Ally Lichen’s Friend: 18. Takia

Ally could find the house easily enough. Like the rest of the village, it had changed little. The shutters were replaced, and now painted gray, instead of white, but nothing else was altered. It stood, pale green, against the bright red and gold of the leaves. Worn, but the same.

Her heart twinged but in a good sort of way.

“Do you want me to stay out here?”

Ally turned to find Madge watching her closely.

“There’s plenty I can explore.” Madge continued with an encouraging smile. Flicker licked her chin. “And I thought you might want some time with your mother.”

“Oh.” Ally considered a moment. “No. You can come in. I don’t mind.”

Ally took a deep breath and stared hard at the door before her. She knocked.

Silence stretched out like taffy.

Somewhere nearby, a child whooped.

Footsteps shuffled on the floor beyond the door.

The door opened.

A woman stood before them. A woman with a warm smile, bright eyes, and dimples on both cheeks.

Ally felt a rush like a waterfall course through her. Bright and powerful. All at once, she understood why coming home had felt so strange. It was because she had not arrived. Not until now, that is.

Home was in her mother’s arms.

“Ally!” Mrs. Lichen’s voice was as warm as her embrace. She stumbled back a step as her daughter crashed into her, then held her tightly, pressing her cheek against the top of Ally’s head. “Hello, my dear girl. Welcome home.”

“Hi, Mama.” Ally let out the words in a laugh, and for the second time that day, she was holding back tears.

Nevertheless, she remembered the guest beside her. Ally pulled back, brimful of warmth, despite the crisp air.

“Mother, this is Madge.” She motioned to the blonde girl beside her.

“Hello!” Madge grinned and waved enthusiastically.


The next few hours were busy, comforting ones. Ally no longer felt out of step in a place she had once belonged to. She was here, now, just where she ought to be.

Mrs. Lichen was alright, although she had to assure Ally of the fact several times. She was tired and still getting frequent headaches, so a lot of the work around the house had been left undone.

Ally set about fixing that right away.

She settled herself and Madge into her old bedroom at the end of the hallway. She made tea, washed the dishes and tidied the house, and made her mother comfortable. She hauled a cart of wood in to fuel the fire, and when she returned, she found Madge in the kitchen making stew and cornbread.

“I wanted to help, and your mother said it would be alright,” Madge responded to her questioning expression. “And you should really be resting your ankle, remember?” The air was alight with purple sparks of Madge’s magic, sorting out the spices mid-air, without the aid of measuring spoons.

“It’s more than alright.” The weariness she had been fighting slipped over Ally, and her stomach clenched at the smell of simmering broth. “Thank you, Madge. Thank you, more than you can know!”

Madge giggled at her grateful expression. “Food.” She raised her hand dramatically. “The greatest expression of friendship!”

“Too right.” Ally agreed, and proceeded to the living room to collapse in an armchair beside her mother. The relief of taking her weight off her injured ankle was sweeter than birthday cake.

Mrs. Lichen looked up from her knitting at the sound of her daughter’s sigh. She smiled.

“You work too hard sometimes, Ally.”

“Someone’s got to do it,” Ally murmured, closing her eyes. “Anyway, I came here to help you.”


Ally opened her eyes to find her mother staring at her with that fond, amused look in her eyes.

“I appreciate that,” said Mrs. Lichen warmly. “And I don’t know how I was blessed with such a wonderful daughter, but please know that the reason I’m most grateful that you are here, is because I’ve missed you.”

Ally’s heart swelled. “I’ve missed you too.”

The sound of bubbling stew filled their silence.

“So.” Mrs. Lichen winced a little as she pulled herself up into a better sitting position. “It’s been a while since my headaches would allow me to write to you. How have you been? How was your trip through the Tanglewood?”

Ally opened her mouth, then closed it again. A grin spread across her lips. “It was certainly… A trip.”

“Oh really?” Mrs. Lichen raised her eyebrows.

“Yes.” Ally leaned forward conspiratorially. “Have you ever fought a treetop gargoyle?”

As it turned out, Mrs. Lichen had not. So naturally, Ally took the opportunity to enlighten her. It was well into the evening before all the stories from her journey were told—with Madge’s help, of course.

The sky darkened and fog wound its way through the tree trunks outside, blurring the view outside the windows with milky white. Far above, the outline of the silver moon was soft and cottony around the edges.

Inside, the fire was bright. Inside, stew was hot. Inside, laughter was ebullient.

Mrs. Lichen told some stories of her own adventures when she was a girl. Although she had never encountered a gargoyle, she had experienced a particularly nasty run-in with some poison-ivy pixies. The tale was familiar to Ally, of course, but Madge was on the edge of her seat, gasping in all the right places. Ally couldn’t help but laugh at her friend’s shock, and her mother’s dramatics. Flicker discovered that he fit perfectly between two stacks of books on the bookshelf, and decided to take a nap.

Contented and comfortable after supper, Ally sat on the edge of the hearth, a mug of rich, spiced tea in her hands.

Mrs. Lichen had nodded off in her chair. Her care-worn face relaxed in sleep. Madge lay on her stomach in front of the hearth, looking through a book of recipes and humming to herself.

Ally closed her eyes and took a deep breath, her nose filled with the smell of tea and milk and hickory smoke.

There was a knock upon the door.

Madge glanced up, pausing in her humming.

“I’ve got it.” Reluctantly, Ally left her mug and her place by the fire. It wasn’t until she was halfway through the kitchen that it crossed her mind who might be standing outside. She paused in front of the solid wooden door before opening it.

She was right in her guess, though it took her a moment to take it in. Takia didn’t look too different from the last time she saw her, but it had been a whole year, and just like her first look at the village, the familiarity in itself was strange.

Light brown skin and long dark hair—longer than when she had seen it last. Takia was dressed in blue, gold earrings glinting in the dying light.

“Hello.” An awkward half-smile was on Takia’s lips, and her gaze flickered away to somewhere near Ally’s shoulder, her hand absently twisting a strand of hair.

“Hi, Takia.” Said Ally. She pushed the door open a little further. “Would you like to come in?”

“That’s alright.” Takia took a small step back, she glanced up at Ally again. “Is your mother doing well?”

“Yes, she’s fine.” Ally stepped out, closing the door behind her. The damp chill of the fog sparkled in the glow from the windows, cloaking the two girls in a soft aura of silver and gold.

“I’m glad to see you again,” Ally said. And she was surprised to find that she meant it.

“Mmhm,” Takia murmured. She was twisting a golden ring on her finger.

“I hope your journey—“

“I heard you—“

The two spoke at once.

“Sorry!” Ally said quickly. “What?”


“I was just going to say your mother told me you’re engaged.” Ally laughed without bitterness. “Congratulations.”

“Thank you very much.” Takia smiled and said the words in a way that had a sort of practice to them. Ally guessed that she had been accepting such congratulations quite a lot lately.

Ally tried to think of something to ask about Takia’s betrothed and found that she couldn’t.

A night bird of some kind began to sing.

The only thing Ally could think of saying was the thing that had been weighing on her mind. “It’s been a while since we talked.”

“Yeah.” Takia shrugged. She still wasn’t looking at Ally.

How odd it was, to speak to a stranger who had once been like a sister.

“Thank you for writing to me about my mother.”

“Of course.” Takia let out a breath and looked up at Ally at last. Brown eyes met blue. “How have you been?”

“Alright.” Now it was Ally’s turn to shrug. “The lighthouse is a lot of work, but I like it, you know?”

“That’s good.”

“How are you?” Ally walked to stand beside Takia, leaning over the woven-branch railing. Far below in the darkness was the ground, she supposed.

“I’m doing well.” Takia glanced over the railing as well. “Clarence is lovely. We’re planning a wedding in the spring.”

“That sounds nice.”


The village was quiet, shrouded in golden-tinted fog and a night as dark as velvet. Strange and magical—everything smudged as though it was painted with watercolor. It smelled like wet leaves and chimney smoke.

Ally opened her hand and sent a burst of orange sparks into the air, where they bounced like fireflies beneath the rustling leaves.

A moment later, a flurry of green sparks were bobbing along with the orange, and Ally glanced over to see Takia casting as well, waving her hand lazily through the air.

A smile tickled Ally’s cheeks. She reached out an arm and drew with her finger in the air, making spiraling shapes in orange light.

“Do you remember when we tried to make a cake?” The words were out of Ally’s mouth before she could think, along with a little burst of laughter. “When we were eight, or something?”

Takia frowned thoughtfully, before the memory dawned, along with a smile of her own. “Oh, that’s right! It tasted terrible.”

“It did.” Ally agreed. “I’ll never forget that taste for as long as I live! It was fun though.” Her heart felt warm inside. Heavy, but warm. She wondered if memories could hold weight. She wondered if they could weigh you down.

“Your mother was not pleased.” Takia chuckled, casting more sparks. “And then we ran off to play tag, didn’t we?”

“Probably. We played a lot of tag.”

“And hide and seek.”


“Do you remember painting at my house?” Asked Takia. “When the cat walked all over our wet papers?”

“Oh, that’s right!” Ally giggled. “Of course, the one time Flicker manages to be corporeal, it’s to ruin our art. Do you remember when we were little, making flower chains?”

“Yes.” Takia nodded. “That’s how we met, wasn’t it?”

“We were seven.” Said Ally. She did not add that it had been March 14th, and the sky had been pale blue between the March branches and that she had declared to her mother that night that Takia was her ‘best-est friend, ever’.

“We’ve grown up a lot since then.” Said Takia, casually swirling a handful of green sparks.

The heaviness in Ally’s chest lifted, leaving only the warmth behind. “We have.” She tossed more orange sparks into the air, pooling color into the fog.

Ally turned and look straight at her childhood best friend. “I’m glad I met you, Takia Evergreen.”

“Um, yeah.” Takia bit her lip.

Too dramatic? Too dramatic.

Or at least, too dramatic for Takia.

“I should probably go back inside.” Ally stepped back. “But maybe I’ll see you tomorrow?”

“Maybe.” Takia nodded.

Ally smiled and mentally translated Takia’s ‘maybe’ to a ‘probably not’. She still wished Takia would say what she meant, and mean what she said, but at least now she was old enough to know when she didn’t. Ally turned back to the door.

“Have a good night, Takia.”

“Goodnight, Ally.”


In her old bedroom, under her old bed, there was a rough wooden chest. Carved onto the side in ten-year-old handing writing were the words ‘special stuff’. Underneath the lid, and a layer of dust, lay Ally’s old drawings, stories, assignments, and journals. There was a wooden ‘flute’ she had whittled on her own (it only blew one raspy note), and a smooth rock she had liked for some reason, although now she couldn’t remember exactly why. She thought it might be a representation of victory somehow…She had won it in a game of checkers against William! That was it. No one had ever beaten Willian in checkers before that.

Having been sufficiently distracted by the trinkets of times past, Ally now sorted through her travel pack until she found what she was looking for.

There, curled at the bottom, lay her friendship necklace. Half a shell, with a chip in the side, the cord of the necklace worn soft and fraying.

Ally lifted it out and let it dangle before her in the candlelight. In a moment of whimsy, she held it up to her ear, wondering if she would hear echoes of childhood laughter. Only the gentle whoosh of the sea greeted her, reminding her of the lighthouse waiting for her across the Tanglewood.

She lowered the shell, tucking it between two particular pages of an old journal. Halfway down the page, careful writing mused;

Hello Ally!! Guess who this is? 😀 It is Takia. Surprise! (You’re probably not surprised, huh?) I didn’t read anything, I promise, but I’m sleeping over at your house and you are asleep, so I wanted to write something for you to find later because it’s your birthday tomorrow! You’ll be TWELVE! Wow!

You are my best friend and have been for FIVE YEARS. That’s a lot. You’re a really good best friend because you are always there for me. Sometimes I feel like I am not always the best at being there for you, and I feel bad. But you are a great friend. Never forget it. You are so smart and creative and friendly to everyone and really good at magic. Thanks for being my friend! Happy birthday! 

Ally didn’t remember ever finding and reading the note, at the time. Maybe she had, maybe she hadn’t, either way, it was there.

“We were best friends.” Ally let out a long breath. Against all odds, she still felt warm inside. Warm and happy for the joy and simple, childish love that filled the words on the page. “We were.”

Ally closed the book.

She laid the book and the necklace in the chest of keepsakes.

She pushed the chest under the bed.

In the living room, Mrs. Lichen was sound asleep. Madge was stoking the fire, but she glanced up as Ally came in.

“Hello!” She said brightly, then frowned a little at Ally’s expression. The expression of someone lost, deep in thought. “You alright?”

“Yes.” Said Ally, and she meant it.

She sat down in front of the hearth again, finding her cup of tea mostly cool by now.

“Madge?” A grin spread across Ally’s face.

“Yes?” Madge looked at her curiously.

“Madge,” Ally repeated, “Would you be interested in a job as a lighthouse witch?”

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docendo disco scribendo cogito

(I learn by teaching and think by writing.)

Millie Florence

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