• His name was Stephen.

    I'll be the first to admit Stephen is an odd name for a wizard. When I had heard of wizard's living near this part, I had thought of names like Pendragon, Mandrake, and possibly even Potter. My imagination had run away with me and I presumed they were those dark lords of magic in classic, gothic robes or perhaps even one of those bright, richly clad magicians with something like a wand in hand. I suppose I've thought of much sillier things before. But his name was Stephen, or at least it was the name he flaunted at me without my asking during our first encounter.

    The first time the gentleman waltzed into the shop, I could tell he fancied he owned the place. He must have been very much aware of the affect his countenance had upon us poor females, for his whole attitude did nothing but confirm it. He seemed one of those charming young chaps who are raised upon the knowledge that they are better than everyone else and thus their characters are formed. His appearance did nothing to help the matter.

    He had silk threads of golden hair rivaled in majesty only by his glass, turquoise eyes. His face was of a creamy complexion and perfectly flawless, almost seeming to be soft to the touch if only one were brave enough to reach out. To suitably complement these stunning features, he garbed himself in only the richest and most elegant of aristocratic clothes like that of a man of the most pure, noble lineage, perhaps even enough to rival an earl. An embellishment he hardly needed. He walked with something of a careless stride, fluid and clearly arrogant. His eyes glimmered upon his entrance like the early morning glitter on the sea's surface right after a storm.

    I am without even the slightest shadow of a doubt that he was very much aware his was a mien that was quite handsome and dashing. In all honesty, few could ever hope to rival such grace and charm, let alone packaged together so perfectly in collaboration with all his other sort of accomplishments. He was a cut above the company. My associates, and every other maiden present, swooned merely at the sight. I on the other hand knew better. Despite all these shallow impressions that ought to have been to his favor, I could also see past all his pretenses, his illusion, his thickly coated glamour if you will, and spot his one foible. There was something fake about his personage, something of a falsehood in his countenance and manner.

    So as his soft, marble gaze landed upon me with his smiling ever so genially, I couldn't help but roll my eyes. I switched subjects with great ease, finding my attention on watching a kettle boil more fascinating than the hue of his glassy eyes and twirling tea bags through my fingers more amusing than any of his charms. I am not vain, and do not mean to sound such when I state he took a fancy towards myself. I must confess I could hardly imagine why. I won't lie and say I am hideous, but neither would I dare claim of being of a ravishing sort. At my best days, I could be deemed pretty; my worst, pretty decent. Yet I found no shortage of beauty in the tea house, nor lack of young maids whose figures were far more appealing in attraction than my own. I can not hope to explain why his eyes lingered upon myself. They just did.

    He approached with somewhat of a cocky air, his smile easily discernable. A smirk so superior that it was as if it knew it could make any woman blush. And his eyes shone equally as vibrant; somehow just as conscious that they were every lady's wet dream. I can admit he was . . . and yet for me, he wasn't. It wasn’t as though I found him in no way attractive, but the falsehood I perceived was hindering any progress for my attentions. His voice was soft and dulcet, a tone probably accustomed to enamor all young ladies.

    "Elope with me?"

    I should've been shocked. I should have glanced up with a stunned and staggered expression. I should have reacted to this more naturally, but unfortunately at the expense of an exciting narration to the benefit of the reader, it wasn't entirely unexpected. He seemed of a spoiled sort, always granted his silliest whims and his tone had a hint at authority, well accustomed to being obeyed. He’d probably send someone to the end of the world solely for his amusement. I suspected it must have been just another of his silly whims to find a pretty tea house girl, or anyone of the lower working class, and ask her to elope. I continued my work without an intimation of disturbance, barely glancing up. "Are not you first supposed to ask my name?"
    He shrugged his shoulders as if it were no more than details that he couldn't be trifled with and spoke like one just going through the motions towards the inevitable. "Alright. May I have your name?"

    I couldn't care less who knew my name. Stranger or friend; earl or wizard. Without hesitation or shifting any more attention from my work, I replied simply "Jules."

    "Will you elope with me Jules?"

    "No." I went on with my employment, completely unperturbed.

    "I could put a spell on you," he continued on in a nonchalant and still charming voice. "I know your name so I could easily cast a spell on you. I can bewitch you into falling madly in love with me. I am a wizard. I could make you do anything I say."

    This would explain the tone of authority and his blasé remarks. And again, I should have been at the very least a tad bit frightened by this. You don’t just go around snubbing wizards after they threaten to cast a spell on you. Yet, I couldn't give a flying fig for all he was concerned. I simply placed some tea powder into a kettle of boiled water and hit the bell that signaled for someone to get it off the counter, remarking as offhandedly as him, "If you ever were planning on doing so, you would have asked my name first."

    "There are some lesser spells in which you don't require a name to enchant them. You hadn't known mine was Stephen, and here you've bewitched me body and soul."

    "I am no enchantress."

    He cocked his head a little to the side, smiling silly like. "Please?"

    "I will not elope with you, sir, and I am sure you see I am very busy." Still flippant, "Why?"

    I puffed out my cheeks and blew a waft of hot air, already past the point of ill-temperament. Something about him and his whole demeanor struck my last nerves and I wanted him to do no more than leave me in peace. I would do anything to help that objective along. Without a thought to what I was saying, I simply blurted out an answer sharply, "You are not my type."
    I suppose it's not something you would say to a wizard.

    And yet he shut up at that comment and his whole character dropped unexpectedly. His pitiful eyes resembled more a pool of tears than marbles and the whole of his creamy texture went a little pale. He sulked, still rather attractively, and with that last statement still hanging in the air, parted the tea shop with the audacity not to purchase anything after my putting up with him and his nonsense so long. His last look might have broken my heart if his performance hadn't left me completely indifferent.

    -It was a few days later that a completely different sort of gentleman entered into our little shop. While he was nothing like the former whose very presence could make a girl swoon, he was in no way unattractive. He had rich, jet black locks, a little unkempt, that strongly contrasted his emerald green eyes. His skin was a pretty shade of pale, reminding me of the bisque porcelain on a doll. He was tall and thin, draped in dark articles with unique accessories. He seemed some sort of Victorian goth and was quite spruce in his own way.

    But he was fake too.

    He wasn't pompous or arrogant so I wasn't appalled by his entrance in anyway. Honestly, I might not have noticed another customer had entered if it weren’t for the shop’s bell hanging on the door. When I had glanced up and spotted him, he appeared pleasant enough, though he did nothing to inspire any ardent affections in me of any kind. I treated him no more or less than any other paying customer, greeting him with a warming smile to neither encourage nor discourage him. So after ordering a mint tea, leaning against the counter, and striking up a conversation, I was in no way disinclined to engage.

    "Have you worked here long?" he inquired, sipping leisurely at his tea and glancing up at me from beneath his lashes.

    I continued to smile as was protocol, responding I had been employed here for several months. He appeared intrigued in my line of work. Well, as far as one can be so inclined to admire the tea industry. He behaved genteel enough, but I suppose it was that hint of a fraud that kept any admiration to proceed from our discourse. Our conversation went on for a bit, him always nodding and commenting in just the right places. When he had finally finished his tea, he did something unexpected.

    He slightly touched my hand, stopping me mid-work. His hand was icy, sending a jolt through my entire body. He lowered his voice to a whisper. "I know this is a little sudden, but I’m sure I want nothing more than to be with you. You’re too kind to trifle with me. Honestly, am I your type?"

    It took me a moment to grasp that. Apologetically, I shook my head and slid my hand out from under his frosty one. He smiled, a painful smile, and departed most civilly and graciously. He also left me a generous tip for my trouble, disappearing almost into a wisp of smoke, never to return again very much like the odd wizard before him. I have to admit it hurt to watch him go thus.

    I could never fully disapprove of him.

    -It had been a good many months since and no gentlemen during the period took any noticeable interest in me, which wasn’t in the least surprising. I was still a pretty to pretty decent employee of a quaint little tea shop of no particular acclaim. I was nothing of true interest to anybody. During this short lapse in time, I went on with my work as usual and life was pretty average without any specific scenes to be recalled that held any importance. It seemed my role as a subject of romantic consequence was over and candidly I didn’t miss it much. I had had two peculiar suitors pursue me, and that sort of experience, to me, could well last a lifetime.

    But the third young man who entered the establishment and took a particular liking to me was in no way an extraordinary character like the former gentlemen. He was an average, very decent looking lad. His was a well trimmed and kept brown hair that matched the exact shade and hue of his eyes to the letter. He was neither tall nor short, and his clothing was not of the wealthy or the destitute. His was exactly what you’d expect to find as any third person walking about town and, if you had the inclination, more likely to be fond of you in turn.

    He too, though in a lesser quantity than the others, seemed fake.

    I suppose I liked him as a person a great deal more than the two who preceded him. He revealed himself in no way disagreeable and possessed such a lively manner of speaking which caught the listener's ear that I must confess myself intrigued. He was extremely pleasant and everything a true gentleman ought to be and, therefore, I might have encouraged him a bit, without being directly flirtatious. Under different circumstances, I wholly believed we might've been great, even best, friends.

    We spoke to each other for some time, in and out of my servitude towards the other thirsty customers. Luckily, there had been a lack of custom of late and I didn’t have to sidetrack long before returning to our discourse. Our tête-à-tête was stimulating and most welcome. He asked me about books, politics, and any vague subject that could have struck a cord with me. He was very intelligent, had much to say about everything and nothing in particular, and, to top it all off, the dialogue was further embellished by the charms and compliment of him being a great orator. We went on thus for who knows how long as if we had known each other an eternity of time and were very much great friends. That seemed a slight bit odd to me, seeing as this was our first meeting as indifferent acquaintances, but I pushed it to the back of my mind.

    For a moment, I remained leaning over the counter, smiling really friendly at him. I don’t quite recall what we were speaking of, but I knew it was diverting and left me warm from laughter. His brown eyes seemed soft to me and very much like that of a relative or a childhood friend, like I had known them before. But the smile seemed to stir something in him that I hadn't anticipated. He leaned forward and kissed me lightly on the lips. It was short and innocent, making it all the more bewildering. He pulled away slowly, whispering in an oddly pleading tone, "Am I your type, now?"

    Strangely enough, it had never once occurred to me that they were all the same person, but at that moment it made perfect sense. He was a wizard after all. What little trouble it must have been to conjure up a spell to change his identity, for any and every occasion. Stephen could be whoever and whatever he wished to be. But to change character so completely, now that was a talent and a performance stage-worthy. And always, at the very end, he brought up my very own shut down that I used on our first acquaintance. Somehow it took my reeling mind a bit of time to catch up with me, for I noticed then that there were a lot of other clues and times of intuition that tried to warn me long before. It broke my heart that this young man was the very same wizard I had so heartily disdained. It wasn't because he had deceived me or because I had grown to love him, but that now I did not believe we could ever be friends like I had just been imagining we could have.

    "I'm sorry."

    And he gave up. No other suitors, or rather, guises came for me. He forfeited the game all together. It had been around two weeks since Stephen last came and I confess I had not entirely foreseen that. My first impression of the young wizard was determined and guileful, arrogant and persistent. And yet he no longer pursued me. I suppose he finally realized and accepted that the game was up, knowing he was no more than ‘a poor player, who struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. . .'

    -It was a cold night, and I had to wrap a shawl about my shoulders. It didn't bother me I was wandering home at so late an hour unescorted. Others in my line of work were too fearful to perform the later shifts, most of them women, because of the wizards running about with their black arts and it being the witching hour and all. I was not afraid. My silly ideas about magicians had died with Stephen, never to be resurrected again. So I just wrapped my scarf around my neck and clung to my shawl as I stepped out into the streets. I suppose it’s never proper for a young lady to go wandering about the back streets and through alleyways at such an hour unattended, but it was the quickest way home. The main roads were just circles and labyrinths that made it more and more complicated to navigate. I'd rather risk the alleys than a maze.

    I had seen many homeless people that way before, for I took it almost every night, but none ever so sad. Sure they'd all tug at my skirts and ask for change. If I had anything on me I'd cross their palm with silver and spare whatever I had. I was not afraid of what they would do with it. I had a talent for spotting fakes. I could all my life. But this poor dear was in no way fake. He was fragile as glass, cold as ice, and so pitiful I wanted to cry the moment I saw him. He had a rare disease, at least I think it's a disease, commonly referred to as albinism. He had no colour whatsoever, his skin as transparent as any phantom, his eyes as red as any ghost. It was not his only defect, however. He had a scar running over his left eye and his arms seemed to be badly burned. He wore normal clothes, though far too short for this weather. As I saw him so pathetically sitting in the cold, shivering, and leaning against an alley, I had to hush my urge to cry.

    I must have made some distinguishing sound for his gaze quickly caught hold of me. His red eyes widened in complete terror and absolute horror as if I were something very frightful. He pulled himself to his feet faster than a fox and darted behind the corner as if the devil were at his heels. My heart called out to him and my voice echoed it, "Please wait!"

    I forgot my cloak and the cold night altogether as I lifted my skirts and raced after him, trying to run down the same alley. He must have been very swift or I was much slower than I had otherwise believed myself, for I only caught a glimpse of his ghostly silhouette taking another corner before he altogether vanished again. I repeated my entreaty for him to wait, pushing aside that it was all in vain and that I couldn't possibly catch the poor creature at the rate I was getting on. Still, I kept going. I barely made the corner when I ran into a body. Richly clad in an elegant suit stood my very own golden haired, blue eyed wizard. I wasn't too surprised to see him, as he had always found a way of mysteriously turning up at the wrong moments, but he looked shocked to see me. I peeked my head around his body and attempted to pass.

    He caught hold of my wrist and stopped me, but I still vainly struggled to get free. My heart was still crying out: Poor thing! The poor thing! But the magician was reluctant to relinquish his sturdy grasp on me. His voice sounded concerned but also indignant, scolding severely, "What are you doing here? Don’t you know rogues prowl the street at night? You could be hurt!" His glassy eyes caught hold of my frantic ones and followed their path. "Don't tell me you're chasing after that thing! You must be a silly girl. Foolishness! Don't you know what they say? That animal is cursed and all who are near him are too!"

    I twirled at him, snarling, "Despicable creature! How could you ever say such a thing! He may be different, but that is more incentive to help him. Now let me through, you beast, and never see or dare speak to me again!"

    His glassy eyes widened and his whole countenance read of shock. I couldn't care less for any heartless thing. How could he have seen that same poor soul that I did and say such horrid things? More than a fake, he was a liar. He was not capable of loving me for he had no heart. No wonder the young man looked at me in horror when there were pitiless people like this about. I shoved my way past him at last in his lapse of concentration and again raced after the phantom that had seemed to have vanished like specters normally do. I never did find him and it was all Stephen's fault!

    I can fully confess it astonished me the next day when I saw him come in. Not Stephen or any of his new or old guises, but him. The ghost I had spent hours searching for the previous night. That apparition so phantasmal, he seemed to have turned to vapor or even burst like a bubble at the surface of reality. At the ringing of the bell to indicate a new customer had entered, I gave an indifferent side glance at the door and there he was. He staid low, cowering from everyone and everything. His pathetic red eyes appeared to shift involuntarily from one side to the next, as if something horrid was about to over take him. He very much resembled a wild animal checking to be sure the coast is clear before bowing down before a water trough.

    I hadn’t expected the poor creature to wander in to my workplace so I wasn’t quite sure what I was to do. Strangely, it struck me with full force that I had never thought of that last night after spending several hours searching for him. What a silly girl I was! So I just stood behind the counter, a kettle whistling and boiling from somewhere over my shoulder, and just watched him with blind fascination. When his eyes caught light of mine, he seemed as if he second guessed himself and began to make a hasty retreat towards the doors. In spite of the knowledge that I didn’t know what I wanted from him or why I was so enthralled by his personage, I just could not have that. I couldn't loose him again.

    "Oh please wait!"

    I held out my hand as if to reach out for him, and it felt so much of magic. Without a moment’s hesitation, he suddenly stopped right in his tracks, shyly staring up at me as he obeyed as if against his very nature and instinct. He looked like a poor, troubled little thing, though he had to be a little older than myself. I’m not quite sure how I knew. It was just something about his eyes that seemed to tell me he had lived for lifetimes without being a day over twenty. What he must have suffered to be so scared of people as he was! I quickly called back to the manager that I was going to take my break and slid under the counter with natural grace, leaving the tea to boil over and someone else to fetch it. If he looked unsure before, he was utterly unsettled at my approach now, seeming to contemplate if it was a good or bad thing. I made sure I was slow and cautious as I drew near. The last thing on my mind was frightening the poor dear any more than he already was.

    "Come here, I won't hurt you," I called out gently, as if trying to approach a stray cat or a badly abused dog. I held out my hand as friendly as possible, crouching a bit so as to match his own stance. He glanced at my hand, hesitant, then slowly approached, placing his hand in mine. I can't tell you if the tea room was all watching this odd drama unfold, for all I cared about at that moment was him. What went on around us didn't matter. It was his shy, fragile hand in mine that possessed my thoughts. They shook slightly, and I had a strange thought. God had made these hands to hold.

    "That's a dear. Now will you come sit with me and have some tea? You look chilled to the bone!"

    I can't tell you how long it took me to get him to sit down at an empty table with me, or even begin with how he timidly would sip his tea without a word. I just smiled as bright and engaging as I could, my eyes never leaving his quiet, pathetic red ones. It took a very long break for him to start to talk to me, and I neglected a lot of shifts to spend my time urging him out of his shell. Hours had passed before he looked even the slightest bit comfortable. And even though he didn't even in the slightest resemble a fake, he looked insecure and completely uncertain of himself. His voice was diffident and troubled when it finally, without any prodding on my part, asked me a question of his own initiative. It surprised me.

    "Don't I repulse you?"

    I sat there a moment, watching him as he in turn seemed to be measuring my expression. I was confounded and afraid I didn’t quite hear him right. I blinked, then suddenly the memory of Stephen raced across my mind and I realized what he meant. I clenched my hand over my heart, feeling an odd sort of pain. An ache really, but in some sort of good way. I didn’t want it to go away.

    "Oh, you poor dear! Quite the contrary, I love your company more than any others’ for the longest time. It's a pleasure to be able to speak with you at all."
    And then, in shy but extraordinarily familiar accents, he enquired, "Then I'm your type?"

    My head whirled. The bewilderment of the former question was completely overshadowed by the disorientation that this one now threw at me. Something seemed to rush violently to my head like strong wine and I began to feel drunk with my own thoughts. Impossible! It couldn’t possibly be. . . ? How could this shy, pitiful little mouse be that same arrogant, commanding wizard? It just didn’t seem to fit in at all! And yet, I could find no falsehood in him. Instead of shaking my head, blurting out the first words that popped into my head, or apologizing, I asked instead, "Is this really you?"

    He bowed his head low, his white hair falling in front of his transparent face. He wasn't a fake. He was real. He was flesh and blood. He was, right now, as God had made him, how the Lord intended him. I saw immediately why he felt like he had to use spells to make him handsome, to fit in. I didn’t blame him at all but pitied him. And then all the memories and scenes from earlier meetings flooded my mind, only now under a completely new light. All feelings of disgust, revulsion, and annoyance simply vanished and were replaced by new, stronger emotions.

    I smiled. I couldn't help but smile. It wasn't meant to be mean or in any form condescending. Even if I could have suppressed the smile tugging at the corners of my mouth, pressing my lips into a hard line, I could never hide the beam glowing in my eyes. I, for the first time in a very long time, felt truly and indisputably happy. Everything inside me defied logic and I seemed to have no control, which I liked very much. I suppose he fulfilled his threat of casting a spell on me. My heart flew. I leaned over the table and landed a soft kiss on his forehead, whispering, "Yes, you're just my type."

    And I fell in love, and it felt so much like magic. . .