Emily pushed against the cool surface of her mother’s full-length mirror. The surface remained solid, as it had for months. It wasn’t fair. The portal to the Magic Wood was supposed remain open until she turned twelve in December. But last year, President Nelson had announced that youth would graduate from Primary on January 1, not on their birthdays. Ever since her first Beehive meeting, the portal had sealed shut.
Sure, the other Beehives were nice, but they weren’t friends. Not like those from the Magic Wood. The adventures she’d had with them made the real world dull in comparison.
Then this morning, President Ballard had introduced the Children and Youth program and the four areas for goal setting. For social growth, Mom had suggested she find someone to sit with at lunch, but Emily liked the example of serving others. And who better to serve than those who had assisted with her adventures in the Magic Wood? The thought wouldn’t leave her mind. Was that revelation?
Emily rested her forehead against the glass. “Please, let me serve.”
The glass warmed and gave way. She fell through, onto a dirt path strewn with red and yellow leaves. She stood, dusting off her pink dress. The trees of the Magic Wood stood bright with fall colors. Grinning, she raced down the path. “I’m baaaack!”
She ran straight to the small cabin of Ms. Crippen, the satyr. When Ms. Crippen opened the door, she wrapped Emily in her familiar, grandmotherly hug. “Oh, dear, it’s so good to see you again. Won’t you come in and have some cocoa?”
“Actually, I’m here to serve you!” Emily smiled. “Can I do your dishes? Or sweep the floor?”
Ms. Crippen glanced back at her kitchen. The floor was spotless, and only a single plate and cup sat by the sink. “I suppose you could wash the dishes, if you really want to.”
“No problem!” Emily skipped to the sink, telling Ms. Crippen everything that had happened since the portal closed. She had to start over multiple times as news spread of her presence — the talking squirrels, the fairies, and the river nymph all wanted to see her. Emily ached from the constant smiling, and the tight hugs. It was everything she had imagined while eating lunch alone at school.
Emily could no longer see the door through the crowded kitchen, but she recognized the soft grumble of the next visitor instantly. “Is Emily here?”
Emily dropped the cup into the now cold water and dried her hands on her dress. “Mother Tanrica.”
The creatures parted as Mother Tanrica, the Lioness, stepped into the kitchen. Her voice was soft with sadness. “You are too old to be here.”
Emily pouted. “I’m not even twelve yet!”
“But you are no longer a child.”
Really? Primary decided whether or not she was a child? “The mirror let me through!”
“I told it to, because we never said goodbye.”
It wasn’t because it liked her desire to serve? Emily glared at the wooden floor, blinking back tears. Why did growing up mean losing this place she loved?
“Come here,” Mother Tanrica said gently.
Emily trudged forward until she was in front of the Lioness. Mother Tanrica reached out a paw and pulled her against her chest. “It is time for you to make new friends and find new people to serve.”
“Why can’t I make new friends and keep my old ones?”
“It always hurts to leave those we love behind. But those on Earth need you more than we do. Take this.” Mother Tanrica breathed on Emily’s wrist. Green, brown, and gold cords appeared, braiding themselves into a bracelet. A silver heart charm tied itself to the middle. “That you may remember our love and faith in you.”
Tears spilled over Emily’s cheeks. She didn’t want a bracelet. But Mother Tanrica wasn’t going to give her what she wanted. She buried her face into Mother Tanrica’s neck.
When the sobs subsided, Mother Tanrica directed her to say good-bye to everyone, and then escorted her back to the portal. She took one last look at the Magic Wood, then stepped through to home. Tears blurred her vision again. She ran to her room, throwing the Children and Youth booklet under her bed. So much for revelation.
On Monday, Emily sulked in her chair in math class when Kamala sat down next to her, smiling in her hijab. “I like your bracelet,” Kamala said.
“You didn’t happen to get it from Mother Tanrica, did you?”
Emily sat up straight. She hadn’t ever told anyone about Mother Tanrica or the portal. “How did you know?”
Kamala held out her wrist. An identical braided cord bracelet wrapped around her wrist, but instead of a heart charm, she had a silver crescent moon. “I always wanted to meet someone else who had found a portal.”
Emily’s eyes widened. There were so many questions she wanted to ask, but the teacher was calling for attention. “Want to have lunch together?” Maybe they could become friends.