Naima was eleven the first time she made the biggest mistake anyone, as she had been told, could ever make. She left her home without a light.
She hadn’t done it on purpose, but she hadn’t turned around either, once she’d noticed. It was okay, right, as long as she stayed with her best friend? Baba had a light with her, and they always were together anyways.
But as she tugged on her wide-rimmed hat, pulling it further down her forehead, her granny’s voice sounded relentlessly in her ear, so much Naima almost expected her to be standing right behind her if she turned. ‘Never be without a light,’ the voice said, as it always did. It was a greeting and a farewell on the Edge, the parts she called her home; it always had been. Even before she was born, even before her granny was born. For a child of eleven, anything that came before their own life seemed barely tangible or thinkable, let alone a life in which there were no grannies.
Eleven was also an age where any child deemed themselves wiser than they were: they no longer believed everything they were told, they asked and doubted and noticed. And so Naima wasn’t at all convinced that it was really bad to be without a light. It was just something nobody ever did – but maybe they had never tried? Maybe it wasn’t so bad to be without a light. Any maybe, if only she’d finally get her own wand, she wouldn’t have to remember to take that stupid old lamp with her all the time!
Naima was stomping now, her lips puckered in defiance.
They were all just scary stories, the kind that adults told children. She knew that with all the certainty of an eleven year old. (It was a lot of certainty, at least in that moment. The certainty of eleven year olds has the tendency to change by the second.)
“Naima,” came the exasperated voice of her best friend, “What are you just standing there for, come on! We don’t have all day! Remember the plan?”