Disclaimer: I do not own Practical Magic, its characters, places, plot, etc. All rights belong to Alice Hoffman, Warner Brothers, Village Roadshow Pictures, etc. This story is merely written for entertainment purposes only, and is not written for profit.
Summary: She calls to him. She always calls to him. For whether by a spell or in the form of a letter, he feels the call of Sally Owens. Once upon a time, Gary Hallet was a man of practicality, always weighing his options before acting on them. But then a letter came, and turned his perfectly coordinated life upside down.
Spellbound by Her Desire
"Even when he folds it back into its envelope and places it deep inside the pocket of his jacket, the letter keeps coming back to him. Whole sentences Sally has written form inside his head, and for some reason he's filled with the strangest sense of acceptance, not for anything he's done but for what he might be about to do." — From Alice Hoffman's Practical Magic, Part III: Levitation, 210 – 211.
He knows that everything that had happened was because of a spell. He does not question it; he knows it for a fact, and, as such, accepts it.
For facts are things that Garry Hallet knows well. They are vital in his line of work, after all, just as they are in the everyday hum-drum that had once filled the void in his existence; as he had, at one time, thought that he had a good handle on things. He thought that he had made for himself a decent, respectable living as a state's special investigator, although such had, more often than not, been a very lonely living. But it had been a living nonetheless. That was, until a letter—that damnably, divine letter—came into his life, and turned everything he knew upside down.
He cannot recall the exact sensation he felt when he came into possession of it, his calloused fingers awkwardly brushing over its smooth, beautiful, ivory vellum surface. He only remembers that he felt jolt in his senses, like suffering from an electric shock, though he could distinctly recall that it felt more like being struck by lightning at the time. The promotional lettering for Sally Owens' Verbena shop was something he noticed, true, but her handwriting was what caught his interest first. With its delicate, swirling calligraphy, he remembers how careful, how precise it had been, in writing both a shipping address and an accompanying return address—the most important one—on the back.
Gillian Owens' name and the address in which she'd taken up residence with his suspect, James Angelov, were of little importance, since he had known that bit of information about them already. No, the thing that caught his attention with the letter itself—if he were to really be honest—was Sally's address. He'd known that Gillian Owens had a sister, along with some family in some remote part of New England—a small town on the backside of beyond—that he'd never before heard of. He'd known that much, at least. What he did not know, however, was how close Gillian Owens and her sister were, the depth of feeling between the two unmistakable in the letter itself.
And though he thinks of it only now, he's never openly confessed that it was he who had opened the letter, not outright, since Sally had already discerned as much upon their first meeting.
That first meeting.
God. He can still remember how awkward that had been—mainly for her, since he'd had nothing to hide—with a body, buried right underneath him. Wait. He did have something to hide, but years of working on crime investigations has hardened him enough, not to reveal his emotions, nor to wear his heart on his sleeve. He's seen too much, has been through enough to last for three lifetimes. He's seen death up close and personal, has been through murder case after murder case of victims and criminals alike. He's seen almost everything those in his line of work usually see. It ceased to affect him long ago.
He cannot explain why he chose to go into it—being an investigator, that is. Perhaps he suffered from some sort of psychological trauma, back when he was a teenager, who'd seen a drug deal gone wrong; but then, a need of bringing in the 'bad guy' and a good sense of justice has always been a part of who he is. He's a lawman, his badge his talisman, as Sally so often deems it. And he knows she's right; that bit of metal does stop criminals in their tracks—quite literally.
And yet, he's still, almost, in denial about what happened in the loft that day, still cannot wrap his head around the fact that he'd been attacked by the ghost of James Angelov—not completely, anyway—since it's not every day that a suspect tries to kill his pursuer from the grave. It's almost like a nightmare that his lawman's rational mind fails to grasp. But then, when he sees the aunts meddle in another one of the townspeople's love lives, or he sees a hint and a trace of magic exerted here and there throughout the Owens family house, he accepts it, just as he accepts the dark clouds in the sky of a forthcoming storm, or how different the New England coast is from his beloved Arizona desert. And besides, the goings on at the Owens' house would probably make many of his former colleagues shake their heads in disbelief, if not suppress a shudder by the power these small town women actually posses. He does not doubt for a second that his former commander would gladly cart these women off to jail, just to keep his own sanity intact. That was one reason why he'd made James Angelov's death look like the kind of accident that no one would question, let alone look into. For what could he have done otherwise? Killing a man in self-defense twice would not fly over very well in the courts, as Sally would undoubtedly lose custody of her children. He hesitates to even consider what would happen to Gillian, let alone Sally, who had been dragged into the whole thing in the first place.
He does not doubt Sally's love for her sister. Nor does he, in regards to Gillian feeling the same for Sally. The Owens sisters are close; their aunts, also sisters, and also Sally's daughters—sisters all, through and through—as their bond is thicker than the blood running through their veins. Maria's blood.
Oh, yes, he's heard of the matriarch of the Owens family, and he does not doubt for a second the power she'd once exerted—power, that is evident every time he sees something strange or unusual—passed down to her living descendents. Sally is, perhaps, the most powerful out of all of them, although she tends to refrain using her abilities until only when necessary. Her desire to be normal has flown out of the window, since the town—a superstitious and most strange lot, if Gary were to, at one time, call them—now welcomes the Owens sisters, if not openly embraces them. Sally's business thrives, just as Gillian, who is now shockingly serious in her job there, has become a fixture in a town she'd once loathed and abandoned.
For even to Gary, Gillian Owens seems to have gotten her life back together, happier now that she's put all thoughts of James Angelov—or Jimmy, as she is wont to call him—behind her. Gary knows that she still thinks of her former lover, abuser, and possessor. There are cracks in that sunshine smile of hers, slight lines so invisible to the human eye that only the aunts are able see them. She's like a vase that's been broken into a thousand pieces and repaired, and although she is mended, she is never fully the same; she'll never be what she was before James Angelov's terrible possession of her.
Gary's face clouds over at the thought of James Angelov, his hand thoughtfully holding an almost-worn, sheet of paper in his hand. The man had done more than claim her body in the heat of passion; he'd claimed it in every literal sense of the word, rendering Gillian powerless against his oppressive need to consume her, break her. It was perhaps the worst case of abuse that Gary has ever seen, since the bastard was inside of her, and could only be separated through the blood bond she and Sally has. He'd even tried to brand her, as he undoubtedly had done to poor Phoebe Stone.
He knows that Gillian threw the ring he'd sent back to her and Sally into the fire, along with the last, tangible remains of James Angelov. And really, he doesn't blame her for it; he'd done the same if he had been in her place. Sally had once told him in confidence what had transpired in the Oldsmobile that night, of how Angelov tried to mark her sister with the same brand; as, even now, it sickens him to imagine the rest of what happened, since he knows that Sally and Gillian had only acted in self-defense, the belladonna their only defense against that miserable bastard who had a gun aimed at both of them. And, in a way, he almost finds it fitting that Angelov died, not once, but twice, even though he hates for Sally to have gone through all of that. He knows that she suffered from killing Angelov, having never done something so life-altering, as taking another life. He knows that she refuses to think of it, puts it in the back of her mind. She rarely speaks of it, and he never encourages her; that chapter is no longer a part of their lives.
And yet, ironically enough, he sometimes thinks, if Gillian hadn't gotten herself tangled up with James Angelov, hadn't gotten so damned desperate to call her sister, hadn't created such a mess, then he wonders if he would have ever crossed paths with the Owens family. He suspects that he would, at least with Gillian, although he cannot say the same for Sally, since it was—and always would be—her letter that drew him out of his sensible little life as an Arizona lawman, and into a place he'd never imagine finding himself.
But then, it always came back to the letter.
He hadn't lied to Sally, when he told her that it was her letter that had made him come. It was not about questioning Gillian, and was, certainly as hell, not about his missing suspect. It was all about Sally, and the letter that had bewitched him so.
He does not use that term lightly—not anymore—since it's now taken on a different meaning entirely. But all the same, it holds significance, since he feels that he has been under Sally Owens' spell all along. And perhaps he has been, since he remembers looking up at the evening's sky as those flower petals fell around him. And, strangely enough, he was riding his pony backwards at the time, too.
He shakes his head at the memory, knowing well enough that Sally had only cast the spell—Amas Veritas, he believes she called it—to keep her from dying of a broken heart. Perhaps neither of them had expected anything to come of it, although he was quite sincere, when he said that he wished for her, too. He had. He had even seen her: a little girl with dark hair and equally dark eyes to match, as those flower petals swirled about him before falling away to naught. Those petals had, certainly, left a profound effect on him, because he's liked dark-headed women ever since. It was one reason why he knew Sally before she even introduced herself: she had to be Sally; he had been certain of it the moment he saw her, cutting away at a beautiful spray of roses.
He remembers how she tried to destroy such inspiring beauty, her tireless efforts making her even more beautiful, smoothing her already enchanting features with an imprint of humanity only found in marble. He'd been captured by her in the instant, wholly taken in by the loveliness that had been her hair, face, and eyes. He'd even noticed the grass stains on the knees of her jeans; but even that seemed to enhance the come-hither allure that was so naturally Sally Owens. It had taken his last ounce of willpower to actually to break the spell, as it were, and speak to her. And he had. He's even certain that he frightened the hell out of her, too, when he broke the silence and commented on how early it was for roses.
He even recalls how flustered she had been, when he questioned her and Gillian about the then-missing James Angelov. Gillian, as expected, had been calm and collected, if not a little too bold and flirty for his liking; whilst Sally, who tried to doubtlessly fade into the background, practically stumbled over every word she uttered. The car was surely what had done it, just as he now knows as much, since Sally confessed everything to him, including her slipping the belladonna into the tequila. For if there is one thing that Gary knows for a certainty, it's the relief Sally has in never having to step one foot in that damned nightmare of an Oldsmobile ever again. And as far as Gary knows, it's somewhere in a scrap yard, since the police department no longer had a need to retain it after James Angelov's missing persons case had been closed.
Gary almost sighs at the thought of what he'd had to do to keep Sally and Gillian out of being forced to a face a judge and jury and suffer under their verdict. Closing that case had been one of the most tiresome, difficult things he's ever done. It was almost as if James Angelov had been haunting him, since everything he'd had to do, had to be done properly, in order to make Angelov's death appear as it should have appeared. There had been no room for error, since an entire family's wellbeing—not just Sally and Gillian's—had hung in the balance. And perhaps he'd broken his oath in upholding the law, when he failed to arrest two sisters, who were indeed guilty of killing his suspect. But then, it had not been murder—not in Gary's book, anyhow—since it was, in all reason of the word, done in self-defense. And, as Sally had said that day in his hotel room, James Angelov had been punished—indubitably so. Phoebe Stone, along with others who would probably remain nameless and unknown, had gotten justice for the crimes done against them. James Angelov had certainly gotten more than life without probation, death by lethal injection, or even the gas chamber, since those are Arizona's methods of execution. He'd certainly gotten a hell of a lot more, having died twice, and then being exorcised. That was certainly not on any state's list of methods of execution.
It is a fate that he certainly hopes never to share. But then, he has no reason to fear the Owens sisters, although their aunts are another matter entirely. Gary pauses at the thought of them: Aunt Frances and Aunt Jet, who are as different in their temperaments as they are in appearance—a quality undoubtedly shared by their nieces and great-nieces. He finds Aunt Frances to be the drier and more cynical of the two, while Aunt Jet is the kind and patient, hopeless romantic. Both don't seem to age, either, which he finds somewhat strange, but accepts it. In fact, he finds that he likes them; he can't help but like them, since they seem to finally be glad of a man not dying tragically, because of his association with an Owens woman—not to mention the fact of how they always seem to meddle in, not only the lives of the townspeople, but also the lives of their nieces, as well. He remembers how Gillian had once let it slip to him that the aunts had been the ones behind Sally's first love, which had resulted in both a happy marriage and a tragic death. And he's sorry for it; he really is. He's not sure whether he would have liked Sally's first husband, but he sympathizes with Sally and the pain she endured from such a terrible loss.
And yet, if he were to really consider it, he realizes that, when he learned of what day Sally's marriage had taken place, such had been a particularly terrible day for him. It had not been anything too detrimental, but a terrible, almost phantom pain had surged through his heart all the same, as a feeling of profound loss left him in such a state that bordered on the unexplainable. For really, he couldn't explain what was wrong with him at the time, just that he felt something was wrong, terribly wrong. Like a lover who's been betrayed by the one woman he adores with the whole of his being.
The feeling had stayed with him for some time after. And now he knows why, as it appears that, although Sally had not felt the same on her wedding day, hadn't known that he even existed then, her spell had affected him nonetheless. And he understands that, since he does not harbor any regret that she married someone else. She'd been happy then, and two lovely girls came out of that marriage, as well. Two lovely young girls, who are as mischievous and are almost as meddlesome as their great-aunts. He knows very well that both will turn out to be lovely young women, and will surely ensnare every young man in town with their bewitching charms, just as he knows that Gillian will be their mentor in that regard. He almost dreads to see Sally's reaction to her sister's involvement in the girls' love lives; but then, again, he knows that Gillian is perfect for the job, since he knows that she will advise them against giving their hearts too freely to those less than deserving.
Even now, Gillian Owens is very cautious in the ways of love. Perhaps being possessed by a former lover does that to a person. Gary cannot say for certain, although he does know that Gillian has not lost any of that fire she had before her involvement with James Angelov. The woman is as intriguing as she is unnerving, just as she sometimes tries to shock him with her unpredictable behavior. And Sally, of course, has to shake her head at all of it, although there is a hint of amusement in that despairing expression of hers. Gary's seen it for himself, and he knows that, deep down, Sally is all too happy that Gillian is home, seemingly now forever, since she's gotten that damned wanderlust out of her system.
He considers the thought for a moment, as if trying to discern what made a woman like Gillian Owens set aside her nomadic, dangerous lifestyle, and return to a town she hated in her youth. Perhaps that desire had been exorcised along with James Angelov, but Gary is not one to pry into the business of others—not unless a crime is involved—since he's learned far too much about the townspeople of Maria's Island already. He really doesn't need a crystal ball to know whose spouses are having extramarital affairs, and who is divorcing whom, even before they disclose as much in the newspapers; Gary is made privy to all of it, from either the aunts or Gillian.
They are rather bad influences, honestly, with their midnight margaritas and dancing naked under the full moon during solstice festivals, although Sally and the girls, to his relief, refrain from the latter. And yet, there are times when he feels awkward around a house full of women, whose occupations are more often considered taboo than not. Sometimes he even feels as if he is some sort of ingredient, to be used in one of their spells. He'd almost been a victim of one of their potions already, since he knows well enough, now, what was in that syrup Gillian had tried to give him. Sally had been just as shocked as he when Gillian told Sally of her trying to send Gary away, although she seemed far angrier with Gillian than he was, since the girls had saved him from the fate of trying that magic-inlaid syrup. Oblviosus Imemor, a forgetting spell, which Sally had to explain to him. Its name reminds him of the shampoo he'd bought from Sally's shop—a lovely, yet expensive, name—during his investigation.
He takes it in stride now, though, laughing with Gillian over her almost-success in sending him away. She even admits that Sally's spell on him had trumped hers, since her talents lay on the other side of magic. He dares not question her over the meaning of that comment, either, since he can very well assume what the other side is. Really, he does not need to know, as there are some things that Gary does not wish to learn about Gillian Owens. Her sister, on the other hand…
Getting his mind off of a woman like Sally is almost as difficult as forgetting how to breathe; there's really not an hour that goes by where he doesn't think of her. She claims that it's the spell that she'd worked so long ago. Once, she had even offered to break it, so that she would not have any power over him, let alone intervene in his decision of whom he chose to love. She sometimes says that it's not fair of her to keep his affections imprisoned by a spell, and that he should love someone of his own free will. He begs to differ, however, since he finds no reason to alter her spell. He tells her that they are meant to be together, since, as he says, that it's not every day that a girl wishes for specific qualities in a man. He tells her that he's damned lucky that she chose a fellow with a penchant for riding horses every which way, whose symbol is that of a star, and who can also flip saguaro-shaped pancakes into the air—something in which that still amazes both Kylie and Antonia, as they sometimes claim that he has a certain magic of his own—since he always catches them when they come back down.
He even whistles her favorite song, albeit he had no idea that he'd done so until Kylie mentioned it. She had even shown him Sally's journal, where every aspect of the spell had been written down, every detail as specific as the symbols beside of them. The last was, perhaps, the most disarming, though, since it's not often that a girl—even one at Sally's age—could ever think of something so unique as summoning a true love who suffered from heterochromia. He should thank God that she didn't think to choose a boy with one blue eye and one brown. No, she had chosen his eyes, since green is the rarer of the two. And yet, when she had first seen them, since they could easily be mistaken for being blue at a distance, her reaction had surprised, if not upset him.
For like Sally, he has also been teased by other children because of an abnormality, since it's not often that a kid has two different colored eyes. He'd suffered the cruelty of his classmates, endured their insults. He'd only gotten over it when people stopped caring to tease and torment him for something he was born with. But then, when Sally noticed it and turned away…that old feeling of shame came back to haunt him. He'd had her, right where he'd wanted her, since reading her letter for the first time, the moment ruined by something he could not help, nor change. He doubts that even the aunts could work a spell, where he could have either a full set of green eyes or blue.
But then, it really doesn't matter, since Sally happens to prefer a man with mismatched eyes. She claims that it enhances his perception, in seeking out the truth among a thread of lies—including hers, since both know that she's a terrible lair. She even says as much, assuring him that he could even see her face through the words in her letter. He really doesn't know what to think of that, but he accepts it, since Sally is, more often that not, right in whatever she says. And she hasn't lied to him, since that day in the loft, when he came—literally—face-to-face with one departed James Angelov.
He almost shudders at the thought of what Angelov tried to do to him; he's worn his badge, close to his heart, ever since. And although he does not believe in curses, he believes in his badge's power, believes it a personal talisman that represents justice, as Sally had once said. Even now, he knows it is his duty to uphold the law, his oath remaining as true and earnest as when he'd first uttered it, all those years ago, in an Arizona courthouse. And there are times, he knows, when that oath came before anything else in his life, including the love he had for a woman, who was guilty of a crime he wished that she never had to commit.
He turned in all of the evidence concerning James Angelov's disappearance and later discovery. He'd turned in everything regarding Angelov, save for the tape he'd used to record his and Sally's conversation over Angelov's disappearance and what few notes he'd collected upon his investigation in town. He refrained from mentioning the placenta bars and all of the hexes the townspeople had so eagerly warned him of; they were completely omitted from his final report. Even now, he doubts that his superior would have believed him, anyway, since he, himself, still has difficulty in believing what had happened during his investigation. He'd completely refrained from mentioning Gillian and Sally, claiming it a dead-end with little to go on. His omission had gone against his ethics, certainly, but he'd done it for Gillian and Sally. He'd done it because, he believes, that such would have done more harm than good, since James Angelov was a bastard who did not deserve someone else taking the fall for him. He'd done it because he felt that it was only thing to do—the right thing to do—when all else had bewitched him beyond sense and reason. And there are times when he actually wonders why he'd done what he did, in going to Maria's Island in the first place.
But again, everything, still, comes down to that letter.
Gary shakes his head at the thought of it, as he could honestly, if not genuinely, feel that gaping void inside of Sally's through that letter. He'd felt her emptiness, her loneliness, and how it seemed to burn inside the both of them. He remembers how she mentioned the moon, and how the circle around it was a sign of trouble. He knows that she hadn't known of sister's dilemma then, but that she had somehow known that something was wrong. Though even more than that, was the fact that she mentioned how she yearned for a love that he, too, had long searched to find. And perhaps there had been no man for her then, the moon merely a poor substitute; but then, she had not expected that someone other than her sister would read those heartfelt words of hers, had not known that she had another chance at happiness—at least, not until then. Her letter had done something to him that he had not expected, nor anticipated. It had affected him in ways that he could not hope to describe. He still can't describe it.
His hands absently clutch the sheet of paper in his hand, those calloused fingertips memorizing every word, fold, and wrinkle it contains. He considers it, briefly, before returning his gaze to the sunset he's long ignored. He stares at its brilliant, red-orange beams, finding it as breathtaking as when he'd first seen it that night, when he'd temporarily dispelled James Angelov with his badge.
He takes another moment to consider the sunset, the dark waves in the distance almost crashing against it. He marvels at such sublime beauty, knowing that he would never see the same in Arizona. He almost smiles, for underneath either sky, the sun, whether it is sinking beneath the ocean's waves, or is setting beyond a blackening desert, remains the same. It is one of the few constants in his life that has remained unaltered since coming to the island.
For although he now makes his home in Massachusetts with Sally and the girls, he still, at times, longs for his beloved Arizona. He misses the sun, the blistering heat, since he's come to learn just how much he hates the cold. But for his family, he endures it, since it always seems a little warmer, whenever he gets home and finds them—his three ladies—waiting for him. He refrains from quoting anything regarding Macbeth, since he's not one for Shakespeare, anyway. Though all the same, to see the three of them, hovering over a cauldron does, tend, to make him wonder what, exactly, they'll have for dinner. And usually, it's something beyond wonderful, since his wife is the best cook he's ever known. Not even the aunts can compare to the magic Sally places into her cooking, their infamous breakfast brownies notwithstanding.
Oh, yes, he's had the pleasure of a brownie or three when coming for breakfast. He almost swears that he'd gained ten pounds during his and Sally's courtship, since the aunts kindly asked that he visit every morning until the wedding they knew would soon take place. And they had been right—about all of it, really—since his and Sally's engagement was announced, not long after his return. The aunts had even made a seven-layered chocolate cake for the occasion.
He shakes his head at the monstrosity that cake had been, and almost smiles. His saguaro pancakes are a sensation among the family, true, but they can never come close to the confectionary wonders that the aunts whip up, as if by magic. And yet, it is Sally's cooking—well more than her cooking, really—that compelled him to snatch her up, before any other imaginary man she'd conjured in her childhood could have the chance.
He'd been rather nervous about it, as he could recall, since he'd never really expected that everyone would know what he'd planned. Kylie and Antonia's giggling and the impish grins they had cast in his direction had made him suspicious enough, the aunts' pleasant, drawn-out greeting at the door almost confirming those suspicions. But it had been Gillian's wink and a sideways glance at his coat pocket—which held the ring—that let him know that everyone—well, except for Sally, of course—knew of what he intended to do. But then, how could he have expected any less, from a family of women whose intuition jumped off the Richter Scale? He hadn't a chance against them, no element of surprise. He'd been rendered completely helpless by this band of women who silently, if not a little forcefully, urged him upstairs, to where Sally was doing laundry.
And what a mercy it had been, he thinks, that they had not followed him up there. He'd been damned anxious as it was; he'd had no need to add to that anxiety—then, anyway. It had been the first time he had proposed to a woman, after all. And seeing Sally, clad in a pair of jeans and a simple, light-blue top, had nearly made him lose what little composure he had entirely. Words refused to surface as he watched her do one of the most simplest things in the world, and yet, to Gary, the ordinary, almost pedestrian chore seemed so new to him, so inherently Sally. He'd been rendered speechless for the better part of five minutes before she turned to him and finally acknowledged his presence.
Her confused expression, he recalls, was all it took for a simple greeting to come out, although hasty and jumbled it had been in its meaning. He remembers how accepting she was by his apprehension—so unlike his usual, calm demeanor—as she abandoned the laundry entirely, and came to his side.
'Are you all right?' He remembers her asking, for so kind and full of concern she had been in her initial sincerity, most especially when she placed a hand against his forehead, as if to check for a temperature, or some other ailment that would explain his strange behavior. And there was an ailment, surely, but not one of a physical nature.
But then the words—the right words—finally came out, and changed the dynamic entirely.
Neither of them spoke for what seemed a very long time.
Neither of them could, really, since it was not every day that a man, who once considered the woman before him a prime suspect in a missing person's case, asked for her hand in marriage. Gary's eyes had flickered green and blue with uncertainty by turns, as Sally's eyes—dark and fathomless and fully without a hint as to what she was thinking—stared into his, irresolute, and wholly unreadable. He had almost turned without so much as an answer, believing her hesitation enough, until she broke the silence between them.
He had expected her to sputter out some sort of apology, or even a reason as to why she could not accept his proposal. It would have been enough for him, he supposed then, but she did nothing of the sort. Instead, she kissed him—kissed him as she had when he'd returned after leaving that first time, after sending her that letter about the case being resolved, along with the ring—as everything, now that he'd stayed on for the last three months, had suggested that she'd expected this, expected that he'd propose, and she accepted it.
'It ain't much,' he recalls saying to her, as he'd slipped a small gold ring, with an equally small diamond, onto her finger. At that time, he'd almost expected that she'd be disappointed; but then, he now knows, Sally has never been one for fancy jewelry.
And she'll never be, now that he considers it, almost glad that she's remained the same as when he'd first met her, all those years ago. For even when in jeans and sometimes covered in dirt and sweat, Sally Owens is still the most alluring woman he's ever seen—that same siren of a woman that he'd imagined in the letter.
The wedding had been a very simple affair, where only a few living relatives that the aunts could scare up and most of the townspeople—as a few still had their doubts about 'Those accursed Owens women!' refused to join in the festivities—attended. Sally had even worn a plain white dress for the occasion, the three-quarter length sleeves enough to fight off the fresh autumn chill, but cool enough to leave her comfortable. The ensemble was lovely, but practical. It suited Sally perfectly. Even the reverend, along with everyone, complemented her on it.
She received only the best of wishes when the ceremony was over, a tearful Aunt Jet promising that she and Aunt Frances would look after the girls until Sally and Gary returned from their own honeymoon. Gillian had given a smiling Sally an affectionate hug, the sisterly embrace promising that she would stay home, and that they would see each other again very soon. Two weeks in the hot Caribbean sun—since both she and Gary opted not to visit his ranch, for various reasons, one in which, concerning Sally's less-than-memorable visit last time—was not very long at all.
And it hadn't been, really.
Even though it seemed like an eternity to them. Those two weeks, with only themselves, and the reality of what brought them together in the first place. It was wonderful, and yet strange at the same time. Strange and yet so…right. Neither of them could describe what it was that they felt about one another, exactly, only knowing that neither really wanted to reason that it was only a spell that had made them feel so damnably attracted to one another. She'd even begun to reconsider their marriage, but was interrupted before she could get the words out. Her new husband—and hopefully, her last—would have none of it, knowing perfectly well what it was that she was thinking. Instead, he made her consider a thousand and one reasons why she should never think of breaking the spell again, beginning with a kiss to her fingers…
After that night, she hadn't made the offer since.
They bought a house not long after their return—not far from the aunts and Gillian. It's a simple two-story structure, brown bricked, with a lot of windows. It's a far cry from the spackled ranch-style home he has in Arizona, but it suits his family well enough. And Gary is glad of it, since he's never seen Sally so happy. Nor has he seen two sisters, who are as close as she and Gillian. It's one reason why the two live so close to each other, since Gillian still lives with the aunts, and is only ten minutes away.
But Gary still misses Arizona, and Sally understands that. As a mutual agreement, they divide their time between states. Throughout the girls' school year, they stay outside of town, near the aunts; the summers are devoted entirely to his ranch in Arizona. It's nothing fancy, by any means, but it's not a hovel, either. The girls love it, and Sally is also quite taken by the small, twenty acre ranch, the house relatively modest, compared to the centuries' old structure which has housed generations of Owenses.
As for his newly-established life on Maria's Island, his job at the sheriff's office, though considerably different from his occupation as a special investigator, pleases him well enough. He doesn't have to deal with too many murders or missing persons cases. Really, Maria's Island is nothing compared to Tucson. He certainly doesn't have to deal with his conscience constantly tearing away at him at what he should and should not do. He upholds the law without so much as batting an eyelash. Luckily for him, he doesn't have to deal with any more James Angelovs, or the crazy circumstances that come with such a terrible person. He still doesn't know, exactly, where James Angelov's body is now; and, in a way, he doesn't want to know.
He almost sighs at his reluctance, knowing well enough that, even though he's somewhat curious about what happened after he left Sally that night, he doesn't intend to ask her or Gillian. Ever. Some things, he figures, are better left unknown.
Just as his first return to his beloved Arizona, to his equally beloved job left him feeling completely hollow. He's even sure that he left a part of himself on a small island in Massachusetts when he returned. He cannot recall how long he'd spent sulking, those long hours of many sleepless nights. He'd lain awake through most of his nights off, trying to think of what to do, what to say to his superior concerning Angelov's disappearance. He'd made a good enough case of proving that Angelov had died in a fire, a scant pile of ashy remains and the ring his only proof of Angelov's passing. It had been enough, the Owens sisters cleared of any suspected foul play. He'd even sent the good news to Sally and Gillian.
Everything, it seemed, had returned to normal.
But then, after a few days of sending that piece of absolution to them, signed by his own hand, no less, he'd felt it, felt her call. As a maple leaf, as brilliant and fiery red in its splendor, contrasted heavily against the lily-white rose petals he'd seen that first time he'd been summoned, made him realize that he'd left a few things undone—or was it unsaid?—back in Massachusetts. Namely, a question he'd been meaning to ask, but could never summon the courage.
The maple leaf was ample proof that needed to answer that call, since he could not afford to allow another lifetime to pass between them. He was, already, damn near forty as it was.
He almost laughs at his urgency to get a plane ticket, almost completely forgetting a need for luggage and a place to stay. He'd had no plan then; he'd barely registered what he was doing until his plane landed outside of Boston. All he'd known then was that answering her call was what he needed to do—no questions asked—since everything else, he was sure, would fall into place.
And it had.
Even now, he cannot say whether it was the spell that did it, or the aunts' meddling, or just how everything had taken care of itself. The compass of his life had directed him to Sally, and he'd followed that direction, never once faltering after that first time. He'd been spellbound by her desire, and he still is, as he looks at the sky once more.
A red maple leaf flies overhead in the evening sky, the autumn wind propelling its ascent, its brilliant red shape fluttering, almost like a butterfly, before descending in the same breath. A sigh escapes him.
He knows that she's summoning him again, the leaf dancing in the air before falling in front of him. Back in Arizona, it had been her way of saying that she was ready to begin a relationship. And now…
He cannot deny it; he never can, since he's not Odysseus, meticulously strapped to a ship's mast, and listening to a beautiful temptress' song. For hers is a sirens call. It is in his blood—a damned disease eating away at him, driving him mad—as it always seems to linger, just beneath the surface, waiting for its chance to bring him to his knees before the beautiful woman whose face he had only envisioned until seeing it for the first time. He recalls seeing her in the garden, hacking away at a rose bush, her dark hair coming loose from its bindings as she worked, tearing away at a beauty, too premature in its splendor. And it is only now that he realizes that death has befallen many by the hand of an Owens woman.
The death watch beetle has not plagued the Owens women again, which relieves everyone—most especially Sally and himself—immensely. He doubts that Sally could bear the same kind of heartbreak twice. No one in town mentions the curse anymore, having almost forgotten it completely—as if it had never even existed.
But then, as before, he's never believed in curses.
And now that he sees her coming into view, with a coy smile on her face, he wonders if the curse had ever been real at all…
The letter he's holding returns to his shirt pocket, hidden away for another, more private moment to read. Perhaps he'll find some time in the morning, when she's beside of him, asleep. Right now, his wife requires his attention, and he happily obliges, forgetting the letter's existence entirely. He meets her halfway, like always, and kisses her senseless. He hears her gasp in surprise, and he smiles into the kiss. He knows that he is spellbound by her, utterly captivated by her siren's song. It calls to him, lulls him to his doom upon the rocks of his own, gratuitous desire.
But then, he knows, it is that same call that is also a beacon that helps him veer away from those dangerous rocks when the tempest becomes too much for him.
He realizes that it's always been in her call, her sweet siren's song that has always beckoned him; and he knows that, by morning, they'll find themselves with their various limbs entangled together in some odd place, since the girls are staying the night with Aunt Gilly. It happened the last time the girls stayed away from home, and he knows that this time will be no different. She'll probably even find the letter, and know the he's read it…again.
Laughing at the possibility, he takes her by the waist with a confident hand, guiding her back to the house, since this time, he silently promises Sally, as well as himself, that he'll be the one who'll summon her.
And neither can be happier by that prospect, since both realize, if only secretly, that it's more than just a spell.
Author's Note: Aside from one other story, this is probably one of the sappiest, most romantic things I've probably ever written, but it could not be helped. After rediscovering my love for the film again, I simply could not resist writing a short oneshot on Sally and Gary's relationship. I got a copy of the novel, but was, sadly enough, left a little disappointed by how their relationship was portrayed. I suppose it's where I saw the film first, but I felt that there was something more—their chemistry, anyway—found in the film, that the novel, at least for me, lacked.
Oh, and being the struck by lightning reference is an allusion to the novel, when Gary is first introduced in Part III. I just wanted to allude to the novel in this one instance, though the rest of this story remains primarily with details from the film. Really, I just like the film better for some reason, which is very rare for me. o.0; (Shakes head.)
I also apologize in advance for any grammatical errors. I've really only looked over this once in its entirety; and hopefully I got everything, but if not, then I'll correct it. I also hope that the shift in tenses was not too confusing. I've been experimenting in writing in the present tense lately, since I primarily write in past tense. I also hope that it doesn't appear too reminiscent of Alice Hoffman's writing style. I try to veer away from mimicking another author, since I feel it a tad shallow to do such. :(
Anyway, I hope that everyone has enjoyed this. And do please, by all means, let me know what you think of it. I don't often venture into contemporary works, but there is just something about Practical Magic that simply captivates me! ^.^