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The Magical Art of Letting Go

flash fiction from the world of the Flicker series

by Kaye Thornbrugh
Copyright Kaye Thornbrugh

You know, Lee said, feeling one-handed for whatever remained on the shelf. The
cardboard box at her feet held a jumble of items shed already pulled down: a blue
velvet pouch labeled Luck Dust, a bundle of pale roots that glowed at her touch,
and most surprisingly, a stack of pulp paperbacks, the covers illustrated in lurid
color. This would go a lot faster if youd stop breathing down my neck.
Why, so you can gut the place? Filo asked, as he thumbed through one of
the paperbacks. He looked faintly disturbed, but Lee wasnt sure if that was
because of her or because of something in the book. If I left you to it, youd get
rid of the stuff I need.
Stuff you need, Lee muttered. She blew her bangs out of her eyes and
surveyed the shop. Blue-gray rain drummed against the glass storefront, a late
November storm. A carousel dragon in desperate need of repainting crouched in
front of the window, teeth bared in a terrible grin. The rest of the space was
dominated by low tables and display cases crammed with oddities, none of it in
any discernible order. Yeah, right.
Filo dealt in magic: bottled potions and prepackaged spells, charms for luck
and protection made to order, and just about anything else, if the price was right.
His regular clientele included faeries, shapeshifters and werecreatures, as well as
humans beleaguered by magical problems. He did business in this shop, called
Flicker, and he used to live alone in the apartment upstairs, until Lee moved in
three weeks ago.
Shed been living with him for almost a month before that, actually, much to
their mutual dismay, but they only recently made the arrangement official. Lee
thought of it as the day she had decided to stay permanently as his roommate and

sort-of business partner; Filo insisted it was the day he had graciously decided to
let her stay, and to teach her magic, besides. In the end, they agreed to disagree.
Except for a touch of magical ability, Lee considered herself to be a pretty
ordinary human. Filo, on the other hand, was a changelingstolen by faeries as a
child and raised by them. In light of that, Lee forgave most of his peculiarities. She
probably wouldve turned out a little weird and abrasive, too, if shed grown up the
way he had. Because she used so much of her patience in putting up with his
prickliness, though, she had none left for the disaster that was his shop.
All day, she had systematically worked through heaps of junksome of it
magical, some of it mundaneand sorted it into categories: keep, sell, and toss.
Filo wasnt much help. He claimed to be supervising, but mostly, he just skulked
around in her way and complained.
Lee slid a big glass jar off the shelf, gently wiping the dust away with a rag.
Inside, a cloven hoof floated in thick, cloudy liquid. Silky white fur covered the
delicate ankle joint.
Huh, she said aloudand here she thought shed unearthed all the truly
weird stuff already. She raised the jar so he could see. Um, Filo whats this?
His blue eyes snapped wide. Be careful with that! Its a unicorn hoof, and it
was expensive!
Wait, what? She almost dropped the jar in surprise. Someone cut this off
an actual unicorn? Thats awful!
Yeah, yeah, whatever, Filo said, as he pitched the paperback onto a nearby
table. He tried to take the jar from her, but she clung to it, which made him huff out
a breath. Do you have any idea how hard it is to find unicorn parts? I was lucky to
get a hoof. In a year, thats the only one Ive seen. And Im keeping it, by the way.
Actually She frowned at the hoof, which bobbed gently from side to
side. You said it was expensive. Maybe we could sell it instead
What? He looked scandalized. No way! Ive been saving that!
Youve had it for a year and havent done anything with it, Lee pointed
out. What could you possibly need it for?

Im saving it, he repeated, irritably, for a special project that hasnt come
up yet.
She opened her mouth to argue, then remembered that it was pointless to
argue with Filo. Instead, she slammed the jar back onto the shelf. Fine. Well put
it in the keep pilealong with practically everything else.
Whats that supposed to mean?
Take a guess. Lee gestured wildly, encompassing the whole shop, which
was still woefully cluttered. So far, he had been willing to part with some
crumbling old spell books, a few bone-handled knives, and an assortment of
trinkets that he said had been in the shop longer than hed lived above itwhich
was most of his life. Hed let her throw out some items that were obviously broken
or ruined. But most of the boxes shed labeled TOSS and SELL were empty.
Weve been at this all day, and you wont let me get rid of anything!
Because you have no concept of the value of any of this, Filo snapped,
stepping closer to her. Youre totally new to the game. You cant tell whats
important from whats not.
And you think its all important, Lee fired back. She jabbed a finger
toward his chest. Filo, you are such a hoarder
He made a disgusted sound. I am not
I dont know how you find any of the stuff you actually need in this mess,
nothings even labeled
I have a system, which youre wrecking
You cant expect me to live like this
Nobodys forcing you to stay
Throwing up her hands, she shouted, Its just junk, Filo! It doesnt matter!
Why cant you let anything go?
He recoiled, like shed slapped him. For a second, he didnt say anything,
just looked away from her, shoulders braced. Then he mumbled, I dont just throw
things away because theyre not useful to me right this second. Thats all.
When he still wouldnt meet her eyes, she realized that shed struck a nerve
without meaning to. She felt uncomfortable, suddenly, and a little sorry. Filo, she

knew, had been abandoned by almost everyone who had ever been close to him, at
one time or another. He counted on people to leave; he didnt count on them
coming back. Maybe that was why he tended to hang onto things longer than he
needed to, longer than he probably should.
She wondered what else he was holding onto, down inside himself. He was
still so strange to her, this changeling boy.
Listen, Lee said at last, tapping the jar with one finger. If you let me sell
this, then Ill let you veto something else that I want to junk. How does that
He glanced at her, suspicious. In this light, his eyes were the dark blue of
bottle glass. Anything?
Any one thing.
No arguments?
Not a peep.
He seemed to wrestle with the choice for a moment. Then, reluctantly, he
nodded. Fine, he groused. Sell it.
Thank you, Filo, Lee said sweetly, knowing she would regret this deal
later, when he demanded to keep something ridiculous. She turned to him, a hand
on her hip. Now, are you going to help me reach the stuff on the top, or do I have
to climb on a chair?
Filo glowered at her in response, but she knew he was just keeping up
appearances: A moment later, he heaved a long-suffering sigh and reached for the
top shelf. Lee had to bite down on a triumphant grin. Maybe theyd get something
done today, after all.