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Light a Candle in the Darkness

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Christmas lights dangle from the eaves and around all the windows. Hanging them is one of those things that is phenomenally easy with magic. It comes easiest for Kylie, just a thought and they drape themselves over the hooks already in place. Ten years on and she’s still amazed every time she casts a spell, and she smiles so big when she’s done and fingers the tiger’s eye nestled against her throat.

Sally’s daughters aren’t kids anymore, but it’s late Christmas Eve, past three a.m., and they have gone upstairs. To bed, they claim, but Sally thinks they’re probably curled up together, whispering secret dreams and wishes, hurts and sadnesses, beliefs and hopes.

Gillian approaches with quiet steps, a slip of a woman, fire falling down her back in the gloss of her hair. She puts her arm around Sally’s waist and tilts her head against Sally’s shoulder.

“Ready?” she asks, but she doesn’t have to say anything for Sally to know what she wants. Her breath is warm and smells faintly of hot chocolate and peppermint schnapps. Their mugs are empty, their bellies pleasantly full.

“Get the lights,” Sally tells her. Gillian squeezes her into a half hug and goes to turn off the lamps and the kitchen lights and everything but the sparkling white Christmas lights glistening at the edges of the windows.

Sally stands in front of the fireplace and raises up on her toes a little to reach the candles. She takes a deep breath and lets the air sit in her lungs for a moment while she thinks about what she wants.

When she breathes out, when she blows the air at the candle wicks in a steady stream, it rises through her throat like steam, warm and slightly wet, and flames spark to life before her eyes.

The flames flicker, their reflections in the mirror dancing, and Sally watches as Gillian comes back into the room, a stark contrast of pale skin and black clothes and that long, fierce hair skimming down her back and twisting around her hips.

Her eyes catch Sally’s in the mirror and her reflection smiles, though when Sally turns, Gillian’s expression is somber. The corners of her eyes crinkle just a bit, giving her away. She watches Sally in the mirror a moment more and spins away, her hair swinging out.

The afterimage of the brightness of her hair hangs in Sally’s vision, blurred lights and half-seen movements in shadows and the flicker of magic. Sally blinks and it’s gone; she turns and finds Gillian sprawled on the couch beneath the window, her face turned up to the glow of the Christmas lights.

Sally tucks herself in next to her. Once they would have shoved and knocked into each other until they were comfortable, knees and elbows bumping, but their bodies know the places they fit together and curling up is an easy thing.

Neither of them says I wish the aunts were here but it hangs there between them, translucent and as powerful as the magic in their Owens family blood.