The distant sound of a siren told them the evening crowd would be coming in soon, both fishermen and the office workers. Everything ran by the siren, as it always had. Some outsiders had tried to pass a law banning the daily call, but it’d been met with disinterest and even anger.
Lisa looked up from her plate at Camden and her father. They were eating cheerfully, Camden on her second glass of soda and Jasper halfway through a cup of coffee. They’d made small talk and time had passed so quickly Lisa had forgotten the reason they were meeting for a while. She frowned down at her plate and signaled the waiter.
“This place is going to get crowded, why don’t we get the rest to go and go somewhere a bit quieter?”
Camden looked up at Jasper, who gave her an embarrassed smile, “I’m sorry we’re wasting so much of your time today…”
“I wouldn’t call it a waste, I’m having a splendid meal with good company. To-go boxes and some extra for everyone and a dessert for these two to take home. Something that won’t melt.” She waved at Jasper when he started to protest, “Trust me, nobody will mind.”
“Where are we gonna go then?” Camden asked.
Lisa could see she was getting twitchy from all the sugar as the waiter returned with a large bag full of their food. She stood up and gathered her things. “I think I live closest, did you walk here?”
Jasper nodded, taking the heavy food bag before she could. She thought about arguing it but decided he wanted it more.
“I think pretty much anywhere public is going to draw a crowd, so let’s go back to my place.”
“Are you sure that’s appropriate?” Jasper actually looked a little embarrassed at the suggestion and she fought back a smile.
“It’s technically my office too, and it’s private. Nobody will think anything of it.” He seemed unsatisfied with the answer but didn’t argue the point.
“We should get going before it rains!” Camden had made her way to the door already and swaying impatiently.
“Calm down, we’re going.” Lisa opened the door and the girl darted around her and out into the cool, moist air. The sky threatened rain as the three of them strolled down the street. Camden darted ahead regularly while Jasper kept pace a step behind Lisa. “She certainly has a lot of energy.” Lisa commented.
“I normally don’t let her have more than one soda, but it was a special occasion.”
“Did you have work today?”
“I… yeah. I got switched to an early shift so we could make the meeting.” Jasper shifted the bag around to stretch his arms.
“Early shift? You must be exhausted.” She looked back at him, “I can carry that if you’re tired.”
“I have it.” He grimaced and shifted it again, speeding up a couple steps to match her pace. Lisa slowed down just a hair and they walked side by side, watching Camden dart around in the grass alongside the sidewalk. They reached Lisa’s building and she went in first, with Camden and Jasper close behind. She waved to the doorman who raised an eyebrow at her company but said nothing. She debated the elevator for a moment, then opened the door to the stairs. Being trapped alone in an elevator was bad, being trapped with strangers was worse.
“What floor are you on?” Camden asked, her voice echoing along with footsteps as she climbed ahead of them.
“Fourth floor, right at the top.” Lisa took her time climbing up. The girl was already in the hallway and waiting for them to catch up. Lisa turned to the right and unlocked her door, heading in first. Camden followed as she flicked the light switches and grimaced as the bulb by the door popped again. Jasper came in after them and set the bag of food on the counter in the kitchen.
“Looks like you’ve got a wiring problem, does it burn out often?” He was studying the bulb as she dug around in the drawer of bulbs. She remembered that being the last one and went to write it on the board, sighing at the previous two reminders.
“I just replaced it a couple days ago. It burns them out a few times a month usually.”
“Mind if I take a look?”
Lisa shrugged, “If you want. Camden and I will talk a little over in the living room, let me know if you need anything.” She herded the girl over to the couch and sat down in an easy chair perpendicular to her.
“This place is so big… is it usually this dark?” Camden was looking up at the ceiling which went up another story. Lisa got up and switched the other lights on, sitting back down.
“Sorry, I don’t have company much so I forget how dim I keep it. It used to be a storage room, they converted it into a loft to house the town magical girl a couple decades ago.”
“It’s really cool. You could hang all sorts of stuff from the ceiling or put in curtains and make it a different place every day.”
“I guess you could. My mentor used to divide the space up more with dividers so we each had our space, but it’s been just me for years so I took them down.”
“That’s a lot of space for one person.”
“I mostly just use the loft, the kitchen, and this area for watching tv.”
“Do you have a screwdriver?” Jasper called from the kitchen.
“Fourth drawer on the right, underneath the folder.” Lisa called back at him, “So tell me about your powers. How long ago did you get them?”
“About four months ago before school started. I was drawing in the living room and I made a scribble.”
“A scribble?” Lisa wasn’t quite sure what this meant but the girl nodded.
“I can show you one if that’s okay?”
“As long as it won’t make a mess.” Lisa leaned forward as Camden pulled a pen out of her pocket and scribbled it around in the air. A stick figure made of ink stayed in the air and began glowing different colors.
“They stick around until someone damages them… if I really focus I can make them stronger too.” She poked the stick figure and it dissolved into nothing. She drew a square after that and picked it up, handing it to Lisa.
“So you have artist powers… those are always interesting.” She wiggled the square between two finger. It was rigid and light, and felt cool to the touch.
“Where’s your fuse box?” Jasper called from the kitchen.
“In the closet by the front door.” Lisa tried bending the square but couldn’t.
“If I make them different colors they feel different too.” Camden made a blue square and passed that to her. This one felt cool, like recently melted ice.
“So you’ve been experimenting a bit?”
“How can I not? It’s so cool!” She grinned, dissolving the black and blue squares.
“When I first got my powers my dad had to mow the lawn constantly that summer. I kept making the grass grow everywhere I went. Hedges too. He started making me do the lawn until I got accepted as an apprentice.” The lights went out for a second and they both looked up as they came back on.
“Sorry, these aren’t labeled!” Jasper called from the front closet.
“My dad’s really good with repairs, it’s almost like his magic power.”
“I’m surprised he’s up for it after already working this morning.”
“I don’t think he can help it… he sees something that needs fixing and he fixes it.” Camden drew a small bear idly and it sat on the table, waving at her. She frowned a little at it.
“So why do you want to be a magical girl, proper? You could just have your powers and do whatever. Artist powers especially lend themselves to a lot of careers.”
“Because…” Camden hesitated, looking over towards the kitchen and her father, “My dad thinks this is the best place in the world, and I want to make it as great as he thinks it is.”
“But magical girls only protect the town from outside dangers.”
“I know.” Camden dissolved her bear with a wave of her hand, “But if I’m a magical girl for the town, and I can be really amazing, people will see that and since I represent the town they’ll think it’s amazing too. Then maybe things will get better.”
“There was a loose wire. You’ll still need to replace the bulb but it should last a lot longer now.” Jasper entered the room and stood next to Camden, “Sorry, did I interrupt?” he looked over at Lisa nervously as she looked from him to Camden.
“Thank you for fixing that, Mr. Crook. We were just discussing the business at hand.”
“Oh?” He sat down next to Camden on the couch.
“I have a copy of the whole presentation ritual around here somewhere, but I’m not sure where it is. How about I have someone from city hall run it to you tomorrow morning and we can do the whole ceremony thing later this week?”
“I… you mean… you’re willing to accept Camden?” he stuttered a little as he asked.
“I get to be a magical girl?!” Camden dropped her pen and a small ink penguin spilled out, scurrying away. She picked it up and dissolve the penguin with an excited wave of her hand.
“I’m willing to give you a shot.” Lisa gave them a moment to calm down, “But this is not going to be easy, okay?”
“I know, it’s a serious responsibility.” Camden nodded.
“We’ll discuss the fine details later, but why don’t I call a cab for you two so you can get your leftovers home dry.”
“Oh you don’t have to-” Jasper started to protest but Lisa cut him off.
“I consider this part of the dinner still so city hall will foot the bill. Go home and get some rest, I’ll be in touch.” She started shooing them out the door, “I’ll call the cab and they’ll be here by the time you get outside.” She pulled her own box out of the bag and handed the rest to Jasper, who took it without complaint.
“Thank you!” Camden called as they started down the stairs, waving at her. Lisa waved back, then shut the door and called the cab for them. This time of day the cabbies had more time then customers, and one happened to be around the block. She put the leftovers away as she hung up, and sighed. She’d intended to say no, and now Mike would give her that smug ‘I knew it’ look the next time she came to city hall.
Still, Camden had potential, and maybe this time it would work out. Lisa heard herself laugh bitterly at the thought, and headed upstairs for bed.