Hellish Bargain

“Are you sure you don’t want to go with me?” Drake asked Margie. The lean bearded man in a grey robe smiled at his best friend with his best puppy dog eyes. They hadn’t worked on her once during their 12-year friendship; and, they did not work this time either. The brunette shook her head at Drake with a smile. He sweetened the deal. “I’ll stock you up on some supplies too,” he added.

“It doesn’t matter how many times you ask…,” she shrugged. “I can’t get a sitter for Mary and I am not taking my daughter to Hell,” she denied his next suggestion before he asked. “Maybe next time you’ll ask with a bit more notice.” Drake sighed when he recognized her motherly tone; but, she kept lecturing him anyway. “You’ve known about your potions exam for how long?” she asked.

“Four months,” he gave the answer and nothing else. It took him several years to learn her different tones. Eventually, he was able to differentiate a rhetorical reprimand from a question that required an answer; and, only an answer. She nodded.

“Four months,” she repeated, then glanced at the clock on the bright orange kitchen wall. The two friends sat at Margie’s small, round dining table. Drake dropped by for an unannounced visit and she welcomed him in. Once they sat down with coffee he asked for the favor he came to ask. “And you waited until 5 p.m. the day before to ask me to go to Hell with you?” If you had asked sooner,” she sighed. “Even as late as yesterday, I could have arranged a sitter.” She took a sip out of her ‘#1 Mom’ mug to give Drake a chance to say something. He didn’t. “What’s wrong with going alone? I go all the time,” she added. It was true; Hell was known for its amazing shopping district.

“I’ve never been,” he explained to his half-full mug. It was a white mug decorated with colorful cartoon chickens. He wondered if it was chosen for him intentionally. “Like you said, you go all the time,” he shrugged. “I just don’t want to get ripped off or tempted or anything, you know? I’d feel less like a sucker if I had you haggling for me.”

“Are you sure that’s all you’re worried about?” Margie sat up straighter and crossed her arms. Drake nodded. “You know,” she relaxed her posture and reached into her purse. The small black leather bag was hanging off the back of her chair. She reached her hand into it then withdrew a transparent rectangle. “Life could be so much easier for you if you were more direct. If that’s all you wanted you probably could have been back by now.” She tossed the small glass pane on to the table in front of Drake. “Use my node instead of yours and they’ll treat you right.” Drake’s eyes lit up; he beamed his best smile at Margie.

“You’re a life-saver,” he said. She nodded in agreement.

“And remember. It’s Hell. Don’t sign anything.”

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