“You’re too innocent to have such a burden,” her mother told her gently. “Please, don’t think I’m patronising you. I’m not. I’m just trying to keep you from being thrust out into the world too soon, and believe me that’s something I wish my own parents had done for me. But they didn’t, and I suppose I must forgive them for they didn’t really know what they were doing. They were young, they were afraid, I was the first child...”
Mairead frowned and took another step down the stairs. “I still wish people wouldn’t use that as an excuse. Like, just because we’re younger doesn’t mean we should be trusted to bear the burdens. Sometimes we would rather know the truth. Don’t you know the sort of things we imagine to explain all those ‘when you are older’ things?”
“Believe me, I do.” Fay laughed nostalgically. “Yes, I was a child once. Don’t you know that? I’ve had my fair share of the ‘when you’re older’s and believe me, they get irritating.” There was a long pause. “But I’m not going to tell you this now. I think we should wait until your father is here so that we can sit and talk about it properly, all right? It’s not something for this time of night.”
That was not what she’d wanted to hear. “Great, just whet my appetite for a story and then tell me you won’t tell me what it is. Real helpful, Mother, I’ll be sure to recommend you to the parenting agencies.” Her sarcasm was lost on her mother, who had never been one for that sort of thing. “Now, please, tell me one thing. Is what I can do – is it dangerous?”
“That depends what you call dangerous. If you mean can it kill people, then the answer is no. But if it means can it scar people beyond all hope of recovering the answer is yes, although we’re talking mentally here and not physically. This gift is powerful, Mairead,” added Fay seriously. “That’s what I mean about a burden. It’s not something to treat as a joke and it’s no wonder people are frightened of you now that they know you carry it.”
“So you’re saying that it’s like a nightmare? Like it can spoil people’s minds forever so that they never recover?”
“Worse than a nightmare.” Fay took a step up – now they were even, and she was able to hug her daughter close. She didn’t seem to notice that Mairead pulled away from the embrace. “But no more questions tonight, because I’ve said I wouldn’t talk about it now. I’ll answer everything tomorrow but you mustn’t badger me for answers now, all right?