She now has his full attention since she's the only customer in the place.
"If you believe, if you're psycho-suggestive or even if you let your will subside and take the time to relax, practice, listen; yes, it can work. The degree to which it works depends on what you need and how much you want it. What do you need?"
Immediately the embarrassment of even uttering the words washes over her and she feels like an idiot.
This is the most common of requests, and the unremarkable young woman standing before him becomes even more so.
She's modestly dressed in a black trench coat, loosely pulled over a long sweater and leggings, short boots. She's clearly a suburban girl trying to look a little alternative. Made obvious by her glossy lips and pink pashmena and conservative pearl studs in each ear. He can tell that she's safe, straight, not too adventurous, bored perhaps. Lonely? Definitely. Open to suggestion? Absolutely. He moves towards the heavy door and pushes the deadbolt. She's feeling trepidatious but for some reason trusts him.
"That's it?" she asks. "Are we done?"
She feels her jaw drop at the very idea of bodily secretions and thinks it hilarious, and ridiculous, but maintains a serious face as she sits up, feeling unusually relaxed and pulls on her boots and coat.
"Burn the candle for 10 minutes each evening,"
She's skeptical once more but agrees.
"There's no charge for the casting, but the candle will be $25"
He now has the cool persuasion of a used car salesman which reinforces her feeling of ridiculousness. It's a lot of trouble to go to just to flog a candle. She pays. Anything's worth a try.
He's busy. She doesn't believe him but he really is. There's a deadline to meet and the pressure on him is enormous. This is a make or break deal that could set him up for life or destroy a potentially lucrative career. He's told her as much and wonders why she's constantly emailing, constantly whining that he's absent in heart and mind. It's irritating him. Why can't she understand love isn't dependent upon pissing in each other's pocket 24/7. He told her he'd be preoccupied for a couple of weeks. She acknowledged it but still pesters him with her emotional outpourings of neglect. Two weeks! Two short weeks and it'll be alright. The deal will be done, their future assured.
He's already bought the ring. She doesn't know of course. He's even thought about proposing over the phone to shut her up but no, he's got a special event planned and he wants it to be a surprise.
He knew he loved her the minute he met her. She was honest, real, down to earth. They shared interests, a quirky sense of humour, the same taste in music. They talked until the cows came home. She was his companion, his friend, his lover. He just needs a little time. He just needs her to back off. Once this is done, he'll move to Melbourne and they'll be together, everything will work out.
He explodes in a tirade of desperate romance. "I'm horny all the time, it's embarrassing, look at this," he slides the camera down and she takes a gasp as the moisture builds on her own side of the lens. Talk leads to lascivious conversation. Even cybersex is better than none as they masturbate in unison, listening to each other moan without the intimacy of contact.
It's his colleague's face now visible on a working webcam. Strange how it just suddenly decided to behave. She's unaware that Rick had turned it off so she wouldn't see him in such a state. He knew he looked like shit and she'd only worry; he didn't want her to worry. It would all soon be over.
Without you he is nothing, without you he has nothing, he cannot eat nor drink. Gnaw the longing into his breast . . .
"Em . . " John's voice is grave, "I think you'd better hurry, he's in a bad way."
She grabs her coat and bag, still dressing as she runs down to the bus stop. Back into Flinders lanes and tries frantically to find the shop. He has to help her, he has to stop the spell. She needs an antidote to something she doesn't understand and never really believed. She's panicked and desperate and can't find the door - the iron, graffiti covered door that opens into the little shop of curios. It's gone. She collapses on the gutter as the rain begins to pelt and soaks her to the skin. Tears melding with the cloudburst until she can cry no more.
"Are you a relative?"
"No . . .well . . . yes. I'm his girlfriend."
"Are you Emily Wexford? He's been asking for you but I'd like you to see his doctor first."
"Shit, shit! . .I don't want to see his fucking doctor, I need to see him."
The urgency in her voice makes the nurse reluctantly shadow her to Rick's room.
"He's very ill Ms Wexford, gravely ill. We don't know what it is. His decline has been rapid, inexplicable, there's nothing more we can do."
She can't believe it. The private ward is beeping and buzzin. He's being tube fed and oxygenated. His eyes are lifeless and barely recognise her as she takes his withered hand, smoothes his sallow brow. How could he look like this after just a couple of weeks. It's not possible.
"Oh Ricky, what's happened? Look at you,"
He can't speak as a tear slips downwards across his temple and eyes wonder towards the small velvet covered box in the cabinet beside him.
The monitor flatlines as he gurgles his last gaspm. He's emaciated, lovelorn, unable to tell her how deeply and unconditionally he loves her. How desperate these past weeks have been without her. How the longing has gnawed at his body and soul. How wonderful she is, how he regrets neglecting her. How he did it all for her. How awesome their life together was supposed to be.
Now she believes.