Friday, February 7, 2014

Heidi


The Novel Matters beginning...

I’d seen her before hovering around the gladiolas. One can ignore what one does not believe exists. Sometimes, after a sighting, I’d lie awake and worry. Did she fly with the devil’s minions, or heaven’s angels? I could sleep only after convincing myself I hadn’t seen her at all. Aging eyes, frequent headaches, trick of light.
            And then my cat carried her into the house one Tuesday, dropped her at my feet like a prize catch. She was only slightly larger than a mouse. Not dead despite the cat, one wing bent out like a wind-turned umbrella, and blood swelled where it melded to her back. I scolded the cat. 

           She looked tiny lying inside the shoebox I’d found and lined with cotton balls and a clean hanky. Her eyes never left my face. There were people coming, I tried to explain to her as I slid the shoebox under the bed. I pulled the door closed behind me, resting my hand on the knob. Shutting my eyes I considered the Her in the box—what she would need, how I would feed her, how her wing would mend.


Part 2 by Susie Finkbeiner...

I also questioned whether I’d dreamed the whole thing, whether the Her was in a shoebox under my bed at all.

Was she?
She was.
I found a chair and sat down slowly to let the blood percolate back to my brain. No, I couldn’t keep her in my home, especially not with my daughter and her family set to arrive at any minute.
One thing was for sure, my daughter wouldn’t approve of a fairy or nymph or whatever rested among the cotton balls. She would have me committed. Sent off to a nursing home. Take away my car. I’d spend my days in a wheelchair, looking out a window into a blizzard of nothing.        
I vowed to say nothing to my daughter about the Her when she arrived with husband and in-laws in tow. The creature would remain my little secret.

Part 3 by Henrietta Frankensee...

How many times would I have to check before she became real to me?
            My hands and knees trembled, my body, mind and soul a mass of disharmony, as I retrieved the box with its mystical — and mystifying — contents. I sat down to peek this time, just in case. Stranger things were happening than my doctor knew how to prescribe for.
            I lifted the lid, and there she was, as real as anything mystical can be. An iridescent feeling flitted through me, laced ever so lightly with compassion. My breath held in my chest as I observed Her, so like a hummingbird in her uniqueness. No wonder we couldn’t see her amid the glads. No, more like a butterfly, I reconsidered, since she couldn’t fold her wings.
            She lay on her side with the wounded wing supported by a cotton ball, her face buried in the upper part of that crumpled appendage. Her gossamer hair lay tousled like the gold thread in my sewing box when the cat got through with it. I wanted to touch it, ever so lightly of course, but even that would terrify Her, of that I was certain.
            “Don’t weep,” I whispered. “I’ll do ...” What? My best. But what did that look like?
            Hector placed his paws on my forearm to meow in my face.
            “No! You can’t have her!” I lifted the box out of reach and scolded again.
            He danced a figure eight around my feet, meowing like a fire engine in heavy traffic, and swishing his tail in the air. In his eyes I saw mercy, not menace. It struck me then, Hector could have devoured Her if he’d wanted to, instead of bringing in his treasure to lay at my feet. I reinterpreted his meowing, rightly I was sure, to mean Help. Help Her.

Part 4 by Josey Bozzo...

Yes, help her. That was exactly what I had to do. But how in the world was I supposed to do that? Where do I find medicine for a fairy? Touching her seemed unwise. Mishandling her fragile form might break her beyond repair.
Her weeping worried me. Was she in pain? With all the talk of liver damage from this pain reliever and recurring illness from others, just what was I to administer to a mythical creature? Perhaps she didn’t have a liver. I thought to Google “how to fix a fairy,” but quickly dismissed the idea.
            I longed to talk to Granny, but she was gone now. When I’d stayed at her house as a child, her stories enticed me to believe in fairies. I wish I’d paid better attention, but Granny had never told me what to do if a fairy landed broken on my doorstep. I was sure of that.
Granny’s stories were lovely, taking me back to a time when magic had been possible. Many a nights I'd slid into sleep with blissful thoughts of twirling around the garden in the moonlight with dozens of fairies flittering around me, the breeze from their wings moving my hair away from my face and tickling my cheeks.
I dropped to the floor again and peered into the box. Those were just dreams, this was real.
Beep-beep.
My head whipped up. My family had arrived. I looked down at Her one last time, reaching for the box lid, and said, “I have to go.”
“Neachtar…
I looked at Hector. The cat stared back, his amber eyes wide with interest. She’d spoken. The Her had spoken. I bent closer.
“Neachtar…” she said again, and closed her eyes, drifting, I hoped, into to healing sleep.
  
Part 5 by Bonnie Grove...

They swarmed my doorstep, more of them than I’d planned. Margaret, my daughter, her husband, Klaus, a Santa Claus of a man, his parents, Herb and Greta, both sharp angles and corners. My two grandchildren, teenagers now, looking bored. And a surprise, Peta, a cousin on my Mother’s side, all nose, and pursed lips, and elbows in your side as she flew past, a hummingbird among a flock of geese.
            “Long time,” Peta air-kissed both cheeks touching neither my face nor my heart. Where had they picked her up?
            My daughter, Margaret, mouthed the word Sorry and scurried to the kitchen to help. Sandwiches, cakes, and tea. It had sounded so homey when I invited them, so normal. Now, with The Her hidden under my bed, I could barely manage a polite greeting.
            Neachtar.
            Margaret frowned at my confusion but mobilized the troops and in minutes our outdoor party was ready. I lingered in the kitchen pretending to fuss over my lackluster variety of teas. Peta, too, remained in the house, darting eyes sizing up, summing up my solitary life. “Long time,” she said.
            “Too long,” I chirped.
            “You don’t mean that.” A deviled egg disappeared into her mouth.
            “I certainly—”
            “Save it.” A bony wrist waved away my manners. “I’ve heard all the niceties from Margaret already.” She leaned a hip against the counter. “Bet you were surprised, though.”
            “What’s the story?”
            “I thought I knew,” she shrugged, her shoulders tents of bone rising to her ears, falling again. “But now that I’m here, I’m not so sure.”
            We were close in age. Raised by sisters, but we couldn’t be more different. As children, I adored Peta. But that was before. I fumbled with the tea, and spilled some on the floor.
            Peta watched my hands, read my posture, the slight tremor that betrayed my nerves. “I’ll get the broom, shall I?”
            “No,” a near shout. “I’ll see to it. Please, join the others in the backyard and I’ll be out in a jiffy.”
            Neachtar.
            Peta stared, eyes locked on mine, searching. It had been years since we’d seen or spoken to each other. Decades. Not nearly long enough. “Something’s up, Cuz.” She smiled. “I can feel it.” That grin pulled upwards. “Smell it, too.”
            “Out,” I said, trying for some kind of firmness in my voice.
            “Do you want Margaret? I’ll send her in.” The question felt like a test.
            “No.” I said, too quickly, failing.
            She moved toward the back door, paused, sniffed the air. “Just don’t forget what you are.” 
            I waited until the screen door slammed shut before letting myself rest heavy on the counter. What had she meant? But the spinning in my head, the jackhammer rhythm of my heart said some old part of me understood.
            Not who.
            What.


 
Part 6 by Megan Sayer...

Peta’s words winded me like a blow to the chest. I breathed deeply, holding the summer air in my lungs until my heart regained its rhythm, then breathed out slowly in a low, guttural sigh.
A hundred thoughts fought like dogs within me—Tea leaves on the floor. The dustpan. Pantry. Focus. Breathe.
Surely the fragile creature in a shoebox needed me more than ancient history needed reviving, but what to do? The clock ticked its wordless seconds, and through the window came the hum of idle chatter from the garden. I felt my shoulders relax; the guests were settled. I found the broom, swept the spill.
Breathed.
Margaret doesn’t eat sugar. How could I forget?
I hunted through my china cabinet for a saucer that once belonged to my—our—grandmother and twizzled some honey into it for the tray.
Breathe.
Margaret had been on a sugar-free diet for two months, and raved about weight loss and health benefits, about the natural healing properties in good organic…
Neachtar.
Honey is made from nectar. Could it help the Her? I rummaged quickly and rescued an old jar lid from the back of the pantry, just the size to cradle a teaspoon of honey. Surely just enough time…
Gentle laughter sounded outside, overlaid by the sharp, biting laugh of Peta. Her parting words pricked my soul again, an aftershock of memory.
Just don’t forget what you are.
“I know exactly what I am!”
A cough sounded behind me. I hadn’t heard the screen door open.
“Mom sent me to check you were okay.” My granddaughter’s bored expression had been replaced by curiosity. Her eyes flicked to the honey in my hand.
“So what are you then, Gran?”

Part 7 by Cherry Odelberg ...

“I’m your grandmother, Bree.”    
“I know that, Gran. I didn’t ask who you are. What are you?”
“A widow,”  I faltered. Not just any widow, Don’s widow.  
“So? That’s no big reveal.”  
“I haven’t taken to widowhood very well.”
“There are rules about that?”
“I . . . I’ve been trying to cope, I . . .”
Bree studied me for a moment with that frank stare of today’s generation.
“I’ve been under a doctor’s care. A psychiatrist.”
“Peta thinks you’re a crazy lady?”
For a moment, I wished I could tell Bree everything--share with her the way Granny and I did when I was young. Someone should know about Peta and me, about when we were kids, and about Peta and me, and Don as teenagers. Should know about Granny and her magical stories. About my loneliness now. Would Bree believe the Her? I wasn’t even sure how to believe the Her.
“Got hold of yourself yet?” Peta intruded a second time. 
A feline yowl erupted somewhere in the vicinity of my right knee. 
“A cat!” spat Peta. “You and Don and your shared love of cats.” She sneezed. “Get it out of here.”
Silently, I collected the lid of honey from the counter and followed Hector down the hall to the bedroom.  He marched on velvet paws, tail at full mast. I sagged against the door and breathed, “I need a drink.” 
I thirst, I thought. Give me to drink. Neachtar.
I filled a tumbler with water from the master bath sink and drank. I flicked a few drops of water into the honey, and swirled the lid. On my knees, I offered it to the fragile being lying in the shoebox.
“What are you?” I repeated the question of the day.
I knew what Granny would say. Fairies, Angels, Mythical creatures, they’re real. They are all representations of someone you know and love-or fear. Maybe they are a figment of who you are, or who you dream to be.
“What are you?” I whispered again.

Part 8 by Vila Gingerich ...
My words ruffled the delicate hair and wings of the Her. "Mythical creatures: a figment of who you dream to be. Could that be true?"
Dreams? Bree would raise her eyebrows at the thought. She considered me a dottery grandmother with one sensible shoe in the grave.
Even so, I still had my stash of somedays, my valise of what-ifs, my shoe box of---
Dreams? 
Maybe this magical creature, this Her, embodied my fancies of what I could be, could do---submit that story, see Venice, run that marathon.
A rustle came from the box and I leaned closer. Tiny limbs stretched, then straightened, and a wince puckered Her face. No fresh blood welled, though, and I let out the breath I hadn't known I'd been holding.
With an index finger I scooted the lid of honey closer.
Her tiny nose twitched. Asking this elegant being to put her face down and drink like a dog seemed preposterous.
"I'm sorry." My face burned. "I didn't think. Maybe---" 
A hand fluttered out and downward, like a baby moth, and then---a droplet of honey glistened in her palm. She held it to her lips, paused, and the golden head nodded.
At me. For me.
My heart clutched and tears pricked behind my eyelids. 
As the Her drank and my knees grew stiff from kneeling, I became aware of voices outside the window.
"What's wrong with Grandma?" Bree's voice sounded sharp as glass.
"You noticed too?" Margaret speaking. "She meant to slam the door in our faces earlier. I mean, it's not like we weren't invited. Oh, and she forgot my diet. She had nothing but sugar for the Earl Grey." 
"Well, right now she's in her bedroom, crying into a shoe box," Bree said.
I glanced over my shoulder and gasped. The bedroom door stood ajar.

Part 9 by Katy Popa ...
I shoved the shoe box under the bed and hurried out, grabbing a tissue from the box on the dresser and shutting the bedroom door firmly behind me.
"My new shoes," I said. "The green pumps. I meant to wear them, but the heel is broken. I'll have to take them back."
"Pumps?" Margaret seemed ready to take my temperature. "Are you going somewhere?" 
"Granny? New shoes?" Bree seemed impressed. "Can I see?"
"No! No, no, no."  I said it at least one time too many, because of course I hadn't bought new shoes. "I wanted to run out for a few things, some dessert, some artificial sweetener." 
Margaret frowned, so I kept going. "Of course, there's no need to dress up to go to the store. Not at my age."
"When did you ever?" Margaret mumbled, and her eyes met Bree's.
"Why don't we all go?" I asked. 
"I'll stay here," said Bree. "Settle in." For just a moment her eyes wandered toward my closed bedroom door.
I wished for a lock on the bedroom door. "Come along," I coaxed, "and pick out the ice cream." When I returned, I could find a better place to hide the Her.
But when we returned and walked back through the front door, we found Peta and Klaus sitting so stiffly in the living room, she in the chair and he on the couch, their smiles so tight that I keenly sensed that they had halted a conversation mid-sentence when they heard the car in the drive. The tension between them was so palpable I hesitated to enter the room.
Margaret slipped in around me. "S'cuse, Mom. Don't want the ice cream to..." she began, but then she stopped. "What is it?" she asked.
Peta glanced at me, then at Klaus, and then she chuckled. A pair of diaphanous wings popped out from behind Peta. Just like the Her's, only much, much larger.

Part 10 by Margaret Terry ...

My hands flew up to cover my face. No no nooooo ... thinkthinkthinkthink, I commanded. 

This is grief. Yes. Grief makes people see things that aren't there. Dr. Marigold had warned me about 

that. A fairy under my bed. A cousin with wings. Grief. I wasn't losing it. I just missed Don, that's all.

I turned to face Margaret, whose lips were moving like she was speaking in slow motion, but there was no sound coming out of her mouth, or if there was I couldn't hear it because the thunder in my head boomed so loudly. My last thought before the black veil fell and took me with it was my head was going to crack open.

Peta was sitting at the foot of my bed when I woke. "Been a long time since we shared a bed, Cuz." Her eyes were dancing. "You've been fainting a lot, haven't you?"

I felt like my head was stuffed with cotton. Maybe Peta drugged me, put something in my tea. Of
course she didn't have wings. She was the same old hippie Peta, wearing the same long skirts and floral peasant blouses she wore forty years ago.

"How do you know about my spells?" I hadn't told Margaret or even Dr. Marigold about the fainting.

"Same way I know you have a Fayette in the house." She stood and began to rifle through my dresser.

"Why do you think I'm here after all these years?" She finished with my drawers and threw open the
closet door.

I pushed myself up and leaned against the headboard. "Get out of my closet, Peta." My throat was so
dry it felt like I had swallowed sand. "You're talking nonsense. I have no idea what a Fayette is."

Peta came out of the closet empty handed and approached my bed. I could smell lilacs. Granny, I
thought. She smells like Granny. She leaned close to my face and whispered, "You saw them, cousin. I know you did. But don't worry. No one else could see them. You and I are the only living Fayes in the family ... so far." She dropped to her knees and looked under the bed. "Ah. There you are!"



       Part 11 by Sharon K. Souza ...

There you are? My heart felt like it would burst through my chest. I threw my legs over the side of the bed, stood, and nearly fainted again as the blood rushed to my head.

“Easy there,” Peta said, as I dropped to the bed.

She lowered herself to the floor with uncanny ease. Then, with a smirk, she tugged out the shoe box. She paused for a moment, looking me square in the eye, as if giving me a chance to confess to its contents before she discovered for herself. But what could I say? Wordlessly, my eyes dropped to the box.

“I really thought it would be me she visited,” Peta said. She tossed her frizzy, silver ponytail back over her shoulder.

“Sh-she? She who?”

Peta laughed that biting laugh again. “Oh, Cuz. This is me, remember?”

I did remember. All too well. I remembered that summer I first brought Don to meet my family, to meet the cousin who was more like a sister. The same sister-cousin who betrayed me.

The smile faded from Peta’s face, and I knew she remembered too. “You’re not still holding a grudge, are you? After all these years? We were kids. I mean, what’s the point? He went back to you.”

“Why did you do it?” I hated that there was still pain in my voice.

“Honestly, Maeva, that’s ancient history.” She said it like it was no big deal, and yet she squirmed, adjusted the shoulders of her peasant blouse, fluffed her skirt.

I lowered my eyes, let her off the hook, because she was right, what was the point? I was about to say as much when all at once she lifted the shoe box and placed it on the bed beside me.

“Peta, wait—”

With a devilish grin she lifted the lid. Then she sat back on her heels with a huff. I looked ever-so-slowly at the box on the bed. Blinked. And blinked again. Inside were a pair of green pumps, one with a broken heel. I looked back at Peta, gave her a weak smile.

Suddenly, Hector appeared from beneath the bed. Peta scrambled away from him, got to her feet and backed to the door. “I know it’s here,” she said. “I know it.” Then she turned and hurried away.

I dug through the shoe box looking for the Her, but there was nothing inside but the shoes. Shoes I’d never purchased.

“Hector?” I said, thinking the unthinkable.

He sat there and swished his tail with a smile on his face.


Part 12 by Heidi Kortman ...

Hector, I muttered, lest Peta overhear. Where did you put the Her? He hadnt behaved like this since he was a six-month-old kitten. Then, hed made off with Brees doll, Soo-Z Sprite, though it looked nothing like a sprite to me, and Id had plenty of experience dealing with the real ones.
So long agoId set much aside to marry Don. And nearly forgotten.
Hector rolled onto his back, stretching one paw to bat the bedspread fringe. Then the cat sat with his back to me and washed.

If youve left the Her behind the living room sofa, Peta will take her.
 He hissed.
Cat, I dislike Peta myself. She took Don from me once, and I wont give the Her away. Bring Her to me now, before she gets thirsty again.
Tá mé anseo. The Her stepped between the bedspread fringes, climbed the chenille fabric, and walked to the far end of the shoe box, where she crossed her arms on the edge. Tá mé anseo, I am here.  Whispery, like wind in tall grass, the síogs voice I heard carried a hint of annoyance.
I regret needing to move you from pillar to post. Peta is persistent.
As the Her cocked her head, obviously considering my words like any person would, the door knob rattled hard. That had to be my grandson. Callan, stop that, I said.
Gran, where are the sweets?
The price was too expensive. I tipped one of my throw pillows, and gestured the Her to hide in the cavernous space. The Her sprinted from the shoe box and ducked into the sheltering darkness. 
I heard Callan stomp away. Spoiled child.

I lifted the throw pillow, grinning. Dia dhuit. Hello, I said as the síog emerged. Peta believes youre a French fae, but youre speaking Gaelic. Neachtar, the word this síog had whispered, rolled back time to my years in a Donegal village.
Nodding, she braided her hair. Dia dhuit. Sive Orlagh is ainim dom.
A hundred thousand welcomes, Princess Orlagh. Maeve is ainim dom.
Part 13 by Patti Hill ...

"Have we need of introductions?" the Princess said.
      Remembering is tricky, especially after not one, but two lifetimes. "I think . . ."

     “You’re remembering now, aren’t you?”

     I remembered all right—an early mist morning, and a giddy flight to the campsite of a lone human. Princess Orlagh led the way. We ladies in waiting followed nervous, but one does not argue with the next queen of the fae. Besides, I was curious about the humans I had glimpsed over the years, the large ones who lumbered across the sacred mounds. This one had pitched a tent and cooked his meals over a large fire, far from the nearest village.

    I sat on the bed, careful not to tumble the princess off her feet. “We got too close, we did. The net was covered in butterfly scales that tangled our wings. 'Twas terrible.” Our eyes met. “The jar, its terrifying smoothness, unlike anything we’d ever encountered. How could I forget such a thing?”

     The lumbering mortal was Don, out collecting butterfly specimens among the heather.
     Princess Orlagh stepped forward. “Maeve, you’ve lived your destiny.”

    Falling in love with Don had changed everything. It had certainly changed me. I learned his language and lived in his nectar-rich garden with Princess Orlagh and Peta. The princess eventually grew restless and left to find her way home. Peta and I stayed. We spent our evenings sharing stories of the fae with Don—the successions of queens, battles against our enemies, and, of course, love stories. 

     First, we lost our wings. It was no longer safe for us to live outside. Don brought us into the house, where Peta and I lived in an unnatural world and invented new lives for ourselves. And then we grew. Our dresses pinched and laces popped. Don provided dolls’ clothes, which only fit for a day or two before we needed something larger.
   It was his kindness that grew my love, and, probably, my body. I learned later that Peta’s growth mirrored mine for the very same reason. But Don chose me.

     “What now?” I asked.
     “I need to go back. That’s why I’ve come. I can’t make it on my own. I’ve tried. The winds of the large ocean are too powerful, and I’ve failed at finding a portal in this land. And now, with a wounded wing…” She spoke in the ancient tongue.

     “Back to Donegal?” I answered in the same language, surprising myself.

     “The throne sings to me, Maeve.”

     My whole family sat outside my bedroom window, probably thinking I needed testing for Alzheimer’s and knowing absolutely nothing of my fae past. “My family, what will I tell them?”
     “I suppose you’ll tell them to get out of the house, that you’re taking a holiday.” She was impatient with my mortals, and thought of me only as what I had once been. To her, my family was the fae.  
     She made it sound so easy, so royal. “What about Peta? She knows you’re here.”

     “Peta has broken the sacred code. She no longer belongs to us. She will try to follow, but the survival of the fae depends on keeping her in the land of the mortals.”

     Princess Orlagh could have commanded me to take her back to Donegal, but she’d never been that kind of princess. And she knew nothing of the TSA and arthritic feet. “I will get you back to Donegal.”

Part 14 by Sara Harrison ...

I had to get Princess Orlagh home -- not just to Donegal, but across the border from the mortal world, into Faerie. Her Highness -- Yes, The Her was her proper from of address -- thought that part would be easier there. I wondered. Many portals had closed and were closing, I suspected, as the world modernized. And Orlagh had been stumbling around in the mortal world a long time; I had been marred to Don more than 40 years.

Transport in the mortal world would be extremely challenging. The aversion of the Fae to cold iron made travel either by car or plane next to impossible. The Her could not endure being encased in steel that way. Food would also be a problem as long as we were on this side of the border. Honey might work well enough as long as it was raw and unpasteurized -- I thanked the stars that the jar in my pantry was from the local farmers' market -- but it was not a real substitute for the true fairy food that could be found on the other side.

The best solution was to find or create a portal to Faerie as close to here as possible, then finish the journey to the King and Queen's court on the other side. But how could I succeed where my princess had failed? My magics were as arthritic as my feet. Peta surely had her own agenda. My family would never believe me. Search for a portal here, then journey to the court? Or attempt to get to Donegal, then hope that one of the old crossings we remembered was still open when we got there? I needed an ally.

The doorknob rattled again. "Grandma," Callan called again. "You promised me you'd always have honeycakes for me when I came to visit." My eyes widened. I had made that promise when he was eight years old. And indeed, I had always made little glazed shortbreads when he came to visit. Callan and Don could polish off an entire pan together in one sitting. But I hadn't baked this morning. "You promised. And now Mom won't even let me have dessert at home."

I remembered Peta's words. "You and I are the only living Faes in the family ... so far."


Part 15 by Sara Davison

Whether or not there was a budding Fae among them, I needed to get rid of my family. Margaret considered my weekly trip to the podiatrist about as much excitement as my temperamental blood pressure could handle. She was unlikely to encourage me on my quest to find a portal to another world. 

And Peta, she could see far too much of the unseen for my liking. She always had. An icy breeze shivered across my bare arms and I pushed to my aching feet with a groan. Sweeping aside the white lace curtains, I stared at the tightly closed window. 

I spun around and studied the princess. I hadn’t noticed until that moment how pale her skin was, how sunken her eyes. Not a breeze, then. It was coming for her. Had maybe crossed over already. I scooped up the shoebox and dumped the green shoes onto the bed.

The small blue cushion I pressed between my knees to keep my hips from aching at night was soft and fit perfectly into the box. “Here, Your Highness. Lie down. You need to rest.”

I lowered my hand to the bed and she lifted her chin and stepped gracefully onto my palm. Even from an arm’s length away, I heard the slight rattle in her chest as she drew in a breath. 

I laid her down gently and watched, my stomach tightening, as she curled onto her side. Her wounded wing drooped across her back like a shriveled leaf that could be wrenched from the tree at the slightest autumn wind. 
I had hoped to make honeycakes for Callan before everyone left, but there was no time. One way or another, I had to get rid of every last houseguest and make sure they really were gone.
Then our journey could begin.   

Part 16 by Wendy Paine Miller


"I'm weak. Time has worn me down." Losing Don has chiseled the life from me. 

Excuses flitted inside my brain like a fly bumping against a porch light. Reasons why the task would prove too difficult. Insurmountable obstacles. Years had stripped away my keen resourcefulness. My memory had faded like century-old ink.

Portals? How? Where? Without a thread of an idea how I might create one, my shoulders drooped and I sank lower on my bed. The Her poked at my leg from where she'd hidden beneath my bedcovers, twisting her facial features to communicate how urgent matters were.

Had I mumbled my fears aloud? Given the Her reason to doubt me? I cupped my hands to my face, then let them collapse against my cheeks, pushing fortitude back into me.

Callan tapped the door open just enough for me to see his frame, to see iPod earbuds dangling around his collarbone like a necklace. "You don't have to make honeycakes," he said. "I just miss your cooking." When my grandson stepped into the bedroom the floorboards groaned beneath his feet. "Why are you hiding out in here?"

"You all should leave now. I'm thinking."

"A dangerous thing to do alone for too long." Callan peered out the bedroom window and smiled upon seeing the gladiolas from the garden.

Of course! That's it! My cheeks tightened into a smile. That was where the best portals could be found. I'll try there first.

"Grandma?"

My head quaked, a familiar ache brimming in my chest. Callan's green eyes glimmered similarly to how Don's used to. I glanced down, ensuring the Her had well concealed herself beneath my rose-colored comforter. "Yes, Callan?"

"What is that?" He pointed to the lump. The Princess Her.

"What?"

A mischievous grin swept across Callan's face. "That glowing thing?" He stabbed his finger in the direction of the raised bedding.

At once the Her emitted a piercing shrill. Her gossamer hair had gotten coiled around a button affixed to my pillowcase. I wiggled the button, to no avail. The Princess shook and yanked, but nothing worked to free her. The Her's strident wails continued.

Callan's eyes dilated. He cocked his head, brows scrunched. "What's that noise?"

Did he see the Her? Hear the Her? Could my ally have been the one I least expected?





Part 17 by Latayne C. Scott

There was no choice. The Her was shrieking now. I snatched back the coverlet and moved 

the Princess closer to the button and began to extract the silk of her hair.

To my surprise, she immediately became silent. Smiled, though wanly.

Not at me, but at Callan.

I glanced over my shoulder at him. He was moving closer to her, his cell phone in his hand. Glowing on its screen was a picture of…. a Her.

“She’s a fae, a beautiful fae.” His voice was reverential.

“Where--- where did you get that picture?” I was stuttering.

He touched her gently, and she reached for him. He answered me almost absently.

“This one, from a video game. But of course there are books, and websites, too.”

I stepped back from the bed to see this:  The Her and my grandson smiling at each other as if they had known each other their whole lives.

She was speaking to him in Gaelic, and he shook his head, yearned toward her, couldn’t understand.

I caught a word. Geata. Gateway.

A place where all would be set right.

I yearned toward that.

“Portal,” I said.

He smiled slowly and broadly as he picked the Her up.

“Oh I know where you have one in your garden,” he said, looking at her as if he couldn’t fill his eyes enough, but speaking to me. “Under the old tree, between the roots near the wall. I’ve loved to hide there since I was little.”

We looked toward the window.

But what was the commotion we heard outside?

Part 18 by Catherine Leggitt

Callan and I stared out the window at the commotion in the garden, which seemed to have escalated to a cacophony. Peta and Margaret, faces inches apart, gestured and ranted at one another, though I couldn’t make out their words.

The rest of the family resembled circling vultures.

“Looks like they need a referee.” The smirk in Callan’s eyes belied his serious tone.

Dare I leave The Her alone?

“Hurry.” Callan waved me out. “I’ll guard Her.”
From the bed, The Her beseeched. Get rid of them. The chest rattle now a snare drum. There wasn’t much time left.

Leaving Callan with The Her, I headed for the garden, Hector padding close behind. I pushed through the screen door, letting it pop-bang shut, and I spoke above the din. “What’s going on out here?”

Margaret bellowed. “Why should Peta make decisions about my mother?”

Her mother. Me. “What decisions?” My gaze bounced between them.

Margaret squeezed her lips shut.

Peta narrowed her eyes to slits, a familiar trick to keep me from reading her thoughts.

“Come on. Out with it.” The Her’s life depended on haste.

“Peta talked to Dr. Marigold.” Margaret blurted. “Aren’t doctors bound by confidentiality?”

They are, of course, but Peta had her ways, abilities Margaret knew nothing about. “And?” I said. “What did he say?”

“She said… he—,” Margaret teared up.

“Oh for granny’s sake,” Bree interrupted. “Peta wants to have you put into a nursing home.”

Hector hissed, then vaulted onto Peta, claws extended, completely deranged.

“Get this bloody beast off me.” She slapped at Hector with bony hands.

I wrenched Hector off of Peta, though it wasn’t easy. “He’s never done that before.” He relaxed in my arms.

Herb and Greta, my daughter’s in-laws, snatched up their belongings, mumbling about rabid animals. Klaus scurried after them. “Come along, children,” he called to his teenagers.

Margaret lingered to give me a hug. “Never mind, mother. We’ll sort this out later.”

Peta’s beady eyes probed the house. Nose in the air, she sniffed. “She’s inside. Don’t for a moment imagine I won’t find Her.”

Memories of Peta’s temper left me speechless.

With a hard look, my cousin flounced to the kitchen.

Callan stood behind the screen door, face ashen. “She’s gone.”



Part 19 by Debbie Fuller Thomas

I dropped Hector and followed close on Peta's heels. Callan tried to block her way, but she elbowed him aside, saying, "Out of my way, boy."  She continued on into the living room, sniffing like a wolf after a scent.

"You can't hide her from me, I don't even know why you would try."  She opened the hall closet and stuck her nose into the winter coats.  She shut the door and turned the corner into the bathroom, her dark gaze sliding over every crevice large enough for a faerie to hide in.

"Peta," I said, drawing on all my courage.  "It's time for you to go.  I...I mean it.  Go. Now."

Peta paused and slowly pivoted.  She took a step toward me, and in spite of my resolve, I stepped back. Her look pinned me to the spot where she held me, squirming. "Poor Maeva," she said, finally. She looked me over like I was a specimen.  "You still don't remember, do you?"  She turned back to her search and said, almost to herself, "Dara.  Cait.  And that stupid Torin."  She glanced back over her shoulder to gauge my reaction.  "They made it so easy."

Members of the court.  Some of Princess Orlagh's inner circle.  A shooting pain blinded me and I pressed my fingertips into  my forehead.  I sagged against the wall until it subsided.  When I looked up, Peta was rifling through my bedroom. 

Callan caught my eye and slid his gaze toward the dresser.  It took a moment to find her.  Princess Orlagh was crouched by a bottle of Youth Dew with her wings folded as best she could.  The strong scent was potent enough to disguise her faerie musk.  Peta had her back to me and I motioned toward a blanket on the edge of the bed.  Callan licked his lips and nodded.

I stepped to the dresser and scooped up the Princess, carefully slipping her into my pocket.  Peta turned to see what I was doing and rage filled her.  She reached for me, but Callan threw the blanket over her head and tackled her to the floor.  I raced for the back door, throwing it open with one hand and protecting the Princess with the other.  Hector ran ahead of me to the tree with the exposed roots by the wall.  I looked over my shoulder, but saw no sign of Peta.  I could only pray she wouldn't hurt my grandson.

I carefully removed the Princess from my pocket and set her on the ground.  Her luster was dimming and I feared that she would be too weak to cross over.  Muffled scuffling could be heard inside the house, and the Princess lifted her eyes to the sound. 

"Brathadair."  Traitor.

 "Yes, she is.  I remember now.  Go,"  I urged her. 

She reached for my hand, and at her touch, I felt the queer sensation of shrinking.  The tree roots climbed twisted and dark above my head, the sword blades of grass past my ears.  Hector's feet and legs stood like silent columns just outside the portal.  From the corner of my eye, I saw iridescent shimmer from my shoulder blades. I felt light and airy as a sunbeam.  A wondrous feeling after years of pain and loneliness.

The screen door slammed and Callan ran up to us at the portal.  His speed and the sight of his enormous shoes and pumping legs overwhelmed me, but he stooped down when he approached us.

He looked at me.  Words failed us both. I touched his hand, feeling the loss of him already.  And gently from his shoulder blades, iridescent wings unfurled like a newly hatched butterfly.

Feeling the growth coursing through him, he turned his head this way and that trying to see the wings, reaching his hands around himself like a cat chasing its tail. 

An angry curse went up from the kitchen, and he said, "Go.  Go on.  We'll stall her."

"You and Hector.  There's more to him than meets the eye. Take care of your mom and Bree."  I blew him a kiss.  "Slan agat, my sweet Callan."

"Slan leat, Grandma,"  he answered, clearly surprising himself.

Callan piled rocks in front of the portal as the Princess and I moved deeper into the base of the roots toward an unexpected pinpoint of light.  I glanced back one last time when the screen door slammed.  Through a chink in the rocks, I saw Peta huffing and disheveled from her struggle with the blanket.  Her wrists were bound with the cords to the earbuds of Callan's IPod.


15 comments:

Megan Sayer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Normandie Ward Fischer said...

What a fun idea!

Susie Finkbeiner said...

This was so much fun! I can't wait to see what happens next!

Patti Hill said...

Thanks for dropping by, ladies! We all love a story.

Patti Hill said...

Thanks for dropping by, ladies! We all love a story.

Henrietta Frankensee said...

The Her! What a wonderful name. Thanks for giving direction to the storyline, Suzie! I was wondering who was coming to visit. "In-laws in tow"! Are we allowed to speculate among ourselves about what they are like?

Bonnie Grove said...

Henrietta, you are allowed to do anything your heart desires. Speculate away.

We aren't real big on rules around here. ;)

Patti Hill said...

I applaud Susie's contribution. She deepened the problem and set us on the way for a rollicking good time.
Thanks, Sooze!

Susie Finkbeiner said...

If anything, I'm good at deepening problems! :)

Thanks so much for including me. This is such a fun project for all of us!

Henrietta Frankensee said...

Thank you for your permission to speculate. This is the heart of collaboration, discussing ideas. I don't want to step on anyone's creativity, if you think differently don't change any ideas. Good discussion will only cultivate more ideas!
As to in-laws, my immediate thought was a disabled brother-in-law who is sympathetic to the Her. I know many women who live with and care for disabled siblings. This would steer us away from a stereotype.

Patti Hill said...

Henrietta: Go for it!

Anonymous said...

We always did this as kids on rainy or snowy days. We could fill spiral notebooks! Love this idea and the creativity it will inspire---the loops and swirls as each author discovers the story. Can't wait to see where it goes...

cherry Odelberg said...

Talk about characters taking on a life of their own. It is challenge enough with a single writer. Now the plot can twist an infinite number of ways.

V. Gingerich said...

Oh, I like! Especially the "percolate". :)

heididrukortman said...

Thank you, Patti and Sara for your scenes. They fit in excellently.