Susan opened her eyes and looked at a soundly sleeping Andy next to her. What a Friday night. With the kids away--Erin staying at a friend`s house and Ryan at a track tournament--the couple took the opportunity to have a bit of fun. There weren`t any problems with the clothes, to Susan`s surprise. They were quite good about not moving about under Andrew`s scrutiny, so from his perspective, Susan had simply become a little more aggressive in her sexuality, something he had absolutely no quarrel with.
Susan smiled and closed her eyes again, letting the memories of the night before soak into her. Her clothes had her body and limbs all over her husband when he came home, making her seem an insatiable nympho. When Andy took her clothes off, he remarked that the task had never been so easy to do. Almost as if they wanted to come off, in his own words. Susan opened her eyes again. Oh, if he only knew the half of it.
Susan`s eyes jumped over to the closet, pulled by the movement in her peripheral. It was the same pink fuzzy slippers, tiptoeing out into the room and toward Susan`s side of the bed. Susan looked over at Andy again to make sure he was asleep. A well-timed half snore confirmed it. Susan carefully pulled her bare legs from under the covers and hung her feet over the edge of the bed.
Before she even had the chance to step into them, one of the slippers jumped up and slid itself over her left foot. The other followed right behind it, and Susan had to stifle a giggle. How long, exactly, did this spell last? Susan watched the slippers wiggle snugly onto her feet as she leaned forward.
"Hey there," she whispered as quietly as possible. "Be a dear and stir up a nightgown so I can go downstairs without waking him," Susan said. Not a second later, a floaty pink sleeveless gown hovered out of the closet and toward her. Susan held a hand to her mouth to keep her from laughing. "This is a little risque by itself," Susan said softly. "Maybe a robe as well?"
Susan`s gown was next to her now, and the hem at the bottom began pulling up and bunching the fabric together as if a pair of unseen hands were gathering the material up. As it hovered up and over her head, she lifted her arms to allow it to slide over her. Once it was draped over her body, it stood her up. Susan still wasn`t totally used to the idea of her clothing moving her body around, but it no longer startled her when they took the initiative.
Susan`s slippers seemed to grip the front of her feet as they pulled her forward. As they walked her toward the door of the bedroom, a robe trailed behind from her closet. The slippers stopped, and she was tapped on the shoulder by a silky sleeve. She put her arms out behind her as the silky black robe slid up her arms and wrapped around her, the sash tying itself to finish the job. She wondered if the robe was still a bit high on her thighs, but not wanting to wake Andy while her clothes shuffled around re-dressing her, she let the thought go.
As she walked out the door, a sleeve gently lifted her arm backwards, pointing it toward the door knob. Susan understood and grabbed the knob, shutting the door behind her. She let the set walk her down the stairs again, through the living room and into the kitchen. The clothes stopped.
"What shall we do?" Susan asked. "Andrew did a wonderful job last night...maybe he deserves breakfast in bed." The moment Susan suggested it, she felt a tugging at her foot. One of the pink slippers lifted her foot an inch off the ground and pulled itself off of her. "Hey--" Susan stumbled back a little, but her body was held up by the gown and robe. When she stepped back, the other slipper took the opportunity to shoot away from her toes.
Now the slippers landed and stood across from her, swinging their heels back and forth. Susan wasn`t sure what they were up to until she saw a sweatshirt bobbing through the living room, carrying something in its sleeves. As it got closer, she saw that it was the spellbook.
"Ah, I see. Some incantations to help us along?" Susan asked.
The slippers danced around in the kitchen as the sweatshirt opened the book to a page and held it out, propping it up as if it were a podium made of cloth. Susan reached out and pulled up the hood, which looked like it was draped around an invisible head inside. The sweatshirt held out the book, extending its sleeves toward Susan. She noticed immediately that it was another animation spell.
"You want me to bring the kitchen to life?" Susan asked. "I don`t know about that."
One of the sleeves of the sweatshirt made a shrugging gesture in response. Why not? Susan had a good reason.
"Well, there`s a lot of pointy-sharp nasty objects in the kitchen, and it would very bad if any of them suddenly developed a temper," Susan explained. She watched as both the heels of the slippers and the hood of the sweatshirt responded in a resounding 'no' by shaking back and forth.
"Do you promise you`ll keep me safe?" Susan asked. Both articles nodded in their own ways now, the heels of the slippers bobbing with the hood of the sweatshirt. Susan smiled. "Well, if I trust you enough to pick me up off the ground and not drop me, I guess breakfast should be easy, right?" She murmured the words describing the spell on the page in front of her. "Oh, it`s a chore spell! That`s handy." She held up her hands.
"Vitrek ajicit quor khee; shop and wash and cook and clean, make a maid that stays unseen!" Susan had to improvise. The spell said `mend' and wash and cook and clean, But Susan didn`t really do any mending. She didn`t think it would hurt if she updated the intention of the spell to the modern day. After all, it was the same goal, wasn`t it?
It started the moment the words came off her tongue. A plate sailed out of the cabinet and her refrigerator popped open. Three eggs hovered out along with the milk jug. The bread had already opened; six slices pulled themselves out of the bag. Susan`s eyes darted to the cabinets where the sugar and vanilla were kept.
"French toast," Susan said, delighted. "That`s just what I was thinking." A mixing bowl hovered up from one of the cupboards below, and the whisk produced itself from one of the drawers. Susan noticed that while the spell said `maid' and not `maids,' there seemed to be an awful lot going on at once.
Susan took to last night`s dishes as she marginally supervised the french toast fixing itself. The whisk vigorously mixed the batter as a flying pan hit the stove, already coated down by a possessed can of cooking spray. Donning yellow rubber gloves, Susan watched her unseen helper(s) expertly dip the toast and drop it in the frying pan. She thought about hundreds of Saturday mornings over the past dozen years where this book would have certainly come in handy...
And now she noticed something else. Daydreaming about the wonders of her new invisible chef, Susan didn`t even notice herself stop paying attention to the dishes. The gloves were directing her hands dish to dish, grabbing the scrubbie and wiping down each plate, bowl, and glass. Susan watched her fingers and arms gently manipulated by the gloves, then looked out the high window in front of her and smirked. She pulled her hands away from the sink in one swift motion. A giddy but stifled laugh followed.
"Oh, that`s sooo cool!" Susan said, nearly forgetting that her husband was still asleep upstairs. She took a step back. In front of her, at the sink, the rubber gloves continued washing the dishes all by themselves. A cinnamon shaker bobbed past Susan`s head, drawing her attention to the french toast in the pan. She could smell the toast, and she worried that Andy`s sense of hunger might overpower his need for sleep.
Susan thought she heard someone coming down the stairs. She took a quick glance at all the phantom activities happening in her kitchen and went to intercept.
"Go, go--go hide in the laundry room for a second!" She said to the sweatshirt holding the book. It followed her directions as she walked through the living room and toward the stairs. She jumped a little when she saw a pair of Erin`s jeans and a button-down shirt carrying Erin`s laundry down. She didn`t try to stop them as they turned the other direction to the kitchen and laundry room through the corridor behind the den. Hey, wait!" Susan said, trying to keep her voice low. Erin`s outfit kept walking.
Something tickled the back of Susan`s thigh. She turned around, and the culprit--a pair of pink fuzzy slippers--jumped behind her before she could see them. She felt another tickle at her ankle and turned around quickly to see the pair of slippers dancing around on the floor.
"Hey, tell everyone to take it easy, would you?" Susan said. "If Andy wakes up now, it would--"
A door opened upstairs, and Susan prayed she didn`t see another outfit or object descending the stairs by itself. What she heard was even worse.
"Hey hon, are you talking to someone?" Andy said, walking toward the stairs. So much for breakfast in bed. Susan waved the slippers away, and instead, they stood in front of her, feet together. Susan knew what that meant, and she reluctantly stepped into the slippers. She felt them grip her feet and walk her over to the bottom of the stairs.
"Just to myself, dear," She said, trying to look as natural as possible.
"Is that french toast I smell?" Andy asked, turning the corner in his sweatpants. Susan nodded. Andy did a double take when he saw her short gown and robe, accented by fuzzy pink lifted slippers that he`d only seen for the first time last night. "Kids must still be gone, hm?"
"Ryan`s at a tourney," Susan said, smiling. "Erin may or may not go camping tonight, but either way, she won`t be home until this evening." She gave in to the slippers pulling her back toward the living room as Andy slowly followed down the stairs.
Struggling to brace herself for Andy`s reaction, Susan was relieved when she entered the kitchen to find every inanimate object at rest. The dishes, nearly done, had stopped running water and the gloves slightly flopped on the edge of the sink; the ingredients for the french toast had already been cleaned up; the plates were out and ready. Andy`s orange juice was already poured and waiting for him at the table. Through the door to the laundry room, Susan saw the last of Erin`s clothes throw themselves into the washer. The lid closed as Andy walked in.
"My goodness babe, look at what you've gotten done this morning!" Andy said, kissing Susan on the cheek. She took a deep breath and smiled. "I feel guilty for not getting up and helping."
"Oh, don`t!" Susan said, laughing as she give him a big hug. "This is all for you, darling. A feast for a stunning performance," Susan said in a sultry voice. Andy chuckled.
"With an attitude like that you can expect an encore," Andy said, pulling her in for a kiss. When Susan opened her eyes, they jumped to the spatula, flipping Andy`s toast onto his plate.
Susan watched the last two pieces of toast dip themselves in the batter as she kept her lips locked with Andy`s. She made exaggerated sounds to try and cover up any noise the unseen helper was causing. Now Susan`s two slices were in the pan. Andy`s were on his plate, hot and fried to golden perfection. Susan released him.
"The toast!" Susan exclaimed. She ran around to the stove as Andy turned around and looked at the frying pan. The slices were on a plate now, but Susan hadn`t even gotten to that side of the stove yet. "Yours are all set, hon," Susan said, smiling at Andy as she held his plate out. He shook off his confusion and smiled back, taking it. What a woman. All these years, and he still couldn`t figure out how she managed to do everything she did.
Andy looked at the table, not seeing the syrup. Instead of asking Susan for it, he decided it would be the one thing he could do himself this morning. The syrup was one step ahead of him, though. It had already left its cupboard and carefully hovered to the table out of Andy`s line of sight. After walking around to the other side of the kitchen again, Andy opened cupboards in a futile search for the syrup.
"Honey," Susan said to him, "What are you looking for?"
"The syrup?" Andy said, both answering and asking. Susan`s response came in a finger pointed at the table, particularly to the plastic bottle labeled '100% MAPLE SYRUP'.
"That syrup, you mean?" Susan laughed, winking at him. He raised an eyebrow.
"You`re messing with me," Andy said, grinning. "That`s why you didn`t wake me up to help. You wanted to mess with my head." Susan looked at him like he was crazy. "No way, Suzie Q. That syrup was not on the table." Andy laughed as she nodded her head calmly. "Was not!" Susan finally burst out laughing.
"You`re adorable, Andrew." She pulled him in for another kiss. What a kiss, too. She could feel her robe trying to get in on the action and hoped that it wasn`t too obvious to Andy. Just then, the washer turned on. Andy pulled away and looked toward the laundry room. "Relax, It`s on a timer," Susan explained. She shook her head at him. "Before, I was going to say you need your coffee," She giggled. "Now I`m not so sure."
"Maybe I`m still sideways from what you did to me last night," Andy cackled, sitting down at the table to eat. He poured syrup over his toast as Susan joined him at the table. "So what`s your plan for today?"
"I think I`m going to go to Haverton," Susan said. "There were some things on display I was interested in." Andy`s head cried 'Eureka!' The attitude, the breakfast--all part of a cunning plan to soften him up for clothes-shopping. He didn`t mind.
"You want company?" Andy asked. When Susan looked up to respond, she saw her hooded sweatshirt waving at her. Andy turned around to look at what Susan was focused on. There was nothing in the doorway. "Honey?"
"Um, sorry--just couldn`t remember if I put the softener in." Susan went back to her toast. "And, uh, I don`t want to string you along in the shops. I might be a while." Susan smiled, watching Andy take a big bite of stacked and cut toast. "Enjoying your breakfast?"
"Very much," Andy said, gulping down half his orange juice. "Is there anything I can do around the house while you`re out?" Susan smiled at him.
"Well, you could keep the laundry going, if you were so inclined," Susan said. "Could you just lay it out when its done so it doesn`t wrinkle?" She asked. Andy sneered.
"My folding technique still not up to par?"
"It`s not your fault I`m OCD," Susan winked. "Even if your technique was perfect, you know I`d have to refold them anyway."
* * *
Susan threw the book in her purse before she left. She figured it would be safer with her, and if some emergency happened, she would have a list of spells on hand. She was a little bit giddy about leaving the house, but she didn`t think she had too much to worry about.
Things had been relatively well-behaved for the rest of the morning, with the exception of Susan`s clothes dressing her after her shower. She explained the situation to her slippers, and they seemed cooperative if a little mischievous. Susan had her cell phone on her. She couldn`t see her level-headed husband dialing anyone but her if he were to see anything strange at the house.
She found a parallel spot not far from the downtown shops. She walked toward Main St. with an eager stride and an almost giddy smile; at least, walking is what everyone else saw. Susan was getting a kick out of letting her clothes do the walking for her. They always seemed to strut a little bit, but out in public they really put Susan`s curves to work.
Susan didn`t whisper a word to the clothes to tell them where to go; they seemed to know. The most effort Susan had put forward in the whole walk from the car was grasping the handle of the door to the boutique. The first shop sold formal and professional clothes. Sharp-looking blouses, blazers, skirts and pantsuits as well as evening wear and cocktail dresses.
There was only one attendant in the tiny store, and she was currently helping out another customer. Susan browsed a bit, picking up a couple of blouses and skirts. After she found a delicate red cocktail dress in her size and a modest evening gown, she headed for the dressing rooms. The attendant saw Susan and excused herself from her customer.
'Ready to try those on?" The attendant asked, looking at what Susan was carrying. "Is that...six?" Susan smiled and nodded.
"Yes, six." Susan responded. The attendant unlocked the door to one of the dressing rooms.
"Just put anything you don`t keep back on the rack, and I`ll take care of it," The attendant smiled. Susan nodded and went in.
"Thanks," Susan said as she shut the door behind her. The moment the door shut, her short sleeve button-down helped itself open. She had no choice but to let it happen, and she put her arms behind her to let it come off. The shirt reformed and buttoned behind her, tapping her on the shoulder.
Susan made a 'calm down' gesture to try and get the shirt to settle down, but the shirt only mimicked her movements. Susan grabbed the shirt, putting her arms around its waist and shoulder and pulling it toward her.
"Please just behave," Susan whispered at the faintest murmur. "Stay in here with me, got it?" The collar nodded, and she let go of the shirt. It hovered over to a hook and draped itself over it, deflating as it did. Susan was impressed; she didn`t even have to be specific in her directions.
Just then, she felt her jeans unbutton and unzip. She watched herself in the dressing room mirror, holding back a laugh. It looked as if she was being undressed by a ghost. Her sneakers untied and the tongues pulled up. She held one foot up, then the other, letting her sneakers slide off. The denim followed, sliding down to her ankles. She lifted one foot after the other to allow the jeans to come off. Once they were, they accordioned out and filled to Susan`s pretty shape, sitting on the bench in the large stall. The sneakers stood next to them, rocking on their heels and toes.
Susan grabbed one of the blouses and began putting it on. As she did, the shirt on the hook quietly slumped off and fell into Susan`s purse. As Susan slipped it over her arms, the shirt lifted out of her purse again, carrying the book. it used its short sleeves to hold the pages open and in front of her. Susan jumped back a little bit when she saw the book.
She looked at the spell, the words going through her mind as she did. It was the same one she used yesterday--the one she`d only meant to use on her slippers. Now it seemed to be following her wherever she went, though there was no evidence it had affected the items in the store yet.
Ekestra qulaanu, tural adyphe...what language was it, anyway? She went on buttoning the blouse, not bothering to fuss with the shirt. It was just standing there holding the book...no harm. These things with form and no will, make rife--with motion and vigor--bring them to life. Silly little couplet, all modern spellings. Who wrote this book, anyway? Susan finished buttoning the blouse and shooed the shirt out of the way to see herself in the mirror. It was a perfect fit.
Susan grabbed the book from the shirt and closed it. She pointed to the hook, and the short-sleeve shirt slumped and moved back to it. She put the book back in her purse and grabbed a charcoal-colored skirt. As she pulled it up and zipped it, she found it also fit perfectly. She took off the first blouse and put on the second, a tighter fitting, fire-truck red blouse.
The blouse fit tightly, but it did so in all the right ways. She unbuttoned the top button and took a good look at herself in the mirror. Beautiful. She looked over at her jeans sitting peacefully on the bench. When she gestured at herself, the legs of the jeans clapped their knees together. Susan got a kick out of their ability to communicate. The red blouse was a keeper.
She unzipped the skirt and let it drop. She grabbed the other one, a tweed miniskirt, and slid it up her legs. Too big. She unzipped it and looked at the size on the tag. She sneered and let it drop. Clothing manufacturers loved inflating sizes to make women think they`re smaller than they are--that`s where sizes like 0 and 00 came from. Susan sighed. Flattery in sizing was a dirty trick, but it only really worked on women that always need to be one size lower.
"Can I help you with anything, ma'am?" The attendant outside said. She must have finished with the other customer. Susan handed the tweed skirt over the high door, thankful the gap at the bottom was under an inch.
"This same skirt in a 10, please?" Susan asked. She felt the attendant grab the skirt.
"My pleasure," the attendant responded.
Susan unbuttoned the red blouse from the top, completely unaware of the two bottom buttons following suit without her. When the blouse was open, she let it flutter to the floor.
"A 10, ma'am," the attendant called back as she held the skirt over the door. Susan grabbed at the skirt. Behind her, the red blouse fluttered up to its hanger and buttoned itself, deflating once more.
"Thank you," Susan said to the attendant, unzipping the skirt and stepping into it. This one fit perfectly. She looked at herself in the mirror wearing the hip-hugging skirt and bra. Not bad for two kids, she thought, smirking.
It was then that she noticed the red blouse on its hanger, buttoned, and hanging on a hook. She knew she didn`t do any of it.Ekestra qulaanu, tural adyphe, she thought musically to herself. These things with form and no will, make rife--with motion and vigor--bring them to life. Thoughts about how much trouble she could cause flashed through her mind.
It made her want to learn more about the book. After all, she had only really played with two spells, and those two alone seemed quite powerful. She wasn`t exactly sure whether the magic items carried out deeds without her being present. She certainly knew that one little utterance had left the outfit she was wearing alive--and at least the slippers at home. Now, had it spread to this blouse at the store? How?
She had to assume that the spell`s effects followed her. She also had to assume--since the attendant was happily exchanging sizes--that nothing freaky was going on outside in the store. Susan couldn`t be sure, but she was beginning to think that it was a safe conclusion that the magic effects on objects were temporary and dependent on her presence. In terms of control, that was a very good sign.
Except that her conclusion was wrong. Back at home, strange things were happening; things that made Andy believe he was losing too much sleep as of late.
"Five minutes ago. Five minutes ago I reminded myself to put the softener in," Andy muttered to himself. He was holding a cap-full of the stuff, but when he opened the washer lid, he saw the softener already in its place at the top of the agitator. He stood in front of the rinse cycle for a minute before putting the cap down and closing the lid. "I just don`t remember doing it," He said. "How do I not remember doing it?"
He had just taken a load out of the dryer and started to lay out the clothes on the bed. After he was finished carefully pouring the softener back into its bottle, he came back into the bedroom to finish the task. When he found that most of the clothes were laid out already, he tried to remember laying out the individual items.
"That`s just strange," he said. He couldn`t believe he`d gotten that far. He took a deep breath and looked at his hands. Could he account for all his time? He thought so. He wasn`t woozy and he didn`t have any bruises on him. There was no fall to the floor, no waking up on it. He felt fine, physically and mentally--he just didn`t remember laying out all the clothes. A little shiver shocked the paranoid thoughts out of him. He laughed. "I guess you just get into the zone sometimes," he said to himself.
Susan ended up buying the blouses and skirts. The cocktail dress and gown were gorgeous, but she just couldn`t justify spending the money. Her outfit from home was happy to be worn again, and after she paid for her items, they carried her dutifully to the next store.
Another boutique, this one part of a chain that sold casual wear, swimsuits and lingerie. As she shopped, she couldn`t get the stupid rhyme out of her head: Ekestra qulaanu, tural adyphe. These things with form and no will, make rife--with motion and vigor--bring them to life. The thought of her own outfit playing about in the smaller dressing rooms here made her want to avoid them. That was okay. Because she spent so much at the chain already, she didn`t need to try anything on. Whatever she didn`t like could come back with her to be exchanged for credit.
She wandered around the aisles for a while, grabbing a couple pairs of jeans, a sweater, and a couple of t-shirts. She wandered through the lingerie and grabbed a few new bras, a camisole she liked, some leggings, and a couple pairs of socks.
It was when she tried to drape a belt over her loaded arms that she realized she went a bit far. She and Andy did fine financially, but Susan wanted to hold herself back for a couple big-ticket items next door. She ended up putting about half the items back before checking out.
Back home, Andy stood at the sink, baffled. The stainless steel basin was shining, the dishes were rinsed and obviously already in the dishwasher. The breakfast dishes...he knew Susan didn`t take care of them. Did Erin sneak in without him knowing? It was possible. The front door led right up the stairs, and it was hard to hear things in the laundry room if the machines were going. After the thought struck him, he pulled himself away from the sink and headed toward the stairs.
"Erin?" He shouted up the stairs. "You`re not home, are you?" Just then, the dishwasher popped on in the kitchen. The sound of it made Andy jump. What the hell was going on?
The cycle had just started, but evidence of his paranoia set in again when he looked closely at the dial. Five hour delay. He knew that the washer could be timed to run late at night, when the electric was off-peak. Susan must have set it for a couple of hours. But did he remember her rinsing them?
It didn`t matter whether he did or not. Since the dishwasher clicked itself on, that had to be the explanation. Erin wasn`t home--Andy had looked out the den window to see that her car wasn`t out front. What an odd day.
Andy fixed himself a drink and sat in his chair, flipping on the television. The laundry was going, and everything else he went to do seemed to already be done. He decided to give up and relax until he heard the buzzer from the next dryer load.
Susan was at her last stop now. She was the only customer in the leather goods store, and the woman staffing it was serving her every whim. She`d already found a hot little skirt she liked, and now she was trying on a pair of jeans. Her naughty attitude the night before had been the idea of the clothes, but it elicited a great response from her husband--a response she intended to cultivate. What better way to get into the attitude than with something a little exotic?
Susan looked at herself in the mirror. While she wasn`t an overmodest dresser, she hadn`t worn anything quite like this in a few years. They fit beautifully, and she liked the way they showed her off, but the skirt was cheaper. Not only was the skirt cheaper, but it was more...conducive to the type of activity she had in mind. The attendant later sold her on a pair of black patent ankle boots that were on clearance. They went perfectly with the skirt, and the price of the skirt and boots together was still lower than the pants. She couldn`t resist.
The buzzer woke Andy up. He had fallen asleep watching TV right after his drink, and Susan wasn`t home yet. He stood up to grab the load from the dryer. He looked down at the glass end table as he grabbed his drink glass. The table was remarkably clean--completely smudge-free. He wondered exactly why he noticed a detail like that, and wondered why observations like it had been happening all day.
"Maybe I just don`t notice how clean she keeps things," Andy said to himself, feeling a little guilty. He dropped off his glass in the kitchen and headed to the laundry room. When he opened the dryer, he couldn`t help what came out.
"What the fuck is going on here?" He said, crouching down and sticking his head inside. Not only was the dryer empty--it wasn`t hot. He felt the drum inside to make sure. Still warm, but not stopped-30-seconds-ago warm. And where in hell were the clothes? He ran to the den window. No cars in the driveway, and his sedan was certainly in the garage. He stood at the bottom of the stairs again.
"Erin," he shouted,"if you`re here, answer me right now!" Silence. He felt stupid. Was he so irritable that he couldn`t remember what was done and what wasn`t? It really was happening all day.
No. There was no way that this was a slip of memory. The buzzer woke him, but the dryer cycle wasn`t on. It was cool. He stomped over to the dryer again and confirmed it--the dial was set to off. The buzzer shouldn`t have sounded in the first place.
"What the f--" Andy stopped midway through repeating his mantra when he heard someone pull in the driveway. Susan was home from shopping. He had no explanation for the clothes being out of the dryer, and he ran up the stairs to look for them before Susan got in the door.
When he got to the bedroom, he nearly fainted. There were no clothes on the bed at all. Not one shirt, pair of socks, jeans, panties, or anything other than two empty baskets. He flung open the closet to find everything hung, tore open drawers to see everything surgically folded and put in its place. There was no way he could have forgotten doing all of this, particularly since the clothes were folded precisely the way Susan did it. He heard the front door open.
"Darling?" Susan`s pretty voice chimed. "I`m back!"
Andy had no idea what to say. What could he tell her? That he did it all sleepwalking? That the laundry had decided to fold and put itself away? Maybe he shouldn`t say a word at all. There was a little whiskey on his breath, and he didn`t want to look any more like a fool than he already felt.
"Up here, Suze." He replied, sitting on the bed. Susan came up the stairs and turned the corner with a few bags.
"Honey, you put everything away?" Susan asked. Andy glanced up at her, smiling. He looked tired.
"Uh, yeah--" He stumbled, "I figured I`d try, even though you told me not to." Susan looked in the closet. Everything on the shelves was in order. She pulled out a drawer. It was immaculate. Did he really do all this?
"Wow--great job," Susan said. "Everything looks...perfect." Andy chuckled, dumbfounded. He stood up and hugged her. Susan`s clothes wrapped her arms around Andy and rubbed his back. Susan pulled him into a kiss, and Andy noticeably loosened up. They embraced again, and a realization made Andy narrow his eyes mid-hug, as if he had the ironclad method to clear up his haunted chore nonsense once and for all.
"I`m just sorry I didn`t get to the dishes, honey." Andy smiled. Did she, or did she not time delay the start of the cycle for three hours later? Now he`d know.
"Don`t worry about it," Susan answered. "I`ll take care of them." She kissed him on the cheek once more as one of her sleeves made her hand swat at his butt. When she headed back downstairs, Andy was cursing himself. He hadn`t phrased the question right, and her answer didn`t tell him anything. Extracting information wasn`t exactly a strong suit of his.
The drying cycle on the dishes had just wrapped up, and Susan watched in awe as the dishes were floating quietly out of the dishwasher and setting themselves gently into the proper cupboards and drawers. She listened for Andy`s footsteps on the stairs, but they didn`t follow. Didn`t Andy say something about not getting to the dishes? It looked like they were all done.
Susan couldn`t remember touching them after breakfast.
Her eyes went wide. Did the look on Andy`s face when she got home have something to do with the house chore spell? By now the dishwasher had finished emptying itself, and Susan heard Andy traipsing down the stairs. She wanted to find out if anything strange happened, but she didn`t want to give anything away if it hadn`t. She decided to keep her mouth shut. Andy kissed her on the cheek when he came in.
"I, uh...I don`t know how you keep everything so clean around here," He said, hitting the ice dispenser button for a couple of cubes to put in his drink glass, "but it was almost like everything I went to do today was already done." After dropping the ice in his glass, he pulled open the dishwasher. Susan cringed when he pulled out the empty shelf. "Like this!" he said, turning around.
"Like what, honey?" Susan asked, playing dumb.
"The dishes," Andrew said. "I told you I didn`t take care of them, but--"
"Honey?" Susan interjected, "I put them away." She figured giving him an out was the best step at this point. He didn`t bite though.
"You?" He asked. "All of them in the 15 or 20 seconds I was upstairs without you?" Susan shrugged, smiling. Andy shook his head and laughed. "You know I always say thanks and stuff, Suze...but you do a lot around here. A whole lot more than I notice sometimes."
"No, really--you do." Andrew insisted. Maybe that`s why he was a step behind all day--he was guilty about all the slack he wasn`t picking up around the house. Whatever it was, he chalked it up to a weird day. She was happy with the folding he was certain he didn`t do himself, but he wasn`t going to try and look a gift horse in the mouth anymore.
Let the weird day be a weird day, tell her about it sometime down the road. It`ll make a funny story.
* * *
It was past midnight. The stores had been locked up for hours, and now and then a car drove by on Main Street. In the leather goods store, something slumped off a rack. It slithered away and dropped its hanger, puffing up like rising bread. The form stepped into one of the lights still on. It was the pair of pants Susan had tried on earlier.
In another store nearby, two t-shirts flew off their racks. A couple of pairs of knee socks and panties Susan had browsed through gathered themselves in a bag with the t-shirts. A pair of size 12 jeans met up with a well-shaped sweater. The outfit walked over to a rack. A pair of leather gloves began moving as the sweater sleeve reached for them. The plastic tag binding them together snapped, and one after the other, the gloves seemed to pull themselves over invisible hands at the ends of the sleeves.
Using their gloves, the sweater and jeans outfit grabbed and ripped open a vinyl package holding a rain slicker with a hood. After draping the slicker around itself, the outfit collected the bag and walked toward the employee bathroom in the back. The bathroom had a long, thin window high off the ground that couldn`t possibly be used to get in or out--unless of course you were made of fabric and able to flatten and twist yourself as needed.
After the items in the bag flew out, the outfit and bag flattened and seeped through the window. On the other side, beneath the eaves of the back lot, the items replaced themselves in the bag, and the outfit in the slicker was met by more friends. It was the cocktail dress and gown, the same ones that Susan tried on earlier that day. They collapsed into the bag as quickly as they could.
The sound of boots clicked behind the outfit in the slicker. When the outfit turned around, a pair of leather pants and leather knee-high boots stood in the back lot. The leather pants jumped up and collapsed into the bag, while the outfit with the slicker slid the legs of its jeans over the boots. Now with one walking outfit and everything else in one bag, the boots clicked away from Main Street in the drizzle, on a long trek toward Susan`s house.
A few seconds later, they seemed to ascend into the night. A drunk a block away rubbed his eyes. He told himself that he couldn`t possibly have seen some woman just run in heeled boots and take off flying in the rain, bag in hand.
It was terrible weather for flying.