The sound of a pen scratching away at paper filled the room. That, and the ticking of a clock, alongside the occasional huff. I watched as my eldest daughter sat completely engrossed in whatever she was scrawling away at, soaked up every crease of her brow as she scribbled something out to write something new, inwardly laughing every time her tongue started poking out, a sign that she was lost in the current tangent she was forcing upon her pen. Every so often she would tuck her long, blonde hair behind her ears, not even noticing that it immediately defied her by falling back over her face. Kya was writing what she considered the most important essay she would ever have to write in her life. Not that she needed to write it, but because she felt like she did. Her sixteenth birthday was next week, which meant that this full moon was the most important full moon of her life. For the first time, she would be leading a full moon ceremony in front of nearly a hundred people. Yes, she knew every single one of them, but to a teenager, that's a lot of people and a lot of pressure.
"Maybe you should take a break, Kya?" I suggested innocently, the first sound either of us had made in nearly an hour. "It will still be here after a walk outside." Kya looked up at me, murder in her eyes.
"Are you kidding me?" Her voice was so quiet and even, it was almost scary. "I can't leave it now, I'm nearly halfway done." She went back to writing, muttering under her breath.
"Sweetie," I said gently, reaching a hand across the table. "If you don't take a break soon, you'll give yourself a headache. Why don't you go and see if Marla needs help in the garden?" Marla was my oldest friend and mentor, and she was like an aunt to my children in so many ways. If anyone could help Kya relax, it was her.
"I can't, Mum." came the response from underneath Kya's hair. She didn't even look up. I sighed. This was so painful to watch. I knew Kya felt like she needed to do this, but the way she's so fixated broke my heart. No other nearly sixteen year old I've known has ever been so focused or worried about being so prepared. But I guess as the firstborn of the coven's next Mother Witch, she feels like she got a lot to live up to, which I get; pressure gets to all of us at some time or another.
"Ok, why don't you go and see if she has any ideas about what herbs or plants you can use?" It was sneaky, I know, but it was all I could think of to get Kya out of this room. She'd been in here for the best part of three days, writing and researching, drawing and planning, and I was so worried that the stress would have a disastrous result that I would have done almost anything at this point to break her focus, even for half an hour. I knew Marla was the only one capable of doing that, she always had been with Kya.
"Fine." Kya looked up at me, green eyes gleaming with annoyance. "But only for ten minutes. I need to get back to this." She stood up and walked out, not looking back. I followed, from a safe distance, feeling the stress and annoyance coming off of my daughter. I tried to remind myself that in just over a fortnight, this would all be a distant memory, but that wasn't enough to wash away the stress that wasn't mine.
Outside in the garden, the air was cool and the sky had started changing colour, a sign that the day was almost over and night was nearly here. I loved this time of day. The energy in the air was so calming, and the animals around were changing shifts. I saw Marla sitting on the ground underneath one of the willow trees, a few different baskets around her overflowing with different plants. Her back was to me, but I could see her legs were crossed and her head was bowed, greying hair spilling onto her lap, so I assumed she was blessing her gathering. Kya slumped down next to her, her face still speaking of her obsessions, but her body relaxed instantly. Marla didn't move, but I could just about make out a whisper coming from her direction. The longer Kya sat there, the calmer she became, until I could no longer feel the stress radiating from her, just a sense of tranquillity that came from sitting underneath a willow tree. I turned to walk away, knowing she would be fine now, but caught a glimpse of leaves stalking across the grounds. I sighed, not knowing whether to laugh or cry. I blew out a small gust of energy, just enough to shake the leaves away from a very playful child, revealing her to the world. My youngest was forever sneaking up on people, but now was not the right time to be doing that. Just before she pounced, she must have realised that she was exposed, and she looked directly at me, trying to put on her best pout. A chuckle escaped from me, unable to be stopped. Catori would have to learn at some point that there was a time and a place for stalking her sisters, and this was not one of them. I folded my arms, gestured for her to follow me and walked back indoors. Moments later, Catori followed, grass in her auburn hair, dirt across her face that was smiling until her eyes fell upon mine. She was a wild spirit, yes, but she needed to know her place in the coven.
"What are you playing at, Tori?" I asked her, already knowing how this conversation would end. "Kya is under enough stress at the moment without having to worry about you jumping out on her every two second. It has to stop."
"I was only playing!" she protested, as I thought she would. "You never let me have any fun around here." Her face fell, breaking my heart yet again. We had this conversation so often I could recite both sides in my sleep. Even still, I had to hope that one day it would sink in.
"You have plenty of time to play and mess around, Tori, you know that." I sat down at the table and pulled Catori onto my lap. "You have more chance to play and explore than anyone else in the coven, you know that. But when people are busy with things, you need to leave them be. You need to be more aware of how you affect others." I pulled her chin gently around so I was looking into her eyes. "It's a good thing you're so spirited, it really is, darling, but your energy isn't always what people need around them when they're trying to focus on other things. Especially not your sister, not at the moment. Why don't you go and find Amora or one of your cousins?" I gave her a hug, then sent her on her way to find her other sister. Usually that made her feel a bit better after being put back on the right track.