"I swear sometimes I think I'm cursed," Robin complained, sitting at her favorite coffee shop one evening with her best friend Brandi.
"You've just had a couple of bad dates," consoled Brandi, her eyes searching around the nearby tables for any guys who might warrant her attention.
"A couple of dozen bad dates," corrected Robin. Her dark eyes stared down into her coffee while her short auburn hair fell around her pretty face. "And almost as many bad relationships."
Robin's relationships had never worked out. She had a body and looks that had made it easy to date jocks and popular guys in high school and college and now she had progressed to men with ambitious and successful careers like lawyers and stock brokers. But saying that Robin's relationships had 'never worked out' was like saying the Titanic had been a minor boating mishap.
Recently, things had gotten worse and Robin's private life had begun to go from the merely disastrous to approaching natural catastrophes. She kept expecting the Weather Channel to name the next tropical hurricane after her.
"Why is it so hard to find a decent guy these days?" she asked, not expecting a helpful answer from her best friend who considered a long term relationship anything that went past a month.
"Don't look so depressed. I could set you up with that cute trainer at the gym," Brandi suggested helpfully.
"I thought he already has a girlfriend."
"He does but I think he'd be willing to dump her to go out with you."
"Brandi, maybe you think its okay trying to steal guys away from other girls, but did it ever occur to you that if a guy is scummy enough to dump his girlfriend, he'll just turn around and do the same thing to you?" Robin asked exasperated. "I mean, it's only happened to you every time you've done it. When will you figure it out you can't change a guy. There aren't any guys out there who would ever change for a woman."
"That's not true," a new voice spoke.
Robin and Brandi both looked up. A somber young man was standing by their table. He was not that tall and had dark hair that might have been chestnut or even mahogany, Robin couldn't tell which, and he was dressed in plain, nondescript clothes. There was a bookish appearance to him like he might be an accountant or more likely a librarian, but behind his glasses, his eyes were the most piercing shade of green Robin had ever seen.
"It simply takes the right woman to change a man," he was saying to them. "But women always forget that they can only bring out what's inside a man already. You can't turn anyone into something he's not or deny what he really is." His voice was quiet and serious, Robin could clearly hear him through the noisy bustle around them.
"Oh really?" Brandi snickered. She turned her head so she could secretly give Robin her secret 'Loser' sign, but there was something about the librarian's quiet, humble manner that stopped Robin from joining in her friend's giggling.
The sober-faced stranger flushed at Brandi's openly scornful and mocking expression but straightened himself in spite of the trampling of his pride. Robin had the distinct impression he did not talk to women that much, but he seemed determined to speak to them.
"You are not cursed," he said, talking directly at Robin now. "You just have to stop looking for men who only have what you believe you want, rather than what will truly fulfill you."
He placed his empty hand down on the table and when he brought it back up there was a red rose laying there.
He was already walking away from their table and going out the door of the shop by the time Brandi sniggered, "Oh brother, how corny can you get?"
Robin did not answer. She reached out to pick up the rose, its light sweetness wafting over the bitter smell of coffee.
"Could you -believe- that guy?" Brandi said. "And did you get a load of what was he wearing? Not to mention his shoes too! There must have been a sale on at K-Mart! Look at that, he's not even going out to the parking lot. He probably doesn't even own a car!" Brandi was almost busting a bra strap with laughter.
Robin glanced up and saw it was true, the librarian, or whatever he was, could be seen walking across the dark street in the direction of the park. Normally, Robin would have been laughing with her friend, any other night she would have thought the whole incident as completely ridiculous. But tonight, it didn't seem silly.
Robin had been lied to by men wanting to get her into bed, she had been manipulated and deceived so often it hurt. But she had felt nothing but frank sincerity from the quiet librarian, something she had not heard for so long she had almost forgotten how it sounded.
"Hmmm, but I bet -those- two have their own cars," Brandi was saying, having recovered from her bout of mocking laughter. She was pointing at a pair of tall, well-dressed guys who had just come into the shop. "BMW's at least, I'd say."
Robin looked up at the pair just as they noticed her and Brandi sitting together, the two men giving her same appraising glance she had seen so many times before. They both wore expensive, stylish clothes and probably did drive costly cars and had high paying jobs. They were like all the guys Robin had always dated, chic and successful, the only ones she had ever thought were worth her notice. On any other night, she never would have imagined herself giving some oddly mannered librarian in unfashionable clothes a second glance or thought. On any other night she might not have been holding a rose that seemed to appear out of thin air.
After a quick strategic discussion, the two newcomers were making their way to their table when Robin rose up to her feet.
"I have to go, Brandi," she said.
Robin drove her car slowly down the dark, deserted street, the librarian in view just ahead on the sidewalk. She huddled in her coat wrapped around her white sweater and dress. Robin didn't know what she was doing. She supposed she was trying to work up the nerve to pull alongside of the green-eyed man and offer him a lift. But her better sense told her that letting a complete stranger into her car late at night, no matter how sincere he seemed, went beyond the realms of stupidity, so instead she crept along half a block behind and continued to wonder why she was following him.
Then she saw a gang of figures suddenly step out from an alleyway and move in front of the librarian, all much taller and burlier than him. Robin felt a sudden surge of anxiety when the largest of the figures reached out to grab the librarian's shoulder.
Before Robin could think to make a distraction with her lights or horn or pick up her cell phone to call for help, the librarian lifted up one of his hands. It was dark, so Robin could not see things very clearly, but she could have sworn something that looked like a leafy vine came uncoiling out of the librarian's sleeve.
he vine took hold of the larger man's arm and there was a audible crack of breaking bone and a shriek of pain. The librarian whipped his arm about and the gang leader was flung halfway across the street as though he weighed nothing. The vine or whatever is was disappeared back up the librarian's sleeve and he said something to the rest of the figures. They all fled in terror, one of them hauling their injured leader away with them.
Her jaw hanging open, Robin watched as the short, bespectacled stranger continue on his way until he turned into the wrought-iron gateway that led to the park. She quickly pulled her car over to the curb and hurried after him, tugging off her high heels so she could move faster even though she was ruining her nylons.
Robin had jogged through the paths winding through park often enough on bright, crisp mornings, but the she had never been there at this late at night. Neither had she noticed the trail the librarian now took into the dark trees. She followed after him and the trees seemed to close around her, shutting off the moonlight and the lights of the buildings surrounding the park. It was suddenly very hushed and quiet. Her own breathing was very audible in her ears as she stumbled along, trying to make out the trail before her.
When Robin finally came to the end of the trail, it opened out into a wide clearing with the moon shining brightly overhead. The green-eyed librarian was standing close by, and in the center of the clearing was gathered a semi-circle of shadowy figures dressed in hooded robes.
"You came," the librarian exclaimed, obviously startled when Robin staggered out into the clearing, his expression torn between relief and consternation. "You should have stayed at the shop. I shouldn't have talked to you, but I didn't have any choice."
"Who are you?" Robin asked. She pointed at the robed figures which certainly looked sinister enough, but for some reason she felt no fear at their presence. "And who are they? What are you doing here?"
"The consort has come," intoned the robed figure in front of the group. "The ritual can commence."
"Oh crap, are you some of those freaky nuts who showed up on Jerry Springer last week?" Robin asked apprehensively.
"No! No, please I can explain. At least, I can try. My name is Hugh."
"I'm Robin," she replied. She could not have said why she was staying there in a dark clearing facing a collection of robed figures that could have come out a B-movie horror flick, but she thought part of the reason for her staying might have to do with the worried, anxious young man standing before her.
"This is going to seem crazy," Hugh said.
"Try me," Robin encouraged him.
He waved a hand at the figures. "These figures aren't real. That is, they are just manifestations of this grove. These are all English oaks, the only ones in the city. And the bushes here are all mistletoe. These guardians only appear on nights of the harvest moon and no one else can see them unless they have druidic blood in them, like me, or wiccan blood in them, like you."
Robin looked more closely at the robed figures and for some reason she was not surprised to realize their hoods were empty with nothing at all inside of them except shadows. For now, Robin decided it was just easier to accept what she was being told rather than trying to deal with the unreality of what she was seeing.
"Wiccan? Waitaminute, you mean like a witch?" she asked as the words sank in.
"Yes, that is what you are," Hugh nodded. "But you have not had any of the learning or gone through the ancient rituals which would allow you to control your power. I imagine it probably has been making things very difficult for you in your personal life."
"Hold on. You mean I really -am- cursed?" Robin demanded.
"Not exactly," Hugh replied. "Your wiccan blood has manifested disagreeable ways because you've always known, deep down in your heart, that the men you have dated were never the right ones, the ones who could fulfill the passions within your blood. It's not a curse. It is who you are. Just as I am who I am, born of druidic descendent, bound blood and flesh to the trees and plants here in this grove. And bound by the ancient rites to take a consort of wiccan blood on a night of the harvest moon."
"Hold on, I see where this is going!" Robin stepped back. In the middle of this night of all this unearthly weirdness and bewildering magic there was suddenly something bitterly familiar. "I've heard enough pick-up lines to recognize another one by now no matter how bizarre it is! You expect me to strip down and do it with you right here in the middle of this park, don't you?!"
Hugh only blushed and hung his head in obvious shame.
"The consort does not agree to partake in the ritual?" the lead figure asked in its hollow voice.
"No, the consort does not!" Robin snapped back. "You couldn't even bother to buy me dinner before you asked something like this??" she asked indignantly.
"I couldn't bribe you to come here," Hugh said plaintively. "All I was permitted to offer you was that rose." He pointed at the flower which Robin had not realized she had carried with her from her car. She was clutching the stem in her hand, ignoring the cutting thorns. Her record was holding up at least, she thought. She had finally met a guy who seemed to be truly honest and sincere and it turned out all he wanted was to get her into the sack.
"Robin-" Hugh began then his shoulders slumped in defeat. "You should go, it was a mistake to involve you," he said to her miserably. "Please, don't trouble yourself anymore over this."
"Since the consort will not partake in the ritual of joining, the ritual of letting will commence!" the lead figure spoke gravely.
"The ritual of letting?" Robin asked, suddenly sensing a menacing change in the trees around the grove.
"Blood-letting," Hugh replied. "Mine."
"What?! What do you mean by that?" exclaimed Robin.
"If a druid cannot find a suitable consort of wiccan blood by the time he reaches a certain age, he must be sacrificed to his grove," Hugh told her. "It's all right, I've suspected for a long time something like this would happen," he said with gloomy acceptance.
"I don't believe this! You mean they're really going to sacrifice you!?" Robin asked appalled.
"It's more accurate to say they'll mince me up and turn me into mulch, but that's the gist of it," Hugh replied.
"If you knew this was going to happen why didn't you do something about it sooner?" demanded Robin. "Why did you wait until tonight to introduce yourself to me? Couldn't you find anyone else? Don't tell me there isn't another wiccan in the whole city!"
"It's hard to meet the right person," Hugh said simply and Robin could not help feeling a strange echoing of her earlier complaints in the coffee shop. "I've been searching ever since I learned I was druid but the none of the other women with wiccan blood I found-well, seemed like the right ones.
"Don't let it bother you," he assured Robin. "I knew it was too late when I finally saw you sitting in the coffee shop, but I couldn't stop myself from at least talking to you. I am glad I was able to meet you at least, Robin."
Hugh gave her a wan smile and turned toward the patiently waiting figures. The lead figure reached under its robes with its empty sleeve and drew out a wicked-looking sickle, the weapon floating in an unseen grasp.
"Hold it!!" Robin shouted, barely believing what she was doing as she stepped forward. "I can't just stand by and let something like this happen! Not when there's something I can do to stop it."
"The consort has reconsidered?" the lead figure asked, lowering the sickle.
"Yes, okay, I have," Robin said quickly, afraid if she thought about this for more than a second she would back out. "I'll sleep with him if that's what it takes."
"Robin, don't!" Hugh exclaimed. "You don't understand what the ritual means! It's involves magic, it's not like any sex the way you think of it!"
"The consort has consented," intoned all of the robed figures together. "The moon is aligned! Let the ritual commence!"
There was a gust of wind through the grove rustling the branches of the trees around them. The wind stopped as abruptly as it started but the branches continued to rustle without any breeze to move them.
Hugh turned to Robin, his somber face anxious.
"Please, Robin. It's not too late. Run away. Let me be sacrificed. You don't know what you've agreed to," he said.
"I'm not going anywhere," Robin said stubbornly, folding her arms under her breasts. "Besides, you are kind of cute in a bookish sort of way. How bad could it be?"
A dozen leafy vines suddenly burst out from the surrounding bushes and wrapped tightly around Robin's arms and legs, roughly lifting her up and pulling her limbs apart before she could even yelp in surprise.
In the same moment, Hugh shuddered as leaves and stems started sprouting across his entire body, tearing through his clothes and covering him completely. He dropped down to his knees and Robin blinked in astonishment as she watched him change into a writhing, leafy mistletoe shrub which immediately sprouted out long, green vines that waved in the air.
"Eeeeek!!" screamed Robin in horror and shock as she realized Hugh had not been kidding about his warning. She started struggling in wild panic against the vines holding her in place but although they felt pliant and fleshy, they were incredibly strong.
One of the green vines stretched out from the shrub that had been Hugh and reached out to Robin's face. Robin stared at it as though it were a snake when it ran a gentle caress down the side of her face, a light, sensitive touch clearly meant to be soothing.
The surprisingly tender motion brought Robin back to some of her senses. She realized that if she broke free and ran away, Hugh would end up being sacrificed by the robed guardians who stood around them, silently watching like statues.
Robin reminded herself what she had agreed to do, and although it was involving something far weirder than she could have imagined, she resolved herself to go through with what she had promised.
Swallowing nervously, she forced herself to stop struggling and made her herself relax in the grip of the vines. The tendrils loosened a little around her wrists and ankles, but they did not let go.
"Okay. Okay," Robin said anxiously. "I won't fight anymore. But let's do this slow okay? I've never, you know, done it with a vegetable before. Well, make a carrot or a cucumber or two but never-ah!!"
The vine that had stroked her face cut off her nervous babbling as it lightly ran down her body, sliding over her breasts and then down further. Even through her clothes, Robin was surprised by the way that feathery touch felt. Deep within herself, Robin could feel something responding to the energy she felt stirring in the grove and she instinctively knew her wiccan blood was beginning to emerge for the first time in her life.
Now that she was not in danger of hurting herself, the vines slowly pulled Robin's arms back as more came up and started to pull off her coat. It took all of her self-control not to start struggling again but she bit her lip and let the vines extract her from her coat, exchanging grips on her arms to keep her in their clutches.
They undid her belt next, working with surprising dexterity without any fingers as they slowly tugged her dress down her hips.
"Ohhh," Robin stammered and shivered, standing there only in her sweater and her pantyhose and underwear now. The vines began sliding gently up and down the outsides of her trembling legs, sending a different sort of shiver up Robin's spine.
The rose which she had dropped in her struggles lay at Robin's feet and one of the vines reached out to touch it. The flower instantly began to sprout and grow, joining with the other green vines from the Hugh-shrub as the dark red budding blossoms appeared at the end of several of the new thorn-covered vines.
One of the buds came up to Robin's face, slowly brushing the ends of its silky petals over her parted lips. Robin quivered at the soft touch which seemed much like a kiss while the bud's sweet fragrance filled her head with an intoxicating dizziness. She breathed in deeply, the nipples on her breasts turning hard and aroused under her sweater as a irresistible warmth began to grow between her legs.
Other rose-vines rose up and caught their thorns on Robin's sweater and her pantyhose. They slowly pulled down, tearing her clothing and stockings away with a slow ripping that did not so much as scratch an inch of her skin.
"Hey, you're going to pay for those!" Robin complained as the thorns tore away her clothes but the vines ignored her and ripped right through the front clasp of her bra. Her breasts popped free into the night air, making her very conscious of their fullness and state of arousal. Then two of the budding rose blossoms came up and lightly ran themselves over her pointed nipples, playfully teasing her pointed tips.