It was April and still Nora hadn't taken down the Christmas decorations. The wreath still hung on the door. The little ceramic Santa Clause sat against the kitchen backsplash, by the bunch of bananas, and a couple nutcrackers stood sentinel on the coffee table. Half of one string on the faux tree had burned out, but still it stayed up.
Nora had people over since New Year's and they'd all comment on it. "Still have your tree up?" By February, the question began to sound less joking and more shocked.
Nora always just shrugged. "Oh, you know how busy I get."
But really, she had no intention of taking the decorations down. Not yet. They might come back.
When her mother called that night, Nora was watching reruns of early 2000s sitcoms. Well, "watching" was a strong word. She was unsuccessfully trying to pick up the pot stickers she'd just boiled with her chopsticks, but the slippery things kept sliding through her grasp. Nora really ought to go get a dang fork, but she was too lazy to get up.
Are you still coming home at the end of the month for your father's birthday?
"I plan on it," Nora said, struggling to corner a pot sticker in the round bowl.
Good. I want to see you. It's been since, what, Christmas?
"Yeah, I guess so."
You should come home more often. You're not that far away.
"I know. I'm sorry, Mom. I've just been busy."
Which was true in some sense of the meaning. She'd been very busy when she met the goblins, the day after she'd gotten back from visiting her parents for Christmas. They'd been throwing things around her apartment, tearing sheets off the bed and emptying boxes of cereal onto the floor. It had been chaos and she'd thought about calling animal control. She hadn't known what else to do. They'd eventually calmed down, though, and that's when they started showing her their magic. Then, she'd been really busy.
Her mother was silent for a minute.
You'll tell me if there's anything on your mind, right?
Nora tried to stab a pot sticker with her chopsticks and shovel it into her mouth that way, with little success. "Of course."
Your sister called me the other day. She said you haven't been returning her phone calls. You haven't seen each other in months. That's not like you two.
"We're just," Nora gave up and picked up the pot sticker, plopping it in her mouth like a goldfish into water. "We're just fighting a little. We're sisters. It happens."
What she couldn't tell her mother - and what she was pretty sure Sarah hadn't - was what they had been fighting about. Sarah hadn't believed Nora when she'd tried to tell her about the goblins. Which made sense. But Nora just hadn't been able to bring herself to show Sarah. Maybe she thought the goblins wouldn't trust her after that, or maybe she didn't think Sarah could have handled the goblins. But the sisters didn't talk after that. There wasn't anything left to say.
The silence on the other end meant her mother wasn't convinced, but she didn't say anything else.
Ok. Just tell me if you need anything.
"I will. Bye. Love you, Mom."
Nora clicked the phone off. She sighed as she looked around the apartment. She still didn't know why the goblins had left. She woke up one day in February and they'd just vanished. She'd hoped keeping up the shiny Christmas decorations, which they loved so much, might draw them back, but no luck.
Nora set aside her bowl of pot stickers and watched the characters gesture wildly on the screen. Out the window, rain was starting to fall.
Nora's pot stickers had long grown cold when she finally woke up, having nodded off on the couch without realizing.