Macky Takes a Vow of Silence

. . . . .

"You're still here?"

Macky eyed his older brother with displeasure when he encountered him at the top of the stairs. Following his sister's advice, he'd taken a quick shower and changed into a plain white T-shirt and a pair of cargo shorts. Dawkins, who was trotting at his feet, yipped his own inquiry, but then decided not to wait for an answer and bounded on downstairs.

Rahil lifted his eyebrows. "I live here, little bro. That one there happens to be my room," he drawled, jerking his thumb toward his bedroom door.

Macky scowled. "You know what I mean. Don't you have a date with some hot chick or something?"

"Nah, I feel like chilling for now. Even I need some down time from my adoring fans every now and then," his brother tossed over his shoulder as he trotted down the stairs.

Macky thinned his lips in annoyance. Although Audrey showed no signs of being the slightest bit interested in his brother, he couldn't help but feel uneasy with Rahil around, with his crooked smiles, ripped body, and eyes at least one girl had described as "wet-panties sexy", which was bizarre because Macky possessed the exact same set of eyes, yet they didn't produce the same effect for him. "Adoring fans. You mean your pissed-off ex-girlfriends," he snorted as he plodded after Rahil.

Only to nearly bump into him when his brother abruptly stopped. "Say, about your pretty guest, how far have you gotten with her?" he asked.

Annoyance turned into anger. "The hell I'm answering that question," Macky growled. As if sensing the escalation of his emotions, Dawkins clattered back to his side and looked up from one brother to the other, whining a little.

"Okay, chill, that came out wrong," Rahil said, raising a placating hand. "What I meant was, how much progress have you made? Because we see that you two are pretty close, but earlier she said she's not your girlfriend? What's up with that?"

"Still not answering that question," Macky said coldly.

Rahil sighed. "I'm offering to help you, little bro. Don't get so defensive."

"I don't need your help. Just stay out of my—"

A door creaked open upstairs, followed by Sam's voice calling out: "Audrey, come on. They're waiting for us."

"O-okay. Are you sure I look all right?"

"You look perfect," Sam assured her.

Macky turned around, then forgot how to breathe. Sam was coming downstairs, her wide smile collapsing into a suspicious frown when she spotted Rahil standing beside Macky. Macky was completely oblivious to his sister, however. All his attention was riveted on the girl coming down the stairs behind her. Audrey was wearing a blue shirt dress with a hoodie, her black and gold-streaked hair falling softly around her shoulders. The dress molded all the curves of her body and ended at mid-thigh to show off her long, long legs, proving once and for all how wrong Macky and Billy were about her. A human stick insect, she was definitely not. Looking at her made his entire body feel feverish, and it was a real struggle not to ogle her like some kind of pervert.

Thank you, Ate Sam, he thought anyway.

He solved the problem by focusing on her face, and found her shy gaze fixed upon him. She hesitated on her next step, and remembering that she became a little clumsy whenever she felt self-conscious, he started toward her, reaching out a hand to help her down the stairs. Then his view of her was partially obscured as Rahil cut in front of him to offer his own hand to Audrey, who blinked at him as if only then realizing he was there.

"Now this is a sight I'm glad I stayed home for," he purred, smiling up at Audrey while Macky briefly entertained thoughts of fratricide. "May I escort you to dinner, Miss?"

Audrey shot Macky a slightly panicked look. "Um, well…"

"Why, how nice of you, brother. Let's go," Sam interrupted, hooking her arm around Rahil's and dragging him off toward the dining room, leaving Macky and Audrey alone on the stairs.

Thank you, Ate Sam, Macky thought again.

After a beat of silence, the two of them spoke at the same time: "You look—"

They stopped and looked at each other in surprise, then they both laughed. "You go first," Macky offered.

"I was just going to say you look all cool and fresh," Audrey replied, reaching out to touch his still-damp hair. Her fingers trembled as they curled around the strands before she pulled her hand back, and he couldn't help but wish she'd prolonged their contact. "Wh-what about you? What were you about to say?" she asked.

"That you look amazing," he admitted. "That color looks good on you."

"Thank you. The dress is a bit too short, though. Turns out I'm a good deal taller than Ate Sam," she said ruefully, gesturing at her hemline. "The good news is, this dress has got really big pockets. See?" she added brightly, producing her phone from one of the pockets.

Using the excuse she gave him to ogle her legs, he did exactly that, finishing with a heated look through his lashes. "It looks just the right length to me," he said with a slow smile.

Audrey's face turned a lovely shade of red. "W-we should go. They're wait—ah!"

She took another step down, only to trip over Dawkins, who'd been sticking close to them. As she lurched forward, she made a grab for the banister, missed, and ended up crashing into Macky, who fortunately had prepared himself for such an event. He caught her with one arm, his other hand grasping the banister for balance, while Dawkins gave a little yelp and scrambled out of the way, looking at them reproachfully.

"Dawkins! I'm so sorry, I didn't see him there." Audrey straightened up, bracing herself against Macky's shoulder with one hand, the other one righting her glasses. Somehow, they ended up standing close together, just one step apart, with his arm around her and both her hands settling on his shoulders. Macky heard his heart pounding in his ears as their gazes locked, and again, there was only one coherent thought in his head.

I want to kiss you.

"We should go," she repeated breathlessly, and he willed himself to let her go.

They came into the dining room to find the family already seated at the table, watching them with expressions ranging from curious to knowing to downright sly. Macky watched Audrey glance about her nervously as they passed around platters of spaghetti and meatballs, tossed salad, chicken wings and caramel pudding. He tried looking at the scene from her eyes—a spacious, curtain-lined room dominated by a large dinner table made of ornate burnished hardwood with eight matching chairs, a cut crystal dish filled with floating flowers as centerpiece, and a chandelier shaped vaguely like a lily hanging from the ceiling. His dad sat at the head of the table, with his mother to the right of him, Nisa beside their mother, and Macky beside Nisa. To his dad's left sat Sam and Rahil, with Audrey sitting beside Rahil and directly across Macky, probably to keep things symmetrical. He had to admit, from an outsider's point of view, it gave the impression that Velasco family dinners were more formal than they actually were, and he gave Audrey a reassuring smile to let her know it was okay for her to relax a bit and be more comfortable.

Every time Rahil turned to her to engage her in conversation, it set Macky's teeth on edge, but he was relieved to note that her eyes strayed toward him most of the time. Most of the dinner talk was dominated by Nisa's chattering about the kittens and by their parents directing questions toward either Audrey or Macky or both. They asked about school, about Audrey's family and Bark Park, and about Macky's volunteer work with the PSPAR, which was apparently a concept they had trouble wrapping their heads around.

At one point, his mother noticed the glazed look on Audrey's face and smiled apologetically. "Sorry, dear. We didn't mean to give you the third degree," she said. "We're just happy that Malkiel finally brought one of his friends home to meet us. Of course, we've known John Eli since the boys were toddlers, and there was that other one…?"

"Billy," Macky muttered, steeling himself against the sound of his real name, which his mother for some reason kept insisting on using instead of calling him by his nickname.

"This is the first time Malkiel's brought a girl home," his mom went on. "How long have you two known each other?"

Macky heard Audrey's intake of breath and caught the flash of emotion in her eyes for a moment. "I've known about him since grade school, Ma'am," she said, a tad evasively.

"Don't you remember, Mom? There was that one summer when Macky and Audrey had playdates together. I used to drive him over to her house back when I was still practice-driving," Ate Sam put in.

"Playdates. That's so cute," Rahil drawled, smiling at Macky in a way that made his face burn.

"She's the one who gave Dawkins to him," Sam added.

At the sound of his name, Dawkins, who was lying at his usual place beside Macky's chair, lifted his head and snuffled as if to say 'yeah, me!' The faces of both his parents registered recognition, while Nisa's went incandescent with hope.

But Sam wasn't done yet. "Then after that…what happened? It's like we never heard from you again until now," she wondered out loud, this time turning to Audrey.

Again, there was that flicker of dark emotion in Audrey's eyes. "My mom and I went to the US when I was in seventh grade, and we stayed there for two years. Macky and I just kind of lost contact, I suppose," she explained evenly.

"That's lame," Nisa snorted. "You didn't have WhatsApp? Viber? Facebook? There was Facebook back then, right? You guys didn't even chat?"

Macky became aware of an ache in his chest as he stared at her. She was avoiding his eyes again, and there was an almost cold expression on her face that sent a frisson of fear through him. "No," she said distantly. "We didn't chat or anything. We weren't friends then."

"Enough. You just said you weren't going to give her the third degree anymore," he cut in, the fear pushing him to glower at his family. For some reason, he didn't want to hear Audrey talk about their past anymore. He didn't want to hear her speak of that mysterious time after the summer of their twelfth year, not even to fill in the odd gap in his memories of that time. For the first time since they officially went on their date, he felt an almost desperate urge to check his Heart2Heart notifications on his phone. Maybe there was a lantern icon there with some sort of insight that could spell out for him what he was so afraid of. Maybe Heart2Heart could explain to him something he couldn't bring himself to face.

Everyone looked at him in surprise, then Nisa raised her hand. "One last question. You're the one who gave Dawkins to Kuya Macky, right?" she asked Audrey.

"Uhuh," Audrey replied, and Macky was glad to see that the coldness in her face had vanished and she was looking normal again.

"Then can you give me one of the kittens? Please, please, pleeeeease?" Nisa entreated. "I really want Patches—Mog Unit 03 to you. She's my favorite kitten, so pleeeeease?"

His mother uttered a long-suffering sigh while his dad began: "Now, Nisa…"

"You let Kuya Macky have a dog," Nisa pointed out with impeccable child-logic.

"Your Kuya Macky's proven he's responsible enough to take care of a dog," his mother countered. "And since he got Dawkins, he's kept his grades up as well. This was our condition for him then, and it will be our condition for you if you do get a pet. Can you do this?"

"Yes! I can be responsible, too! And Kuya Macky's not the only one who's good in school!"

"Um, excuse me," Audrey said timidly, and all eyes turned to her. "I'm sorry, Nisa, but I'm afraid you can't adopt any of the Mog Units, although it's sweet of you to offer."

"What? Why noooot?" Nisa whined while her parents sent Audrey a look of ill-concealed gratitude.

"Because the Mog Units already have owners," Macky informed her. "We're just fostering them until tomorrow, then we're taking them back to their mama. It'll be another week before they're given to their new owners."

Nisa's face crumpled, and everyone unconsciously braced themselves. "Nooooooooo!"

While their little sister was carrying on, Rahil suddenly stood up, taking his plate with him and drawing their parents' attention. "Rahil, you're leaving?" their mother said in dismay. "But you haven't had dinner with the family in such a long time."

"Another night out with your lady friends?" their dad asked, disapproval radiating from him.

"Please, he's not going anywhere," Sam scoffed, giving her other younger brother an arch look. "He's hiding out from Loraine, because if she gets wind that he's out and about, she's going to murder him."

Rahil halted as he walked past Audrey's chair, and turned to look back over his shoulder at his family. "Don't worry. I'm not leaving, and it's not about Loraine either," he said, raising his eyebrows at his older sister. "Hey, it's my nerdy little bro's first time to bring a girl over, so how can I miss this important milestone in his life?"

Then he bowed to Audrey and gave her his most charming smile, but it was Macky who caught the sardonic look his older brother cast his way before he headed to the kitchen without a backward glance.

That baffling moment involving Rahil was the only rough patch during dinner—well, that and Audrey's inexplicable withdrawal while she was talking about the past. Still, Macky was only too happy for the dinner to end. Nisa and Audrey went over to the laundry room to take over kitten-sitting duties from Ate Bella and to feed the Mog Units while he stayed behind to clear the table, then went outside to feed Dawkins and let him out for his pre-bedtime patrol.

While Dawkins ran around the backyard, Macky went to the laundry room and cracked open the door to find Nisa and Audrey deep in conversation, only to freeze when he realized what the subject of that conversation was.

"—believe in magic," Nisa was saying, the traitorous brat. "Well, sure, I love Sailor Moon and Miraculous Ladybug and Star and the Forces of Evil. But I don't mean those. I mean like, real magic, like sorcery and witchcraft and stuff. Do you believe in magic, too, Ate Audrey?"

Audrey said something Macky couldn't hear, then Nisa spoke again: "Well, yeah, but I think magic still exists, you know? It works even through technology. Like, have you heard of Heart2Heart? It's a magical app that works like a love charm in your phone. It's so popular right now. Me and my friends all have it, and I'm trying it out on this boy in my class. You know what? I bet you know someone who's got—"

Macky threw open the door. "Nisa, Mom's calling for you," he barked, causing both girls to stop and look up at him from their positions on the floor the basin of kittens in front of them.

"Ssshhhh! The kittens are about to fall asleep," Nisa shushed him. Then her eyes narrowed. "And Mom isn't really calling for me. You're just making that up."

"You want to risk it?" Macky regarded her levelly, pushing his bluff as far as it would go. Brother and sister engaged in a battle of wills, then finally Nisa glanced at Audrey, sighed loudly, and pushed herself up off the floor.

"Fine, I'm going. See you later, Ate Audrey," she called as she exited the room.

Macky anxiously studied Audrey's face as he sat down on the floor beside her, trying to assess just how much damage control he needed to do after his little sister's indiscriminate yapping. Audrey pushed her glasses up and peeked cautiously at him, and he gave a silent sigh of relief when he saw that her expression held no hint of suspicion or accusation. "Um, thanks for the rescue," she said. "Nisa's adorable and really friendly, but she, ah, kind of likes to talk."

"Don't I know it," he groaned, leaning back against the shelf. "I can't really tell her off, though, because we've got the same problem. It's like John Eli says. Once we open our mouths, we don't know how to close it again. We just keep going and going."

"You, Professor? You have trouble keeping your mouth shut? Say it ain't so." She put a hand to her mouth like a scandalized matron, and he elbowed her in the side, chuckling. "Well, if you mean your lectures, I kind of like them," she admitted and when he looked at her in comical shock, she stuck her tongue out at him. "Yes, believe it or not, somebody likes your lectures. I think it's amazing how you can absorb and process knowledge so easily, and I learn a lot just listening to you. I really like that about you, Macky," she finished, her face coloring.

He gaped at her, then pulled out his phone. "Hold that thought. I'm taking a video of you saying that and I'm sending it to John and Billy. Otherwise, they'd never believe it."

She laughed again. "You don't have to. I'll say it to their faces."

"It's a deal. But talk about faces, I know what else we can send them," he said with a grin. They spent the next few minutes taking selfies, with the two of them holding the Mog Units, then hunkering down as close to the basin as they could so they could take selfies with the kittens in the basin. They sent the photos of Mog Unit 01 to John Eli and Rowie, as well as the other Mog Units' future owners, but Macky particularly liked the photos he took of Audrey and him with their heads close together, and the one he took of Audrey alone to remind him of the way she looked in that dress. That last one he kept to himself.

Then he asked her to hand him her phone so he could take selfies of them together with her phone, but she shook her head, one hand covering her pocket almost protectively. "No need," she told him. "Just send me the photos through chat."

"You sure? It's no biggie."

"I'm sure," she replied firmly. "We're going to be chatting a lot anyway, since we've got two deadlines next week."

"Oh, right." He glanced down at the kittens curled up and drowsing in the basin, gathering his courage to take the opening that Heart2Heart had given him by throwing them together for schoolwork. "About that, uh, I want to ask you—"

Her phone burbled, making her jump a little. She turned aside to check her phone, then stuffed it back into her pocket with a sigh: "It's my cousin. She says they'll be here in about half an hour."

"Oh. Half an hour, huh?" He looked away again, disappointment filling him at the realization that their date was coming to an end. Nevertheless, he still felt happy at the thought of seeing her again, and deeply encouraged that she hadn't closed the door on him yet. Of course, there was that thing he wanted to ask her. When he checked his phone after his shower, he found a notification from Heart2Heart indicating that he had one more week remaining for the magic to work. His mission might have changed, but he was still going to give it his all to make her fall in love with him, to make her say the words out loud. Now more than ever.

Then he felt a touch on his hand, and found Audrey gazing earnestly at him. "I know I've been saying this all day, but thank you for doing this," she said, smiling so warmly that his heart began to race. "To be honest, I'm glad you're the one who's taking care of the Mog Units."

He cocked an eyebrow at that. "That's a lot of faith in someone who's never even handled a cat before."

"It's not that big a stretch," she countered. "I've seen how you take care of Dawkins. Seeing him all grown up and happy is just amazing, and it's so obvious that you love him."

"Well, yeah, of course, I love him. After all, you—" gave him to me, he thought, but the words died in his throat as that weird panic he'd felt earlier caught him in its grip again. Conscious of her gaze upon him, he took a deep breath to get the urge to bolt under control, and managed to croak: "I mean, he's Dawkins."

"Yeah. That—that's true." She bit her lip, then turned aside to partially cover the kitten' basin with an old sheet to let them sleep. The silence threatened to turn awkward, and Macky found himself feeling flustered and at a loss again. Finally, she straightened her shoulders and fixed him a bright smile. "So, anyway, you were about to ask me something?"

Come on, dumbass. You're wasting time. Just ask her already. Cursing his tendency to lose his cool as well as his ability to string words together at the most inconvenient moments, he forced himself to look into her eyes. "Next week, as you said, we'll be working together a lot to finish those projects for class," he began, fully aware that his face was heating up and his palms were starting to sweat from nervousness.

"Uhuh," she said, her expression turning faintly puzzled.

"Which means we're going to be meeting a lot after school. So…so I was wondering if it'd be okay for me to—I mean, if you'd be okay with me walking you home after school. Not just next week but, you know, indefinitely." Her eyes went as wide as saucers as color began to rise in her own face. Heartened by the fact that she hadn't turned him down yet, he started to talk faster. "And maybe we could have lunch together every now and then. Your friends and mine, like what we did yesterday, which you have to admit was pretty fun. And someday, just the two of us. And if it's all right with you, I'd like to visit you at your shop one day and meet the rest of your family, especially your mom. I'll bring Dawkins along so he can vouch for my good character," he added as a weak attempt at humor.

Her mouth fell open. "You—what you're asking me, it almost sounds like you're—"

He smiled lopsidedly, holding her gaze. "If you're thinking it sounds like I'm asking if I could court you properly to show you how serious I am about you…then you're right. I am asking you." She said nothing, merely stared at him with dazed disbelief, and suddenly the words came tumbling out of his mouth. "The thing is, I want to go on more dates with you, Audrey. Or not even dates, just hanging out with you is enough. If you're going to be rescuing animals, then I want to be there to help you. If you're going to pick a fight with the school administration, then I want to be there to back you up. If you're going through a hard time, then I want to be there for you, period. If you give me a chance, I'll prove to you that you can trust and rely on me as a friend and partner. And then maybe you'd consider—consider going out with me for real."

He finished his speech and watched her, not daring to breathe until she gave him her answer. Her response, though, was not what he expected. Tears flooded her eyes, and she lowered her head and covered her mouth with her hand. The sight of her tears and the muffled sound of her sniffling hit him like a blow to the chest, sending him into a panic. "I'm sorry! I—I didn't think…I don't mean to make you cry," he stammered, reaching out to touch her shoulder then stopping halfway and pulling his hand back. "Listen, I understand completely if your answer is no. I've been so rotten to you for so long and I'm not easiest guy to get along with so...shh, Audrey, don't cry. I'll back off, I swear. You'll never have to deal with me again," he added, drowning in misery.

Which turned into confusion when she shook her head and wiped her face. She shifted closer, angling her body to face him, then slid her hand, still wet with her tears, along the side of his jaw. Her touch was cool and gentle as she caressed his cheek, setting nerve endings on fire. Even with half of her face cast in shadow, he could see her eyes glowing with a helpless kind of tenderness, and her smile was both warm and wry.

"Macky…" she whispered. Then she leaned forward and kissed him on the lips. He tasted salt and sweetness, felt the soft warmth of her lips against his for the span of a heartbeat, then another. When she finally drew back, he had the strangest conviction that she'd drawn his heart out from his body and breathed it into hers, making him hers completely.

She lowered her hand and studied his face. "That's my answer," she said softly.

He himself had no more words to say. He simply took her face in both his hands and covered her mouth with his. Swaying closer, she opened herself to him, her hands clinging to his upper arms as the kiss swept through them both. He didn't notice the buzzing of his phone signaling another heart notification, nor did he hear the burbling of Audrey's phone at first. It was only when Dawkins started barking outside and scratching at the door did reality intrude, and he drew back reluctantly, licking his lips to savor the taste of her lingering there.

She slowly opened her eyes, a dreamy look on her face. He smiled at her and said: "Your phone is ringing."

"Crap!" She jerked back and pulled her phone out, again turning aside so he couldn't see her phone. Whatever it was she read though made the strangest expression appear on her face.

"What's wrong? Is it bad news?" he asked.

"Not…really," she answered, her voice oddly tight. "It's just my cousin. They're waiting outside your house."

"Oh. No wonder Dawkins is raising hell out there." He stood up then helped Audrey to her feet, but he didn't let go of her hand immediately. "Audrey, um, I…" he began, then stopped.

"Yes?" she whispered, her face both hopeful and oddly afraid.

I love you, he thought. Again, fear shot through him, and again, he found himself unable to speak. She was still waiting for him to continue though, so he covered up his inexplicable moment of distress by smiling at her and squeezing her hand. "Let's go tell my parents you're leaving. And don't worry. I've set an alarm so I can feed the Mog Units six hours from now."

"Oh. Um, okay," she said lamely, and he wondered for a moment if she looked more disappointed or relieved. I knew it, he thought as they went to the family den and Audrey said her goodbyes to his parents and Ate Sam, then he and Dawkins escorted her to their gate where her uncle's minivan was waiting.

I can't say the words yet. Maybe it's the magic that's stopping me. That means it's got to come from her first, he pondered as he watched her crouch down to pet Dawkins goodbye. That makes sense. That's how the magic works, after all. Heart2Heart is a virtual love charm. There's got to be some sort of sign that the charm worked, and what better sign is there than her saying the words?

The passenger seat window of the minivan rolled down, and a short-haired girl about the same age as Rahil stuck her head out. "Good night, Macky. See you at the shop soon, okay?"

Macky grinned back. "Yeah. Nice meeting you, Ate Michelle. And thanks for letting Audrey come here, Dr. Unson," he added to Audrey's uncle sitting in the driver's seat.

He opened the door of the minivan for her as Audrey smiled at him. "See you, Macky."

"Wait," he said before she could climb in. He took her hand and pressed something into it. "Open that when you get home."

Puzzled, she glanced down at the small red gift bag in her hand, then up at him, but before she could ask anything, her younger cousins in the back seat reached out and dragged her into the vehicle. Macky watched the minivan drive away, then he sighed and went back inside, shutting the gate and reactivating the security code.

Dawkins greeted him with a whine. "Don't worry, boy. You'll see her again soon," he said, scratching him behind the ears.

As they entered the house, they were met by Rahil coming downstairs. His older brother raised an eyebrow at him. "She's gone, huh? So did you make any sort of progress or are you going to screw this up again like you did last time?"

Macky glared at his brother. "I've got this, okay? She's as good as mine, so back off."

Rahil laughed. "Sure, little bro. But if you need expert advice on women, feel free to ask," he called out as he disappeared toward the kitchen.

There was a chat notification on Macky's phone, which he opened as he lay down in his bed. Audrey had sent him a picture of the object that had been wrapped in the gift bag he'd given her, which was now lying on her palm: a hair clip consisting of gleaming gold-colored wire shaped into the outline of a sitting cat. Judging from the lighting, she'd taken the photo while they were still in the minivan.

I can't believe you! she'd typed, followed by an angry emoji and a heart-eyed emoji.

I can't believe you, either, he typed back, adding a laughing emoji. I told you to open it when you got home.

My cousins made me open it. I love it but come on! This is too much already!

It's no big deal. I got it from one of those stores we saw earlier, so it's not that expensive. Besides, it's to replace the one I took from you.

What?

In reply, he sent her a selfie of himself lying on his bed and grinning, with his bangs clipped back by the hairclip he'd taken from her after their Social Science class weeks ago. You're not getting this back, by the way, he typed, followed by a smiling devil emoji.

It took her several minutes to respond, and when she did, it was to send him a selfie of her smiling cheekily in what appeared to be her bedroom, with the cat hairclip pinned in her hair. You can have it, she typed, adding her own smiling devil emoji. I've got one better.

He laughed out loud then closed his eyes and pressed his phone to his lips, smiling blissfully. Dawkins snuffled, and Macky suddenly became aware of what he was doing and lowered his phone, feeling embarrassed. He opened Heart2Heart and checked out the new heart icon he'd earned, standing out amidst a sea of roses and the occasional lantern, all of which he'd earned in just one day.

Bringing up the blog feature again, he typed: Today has been a resounding success. Much progress has been made. I'm feeling really good about my chances with her.

He paused and thought about it some more. I've got just one week left, but if I keep doing what I'm doing, I doubt it'll be a problem. In one week, she'll be mine. If the magic works like it should, by the end of the week she'll say the words to me. Then I can finally tell her

He fell asleep before he could finish the sentence, and never noticed the way the light on the screen of his phone turned indigo for a moment, then formed a thin stream of magenta sparkles that rose up and vanished toward the ceiling like smoke when his phone went dark.

Dawkins noticed though. He stirred in his basket and looked up at the ceiling for a moment then at his master, then shook his head and went back to sleep.