Having a best friend put a smile on my face, and I didn’t need to look in a mirror to see because it reflected all around me. I saw it in the happy nudges Mama and Auntie Tess gave each other as I passed them, or in the way the twins’ nasty barbs now amused instead of angered me. It manifested in the mornings as I awoke early without being nudged to get ready for school. Finally, it shone in my bouncy gait as Maria and I approached each other before classes. Happiness, like liquid in a container, spreads itself into all available spaces.
During the school day some of the kids we met joined us from time to time, but increasingly, we wanted to be alone. Neither of us meant to exclude them, but I think our shared secrets pushed away the others as our bond grew stronger. We just didn’t connect as well with anyone else. Perhaps, we just didn’t want to.
Sometimes, Mama encouraged me to invite other girls to the house once in a while. “Lucy,” she nagged, “I love that you and Maria are so close, but now is the time to have groups of friends. You two really shouldn’t be so exclusive.”
There she was butting into my life again! To appease the nagging, once in a while I did invite other girls to the house. “Oh Lucy,” the conversation might have gone, “do you think Greg Peters is cute?” It’s not that I don’t like giggly girl stuff like boys and clothes. I am a teenager! It’s always fun for a while.
When Maria and I spent time together, we trusted each other enough to share anything and everything. I even told her about my jealousy of her which she shrugged off.
“Lucy,” she said, with the kind of look Granny used to give me before a scolding, “You don’t need to be jealous of me. There’s so much in your life that I never had. You have a family. Do you know what I’d give to have a real family? I don’t even know my birth parents. I’ve lived with dozens of foster families during my life. Even when they treat me well, I have to realize that it won’t last. Besides, you have lots of wonderful qualities and talents. Now we’ve found each other like long lost sisters. I feel like I’ve discovered my real family at last. Jealousy can only tear us apart, and that would break my heart.”
I felt like a selfish oaf for only thinking of myself. Seeing my life through Maria’s eyes gave me a whole new perspective on my family. We helped each other all the time. When tragedy struck, my aunt and uncle didn’t hesitate to offer us a place to live. Maria had never known that sort of trust until she met me. I realized that I had to figure out how to deal with my insecurities for her sake as well as my own. I didn’t want to lose our friendship either.
The bond between us continued to grow. We could sometimes sense each other’s presence even when apart. In fact, just about any time my thoughts focused on Maria, she either called or showed up beside me. At first that surprised me, but I came to expect it. Of course, she and I always met at school, and when we didn’t have too much homework, we got together after school. Eventually, Mama stopped nagging at me to bring home other girls. Maybe she could tell that Maria and I needed each other more than we needed other people, or else she grew sick of the nagging (fat chance!).
When we got together our thoughts turned increasingly towards magic as though some guiding force tugged on us and demanded attention. Sometimes we practiced small spells. I’m the one who suggested we try a spell to make Jeffry and Todd act nicer to me, but it backfired. We needed to reverse it in a hurry. The twins became so obnoxiously nice that I couldn’t stand it. Everywhere I went, they followed at my heels grinning like Alice’s Cheshire Cat. “Lucy, where are you going? Do you need help?” I couldn’t get rid of them. Their attentiveness robbed me of privacy and annoyed me more than ever. I even missed their bratty behavior. Maria and I quickly ended that nonsense.
The experiment with the twins taught us that we had to be very careful about magical changes. That reminded me of something Ms. Bouvier had told me. I shared what I remembered with Maria. It was okay to help out when necessary, but we had to be careful not to tamper too much (I guess the twins were destined to be brats). That made us nervous and brought up questions that we couldn’t answer. How could we know what magic spells were okay to use? When did we have the right to alter reality without causing harm? Perhaps we needed a teacher, but how could we find one? These mysteries discouraged us from practicing more spells, but in spite of that, our curiosity expanded and consumed us.
We began searching for books about magic which we read in secret. One night as we thumbed through an old book from a used book store, a wrinkled piece of paper fell to the floor. The faded handwritten message on it said, “Imagination is the door. Concentration is the key.” Above the words the author had drawn a picture of a yellow door with crayons. Something about that message made the bristles on my neck tingle. I remembered Granny’s words when we conjured her, “Look for the door”. That message seemed to be written for us. We went to bed that night without speaking about the note in the book. I think we both needed time to contemplate its meaning.
That night, naturally, I dreamed of doors. I was walking down a long hallway. I saw on either side of me doors of various colors and sizes. I kept looking as though needing to find one in particular, but it wasn’t there.
Maria, who had spent the night at our house, woke me early the next morning. When she slept over, Mama always slept on the family room couch to give us some privacy. We really did need that privacy.
That morning, my friend shook me awake. “Lucy, did you have strange dreams last night”? I told her about my dream and her eyes grew taking over her face. She spoke with such excitement that I could barely understand her words. “Well I dreamed about doors too, and I was trying to find the right one all night long. I was looking for the one on that paper. All that spewed from her mouth without her taking a breath. I could hear her rapid breathing and realized that it matched my own. As I listened to her I knew that we had shared the same dream and found the book for an important reason.
“You know, Maria, I think we have to look for that door. I don’t pretend to understand the reason, but I think we just received a message we must answer. We’ll probably need to write a spell. Do you want to try?”
Without hesitation she blurted, “Yes, let’s do it now!”
We sat together, and as I held her hand, she wrote a spell to help us find our door.
Universe so big and wide
Give us a way to get inside
Help us find the door and key
We want to learn more
We want to see
Imagination is the door
And concentration is the key.
We lit a candle I kept on the table and softly spoke the words. Then we shut our eyes and tried to picture the yellow door in our minds. At first, nothing happened. Then, slowly, the shape of a door began to emerge on the screen behind my eyes. As the faint image grew clearer, it also became brighter, so bright that it seemed to be made entirely of shining light. When the door came into focus, I felt myself standing in front of it with Maria at my side. I could feel myself and see all around me in a normal way, but realized that our bodies had become transparent like ghosts in the movies. “Maria, can you hear me?” I know I was speaking because I could hear myself, but the words came from my thoughts rather than my mouth.
“Yes”, she answered. “Where are we?”
“Well, obviously, we’re in front of the door we wanted to find. Should we go in?”
“Do you think we ought to?”
I had never seen Maria back away from magic before, but now she seemed more hesitant than I. For the first time in our magical lives, I took command. Certain that we needed to go in, I knocked. It was a curious sensation. My fist rapped on a warm current of air, but I could hear a knocking sound as if I had tapped solid wood. A cheerful voice addressed us. “Come in, girls. It’s open.” Maria and I looked at each other. At the same time the door slowly opened on its own.
From within we heard that voice again. “What took you so long? I have been waiting for you two!”
We opened the door and walked right into Mrs. Bouvier’s magic shop. Everything looked just as I remembered. Mrs. Bouvier stood behind the counter on tiptoes the way she did when we first met. Maria nudged me. I noticed the one new thing in the shop, a sign that floated above the counter. It said, “Save the Universe Inc.”