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"Ready?" Mom asks. She brought her makeup-case, and what looks like a black leather vest. "Here, take this." She hands me the vest which upon further inspection turns out to be a jacket with the sleeves cut off.

"I assume I'm going alone?" I ask.

It's kind of obvious as Mom's already wearing her black pajamas, making her look like a Ninja from a cheap B movie. All it would take to improve her martial arts skills is a red sash.

"Yes. Now sit down, we need to make you look a little older."

"Where did you get this?" I point at the vest.

She shrugs. "I had two hours, a pair of scissors, and nothing better to do. Take off your shirt and stuff up your bra. We want people to pay attention to your chest, not to your hips."

I'm a good girl, so I do as I'm told, going two sizes up.

"Now, sit down please."

I'm a bad girl now, though I still do what I'm being told.

Mom puts gel in my hair, slicks it down into a low tail held together by a rubber band. Then she opens the make-up case and fools around with powder and blush and eyeshadow. When she takes out a mirror and shows the results I nod. I look older, with the first hints of crows' feet at the corners of my eyes. I'm not entirely convinced about the blue lipstick and how it clashes with my hair, but it'll do. She did manage to bring out the sleazy side in me.

"Cap," Mom says and hands me a baseball cap.

I don't recognize the emblem, nor the sigils embroidered on the inside. I hesitate. "What's this?"

She bends over and blows on the symbols. They hiss and spark in little electric-blue flames. "What do they look like?"

When I puff at them nothing happens, as usual. "Chicken scratches," I tell her honestly.

"Then that's what they are. You, young lady, have the obnoxious talent of being impervious to the obvious. No appreciation of the insubstantial, no notion of arcanum nor the semiotic. If it was not your feeble hands, in which the fate of this world lies, I would not know what to do with you. Now, put on that damned cap."

"Yes, Mom."

With the cap set firmly on my head, I check myself in the bathroom mirror. I look the right kind of lost. Too young to be hanging out in certain places, yet old enough to let myself go to waste. The bra feels unpleasant, the shirt a little tight, but the weight of my guns comforts me. "So, where do I go? And what do I do when I find her?"

Mom smiles and points at the window.

"Throw her out of the window?"

"Really, Eleanore. Sometimes…"

"It's Ellen, Mom, Ellen. Did you know there's a word for that, throwing people out of a window? It's called defenestration, death by, well, being thrown out of a window. It's a thing. What's with the cap?"

She takes a deep sigh. "I know I only have myself to blame. Keep that cap with you. Once you lose it, I'll know you're in trouble, and hopefully where you are. That's what it's for. Satisfied?"

I shrug. We've done the tracing ritual before, but to me all magical writing looks the same. "And the witch? Where will we find her?"

"'Where we'll beat the drums and play the pipes, until daylight comes' is from an old Irish song, based on a poem, or the other way around."

"An old song."

"An old Irish song."

"An old Irish - oh!" I walk back to the window and look at the bar on the opposite side of the street. Where green clovers keep the bikes company, an Irish bar. "Ah, I see! So... you'll be here then, watching over me?" I assume, considering Mom's pajamas.

"Something like that," Mom replies, non-committal. "Defenestration… how do you come up with those things…"

A little worried, I point at my rifle. "When's the last time you practiced?"

Her lack of an answer is an answer by itself. Instead she says, "Give me a call when you've found the right person, will you? She'll recognize you, and you'll recognize her. Exchange some friendly words, tell her we mean no harm, follow her cues. If she becomes problematic, well, you know what to do. Call me before doing anything stupid. Oh, and Eleanore?"

"Yes, Mom?"

She hands me a little paper money. "Take the flower and make sure nobody else touches it. Also, please be careful dear, you weren't easy to raise. I'd sure hate to see all that effort go to waste. Now out you go, and have some fun. Oh, and catch." Mom throws me a pack of bubblegum as I'm about to leave the room. "I'll be taking any damages out of your allowance."

"Thanks, Mom. I love you too."

 

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About the author

The Real Angel Jay

Bio: I write bad fiction. In poor English. In all other aspects I'm just like a normal person. Please note that I'm a not a native English speaker (so any help is welcome).

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