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by Kate England

from Enchantments: The Many Facets of Magic
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Saturday, I remember it was a Saturday. In June, I think. The breezes were still silky and cool in the morning, but by noon the humidity had made it hard to breathe. All a sane person can do is sip lemonade in the shade and watch with jealous befuddlement as the kids find the energy to run endless circles through the sprinkler. That Saturday I saw the most beautiful thing in the world. But I saw it too late.


I had moved out to rural New Hampshire after Evy was born. I had scraped up enough money to put a down payment on a small ranch on two acres of land smack in the middle of nowhere. After the crushing press and incessant noise of Boston, it was almost as if the silence of the country had swallowed us whole.

Sarah had hated the move, and I swear she made an effort not to make friends at school. Instead of posters of cute boy bands and movie stars, she insisted on plastering dragons, fairies, and other fantasy-land animals on her wall. I once tried to explain that this wasn’t the best way to impress friends, she rolled her eyes.

Our neighbors were out of sight, but not too far away. Sometimes children would appear from nowhere and play with mine. They’d tumble around in the yard, or make monkeys of themselves on the swing set before mounting their bikes, grass-stained and muddier than when they arrived, and head back to their own families.

Working from home as a marketing and public-relations correspondent to several firms in Manchester and Concord, I could watch the girls play through my office window. I designed advertisements, wrote up press releases, and basically shined up their respective self-images. Working at home was supposed to keep me closer to the girls. It was supposed to help us reconnect. Instead, every time they came inside from playing, I could feel my shoulders tighten up and burn, like someone extinguishing a cigar deep in my muscles.


Evy, the baby at five years old, saw it first. She tried to tell me about it.

“Mama,” she said to me while I was tucking here into bed. “Mama, I saw a horse in the woods today. Or a cow. Or a deer.”

“Which one did you see, baby?” I asked with a smile.

Evy frowned at me, her glassy blue eyes glittering with frustration as she wrinkled her brow and tried to explain. “It was like all of them, Mama” she said. She shook her head and sighed looking as pensive as a five-year-old can. I smoothed her dark hair, which had curled with the summer heat.

“It looked like all of them? A horsecowdeer? A corse? A heer? A dow?” I asked and tickled her. She giggled and laughed, and tickled me back with her tiny hands, but then grew serious; pushing my tickling fingers away, shaking her head.

“No, Mama. It was very pretty.” She yawned and settled into bed. I smiled and kissed her goodnight.
I moved to Sarah’s side of the room. She had a small reading lamp clipped to a large book she was reading: The Complete Fairy Tales by the Brothers Grimm. I sighed and she looked at me over the edge of the book without moving her head.

“Night,” she said, flicking her eyes back to the book.

I sat on the edge of her bed. Sarah’s shoulders tightened and she slipped a scrap of paper between the pages and lifted her eyes to look at me. It wasn’t quite a glare.

“What were you and Evy doing out in the woods today?” I asked.

“Evy said she saw something. We went looking for tracks but I didn’t see anything. Something has eaten the buds off all the clover in the side yard, and got some of your lettuce. Evy said it had horns, and looked weird. But nice.”

“I don’t like you wandering around out there. There could be bears,” I said.

Sarah just shrugged, her eyes on the book.


The next morning Sarah was up before me and I saw her shoveling cereal into her mouth as she stood by the window, dressed in sweatpants and a loose-fitting T-shirt. Her dark hair was cropped boyishly short, something she insisted on doing herself, grudgingly allowing me to even out the back. Her thirteenth birthday had come and gone two months ago. She had her father’s dark brown eyes, and her skin soaked up the sun, turning her as brown as wheat bread.

I was surprised to see Evy up at this hour. She was her sister’s opposite, fair where Sarah was dark, with milky skin that burned on a cloudy day, and hair that turned blond in the summer.

“You two are up early,” I said as I opened the fridge and fumbled for the can of coffee.

“We’re going for a walk in the woods,” Sarah said between mouthfuls.

“Are you going hunting for that animal?”

Sarah shrugged, noncommittal, but Evy nodded as milk dripped down her chin and her eyes gleamed with excitement. “It was pretty!”


They buzzed in and out of the house for days, barely stopping to eat. Television became a forgotten pastime, and other children stopped visiting.

I was on the phone, explaining to a marketing rep why it was better to work through me than a faceless advertising agency, when Evy and Sarah burst in through the door. They were a flurry of giggles, exclamations, and breathless excitement.

“Hold on one moment, please,” I told the droning marketing rep. The girls had caught the tone of my voice and I saw Evy wilt. I jabbed my finger towards the stairs and raised my eyebrows. I mouthed the “Now” at the girls and fought the urge to stamp my foot.

Sarah stiffened and her eyes narrowed. She put her hand on her sister’s shoulder and guided her upstairs.

After making the sale, I went back to my office and sorted through files, making lists of clients to call on the next day.


“What were you two so excited about this afternoon?” I asked as I scooped mashed potatoes onto Sarah’s plate.
Evy didn’t say anything; she just pushed her steamed carrots around her plate with her fork.

“Is now a more convenient time?” Sarah asked.


“You heard me,” she snapped her dark eyes smoldering as she glared at me. “We wouldn’t want to inconvenience you, Ma. I’d hate if the sound of your kids laughing made you lose out on some cash.”

“You better watch your mouth, young lady, or you will be very hungry tonight,” I replied, feeling the heat rush to my face.

“I didn’t have much of an appetite anyway,” she said as she shoved her plate towards me hard enough to spill carrots all over the table...

*     *     *

Mom may not be aware of what's really going on, but it won't take childhood innocence to see what's out there... if only she'll look.

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