A week after Mary's ninth birthday, Dad tossed a ring of medallions in her direction.
"Tell me what all of these are," he said.
Dutifully, Mary rattled them off as she slid them around. Unicursal hexagram. Ankh, Egyptian. Knot, Celtic. Cross, Christian. And so on.
"Okay," Dad said when she'd finished. He had a half-smile on his face, and she smiled back. "We're going on your first hunt tonight, if it doesn't snow. Just make sure to keep these on you."
She nodded. He hadn't asked her if she wanted to do it, and she hadn't expected it from him.
The night of Mary's sixteenth birthday, she sat backward on a chair in the kitchen for hours.
"Are you doing okay?" her mom asked after a while.
"Fine," Mary said through grit teeth. "Just finish it."
The anesthetic her mom used was good; the pain Mary felt had nothing to do with the the stitches being placed in the skin of her back. But she was tired and bruised and sore and she wanted to go to bed.
Luckily, it didn't take too long for her mom to draw back, start running hot water, and say, "Done. Just be careful."
Mary turned gingerly. She wasn't quite up to walking to her bedroom yet, so she was going to rest her head on the table until she felt a little better. But to her surprise, a small box sat on the placemat in front of her.
"Happy birthday, dear," Mom said, washing her hands. "I had a cake planned, but..."
Mary grinned. "Thanks."
She opened the package, ignoring the twinges her back gave. The box was packed with cotton and held a charm bracelet on top. It didn't have any charms yet, but there were circles where some could be added.
"I figured you could use it for your medallions," Mom said. "Your father didn't like the idea, but if he could carry everything with his car keys, he would."
Mary spared only a brief glance for Dad's empty chair - he'd gone to finish the hunt Mary had screwed up - before putting on the bracelet. It fit her wrist well, although she couldn't twist her arm around as much as she liked to admire it.
"I could get some extra medallions," Mary said thoughtfully.
Mom wiped off bloody medical instruments and beamed at her.
The evening of Mary's twenty-fifth birthday, she laid on the couch with a baby on her lap.
John had passed out in his easy chair in front of the TV again, and he jerked a little every time Dean made noise. Mary'd considered waking him up, but she liked seeing him asleep, even as she worried. None of her family growing up had ever left themselves that vulnerable. Maybe that was why she enjoyed it so much.
Dean said, "Ma!", and she looked down at his wide-eyed face.
He was a curious little guy. Since he was about a month shy of a year old himself, he could grab and crawl and say a few words and do all the things that kids his age could manage. She dangled her bracelet in front of Dean, and he tried to grab the shiny things she kept out of just out of reach. He smiled and giggled more than a few times. A smile spread on her own face.
She glanced out the window. "Look, Dean! It's snowing again."
As she held him up, she caught sight of their reflections, golden in the light of the lamp: Dean's amazement, her joy, and the bracelet, shining.