The Life and Times

Part 2: Friends, family and other contradictions

Chapter 22


"To expostulate why day is day, night night, and time is time, 
were nothing but to waste night, day, and time"
Hamlet, Act ii, Sc.2

Paige drove back to the manor. Cole's car was missing and Phoebe's was in the drive and she had plenty of room to park. She bit back a sob.

Phoebe was already digging around the kitchen getting things ready for supper while Wyatt in his pram was making goo goo noises and Melinda and Patsy had some game going where they ran around the dining table or under it and back under the kitchen table, screaming at the top off their voices.

Over their voices Phoebe took one look at Paige's face and came to give her a hug. "Piper" called Phoebe explained.

"Its only a car " Paige said as her bottom lip trembled.

"We'll get a you a new one " Phoebe told her firmly.

"How " said Phoebe " Cole will make one for me. He doesn't know how they work. It would probably blow up as soon as I turned the key, or buy one, with what. The kid's college fund we haven't started yet."

"I have some getting away money stashed " Phoebe said. "We were going to use it to go away  for a few weekends."

"Even if its enough" said Paige " and I know how cheap you two travel, do you think I want to let you use the only safety valve from family you've got just to get me a car when I can orb anyway."

Phoebe swallowed as Patsy and Melinda reached another decibel and Wyatt joined in with long loud gurgling waaaa's  "Clarissa all right? " Phoebe asked.

"Physically " Paige said "It looks like she and Mike were heading for a row of all rows over Rodik and magic."

"Its hard on partners" Phoebe said stopping Patsy tripping Melinda. "Be nice " she told him.

 "We should get them a dog to play with " Paige said."

"We are not " said Phoebe tightly then as Paige lip trembled she said " A dog could get hurt with the kids or with..,things here."

"We've got kids here, and 'things' here" Paige snorted swallowed and shook her head helplessly.

"Do you think we ought to suggest to Clarissa and Jade that the partners start a support club " Phoebe asked changing the subject.

"Cole and bunch of mortals bitching about whitelighters" said Paige heading to the dining room.

"Perhaps not "said Phoebe.

Paige walked to the passage and stopped Patsy and Melinda from running into the cupboards so the decibels went up another level.

Then she turned back." Phoebe " she said.

"What sweetie/ " said Phoebe.

"The car, my car " said Paige "It wasn't just my car."

"It wasn't" said Phoebe ."

No " said Paige . She came back and sat down . "It was you know well I told you once you know about a year before Prue died I once came here to ask about you know thinking I might be related to you after my grandmother died, you know I ..used the money from mom and dad's house to look after her."

"I know" said Phoebe carefully.

"Well" said Paige. "You see you know I didn't do so well after mom and dad were killed. Went  wild really."

"I know" said Phoebe.

"Well I had to get sort of pretty drunk to get the ..courage to come here " Paige confessed "Prue sort of threw me out. You know this drunk bimbo claiming to be her sister. Did she ever tell you?."

"only know what you told me " said Phoebe "When was it.

"Bit before Christmas " Paige said.

"Probably Prue didn't because I as in a bit of a state about, sort of when I pretended to vanquish Cole, but Prue thought I had, and we had some trouble with some nutter woman stalking Prue, and Piper and I got ..upset,.. Sooooo."

"Yeah " said Paige " you know when she threw me out being drunk and all that, after mom and dad died I didn't have much of theirs left, just a bit of money and mom' s car. I was really upset that night and drunk and I wrote mom's car off that night, ran it into a tree" she said.

"Oh " said Phoebe " You were, it was a bad time." she said helplessly.

"I wasn't hurt bad, just shook up, really shook up and a friend came and got me. I mean I was bruised and concussed and the car was wrapped around a tree, just me no-one else hurt but by the time you know, the police came the next day, to tell me about the car. Well I was sober. I reported the car stolen and ." Paige tailed off.

"I get it" said Phoebe.

Paige continued "Aunt Julie, Dad' s sister was really upset, cried, and my Gran and Pop, Mom's parents were really upset. it was 'stolen', but Aunt Beryl. She figured what happened. It was me drinking. She was furious, told me I was all sorts of an idiot. Well I was angry but when I thought about it, you see I thought she was ..probably right. But she wanted me to get help and .. I just .. I talked to counsellors all the time when I was.. when Mom and Dad died and no-one could tell me why I was alive, so you know they could not help me. Any way I did some thing you see, instead of talking to any-one, I used the last of the money from Mom and Dad's house to buy that car."

"I see" said Phoebe.

"You see" said Paige " it was like well Mom and Dad did it for me on a promise that I would be…. good. So if I drove it I couldn't break my promise to be good. I drove it, didn't drink, and I made sure I drove it every where and I didn't drink. Anyway you know I don't drink. I felt Mom and Dad did that for me. That car it was the last thing Mom and Dad gave me."

"Paige" said Phoebe, not knowing what to say.

"Magic" said Paige crying" it takes away everything I love. It took away Mark, and my last connection with Mom and Dad.

"It got you us " said Phoebe.

"Only because you needed me " said Paige hurting and not caring." What would you have done if it had been you at home and not Prue when I called. When this drunk bimbo landed on the door step claiming to be your sister."

"Probably have said a demon be gone spell " said Phoebe.

Paige half smiled. "Cole says magic is beautiful and he's a god damned ex demon but for me magic is just hard work and pain and duty."

'Cole found something through it " Phoebe tried to say.

"You" said Paige "Love family, children happiness. I lost it. Even Piper this damned eclipse she's.. do you know she's enjoying magic, even being a brownie and folding sheets. Have you exchanged with anyone seen anything."

Phoebe swallowed and carefully nodded, "Only its, its not my.. Something I need to think about …and."

"See " said Paige in pain" I don't even get that. Have you told Cole "

Phoebe shook her head.

"I hate magic" Paige said " there is no joy and just sadness. "She swallowed "I..I better go and change and then pick up Piper."

Phoebe nodded feeling helpless in her sister's pain.

There was suddenly a whistling noise in the kitchen as Rodik appeared his face serene and smug. Patsy and Melinda  had got to the pan cupboard while Phoebe talked to Paige and they had them all about on the floor playing bang the pot together while they sang some sort of made up song at the top of their voices.

Rodik looked at Phoebe and Paige "Tell those children to keep quiet " he ordered.

"Shut the fuck up " said Paige and Phoebe in unison.

Paige ran down the steps to P3 and looked around. It struck her there was something essentially dead about a club when it was empty. Like its soul was missing. It was meant to be alive with people and noise and excitement and music. Paige felt she had considerable connection to the place at that time.

Paige had changed into jogging pants and a crop top with a loose jacket. She left the hair down to dry naturally from the shower and it was still a little wet and tussled and she her makeup was very light.

Annette one of the newer staff was on the bar, she looked up with a prim expression on her face and said "We're closed, don't open until 5.00" which was when P3 started to get a trickle of after work customers before Paige could say "Hi Annette.

Annette looked at her and flushed. "Sorry " she mumbled "I did not recognise you out of the business suits, looking normal, I mean" she said "Casual, younger, I mean" Annette swallowed,.

"I know what you mean " Paige answered dryly "Where's Piper?"

"In the office " Annette told her "With Reggie and one of the booze guys, some long problem with restrictions on imports, something to do with the percentage of alcohol and whether it was a spirit or a wine. At least that's what I think Reggie and Piper were talking about " she added.

"Gee and owning a club is supposed to be so exciting and exotic" said Paige "I'll  wait."

She went around the bar and helped herself to a coke, the non diet high sugar kind, orbing required calories, and she would be orbing quite a bit from now on. For a second she glanced at the alcohol and thought about it, given the way her life was going and the day she had had. Then shook her head. Magic was taking a great deal from her. It was not going to take her self respect.

She looked around the club, and as she did, heard a few bars on the piano. Danny the music manager was sitting at the on the stage and Paige remembered Wednesdays was one of the nights they did the piano bar thing. He was playing a few notes and quite lost in his own world. Danny was still dressed in scruffy jeans and a tatty tee shirt with Shit Happens written on it. He was doing flexing the finger his exercises and smiled as she came up to watch,.

"It can be a long night " he said playing few more exercises, and then starting to play something else and gradually became quite lost in what he was playing.

Paige sucked on the straw of her coke leaning on the piano as he played, finding a little peace in her soul as music slowly filled the emptiness at P3. She sighed as he finally stopped. "That was beautiful " she said " what was it?."

"Chopin " he told her and she remembered her had studied music.

"I don't know much about classical music" Paige explained " Phoebe does. Its .. touches you though" she said as Danny raised his eyes "I had a lousy day and it know ..its funny but just listening to that. It makes me feel better.. Sort of sad but better. Crazy huh " she asked.

"No" said Danny " that's what music does. Your house..guest causing problems?" he asked not bothering to hide how much P3 staff gossiped about Piper and her sisters. "We all heard the family were stuck with the house guest from hell."

"He isn't from hell " Paige said " The opposite and that's worse. And " she said ."my car, you know lost it today."

"Total write off? " Danny asked still paying."

"Total write off. Its paid for but I need another one " said Paige "And I'm pretty sure insurance won't cover it."

"What's the point of having an arsehole lawyer for a brother in law if he can't fix a little insurance problem " Danny grinned as he knew the family well. "No-one hurt." He started to play again, a soft old piano bar favourite."

"No " said Page "Lucky and I guess that what count's isn't it . No-one was hurt " she said smiling. Paige leaned on the piano listening.

"Tips in the bowl " said Danny

 "That's a bit before my time" Paige said. "Not that Chopin wasn't" she added.

Danny switched music and played something Paige felt should know but couldn't put finger on. "Its sort of funkie but its touches your..soul too you know. I shouldn't talk to a musician about music I only know really modern stuff, not to keen on the.. the old stuff." Then she added,. "I like that. Gets in your soul. Its got feel.'

"Yeah " said Danny " its Cho Chi " he said naming the biggest selling punk song of the last year.

"What " she said "It's" she said listening " Its sounds, that's great song but I never thought."

"Never thought it was real music because It's punk " said Danny " I hate that, just because its new or out there or not classical it isn't real music.".

Paige caught her lip "Sorry" she said. "Didn't mean to hit a nerve or anything."

"Just my favourite soapbox piece" Danny grinned adding in a little more of his own flair to the song. "You know its only real music if it's old."

Paige for the first time that day smiled from her soul.

"Its… I guess for me you know there is magic in music" Danny explained "It fills your soul" he said. "Its not whether you can sing or play anything. It has.. its purpose is to take you places and open up your soul, and see things as they are or as they ought to be, to make you look at things differently."

Paige nodded leaning forward listening to him intently.

"To me " Danny said Intensely " it not that music can change anything, make anything different but it  changes you and how you feel about things. I mean they're still the same things but you hear the music, sometimes music you've heard a thousand times before. You hear the same theme played over and its still the same theme but it puts a different perspective on things. The music " he said " can't change anything but you know, you listen to it and it somehow or other its..okay."

"I know what you mean," Paige whispered.

"Hell it doesn't mater whether its  classical or old time golden oldies, or big band or rock rap, punk. " Danny continued " Its all, you know, mathematical formulae and yet when you put it together its all there something beautiful, sometimes its dark or romantic or sad and it.. its music " he said looking at Paige his normal narrow brown eyes flashing with passion and amber lights, embarrassed a little at opening his soul. I.

Paige nodded her mouth tight leaning forward toward him on the piano her mouth taut and her eyes bright.

"Have you ever noticed " Danny said " how in all our most emotional moments, its music, you know" he said playing two bars of Happy Birthday "Funerals and there are songs we remember from school or a romance, or a sad moment or a happy one, and all we ever need to be there again is the sound of the music."

"You're lucky. I envy you " Paige said trying to find her words " to have something that enters your soul that brings your passion, that allows you and yet be fulfilled but keeps you  searching, aiming, trying. Its not something many of us get."

"I know " Danny replied slowly " I know It's a special gift  but It's not always a happy one. I love the music and sometimes I hate it. " he said his voice fraught with emotion. "It's what I am. Ask me how I learn a living and I'll  tell you. I'm a musician. Ask me what I want to be and I'll  tell you a music maker. You know it controls me. It's a duty and a responsibility and I can never leave it behind, and sometimes it seems like a millstone but then It's in my soul you see and no matter how much it drives me and owns me, I couldn't exist without it. My soul would be dead " he said awkwardly.

"You're lucky" Paige said " any-one is lucky " she said slowly "to have something that can get inside their soul like that, even if" she said hesitantly "It sometimes seems very dark and hurts. ".

"Yes" he agreed simply. And started to play again.

"I recognise that " Paige said as he played some bars of the Pastoral Symphony "And I know its classical."

"As classical as something can be when its launched the sale of thousands of cars and millions of boxes of wash powder." Danny grinned as he played a little more.

"Hi " said Piper coming up watching Paige leaning on the piano, watching her carefully because she was worried about her. Phoebe had called explaining about what Paige's car meant as soon as Paige was out the house.

"You okay? " Piper asked Paige.

"Yeah " said Paige her eyes dark and intense from listening to the music " I think I am."

"All right with the world of excise/" Danny asked calmly as if he had not spilled his deepest emotions.

"No " said Piper " they still claim we owe them for that stuff. Just have to get Cole to be an arsehole and deal with it" she said to Paige noting her sisters teary face. "You sure you're okay sweetie? " she asked.

"Yeah" said Paige quietly "You know I'm sure I am."

Piper went over to the bar, checked the logs.  Piper trusted Reggie but not to enough to completely let go. Reggie understood this. But club or no club her breasts were also telling her she had a baby to feed.

"We better go" she said to Paige not missing that Danny was looking at the keyboard so he did not stare at the her expanding boobs. "Just when I think I have this mother work and magic thing under control " sighed Piper. "I get reminded some things control me."

Paige handed the keys the SUV to Piper. As she followed her up the stairs Paige called to Danny who was still at the piano sorting out music and checking the sound. "Thanks."

He grinned and started to play 'Piano Man' to the obvious amusement of the bar staff.


The manor was quiet that night. Rodik retired very early to meditate, in a snit when it finally got through to him that the only thing anyone was going to say to him other than "Shut the fuck up" was "I'll  kill you."

Leo taking one look at Piper's bleary eyes insisted she was going to bed early, after along hard day of magic, motherhood and business. She told him irritably to stop fussing she wasn't tired but could not finish the sentence because she was yawning. Children were bathed and put to bed very early. Melinda complained but like her mother after a long emotional week was asleep two minutes after her head hit the pillow.

Cole and Phoebe also went to bed early, letting Patsy play on the bed between them while they watched "Pretty Woman" because Cole flatly refused to watch any one of the other ten versions of Cinderella that Phoebe owned. Phoebe said if he made any snide remarks while it was on, he was not only out the bed, he was out the door, so he contented himself making soft snorts at the more romantic moments and enjoying the feel of Phoebe running her foot up his leg.

Paige said she was going to her room to catch up on all the paper work for her job that she had let go in the last week, and for the first time in a year was annoyed that she had work to do, rather than used it as a place to hide. She tried to concentrate on per capita employment analysis for about an hour before she gave up realising that the music floating around in her head was to strong. She got up and crossed the hall and went into Phoebe and Cole's room.

"You could have knocked" Phoebe said. "You never know what we could have been doing."

"I could hear "Pretty Woman" on " Paige grinned "No-one has sex during 'Pretty Woman'. Its to romantic."

"See " said Cole "I told you.

Paige went over to Phoebe's stack of CD's and found what she wanted.

"That's classical stuff" said Phoebe suspiciously.

"I know " said Paige.

"Are you sure you're Paige?" Cole asked also suspicious.

"Yes" said Paige snippily. "I'm me, myself, nothing taken over me. Why would my life be of interest to any other creature?"

"Just checking" said Cole as Paige blew them a kiss goodnight.

"You know " Phoebe said as she put a sleeping Whosit Patrick in his cot " We're doing okay, I mean all things considered, we're doing pretty good."

"I think so " Cole said watching her with the intensity that Phoebe recognised as storing memories for the future.

"We might be an old married couple " said Phoebe said as she got back into bed to snuggle close "and it may only be small magic just between us but its still magic" she sighed contented.

Coe laughed but then he said quite seriously "Do you want to know something Mrs Rinaldi told me" he asked.

"Guardian stuff " said Phoebe with a little swallow."

"Stuff" Cole told her.

"What?" she said ".

"Mrs Rinaldi tells me there is no such thing as small magic, things all creatures do, all beings, it counts, small magic, small lives, is what really keeps the balance not the big things. Destiny is really about the small things that we don't even realise make the big changes."

"Francesca says that " said Phoebe dryly.

"Yeah  she does" said Cole carefully.

"Francesca's a damned know it all at times isn't she" Phoebe said quietly.

"She isn't pretending things. She does really know, she's been around along time" said Cole almost defending Francesca.

"That's what I mean " said Phoebe seriously " she really does know it all."

Cole half laughed. "We would be okay if we could get rid of the little bastard across the hall " he said.

"Seems like he's been here forever" said Phoebe.

"No" said Cole "Just 10 days 4 hours and he glanced at his watch 17 minutes, closer to six hours if you count from when he got off the plane."

"It counts" said Phoebe.

They were silent for a while and then Phoebe asked "What's the worst way you thought of to kill Rodik?"

"I haven't thought of any," Cole said indignantly. "I promised I wouldn't."

"You're lying " Phoebe told him."

"Yeah" said Cole. He grinned "Suspending him over an active volcano on top of the sulphur and smoke. I can do that, you know, leave some-one suspended in mid air, without anything holding."

"Paige would like to know that " said Phoebe "she dying to know what powers you have. Won't kill him though" Phoebe said " he can only be killed by magic but I like the idea of leaving him throwing up with sulphur smell. He'll be begging for a nice normal old house smell ."

"I thought I"d go back each day and laser of a bit of him" Cole explained "Toes, ankles you know until he's a screaming head choking over a volcano. Then I might just forget about him."

"Sounds good to me" said Phoebe as Cole stroked her hair.

"What did you think you could do to him?" Cole asked.

"Well" explained Phoebe in a voice of confession. "You remember when, the bloody source, when the hollow stole Piper's power."

"Yes" said Cole tightly "I remember then."

"Well" said Phoebe "We worked out some magic to duplicate Piper's power, you know how her exploding power is blowing up molecules. I thought I could use that potion."

"Just a normal vanquish :" Cole sounded disappointed,.

"I thought I could slow it down " said Phoebe "You know one molecule at a time exploding like a firecracker."

"Bang, bang bang" Cole laughed enjoying the vision. "Damn" he said suddenly. "I have to go ."

"Now " Phoebe complained" Just one night in ages we have for us and…."

"Sorry baby " Cole sighed throwing back comforter and standing up.

"Where?" Phoebe just looking at him and enjoying what she was seeing.

"Africa" he said crossing the room to his closet and muttering as he could not find things.

"Second basket from the top, pull it out and look " said Phoebe " I still think you need a scary ogre outfit," she added as he pulled jeans and a blue sweater out.

"No I don't " he said.

"Definitely not Unicorns this time?" Phoebe asked sleepily.

"I wish it was" Cole said finally finding the shoe he was looking for.

"Why?" she asked eyes closing.

"Unicorn problems I can fix " Cole said "Africa, Africa is beyond me." He came around the bed to gently touch Patsy who had turned on his tummy and was making grunt noises. Cole came to the bed leant over and kissed Phoebe. "Go to sleep baby I won't be long " and he shimmered.

Phoebe reached over and pulled his pillow to her taking in the smell of him. She listened to Patsy's soft breath. "We're doing okay baby " she whispered as she fell asleep.


Paige went back to room with Phoebe's CD of the Pastoral Symphony. She put in on her player and lay on her bed closing her eyes and feeling the music and letting it take her away to a place in her head where the beauty of the music connected with her magi.

The sound of the violins went into her soul and she was suddenly aware of the spirit winds swirling much faster than when she orbed. She opened her eyes and found herself in another place. Her line of sight was low almost ground level and she in front of her was a sea of blue/green grass. Some distance away was a bank of tall shady trees and she could distinctly hear the musical sound of a running brook near them. As she looked up without lifting her head she was able to see a bright sunset bounce of clouds which flashed the sky red and pink and orange.

The grass swayed as a strong breeze blew over it and rustled through the trees. It had a sweet damp smell that went to her senses like sweet wine.

Paige was surprised to see that she could watch behind her without lifting her head. She gasped for a second as she realised she could see a family of unicorns grazing quietly, happily, at peace and suddenly she wondered why they were still. She could still hear the music in her head, and the breeze and the light and the power of the magic inside her combined with the smell of the grass and brooks and the trees and intoxicated her. She tossed her head and felt her mane fly high and as the adrenalin surged through her she started to run for the pleasure of the speed and the power and the magic of it.

She stopped suddenly reared high and jumped into the air spinning and kicking out and then unicorn that she was, she ran again taking great powerful strides, going faster and faster letting the beauty and power and the magic overwhelm her. She kicked her heels into the air and tossed her mane and  then stopped head high, nostrils flared as she took in the smell fresh smell of a spring like evening, the feel of the magic in this different realm. She then snorted loudly and galloped back to the grazing unicorns, spinning and rearing as high as she could in front of them. One or two skittled away and the another a silver creature of great beauty, looked at her benignly.

And though she heard no words she under stood as it told her kindly that it was glad she had found the power and the beauty and the glory of its magic and the spring scents encompassed her and she bowed in acknowledgement. Paige could feel that this creature whose soul and body she was sharing had come close to a dark and a dangerous place, had come close to betrayal and evil but had recently listened to wisdom and had found the courage to face a future that had once appeared bleak.

Then as the music in her head slowed, she took several deep breaths and slowly lowered her head to taste the sweet green clover at her feet and appreciate the second chance, she, this beautiful and powerful magic creature knew it had been granted. And as it peacefully moved away grazing with its companions Paige felt the swirling spirit winds take hold of her.

She opened her eyes and was lying on he bed, in the room she had slept in for nearly four years. She stood up and wandered to her dresser where she had a photo of Mark, smiling softly, balding sandy hair and intelligent humorous face. "You know I really am doing okay " she told him "Rodik is a bastard and the car's gone, but I'm doing okay. " She stared at the picture" It was just beautiful Mark " she said " Just magical running with the unicorns."

"They that thrive well take counsel of their friends"
William Shakespeare. Venus & Adonis