Rather than one pair of bright, inquisitive eyes studying her inside and out, she had twelve of them to contend with. Her mother didn’t count, mostly because of the worry line etched between her brows and the way her eyes jumped from one person to the next without ever seeming to find exactly what they were looking for.
If her mother was worried, well, that said something.
“You have grown so much,” Auntie Pink said, blotting the corners of her eyes with a lace-edged kerchief. “Hasn’t she grown so much? Why, I remember when—”
“Yes, Pink, the child has grown,” Auntie Flora said through politely starched lips. Auntie Flora had never been one to smile quite as excessively as some of the others—Auntie Pink, for example—but even she had an edge about her that worried Mira almost as much as her mother’s nervousness.
It was as though they were all waiting for something to happen, and weren’t quite sure if they’d be ready for it when it did.
The Pink Lemonade Brigade all leaned in, some faces eager, expectant, others nervous and strained, but all of them had their attention trained on Mira.
“I don’t think I feel so well,” she told her mother, hoping she could escape back into the quiet, friendly space of her room—even if it did contain a changeling. The fairy doll the old woman had given her was a trifle battered, but she couldn’t wait to find the perfect spot for it.
Her mother placed a teacup in front of Mira, her hand shaking just enough to rattle the cup against the saucer. “I thought you might like some chamomile tea. This should help soothe your stomach.”
The Pink Lemonade Brigade nodded as one and leaned in so close their perfumes and general old lady smell mingled together into a scent that made Mira’s stomach heave a little.
Setting her jaw, Mira took a sip of the tea.
“You’re going to be eleven this year,” Auntie Flora said.
The others murmured their assent, nodding to one another with far more gravity than the occasion called for.
“Her Eleventy Year,” Auntie Pink confirmed.
Auntie Flora pinched her lips together and took a sip of lemonade. A vein Mira had never noticed before began to bulge near her right temple.
“And as such, you have come of age.”
Interesting. And unexpected. Mira set down her cup and scooted upright in her chair. “What age?”
“Why your Eleventy Year,” Auntie Marigold, the aunt with the thickest glasses and the biggest front teeth, said. “Haven’t you been listening? This is a most auspicious event.”
“Be that as it may,” Auntie Flora shifted in her seat and raised her voice slightly, “due to the nature of your Eleventy Year, this shall be your last gift from us, save one.” She gestured to the present hiding behind the Danish pastries.
The one that had perched like a dark thought on Mira’s shoulders all day.
“My last gift?”
Auntie Flora nodded, her expression severe. “Save one.”
. . . TO BE CONTINUED . . .
© 2014 by Danyelle Leafty. All rights reserved. Originally published in Curiosities of the Moon.
There is nothing quite like your eleventy year. A special time when you have one foot firmly rooted in your childhood past, and the other tentatively feeling toward a more mature future. Your 16th, 18th, and 21st birthdays are usually the ones in the limelight, but eleventy is where it all begins. ?
Come back next Wednesday to see if the Pink Lemonade Brigade is any more forthcoming than usual. I’m excited, because in two weeks from now, Mira will finally be given the chance to reach for a fate beyond spelling, geometry, and ordinary colors. The Eleventy Year is truly the year of such beginnings! ?