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Tea and Kisses

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            6.15 in the evening, that glorious time at which Constance was at last able to materialise into the staffroom and prepare herself a cup of tea. She did so with the meticulous care her students never seemed to afford their potions (with rare exceptions). Despite this obvious routine, her entrance perpetually frightened any chanting teachers within the room; occasionally she had the pleasure of spooking multiple colleagues, which was simply an added bonus of her evening.

            Fifteen wondrous minutes of steeped relaxation, decompression and deep breaths before the chaos of supper—not that she allowed such a thing as chaos.

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            No colleagues to spook, alas. Constance noticed this with the barest pinch of disappointment. The anticipation of her evening tea swept away such frivolous feelings.

            Constance could prepare her loose-leaf, conjure her favourite teacup, pour the water and steep the tea with her eyes closed, although she would never condone such reckless behaviour. A long sigh escaped her lips as her thighs met the chair. Beautiful evening.

            Yet any evening could carry its clouds, she supposed—with another sigh—as Imogen Drill entered the staffroom. Her hair was reminiscent of Davina’s old hedgehog, or so Constance imagined.

            They locked eyes.

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            Constance didn’t consider herself a student of human nature; she hardly saw the need when much of her most productive time was solitary. Still, she could see something in Imogen’s eyes that hadn’t been there before. 

            Something hit Constance between the eyes. It was small and reflective, wrapped in foil. Imogen’s arms had barely moved; Constance may not have seen it had she not been staring directly at the woman. 

            ‘What on Earth?’ Constance erupted. 

            ‘It’s a kiss.’ 

            ‘Not one I’ve ever seen.’ 

            ‘Chocolate. Took them off Serge.’ 

            ‘I don’t want his kisses.’ 

            ‘Turns out, neither do I.’ Imogen fled.

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            Indeed, Constance was not a student of humanity; words, however, were well within her domain. She considered the signs: Imogen’s actions, indicating a change in demeanour; Imogen’s words, implying a splitting of ways; Imogen’s exit, suggesting emotional turmoil. 

            Constance contemplated the chocolate. It was not her substance of choice—unhealthy on both the teeth and body at large. The foil and ridiculous paper ribbon may have made it attractive to her students, but not to Constance. Worse, it wasn’t even Cadbury

            The chocolate found its way to her mouth all the same. She smiled. It was almost the sweetest thing.

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            Imogen’s door was closed but buffered nary a sob. Constance was again reminded that Imogen bore no magic and could cast no silencing spell. With the unusual sensation of guilt in her gut, the witch knocked.

            ‘Coming!’ came the frustrated reply. Red-rimmed eyes greeted her from behind the door.

            Constance threw a chocolate bar at the woman, knowing her reflexes would snatch it from the air. Imogen inspected it uneasily.

            ‘It’s not Trojan chocolate,’ Constance snapped. ‘From the Witches’ Kitchen. Better than Hags and Horrocks—certainly better than Serge’s chalk-chocolate.’

            ‘Th-thank you,’ Imogen managed.

            ‘I’ll leave you to it, then.’

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            Constance’s footfalls thundered as she strode along the silent corridors. She considered simply appearing in her private study. No, the brisk walk would do her unsettled mind some good.

            Why had Imogen chosen to open up in such a way? Sure, Constance was miles away from social idiocy and would have noticed the woman’s downtrodden emotions after the romantic break, but to make such an announcement… It was almost a confession, the sort conveyed between two people who shared some manner of camaraderie.

            Did they? Solidarity Constance could not doubt, but anything companionable?

            Imogen was waiting at her door.


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            Very little took Constance Hardbroom by surprise: worst witches, evil twin sisters, mortal peril. The second sudden appearance by Imogen Drill nearly caused Constance’s steady footsteps to falter. The woman must have sprinted up along the longer path just to beat her there. 

            Indeed, Imogen’s inhalations came in shallower puffs; it was quite the athletic endeavour to steal the breath of a seasoned runner. Constance noticed because, yet again, she found herself staring. The realisation unnerved her. So did the flush of Imogen’s complexion. 

            ‘Why the chocolate?’ Imogen asked. 

            ‘I could inquire the same.’ 

            ‘I wanted to give a kiss.’

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            Constance blinked. The words replayed in her mind: give a kiss, give a kiss… Was Imogen being intentionally ambiguous? Suggestive? Dense? Aggravating woman. 

            Imogen seemed content to stare back at her, eyes boring toward Constance with a force intensified by the heavier breathing. Constance feared for her own complexion; she could feel pinpricks of heat emanating from her chest, dangerously close to a race up her neck. 

            ‘I’m watching your brain work,’ Imogen said. She appeared to be enjoying the upper hand. 

            ‘Since you’ve so benevolently set it to motion, yes,’ Constance rebuked. ‘Tell me honestly: what did you mean?’

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            ‘It’s not something I could tell you,’ Imogen said plainly.

            ‘Riddles don’t suit you, Imogen,’ Constance said with a sneer. ‘Your bare midriff hardly constitutes an enigma.’

            She moved to sidestep Imogen, who watched Constance’s hips and followed the step.

            Imogen leaned back against her door, physical poof that the witch would be getting nowhere without passing through Imogen first.

            Aggravating woman! Constance thought again.

            ‘You’re right: I could tell you,’ Imogen rectified. She glanced down and pressed only her index finger to the base of the witch’s thumb. ‘But it is generally a thing one shows.’

            ‘Then show it.’

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            Constance was surprised again by her invitation (was it an invitation? for what?), by the warmth she could feel in her face, the flip of her stomach, the tenacity of her observations: Imogen’s still-short breath (shouldn’t it have returned?), the rise and fall of her ridiculous athletic top, that bare midriff (and every complex, convex line of it), the fire of her gaze, the closeness of their bodies, the heat Constance had pinned for temper…

            She wanted to step back. She wanted to stay precisely where she was, to step forward.

            ‘I can’t.’ Imogen broke the silence, regretful. ‘Too soon.’

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            ‘Then why are you here?’ Constance could hear the note of irritation, of regret, in her tone. There was her temper; and yet her temper came from a feeling of being wounded, of rejection, of something she never wanted to feel.

            ‘To see if there is something here.’

            ‘And?’ snapped Constance. She felt ready to cry and scream at once; she was too hot, the moment too heady…

            ‘I didn’t break with Serge because of you. It was him, and it was me; we didn’t work.’ Imogen’s finger moved to the point of Constance’s wrist. ‘You have always captivated me.’

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            Constance was speechless. Words, supposedly her domain, eluded her. Instead she stood studying this human—this impeccable, aggravating, equally captivating human—before her. Everything was upside-down and shot to hell the way Constance always detested, yet she couldn’t walk away if she tried.

            She felt like a mute moron. Her features must have expressed her hopeless confusion, for Imogen spoke again.

            ‘You can’t be a rebound. You are a prize.’ Imogen’s finger trailed up to the inner crook of Constance’s elbow; she suddenly wished her sleeves gone. ‘I had to know if you were a prize I could touch, someday.’

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            Constance had never wished for ‘someday’ as much as she did in that moment. In the back of her head, some reasonable part of herself—the part that any other time she swore was all of her—reminded that Imogen’s reasoning was sound, for once in her infuriating existence.

            The witch moved to break the spell by stepping back. Imogen’s finger was replaced by her hand—a warm, strong grip—holding Constance steady and in place.

            ‘Can we see?’ Imogen asked. It was nearly a plea. ‘Can we cheat, skip the riddle, see if there’s a future? Just one kiss.’

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            Just one… Constance licked her dry lips. The motion of her tongue worked to jog her oratory abilities.

            ‘One kiss? You’ve already given me one. Between the eyes, if I recall correctly,’ Constance stated dryly, falling back on sarcastic humour for comfort.

            Imogen leaned up and pressed a kiss between the witch’s arched brows. Constance could feel the curve of a wicked smile against her skin. ‘I kissed it better. Three kisses, then.’

            ‘One more,’ Constance summarised. It was too much; it wasn’t enough.

            ‘One more,’ Imogen confirmed.

            Constance could feel her gaze and all the places their bodies touched.

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            ‘Yes,’ Constance blurted, unaware the word rested behind her lips until it escaped. Imogen was upon her in an instant, stealing away any other hidden words. (Constance was sure they were variations on the theme.)

            The kiss was not short or chaste like the one to her forehead. It was sweet like the first kiss; sweeter, for it tasted of the chocolate Constance had given as a rare gift. The damn woman had sampled it immediately.

            That knowledge, the taste of it, the kiss…

            Constance had been incorrect: this was the sweetest thing.

            Her arms moved of their own accord.



            (Constance returned to the kiss again over a glass of sherry in her private study. It replayed in her mind as she stroked the rim of her glass, which sang. She re-conjured the sensation of sparks dancing over her lips and nerves firing across her body. Her dress tightened over her chest.

            Imogen’s body had been inexpressibly hot against hers; the feel of the woman’s leg between her own had made her tremble, as did the mere thought. The fingers tracing her jaw and neck, the feel of Imogen’s muscles beneath her palms, her breathy whimper…

            One was not enough.)

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            Imogen, feeling invincible, ran full-tilt through the forest.

            The sensation of Constance still hung heavy on her lips, stirring her to endless animation. The cold could not touch her: she now knew the dip of the woman’s waist, had discovered it with tentative fingers and explored it with an eager hand as heat engulfed her body. Her legs could never give way now that they had survived the grip of her inamorata’s thighs—they had kept her aloft through the impossibly thrilling arousal of it. Her heart could surely beat no faster than it had then.

            Constance had uttered only two words after the kiss—which was long, hurried and interminable at once—and by the colour of her lips and cheeks, Imogen wasn’t sure the woman was aware of them. It was one breath, the barest movement of lips, but Imogen had caught them with her own: ‘not one’.

            Not one?

            How many, then, Imogen wondered: Two? Four? Multiples upon multiples of those burgundy lips pressed to her own, moving as they did with alternate ferocity and tenderness? And more besides, eventually?

            (They had parted amicably, Imogen beginning her long wait with a run. She would win the prize.)