This flash fiction piece is pretty short, less than 400 words. This photo made me think of magic – how could it not?
The scrape of curtain hooks sliding open provides scant warning before a shard of sunlight pierces the room. And my head. Eyes squinching closed against the red-bloom of light burning along my eyelids, I burrow my face into the pillow and resist the tickle of a lurking sneeze.
“Mom.” Molly’s whisper is soft, more soothing than the brash sunlight.
I crack one eyelid open. Her lower lip is tucked between her teeth, gnawing worriedly. “Dad said to let you sleep, but I brought you something.” Her small fingers curl around a white saucer, balancing a cup. “It will make you feel better.”
“Thank you, sweetie.” Sleep would make me feel better, dark nothingness to temporarily erase my aching temples, the parchment feel of my feverish skin. Sleep let me drift to a place where my sinuses weren’t bruises tracing the shape of my cheeks. “I’ll drink it when I wake up.” I make a kissing sound for her, helplessly drifting back against the pillow.
“No, please drink it now. It’s not too hot. I checked.” She places the cup on the bedside table with a quiet chink of glass. “You have to drink it all.” The desperation of her tone reminds me we’d just finished reading Ella Enchanted at bedtimes, and the story involved a fairy who could make curing soups. Always imaginative, Molly had loved it.
“It’s special tea,” Molly insists. “It will make you better, but you have to believe.” She stares at me. “Do you?”
My elbows ache as I dig them into the mattress and heave myself upright. Thankfully, the cup appears absent of any mysterious potion-like additions. I can’t smell ginger, but its taste heats my tongue as I inhale the steam. I have to say something to appease Molly. The tea is thoughtful, and there’s something wondrous in her childlike belief in magic.
“Yes.” I lean close to the cup. The sunlight reflects in the golden surface of the tea. “I believe.” I imagine the steam drifts like spell smoke, wafting like clouds across a dawn sky. The sun would pierce through them, washing away the heavy moon. A flock of birds scatters, soaring with freedom, the whole world open to them. In an ephemeral, fever-dizzy moment, I see it all. Molly watches me with wide eyes.