Contributor: Michelle Ann King

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It all began with a Speak and Spell toy, which to Lisa's five year old eyes was the single greatest thing imaginable. It was red and shiny and glorious, but unfortunately, it wasn't hers. It was her older sister's, and Becky hadn't been keen to share her precious possession with her over-eager, sticky-fingered sibling. So Lisa waited for her turn until her patience ran out, which took about five minutes. Then she simply took it, played with it, and broke it. And then felt bad about it.

Talk about setting a pattern.

Lisa fished Oliver's toenail clippings out of the bathroom bin and pressed the ragged crescents into the plasticine figure she'd moulded into something resembling his likeness. For her sister's version, she added some of the long blonde hairs that luckily still clung to a jacket that she'd once borrowed and never quite got round to giving back. Why magic had to be quite so gross she didn't know, but she was determined to not to mess it up by being squeamish. She'd messed up quite enough things for one lifetime.

She took the dolls into the living room, where a stick of jasmine incense smouldered. She waved the Becky doll through the pungent smoke and held it up to eye level. 'You were right,' she told it. 'All those things you said about me, I deserved them. Well, most of them. But yeah, what I did was wrong, and I'm sorry.'

She turned to the Oliver doll. 'It's not you, it's me. Actually, it's nearly 30 years of sibling rivalry that a very long and expensive course of therapy hasn't been able to fix, but there you go. Same end result. You're a nice bloke but I don't love you, and I never did. You're not right for me. You're right for her. You always were, and I'm really sorry I interfered.'

She tied the dolls together with a length of pink ribbon as instructed, sealed the knot with a drop of wax from the red candle she'd anointed with oil and the sign of Venus, and tucked them into her suitcase for safe keeping.

Then she sat down at the computer, where she'd loaded up the login screens for all three of their online banking accounts. In the password box for Oliver's account she typed BECKY, and in the password box for Becky's, OLIVER.

Five minutes and two transfers later, Lisa's own balance looked a lot healthier than it had previously. Healthier than it probably ever had.

They'd work out pretty quickly what had happened, but it would take a while to sort out. And it would mean the two of them had to spend time together, present a united front to the bank. The enemy of my enemy, and all that.

She had faith in her spell, but it never hurt to have a back-up plan.

She checked that her tickets and passport were in her handbag. She'd look after their money, of course. Although if it was still all there by the time she landed in Vegas, maybe she'd borrow a little for a quick run at the blackjack tables. Just a little

Lisa smiled, grabbed her case and locked the door behind her.

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Michelle Ann King lives with her husband and stuffed penguin in Essex, England. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming at Daily Science Fiction, Untied Shoelaces of the Mind, The Molotov Cocktail and others.
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