To be fair, it had been building up for a while. Duke was no stranger to the weird or unexplainable, having lived in Hatchetfield for most of his life. Most of the strangeness could be explained, often through even weirder answers that just brought up more questions. But Miss Holliday, with all of her oddities and kindness, could not be explained.
It started the day he met her, actually. Miss Holliday- the new school counselor. Sweeter than the pies at the old diner that had been closed after Miss Holloway’s passing, and quick as a whip. Duke would be lying if he didn’t say he was immediately smitten with her. And that was the thing, he remembered the pain of losing the love of his life. It had only been a few weeks. There was no way he had moved on. Somehow, though, here he was, once again feeling like a lovesick puppy.
That, though, could be explained. His trauma was probably blocking out his old feelings, and seeing someone similar and kind made it easier to latch onto something. That something being Miss Holliday. Miss Holliday, who laughed at his jokes and looked at him when she thought he wasn’t looking- but he was always looking at her.
The second sign that something strange was going on was that he couldn’t mistake her name for Miss Holloway. It should’ve been an easy mixup to make; the loss of his best friend so recent. How could he not make the mistake even once when their names, styles, and personalities were just so damn close. Duke liked to think he was a good man, but even he wasn’t always there to be able to avoid such an easy mistake.
The strangeness was easy to forget, though, around Miss Holliday. It had started off just being a work thing. When a kid had a problem, they would work together to solve it. Magic existed, he found out along the way, but it didn’t change much. After a fight that Duke couldn’t even see, Holliday had invited him out for dinner. It wasn’t a date, she made it clear, just dinner among friends. And it didn’t even hurt, because when he was around her all that he could feel was that he was around an old friend.
Duke ignored the strangeness as long as he could. He could focus on work, since there was a lot to be done. He had to fight the legal battle to get the Monroe children out of Roman Monroe’s custody after finding journal apon journal of Linda Monroe claiming that her worst nightmare was her sons becoming like her father.
Hannah and Lex Foster had just gone missing, leaving one Ethan Green devastated. So devastated in fact that Miss Holliday had to use a spell to help ward off spirits who fed off of his negative energy, making things worse for the teen at every chance. Duke watched amazed and familiar as Miss Holliday single handedly saved the spirits and Ethan within the hour.
But she kept doing things that didn’t make sense. She knew his coffee order, she knew his favorite foods, she knew who he was more than anyone else. Anyone other than Miss Holloway. Miss Holliday felt like an old friend even though he knew he had never seen her before a few weeks ago.
So yeah, things had been building up. He was sitting in his small office in downtown Hatchetfield looking over some files of recent fights among teens. They had started up out of nowhere, and he had no clue where to look. He knew he should just bring the cast to Miss Holliday, she’d know what to do, but he wanted to be the one to save the day for once.
The thought felt familiar and suddenly he was hit like a train by a terrible headache. He groaned, rubbing his temples and taking deep breaths. If that wasn’t enough, he suddenly felt nauseous and had to run to the small bathroom to lose his lunch. Just as he finished, he heard the bell of the door opening.
“One minute!” He called, standing up and doing his best to make himself look (and smell) presentable again. After he was sure he wouldn’t scare off whoever it was, he stepped out of the bathroom to be met with the sight of Miss Holliday with lunch and coffee for the both of them.
He gave her his biggest and most charming smile and sat next to her on the waiting room’s old and beat up couch. It had actually been a gift from Miss Holloway. “What a surprise, I wasn’t expecting you today.”
“Well I thought I could surprise you.” She said cheerfully, passing him a sandwich with all of his favorite toppings. “I know it’s been a rough week, and I knew you wouldn’t remember to take a break.”
Something ticked in his mind, but he ignored it, taking a fry. “Well how’d you figure that?” He asked after a moment of silence.
Miss Holliday’s eyes widened slightly, but she quickly got herself back together. If he hadn’t been paying attention, Duke would’ve missed it. “I can just tell from the times we’ve worked together that you’re not one to put down a case until it’s finished.” That seemed reasonable enough, so Duke shrugged it off.
He took a drink of his coffee, surprised to taste something other than his usual order. It tasted like s’mores with caramel and donuts. Usually he liked his coffee black with maybe a pinch of sugar, but this he loved. He had a soft spot for s’mores, they reminded him of camping, something he used to do a lot of. “This is amazing!” He said before taking another gulp.
“Oh I knew you’d love it! With your sweet tooth, I knew there had to be a coffee you’d like that actually tastes good! And when I saw that it was s’mores flavored I knew that this would be it.” She kept talking but he stopped listening. How would she know that? It was the straw that broke the camel’s back, apparently
“Who the hell are you?” As soon as he said it, his head started pounding but he ignored it. He needed answers.
“I’m sorry?” Miss Holliday looked more confused and shocked than scared, which was odd since he never used language. It should have been frightening.
He repeated himself, “I said who the hell are you? You’re just this perfect person who comes out of nowhere, you fit perfectly into my life, and you know everything about me!” the headache was getting worse.
Miss Holliday blushed, “Well that’s nice of you to say, Duke, but-”
“I don’t mean it to be nice! I’m serious.” His head was pounding and he felt nauseous again, “You know me like we’ve known each other for years, but I don’t know anything about you! How do you know so much about me?”
Miss Holliday gave a fake laugh, “Duke, I just saw a coffee I thought you’d like, I don’t think it’s that big of a deal.”
Duke stood, “Don’t! Make this seem like a minor thing. Sure, if it was just this it’d be fine. This is my favorite sandwich, all of the toppings in the order of how I like them. You can’t just know that. You know not to bring up my family, you know I have a soft spot for cats, you know me more than anyone.” He felt the world spinning.
“Duke you should sit down, you don’t look well, we should talk this through-”
“No! You’re just going to lie to me again!” There were black spots at the edges of his vision at this point, “Ever since you came I can’t even picture her face. It’s like she’s gone from my memory. And I don’t know why, but I know it’s all because of-” Then it hit him. He could see Miss Holloway’s face clearly again because she was looking directly at him. “You.” His vision went dark.
Miss Holloway watched as Duke passed out. She sighed, standing up and changing the sign on the door from ‘open’ to ‘closed’. She had known that Duke had feelings for her, everyone knew. If she was honest with herself, she would have to admit that those feelings were returned.
She lugged his body back on the couch and cleaned up, thinking about how to explain. She tossed the coffee away and put in a delivery order in for some tea. Tea should help. She walked around his office, taking a deep breath.
Miss Holloway wasn’t sure how he’d broken the spell. It should’ve been impossible for him to do so. There was the side effect of a migraine and nausea if he even got close, yet here they were. She wandered into his office to read over the file he was looking at.
A kid who kept getting in fights but somehow always was just out of reach, always winning. A girl who burned anyone who messed with her or her friends. It seemed something big was happening just beneath their noses.
She collected the delivery and set up for when Duke would wake up. She knew him, but she didn’t know how he’d react. He’d never gotten past one of her spells before. That was worrying, but she couldn’t say that she wasn’t a little relieved that he could remember her now.
Duke woke up to the smell of some tea and Miss Holloway’s humming. In any other situation it would be a great way to wake up. His throbbing headache and uneasy stomach disagreed. The situation disagreed.
He sat up and Miss Holloway looked at him. He didn’t know what to feel. His stomach was in a pit of knots, and his heart was confused. Still, the first thing he did was cradle her worried face in his hands. She was real. She was here.
“Why? Why did I have to forget you?” He asked quietly, ignoring his own tears in favor of wiping her’s off of her cheeks.
“Duke, it’d be too complicated if you remember me.” She said, leaning forward to rest their foreheads together.
Duke hiccuped slightly, “It doesn’t have to be complicated. You’re my best friend, my person. I love you. Let me be here.”
It seemed that that’s what it took, since Miss Holloway tackled him, burying her face into the crook of his neck. He held her like that as they both cried.
They needed to talk- about a lot of things, but for now they were content in just holding each other, knowing that Duke would never forget her again.