Have you ever had that feeling that something you’ve done is going to get you into big, awful trouble, but no one else knows about it yet? That seemed like what I should be feeling for letting my shadow go. Being without that simple patch of darkness was unnatural. No matter where I put my hand in front of a light, I couldn’t make a shadow appear, and that just had to be wrong.
I tried to imagine explaining my new transparent state but I couldn’t imagine how I would. I wasn’t see through like glass, at least not as far as I could tell, but I didn’t block light either. If I thought about that, it seemed really weird and freaky, but actually living without a shadow didn’t feel strange at all.
“Are you doing any better?” September asked.
“A little,” I said. “I’m sorry for freaking out before.”
“I thought you were very brave,” September said. “If that had been my shadow, I think I would have run away.”
“I don’t think that would have helped,” I said. “She would have followed anywhere I went.”
“I know, but I would have been too scared to think of that,” September said.
“I don’t know about that,” I said. “You were fearless on the broom ride.”
“Sweepy wasn’t scary though,” September said. “She’s very nice.”
“But she was just a broom,” I said. “You could have fallen off her at any point!”
“Oh Sweepy isn’t the broom,” September said. “The broom is just what she enchants.”
“I don’t know if I understand?” I said.
“Sweepy is an air spirit, a sylph, and pretty big one I think,” September said. “Or at least she’s big to me. The broom is the just the object that Grandma Apples made to be Sweepy’s home.”
“So like the magical equivalent of a doll’s house?” I asked.
“I guess so,” September said. “It’s probably part of their deal.”
“What kind of deal do they have?” I asked.
“The usual kind, I think,” September said. “Witches make lots of deals with spirits. Usually the witch feeds the spirit somehow, or offers them protection, or both, and the spirit agrees to do things the witch needs. Like an air spirit flying a broom around.”
“What do they look like?” I asked. “Air spirits I mean.”
“I don’t think they look like anything actually,” September said. “I mean they are made of air.”
“How can you tell that Sweepy is nice then?” I asked.
“She has a nice glow,” September said. “Very gentle.”
“I didn’t see her glowing?” I said.
“Oh, I guess that’s something else I can do for you then,” September said. “I can see things humans can’t. I mean, all cats can. I’m not special or anything. It’s just what we do.”
“Ok, so you’ll tell me when things have nice glows around them and when they have not-so-nice glows are them?” I asked.
“Yes! I’d be happy to!” September said.
“What about my shadow?” I asked. “What was her glow like?”
“It looked like yours I think?” he said.
“I have a glow?” I asked.
“Sure,” he said. “If you look at it right, everything does. Most of the time its pretty dim though, and some of them can be really hard to see.”
“What does mine look like?” I asked.
“Yours is very nice!” September said. “Even nicer than Sweepy’s.”
“Oh, um, thank you,” I said. It was like learning that I was pretty, except for something that might actually matter. “Do glows have anything to do with magic?”
“Sometimes,” September said. “Grandma Apples glows really brightly for example, but I’ve seen some old witches who don’t glow much at all.”
“Were they sick?” I asked.
“I don’t think so,” he said. “I think some people are turned outwards and others are turned inwards. And some people glow more in some situations than others.”
“So it can change?” I asked. “Am I glowing any differently than I was before?”
It seemed like I would have to be different. I felt different. I looked different, a little bit at least, without my shadow. I think I even wanted to be different. Wiser, older, or maybe more mysterious.
“No, your glow is still there, and still very nice,” September said, dashing my hopes. Even without a shadow, I was still just me.
“I guess that’s good,” I said. “Maybe it means that my shadow didn’t take anything important away from me?”
“That would be good!” September said. “Maybe you can get along with it for good then!”
“Do you think anyone will notice?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” September said. “I don’t think so, because you don’t hear about people without shadows all that often do you?”
“Only in fairy tales,” I said.
“Then I think people won’t be able to tell,” he said. “There’s all kinds of things like that with witches, and the other Halfway folks.”
“What are Halfway folks?” I asked, feeling like the word was more than a bit familiar to me already.
“People who live in more than one world,” September said. “That’s what I’ve heard them called anyways.”
“What do you mean by ‘live in more than one world’?” I asked. “What other world do witches live in?”
“I don’t know the names for them, but there’s where Grandma Apples lives and there’s your world.”
“Aren’t they all part of the same place?” I asked. “I mean I walked to Grandma Apples and I never went through a big glowing swirl in the sky, or got picked up by a tornado, or anything.”
“I don’t know quite how it works,” September said. “But I know that most people can’t do what you did. Walking to Grandma Apples’ house from here is something I think only people who have a bit of each of the worlds in them can manage.”
“But I was never able to do that before!” I said.
“Maybe it was an accident then?” September asked. “I think if you did it once though, you’ll be able to do it again.”
“Because something changed in me?” I asked.
“I don’t know what you were like before, but I think something has to have changed with all the things you did today.”
“Are the things that changed really noticeable?” I asked, wondering if I would be able to pass as my old self despite the lack of a shadow.
“I think so!” September said. “You’re growing already from what you’ve seen and done.”
He meant it to be reassuring but it didn’t quite calm my heart down.
Then I heard the front door open.
“Penny! I’m home! Help me carry in the groceries!” my Mom called out.
I turned to September and felt my heart thud to a halt. I wasn’t going to get away with what I’d done any longer.
With a gulp, I opened the door to my bedroom and hesitantly creeped over to the stairs.