“I don’t care.”

Chels stretched the word out like taffy. It would irritate her mother. That was part of the pleasure of it.

“Well you should care.” Disapproving tone. Check. “It’s your future, Chelsea Marie. And you treat it like -”

“I treat it like it’s my future. Like it’s mine. Not yours.”

The college conversation had been tense for weeks. Her mother insisted she was concerned about her employment prospects, about how deeply she cares about her having the right tools to fulfill her dreams, but Chels knew better. She knew it was more about her mother having to explain to her friends with children being accepted to Yale, to Berkeley, that her daughter was skipping college hunt ghosts and monsters.

“You can be flippant, Chelsea Marie, if that makes you feel better. But it’s not a joke to me. You can’t do your little ghost thing for a living.”

“That ‘little ghost thing’ is my work. And if you’re going to condescend to it –”

“It’s not work. Chelsea Marie -”

Chels. I’m not five anymore. You can’t scold me into submission. And just because you don’t understand a thing doesn’t mean you can dismiss it.”

Her mother fell silent for a moment.

To her mother, the “little ghost thing” was a fiction, a dodge against the real world, an excuse to not do what was expected of a woman in the world. To her mother, the “little ghost thing” was a rejection.

She didn’t know what Chels knew. What she’d seen. The violence that existed at the border of the living and the not-so-living. The Veil was the front line of a war. And Chels was a soldier.

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