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Jennifer Campbell-Hicks is a writer, journalist, wife, mother, and lifelong fan of science fiction and fantasy. Her fiction has appeared most recently in Fireside Magazine, Galaxy's Edge and Abyss & Apex. Visit her blog at jennifercampbellhicks.blogspot.com.
The goose tumbled through Jayce's open kitchen window, getting its wings tangled in the curtains and pulling them down with a crash to the tiled floor. By the time the goose freed itself from the gauzy fabric, it was no longer a goose, but a man.
Jayce sat at the table with a mug of coffee. She tossed over the jeans and AC/DC T-shirt that the man had been wearing when she first had transformed him to a fowl. Her choice of animal had been deliberate because he was foul. Behind that handsome face and charming smile was the foulest man she had ever met.
"Hello, Ben."
He blinked. "Jayce? Where am I? What happened?"
She sipped her coffee, though it had gone cold, and waited for him to remember. Momentary confusion was understandable, like waking up in an unfamiliar bed, except magnified. As his disorientation vanished, his handsome face twisted into an ugly expression.
"You made me a goose!"
Jayce snorted. "You should be grateful. I gave you wings. I could have made you a squirrel. You could have spent the past year gathering nuts and dodging dogs and hawks."
"Why did you turn me back?"
She didn't want to have that conversation while he lay naked on her kitchen floor. "Get dressed. I'll tell you over lunch."
They walked two blocks to the White Horse, Jayce's favorite restaurant, where she requested the corner booth. Surely Ben remembered this table. It was here he had admitted, under her questioning, to his infidelity. She ordered a plate of nachos, extra cheese. He ordered a chef salad, extra sunflower seeds.
He dug into the salad mouth-first and splattered dressing across the table. Being a goose had ruined his table manners.
"How's Samantha?" he asked.
Jayce's face heated. She picked at her cheese. Of course Ben would ask about Samantha. Jayce's boyfriend and her best friend, sleeping together. She hated the cliche almost as much as she hated their betrayal.
"We're not here to talk about her. You want to know why I turned you back?" she asked, and Ben bobbed his head. "I didn't. The curse itself turns you back for one day, each year, at the moment I cast it. After 24 hours, you become a goose again, unless..." She left it hanging.
"Unless what?"
"I could lift the curse."
His eyes narrowed with suspicion. Another side effect of his time as a goose: He had forgotten how to hide what he felt. Every fleeting emotion shone through on his face. "You would do that?"
"I'm not a monster," she said, and his laugh sounded like a squawk. "You brought this on yourself."
"What do you want?"
She leaned across the table, her sleeves almost dipping in her nachos. She didn't care. "An apology."
"Sorry," he spat.
"A sincere apology. You owe me that."
"After what you did, I'd say we're even." He wiped dressing from his chin and nose with the collar of his T-shirt, his napkin left untouched on the table. "Besides, I think you're lying. The curse is done. I won't turn back into a goose, and you're just trying to keep me under your thumb for as long as you can before I figure that out."
He stood from the table.
"You're leaving?" Jayce asked.
"I'm going to find Samantha so we can get as far away from you as we can." As he walked away, he looked back to add, "Crazy bitch."
"You're making a mistake," Jayce said, but she let him go. No matter how far he ran, he couldn't escape the curse, or her. A year from now when he realized she had told the truth about everything, he would beg on his knees for her forgiveness. She could wait for that sweet moment. Anticipation was the best part.
All jilted lovers should use black magic against their exes, she mused. If they did, the world would be a better, more honest place.
She finished her nachos, paid with an extra large tip for the mess Ben had made, and walked home. She had left the kitchen window open. The curtains lay on the floor in a heap. She made herself a cup of herbal tea and settled in to wait.
Soon a squirrel climbed onto the windowsill. Half its tail was missing, perhaps lost in a run-in with a predator. The squirrel chattered at Jayce and then stumbled and fell off the sill onto the kitchen floor. Suddenly a woman lay there, trembling.
Jayce smiled.
"Hello, Samantha," she said.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, July 11th, 2016


I wrote this story to the prompt "Write about someone who gets a second chance when it seemed impossible." I decided on a woman giving her lover a second chance to apologize for cheating on her. By the time I reached the end, I wondered whether it was my protagonist who was getting a second chance: to forgive and show kindness. Somehow, she doesn't strike me as the forgiving kind.

- Jennifer Campbell-Hicks

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