She tidied up her desk, smiling as the joy on her last client’s face stayed with her. She shook her head as she straightened the wooden chairs in front of her desk.

“Matchmaker Ellis?” a voice asked while knocking on the door.

She dusted herself off, and opened the door to see a girl and her father. Matchmaker Ellis smiled and gestured for them to come in. “Have a seat, Violet, today is your eighteenth birthday, yes?”

“Correct.” Violet smiled.

Her father’s face lit up the room. “I’m sure parents say this all the time, but she’s grown into such a lovely woman, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought about this day.”

Ellis hummed, keeping a smile on despite the pain in her chest. “It’s an important day for everyone.”

He ducked his head. “I don’t mean to brag.”

Ellis waved him off with one hand and placed the other on her book. “No, I understand…I was the same way.”

His eyes widened. “Right, I remember. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be,” Ellis sighed, “it’s been five years. I’m doing better.”

Violet spoke softly, “I don’t mean to interrupt, but I’m sure it’s not easy, not even after five years.”

Ellis shut her eyes. Violet was right. It wasn’t easy, not when every girl that came in reminded Ellis of her. Ellis shook her head. “Enough about me; today is your day, Violet.”

Ellis gathered her book in her arms. She headed towards a small door in the back and glanced over her shoulder. “You two wait here and I’ll be back. We’ll see if eighteen is your lucky year.”

Violet blushed and smiled. Ellis let her smile fade as she pulled the door shut behind her. She tried to remove the image of a young, beautiful brunette with her own eyes out of her head. Ellis set up her table. “Focus.”

Ellis pulled her book of matches to her and wrote down Violet’s full name. She took several ingredients, put them in a bowl, and recited the same spell she had been reciting for the past twenty-five years. The candles flickered, and Ellis felt the magic take her; it filled the air, choking her. Ellis had her eyes pressed shut until the magic left.

Ellis took deep breaths and looked down to if a match was made. The name she saw made her knees go weak.

In the book, the book Ellis had used her entire career, the book her predecessor used, Violet’s name was in one column and the next to it was the name Iscariot Dnias.

Ellis looked at the book again, but it was still there. The book wanted sweet, kind Violet to marry Iscariot. Ellis gripped the table. Violet couldn’t marry Iscariot. Nothing good would come of it; Ellis was certain. She knew Iscariot, knew what he was capable of. Ellis knew what he had done, what he would do if matched again.

She couldn’t stomach the thought. He was an awful, cruel man. If there was one name Ellis had hoped would never appear in her book again, it was Iscariot’s. He would do to Violet what he had done to the other girl he had been matched with. Of course, once Ellis had found out what Iscariot did, it was too late. Ellis had no proof to give, but she knew.

Ellis had no idea if the book knew, if it even cared. No one ever explained why certain people were matched. It was just her job to let the magic use her. She was the messenger; she didn’t actually create matches. It had always been this way. Ellis had been matched and happy. Her daughter had been matched. It was how their society functioned. Some people said it was tradition. Others said it was fate that matched names. Ellis’ daughter used to say the matches were destiny. Ellis once heard another girl talk about a soul mate. Ellis didn’t know why matches were what they were; she just knew they were. She had never gone against a match given to her. It wasn’t how things worked.

It just wasn’t; however, Ellis had never been in this position. She had never known that if this match happened, Violet would die.

But, tradition, fate, soul mate, whatever it was, it was how they lived. It was what kept their society alive. She had no idea what would happen if she didn’t follow the rules.

Ellis took a deep breath and picked up her book; she went back outside.

Violet and her father stood up; her hands clasped around her stomach. Ellis exhaled and tightened her grip on the book.

“I’m sorry, Violet.” Ellis forced her voice to remain steady. “Not this year.”

Violet looked down; her father placed a hand on her shoulder. She looked up with a smile. “I’m a little disappointed, but relieved. I don’t know if I’m ready yet.”

Ellis struggled to keep her composure. “I understand. I’ll see you again next year.”

“Of course.” Violet’s father handed her their payment.

They left, and Ellis sank into her chair, dropping the book. She looked at Violet’s name, took her quill, and blotted out Iscariot’s.

She flipped through the pages. All matches she made because it was what was done. She could barely look at them; she felt so weak. She reached a page from years ago. She set her head in her hands. “Astrea, did I do the right thing?”

In the book was a match she remembered all too well. In one column, Astrea Ellis; in the next, across from it, Iscariot Dnias.


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