Mira watched the sunlight flash off of Tara’s hair and felt a pang of jealousy. Such a striking red, as if fire and passion had melded into one. Mira’s own black hair felt dull in compassion.
She watched her little sister giggle and point at the chickens in the yard. “Chick! Chick, chick!” she giggled and chased the nearest one, which squawked and bolted across the field.
“Yes, chickens, my little Tara,” Mira told her, smiling. “You shouldn’t chase them. They won’t lay eggs for breakfast.”
“Eggs!” Tara agreed.
A loud shattering came from behind them, and both Mira and Tara quieted and looked back at their home. Mom and Dad were still fighting. Mira had hoped they’d settle down by now. She’d brought Tara out to “play” and avoid the worst of the fight almost an hour ago. The same fight, on a different day.
Turning back to Tara, Mira said, “Let’s go pick flowers!”
“Flowers!” Tara smiled. Then, frowned and looked again at the house. Her lower lip stuck out in a pout. She pointed at the house. “Mom, Dad, fight?”
“Yes. But let’s go pick flowers!” Mira said. She grabbed Tara’s small hand in hers and they made their way down the road, outside their property. Wild red and yellow flowers dotted the edge of the fields surrounding them. They’d be a good distraction. Plus, Mira could bring some back for her alchemy lessons with mage Arkan Woodborne. Gods, she was ready to go back.
Tara plopped down in the dirt and started picking red flowers, her favorite. Mira sat next to her and slowly picked the yellow ones. She laughed to herself at the dirt quickly gathering on Tara’s dress. She fought Mom every morning about wearing them, though she had no choice. Dresses were all her five year old sister had as a clothing option. At least they weren’t just hand me downs any more. The store had taken off and Mom made a point to buy new dresses for Tara, though she tore them up just as much as Mira’s old ones.
They picked silently for a while, Tara’s occasional laugh breaking through, or the call of birds as small flocks flew overhead. A rabbit burst across the road at one point and Mira had to grab Tara before she chased after it.
The sun was warm and perfect for the spring day. If only inside the house had been as peaceful. If only Mom would budge and sell the farm.
After a time, with the shadows reminding Mira she needed to leave, she stood up and collected all the flowers into the small basket she’d brought with them. Time to get back to the center of Wayrest and more lessons. She spent four days in town, learning with Arkan, then three days at home, generally watching Tara, and practicing magic when she could.
“Time to go home, Tara,” she said. Tara skipped ahead of her, happy and holding a small bundle of the flowers. Mira smiled and shook her head again at the way sunlight danced off her red, auburn hair. No one in the family had hair like that. One of the paintings of a great…Mira wasn’t sure how many generations back…grandmother had the same color. Tara’s namesake, Tara Geonette. She’d been part of a local witch coven, if Mom’s passed down stories were to be believed.
The house was quiet when they stepped inside. Mira immediately noticed several plates missing from the shelves in the kitchen, the shattering from earlier, no doubt.
“Mommy, flowers!” Tara yelled and headed to their parents’ bedroom.
“Tara, don’t…” Mira started, but it was too late.
She came up behind Tara, who had stopped in the doorway of the bedroom. Shadows draped the room, but Mira could make out their mother’s slim figure, huddled in a chair. The lit candle on the night stand revealed the fresh bruise across her face. Their father stood by the wash basin, drying his hands. With his barrel chest and wide shoulders, he cut an intimidating figure. Mira noted a fresh cut under his eye.
Tara had stepped into the middle of the bedroom and now dropped the flowers she’d been clutching. Mira saw tears spring into her eyes, and felt herself on the edge of tears. No wonder she always wanted to be in town learning magic. Did they fight like this every day she was gone? Was Tara left alone to listen and see this?
Startled, Mira, her Mom, and Dad all looked at each other.
“NO!” Tara yelled again. Mira had never heard her like this. There was almost a boom coming from her little body.
“What the…,” her Dad said and stepped toward Tara.
“NO!” Tara yelled again. This time, there was a boom. Mira felt herself pushed backwards, away from Tara. Her Dad stepped back, too. Mom nearly fell out of her chair.
“Tara?” her Mom said, standing up.
“NO!” Tara yelled again, her hands balled into tiny fists. A stronger wave emanated from her and Mira felt herself pushed up against the wall of the bedroom. Her mom quickly fell back into her chair, while her father gripped the side of the basin to balance himself.
Tara screamed suddenly, and another wave hit. The flowers on the floor scattered, and a vase on the nightstand shattered. The candle blew out. Mira found herself sitting on the floor, as if a hand had shoved her to the ground.
“Tara! Stop this right now!” her father yelled. He stepped towards her again, but a fresh scream and wave from Tara sent him to his knees. A painting fell off the wall and Mira heard dishes break in the kitchen. Outside, the chickens could be heard clucking nervously.
“Calm her!” Mom said to Mira. The chair had broken in one of the waves and she, too, was sitting on the floor.
“I…I don’t want to do that,” Mira said. “You know Arkan said…”
“Do it!” her father yelled. “She’s going to bring the house down.”
As if to confirm, Tara screamed again, her fists still clenched, but her eyes now closed tightly. She didn’t seem in control of any of this. The fresh wave did shake the house, and more dishes broke in the kitchen.
“Now!” her father demanded.
Mira focused and reached her right hand toward Tara. A blue glow stretched between them and surrounded her little sister. Tara’s eyes popped open and a sudden sadness appeared within. She sobbed and looked at Mira.
Mira fought back tears and kept the spell on her. The sadness left and Tara suddenly looked sleepy. She sat on the ground and her eyelids drooped. Mira stopped casting. Within seconds, Tara was asleep on the floor, curled into a fetal position. Mira wiped tears from her own face. She felt disgusted.
“I’ll put her to bed,” Mom said. She stood up and picked up Tara gently, cradling her, and stepped out of the room.
Mira slowly stood up and looked at her father. “You need to stop making me do that.”
“Have Arkan send more calm scrolls to the shop tomorrow,” he said, ignoring her. He slowly bent and picked up the fallen painting, examining the damaged frame.
“Do it. Neither your mom or I have strong enough magic anymore,” his dark eyes gave Mira a hard look. “You’re getting better and better. Which means you’ll be home even less, I suspect. We need a way to control her when you’re not here. When she has these…fits.”
Mira watched him hang the painting back on the wall, fidgeting with it as it refused to stay straight.
Without another word, she left the bedroom and walked into the one she shared with Tara. Tara was fast asleep, her little chest rising and falling slowly. Mira estimated she’d hit her hard enough with the spell for her to sleep the rest of the day and through the night. Tara’s hair was now tousled, strands falling across her little freckled face. Fire and passion indeed, Mira thought.
She found her mom in the kitchen, picking up the broken dishes. Mira picked up the flower basket. A few had fallen out and were strewn across the table. She put them back in.
“On your way back to Arkan?” her mom asked.
“Dad wants me to get more calm scrolls from him,” Mira said. She didn’t want to drop the subject.
“It’s a good idea. We probably need at least four.” Her mom avoided her eyes.
“You can’t keep doing this to her,” Mira started.
“Your father’s right. We need enough for the days you’re not here,” Mom cut in. “It’s…,” she paused.
“Mom…” Mira said gently.
“No,” her mom seemed to steel herself. “It’s the only way. Get more scrolls. It’s the only thing that works.” She nodded, as if to convince herself she was correct. She finally looked at Mira. Her gaze was determined and…distant.
Mira sighed. She needed to be away from this house. “I’ll have them sent to the store. I’ll see you all in a few days.”
She walked out and headed up the road, toward the west gate into the city proper.
The sun dried her lingering tears.
*(special thanks to TKAA Renewal. Little Tara is Annika from the mod)