Price Of Love

Entry by: Foureyes

17th February 2017
The bell tinkled merrily above the door as the slim young wizard entered the shop. The dingy room was lit by floating orbs of iridescent green light which bobbed just below the high ceiling. They emitted a soft humming sound as they hung there, twisting constantly in a hypnotic fashion. The wizard glanced up and them and gulped, shifting the weight of the long cylindrical object under his arm.
"Ah, Mister Bright! Welcome back!" a cheerful voice called from the rear of the room. A small man wearing a brown overcoat and a battered top hat beckoned to him. The green light reflected off the man's dark glasses and revealed several missing teeth. The wizard cleared his throat and stepped forward.
"Back so soon, eh?" the man asked, leaning forward on a solid wooden counter and grinning. "You are rather swift, aren't you?"
"I felt that I must act quickly before I lost my nerve, Mister Bunsen," Bright replied, flashing an anxious smile. He moved past wooden shelves of glass bottles and containers, each filled with a swirling, brightly-coloured liquid or powder. The shop was an assault on the eyes and the nose, as the blend of spicy, sweet and sour aromas was almost as distracting as the light display. Bright reached the counter and hesitated, running a free hand through his styled blond hair.
"Well, Mister Bright, shall we discuss your price?" Bunsen offered, watching from over the rim of his glasses. Bright cleared his throat once again and placed the object under his arm onto the counter. He unrolled it with great care, spreading it out under the smaller man's nose. A beautiful carpet embroidered with purples, yellows and reds was revealed as Bright straightened it with trembling hands. Bunsen's eyebrows rose and he whistled in appreciation.
"Why, Mister Bright!" he breathed. "This is a marvel, indeed! How did you come by one of these?"
"It belonged to my grandfather," Bright said, his voice cracking slightly. "And his grandfather before him. I am told it has been in my family for six generations."
"Indeed! Well it has been remarkably well-cared for!" Bunsen said, peering closely at the carpet. "May I ask, does it still fly?"
"Of course it flies!" Bright said, offended. Bunsen raised his hands in a gesture of goodwill.
"Apologies, good sir, I meant no harm," he said, bowing his head. "Just an occupational habit, you understand."
"Of course," Bright seemed to relax. He shifted his weight from one foot to the other. " this sufficient? May I have my potion?"
"But of course, Mister Bright!" Bunsen exclaimed, clapping his hands together. "Your price is a worthy one, and I'll gladly accept it! One moment, sir...Tilda! Will you bring out Mister Bright's order, please?"
There was a muffled reply from the wall behind the counter, followed by shuffling feet and the clinking of glass bottles. Bunsen nodded at Bright and smiled. Bright returned the nod and began to chew his manicured nails. After an agonising few minutes, a middle-aged woman with grey-streaked black hair stepped out from a door behind Bunsen. She was an attractive woman, with only a few wrinkles around her blue eyes and small mouth, and she smiled demurely at Bright as she saw him.
"Good afternoon, Mister Bright," she purred. "Here is your order. I trust everything is to your satisfaction?" She placed on the counter a small, triangular bottle in which a murky brown liquid was bubbling. It was no taller than an ink pot but not quite as wide. Bright stared at it, aghast.
"Is" he said, bewildered. "It doesn't look very...romantic."
"Mister Bright, do not believe the fanciful rumours," Bunsen said, his dark eyebrows knitting together above his glasses. "Love potions are only pink and smell of roses in children's stories. The real stuff smells foul and looks like dung, but I assure you that it is all the more potent for it. Now, that little bottle should be administered sparingly, just a couple of drops on any food or in any drink your intended love consumes. It will get to work immediately and the effects will last for two days."
"Only two days?" Bright said, peering closely at the bottle. He frowned and his lips began to move silently.
"Yes, and I can see you are doubtful," Bunsen said, his impish smile returning. "But there really is no need for you to bother with calculations, dear Mister Bright. Once the bottle has been emptied and all drops administered, the effects of the potion will be permanent. Your love will remain yours for the rest of your lives."
"Oh, fantastic!" Bright's face broke into a wide smile and his eyes clouded over. "Then Derek will always love me..."
"Indeed he will, Mister Bright," Bunsen nodded.
"Please, call me John," Bright said, placing a hand on Bunsen's. There were tears in his eyes.
"Of course, John," Bunsen said with a wink. "Only if you call me Tarquin."
"Tarquin, bless you!" Bright laughed. "A thousand times bless you! You also, fair Matilda!" The woman, Tilda, bowed her head gracefully.
"Off you go then, John," Bunsen said with a cackle. "You've got a lover to snare!" Bright laughed and pocketed the potion.
"Indeed I do! Goodbye, Tarquin! You have made me the happiest man alive!"
"Cheerio, John!" Bunsen waved as the man all but skipped out of the door. "Remember, if anyone asks, you didn't get it from me!" The bell tinkled again and the door closed. Bunsen chuckled to himself and ran a hand over the carpet.
"By the Gods, what a treat!" he said, tracing the spiraling patters with a stained fingertip. "Can you believe it, Tilda? He think this Derek is worth a beauty like this? It beggars belief!"
"As do you, Tarquin," Tilda said, folding her arms and glaring at him. "That poor fool has just relinquished a precious family heirloom for a lifetime of manufactured affection! Why couldn't you just charge him in the usual manner?"
"What, and miss out on hauls like this?" Bunsen snorted, rolling the carpet reverently. "No, no, dear Tilda, this kind of payment is the spice of life. Everyone is different, they all think that love is worth something grand and exciting, I simply give them a little nudge, that's all."
"A little nudge which ends up causing great pain, Bunsen!" Tilda barked, prodding the man with a long finger. "Who was that woman who returned to you yesterday? The actress?"
"Ah, yes, Miss Stoneflint," Bunsen said, rubbing his chest where Tilda had poked him. "She was very good once, and incredibly beautiful, but time dulls such things. Oh, but she was head over heels for her young dancer, wasn't she? I heard he is quite a looker himself, and part of her own production team! Heehee!"
"Yes, and she stole that poor singer's voice for you!" Tilda said, running a hand through her hair in exasperation. "The girl must have been eighteen years old! How can you accept that kind of payment?"
"Quite easily, my dear," Bunsen said, placing the carpet into a large trunk under the counter. The heavy lock sprung open at his touch and the darkness within swallowed his prize. He glanced up at Tilda, staring hard at her over his glasses.
"Don't get all high-and-mighty with me, Matilda Swann," he said slowly. "The way I do business didn't bother you when you were on the other side of that counter, did it?" Tilda opened her mouth to speak and then closed it, staring at the floor. Bunsen grinned in triumph and stood up.
"Exactly, and I can't abide hypocrisy," he continued, straightening his hat. "You still have six months left of service to me, bound by your own terms and issued from that pretty little mouth of yours. You got what you wanted from our exchange, so stop this childish prattling."
"But I only got three weeks with Steven," Tilda said, her blue eyes swimming with tears. "It was a wonderful, but cut so short..."
"Not my problem, my dear," Bunsen replied with a shrug. "I provide love potions, nothing more. The calamities of life befall everyone regardless of the presence of love. You named your price, now get back there and decant some more bottles, I'm expecting two more returns before the evening is finished." Tilda wiped her wet eyes and nodded her acceptance. She trailed back through the rear door, wishing for the umpteenth time that she had never set foot inside "Bunsen's Bottles" int he first place. However, she had made her bed, and such was the price of love.