She used to go to Aunt Carols about once week. She’d just drop in, make tea, run the vacuum cleaner around, nip to the store. Little things that made her aunts life a bit easier. Her Aunt was more than capable but enjoyed the weekly visits. A little company from a younger soul helped to wind back the years, just for a little while.
One Friday morning she arrived at the old town house, on her bicycle as usual, to find a hearse parked outside the front door. Fearing the worst she threw the bicycle to the floor and took the six front steps in two strides. She fumbled with her key in a blind panic. Why does the slot get smaller when you’re in a hurry? She thought to herself. Bundling through the hallway she looked through the door to the living room. Empty. She ran down the hall and burst through the kitchen door.
“Susan, whatever is the matter? Has someone died?”
“I, I thought you had” she replied breathlessly
“Why, whatever gave you that idea?”
“There’s a hearse parked outside, and I, well I suppose I just panicked a bit”
“Sorry, that’s mine.” A new voice spoke and for the first time she noticed the stranger sitting at the kitchen table.
“Susan, this is Scott. His Aunt is a dear friend of mine and he’s going to stay for a while until he finds his feet.”
“Oh, Scott. Right. You drive a hearse?”
“I know, but it’s perfect for my line of work”
“Ah, you’re a funeral director.”
“No, I’m a magician.”
“Sorry you’re a what?”
“A magician, you know rabbits and hats, watches and hammers”
“And you make a living at that do you?”
He thanked her Aunt for the tea and said he was going to unpack his things. Susan sat down opposite her Aunt and directed her stern face at her.
“It’s fine, he’s sleeping in the top room and using the basement for storage. He’s a lovely young man anyway. You should make an effort. You might like him”
“Ok Aunty. Do you need anything from the store while I’m here?”
She left the house, armed with a not insubstantial shopping list, tidied up her bicycle from where she had abandoned it earlier and walked to the supermarket a few blocks away.
When she returned, arms laden with groceries, Scott was down in the basement. She picked out the laundry powder from the shopping bag and took it down the stairs to where the washing machine lived. The steps were illuminated by the bare light bulb hanging in the middle of the room. It cast elongated shadows across the floor. She could see Scott, directly under the lightbulb, rummaging in a variety of trunks and boxes. She sat on a lower step, hugging the box of detergent close to her chest and watched as he arranged his things just so, the basement was now his stage. Across the room he had set two cages and a small aviary on her late Uncles old workbench. Scott reached into the first cage and produce a brilliant white rabbit. Turning around, he spotted her watching him.
She got up and put the laundry powder on top of the washing machine and hastily climbed the stairs. She allowed herself a quick backwards glance and saw him, watching her.
She found herself going round to Aunt Carols more often. She knew it was to see him, Aunt Carol knew too but didn’t say anything. She recognised him as a handsome man, and yes he was kind and funny but it wasn’t him that fascinated her, it was what he could do. She would sit on the stair, watching him practice. She just couldn’t see how he did those tricks. He was a brilliant magician, he was just, well, a bit clumsy, a bit hurried. She imagined he would be the same in bed, but stopped that thought from going any further. Every other day she would find a reason to pop down into the basement. The conversations were always muted
Then, he surprised her. He left his position under the lightbulb and came to the bottom of the stairs.
“Um, Susan, er, I was wondering”
Oh God, he’s going ask me out on a date, how I am going to let him down gently.
“Would you like to be my assistant?”
She was back in the kitchen, making tea before she’d realised she had agreed to his request. What was it he’d said? Meet here tomorrow for rehearsal. Something about the first show next week. What was she doing?