Authors: A W Hartoin
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Mythology & Folk Tales, #Teen & Young Adult, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Fantasy, #Fairy Tales & Folklore, #Country & Ethnic, #Fairy Tales, #Sword & Sorcery
Published by A.W. Hartoin
Copyright © A.W. Hartoin, 2012
Cover art and design by
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
Young Adult fantasy
Mercy Watts Mysteries
Your imagination was my inspiration.
I’M NO Tinkerbell. I don’t take orders from Lost Boys and Captain Hook could never catch me. I am a wood fairy though, complete with luminescent wings. Don’t go thinking fairy equals weak, or timid. Because if I was any of that I could never have found my parents, my home, my future after the humans took them away from me.
I think my mom doubts aspects of my story, even though I have the scars to prove it. I wish I could tell you what happened face to face, but being a half a centimeter tall has its disadvantages. Humans have a blind spot when it comes to fairies, no matter our size, and I’m the first Whipplethorn fairy to be seen in six generations. It was an isolated incident and I had to want it very badly to make it happen. Whether or not you see me, I want you to know that fairies exist all around you and in places you wouldn’t expect. My family lives in a fireplace mantel, for instance. It’s one of those big Victorian jobs, mahogany and weighing about two hundred pounds. Our home is inside the left leg of the mantel beside the firebox. Bet you never thought to look there.
Chances are we won’t ever meet, and you probably wouldn’t notice me even if we did, so I found a solution (I always do). I’ll write you a book and I won’t leave anything out, not even the stuff I didn’t tell my mother.
Still, I hope you do see me someday. There’s nothing like being seen, especially when your life depends on it.
WHIPPLETHORN Manor was my world and I never expected to leave it. I wasn’t curious about the places and creatures beyond our borders. No one told me tales of spriggans, trow, or humans. If they had, I’d have been better prepared. But no one offered answers to questions I never thought to ask. Instead, I was wrapped up in my little life in a crumbling mansion and content to be so, if only my mother would let me have my way.
“Matilda.” Mom stuck her head through my door, her long black hair swooping down and brushing the floor. “Come down to the kitchen. We need to talk.”
I flopped back on my bed and studied my ceiling’s wood grain. Talking was never good. Talking meant Mom was about to change her mind. She’d make it sound like it was for my own good and she was doing me a favor. I was great at getting out of stuff but lousy at getting my own way. I managed to avoid unwanted activities with a series of excuses and fake injuries like overwhelming homework, or blinding headaches. I had a fake limp that was pretty useful. It came on suddenly and lasted for two weeks. Getting what I wanted was much more difficult. Limps didn’t help with that. Mom caught on to the limp thing and used it against me. That’s how she blocked my last babysitting job. She said if a person with a limp couldn’t possibly clean bathrooms, they couldn’t babysit either. The limp wasn’t the real reason I didn’t get to babysit though. That was just the excuse. It was my ears’ fault. I had snail pox when I was two and the fever cost me a good deal of my hearing. It wasn’t a big deal to me. I could hear what I needed to hear.
Since the snail pox, Mom and Dad worried about me like crazy while at the same time saying I was just the same as all the other girls my age. Except the other girls were all babysitting and I wasn’t.
The thought made me feel rebellious, but it wasn’t a good idea to make Mom wait too long, so I heaved myself off my bed and went down the hall toward the kitchen, my long purple and green wings limp on my back and sweeping the floor with my every step. Mom was in the kitchen, but she could hear a gnat’s wing beat and that was on a bad day. The sound of my wings on the floor drove her crazy. She hated dusty wings and said it was a sign of dusty mind. Whatever that meant. If she wouldn’t let me babysit again, I could at least annoy her.
The glowing mushrooms on the hallway walls lit the way as I slowly passed by. They grew in pots and cast a warm green light. Each cap was bigger than my fist and watering our fungus was my favorite chore. I stopped to say hello to my favorite, a frilly clump of Foxfire I named Barbara.
Mom walked out of the kitchen, her long silver and blue wings draped over her shoulders like a cape. “Are you coming?”
I dropped my hand and continued to the kitchen. I slipped past Mom and plopped down on my dad’s stool at the big acorn top table. Mom bustled around, eyeing me as she rearranged her hand-painted eggshell plates. I crossed my arms and waited. She could rearrange those plates all day. I wasn’t going to make it easy for her. Finally, she stopped and put her hands on her hips, assuming her battle expression. It only showed up when she wanted to make me or my little sister, Iris, go to the dentist or eat a lima bean.
“There’s been a change of plans,” she said.
I slumped over. My long black hair fell in my face and pooled in my lap.
“Really,” I said. “I’m shocked.”
“You’re going to do Eunice a favor.”
I peeked at her through strands of hair, afraid she was pulling a fast one. “Babysitting?”
I jumped up. “Really? You’ll really let me this time?”
“Yes, that is if you don’t have a headache or limp.”
I ignored her implications. “Who’s Eunice?”
“You know Eunice. Gerald’s mother. He’s in your sister’s class.”
I dropped back onto Dad’s stool with my mouth open. Gerald Whipplethorn? I wanted to babysit, but Gerald wasn’t worth it. The kid annoyed me like an itchy scab you couldn’t pick off. He was the worst. The absolute worst.
I suddenly remembered an essay I had to write, my eyesight started to go in my left eye and I gripped the stool in an effort to ward off what was sure to become a crippling case of vertigo.
“No way, Mom.” I wavered back and forth on the stool. “I don’t feel so good after all.”
“Stop that nonsense. You’ve been pestering me about babysitting for a year. Now’s your chance.”
“I can’t babysit for Gerald. He’s a nightmare.”
“Matilda Grace Whipplethorn, you are babysitting for your sister and Gerald. He’s already upstairs. His mother needs a break.”
“Everybody needs a break from Gerald. I need a break and I haven’t seen him in a week.”
“You’re just nervous.”
“I’m not nervous,” I said.
“Well, there’s no reason to be. Babysitting is a pretty boring job. Nothing will happen.” She picked up a roll of parchment off the counter. “Why don’t you look over the list and see if you have any questions?”
The emergency procedures list. My mom’s collection of paranoid fantasies, including every awful thing that might happen if she left me in charge. I took Mom’s list off the counter and skimmed it. The thing was ridiculous. It insisted I be capable of handling such calamities as a rogue fly attack, snail pox, and spurting arterial blood. There hadn’t been a rogue fly attack in twenty years and I didn’t even want to know what arterial blood was, much less what to do about it. I wasn’t old enough anyway. Adult wood fairies could manipulate liquids, like making it rain in one spot instead of another, or staunch blood flow. My Grandma Vi could stop a cut from bleeding with just a look. As far as I could tell, my magic hadn’t come in yet. At least no magic I wanted anyone to know about.
“Well, any questions?”
“I never have any questions.”
I never would either. I was afraid Mom might actually answer and tell me how to pop snail pox pustules. That was information I didn’t want in my thirteen-year-old brain. But on the other hand, the list implied that a horrendous calamity might happen if Mom left me in charge. For once, it was in my interest to encourage the idea.
“Mom, I don’t think I’m ready for this. The stuff on the list is pretty serious. I’d freak out or something.”
“I told you nothing’s going to happen. You’re fine. Perfectly fine.”
She said I was fine, but she looked like she needed to breathe into a paper bag to keep from hyperventilating.
“If spurting arterial blood isn’t going to happen, why is it on the list?” I asked.
“The list is just a precaution.”
“I don’t care. I’m not doing it.”
Mom bent over and kissed me on the forehead, enveloping me in her wings. She smelled like violets and the scent soothed me as it always did since the time I had snail pox pustules.
Then she placed her forehead against mine. “It will be fine. You can handle him. You can handle anything.”
I looked into her dark brown eyes and found the usual worries. “You don’t really think so, do you, Mom?”
“I do too,” she said. “Plus, you have the list.”
Then Mom darted out of the kitchen with just one glance over her shoulder. I caught a glimpse of a puckered brow, but I didn’t care. I’d always known I could do it, and soon Mom would know she didn’t have to worry about me. If I could watch after Gerald, I could do anything.
I rolled up the list and went to the kitchen window, a carved rose the size of a nickel. I pushed it out so that it was completely open and I could see all of Whipplethorn Manor’s formal dining room where our mantel was placed by humans a hundred fifty years before. My ancestors carved out their home in the left leg of the mantel, so they would have a good view of the humans’ whereabouts back when there were humans still living in Whipplethorn. Now I had a good view of nothing. The room was empty and had been for fifty years. An earthquake had cracked the foundation and the humans fled, leaving an extraordinary house to rot. This decision had always caused me to question the wisdom of humans. We wood fairies hadn’t abandoned Whipplethorn. We simply adapted to our new more isolated circumstances.
Mom flitted in front of my window, her lovely wings creating a canvas behind her and bathing me in a warm glow with their luminescence. She flew back towards me one last time, cupped my cheek and spoke in my ear, so I’d be sure to hear. “Don’t let that Gerald fly all over you. Have fun, darling.”
I didn’t have a chance to respond. Mom zipped away, across the dining room toward the enormous bank of windows. She stopped at a broken window pane and waved. A wide, joyful smile lit her face. I would keep that image of her safe within my heart in the days to come. Then she flew through the jagged hole. I watched as her silver streak crossed the overgrown lawn. She dodged a collapsed rose arbor, passed over the disintegrating iron fence that surrounded the mansion, and disappeared into the dense forest surrounding Whipplethorn. Mom was traveling at her top speed to catch up with the rest of the Whipplethorn fairies. Within minutes, she’d be miles away at the blueberry harvest.
I fanned myself with the list, trying to ignore its dire predictions. Especially the part about bandaging a head wound in three easy steps. That would be a lot less messy if I could staunch blood flow. But Grandma Vi had told me a million times that there was nothing to be done about it. Magic came when it came and one couldn’t choose the gift. I wished I could do something about it. I really did.