My mother said, “I never should play with the fairies in the wood.”
When I asked her why, she said, “They drink.” Her voice was a stone.
“Like Daddy?” I asked.
“Like Daddy,” she said. Mother’s voice fell into dark water.
But all summer long, I chased my dreams in the woods behind the house. I would run for hours amongst the trees. Mother didn’t notice; she was too busy looking after Daddy.
Summer was almost over, and it seemed like my chance was gone. We had to move houses because there had been complaints. But on the last day I saw a gleam of light in the dark wood’s shadows.
I stalked the fairy so quietly. I know how to be very quiet. My teacher often said that I was the quietest girl in class.
In one swift movement I caught my fairy. He wriggled in my hand.
I wasn’t expecting a male fairy. In my head I’d imagined a beautiful girl fairy with fluttering wings and a gossamer gown.
“What do you want?” he asked.
“I’ve been looking for you for a long time. I want us to be friends,” I said. I was determined to make the best of things.
But instead of listening to me, he started talking about something else. He wasn’t interested in me at all.
“I could have been the King of the Fairies,” he said. “That Ophelia. She thinks that I’m not good enough for her. But I know things. I should have been her king.”
I doubted that, his clothes were in rags and he looked half-starved.
“The thing is that they never really give me a chance.” His tiny hands punched the air. “They don’t like me.”
I stoked his tangled hair gently. His eyes focussed on me. “I really love you, you know. I wish you’d been a changeling. I would have done things differently.”
Then the fairy began to cry. I could smell the sweet smell of mead upon his breath.
The thing about fairies is that they are very small; I could hold him so easily in my hand.
The fairy started to sing. His tiny voice scratched into my head.
I held him very tightly in my hand.
“Hey, be careful. Don’t hurt me.” He looked a bit worried. “Let me go. I can give you fairy wishes. I can make all of your dreams come true.”
He couldn’t escape. I squeezed tighter and tighter, until, at last, he lay still in my hand.
I let him fall from my hand and he slid into the leaves on the ground.
I went inside to help Mother finish packing.
I was glad. He was a dirty fairy.