What Makes Us Happy

"Ne, Sheila?"


"Why do you hate Alice so much?"

"Because she set all the sprites loose, stupid!"



"I don't think that's all of it. You're always mad at her, but you're especially mad at her when she helps us, and, well…if the sprites were all you were angry about, you'd like it that she's helping."

Now Sheila is biting down on her anger, screwing closed all her emotional wing nuts. She knows she yells at Eva too much.

"I hate her because she's stupid and obnoxious and presumes too much."

Sheila knows, but cannot articulate, that that is only an approximation of the true answer. There has been anger boiling in Sheila's heart since she set eyes on Alice, because Alice talks about magic as if it were a joy, a gift. As far as Alice is concerned, the whole point of magic is to make people happy.

In Sheila's world, magic does not make people happy.

Alice believes that this is because the witches are doing it wrong, and she lets them know it. From the moment she was confronted, she has made sweeping, devastating judgments. She is oblivious to her invasive foreignness, oblivious to the damage she does.

She talks about the witches as if their way of life were an unnecessary cruelty. She talks about witches as if Sheila and Eva were not apprentice witches.

She talks about sprites as if the feelings of beasts were important.

She thinks the witches could make magic without stealing it from the sprites.

She dismisses spoken, written and unwritten laws if she does not like them.

She careens around on that broom, the same way she careened into Sheila and Eva's lives: laughing, reckless, free.

Sheila knows something, as oblivious Alice and adoring Eva do not. Sheila knows that Alice can be righteous only because she doesn't know what it's like to be a witch.

She's learning, though. And the more she learns, the less free she is. The more she learns, the more like Sheila she becomes.

Sheila has never been free.

This is her world, and she is bound by its rules. Magic is just another word for power, and power is taken from the disadvantaged to fuel society. Alice does not understand this about her own world, yet. She does not understand, the way Sheila has understood painfully for years, that in the struggle for survival and security, weakness is not an option. All Sheila's joy and lightness were wrung from her along with her weakness, along with her freedom to be weak. She's all hard edges and logic, now. Sometimes, she feels like rules and anger are all she has left.

No, magic does not make Sheila happy.

So she hates it beyond controlling that someone else can take joy from it.

If she could, Sheila would obliterate Alice's touch from her world. She would erase Alice from ever having been. She would magic Alice out of existence, Alice's stupid red nails and Alice's voice and Alice's anarchist principles, but especially, most especially Alice's smile.

That would make Sheila happy.

Well, maybe. Because the more Alice helps, the more Sheila learns about humanity. The more she learns, the more she becomes like Alice.

And so now she's not sure which she hates: Alice, or her world.

Alice would be easier.