Lisa shifted the miniature rose a little, trying to get the circle just right. The sun was just peeking in the window as she finally satisfied herself everything was lined up, and she vacuumed up the dirt that had spilled as she moved the plants in from the balcony.
She had all five plants lined up in a circle where the sun would hit best during the day. It had been months since she’d needed to perform the ritual, and almost a year since the last applicant had been interviewed. The city didn’t need much saving from outside threats lately.
She grabbed a glass of water from the kitchen and sat in the middle of the circle of plants, wearing only pajama pants and an undershirt. The glass was one-sided so nobody could see in, one of the few luxuries she’d agreed to when they rebuilt the place last time. Usually she used tea for this, but she’d forgotten to buy some three times already in the last week. She took a sip, set the glass down, and gripped part of the rose bush just hard enough to draw a little blood. She spread a drop on a petal of the rose, then did the same with the impatiens. The dandelion was currently coated in seeds and several flew away as she brushed a leaf with her blood. The poppy was fourth and finally she touched the leaves of a bonsai pine that left sticky sap on her finger.
She fought the urge to wipe it off as the light started warming her little circle and picked up her focus. It was a small metal rose she’d been given as a child, and when she held it close the memory of perfume drifted around her head. She closed her eyes and let herself drift off, not asleep but not fully awake either. Her mentor had spent months helping her figure out her ritual to recharge her powers. They never disappeared, but in the winter months and after hard battles she could feel them fade. Her mentor’s ritual had been much more straightforward, as most firebrand magical girls were.
The sun had shifted, rising higher. She shifted so her leg were crossed in front of her and rotated slightly so that the sun hit her more fully. The poppy was in front of her now and she could feel it pulling at her consciousness even as it gave her power. Fifth forms were always difficult to manage, and she was relieved when the sun had shifted again and she rotated so that she faced the bonsai. Her back was to the sun, and it’s rays felt like fire on her bare arms and shoulders. Her hair was pulled back but the ponytail blocked most of her neck at least. She turned to the rose as the sun peaked. The sun warmed her right side and made her left side feel frozen. This form was always a double edged sword, but gave power eagerly.
The impatiens lit a fire inside her, energy surging and pushing to be released. The sun was going down already and she finally turned to the dandelions. It was like being wrapped in a soft robe, warm and light, but with that strange sense of nakedness that thin fabric always left her with. The street lights turned on by the shore and slowly made their way inland as the apartment cooled for the night. She ventured a peak at the window, but could only see the glare of magical glow in the window. Green lines of energy fed into her from each plant, and similar crimson lines fed back into each plant. The magic was already fading as the ritual completed, and her stomach growled a little.
She picked up her glass of water and gulped it down, quenching her hunger for the moment. The plants could stay inside for the night, but she still had more mundane preparations to make for Tuesday. She hurried upstairs, taking multiple steps at a time with a sudden burst of energy. There was only one nice outfit hanging in her closet. The rest were still sitting in a hamper waiting for her to get to the dry-cleaners. It was good she already didn’t plan on accepting this applicant, having company would be embarrassing at this point. She put the remaining outfit, a blouse and dress pant combination she hadn’t worn since last winter, on her unmade bed and added a pair of clean socks. She only had one pair of shoes, so those joined the outfit along with a warm but decent looking knit cap in case she had to go outside.
Her stomach growled again, this time more urgently. She hadn’t eaten at all since last night. She went downstairs, turning the lights on as she went, and dug around for a frozen pizza. As it baked she did a few dishes to clear out the sink and wiped down the counters. The timer went off as she poured herself a glass of milk and she carefully set it on the counter to cool. The air had chilled considerably and she dashed back upstairs to get a long-sleeved shirt on.
The plants had stopped glowing by the time she plated her dinner and sat herself on the couch in front of the TV. There was a noisy cartoon on and she turned the volume up until it filled the area. Milk and pizza wasn’t the healthiest dinner, but it silenced her stomach and she could feel herself settling down as the excess ritual energy dissipated. By the time midnight rolled around she was ready for bed. Her cell phone blinked urgently and she checked it as she crawled under the covers. Mike’s secretary had left a message with a time and place for the appointment. She plugged her phone in and slid it in the drawer so it wouldn’t wake her up with further messages. Sleep came easily but she still tossed and turned enough to throw her planned outfit onto the floor as the night went on.
Tuesday morning came with a muffled ringing.