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The fairy in the thicket - A redoux
This is a redo of an earlier hub
This short story was my very first hub. I have added descriptive language and more photos and graphics, but it is still the same story. I hope you enjoy my little journey into fantasy.
"Hello, little girl, will you play with me?"
Caitlin looked in the direction of the voice, but she saw nothing but a thicket of brambles. No one was there. The five-year-old had wandered into the lush verdant woods away from the cottage where she lived with her grandparents. The day was sunny and warm, just the kind of day to entice a child to take a nature walk. It was all right because that part of the woods was not considered dangerous, there were no wild boars or poachers about, and no one worried as long as she was home by suppertime.
Caitlin was studying a butterfly of blue and gold
Caitlin was sitting on a moss-covered stone under an ancient oak tree when the voice disturbed her reverie. She was concentrating on a butterfly that landed on a pink-flowering bush in front of a thicket and admiring its gossamer wings of blue and gold. The voice again cried, “Will you play with me?”
The voice was that of a child, and Caitlin did not sense any danger. “Where are you? I can’t see you,” she replied.
A little girl with the reddest curls and the greenest eyes Caitlin had ever seen stepped out of the thicket. She looked to be about Caitlin’s age, but she was smaller.
The little girl this time asked, “Will you be my friend?”
Caitlin smiled. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be rude. I didn’t see you. How did you do that?” She was lonely and welcomed the friendship of another child.
Caitlin hadn’t lived with her grandparents very long. Their home was a little stone cottage that was old, very very old, and part of a large estate. It was originally built for the forester of the manor and his family, whom Caitlin later learned was her ancestor. Generations of foresters had lived in the cottage. Caitlin's grandfather was the last.
Until recently, Caitlin had lived upon the hill in the manor house where her mother was a servant, and she was used to playing with the many children at the manor. Some were of the noble family and others were children of servants like her mother, but they got along well, and all were subject to the rules of the house. Caitlin had fun playing on the manicured lawn and in the halls of the manor.
She seldom saw her father who was a soldier in the king’s army. When an unfortunate accident caused by a runaway horse killed her mother, she was too young to be put to work. She was sent to her grandparents' home in the pleasant little valley. They loved her and she was happy, but she missed playing with children her own age. It was no wonder she was lonely and welcomed the intrusion.
Caitlin lived in an old stone cottage
Are you an elf?
The child stepped closer. “Your name is Caitlin,” she said.
Caitlin was surprised. “How did you know?”
“I heard your grandmother call you that. I have heard her call you many times.”
Catlin was perplexed. “But you don't live in the big house. Why haven’t I seen you before? What is your name, little girl?”
The red-haired child answered, “People see me only when I wish them to. My name is very long and you would not be able to pronounce it. You may call me Fiona.” She had chosen a name she knew Catlin would find comfortable. She pushed back a red curl, accidentally revealing an ear. It was pointed at the top.
Surprised, Caitlin asked, “Are you an elf?”
“No, but I am of the fey.” Her skin was very fair and without the freckles that spotted Catlin's nose and cheeks. Her translucent white skin gave her an ethereal look; quite a contrast between her and the sun-drenched child with the ebony hair.
“A fairy, you can’t be a fairy. You don’t have wings! A fairy who lives in a thicket! Where’s your family? Do they live there, too?” Caitlin’s questions came tumbling out.
Where fairies live
Fairies without wings
“Silly, real fairies don’t have wings, that’s what you humans call ‘an old wives tale.' I don’t live in the thicket. I live on the other side.”
“The other side of the thicket? “Why don’t you walk the path around it?” Caitlin questioned.
Fiona realized that her terrene friend would not understand the concept of dimensions, realities, and other worlds, so she answered, “You are just a child now; you will understand when you get older.”
“I’m five, how old are you?”
"I have lived about 200 of your years, but among my people I am no older than you. Fairies live much longer lives than humans do. We do not have as many children as humans, and sometimes I get lonely for someone to play with, just like you do. I had a human friend once, but that was many of your years ago."
“What happened to her?” Caitlin asked.
“It was a boy, and he grew old and died, but come, let’s play,” the little fairy cajoled. Her answer sounded reasonable to a five-year-old human girl.
The two little girls, human and fey, ran in circles, chasing each other around the glade until they both fell to the ground laughing. Caitlin was out of breath. She had never had so much fun, never felt so free, not even at the manor house. She heard Grandmother calling her to supper so she bade a reluctant goodbye to Fiona and promised to return.
She ran home and told her grandmother about the little red-haired girl who lived inside the thicket. Grandmother just smiled and called Fiona “her imaginary friend.” Grandfather said that maybe she was a fairy, to which grandmother replied, “Pshaw, you know fairies are only a myth.”
Grandfather stated matter of factly, “My grandfather said he had met one.”
Again grandmother said, "Pshaw."
Caitlin returned to the beautiful little glade many times and played with Fiona. Although she came frequently, it was not convenient for her to be there every day, but Fiona always seemed to know when she was coming. It never ceased to amaze Caitlin when Fiona stepped out of the thicket to meet her. She had no idea how to call the fairy child, but never once did she have to.
As their friendship grew, Fiona tried to help Caitlin understand how the thicket was only an entrance to the world of her people. She never truly succeeded.
“If you don’t live in the thicket, is it magic?” Caitlin queried. “Are you magic?” Fiona told her that fairies were not magic, but they did have special abilities that humans did not have. It still sounded like magic to Caitlin.
One day Caitlin asked her why fairies and humans did not mingle? Was it forbidden? Fiona said, “I think long ago they did, but then something happened.” I do not know what, but the fairies retreated to the fairy world, leaving the humans to theirs. It is not forbidden, but it is discouraged.” Caitlin thought it was a pity.
The years passed quickly and the friendship held fast. One day Caitlin noticed that Fiona wasn’t her cheerful self. “Why so glum?" Caitlin asked.
“Because you are nearly a grown woman, and I am still just a child.” It was true; the human girl had grown tall and beautiful. Her long dark brown braids came down below her waist, and unbound, her hair fell below her slim hips. Long, dark lashes framed her lovely blue eyes. She now had the body of a young woman. Fiona had not changed since that first day. Their meetings had become less playful and more intellectual as Caitlin had grown older. Fiona had adapted well to the changes in Caitlin and was very capable of chasing the larger girl through the woods or sitting still and discussing the politics of the human world. She said very little of the fairy world, although her friend had tried many times to coax information from her. That there are not many of us left was all she would say.
Caitlin realized that Fiona had summed up the situation very well. Someday she would marry and move away. That was the destiny of human females. She did not want to live alone in the little cottage for the rest of her life after her grandparents were gone, and the snatches of time with her fairy friend would not be enough to forestall the loneliness. She invited Fiona to come live with her someday so she would not be by herself, but Fiona told her that it was not possible for her to live in the human world. Caitlin assured her friend that she would always come back to the glade to visit.
“You may move so far away you never come back,” Fiona reflected sadly.
“I wouldn’t want to do that.” Caitlin replied.
As things came to pass, Caitlin did marry and move away. She fell in love with a young man from the village named Erlich. The day she went to the glade to tell Fiona that she was to be wed, the fairy child was already there waiting for her. “I know what you have come to tell me,” Fiona said. “Erlich is a good man, and I wish you much happiness, dear friend.”
Caitlin sat with Fiona and they talked until sunset, reminiscing about the wonderful times they had together and how each would miss the other. Caitlin was overcome with sadness and began to cry. The diminutive Fiona placed her hands on Caitlin’s cheeks and brought her face down to her little face. She kissed her friend’s wet cheeks and tried to assure her that their parting would not be forever, although she knew it to be not true. Then she disappeared into the thicket.
Caitlin never told Erlich the real truth about her fairy friend. There were times when she joked about her imaginary friend to him and even doubted her own memories. She wondered if Fiona had done something to her to fade the memories. Eventually, the day came when she could barely remember Fiona’s tiny face.
The years went by and Caitlin became a mother and then a grandmother. At long last, Caitlin’s old body was returned home to be buried beside her husband, along with her grandparents and her parents. After the simple words were said at her grave by the local friar, her family returned to the little stone cottage, now long empty but still intact after so many years. Caitlin’s eldest grandson had decided to move his family into the cottage. It had been scrubbed clean, the sheets were removed from the old furniture, and it was dusted off. Brush was cleaned away from the outside, and flowers were discovered still growing in the beds.
His little girl, bored from the goings on, found the old path Caitlin had walked. Much of it was still in use by wildlife that trekked down to the local watering hole, a creek on the opposite side of the thicket. Erin, brown-haired and blue-eyed and with a sprinkling of freckles just like her great-grandmother's, was only five years old. She sat down under the ancient tree that had provided shade so many years ago to Caitlin.
A butterfly landed on a nearby wildflower, and she was entranced by its delicate wings of blue and gold. She was awakened from her reverie by a voice that called from the thicket, “Hello, little girl, will you play with me?”