I met Jared two years ago at a coffee shop near Imperial Beach. He was the guitarist for some indie band at the time and you know how some girls have a thing for musicians. We hit it off right away. Turns out, we had a lot in common, and he was sweet for the first few months. Then, the honeymoon period wore off, and our relationship was nothing but fights, breakups and makeups. But no matter how bad things were, we always got back together.

I’ve never had the best track record when it came to relationships. My sister, Kat, on the other hand, got engaged to her high school sweetheart, Anthony. I was a little bit jealous of them, so when my sister announced her engagement, I was determined to prove that I could be in a committed relationship too.

I don’t even remember what the fight was about, but it was bad enough that Jared stopped answering my calls. Apparently, we were over for real. I already told my family that I was bringing a date to the wedding, and if I showed up alone, my relatives would gossip about poor little Elena’s love life. 

It was two months before the wedding, and I was browsing through a used bookstore when I stumbled upon a copy of “Love Potions for Dummies.” The author’s name was smudged off, but the pages were all intact. I can’t tell you what compelled me to buy the piece of junk. Desperation? Boredom? Maybe a bit of both. I left the store with the book tucked inside a brown paper bag.

The moment I got home, I started reading. I discovered that potion making wasn’t as difficult as they make it sound in movies. A lot of the ingredients could be purchased at a local supermarket or florist shop. Nothing I added into the potion was harmful on its own, and I figured the worst that would happen is that Jared would get a little extra flavoring in his drink.

Yes — I cornered Jared at one of his concerts, offered to buy him a drink and slipped the potion in it when he wasn’t looking. In my defense, I didn’t expect it to work, but I would be lying if I said that I didn’t hope. I guess that makes me an awful person, huh?

We got back together immediately, and, for a while, everything was perfect. 

I don’t know when I started to feel like he was being too attentive towards me. He insisted on accompanying me everywhere, begged me to move into his apartment and applied for a job at the publishing company I worked at. He never wanted to leave my side.

And then there were his eyes. They were always blue, but I noticed they slowly began to fade like the colors were being drained from his pupils. 

One day, I snuck out of the apartment to go shopping with some friends for a few hours. I returned to find Jared standing in the middle of an upturned living room with a calm expression on his face. There were slash marks on the couch, glass from broken dishes littered the tiled floor and red stains were splattered on the wall. Jared was fine though. He didn’t have a single scratch on him which should have made me feel better, but it didn’t.

I didn’t want to be around him after that. My friends warned me to leave him, but the wedding was a week away, and, at that point, I had the sinking feeling that breaking up wouldn’t stop his behavior. I was so desperate for some time away from him that I jumped at my sister’s invitation to search for some family heirloom she wanted to wear on her big day. 

To prevent Jared from trashing the apartment again, I decided to take some precautions before going out. He didn’t even put up a fight as I tied him to the bedpost and locked the bedroom door. I remember his eyes looked like frosted glass.

I tried to set my thoughts of him aside. I didn’t want Kat to worry about me. She was already stressed about the wedding, and she hated Jared from the start. 

When we got to our grandmother’s house, we found her basement was a mess of cardboard boxes with no labels to guide us in the right direction. Kat and I must have rummaged through the place for hours before I finally found the necklace we were looking for. 

It was a simple piece of jewelry, a blue gem hanging from a silver chain. I held it in my hand as Kat explained its origins. The necklace was gifted to our great-grandmother, Katerina, on her wedding day. The man who gave it wasn’t on the guest list, but in the Philippines, invitations weren’t always necessary. Katerina married an American, and she brought the necklace with her to the States where she lived a long and prosperous life. 

As Kat finished the story, a crash came from upstairs, and my sister looked at me with alarm. The two of us ran up to find Jared standing in the kitchen in front of a broken window. He was gazing at the floor with a blank expression on his face. He didn’t look up when he asked me why I left him. I was too scared to respond, so Kat stepped in front of me and told him to leave.

Have you ever heard the sound of church bells ringing? Not a recording, but in person? The first time I heard real bells was at a European chapel I visited when I was 12. The sensation of sounds that washed over me as the bells echoed their chimes — that’s what Jared’s laugh sounded like. Loud, glorious and not remotely human.

Jared lunged forward, and instead of reaching for me, he grabbed Kat’s wrist. I heard her let out a strangled cry. For a moment, I thought she was stabbed, but there was no blood. I still remember the last word she said before her eyes fogged over. “Elena.” Then, she was gone. 

I waited for Jared to turn on me, but he looked at my closed fist and backed away. It was only until the door slammed shut behind him that I realized I was still clutching the necklace. 

The police took me in for questioning. I didn’t tell them about the potion or my crazy ex-boyfriend. I tried to explain it to Anthony, but he doesn’t believe me. As far as he knows, I was the one responsible for his fiance’s disappearance. He’s not wrong. I never saw Jared again, but I think that’s for the best. I need a break from relationships.