Ally Lichen’s Friend: 14. September of Seventeen


Ally raced across the bridge to Claire’s house, where Takia’s mother said she had gone. The warm, early autumn breeze brushed her cheeks. Her heart was soaring and she couldn’t keep a grin off of her face. Her long brown hair bounced behind her, unbraided. She hadn’t bothered braiding it this morning. She hadn’t done more than hastily change into a skirt and sweater before rushing out the door, the letter clenched in her hand.

The lighthouse letter!

They had their reply! She and Takia were going to be Lighthouse Witches! Together!

“I’m going on an adventure!” Ally let the happy whoop leave her lungs, her arms outstretched through the dappled September sunshine as her boots bounced over the boards of the bridge.

She almost slammed into the door of Claire’s house but skidded to a stop just in time to knock properly.

She had to knock twice before anyone came. Claire’s father was the one who opened the door.

“Is Takia here?” Ally asked breathlessly.

“Yes, she is.” He smiled at her excitement. “She’s in Claire’s room.”

Ally, who had been to Claire’s house plenty of times before raced to the stairs straight away, all the way up to the top. Claire was lucky enough to have a balcony just off her room, and Ally could remember many happy days spent there.

When she reached Claire’s door, the first things she heard were stifled giggles and Claire’s voice.

“So what did you say?”

Gossip and drama. Ally wasn’t surprised, nor was she interested. She knocked sharply, excitement still coursing through her veins. “Takia, I have something to tell you!”

A moment later the door swung open, revealing Claire with her hair twisted around her head in a crown braid and Takia sitting on the woven rug on the floor.

“Oh, hi Ally!” Claire was grining, her cheeks rosy, she glanced down at Takia and then back up at Ally. “We were just chatting about _Andrew_.” She glanced back down at Takia as if she couldn’t be prouder. Takia flushed apple-red.

Ally briefly tried to remember which one Andrew was, but it was hard to care with the letter still clenched in her hand. “That’s lovely. Can I speak to my best friend please?”

Claire and Takia shared a look.

Oh. Ally felt her cheek warm. Was that weird? Should she not have called Takia her best friend? But they were best friends, weren’t they? She had the necklace to prove it. Maybe it was just weird to say it like that. Maybe she had made Claire feel left out. She should have thought before she spoke! Whatever. There were more important matters at hand.

”Just for a moment?” Ally added quickly. “I have to tell you something Takia, it’s really important! May we use the balcony, Claire?”

“You may.” Claire smiled and sat back on the woven rug.

“Ok, come on!” Ally beckoned Takia, pulling the balcony door open.

Ally took a deep breath, trying to calm herself enough to be coherent. The air smelled sweet outside. The warmth of summer still lingered, but only just. There was something quiet and earthy there as well. The trees were only just beginning to change colors, the tips of their leaves orange and gold as though they had been singed by a flame. The sky above was a brilliant blue, and somewhere someone must be baking because the smell of pear dumplings danced in the gentle breeze.

Everything was bright. Everything was lovely.

“What do you need to tell me?” Takia looked curious and happy, her cheeks were still a little flushed. Her hair, darker brown than Ally’s, was edged in gold by the sunlight.

Heart pounding, Ally held up the slightly crumpled letter.

“We got a reply.”

“What?” Takia blinked at her, expression suddenly blank.

“From the Lighthouse! They accepted us!” Ally shoved the letter across into her friend’s hands, bouncing up and down a little. “We can go on an adventure together Takia!”

“Oh.” Takia’s eyes were on the letter, scanning the words. She glanced up, a sheepish smile on her lips. “That’s nice. Wow. I really didn’t think we’d get in.”

“But we did! Can you believe it?” Ally was still beaming.

“Yeah.” Takia folded up the letter and bit her lip as she handed it back. “Are you going to say yes?”

“Of course.” Ally’s heartbeat slowed a little as some of the giddy excitement drained away. Takia was being a little strange. But Takia was just quiet, she reminded herself.

“I’ll… Yeah.” Takia nodded thoughtfully. “That’s nice. I’ll have to keep it in mind.” At last, she looked at Ally. “I was also offered a job at the dressmaker’s, you know.”

Ally hadn’t known. “I thought you didn’t like the dressmaker’s.” She frowned.

“Oh, I don’t really care.” Takia shrugged again. She shrugged a lot, Ally noticed. It was the first time she had ever thought about that. “And um…” Takia blushed. “Well, I was just talking about it with Claire, but Andrew walked me home yesterday.”

“Did he?” Ally stared trying to understand. She had never heard Takia talk about Andrew before. Had Takia ever brought up the boys she liked? If so, Ally couldn’t remember it. “Do you… Do you fancy Andrew?” Ally felt strange even saying such words. Not that she hadn’t ever been interested in boys herself, but she didn’t pick apart every interaction with them the way Claire did.

“I…Well, I think I do.” Takia was blushing harder now.

“You’ve never mentioned him before.” Ally said bluntly. Something inside her felt twisted and strange.

“I talk about him with Claire.” Said Takia.

Ally opened her mouth and then closed it again. No, she wasn’t going to say that. It was silly. She was overthinking again. She should just say ‘ok’ and leave.

But the idea of leaving lodged a stone in her chest.

No. No, no, no.

She and Takia were best friends, it was a fair question to ask her best friend. So she did.

“Why don’t you ever talk to me about stuff like that?” Ally’s voice came out a lot smaller than she intended.

Takia, predictably, shrugged. “You said you don’t care about romantic drama.”

“No, but I care about _you_, Takia!” Ally was mortified to find that her eyes were filling with bright, hot tears.

“…Okay.” Takia smiled awkwardly, glancing away. 

Ally pressed her lips together and told herself that she would not cry. This was silly. It was a ridiculous thing to cry over. She was pathetic. She didn’t even want to hear every detail about every interaction Takia had with Andrew! So why was she upset?

“But you’ll think about it.” Ally somehow managed to talk without letting the tears spill over. Her face felt hot. “The lighthouse.”

“Sure. I’ll think about it.”

The words didn’t give Ally any hope at all.

“And if I don’t go, I’ll… You know. I can write to you.” Takia continued haltingly.

“It would be nice,” Ally didn’t know why she kept talking, the world felt a little blurry around the edges now. She swallowed and started again. “You could draw, you know, in the Lighthouse. There would be plenty of time between shifts.”

“I don’t really draw anymore.” Takia continued to look embarrassed.

“Why?” Ally blinked. “When did that happen?”

“I don’t know.” Annoyance threaded Takia’s voice. “I grew out of it, I guess. It’s…” It was Takia’s turn to hesitate now. She opened her mouth and closed it a few times, then fixed her eyes on Ally’s friendship necklace. “It’s okay to grow out of things, you know?”

Ally slipped her hand around the shell at the end of the necklace, as if she could protect it somehow. It was already chipped.

She had chosen the chipped half.

“Do you still have yours?” Once again, Ally’s voice was too small.

“Probably.” Takia dropped her gaze. “I think I put it away with my other childhood keepsakes. In the attic.”

Ally said “Okay.”

Ally turned and left the balcony.

Ally left Claire’s house.

Ally didn’t cry until she was in her room back home.

A week later, Ally sent her reply to the Vista Cove Lighthouse. Yes, she would very much like to be the Lighthouse Witch. Yes, she could start next month. Yes, she could stay on for a year, longer probably.

No, she did not have a partner for the work. Something had come up for the original candidate. But she could find someone after she started the job. Would that be alright?

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docendo disco scribendo cogito

(I learn by teaching and think by writing.)

Millie Florence

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