Flash-fiction: They Grow Up So Fast

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They had just pushed the button to illuminate the Christmas tree when the power flickered out. It came back a few seconds later, but the blackout had lasted just long enough to disrupt the time on every digital clock in the house.

“Mom, I think we lost internet!” Her son was leaning over the upstairs balcony railing.

“That happens when the power goes out,” her daughter shouted upwards. “Anyway, you were standing next to me when the lights went out… you teleported didn’t you.”

“Geez, Sam, rat me out, why don’t you?”

“Patrick, do not blame your sister for your own actions. The internet will reset in another minute or so. Please come back down here – and use the stairs. Samantha, tattling on people only makes people resentful.”

“But you know the power glitches every time he does it.”

Helen sighed. “I know. But your brother is starting puberty and his power is fluctuating.”

“You mean he’s getting hormones?” The ten-year-old imbued the word with a sense of wonder. Well, really it was affectionate mockery and wonder.


“Didja have to tell her that?” Patrick had returned to the first floor of their house.

“It’s a fact of life, Patrick. And at least you’re a boy. When Samantha gets to that stage a few power fluctuations are the least we’ll have to worry about.”

Patrick glanced at his sister. “Wow. That kinda sucks.”

“Yes,” Helen agreed. “It ‘kinda’ does. In any case, we’ve talked about this before: no big magic in the house – it alters the electrical fields and affects all our technology, not just the power grid.”

“Teleporting isn’t big magic.”

“Maybe not for you,” Helen countered. “But displacing the mass of a human, and then reintegrating that mass in a new location takes a lot of power, even if you’re not feeling the effects yourself.” She paused letting her words sink in.

“So, how do I practice?”

“Well, you’re thirteen now. I think it’s time you started Magical Education Classes. When the winter break is over, we’ll see about getting you enrolled.”

“Is it true there are all-wizard schools, like in Harry Potter?”

Helen chuckled. “Oh, if only. Just think how much easier life would be without your friends constantly asking if you could just make their homework appear or speed the time ahead so they didn’t have to go to gym. No, Magical Education is sort of like… you have friends who do their Confirmation or Bar Mitzvah classes after school, right?”

“Yeah, sure. Zachary Schwartz has been bragging that Lady Gaga is performing at his party.”

“Well, this doesn’t come with pop singers, but Mother Margery at the Episcopal church teaches a Coming of Magical Age class on Tuesdays and Thursdays. You’ll be doing that.”

“Mother Margery’s okay,” Patrick allowed.

“Mom, are we ever gonna light this tree? Dad’ll be home soon.

“Oh, sweetie, I’m sorry,” Helen apologized. “Yes, let’s do it right now.”

Mother and children gathered around the decorated tree, and Samantha grabbed for the remote with the button that controlled it.

Helen put a loving hand on her daughter’s shoulder. “Would you mind if we let Patrick do it his way, just this once?”

The younger of the children took a beat to think it over. “I guess,” she shrugged. Then she glared at her brother. “But if you make the lights go out again, I’ll tell Josie Frye that you like her.”

For a moment, Helen thought her son was going to argue the point. Instead, he said. “I won’t. I promise.”

Patrick faced the tree and closed his eyes, just concentrating. After a moment, the lights on the tree began to glow, softly at first, then more brightly, one at a time, from the light on the bottom row in the back, all the way through the circuit.

“Did it work?” he asked, a bit uncertainly.

“It’s beautiful,” Samantha breathed.

Patrick opened his eyes. “The regular power will keep them on,” he said. “I just got them going.”

“That was cool,” Sam pronounced. “Dad’s gonna love it.”

Helen stepped away from the tree to dim the room lights. Her husband would be home from work shortly, but she was enjoying this precious moment. All too soon, Patrick would be too old for tree-lighting, and Samantha’s magic, when it manifested, would likely have nothing to do with electricity.

They grow up so fast, she thought.

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CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 Flash-fiction: They Grow Up So Fast by Melissa Bartell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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