She skipped into the café, holding her mother’s hand. Her aunt sat at a table, awaiting their arrival. She bounded over to her aunt and held out her new pendant with pride. “Look, look, I just got this. I passed my test!”
The aunt, fingers instinctively reaching up and touching a similar pendant around her own neck, looked up at her sister, who nodded. “She did quite well, actually.” The mother’s hand fell onto the little girl’s shoulder.
An undisguised look of relief passed over the aunt’s face. “I was concerned.”
“As was I,” said the mother, and a shiver ran through her.
But the little girl beamed. “It was so easy! Let me show you what I did!” She reached into her pocket and began to pull out a slender wand.
The mother’s grip on her shoulder tightened. “Not here, dear. Not in front of others.”
The little girl frowned. “But they’re sleepers. They won’t even remember!”
“Nonetheless,” the aunt chimed in, “we don’t do such things out here. You know better.” The mother and girl sat at the table, the girl kicking her feet to and fro. The aunt leaned in and had a hurried whispered conversation with the mother, the two of them discussing a fate the little girl will never know she brushed against.
Tears fell from the mother’s eyes as she looked at her daughter, proud and afraid and relieved.