Gavin waved his arm across the horizon while Alice held her nose in disgust. Stood on top of the trash pile, the stench was unbearable, even after the sun had gone down and the the trash was cooling. Night time was the best time to come and practice. No-one guarded the rubbish dump, after all, who would want to steal trash?
“Now this,” Gavin said, somehow unaffected when he snorted in a deep, wistful breath of rubbish dump air, “you listening Alice? This is the new Alchemy! Ain’t it something?”
“Snure ez, Gabbin.” Alice said, nose pinched and trying desperately not to breathe in through her mouth - she could even _taste_ the garbage in the air.
“We may have lost the art aeons ago, but the magic’s still there, just waiting to be found. Did I ever tell you about the seagull homunculus I found last Spring?”
“Alchemy. That’s what did it, mixed stuff altogether and what do you get? Half a dead-seagull, a toy truck and a bin-liner full of old nappies, working in harmony together, alive! Alive I tell ya! A rare find, is powerful magics like that one. And you know what I did with it?”
“Yeb, Gabbin, du tob it do de cowmcil and gob a rewarb!”
“I only went and took it to the council and got me a bloody reward didn’t I?”
Alice sighed and then, realising she had breathed out, breathed in automatically; much to her disgust and horror.
“Ugh! Gavin, I know, I’ve heard the story a million times now. I’m only glad you got rid of the damn thing. Last thing I need is a homunculus made of baby-poop and dead birds stinking up the place trying to help. You’re bad enough as it is! Why am I even here? I thought we were going to see that new movie?”
“I wanted to show you something.”
“Just look at this Alice, look, really take it in.”
“I’ve taken quite enough of it in for a lifetime thank you very much.” Alice muttered under her breath.
“Come on, just look over there, in the distance. No, not there, there. Yeah, see that on the hill.”
Alice strained to look until she felt a tug on her arm. It was Gavin, knelt down on one knee, something wet seeping out of the rubbish pile and into his jeans.
Oh no, he bloody wasn’t! Gavin pulled out a ring. He bloody was!
“Alice. We’ve been together for like…”
”…five months.” Alice interrupted.
”…yeah, five months and just yesterday, the council granted me my petition. I’m to become a proper Filth Wizard, Alice luv. Anyway, things are gonna change for me. Big things are gonna happen and well, like, I don’t want ‘em to change without you. I love ya Alice. Will you, like, marry me?”
Alice looked down at his puppy dog eyes and rubbed her eyes. She felt a headache coming on. Minutes seemed like hours as they passed in silence.
“Gavin,” Alice finally said. “what in the name of all that’s holy made you think that proposing to me, covered in filth, on a mountain of trash in the middle of the night was a good idea?”
Gavin thought about it but before an answer popped into his head, Alice spoke again.
“Look, lets go see that movie. Maybe we’ve only missed the trailers.”
Gavin, feeling slightly bewildered by the unexpected turn of events, slid the ring back into his pocket and followed Alice mutely down the pile, through the chain-link fence and down the street towards the cinema. They bought their tickets and sat in silence in the theatre for two hours while the film played out some meaningless action sequence in front of them and then headed home.
They were getting into bed when Gavin finally spoke.
“So, was that a yes?”
Alice sighed and turned out the light.
Maybe I was a bit harsh… Alice thought as she laid in bed and stared up at the swirling artex patterns of the ceiling. Gavin was laid besides her, still fast asleep, his chest rising and falling with each deep breath. Damn it! She was starting to feel guilty now. Thanks Gavin, for ruining the morning as well as last night.
She wasn’t really angry at Gavin though; she was angry at herself. She had been harsh on him and like the good natured, slightly dim wonder he was, Gavin had taken it in his stride and barely even noticed it was a rejection. That just made her feel worse. Despite everything she did for them both, managing the bills, cleaning up after Gavin’s filthy excursions to the dump, cooking, she still felt like she was taking advantage of him. The house was Gavin’s and they didn’t have to pay rent or a mortgage; he owned it outright having inherited it from his long departed parents. Gavin was head over heels in love with Alice and sometimes she felt like she was just staying around out of a combination of pity and not wanting to go to the hassle of finding somewhere else to live that she could afford on her part-time, minimum-wage job on the tills at the supermarket across town.
Her stomach was demanding breakfast, so careful not to wake Gavin, she slid out of bed and wandered down stairs. As the eggs began frying in the pan, she thought what she was going to do about the whole mess. She loved him, at least she thought she did (she’d been and gone through enough failed relationships to learn not to trust her own judgement) but was he the one? Did she really want to share his heart with a rubbish dump? She flipped the eggs over and laughed. They’d met at the dump. She’d assumed he’d been throwing something away like everyone else there. He’d asked her out and somehow something about his naughty schoolboy grin had made her say yes. She hadn’t even thought about the romantic implications of being asked out on a date at a dump.
Almost immediately, he’d told her about everything: the secret life of rubbish and the magic powers that lurked under the moldering piles of filth. Normally, she’d run to the hills screaming for the people in white coats to take this nutter away, but something about his honest, open conviction made her believe him. He’d introduced her to some other finders, slowly revealing this whole other world that had been right under her nose the whole time. She felt privy to some awesome secret so bizarre that no-one would ever believe her. That’s what she loved. Where she saw trash he saw wonder. When she was with him the world was a better, albeit stinkier, place.
Even so, 5 months. It was too soon.
The eggs were smelling like they were done so she flopped them out onto a plate and ate at the kitchen table in silence. As she was tucking into the second egg’s gooey yolk, Gavin wandered in, fists clenched and rubbing at his eyes.
“Morning. About last night…” Alice said, a slice of egg hanging off of the fork poised in front of her.
“There any more eggs?” Gavin interrupted, rooting around in the fridge.
“Gavin, I’m trying to talk to you!”
While Alice stormed off up stairs, Gavin helped himself to the remains of her eggs. Lucky she left them too, he had to be going soon. Today was the big day, the day he finally got to study at the Schola Arcanus ex Purgamentum. He could barely sit still thinking about it and only wished Alice could be a little happier for him. She seemed to be so angry recently, for some reason. He’d popped the question (though she hadn’t really answered him yet, which was fine, he’d waited this long after all) and now she was angry. She did get angry when he kept asking her stuff, like the time when he couldn’t find the remote or when he wanted her to try the potion he’d found at the dump. Maybe bigger questions made her more angry? It wasn’t an unreasonable hypothesis. He laughed to himself, hypothesis, wow, he sounded like a real wizard already. Today was gonna be awesome.