I went for a walk with Kayla the other day. I hadn’t spent much time with her in a while, and we hadn’t really talked about her studies, her career through the school, in years.
“You’re graduating this year,” I said, after a bit.
“Is it weird? I mean, you’ve been here forever.”
“Not forever,” she corrected me. “Just my whole life. And yes, it’s weird.”
“I’d be scared, if I were you,” I said. She laughed.
“Is that your big-brotherly advice? To be scared?”
“No, it’s just what I would do. I’m not saying it’s a good idea.”
“I’m not scared. Maybe I should be? I’m going to miss all of you, though.”
She has this deal, to make sure she goes out and experiences the “real world,” where she’ll be barred from campus for a year, not even allowed to call. If she wants to come back for her ring, she’ll have to be Absent, or at least living and working elsewhere, for ten years, not the normal three.
“We can visit you, though,” I pointed out.
“Only one at a time,” she reminded me. “And honestly, you won’t. Not very often. You’ll get all wrapped up in your lives here, and you’ll forget to visit.” I started to protest, but she overrode me. “No, it’s ok, I think that’s part of the point. If they thought you’d all come by my apartment every other minute, they’d probably put tighter restrictions on me.”
“What about Aidan?” He's an exception to the one-at-a-time rule, I knew that.
“He has to come visit me. Every day and twice on Sundays. I told Mom I’ll reveal the location of her secret chocolate stash if she doesn’t take him.”
“Ooo! So, what’s your plan? When you leave?”
“Did I tell you I joined Joe’s company?” Impressive news, though apparently a non-sequitur. Joe, my former boss on the janitor’s team, you may remember, has a dance company off-campus. Hardly any students ever dance with him, though, because he does not teach beginners. You have to audition. She had passed.
“That’s great! So?”
“Well, he does pay his dancers. Not much, but with that on my resume, and the dance classes I’ve been teaching at the summer camp, I should be able to get a job as a dance instructor, somewhere.”
“Kayla, I’ve never asked you—what do you study here?” Her first few years, of course, she was just taking the occasional course and mostly being a kid. She only really got serious about earning her degree while I was away in by own Absence.
“When I was little,” she said, “and I’d ask my Mom how she knew something, she’d always say ‘it’s something I learned in Mom School.’ Well, I guess I’ve been going to Mom School.”
“Yeah. I mean, I met my healing requirement by learning how to take care of a small child, everything from baby CPR to how to splint a fracture, to reading all this child-development stuff. Magic is stage magic so I can entertain my kid and make things he shouldn’t have in the first place disappear. My spiritual studies revolve around what it means to be a mother and how to integrate my experience of…having Aidan, you know? My Craft is cooking, but I’m going to try to argue it’s building a human being… Mom School.”
“But your Mom is mostly raising Aidan.” As soon as I said it, I knew I should not have, but she appeared not to take offense.
“Let’s just say that if Aidan comes into fatherhood early, I’ll know how to help him.”
While we’d been talking, we’d come down among the sugar maples on the side of the road. Most of the leaves are still up, and some of them are even still green, but a lot have fallen already. I’d been using my foot to idly push leaves into a small pile, as if I wasn’t paying attention to what I was doing. Now, I knelt to tie my shoe.
“I know one thing you’re not prepared for though,” I said, while still kneeling.
“A Sneak Leaf Attack!” I shouted, and tossed the pile at her. We were both wet and tired and covered with bits of vegetation when we made it back for Friday Dorm Dinner.