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“I’m still not sure this is a good idea.”

     Cynthia looked up from the papers spread around her at the kitchen table—her itinerary for her upcoming trip.

     “Mum, honestly. Please don’t start that again.”

     “You’re not ready,” her mother said, coming around the table and picking up a paper. “Look. ‘Amsterdam – two days? The Hague – one day?’ Or ‘Amsterdam – three days, Bruges – one day, Brussels – one day.’ You don’t even know where you’re going.”

     “That’s an old version.” Cynthia snatched the paper from her mother, crumpling it up. “I changed that. I’m going to Amsterdam last because Juliette and Leah agreed to meet me there. I told you.” She rifled through the papers and produced her latest itinerary. “I emailed you a copy.”

     “Even so,” her mother said, scanning the paper. “You’re disorganised. You don’t even have enough money for three months of travelling—”

     “So I’ll get a job. Lola said she’d help me—”

     “You’re just going to get yourself into trouble.”

     “Mum, you’re not being fair.” Cynthia stacked her papers, anger present in every movement. “I’m eighteen. You can’t watch over me for the rest of my life!”

     This was an ongoing argument. Cynthia wanted to branch out and explore the world, figure out who she was on her own. Her mother was scared. Scared Cynthia would find trouble. Scared she would run out of money. Scared she’d make the wrong sort of friends.

     Scared she’d run into witches.

     Mum was scared of everything, and it seemed like the longer they stayed in one place, the more settled their life, the more paranoid she got.

     It was driving Cynthia mad.

     “I’d just rather you went to college first,” Mum said. “Live a few years on your own locally, before you start branching out. It’s a big world out there, and not everywhere is as safe as Oxford.”

     “When we first came here, you didn’t think Oxford was safe at all.”

     “And I was proven wrong—”


     “—but that doesn’t mean that everywhere else will be safe. Cynthia, listen to yourself! Living securely for a few years has made you careless.”

     “Maybe it’s just that I know I’m ready to look after myself!”

     “And what will you do if you do run into witches?” Mum demanded.

     “The same thing I’m already doing!”

     “Call your friends for help? They won’t be in the same country as you.”

     “No, well, that’s what phones were invented for, isn’t it?” Cynthia snapped, shoving her papers back into a plastic document wallet. “I’ve trained self-defence, I can shift into something small, you taught us how to get in and out of cities without being seen. I’m not helpless, Mum!”

     “There’s a big difference between not being helpless and being able to look after yourself. You can barely cook, you don’t have a driver’s license. What jobs do you think you’re going to be able to do?”

     “I’ll find something.” Cynthia stood up sharply. “Mum, let it go. I’m tired of you trying to control my life.”

     “Don’t you see that’s the argument of a child? If you were looking at this like an adult, you’d see that I’m trying to protect you—”

     “Your protection looks an awful lot like control!” Cynthia took a deep breath. “I’m done. I’m going out.”

     “We’re not finished.”

     “We are finished, Mum. I’m going for a walk.”

     Cynthia shoved the papers into her bag and stomped to the door, pushing her feet into her shoes. It wasn’t fair. It just wasn’t. None of her friends put up with this; their parents were encouraging them to go out, travel, see the world. Learn to spend money wisely, to look after themselves. Get some experience before they went to university. Meanwhile, a month into the summer holidays, Cynthia was still arguing with her mother about whether she was even allowed to leave the house. She was eighteen, not eight.

     I’m so sick of her.

     The late afternoon sun was beating down outside. It had been an unusually hot summer. Cynthia kicked her way along the pavement to the local park and sat on one of the swings, pushing herself idly backwards and forwards.

     Half of her said just book the flights and be done with it. But she absolutely hated arguing with her mum. Being on the run for most of her childhood had left Cynthia with a constant fear that every time she saw her family would be the last, and even two years of relative peace hadn’t helped her shake that feeling.

     But it’s time.

     Cynthia stared into the distance, steeling herself. Tonight she would speak to her mum. Tonight, she would stand firm.

     It was time to book her flights.

     Berlin, here I come.

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