When your mother shifts the windchimes in the candlelight, shards of mirror wrapped in strips of olive soaked cloth, she says, “I read about this on the internet.” And she squeezes you so tightly, you hug her back.
When you are at school, Noah tells you the proper way to bend wire around dream talismans, and sneak behind your mother when she is painting neat red symbols along the window lining to lay on her sloppy construction a single strand of shimmering gold. You bargained it from the pixies, but she would be absolutely furious to know.
But how else are you supposed to get the proper materials? As if everyone could actually register every supernatural encounter.
Your mother falters when she sees that telltale glimmer of enchantment in Ana’s eyes, you drag her hand down and Ana politely clasps it as your mother stands stock still. When she releases, a pretty blue spark crawls up her arm and you loudly laugh to cover up your mom’s terrified gasp.
For a little while, she stops playing the piano. One day, she catches you scratching idly at the red symbols and yells so loudly you drop your marker to the carpet, she doesn’t understand. You take her arm and explain the strokes, how her symbols were neat but misspelled, filled with holes and loopholes for the clever sprite.
She stays very quiet and only asks, “Where did you learn this?”
You shrug. “At school.”
“Are they teaching this at school?”
“Sometimes,” you say evasively, and then you say, “trust me.”
“Don’t tell anyone your real name,” says your mother says, hands tucked into her elbows, always exaggeratedly careful about these subjects. “Especially witches. I saw that news story go out, you must always be very careful Kylie, understand?”
You nod seriously, and reach up to clasp her hand. You’re trying to train her into it, the catch and release that witches like to do in this province, so she won’t end up being embarrassing at parent-teacher conferences. It’s not her fault, you remind yourself, she just has outdated ideas of what witches are like. She’s not trying to be mean.
“Except my close friends,” you remind her, searching her eyes.
“Not even then,” she says, just as firmly, and the conversation is over for her.
You make a decision, and you smile at her. “I’ll stay so safe, mom, so don’t worry!”
She relaxes into a sweet smile. “I know, Kylie, it’s alright. Choose a good name, alright?” She shakes her head. “I’ve been having bad dreams about this.”
You start to research charms under a darker cover, she doesn’t understand, she doesn’t understand. The world is changing, and just because she can’t comprehend a use, it doesn’t mean there isn’t one.
She’s unsettled at all the cctv cameras, the sensors, the charms and jangling and magic, she actually doesn’t introduce herself by her own name. She takes to sound charms easy as water, it’s the people she has qualms about. Once she catches you edging softly towards a fairy ring, a small dead brown circle of mushrooms, and screeches so loudly everyone in the park looks over at her.
“No, mom, he’s a harmless one, it’s good luck to rub the-”
“What did I tell you about magic?” she says, and calms, says more quietly, “I can’t lose you to this, Kylie. I can’t, not when I could have stopped it.”
You pause. “Mom, everyone uses their-” you look at her face and change tactics, “he was just a-”
“I know what it was! Dangerous!” And that is so unexpectedly hateful that it shuts you up, that shuts up everyone in the vicinity.
She drags you home, but you start to wonder, does she really? Does she really know what the world is capable of anymore? At night you sprinkle crushed mushroom, that harmless fairy dust, over her covers and your carefully researched wards thrum brightly through the covers. She sighs.
Then, making sure her breathing is soft and even, that she’s absolutely asleep, you snap your fingers, and zip backwards as if pulled by an invisible force. If she knew the amount of normal transactions you had made during the week, she would have been mental. But it really made no sense to hold back. Ana, surprisingly, had nothing, but Noah knew enough from a secret carrier down the street. You had so much sage from the kitchen you could probably swim in it. Your mother had been slightly overenthusiastic with even the obviously false ward cures.
She had been having bad dreams. “Hey, Alcor,” you whisper into the dark. In your hand, you hold a fully upgraded dream charm, glass full of worries and dreams and magic. “Is this enough?”
A dark laugh comes from the shadows, and despite yourself, you start to realize what Noah means. He probably won’t hurt children, he said with his careless shrug. You really hope Noah’s friends aren’t dangerous, you were really hoping it was a minor demon using Alcor’s name or something.
“Dear,” says the darkness, weirdly echoey, but warm, like a fire. “None of you will remember this.”
“That’s fine with me,” you say immediately, and unclench your hands. The dreamcatcher doesn’t fall, simply floats in midair, which means- a thrill of alarm crawls down your back- that Alcor’s power easily extends into the protective circle. Oh. Well.
“That’s quite the price,” he says, “the princess and her queen- a small and lovely dream-” and there’s a blinding flash of white.
When you wake up, it’s in your own bed, in the morning.
You can’t remember anything you did for the last week. That’s bad.
You jump into your clothes and scramble to your mom’s room– it must have something to do with her, it’s always something to do with her- but there she is, sleeping peacefully.
“Kylie?” she says, her eyes clearer than they have been in days, despite the groggy state of her awakening. “Do you need something?”
“Uh-” what is it, why is there that crawling sense of dread- “no, sorry.” There’s a pause. “Should we have breakfast?”
“Hm,” she says, rubbing her face. “If you want, Kylie.”
And you shrug it off, because this is what happens in this day and age, and you grin to support your mom off the ground. It’s better not to question it. If it’ll hurt you, then you can be all the more prepared next time. There are certain things that may happen before you die. And it’s confirmed by this–
When you go to bed, the strains of your mom’s piano coil up through the air, filter through the moonlight, enchanting gold sparks that look like stars. Your mom still flinches when she meets witches, and still gives out her name as someone else’s, but now she sleeps soundly at night, under the net of quiet fairy dust- and that’s all that really matters.