I knocked over the butter dish while going to spread some on a slice of the bread Mom had just made. I went to grab the broom and sweep up all the broken ceramic and cream, when Tara took the broom handle and a look came over her face that haunted me for a long time.
I have to go, she said, and opened the door and flew away and that was that. I stood in the doorway with my mouth open like a frog and Mom came in the room and saw the mess.
She left, I said. Tara flew away. Mom sighed and said, Sometimes that happens. She looked me up and down in my dough-stained apron and T-shirt dress and said, You could do better than Tara. As if that helped. Then she went to the closet and said, Well, she didn’t take our broom did she? When I nodded Mom rolled her eyes, took off her apron and went to the store to buy a new broom. I picked up the pieces of the butter dish with tears streaming down my face and got the kitchen floor all wet.
That night there was a tap on my window. I opened up the curtain and Tara was there on her broom — well, my broom, but her broom, now.
Sorry I left so fast, she said. I had to go.
I shook my head. Why? I asked, knowing she wouldn’t have an answer.
Maybe sometime you can come with me, she said. Once I get better at riding and everything. Then she went off into the night. I went to bed and cried into my pillow, then woke up wondering if it had all been a dream.
Mom carried the cat under her arm a lot after that, just in case Tara decided she wanted to come back and take him too. I focused on bread-making because I liked how it kept my hands busy and gave me a product I could eat and feel proud of. We didn’t replace the butter dish; we just kept the butter on a plate even when guests came over. They didn’t mind. Mom’s bread was so delicious it distracted anyone from noticing whether the butter was in a dish or not, and my bread was getting about as good as hers was.
One night, maybe a year later, Tara came back. I knew it was her by the way she tapped on my window. Our apartment was on the seventh story, so it was either Tara or a very smart bird. This time I knew why she was there, as she’d been a witch for long enough and her flying had probably gotten better and I knew she could take me with her. I grabbed my coat and hopped on, and I was more than a little pleased to see she was still riding our old broom even though the wood handle was scratched up and splintered now. I wrapped my arms around her waist and closed my eyes and breathed her in as we soared over the city.
Tara took us to the moon. We sat in the shadow of it where the light didn’t reach and looked down at all the people and the houses, who looked like stars to us from way up there. Tara smiled at me and I could see how she’d changed since she left, how her acne scars had cleared and her eyes had gotten a little wiser, a little more tired. I wondered what differences she saw in my face.
When she told me she was engaged to be married, I wasn’t surprised, but I was a bit sad.
It’s not exactly what I want, she said. But it’s not what I don’t want either.
I understand, I said, because I was happy for Tara, but I was unhappy, also. We kissed then in the shadow of the moon and I wished we could fall in our embrace, and just keep falling and falling and falling and never have to think about what was next.
Instead we parted, and I touched my lips with my fingers. Then I got on the broom after Tara and we rode back home. The cat was on the windowsill when I climbed through, and I knew then that if Tara wanted him, she would take him. Mom wouldn’t have been able to stop her.
Time went by and eventually I felt less hurt by the heartbreak and loss of my first love, just as everyone eventually does. But I never forgot her. Mom happily passed the bread-making business on to me and I took it over, dreaming up new flavors and ingredients and styles. I made a loaf one evening that was especially delicious and sweet. The taste of it felt like Tara on my tongue. I left a plate outside my windowsill with a note that said, Hope you’re doing well. Then I went to sleep. When I woke up the plate was empty and cleaned, the note was gone, and a butter dish was on top of the plate. It was a baby yellow one, the color of a warm morning, and a new note was attached that said: Thanks.
Melissa Dittrich is a writer and educator from Santa Cruz, CA. Currently she lives in Brooklyn with her partner, David, and their tortoiseshell cat, Xena. Melissa is an MFA in Creative Writing candidate at Sarah Lawrence College and can be found online @melissedittrich.