Happy Saturday! We hope you’re having a nice day with only pleasant decisions to be made. The characters in this week’s stories may be having a harder time of it.
This week’s prompt was: Write a story about making a difficult choice
I looked at the two books on the table in front of me. Everyone said they were just two possible paths. Everyone official said that. The whispers said something else.
It wasn’t obvious looking at them. They were much the same, in fact. Two big leather tomes, each with a locked clasp holding them shut. Each with swirling gold lettering on the front.
“Could I, maybe, look at the table of contents?” I asked.
The Mentor across the table from me blinked once, so I knew this wasn’t a usual question. And it was true, I had a pretty good idea what was in each one. I knew the lore. I’d already been learning for three years. No one was ever offered the Choice until their fourth year of study. The Choice that would determine their future study.
But then she nodded, and drew a ring of tiny keys out of her pocket, so apparently the question wasn’t completely unheard of. She unlocked each book, turned each one to the contents page.
I looked at the right hand one first. It was more or less what I had expected. Spells to grow flowers, to mend tears in cloth, to heal mild ailments. All the things a simple village witch would need, to take care of a simple village like the one I’d grown up in. My mother took it for granted I’d choose this one, and always had. She had always said how the Choice was no real choice. It hadn’t been for her.
And yet—it all seemed so small.
I looked at the left hand book. There was nothing small about these spells. Spells for raising up walls, for blasting fireballs, for uprooting trees. And other spells. Darker spells. All the things a warrior witch would need, to spread conquest and destruction.
But I didn’t really want to do that either.
“I don’t suppose, maybe, there’s a third book?” I said weakly.
I was supposed to come already knowing my choice. I wasn’t supposed to actually choose when presented with the Choice.
“A third book,” the Mentor repeated, and her eyes narrowed. “And why do you feel there should be a third book?”
I didn’t, really. Or I hadn’t thought I did when I asked the question. It was just a question, a delaying tactic because neither of these felt right. But that wrong feeling—that was what made me feel there ought to be another way.
“It’s just…” I said slowly, “the good spells—”
“This is not a choice between Good and Evil,” she said crisply. This was something everyone said. Everyone official.
“Well then—the mending spells. They’re not as powerful as the destruction spells, are they? And I know—I know all those little things, all done by people all over the country, people like my mother, I know they add up.” I did. I respected what she did. I just didn’t want to do it. “But the—” I stopped myself before saying ‘evil.’ “—the destructive spells, they deal in bigger things, don’t they? And growth—it shouldn’t be smaller than destruction, should it? It ought to be just as big. Bigger, even.” Or how did anything survive?
“There is no third book,” the Mentor said. Then she reached out, closed each book, and pushed them together until the pages of one met the spine of the other.
Then she kept pushing, and the two merged seamlessly together.
“It’s more work, you know,” she said. “More spells to learn, and they’re harder. It’s easy to tear down, and it’s easy to do little mending things. It’s harder to mend big things.”
“I’ll do it,” I said instantly, and I understood suddenly how my mother had felt about the Choice. Because this was the option for me. Without even knowing anything more about it, I knew this was the one.
“Very well,” the mentor said, and smiled very slightly. “An unusual path. Not many students have the imagination to ask if there are any other options, or the insight to see why there should be. Or the courage to pursue a new way.”
Karen Blakely: The Choice
“Well, you can’t have both.”
I glared at Dad; he’d used his implacable, no arguments voice. Why did he still insist on talking to me like I was five? “I’m well aware of that,” I said. “Why don’t you help me sort out my options?”
“You’ve got two options, my girl.” He ignored my grimace at the hated ‘my girl’. “You can stay here with Billy and me, or you can go do that dream job of yours in the City. And Billy and me will stay here, without you.”
“If I go, I could come back each weekend.” Did that sound as weak to him as it did to me?
“You could, at first. But sooner or later you’ll make a life for yourself there. And you’ll be coming this way less and less often.”
I sighed at the truth in that. Actually, the likelihood of me driving my ratty old car two hundred miles round trip each weekend was slim to none if I were honest. So if I went, I wouldn’t see home very often. I didn’t know if I could bear being without Dad. Or Billy.
“One of us is getting pretty long in the tooth,” he said gruffly. “You might not have as much time as you think.”
“Don’t say that! I can’t bear it. But if I don’t take this job I may never get the chance again. It is, quite literally, a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
“I know that.” He looked away, unwilling to meet my eyes as they begged for a perfect way out of this dilemma. “I’m not telling you to stay. Just pointing out a few bits of reality.”
“You don’t think Billy can wait for me, do you?”
“I can’t speak for Billy. That’s up to him and God.”
“You know how much I love him…”
“I can’t speak to that, either.” His mouth twisted, one corner lifting slightly. “That’s between you and him.”
“You are absolutely no help whatsoever.” I managed to stop myself from stomping my foot like a five year old, but it was a near thing. The effort made my head hurt.
“Sorry, my girl.” He tucked a strand of hair behind my ear and gave my throbbing temple a soothing touch; he knew me so well. He and Billy knew and accepted everything about me. Could I really leave them?
Then he shook his head, eyes gentle. “This is one thing you’ll have to decide for yourself. No one but you knows how important this is, and what it is worth.”
“Great.” I turned and permitted myself to stomp away from him. Wishing that I was only five, without the need to make this choice.
My car was packed to the brim. I’d managed to cram in everything that meant the most to me. Well, everything except the two I loved most. They were standing there, watching me with solemn eyes.
I hugged Dad fiercely. “I’ll miss you, every day.”
“No you won’t. You’ll be too busy starting your new life.” He shook his finger at me just like when I was little. “You’ve earned this, my girl, so you’d better enjoy it.”
“Yes, sir!” I snapped a salute and managed a laugh, though my throat felt thick and I could barely see through my tears.
I turned and dropped to my knees. “I’ll miss you, Billy.” I wrapped my arms around the golden neck, knowing the muzzle pressed to my cheek was mostly grey. Dad was right. Who knew how much more time I’d have with Billy. I couldn’t remember a time without him.
He whined softly and licked my face. He’d already forgiven me for abandoning him. I just hoped I’d be able to forgive myself.