They started with the fabric stalls and Millie was soon overwhelmed by choices – colour, fabric, pattern – how was she ever going to settle on something and make it all fit? Everything was so lovely, but her room was only so big and she loved its light and airy feel. Too much stuff would spoil that.
Edda gently nudged her. “You don’t have to make any decisions today. Even if something you like today is gone next time, something just as lovely will turn up, and if it doesn’t the stall holders here are very good at tracking things down when you ask.”
Millie nodded, still gazing around, huge-eyed. “I think that might be a good idea.”
A nearby stall holder looked over curiously at their conversation and Edda explained. “Millie here is my new apprentice and we’re looking for ideas to make her bedroom her own.”
The man looked sympathetic. “That’s a big job. Definitely one to take your time on. My girl’s sixteen now, but was about your age when she decided to give her room a new look. She got pictures of things she liked off the internet and out of magazines and catalogues and put them together in collages. If you do that for a few weeks, just a bit here and there when it’s fun, you’ll probably start to work out the colours you like to have around you and what decorations are nice, but impossible, and which ones you can actually do.”
Millie relaxed a little, surprised she’d been so tense. “That’s a really good idea, and sounds like fun. Thank you.”
“You’re most welcome. I’ll ask my girl to keep an eye out for you at school next week, so you can ask about her collages if you like. She calls them mood boards.”
Edda laughed. “I’m not sure if that’s inspiring or intimidating. Now, Millie, did you want to get something for your room to make a start, or concentrate on your school supplies?”
Millie opened her mouth, then closed it again, then decided to go for it. “This is going to sound really dumb.”
“There’s a sunbeam that wakes me each morning. I know it’s not the same one and I’m being fanciful and stuff but it’s such a nice thing to wake up to, I’d sort of like to get something for it.”
The two adults burst out laughing and Millie found herself bundled into a hug by Edda. “That’s one of the loveliest things I’ve heard in a long time. By all means, let’s find something for your sunbeam.”
The stallholder was still chuckling. “Remember young lady, you’re in a magic-rich area now, you’re not being as fanciful as you think. I’ll look forward to hearing what you got for it next time you’re here.”
Millie wasn’t quite sure if she was being teased or encouraged. She settled for an uncertain nod and smile, then let Edda steer her towards another group of stalls.
Edda chatted as they walked. “This set of stalls has been set up especially for ‘back to school’. It’ll change into something else once term starts but it makes things much easier right now.”
Millie wasn’t sure how much time they spent at the stalls, it was a while, much longer than it would have been shopping with Mum.
When she’d done back-to-school shopping at home, her mother would sweep them both into the nearest shopping centre, and get out again as quickly as possible. She preferred plain things, in dark, solid colours that didn’t show the dirt, or light solid colours that looked fresh and clean.
This was probably why Millie found herself walking back to the entrance of the market with a gloriously patchworked backpack in a flowerbed of colours, along with equally vivid folders, pencil case and insulated lunch bag. It all nearly made up for not finding something for her room.
Simeon and Timothy were sword-fighting with sticks at the market’s entrance. They stopped when they caught sight of Millie and bounded up, Simeon in the lead.
“I wanted to get you something to give you back your smiles because I spoiled them today.” Simeon dug a toe into the dirt before going on.
“I did the wrong thing and I’m sorry and I won’t do it again and I hope we can still be friends and here.”
He pushed a small, lumpy bundle at her, not quite the size of her palm and looked at her expectantly.
Millie took it and carefully unwound the bubble wrap surrounding whatever it was. She held up the teardrop-shaped crystal and the smile Simeon had spoiled came back.
As she turned it, the light bounced through and splintered into rainbows. “It’s perfect. Thank you so much Simeon. It’s exactly the thing I need to start making my new room exactly mine.”
Carefully juggling crystal and other bags, she gave him a one-armed hug, then gave Timothy one too, for luck.
“I think we can still be friends. Only a friend would be this clever in working out what I would like most.”
Simeon flushed red and grinned. “Good. We have to go now. Greta and Rosalie said we could wait for you, but to get home straight after for chores. We’ll see you at the bus stop on Monday yeah?”
“Yeah.” She grinned down at the crystal again as the boys raced away.
Edda said. “Now that is a nice start for your room. The perfect thing for that sunbeam and given as a gift. If I was to believe in such things, I would say that’s a good omen indeed.”
Millie carefully re-wrapped the crystal and tucked it away in her bag. “I think being woken up by rainbows is going to be a good omen every day.”
They arrived home and Millie raced up the stairs to hang the crystal where the morning sunbeam would find it. Then bounced back down to the kitchen. Edda was making tea.
“We should make an effort to phone your mother once a week. Would you prefer to set a time on Saturday or Sunday?”
Millie huffed. “I miss Mum, and I’d like to talk to her, but I don’t want to be lectured at like she always does. Couldn’t I just write to her or something?”
Edda replied. “I think a phone call would be better.”
Millie sighed and wilted into a chair at the table. “Fine. How about Saturdays after my healing class? That way I can tell her about something she might approve of and I won’t have it hanging over me all weekend.”
“That sounds sensible. And I think we should start this week, so we’ll go through and call her as soon as I’ve finished my tea.”