#2051

“Dhashi, breakfast!” At the foot of the stairs, Joe listened for his daughter’s reply but met only silence. Stepping onto the first riser, the halfling called again, “Dhashi, breakfast!” with what he was sure was a much sterner tone. The teenager still didn’t stir. Finally, his husband Paul pushed him out of the way and bellowed up the stairs, “Dhashimri, you get your butt down here or you’ll be having dried turnips for breakfast instead of waffles!”

“Coming, Dad, coming!” Rapid footsteps heralded Dhashi’s graceless arrival in the kitchen, hair unbrushed and pajamas still askew. Neither father could blame her, though; of course she would want to sleep in on her last morning at home, especially when she’d be sleeping on the cold, hard ground tonight. Waffles, however, especially those served with extra strawberries and whipping creme to mark the occasion, could always be relied upon to get Dhashi out of bed. As could the threat of turnips.

“So are you nervous, sweetheart?” Paul asked as they ate, watching his daughter add sprinkles, powdered sugar, butter, and syrup to her waffles. “No,” she replied between giant bites, “just excited!” She went back to attacking her plate as if she hadn’t sneaked down to the kitchen for a midnight snack just hours before. “Because I was going to say,” her father continued as if she hadn’t spoken, “if you are, there’s no shame in waiting a few more days… or months…” Dhashi’s head shot up with a look of horror and she swallowed her current bite. “No, Pop! It has to be today! The oracle said the morning of the first new moon after my sixteenth birthday. If I don’t leave today, I might miss my magical destiny!” Her bright blue eyes wavered with unshed tears, and despite caring for the aasimar girl for almost all of her sixteen years neither father could tell if she was faking them or not.

“Joe,” Paul set his hand over his husband’s, giving it a sympathetic squeeze, “we talked about this…” Joe sighed and gave his husband an equally watery smile. “I know, I know. It just feels like I blinked and now she’s all grown up! The house will be so empty without her.”

“Our pantry won’t be,” Paul winked at his daughter as she loaded another waffle onto her plate, and even Joe managed to laugh.

– – –

“Do you have everything?”

“Yes, Pop,”

“You have your waterproof cloak?”

“Yes, Pop,”

“And extra socks?”

“Yes, Pop,”

“And parchment to write to us?”

“Yes, Pop, yes! I have everything!” Dhashi slumped in exasperation, almost capsizing herself with the weight of her pack. “Look at the sun – at this rate it’s going to be noon before I leave!” Joe chuckled and pocketed the extensive packing list; he had checked her bag three times already anyway. “Okay, okay,” he conceded. “If you’re not too grown up, can you give your old pop one last kiss?”

“I won’t be gone forever,” The girl rolled her eyes with a teenager’s self-conscious smile, but dutifully bent down to give her father a kiss and a hug. After he had nearly squeezed her in half, despite being half her size, she turned to Paul. “Here’s a snack for the road,” he said, depositing a cloth wrapped package into her expectant hands. “Be safe, okay? And remember, not everyone’s so nice as the folks around here.” Dhashi gave him another eye roll, fidgeting with eagerness to be off. “I knoooow, I know.” They hugged, Paul slipped a few extra gold pieces into Dhashi’s dress pocket, and she stepped back with a quick wipe of her eyes.

“Okay,” Dhashi took a deep breath and turned toward the waiting road. “This is it: the first step of my new adventure!” She waved one last time to her adoptive parents, grasped her staff, and started down the path to fulfill her magical girl destiny.

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