Parallel Parked

There are three things all wise men fear: the sea in a storm, the anger of a gentle man, and god damned everfucking parallel parking.

Little known fact: I actually failed that part of my driver’s test. It was Halloween night and rainy, which was just perfect. Not only could I not see worth a damn because the rain-slicked roads reflected every light that ever existed, there were kids everywhere.

And in spite of all that, I was absolutely nailing it (relatively speaking). No rolling stops, no uneven acceleration, no speeding or straying outside the lines, nothing.

I think that’s the only reason that, when it came to the parallel parking portion, the instructor interrupted me after about fifteen minutes of waffling half-in, half-out of the overlarge spot he had selected. He had me pull all the way out and then, step by step, walked me through every last portion of it, down to exactly where the wheel should be at that given second, and only through his on-the-spot reactions was I able to “pass” and get my license.

All this to say that when I was getting brunch with a friend in downtown Portland and learned that everyone else in downtown Portland also wanted brunch, my heart sank.

The streets were packed.

I’m talking corner to corner, every single space that could be legally taken and some that could not, crammed with Subarus (and one or two other cars). I wouldn’t have been able to find space if I were driving a moped and turned it sideways. I had no idea how I was going to fit in my aggressively small-medium-sized Civic.

I must have been crawling through those streets for half an hour, desperately wishing for the magically enhanced sensory spells that my cousin had been developing for the past year. He spoke of being able to see for a quarter mile in every direction, but instead, I was one of the unlucky 3/4 who had no magical gifts whatsoever.

I tried not to be jealous, though I had absolutely burned my fake Hogwarts letter years before when the magic first returned and I learned I was genuinely a full muggle.

Finally, though, after three desperate texts to my friend pleading to give me just a few more minutes and that I was almost there, I saw it. In a residential back street no more than a few hundred feet off the main drag, there was a spot, certainly wide enough for any driver of average skill to pull their car in and park.

But I was no average driver.

I gripped the wheel, my knuckles turning white. The road in front and behind was clear; I could take my time. I flicked on my turn signal, something the driving instructor had insisted was essential. At the time I had acquiesced to limit the amount of cigarette smoke-laden instructions pointed toward my face, but now it was my good luck charm (and also probably a good, safe idea).

And then, I started to park.

Fifteen more minutes later, I was sweating but still not in the spot. It was then that I realized that someone was watching.

She waved when I glared at her.

“Don’t let me stop you,” she called. “I get so tired of TV, so this is a welcome change!”

I flipped her off.

She clucked her tongue as she approached my passenger-side window. “Not very nice, that. What if I was going to offer to help?”

“Were you?”

“I won’t say now,” she replied.

I sighed. “I’m sorry. I’m just very frustrated and very late, and I drove half an hour to get here, and—” My phone dinged. “And now my friend has canceled.” I threw my phone into the passenger seat. “So this was all a waste.”

“Getting brunch?” she asked.

“Not anymore,” I said bitterly.

“Now, now, there’s no reason for that. Nothing wrong with eating alone.”

I rolled my eyes. “Would you do it?”

“No, of course not,” she said as though it were obvious. “That’s weird.”

I snorted in spite of the situation. She smiled.

“Tell you what,” she said. “If I can get you parked in the next minute, you have to buy me breakfast.”

I stared back at her, and her eyes glittered innocently.

“Deal. So what are you, some kind of driving inst—”

The car jolted violently. Around me, car alarms of all varieties were sounding off, and I could smell burning rubber.

But I was parked.

“What did you do?” I demanded, climbing out of the car.

She grinned. “Magic.” She waved her fingers and a spark danced across them before leaping to the ground.

I frowned. “You never said you were a wizard.”

“Technically, they call us witches,” she said. “Now, I believe you owe me brunch?”

I clenched my fist, feeling somewhat scammed, but…

But she was cute…

“A deal’s a deal,” I sighed, offering my arm. “Shall we?”

“Oooh, you’re such a proper lady,” she said. “We shall.”

And that was how we met.

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