“Hurry up you guys!” Sam yelled, but I could barely even see her through the trees now.
“Do you ever think this might be a bad idea?” I asked Syra.
Syra scoffed. “You turning into a pessimist on me?”
“No!” I said, “I’m all down for magic powers. I can’t wait for my turn. But it makes you wonder why this book was sitting in a garage sale.”
“Can we wait for the crisis of conscience until after I get magic powers?” Syra said. The ground was getting steep beneath our feet, I had to grab onto thin saplings to stop from sliding down the loose dirt into her.
“I guess,” I said.
“Besides, where else would you find an ancient book of magic than stuck on some dude’s attic?” Syra asked.
I snorted. “Seems like the sort of thing you’d keep better tabs on.”
“Guys! Hurry up!” I could hear Opi yelling, his voice sounding urgent. Me and Syra shared a glance, breaking into a run. The steep slope forced me into a strange sort of gallop, half falling, half jumping my way down the hill towards the river’s edge and flatter ground.
When I reached the water’s edge I glanced around quickly, looking for where Sam and Opi had gone. I didn’t have to look harder. Sam sat just a few metres away, giggling crazily.
“Can you see them, Mary?” she asked, holding out her arms.
“Uhhh….” I said, looking around. Syra crashed through the bush beside me and I inspected the surrounding, looking for what Sam saw.
She was sitting on the ground just before it turned swampy, surrounded by birch trees and and ferns. The river ran alongside us, a long, wide band of silver and blue. I might have been able to throw a rock to the other shore, but I’d always been bad at gym class. It was certainly pretty, but I didn’t see anything to quite explain the wide grins on her and Opi’s face.
“Uhh,” I gave Syra a look, and she shrugged at me. “I don’t see anything here, Sam.”
“You don’t see the fairies?” Opi asked, pointing out over the water. I frowned, looking out over the water. Something definitely flitted over the water. I recognized the four-winged, long bodies of dragonflies flitting over the ripples. Syra watched them like she was captivated.
“Um… Those are dragonflies,” I said, looking between Opi and Sam.
Sam’s brow furrowed slightly. “Between the dragonflies, Mary.”
I looked out again, squinting into the sparkling sun. Between the glittering light and rippling water, I thought there might be something moving. But every time I tried to follow the shapes, they resolved into a insect.
“I’m not seeing this,” Syra said, echoing my thoughts. “There’s bugs, certainly.”
“You can’t see them?” Opi asked.
“Well, we didn’t just do some secret magic ritual,” I said, rolling my eyes.
“Yeah but-” Opi began, but he was cut off by Sam.
“You’re hiding?” she said, speaking into the air at her shoulder. I stared at the space myself, willing my mind to see what she did. I thought I caught a blur of motion, but I couldn’t quite make it out. Sam asked, “Can you come out?”
Her request didn’t make any fairy magically come into view. She huffed, carefully getting to her feet. She acted like she was in the world’s most awkward costume, stretching out wide to pusher herself up.
“Hang on a moment,” she said, walking to the water’s edge. I watched as Sam began to chase the black-winged damselflies on the river’s edge. Opi went over to help, chasing the frogs instead.
“So, odds that our friends went insane?” I muttered to Syra.
Syra turned to me wide-eyed. “Fairly high.”
“Great,” I whispered, just as Syra added a, “But-”
“But what?” I asked.
“Do you keep catching something just out of the side of your eye?” Syra said. “Something like fairies?”
Syra shrugged. “Or something…”
I frowned. Syra was forever the skeptic, if she thought she saw something… I turned my head away from the water, trying to watch the edge of my vision. I didn’t see anything different, I just felt like a moron.
Sam walked up to us with two cupped hands. “Here, maybe this’ll help,” she said, opening her hands slightly when she arrived.
I peeked inside, only to spot a damselfly inside. It was smaller than the dragonflies, with pure black wings folded up against it’s back and a body so iridescent and green it shone even inside her hands. But it was still a bug.
“Um,” I spluttered, looking at Sam. She’d been one of my oldest friend. I met her in grade 1, just a week after meeting Syra. And I was still clueless on how to tell her that was just an insect.
“That’s not a fairy,” Syra said, clearly not suffering from the same issue.
Sam peeked into her hands. “Oh come on!” she said loudly. “You promised to help. Do you want me to jar you?”
She held her hands out to me again and I reluctantly took another peek. Only this time, where the insect had sat, there was a tiny girl instead. Stuck to her back was the same set of black wings the damselfly had sported, and her emerald green hair was as long as she was, wrapped around a body as tall as a matchstick.
“Oh shit!” I yelped, my words overlapping with Syra’s even less appropriate ones. Sam glared at us both, turning back to the tiny fairy.
“They didn’t mean that,” she said soothingly, giving us a dirty look. “And you two, no swearing.”
“Sam, you are holding a fairy!” I said indignantly. “I think there are more important issues than my language!”
“I disagree,” Sam said. “These are my friends now. We should treat them with respect.”
I sighed, turning back to the fairy that she’d moved to her shoulder. “I’m sorry, Miss.”
Syra echoed my apology, adding in a small curtesy. “But you have to admit, that was a good curse”, she said mischievously. The fairy giggled with a noise that sounded like a glass bell going off.
Suddenly I noticed that the clearing was full of tiny wings and bodies. Where the dragonflies had flown before, I saw there was now a few armoured bodies that flitted between them. They looked like they were playing tag over the water, vanishing out of view at one moment and back in a second later. I was so distracted I barely noticed that the fairy on Sam’s shoulder was talking.
“Oh! I’m sorry Miss,” I said, focusing on the tiny voice amid the buzzing of wings. “I was… distracted.”
The fairy crossed tiny arms across it’s chest with a humph, flying up into my face. “You humans are all the same. We show you something cool and you forget all manners.”
Sam seemed to be barely holding in a laugh behind me and I felt my cheeks blush. “I’m really sorry.”
“She was just telling us her name,” Syra said, coming to my rescue. “Lady Calada Moonglimmer, of the Royal Ebony Jewelwing Legion.”
“Nice to meet you, Lady Calada,” I said, bowing my head slightly. The fairy dipped into a low curtesy, and I could see that despite my earlier assumptions, she was actually clothed beneath the long hair. Her dress was the same colour as her hair, with the tiniest black embroidery I could imagine. She was so precious I felt like a monster just to be in her presence.
“The fairies were telling me about their ball,” Sam said happily. “Before I caught Cala here.”
“Their ball?” Syra asked excitedly.
“Yes!” Cala squeaked, clapping tiny hands. “It will be an amazing feast! And then there will be dancing and celebrating all night long!”
I smiled patiently. “I think my parents might be upset if I don’t come home all night.”
“Oh, it’s not tonight!” Cala said, “It will be in 4 days, starting at sundown. And you’re all invited! Even your knight.” The tiny fairy gestured towards Opi, who was coming over looking dejected. His jeans and hands were covered in mud.
I tried to do the math on the fairy’s invite. Saturday night, it seemed. But I doubted my parents would let me go to a party on a Saturday night, even if it was thrown by fairies and not classmates.
Syra seemed to have a different idea. “We’ll be here!”
“Syra!” I hissed under my breath.
“What?” she asked innocently.
“My parents wouldn’t even let me go to Brooke’s pool party last year!” I said. “How am I supposed to get out for a fairy ball?”
Sam bit her lip. “I don’t think my parents would let me come either.”
“Oh but you must come!” Cala said. “There will be dancing and singing, and humans always bring the best treats!”
“Treats?” Opi asked, entering the conversation confused.
“Yes!” said the fairy, buzzing up in front of him on her black wings. “Like milk, and bread, and sweets!”
That must have been a popular topic. Suddenly other fairies were popping up all around us, adding in their favourite snacks.
“Strawberries!” yelled one with black hair and a yellow spot on her wings.
“And cake!” cried another, dressed in soft greys.
“Twinkies!” one yelled, pulling at my hair.
“Ouch!” I yelled, but two more tugged at my clothes and ear. I started backing away when they started pinching. I didn’t even notice when we’d all started running, racing back up the hill and out of the ravine.
My breath burned in my throat by the time we reached the meadow again. I didn’t dare stop, running with my friends until my legs burned and we collapsed on the sidewalk outside of the park. We sat there, panting for air until Sam met my eye. I smiled at her, and she smiled back. Then Syra chuckled, setting us all off laughing until tears welled in my eyes. I leaned up against Opi as the laughter slowly died off.
“What was that about?” Opi asked, still chuckling.
His words set off Sam and me into another burst of giggles.
“They invited us to a party,” Syra said between laughs.
Opi laughed again, “A party?”
“Yeah,” I said, slowly recovering. “Some ball or something.”
“When?” Opi asked.
“See?” Syra said, giggling more. “Opi wants to go.”
I snorted, trying not to dissolve into more giggling. “No he doesn’t.”
“I didn’t say any of that!” Opi said. “I just want to know when!”
“Saturday!” Syra said. “Help me convince Mary to come.”
“Uhh…” he looked flustered. “What happens at a fairy ball? Do you even want to go, Mary?”
“There’s dancing!” Syra said, nudging me in the ribs.
I went a little red, “Opi doesn’t want to dance with me.”
“Sure I would!” Opi said quickly. I looked at him and he blushed too. “I mean, if you want to.”
“Um…” I stuttered.
“So it’s a date then, right?” Syra said cheerfully, looking between me and Opi.
Before Opi could reply, I pushed myself to my feet, pulling a still giggling Sam up as well. “We’ll see,” I said quickly, mouthing the words Help me to Sam.
“We should go before it gets dark,” Sam said, trying to stifle her smile. “Come on guys.”
We walked back quietly, punctuated by the occasional fit of giggles.