Marigold's entire life held an air of promise: the promise that she could, and in fact would, do it all. She was round-faced and pretty, delicate but decisive, witty while always remaining exceptionally kind.
She figured out at a young age that when an adult labeled her as perfect, it was quite difficult to shake that label. So that was the ever-looming expectation: perfection.
It was difficult, then, when Marigold, at the age of sixteen, accidentally grew toadstools out of the carpet of her second-story bedroom. Impossible, and more importantly, imperfect, toadstools. Magical toadstools, in fact.
It became clear to her, after vigorous research, a handful of experimental potions, far too many run-ins with talking critters, and an exorbitant amount of plant material growing in her bedroom, that she was a witch. Marigold took a month or so to process this fact, knowing full well that nobody's idea of perfection encompassed witchcraft, and decided straight-away that hiding all evidence of her witchiness would be the best move.
It wasn't difficult; her parents and teachers and the majority of her peers saw her only as Marigold, the girl that did no wrong. Even if being a witch wasn't technically a crime anymore, everyone knew that girls like Marigold weren't witches. That was simply the way the world worked.
It was, at least, until it wasn't anymore.
Two weeks before her eighteenth birthday, Marigold was sitting in her room, underneath her loft bed, growing violets that were so purple they seared the color into the backs of your eyelids when you blinked. They also had little mouths with which to speak, but they only ever said, "Tomorrow!" in little high-pitched voices. Marigold was particularly proud of them, and it was beginning to feel weird that she never showed anyone what she could do. What exactly she was truly capable of.
A few of her close school friends knew she was a witch, because she'd have gone crazy not telling anyone, but she was beginning to consider that it might be worth just letting everyone else know too.
She decided that before her eighteenth birthday, she'd tell everyone. Not make a big deal out of it, just say: I'm a witch. That's that. No fuss.
Marigold went into the woods behind her house that night and invited the wood nymph that lived there to her house the day of her birthday. She'd met Delilah last year, and though they got on quite well, she'd known that her parents wouldn't understand their friendship. Of course, the main obstacle was that her parents didn't believe wood nymphs were real.
The next part was surprisingly easy. At school, Marigold went to her friend Andi, editor of the student paper, and asked if she could get a photo printed in that week's edition. It was last minute, but Andi was a good friend to Marigold, and wholeheartedly agreed.
Two days later, the student paper printed a photograph of Marigold standing upside-down in a tree, nothing but the leaves and a few friendly crows holding her against the pull of gravity. Underneath was the caption: "There's magic in the air. Marigold magic!"
No one said much of anything at first. In fact, Marigold was beginning to wonder if anyone had even seen the photo. Or the caption. And then her math teacher pulled her aside, asked her kindly about the caption, and in the end told her how very excited she was that Marigold was a witch. Ms. Brooke wasn't a witch at all, but she was always very supportive of the practice of magic.
Later in the day a schoolmate of hers, Cyrus, found her at lunch, set down his stack of books beside her, and stood there with a smile on his face until she lowered her peanut butter sandwich.
"I don't really know how to say this," he began. "But I think it's really rad that you're a witch."
Marigold wasn't sure rad was the first word she'd have chosen, but the sentiment made her heart fill. She'd hid her smile behind her sandwich. "Thanks, Cyrus," she'd said.
He'd sat down then, and opened his mouth. Closed it. Opened it again to say, "I'm actually a witch too--wizard, I guess. I don't really have a good word for it. Magic."
This time she'd let him see how her eyes lit up, because she hadn't actually had any magical friends before. Other than Delilah, if wood nymphs count. And the voice on the wind in the forest, but she was more than certain that that wasn't human. "That's awesome! We'll have to be magic buddies."
Cyrus had grinned a kind of toothy grin. He had a gap between his front teeth that made the smile even more endearing. "Magic buddies," he'd agreed.
That night Marigold had been unable to stop grinning the entire bus ride home, and stared at herself in the mirror for probably ten minutes straight, just thinking about magic. If she concentrated hard enough, she could make her hair sparkle like sunlight on a lake, or grow ivy leaves along the edges of the countertop underneath her fingers.
"I am exactly who I'm meant to be," she'd said to herself in the mirror that day.
The full weight of this decision--printing the photo of herself in the paper--did not hit Marigold until a few days later, when she realized that although she did not regret what she'd done, she hadn't thought about the subtly of her message. She didn't want to parade around school with a glowing orb in her palm and scream, "Look at me! I'm a witch!" However, she also didn't know who knew she was a witch and who didn't. Who read the article, who didn't, who read it but couldn't care less, who read it and secretly despised her.
Someone a grade beneath her told Marigold that she must've photoshopped the photo. Not asked, told. Sometimes proof just wasn't enough for people. But that was ok. Marigold was mostly too busy being elated, as the burden of hiding had been erased. A burden that she hadn't realized had been one until it had gone.
There was only one looming problem. Two, if we want to be precise. Marigold's mother and Marigold's father. Two people that were ok with witches in general, but usually not pleased to come across them in their own lives. They had not seen the photograph; they had no means to. Her parents did not read the school paper.
At first, Marigold thought that she just could go on not saying anything, and they'd hear it from someone else. Eventually. She didn't particularly want to explain the details on how she could grow lily pads under her feet even when she was walking on cement, or how she knew how to trap a bottle inside a lightning bug instead of the other way around.
But there was Delilah. Delilah who was coming to her house--where she lived with her parents--on her birthday. A deadline that she'd stupidly set. A date that she did not want to take back, because Delilah could be very moody and Marigold had a not unreasonable fear of upsetting her.
Marigold waited, biding her time, as long as she possibly could. It was two days before her birthday. Her older sister was visiting tomorrow, staying for a few days to celebrate Marigold's birthday. If she wished to tell her parents without Sophie being around, she had to do it today.
It was 11:00 pm. Her father went up to bed. Her mother was looking in the freezer for something to snack on. Marigold had chickened out of telling both her parents at once, and had decided it would be easier to handle telling just her mom first. Her mom would definitely accept a witch. Her father she was less sure about.
Lingering in the kitchen, her unsuspecting mother chatted idly about a new song she'd heard on the radio as she picked through the freezer. Marigold stood and half-listened, rolling words around in her head, trying to decide how to phrase it.
"It's late, but..." Marigold finally said when there was an opening. It was 11:56 and a school night, and Marigold, who had never been tardy to school a day in her life, was always in bed before eleven. "I had a photo printed in the school paper, and you wouldn't have seen it."
Maybe something in the tone of Marigold's voice, the waver to it, perhaps, clued her mother in that this was something serious. Her mom, who had just set a bag of frozen chicken nuggets onto the counter, turned to her daughter. "Ok," she hedged.
"It's just that for my birthday I'm having a friend over, and I thought it was important that you see this. Before then." Marigold was aware that her words, currently, were making no sense, but she hadn't thought this part through. Why had she not thought this part through?
Marigold unfolded the one page of paper that she'd been keeping in her back pocket. It was creased, like it had been folded closed and open and closed and open many times. Marigold's mother stood next to her and looked at. Marigold read the caption aloud and added, "I'm a witch. So. Yeah."
Her mother blinked at her. Within a week Marigold will have forgotten these exact moments, what specific expressions her mother had had on her face. What Marigold remembers, even years later, is this:
Her mother did not smile. She did not say that she supported her or that she was happy for her or tell her that she loved her. She did say, "What exactly does it mean? I know what a witch is, of course, but what can you do?"
Marigold had expected this. She took a deep breath, recalling all the times she'd hidden away her magic and erased all the evidence from the house, and admitted the truth. She told her mom about the toadstools in her bedroom carpet. About the first time she'd had a conversation with a toad, about how she could close her eyes and see tree roots growing underground, about all the times she'd spoken to the disembodied voice in the woods. Marigold had thought that since she didn't know how best to explain it, it was best to tell her mother every detail. So that even if she didn't say the right words, her mother might still understand, might at least glean the feeling of Marigold's magic. The beauty of it.
"I know from some old books I found that there's all these different kinds of magic, and mine's of the forest, I'm sure of that," Marigold explained. She stood on one side of the counter, her mother on the opposite side, the photo from the school paper between them. The counter was digging into Marigold's hip bone, but she was afraid that if she didn't lean against it she'd forget how to stand upright.
"The voice in the forest wants me to be there. And I'd like to, at some point, move actually into the forest. Not now, of course, I've got to finish school and everything. But I think ideally I'd like to live out there with the animals and the wood nymph and actually learn magic."
It was then that her mother's expression changed, her mouth wavering as her eyes welled up. "That makes me sad. Am I allowed to say that? It makes me sad. To think of you out there, alone," her mother said through her tears.
Marigold was surprised that she didn't cry in that moment. In many ways she was exactly the same as her mother, enough so that in certain scenarios they probably thought the exact same thoughts. But this only proved how much of a chasm had formed between them. She loved her mother dearly, but those words would haunt her. Forever.
Because her mother thought that the woods were lonely, but Marigold knew that they weren't. Even discounting the animals, Marigold knew each plant was alive, and had something to say, even the ones that didn't talk. She could feel the wisdom of the trees and the presence of spirits in the dirt and air and sunlight. None of that frightened her as it frightened her mother. None of that made her sad. What made her sad was the realization that her mother might never see her the way Marigold saw herself.
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(read part 2 of 2: https://theprose.com/post/545782/they-were-hers)