This story was published in A Quiet and Peaceful Place
The Power of Suggestion
“No,” Becky began, “I tried…”
“To make a fool of me!” Mandy’s head fell into her hands, a groan escaped.
“Oh my god,” she muttered, shuddering at the memory of how she’d thrown herself at him.
Becky shook her head, a grin creasing her face.
“Oh my gaaaaaawd,” Mandy bellowed, her voice between a whisper and a croak, the last word drawn out the length of time it took her to slide off of the sofa and on to the floor.
“I can’t believe I… and then he… and… Oh. My. God.” She spoke into her lap, face down, knees pressed to her forehead, words muffled.
Becky stifled a giggle. “I don’t know what you’re so upset about.” A snicker escaped. “It worked.”
A moan was all the response Mandy seemed able to conjure. That, and the occasional, “Oh my god.”
“I’m going upstairs for a soda,” Becky called halfway to the kitchen.
Becky had anticipated the stomping on the stairs and already poured two glasses, the ice crackling through the fizz.
“I can’t believe you lied to me.” Mandy slumped into a kitchen chair and sipped from the glass, face scrunching as the bubbles tickled her nose. Her head just kept swaying from side to side, her bangs dancing. The perma-blush that she had acquired when she’d made the discovery had begun by flaming her cheeks but now consumed all of her face and neck, even the tips of her ears. “You knew,” she paced her words, “You knew how much I liked him.”
“Liked him?” Becky asked, eyebrow raised. “As in you don’t like him anymore?”
Words escaped, left, right, left, “Oh… my… god…” Making eye contact for the first time, “I can’t believe you tricked me.” Mandy’s glare demanded answers, “What… Why… How could you do this to me?” Her eye sheen threatened full-on tear flowage.
Becky moved to dam that flow. She grabbed a handful of tissues out of the box her mom kept on the lazy-Susan in the center of the table and shoved them at Mandy. “Let me explain!” She hoped she could shout back the tears. She could handle a lot of things, but not crying. Crying made her weak, made her feel guilty. And she hadn’t done anything to feel guilty about, not really. “Look,” she said, “I do know how much you like him. I also know that you are too shy, too… reserved… to make the first move.” Becky’s low laugh came out in a purr. “How was I supposed to know how far you’d take it? It was really just the power of suggestion. You can be mad at me, but I didn’t, ahem, do those things.” She laughed again, more robustly.
Mandy refused to join in on the camaraderie. She dabbed a loose trickle, sniffed loudly and asked, “What do I do now?”
Becky smiled and relaxed. “You really want to know?” she asked. “You want me to tell you?”
Mandy hiccupped and nodded, still low and flushed.
“Well…,” she began, “You behaved the way you did because you believed the love potion was making him interested in you.” Becky paused. When Mandy didn’t respond, she continued, “You believed in the love potion, but he didn’t know anything about it.” Silence. “Don’t you see?!” Becky clamored in frustration. “There was no love potion Mandy! There was only you. He likes you. No magic, no potion, just Mandy.”
Mandy had listened, she had heard, and as Becky’s words registered, she grew. Sitting erect, eyes wide, she said, “Oh my god.” The grin made her words difficult to get out, but it didn’t matter. She was lifted right out of her chair, her buoyancy palpable.
She hugged Becky. Spinning her around the kitchen, they danced and giggled.
Mandy’s cell phone rang. Abruptly she stopped the giggle-jig. “It’s him!”
The phone jingled again, some hip-hop refrain with electronic keyboards.
“Answer it,” Becky said.
Jingle, buzz, as the vibrate kicked in, a sign it would go to voicemail soon.
“Answer it!” Becky shouted.
Mandy just stared at the phone as it rang and rattled on the tabletop.
“Fine,” Becky said, shoving a small vial into Mandy’s hand. “Here.”
Mandy looked up at her friend, nerves making her twitch. She removed the stopper, poured some drops onto her tongue, swallowed with a grimace, and grabbed the flip phone mere seconds before the call was lost. She cleared her throat and answered with a sultry, “Hello?”