From behind the bar, Lucky pursed his lips when Celeste squelched her way through the front door. 

“What happened to you?” He asked. 

“I got caught in the rain,” Celeste spread her hands as if the answer should be obvious.

“Rain?” Lucky looked out the front windows at the cloudless sky.  “What rain?”

“And yet here I am, soaking wet.”

He narrowed his eyes at her.  

“What?” Celeste snapped back, hands moving to her hips.  “You don’t think I dragged myself backwards through a fountain for kicks and giggles, do you?”

“You used magic, and that happened,” he surmised with a whistle.  “You weren’t kidding about magic being dangerous to use.”

“No, I was not kidding.” Celeste said with a mirthless laugh.  

Lucky threw her a bar towel. “Here. Clean yourself up, then come help me restock the shelves while there’s a lull in customers. Your trial starts when you get back.”

While toweling off her hair, Celeste crossed to the door at the end of the counter.  She entered the back room, passing the stairs that led up to the apartment that Lucky lived in over the bar, then passed the steps that led to the basement stockroom.  At first glance, there seemed to be nothing else back here except a solid brick wall.  But when she kicked a certain wall brick – one row up and three over from the brick with the yellow paint drip on it – a section of the wall swung inward. 

Lucky said that the room on the other side was an old rotgut room from prohibition. Now it was storage for broken furniture. A warped pool table with ripped green flannel and busted pockets took up most of the room.  On it lay dusty chair pieces.  In front of all this sat a moth-eaten futon. 

This was where Lucky usually put drunks to sleep off the effects of the alcohol.  It smelled like sour laundry, but at least it wasn’t riddled with bed bugs.  In Celeste’s opinion, it was a step up in the world.

She hooked her duffle from beneath the bed with her toe, put it on the mattress and dug out a change of clothes.  Once she was changed, she spread her wet things over the broken chairs to dry. 

Then she pulled her damp hair into a ponytail.  She left the bag open on the mattress and returned to the front. 

Lucky nodded in approval at her speedy return.  “Where’d you go today? Sightseeing?”

“I wish,” she said ruefully.  “If I had gone sightseeing, I would have had a better time.”  As the two of them worked together, replacing empty bottles on shelves, she recounted her failed attempt at getting her foot in the door at the local newspaper. 

“Sounds like you were trying to run before you could crawl,” Lucky said. 

“Showing up and asking for work got me this job,” Celeste said.  

“Yeah, but I’m not exactly awash with applicants,” Lucky said. “I bet the editor of the New Orange Register has his pick of eager little Lois Lanes and Jimmy Olsens.  He’s not looking for Daisy Mae from Dogpatch.”

“As a matter of fact, I am from Dogpatch,” Celeste said. 

“There’s an actual Dogpatch?” Lucky blinked his eye.

“They named the town after the comic strip,” Celeste said.

Lucky shook his head.  “I had a point.”

“I’m listening.”

“You need to jump through hoops if you want a professional job like that.  So maybe you should figure out what those hoops are.  And – I haven’t hired you yet. This is just a trial.”

Celeste refrained from observing that Lucky was showing a lot of concern for someone he was on the fence about hiring. 

Once the shelves were filled, she put clean glasses under the counter while he hooked up fresh kegs to the taps.  Then she picked up a broom,swept the floors and straightened chairs. She had just put the broom away when the bell over the door announced a patron. 

She turned to see four guys in NOPD uniforms walk in. They stopped, sniffed the air and turned as one to stare her down. 

“Lucky? There’s a kid in here!” The guy in front grinned at her, showing elongated canines.  “Are you lost, little girl?”

Their ugly laughter surrounded her like choking, poisonous smoke.  ‘Werewolf cops, great.’ Celeste thought. She lifted her chin. This was the test, right here. If she backed down or let Lucky handle the confrontation, none of his patrons would respect her and he wouldn’t be able to hire her. 

On the other hand, she couldn’t just punch a cop because he was being a bully. Once you get a reputation as a cop-puncher, no cop would ever cut you a break. 

Shutting her eyes, she pulled the magic up from within, picturing lighting, like the kind her poor luck had sent crackling across the sky earlier today. The tiny hairs on the back of her neck and arms stood up.  

Around her, the cruel laughter trailed off, leaving uncertain silence behind. 

Celeste opened her eyes, knowing that they’d shifted from chocolate brown to a black so dark the pupils were lost. 

“I’m right where I should be,” she said quietly.  The power caused her voice to slither into their ears and hiss at them like a spitting cobra.  She pushed past them and took up a position behind the counter before letting the collected power slide back down where it belonged.

“That was . . . unsettling,” Lucky said. 

“Good,” Celeste said as she started putting bottled drinks into a mini-fridge below the bar that they had somehow missed earlier. “I was aiming for unsettling.  Think it worked?”

Lucky studied the officers as they drifted over to a corner booth. They took turns glancing her way.  

“Yeah, I’ve never seen Morty or his bunch cautious like that,” Lucky said. “You did good, kid. You let them know that you weren’t someone to be messed with. And you did it without challenging any of them. I’ll have to answer a question or two, but they’ll leave you alone.”

He looked thoughtful.  “Is it going to rain again because you used magic?”

“I hope not, since that was a really minor use of power.” Celeste looked up. Right then, a bottle that she was holding by the cap uncapped itself, fell and shattered on the floor in a spray of foam. The other eleven bottles in the pack shook, then the caps exploded in a fountain of liquid. 

She sighed, shoulders sagging. “I’ll pay for that.”

“I got it,” Lucky said. “You run down to the stockroom and bring up a pack of towels and another case of beer. 

Celeste grabbed another towel to wipe down her hair for a second time that day as she walked toward the door. 

“And kid!” Lucky called out.

“Yeah?” She looked over her shoulder from under the towel. 

“Stop using magic!”