Saturday, April 16, 2011

A Fairy Tale

Copyright 2011 Johnny Domawa
All Rights Reserved

The wind howls outside the window. Outside the sleet buffeted by the raging wind pummeled everything in its path with reckless abandon. The birch trees in front of the yard swayed with the juvenile winds, their slender branches groaning with the undeserved punishment. Sofia watched it all from the safety of her room in the attic.

With Teddy tucked neatly in his bed and the girls Sanya and Breda cozy in their dollhouse, there was no one left to play with and she found herself gravitating towards the mayhem that raged outside her house. This being a Saturday, there were no classes to attend and though she wanted to do her homework for Monday, she found out that she was out of paper. And Teddy and the girls have grown tired of their play session and after tea, they had begged off to rest despite her plaintive requests.

So here, she was, quite rather bored and alone in her room.

She had pressed her nose against the window but the sudden jolt of cold had made her jerk away. And Neil across the street wouldn’t have seen her funny face with all the rain anyway, she surmised. She could only barely make his window from her vantage point and right now, when the window cleared enough for her to see across, she could see that his room was dark and the Buzz Lighyear curtains drawn shut.

For a few moments, she watched the leaves buffeted by the wind and wondered where they all went. The birch tree where her Pa had placed the tire swing last summer had nearly lost all its foliage and she giggled at the thought that perhaps it is how trees get bald. Like Grandpa Luke. The thought brought a smile to her lips and at least while the vision of her grandpa played on her mind’s eye, her boredom was momentarily forgotten.

That thought was banished, however, by the blurriness that continually obscured her view of the outside. She had to continually wipe the window with her hankie which she didn’t like at all since even through the cloth, the windows were cold and she couldn’t find her mittens. She thought they were puffs of cloud caught in the window. During cold days like this, if she breathed, puffs of clouds came out of her mouth and once, she tried to catch one to show Neil but she never succeeded, only getting a bag of empty air which made her older brother Brad poke fun at her. Brad was only two years older than her but he considered her fascinations childish, always looking for instances to point out those to her. Brad always picked on her, taking pride in his grown up skills as opposed to her actions. She didn’t like Brad much.

Maybe, the window was the magic object used to trap clouds. That knowledge however, was not that welcome for the moment. Her attention was more engrossed with what was happening outside than cloud catching. She wiped the window again when suddenly, she heard a small sneeze.

She turned around. It was too small to be Brad’s who always sneezed loudly like the Grinch on Christmas. But there was no one. The girl’s dollhouse was silent and Teddy still snoozed in his bed. It must be her maji…majina..majination as Brad would have put it, grappling with the word. She returned to the window, irritated that the clouds continued to stick with it despite her continuously driving them away.

There.. another sneeze. She turned around again. Again there was no one but this time, she knew it was not her majination. She heard it alright. She kept still and waited. 

There was nothing and her neck started to ache from not moving. Maybe it was indeed her majination. She felt dejected and started to relax.

There! Her eyes widened as the sound emerged. Still, she couldn’t see anyone. But it was there, alright. This time, there was another spell of silence. She tiptoed silently to where she suspected the sound was coming from, keeping her sounds to a minimum. It had come near her dresser, just below the awning that looked into the small window that looked at the sky. Her red parka was crumpled there where she dumped it yesterday. Her mom hadn’t had the time yet to come collect it. 

Reaching it, she sat down to her heels, ears strained to catch the sound if it came.

As before, there was only silence. But she was patient. Like how she was when waiting for Santa. A few minutes passed in silence.

There… It was nearer this time and obviously stifled. Like what you do when hiding from Mom to avoid the foul tasting medicine when one has the flu. She smiled. 

Gotcha. She whispered wordlessly as her hands gingerly approached her parka. There was a moment of silence and then she heard some scuffling inside it. With one quick motion and victorious at her confirmation, she pulled it away.

She surveyed the empty space revealed with falling spirits, her smile waning. She shook her parka but save for an empty bottle Neil had probably placed there, nothing else came out. The bottle dropped from her shaking and it made a dull sound upon the carpet, bounced once then quietly rolled away towards the dresser.

She watched it in dejection, her young mind blaming her majination for the mess, tracing the movement of the bottle with detached indifference. It would strike the left leg, probably she thought and looked forward to it for lack of a better diversion.

Suddenly it stopped as if stopped by something and a small flash of color emerged where it struck it, whatever it was. Her attention was now rapt. The bottle had fully stopped just a few inches from the dresser leg. She knew that something was there. The brief flare of bright colors told her that. She bent down to her knees, her eyes focused where the bottle teetered. It was laid down on the carpet at a funny angle, she thought. She wanted to poke it but something stayed her. 

The bottle twitched, gingerly at first which stopped as suddenly as it began. She stifled her giggle with her hands. Then with another flare of color that momentarily blinded her, the bottle rolled away on the opposite direction. She knew better than to leave her eyes where it was originally, however. She was not totally blinded by the color which she didn’t really recognize as it was a mixture, like the rainbows they drew on art class. She continued to glue her sight on the spot.

Slowly, she was rewarded by a shimmer. At first it was brief, like the shimmer that often surrounded one of her Pa’s machines in the driveway. She briefly saw the silhouette of a small girl but it was very small, smaller than Breda who was the smaller of the two girls slumbering in their house. She was lying on her side at the carpet. 

Then the shimmer became more pronounced. Her eyes widened in glee as her initial observation was reinforced. It was that of a girl, a wee girl. Almost like a Barbie doll. The contours of its body briefly appeared in a glittery silhouette. She couldn’t make her out entirely since the silhouette faded as it appeared but she was sure of it. She peered closer.

Sneeze. It was a dainty sneeze and a small cloud of brightly colored clouds wafted to her, much like she would if she sneezed during a cold, except hers were white. 

‘Bless you’ she whispered.

In answer, the shimmering silhouette appeared again but this time instead of fading, it slowly became clearer. She watched entranced as a pair of dainty Barbie legs appeared, then a body, wearing funny clothes. It was a dress, that much she can see but on closer inspection, it was simply a series of leaves sewn together to form a short dress. 

Very nice she thought, funny but nice.

Quietly she watched the rest of the body materialize. Reaching the head, the process seemed to linger but as she crossed her forehead in impatience, it was instantly revealed. She squealed in delight as the face materialized. It was not quite like the Barbie head she was expecting. But it was more beautiful. Large aquamarine butterfly eyes blinked at her while a dainty mouth quickly breathed in large draughts of air. It was obvious that she had been holding her breath. Her cheeks had the gossamer color of a cicada’s which changed color with each breath. She had no visible ears, which were probably covered by the rich tuft of hair which looked more like those of a young corn ear, the smooth variety which she sees in her grandpa’s farm. She was staring up at her.

‘Hello’ she whispered. She made a motion to reach for her hand to shake it but realized that they wouldn’t be able to do it. Slowly, a new shimmer appeared behind her back and silently a pair of gossamer wings appeared.

Fairy, the word came to her mind. The fairy girl was on her side on the carpet like she had tripped and was hard up to stand. Probably the bottle, Sofia thought and regretted shaking her parka, hating Neil a bit for placing it there on the first place.

The fairy girl was staring intently at her. She looked scared.

‘You look scared.’ She whispered, smiling at her to ease her fears, much like her mom would for her. The fairy girl seemed to lighten a bit. Her breathing had mellowed down and the change in color of her cheeks had stabilized to a faint peach hue. 

Sofia sat up on her haunches, her eyes steel peeled on the fairy girl. The girl followed her moves and for a moment, they just stared at one another.

Silently, the fairy girl picked herself up to mimic her sitting position but Sofia noticed that she was favoring her right leg. The fairy girl flapped her freed wings and Sofia was happy to note that she didn’t fly away. Each flap, however, produced a flutter of glitter around the fairy girl. She marveled at the color, watching them disappear into nothingness. 

The fairy girl sneezed again, sending more colorful glitters before her.

‘Bless you’ Sofia whispered, wanting to tap the fairy girl’s back but conscious of their size difference. Another sneeze followed that then another. It was not held back anymore, reminding Sofia of herself when she couldn’t hide from mom anymore and the itch in her throat could no longer be stifled. 

A thought appeared in Sofia’s mind. She beamed. She knew just the right medicine for her new found friend. She made a start to stand up, then another thought made her sit back down. 

‘Will you wait for me?’ she asked the fairy girl softly. The fairy stopped her sneezing and looked at her. There no longer was any fear in her face. Instead it was replaced by a calmness which belied a bit of concern. The fairy seemed not to understand her and for a moment Sofie wondered if fairies couldn’t understand English. She doesn’t speak French yet since Miss Balard only taught second graders and not first graders like her. She tried to think of a French word but realized she couldn’t.

The fairy continued to look at her, neither nodding or shaking her head. Sofie’s mind warred between curing her friend and risking her friend disappearing while she went for the medicine. She pondered on this for a bit then her eyes settled on her discarded parka. An idea came to her mind. She grabbed her jacket and gently approached the fairy. For a moment, the fairy seemed consider sliding away. Sofie stopped and smiled.

‘I’ll just make you warm, ok?’ she whispered. She bunched her parka to form a protective ring in the middle and slowly encircled the fairy girl. The girl watched her every move but her initial consideration to flee seemed to have passed. Sofie took care not to touch the fairy although there was a moment when she was tempted to let her hand accidentally touch the wings which upon close inspection was very beautiful. She knew her manners however. Satisfied of her work, she stood up and stepped back to her door, taking care to turn every now and then to see if the fairy stayed. 

She might have told the fairy that she wanted to make her warm with her parka around her but Sofie just wanted to make sure also that she couldn’t fly away with the cramped space. It was a lie but she prayed that it was a white lie, a small lie that Jesus wouldn’t hold against her. Closing the door softly, she hesitated then made a quick peek through the cracks. The fairy was covered by her parka but she can make out the shimmer of her wings. 

Secure in the knowledge that the fairy understood her, Sofie rushed downstairs, her footfalls sounding awfully strong for her. She reached the second floor without incident. Her older brother Sean seemed to have gone out as the sign in front of his room said KEEP OUT just below the grinning skull instead of the DON’T DISTURB sign with the frowning pig head. She tiptoed in front just in case. After all, she didn’t want anyone investigating her room. Sean wouldn’t venture to her room at any time but it would pay to be extra careful.

She peered into the stairs leading downstairs. The smell of muffins meant that her mom was in the kitchen and the hubbub from the TV meant that Brad and her Pa are in front of the TV. Satisfied that the coast is clear, she went softly down. Reaching the floor, she examined the den. Her Pa was watching a hockey game and Brad was nodding off at his side. More than anything she didn’t want to wake Brad who would pester her and so even if she wanted to give her Pa a kiss, she stifled that desire. 

Remembering her goal, she tiptoed towards the medicine cabinet. It was near the kitchen so she had to be extra careful. As she approached, she could see her mother before the oven. She was glad that she had her back on her. She reached the medicine cabinet without being noticed, only to find a new problem. The medicine cabinet was beyond her reach. 

Looking around nervously, she found a solution. One of Brad’s large building blocks was near the entrance to the den. She tiptoed to it and tugged gently. It was heavy. With a few shoves, she was able to dislodge it from its corner. She had to strain hard to push it over the floor however, and she was lucky that over the din of the TV, the sound was muffled. 

It took her awhile to get it to its desired position. After giving it a few pokes and satisfied by its stability, she gingerly peered around to see her mom. Her mom seemed engrossed on something which made her feel good about herself. Cautiously, she pulled herself up the building block, her stubby legs a little short but she remedied it by falling on her stomach then pulling herself up. 

Again, she looked at her mom. Save for a little movement, there was no indication that she was noticed. Focusing her attention to the task at hand, she reached for the medicine cabinet. Lucky for her, it was not locked and it opened with barely a squeak.

Vials and boxes presented themselves to her and she unconsciously twitched her nose at the memory some of them brought up. She didn’t like any of them and would rather not be in their company but she had a purpose now which drowned her reservations. Scanning the contents, she saw what she was looking for. The box had a picture of a boy her age wearing a strange yellow hat that very much looked like an orange half. She started to giggle but controlled herself just in time. She grabbed it.

“Whatcha doing?” the sudden interruption jolted her. She jerked around, placing the box behind her. 

Brad was staring up at her from the door leading to the den.

She balked, her mind trying to conjure an excuse, but nothing cohesive came up. She decided to ignore him. She half turned closing the medicine cabinet and then nonchalantly hopped down from her perch, taking care to hide her hands from her brother.

Brad continued to stare at her, obviously still groggy. He was fighting sleep. She took a big breathe and walked towards the stairwell. Brad looked menacing and she wondered if he will grab at her hands when she passes her. But she was determined to pass him and her hands dug into the medicine carton she held.

“What are you hiding?” Brad pointed at her. He was regaining full consciousness, a rather dangerous prospect. Sofia quickened her pace and ran the last few paces to get out of the reach of her brother. She continued up, not daring to look down.

“Mom, Sofie’s got something.” She heard Brad cry out. By then she was by Sean’s door. Another floor and she would be safe. There… she slammed the door behind her and only then did she exhale the breath she was holding in. Her legs ached so she sat down and she took big draughts of air. 

Her throat felt sore but at least, she raised her hands, she’s got her price. The medicine carton had been crumpled where she had held it tightly but in the middle, protected from the force peeked the orange head of the medicine dropper. She smiled.

Her victory, however, was tempered by the knowledge that Brad might come up. She cupped her head into her door and listened, her breath held in check both out of fear and anticipation.

There was nothing. Save for the sound of the wind that travelled through the walls, the telltale signs of impatient footsteps coming her way were exhilaratingly absent. After a few more moments listening to the pounding of her heart and holding a breath, she relaxed and turned her attention to the most pressing matter at hand.

Her attention was drawn towards her carefully laid out nest. For a moment, she wondered if her fairy friend had gone away and the lack of any telltale signs at first glance lowered her spirits and then there was that sneeze again, and slowly against the stark redness of her parka, the concealed form of the fairy materialized for her. Her friend had chosen to be invisible for a while.

Reverently, she tiptoed towards her. Her young mind could grasp at least inwardly that there was something very wrong with her friend. The fairy girl lay panting on her back in the middle of the nest. Her tiny chest strained with each draught of air and the former riotous colors of her wings have faded to be replaced by the dull gray sheen of aluminum foil. The fairy’s eyes followed her every move but the luster in them has likewise faded.

There. There... she wanted to say but found the unuttered words wanting. Instead she knelt in front of the heap and gingerly appraised the situation. She felt sadness inside her; an emotion which befuddled her because it tried to make her cry when her young mind strived for calmness. The warring inside her made her pause for a bit and for a moment, she was frozen in place.

Then the weight of the medicine bottle she carried and the painful breathing of her friend chose for her. Stifling her welling tears, she unscrewed the dropper. Her hands were a bit shaky and at first it was a hard thing to do and for a moment, the desire to call her mom for help was strong. With a few well placed bursts of strength, however, she felt it loosen. Warmed by the small triumph, she carefully withdrew the dropper and as she lifted it up with its contents, she smiled and crinkled her nose at the unpleasant memories it drew up for her.

A few drops dribbled away from her inexperienced grasp but she got the hang of it before she had it over her friend. Where she faced the newest conundrum.

The fairy merely stared at the dropper held above it. While is breathing was ragged, its teeny mouth remained closed.

“Open your mouth.” She whispered.

The fairy merely shifted its sight to her in response. Her mouth remained closed.

Sofia’s young mind reeled with that fact. How would she speak it? Like before, she regretted the fact that she was too little to learn French. For the first time in her young life, she wondered if Brad’s fascination with growing up had its merits. She wondered inwardly with a certain tinge of regret about her being a child and at that moment though she didn’t know it, merely by that thought a part of her childhood was gone.

The thinking, however, formed a solution in her mind. Her moms face loomed. She smiled.

“Aaah” She intoned opening her mouth wide. For a moment, however the fairy seemed ignorant of her intentions but as she accepted its failure, the fairy opened its mouth in imitation. She smiled approvingly and with a tiny squeeze, a drop of the brownish liquid dropped down and landed smack center on the fairy’s wide mouth.

The reaction was sudden but for Sofia, expected. The fairy gulped in the liquid. Her small body had a brief lull of calmness and then the coughing came. Sofia giggled. The fairy doubled up to a sitting position and for a brief moment, color returned to her wings as she coughed wildly. Sofia empathized with that feeling well. This particular medicine made her gag. 

Then the coughing was gone and the fairy, now seated looked at her quizzically. 

“You’re gonna be okay.” She intoned in response and nodded knowingly. The fairy merely continued to stare at her. She did not go back to lying down. As the moment passed, the rapid heaving of its tiny chest slowed down. Color gradually returned to her parched cheeks.

Sofia giggled.

Medicine might be awful but it works wonders.

For a long moment, they both looked at each other. Sofia wanted to reach out and touch her new found friend. Its wings in particular begged to be touched but something stayed her: a feeling she found new and exhilarating. This fairy girl was not like her dolls still lying asleep in their house nor like her friends from school nor like Neil from across the street. Her mind could not muster the words to explain what she feels but the clarity of the emotions they invoked were strong.

The fairy’s aquiline eyes watched her. Their depths invoked wonders and for a few brief moments, Sofia wondered if she was dreaming it all.

She knew she was not, however. There comes moments in a child’s life when the mind starts to wonder about the distinction of what is real and what is not. This was not one of those moments.

Slowly, the fairy picked herself up. She gave her wings a flutter which sent a shower of bright shining dust in its wake. Sofia smiled though she realized with a sinking feeling what it meant. Her friend had healed and though her young mind could not fully grasp it yet, she knew that the time of parting is near at hand. 

Her fairy friend stretched her legs, gingerly at first then with confidence as she found her strength. Sofia watched the movements with a sad smile. Color had returned to the patient and as she flexed her tiny body, the bright aura around her grew stronger. 

Finally, the fairy stopped and returned he gaze at Sofia. There was a twinkle in the aquiline eyes and though the small mouth beneath it remained unmoving, Sofia knew that it was a smile. Her melancholy was banished.

“Hello…” she whispered and instinctively reached a hand out, then feeling a bit foolish as she realized their hands large size disparity but she didn’t take it back. The fairy looked at it then at her. She seemed to be confused then slowly, she fluttered her wings, the twinkle of its eyes grew brighter and then a small arm was lifted and touched Sofia’s extended hand lightly.

Outside, the wind howled.

Somewhere down at the house, the TV blared as a Dad watched his team rally from a huge deficit, a little boy sulked and a mom was idly waiting for an oven to finish its work. In the attic, a friendship was confirmed.


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