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Lucifer Matches - Laura Wise

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December 12th, 2010


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12:49 pm - Lucifer Matches
Okay, so the Arctic front that's pummeling the east coast has just made it to the subtropics -- sky's cold grey, wind is howling, and it's only going to get worse from here. (Those who live in Minnesota or similar would not be sympathetic right now, and rightfully so. But still.)

As I was plotting what to do with the impending cold -- bake! -- and making my preparations, I was struck by an Idea. And what can one do, when struck with an Idea, but follow it?

Therefore, a just-over-thousand-words vignette: "Lucifer Matches." It is a standalone, but it's also world-building for a project I'm planning, except now with extra self-indulgence. ;-)

.....................

There in the middle of the Millennium Footbridge stood the match-seller, as he had been standing every day this cold December. His ragged grey coat fluttered around him, beating time with the wind off the river, and his fingerless gloves were as blue as his fingernails. He came at twilight, he left at full dark.

“Matches,” he'd whisper to each passerby – the ones going to the South Bank, the ones heading the other way toward the dome of St Paul. “You look like you need a bit of light.” Today, in fact, a surprising number of people were buying the little boxes, proudly stamped Lucifer Matches on the side.

At least it surprised Rebecca, and frightened her. Were her protection-spells not working?

Rebecca Powers – United States cultural attache, single woman, art-lover, and third daughter of a third daughter – had been walking the footbridge every day this month. Kamila Benton, the latest mixed-media sensation (and coincidentally, Rebecca's college roommate), had a show opening at the Tate Modern in January, and Rebecca had been setting up the embassy's side of things. She loved the Thames anyway, felt its tidal pull like the magic she had discovered in herself when she was thirteen.

It was that magic that had helped her see the dark-shot aura around the match-seller, and that magic that had led her to the spell she'd whispered in turn as she'd gone by. “Safe keep all who buy, safe keep all who stand in the wrong light,” she had said just as strongly as the match-seller had whispered, and although his smile and whisper hadn't faltered, his eyes had flashed black with her words.

Today, however, the wind off the river tasted foul, and the match-seller's coat fluttered in mad cheer. Today--

“Oh, look at that poor bloke,” Mark Ransome said, and put his hand in his pocket where all his pound coins were; Rebecca had watched him buy two Big Issues just on the few streets they'd walked after they'd got off the Tube at St Paul's.

She wanted to scream.

Art lecturer Mark Ransome, tall and posh and floppy-haired, drawling and funny and the embodiment of Anglophile Rebecca's every teenage dream, had for the first time in their year-long acquaintance called her up and asked if he might tag along with her to the Tate Modern that late afternoon. “Have some business of my own to attend to, and I know you're going for your work,” he'd said, and then, “Um, right, and then we might have drinks and dinner? You and I? If that appeals to you at all.”

Appealed to her? Good God.

(Kamila had of course heard all about Rebecca's crush, and after she'd met him last week at some drinks party given by a Courtauld curator, she'd called Rebecca right away. “Girl,” she'd shouted into the mobile, louder than the traffic on the Strand, “you didn't tell me he was Mark Darcy!” Which, okay, Rebecca and Kamila had watched Bridget Jones' Diary once a month from sophomore through senior year, and okay, resemblance, but Rebecca had enough to cope with just as he so ordinarily extraordinary was.)

And here was Mark, putting his hand into his pocket to buy some freaking Lucifer matches, and the match-seller's smile had grown deep and cold as the wind off the river, and... shit.

(Rebecca's mentor in magic wouldn't have approved of that conclusion, but she couldn't think of another.)

“Matches,” the match-seller said, and for the first time Rebecca heard the power in him, the hunger. “Yes, sir. A bit of light for you and the lady, yes, sir.”

No time to mess around. She stepped in front of Mark – that tall, overcoated body stumbling into her, warmth and sharp-citrus cologne and something else she couldn't quite identify – and said to the match-seller, “So, what are those matches, exactly?”

“Light. Matches,” said the match-seller.

“Yes, but are they phosphorus or sulphur?” said Rebecca, although she knew the answer.

“Sulphur? Like proper Lucifer matches?” Mark's leather-clad fingers slid into her overcoat pockets, pulling her against him. That something she couldn't identify pulsed even stronger than her surge of pure lust. But Mark kept talking -- “The nineteenth-century matches that smelled of Hell itself?”

The match-seller lost all expression at that, smile gone as if burned away. “Just matches.”

“But Lucifer matches,” Mark pressed. Inside her pockets, he linked their fingers. “Which, as Rebecca has asked, might have sulphur?”

“Buy, and have light,” the match-seller said. His coat shaped itself oddly around him, as if tattered wool had become gull-feathers. A strange, awful smell drifted off the river. “Do not, and live in the dark.”

“Really, I shouldn't think so,” Mark said, and then said against Rebecca's ear, a sexy curl of breath, “Er, shall we?”

She was almost lost, caught in breath and power and something, something big, but she pulled herself together enough to change the spell, to begin, “Safe keep all who stand in the wrong light--”

“And far go all who serve the wrong master,” Mark finished, and brought their linked hands out of her pockets, and opened them.

The match-seller hissed like the strike of a match, and his coat fluttered fluttered fluttered, and he was gone.

The strange, awful smell lingered until the next gust took it away.

Rebecca swallowed hard. “Okay. Okay, that happened.”

“Yes, and very much okay,” Mark said, and then turned her around in the circle of his arms. She had never been this close to him, to see the dark tumbling fall of his hair, to see the laugh-lines around his eyes... to see, even in the twilight, that odd spark of green in those smile-narrowed eyes. “Miss Rebecca Powers, we might have a thing or two to chat about.”

Behind his face was the old City, darkness shot with light upon light upon light, crowned by the dome of St Paul's. In a luminescent flash she saw him older, sadder, with blood on his lip; in another he was art-lecturer Mark Ransome again, tall and posh and floppy-haired, drawling and funny and ordinarily extraordinary.

Underneath her feet, the bridge swayed, and she felt the tidal pull, she felt magic.

"I think you're right," she said, and smiled.
..........................


May your day be full of warmth and good Ideas!

(21 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:mobile_alh
Date:December 12th, 2010 06:03 pm (UTC)
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Oh, oh, oh!!! I so want to know more of this world!

And a lovely vignette indeed (I do admire your spell-phrasings).
[User Picture]
From:laurawise
Date:December 12th, 2010 06:22 pm (UTC)
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I am so glad it pleased, ALH. I have to finish the other project, and then we'll see about third daughters of third daughters.

Happy Sunday, with joy!
[User Picture]
From:paratti
Date:December 12th, 2010 06:40 pm (UTC)
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Loved it:)

((hugs))
[User Picture]
From:laurawise
Date:December 13th, 2010 01:09 am (UTC)
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Thank you thank you, L! :-)

[hugs back]
[User Picture]
From:headrush100
Date:December 12th, 2010 08:11 pm (UTC)
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*loves* This made me smile. I'm off to London tomorrow, and will think of love and magic now, rather than cold and tediousness.

Also, there is a little something on the way to you (not the thing that was already on the way), which I hope will arrive before you leave for the holidays. :-)
[User Picture]
From:laurawise
Date:December 13th, 2010 01:10 am (UTC)
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Have an awesome time in London, despite the cold! I am with you in spirit. ;-)

Thanks thanks thanks!
[User Picture]
From:mamculuna
Date:December 12th, 2010 08:41 pm (UTC)
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Oh, I want that to go on for chapters and chapters. Neat twist, great atmospher, *hot* guy! Or maybe *cool*...
[User Picture]
From:laurawise
Date:December 13th, 2010 01:11 am (UTC)
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You are lovely and encouraging. :-)

Thank you thank you!
[User Picture]
From:mamculuna
Date:December 13th, 2010 01:20 am (UTC)
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Write more, more!!
[User Picture]
From:laurawise
Date:December 13th, 2010 01:46 am (UTC)
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Rebecca and Mark have to take second place to characters I've been noodling with for a year... but they'll be in the same universe. ;-)
[User Picture]
From:anne_d
Date:December 13th, 2010 01:26 am (UTC)
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Oooh, more please?
[User Picture]
From:laurawise
Date:December 13th, 2010 01:48 am (UTC)
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They're in a larger world I'm playing with -- but I'll let you know when I start work in earnest. :-)

Hugs and a good start to your week!
[User Picture]
From:anne_d
Date:December 13th, 2010 02:03 am (UTC)
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I shall look forward to reading more of this world. :-)
[User Picture]
From:janus_74
Date:December 13th, 2010 02:31 am (UTC)
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Very nice. I wouldn't mind seeing the larger world that those two are in :)
[User Picture]
From:laurawise
Date:December 13th, 2010 12:52 pm (UTC)
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Thank you, T, thank you! :-)

And a happy Monday to you, too.
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
From:laurawise
Date:December 13th, 2010 12:52 pm (UTC)
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Thank YOU, C, for reading and kind comments! Happy Monday!
[User Picture]
From:stateless82
Date:December 13th, 2010 06:58 pm (UTC)
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Very cool.
[User Picture]
From:laurawise
Date:December 13th, 2010 08:52 pm (UTC)
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Thank you thank you, S! Warmth and a good Monday to you, too! :-)
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From:stevie_carroll
Date:December 13th, 2010 07:19 pm (UTC)
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Such a beautiful little story, and the twist caught me very much by surprise.
[User Picture]
From:laurawise
Date:December 13th, 2010 08:55 pm (UTC)
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Thank you, Stevie, thank you very much! :-)

Cheers for your Monday-into-Tuesday, too.

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