My mother looks over at me from behind the steering wheel. It’s barely a glance, but I see the indecision in her face, even if I don’t know to call it that.
What I do know is that she woke me up in the still-dark of my room and had me put shoes and socks on with my pajamas and bathrobe. She packed my slippers and threw some of my clothes and underwear and my Winnie-the-Pooh into the big suitcase, already half-full with the silkier fabric of her own stuff.
“We’re going to see Charlotte and Greg,” she tells me after a moment.
“Is Daddy coming?”
“No, he had to stay home.”
Daddy hadn’t come to the door to say goodbye, but it would be years until I put it all together. My parents screaming matches had been a near-constant part of my childhood, but that night – that night – I’d gone to bed with the covers all the way up to my ears and my big koala bear and bigger lion on either side of me.
I’d heard their normal yelling turn into something else. Something dark and scary with the sound of something cutting through the air, followed by breaking glass and slamming doors and then a weird *pop* before everything had gone still and quiet, like someone had siphoned all sound out of the world.
If I looked back at my mother, at her hands gripping the steering wheel, would I see the remnants of energy crackling around her fingers? Would I see her eyes glowing slightly green in the not-yet-morning light?
Daddy had called my mother a witch so many times. Not witch-with-a-b like other people said. Just the regular word. But when Daddy called Mommy that, it wasn’t just a mean word. It was Meant. He’d say things like he Should Have Known Better than to Marry a Witch. And he’d scream that Solving Problems with Magic Wasn’t Really Dealing. And he’d flinch sometimes when she tried to touch him.
It was the flinching that bothered me the most.
When I got older, if my eyes started glowing green when I was upset, or my fingers sparked when I was angry, would Daddy pull way from me too?
I had a feeling we would.
The car moves ever forward, toward Charlotte and Greg’s place. They live in a house in the woods, and whenever we visit they bundle me into a loft bed at the top of the house with tons of pillows and quilts and books, and Greg pulls flowers out of the air and gives me bags of chocolate drops if he thinks I’m sad.
“Mommy?” I break the silence that has settled. “I’m thirsty.”
“We’ll stop in a little while,” she says. “For a snack and a potty break.”
“But I’m thirsty now!”
“I forgot the bottled water,” my mother confesses. But she reaches behind my ear, and then opens her hand, where a wrapped candy rests. “Suck on this, for now.”
I take the candy and unwrap it, popping it into my mouth. My favorite kind: Butterscotch.
I look out the window, and I smile. Charlotte and Greg will keep us safe and maybe Daddy will learn that a little magic isn’t so bad after all.