“Do you believe in magic?” Alice asks me one day.
We’re thirteen years old, technically teenagers now. So, while I do believe in magic—even though I know that it’s a true fact because my family are witches and we do magic every day—believing in magic is a childish thing, something girls my age don’t believe in anymore.
I try to read the expression on her face, try to see into her eyes to see if this is a prank, if she’d laugh at me if I tell her that I do. She’s my best friend, I’ve confided in her more than I have in my own family. I can trust her.
I open my mouth to tell her, yes, to say to her, I do believe in magic. But my courage plummets half way through and I end up saying,
“No, Alice. Magic isn’t real.” And my voice is a bit harsher than I intend it to be.
Magic is a childish thing, something normal teenage girls don’t believe in. Kids get ridiculed in the halls for believing in such things.
We drop the subject, and continue doing what girls our age are expected to do—we paint each other’s nails.
It's five years later and we’re seniors now. We graduate in a couple months. Soon, Alice and I will be moving in together, going to college, starting our lives.
It’s a sprinkling spring day when Alice turns to me, nerves in her eyes. She’s doing that thing she does when she’s nervous—picking at her nails, playing with her hands; it almost looks like she’s trying to pull her middle finger off of her hand. It’s her nervous tick, like when she asked me out and it was one of the first times I noticed it, her pulling at her middle digit before soothing the pad of her finger with her thumb and then repeating the process.
She bites her lip, and I smile sweetly at her, letting her know she doesn’t have to be nervous.
“Lindsey,” she starts, eyes darting away. The only other time I’ve seen her this anxious was when she asked me if she could kiss me—our first kiss.
“Do you believe in magic?” Alice finally plucks up the courage to ask me.
It’s the second time in our lives that she’s asked me this question and a part of me thinks I should take it as a sign, that if she’s asking again then surely I can be honest with her this time. But we’re seniors now, we’re adults now. And even though we’d gone against what “normal” teenage girls do and fell in love with each other instead of the boys in our school—I still can’t shake the thought that I’m supposed to think magic is childish.
I’ve lived my life up until this point under the cardinal rule that I’m not supposed to tell anyone I’m a witch. And I may be grown now, may be leaving my nest and my parents watchful eye, I may be able to make my own decisions now, but the thought of having to crawl back to my parents after the worst case scenario has come to life and hear them tell me that they “told me so” is too terrifying a thought.
So I smile warmly and take Alice’s hands. It’s too late now to confess that I believe in magic, it would have been better to do so when we were thirteen because now we’re adults and as such it’s time to leave childish things behind.
“Alice, have you fallen down the rabbit hole again?” I ask her, our little saying for when she’s being outlandish.
Usually she shakes her head and smiles, giggles along with me, and then she tries to explain herself and her thoughts. This time though, she drops my hands and looks away.
It’s the first time I feel the rift forming between us.
Two years later we’re still together but things have changed. We’re half way through college now, working part time jobs to pay the bills. We hardly see each other, busy with work or school, and when we do see each other you can practically taste the change.
Our world has changed from color to black and white and I don’t know how to fix it.
It’s times like these when I start to think about magic. I don’t practice much anymore. I’ve moved out of my parents’ house, a world where we did magic as naturally as anything else, and into a world where I live with a normal human and so I’ve lost my connection to my magic, let it slip away.
It’s a cold day in the middle of winter and we’re struggling to make ends meet so we don’t turn on the heater. Instead we pull out all the blankets and trap ourselves beneath them and watch TV in a bundle of fabric. If I were back home we’d have just cast a spell, warmed the air round us with magic and moved around freely. But I’m not there anymore so I huddle under my blankets and dread the moments when I have to get up to do something.
I can feel the rift between Alice and I more clearly now. She walks into the freezing apartment without so much as a “hello” and I can’t stand it anymore. My parents taught me that any good relationship that was going to last needs communication so I get up from my bundle and I walk over to her.
“Hey,” I start, “Can we talk?”
She glances at me, grabs one of the blankets off the couch, and then smiles apologetically at me, “Later? I have an essay to write and about a million other things I need to get done.”
I nod, “Sure.” Let her scurry off into the other room and try to ignore the hollow feeling growing in my chest.
I’m not sure how the argument starts, who raises their voice first, who’s the first to throw their hands up in exasperation. All I know is that now we’re both yelling, both angrily shouting about meaningless things—you were supposed to do the dishes, someone should have cleaned the spilled milk up by now and since I wasn’t the one who spilled it it's not going to be me, when was the last time you did laundry? I’ve been doing it for weeks!—we’re both skirting around the real problem here, both of us know that we should talk about it but neither of us know how to go about it so we just scream until there’s a broken vase on the floor and even though I’m not the one who threw it I am the one cleaning it up and now we live in silence.
"Can we talk about what’s really happening here?” I ask quietly, my voice hoarse from so much screaming, as I throw the broken shards of glass into the trash can.
“What do you mean?” Alice asks, her arms crossed.
“I mean, why are you pulling away from me?"
“You are—and it’s not just because we’ve both been busy, this has been happening for a while now.”
She grows quiet then, not looking at me, biting on her lip. She looks like she wants to say something, but she isn’t sure if she should.
“Talk to me, Alice.” I urge her, and she sighs.
“Do you believe in magic?” Her eyes are piercing mine.
I can feel in my gut that she knows my secret, I can feel it in the air. She knows I’m a witch, knows I’ve been lying to her for years, and for reasons I don’t understand—reasons that are hers alone, locked up away till I can't find them and better understand her. I’ve been caught in my lie and I tell myself to just tell her the truth, tell her I’m a witch, explain myself and beg for forgiveness. But my mind short circuits and I find myself thinking up excuses.
She looks at me expectantly and words escape me.
She’s standing five feet away from me but there are worlds between us. I don’t realize I’m crying until I feel the tears slip down my cheeks and the stress is too much for me to handle and I don’t think I’m breathing anymore and I try to think of a logical reason why I’m freaking out but I can’t and the words “people hurt what they don’t understand” are ringing though my ears,
My parents saying, “People hurt what they don’t understand” ringing through my ears.
And then my alarm going off and I glance at my phone.
“I have to get to class.” I whisper, wiping my tears away and grabbing my bag and leaving the apartment.
Months pass and we don’t talk about our argument. We don’t talk at all, really. There are days when one of us will try to reach out only to find resistance on the receiving end.
We’re falling apart and my heart is breaking.
I walk into our apartment after class one day to find her packing.
“Are you leaving?” I ask, my bag dropping to the floor.
She looks up at me, tears in her eyes that she wipes away. “Yeah. I’m, uh, going to stay with my parents for a couple days.”
My heart stutters. “Are you coming back?”
She sighs, stops packing, turns to my fully. “Would you even want me to?”
“Of course.” I tell her, “I love you.”
She scoffs. “You wouldn’t lie to me if you really loved me.”
“Is that what this is about?” I ask her, confused because it seems too small.
“You have magic, Lindsey, I can feel it on you. And it hurts to know that you don’t trust me enough to tell me that.” She says.
I freeze. “You can feel it?”
“Yeah, because I have magic too, and I’ve been trying to connect with you for years.”
And then it clicks. She’d been trying to reach out to me all these years and I’d been oblivious. I’d been too caught up in keeping my secret, in following what my parents had told me. I’d kept my mouth shut out of fear of being ostracized or hurt and it has ruined my relationship.
“I’m a witch!” I throw my hands up, my heart hammering, the words just tumbling from my lips because I don't know what else to say or do at this point, “Is that what you wanted to hear?”
Alice smiles, not a happy smile or a triumphant one, but one that should be accompanied by a sigh.
“Why was that so hard for you?” She asks me.
I shrug, “I don’t know.”
And then the tears come and I mentally ask myself why I’m so sensitive, “Maybe because my parents told me growing up that I had to keep it a secret? Because I can’t shake the conditioning they placed in me? Because I was scared that you would think I was a freak?”
I walk toward her, “I can’t explain to you why I kept it from you. But please don’t leave me.”
She takes a breath, wipes away my tears, and then pulls me into a hug. “I’m sorry.”
“Why?” I ask her, trying to compose myself.
“I didn’t know that it was that hard for you. I just assumed it was a trivial thing.” She says.
I pull away. “Are you still leaving?”
She shakes her head. “I’ll stay. We’ll talk. And we’ll promise not to keep things from each other in the future?”
I nod. “Of course. I’m sorry.”
We pull apart, and I help her put her things away. Half way through I realize something.
“Wait, you’re a witch?”
It’s seven years later and we sit in a small house in a comfortable silence. Both of us are hard at work. Eventually I glance at the clock and, upon seeing the time, realize that neither of us have eaten nearly all day.
“Alice,” I say, catching her attention, “Are you hungry?”
She contemplates it for a moment, as if being so caught up in her work has caused her to forget that she has to do things like eat. A couple seconds later and she nods.
“Do you want me to cook?” She asks.
I stand, walk over to her and pull her up, “We’ll do it together, we both could use the break.”
She smiles, and follows me happily into the kitchen.
It’s been years since college, since our world cascaded into monochrome, and now we’re back in color. We laugh together as we make dinner, and everything is exactly how it should be. We have each other now, two odd balls compared to the outside world.
And we believe in magic.