Wendy left for Australia on January fifth. Laura was glad to see her go. The house was much calmer without her bratty ‘sister.’ She focused on her lessons much better without Wendy poking fun at her.
Weekday mornings, Matthew arrived promptly at nine. Heather home schooled them in math, history, reading, writing, and geography. After lunch, they went into the fenced backyard, where the neighbors couldn’t see them and they couldn’t do any damage, to practice magic. Because they’d caught Matthew lurking beneath Laura’s window, they began with cloaking. Laura easily learned to hide herself completely, to hide just her magic and appear solely human, and many other variants, but Matthew struggled with even the most basic spell.
“Try again,” Heather said, for the tenth time that day. “Chant louder this time.”
He obeyed, yelling the words, but nothing happened.
“Oh, my,” Heather said. “You need help.”
“No, I want to get it by myself,” he said, his jaw set, his face red.
“You can’t. You’re missing something important. I’m taking you to get it.”
“We can’t leave. The kids get home from school soon,” Laura said.
“You’re staying put,” Heather said. “While we’re gone, practice that last cloak again. You’re leaving a hole that a powerful being can access. Figure out how to close it. We’ll be back in a couple of hours.”
“Aargh,” Laura said. She had cast the spell exactly right. Heather just wanted to leave her behind.
“See, not everything comes easy to her,” Laura heard Heather say quietly to Matthew before she led him into the garage. Laura heard the car start after a few minutes.
She got a drink of water, then tried the cloaking spell again; the one that was supposed to make her invisible to everyone. As she stood inside it, believing she could see but not be seen, David and Titus walked into the yard.
“There she is,” Titus said. “I told you they wouldn’t let us come home to an empty house.”
She sputtered and stopped the spell.
“How did you know I was here?” she asked the boys.
“Easy. You were only hidden from the waist down,” her brother said.
“Damn,” she said.
“You said a bad word. I’m telling,” Titus said.
“Go in the house. Get a snack,” she said, to get them away from her.
“I want to watch.” David folded his tiny six-year old arms.
“Fine.” She turned her back to them and chanted the words, moving her arms the way she’d been shown, willing the magic to drop its blanket over her. Once she thought it had worked, she walked across the lawn.
She ended the spell. Clearly he could still see her.
“You’re doing it wrong,” David said. “I’ve watched George. You have to wave your hands to the right and down, not to the right and center. Like this.” He proceeded to demonstrate the spell perfectly, even though he wouldn’t have the magic to make it work for another ten years. Laura felt proud of his intelligence. He had learned to read better than any of the other kids in his class, and was good at math, too.
“You try,” he said.
She copied him, and, poof, she felt the spell settle happily around her. Then she undid it.
“You vanished,” David said. “Do it again.”
She practiced it over and over until she felt sure she had it down. The last time she did it, George, arriving home from work, nearly walked into her. When she undid her spell, he jumped, then clapped loudly. “You’re good,” he said. “It took me years to perfect that one. Where’s Heather?”
“She took Matthew to look for something. She said I couldn’t go.”
“Something to help him do magic?”
She nodded, wrapping her arms around herself to keep warm. Despite her wool sweater and pants, now that she’d stopped practicing, and the sun had set, the chill of the winter afternoon cut into her.
“Let’s go inside,” George said. “We can start dinner.”
“But what did they go for?”
“I’ll let Heather explain.”
Laura didn’t want to wait that long. But the set of George’s back as she followed him into the warmth of the old house told her she had no choice.