound of someone running back down the stairs. Erica appeared at the kitchen door. "I was just putting this back." she held up an old notebook. "It's Dad's. I think he left it down here."

"Alright, then. But you get on and work, okay?"

"Yes, Mum." And then she was back upstairs again, and Julia thought she heard paper rustling.

The door slammed shut. "Charlie?" called Julia. "I'm making dinner." It was what she always said. She was always making dinner when he came in.

"Of course you are." he came into the kitchen and stared at the fire. "Does the fire need more wood?"

"No, it's alright. I gave it some earlier."

"That's good. Where's Erica?"

"Doing her homework at the dining table."

"That's good."

And then he was gone again (a man of few words, but she loved him. She was sure of that).


Later the same day (that night), lying in bed, Julia heard and felt (but didn't see, because it was dark and she had her eyes closed, and she was facing the other way) him get up.

"Where're you going?"

"Just checking on the fire. Don't want it to go out while I'm asleep. The kitchen'll get cold, y'know."

"Oh." she said, and went back to sleep.

Downstairs, her husband heaved logs onto the fire to keep it going. Mustn't let it go out.


The next day, six o'clock again, Erica wandered into the kitchen.

"Still carrying that notebook?" said Julia.

"What? Oh, yeah." said Erica. "It's interesting. You know he used to be into spells and stuff?"

"Well, a lot of people are. When they're young."

"Yeah..." said Erica, and began flipping through the pages again.

If Julia had been listening, she'd have heard her daughter whisper 'love spell'. If she'd been looking, she'd have seen her staring at the fire for a long time before she left.


A few hours later, after dinner, while Julia was washing dishes and pans, Erica wandered in again. She was still holding that notebook.

"That notebook must be very interesting."

"Yes." said Erica. "Yes, it is." She stared at the fire for a while, then said; "Mum, how did you meet Dad?"

"It was just before I left university. We were at a party."

"And did you like him right away?"

"Well-" Julia considered the question. "No, not really. I didn't really pay much attention to him until the next time I saw him."

"And when was that?"

"About a week later, I think."

"And how long after that did you get married?"

"Only a month. It was a bit of a whirlwind romance, really. What does it matter, though, Erica?"

"Oh, it's nothing. I was just curious."


The next day, whilst she was dusting her husband's collection of toy cars, she heard some noise downstairs.

"Erica, just put it down..."

"It's not right, Dad!"

"Just put the bucket down!"

Julia frowned. "Is everything alright?" she called.

"Yes, dear." shouted Charlie, then; "Erica, this is ridiculous. Stop it!"

"But Dad, I won't let you..."

Julia hesitated, then put her duster down.

"It's got to happen some day, Dad."

"No...it ..doesn't!"

She began to walk, slowly at first, but then more purposefully, towards the stairs.

"The kitchen'll get cold!"

"I know what you're doing, Dad!"

Julia reached the landing and leant over the banister.

"Is everything alr-"

And then there was a thud, and a splash, and a hiss as the fire went out, and a shout of frustration from Charlie, and a slap, and a squeal from Erica.

"Charlie, did you just-" She started down the stairs, and the stopped.

It hit her like some kind of wave - she thought later that maybe it was seeing the fireplace empty - and some other fire went out, and when she looked at Charlie she saw the same bespectacled slightly overweight man she'd seen that first day she met him.

Not the man she loved. Never again.

Then she saw the man who'd just hit her daughter, and she was down the stairs in an instant.

"How dare you-"


"Do you have to leave?"

"Yes."

"But it's been twenty years of marriage..."

"Yes."

"But we've been happy..."

"Yes."

"But you loved me..."

Julia paused in her methodical packing. "You made me love you."

"But... you were happy... if Erica hadn't put the fire out..."

"It would have gone out some day. She was right."

"No, because I was keeping it..."

"It would have gone out."

"But it kept the spell going..."

"I know."

"The love spell..."

"I know." she slammed her suitcase shut.

"But we were happy..." said Charlie as she headed for the door. "I only wanted..."

The bedroom door slammed shut in his face. A moment later the front door followed suit, and Julia joined her daughter outside in the car, ready to leave him.

"I only wanted us to be happy."