A DOSE OF ETERNAL - CARLA SARETT
The sign read: 2 Eternal Love Potions for the price of 1! It was a tempting offer, but I was puzzled. “If love’s eternal, why do I need extra?”
Lady Rosita, whose most recent incantations had almost fixed my dishwasher, smiled. “My dear Calliope, true eternal love requires two persons, not merely one. You take one and give the second to the object of your affection.”
“I guess if it’s only one, it’s more like Fatal Attraction,” I said.
“How true,” she replied as she wrapped my potion in shimmering blue paper. “Have you known this man long?”
“No, tonight’s our first meeting. It’s kind of blind date, but I have a hunch about him. Why take years and years getting to know one another, when we could start off with deep and abiding love? It seems an awful waste of time.”
“How true,” Lady Rosita said again.
Hours later, I arrived at The Alley Bar equipped with my secret artillery. I’d sat only a minute or so when I heard a voice calling my name above the din. Having a name like mine has one advantage: I’m always the only Calliope. One glance at the blonde blue-eyed speaker and I felt that my feminine intuition had served me well.
In no time, we were seated at a dimly-lit corner table, with two elderberry martinis. The darkness proved convenient – it allowed me to pour Lady Rosita’s tincture into the glasses, his and mine. We sipped, he rather more speedily than I since I've never liked martinis or elderberry.
“You know why we’re here,” he began. “Go ahead, let’s finish our drinks. Enjoy.”
“I like a man with a Russian accent,” I said coyly.
He reddened. “I am happily married man and don’t you even go there.”
Indeed, belatedly I noticed that his left hand sported a large diamond band, and his wrist a gaudy Rolex. “I don’t suppose your American name is Ed,” I said.
He downed his martini. “This is not funny at all.”
“Ah,” I answered. I leaned back and awaited waves of eternal love, however unwelcome in this instance. But instead, I felt queasy. I then recalled Lady Rosita's warning label, something about drowsiness or not operating machinery—and watched his face turn into a sneer. I wondered if the potion’s effects were non-linear, and hatred would turn to love, in a flash.
His next words disproved that particular hypothesis. “If you have put something in this drink, you are a moron. You’re not making this easy for you and Nick.”
“Seriously, I’m supposed to meet Ed and we’re talking about someone named Nick. Whoever Nick is, I wish him well,” I informed him loftily.
“So you are Calliope who does not know Nick,” he said, glaring at me. “You do not care that Nick is blind-folded and tied to a chair and he is not going anywhere until we get what we want.”
“Ah,” I said. Apparently, I’d sworn myself to worshipping this not-very-loveable criminal. For a few grim moments, I sat in a daze, contemplating my future life in prison or worse.
A waitress materialized at my side. “Excuse me, but did I hear that your name is Calliope? There’s a man asking for a Calliope at the bar so it must be you.”
“Calliope Johnson, of Calliope’s Candles,” I sighed.
“Right, Johnson, Candles, ha ha,” slurred the would-be assassin. “So where is Calliope Pallas?”
“You wait here,” I said. I wobbled over to the bar, where I found a man who looked reassuringly non-lethal—somewhat on the chubby side, to my way of thinking.
“Hi, I’m Ed Guerrera. I’m sorry I was late,” he said. “Is that a friend of yours? He’s looking sleepy over there-- he might pass out soon."
“It’s a pity you were late,” I said. “You see, he’s a killer and I’ve taken an eternal love potion. I’ll probably be bound to him for life, but given who he is, it won’t be a long life, so that’s good.”
“You took a love potion tonight?” he asked in a tone of awe.
“It’s not like what you think. Id’ read about that eighty-year old woman in some remote Sicilian village whose husband kicked her out after sixty years. Now she's alone except for her five sons and two daughters and ten grand-children. It’s pathetic, isn’t it? It should have lasted forever, not just sixty years.”
“It should have,” he quickly agreed. “Although, I’m a divorce lawyer by trade, I can see your point.”
“Which is why I needed the Eternal Love Potion -- the kind of love that I’m interested in lasts forever, not sixty years, not that I’m going to last six years since I know about Nick and how he’s tied up.”
Ed patted me on my shoulder. “Relax and let me deal with your pal while he’s still sleepy. Later on, it won’t be so easy.”
He sauntered over to the malefactor, who sat slanted in his seat. I viewed them from afar—the man leaned rather heavily on Ed. Ed whispered something, the man nodded, then more whispers, another nod, and so it went on and on. After a seemingly unending series of nods and whispers, the two returned.
The Rolex-wearer clearly saw me in a new and scary light. He managed to whisper, hoarsely, “Take care of yourself, Calliope.”
He waved as he exited. It was poignant imagining how I'd have to cherish this once and no doubt future criminal forever.
“You must be a miracle worker, Ed,” I said when the coast was clear.
“I told him you’d bought a love potion and if he didn’t release Nick, you’d be forced to call his wife and spill the beans. I said, ‘Unless you release Nick, face it, you’re doomed. First, you got to pay off the wife, which, take it from a divorce lawyer, is a lot more than Nick’s worth. Plus, there is no escape from a woman like Calliope. It will be like Fatal Attraction all over, but worse.’”
“Thank goodness for Fatal Attraction, it’s so helpful in these situations,” I said. “But what happened to Lady Rosita’s spell of eternal love? I don’t feel much in the way of love, to be honest.”
“Oh, I broke the spell,” Ed assured me. “It’s all part of being a divorce attorney. If I couldn’t break love spells, believe me, a lot of couples might never divorce, and let’s face it, I need volume.”
I nodded at his commonsensical, if unromantic, strategy. “I should have remembered the spell-breakers. I suppose nothing really lasts forever, if you think about it.”
He kissed me. Although Ed was far from slender or tall, I felt a definite pang and we kissed again. It was comforting to think that Ed, whatever his flaws might be, was not part of the underworld.
Still, I had to be practical. “Consider the realities, Ed. In today’s sordid world, how long can the whole thing last?”
“Let’s say sixty years for starters,” he said. “And if after sixty, we’re feeling shaky, we can spring for a dose of Eternal.”