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It had been a long day at the end of a long week. At the end of a long year, really. And the worst part, Maggie, thought as she pulled herself out of her car, was that it wasn’t half over. Not after a morning in class and an evening spent behind the register at her crappy retail job. It was nine at night, and still her day wasn’t over.
She’d picked up Erica from the sitter’s place, an easily irritated woman who had no inclination of making the toddler dinner. Needless to say Erica was in a mood, and not at all thrilled to be buckled into her car seat. Then there was dinner to make, a bath to be given, and stories to read.
“Time to go to sleep, Baby girl,” she crooned, lifting Erica into her racecar bed.
“No, not tired,” Erica insisted, sitting right back up.
“I wish I wasn’t tired,” Maggie muttered. “Give your mom a break, okay, hun?” Eventually she managed to cajole the child into lying down. Wanting nothing more than to go to bed herself, she went instead to the crowded desk in her living room to start her homework. She took a moment to consider the dinner dishes and the cluttered room before realizing that she would have energy for homework or housework, but not both.
She opened her second hand laptop, and got to work. It was eleven by then. If she worked fast, she might be done by one.
That blissful thought lasted no more than twenty minutes. From Erica’s bedroom came the sound of little feet on the floor, followed by running. “Mommy, I’m too awake!” Erica insisted.
“Okay, okay,” Maggie said, “here’s what we’ll do. You can stay up, but there’s no tv and no stories. You’ve got to sit and play next to me and be real quiet.”
“But what can I do?” Erica asked.
Sighing, Maggie pulled a notebook towards her. She ripped out a page, and started folding it. In a moment, she’s folded the paper into a koi fish. She folded three more pieces, one into a crane, then a frog, then a lotus. “Here,” she said, setting each piece in turn on the ground in front of Erica.
The little girl looked at the pieces, then back up at her mother. “Will you do the secret thing?” she asked, her voice quiet.
How quickly she learned, to be quiet.
Maggie gave her a wicked smile. She gave a flick with her finger, and the pieces began to move. The frog hopped, the ball rolled around in circles, the crane fluttered up into the air and the koi fish popped along as though it were in water. Erica laughed, trying to move one of the pieces on her own. She couldn’t yet, but she was almost there.
With Erica pleasantly distracted, Maggie turned her attention back to her school work. All the magic in the world wasn’t going to get her a degree.