Robbie could think of nothing else for the rest of the day. He barely touched his dinner, a Brinlee specialty: microwaved chicken nuggets and canned peaches, not really one of his favorites anyway. He spent most of the evening staring out the window of his room. Each time he saw a bird or bug that was a normal creature, he fretted further that he’d lost his special sight. He saw no fairies or other fanciful creatures at all in the vicinity of his home.
He slept poorly, waking every hour or so to check the clock and see if it was time to get up yet. Then, when dawn finally did come, he at last slipped into a deep sleep, and didn’t wake up until 9:30 when Brinlee came to check on whether he was dead or not, because he never slept in. He jumped out of bed, took a lightning quick shower at Brinlee insistence, wolfed breakfast down in record time, and threw his shoes on to head out to the glade again.
He was halfway there when he realized that he had forgotten to pack a lunch today. That meant he’d have to come home to eat, and Brinlee would surely make him stay in the house after that. He grumbled. His time in the glade would be short, when he wanted it to be as long as possible. He’d tough it out and stay as long as he could handle the hunger pains. At least, he would as long as he hadn’t lost his fairy sight. The glade would seem awful dull if it was back to normal again.
Along the path, he saw several insects, but no fairies. He worried that it was already too late. He had talked himself into thinking it was a certainty that the magic sight was gone by the time he finally walked up to the shore of the pond and looked around. The pond, the trees, even the very air of this place seemed to glow with vibrance. Fairies flitted back and forth above the water, and through the branches of the trees and the leaves of the reeds. A brown-skinned male fairy with bright red hair clad in green leaves and red flower petals stood atop a cattail, holding the spike and surveying the glade like a king or a job foreman. Then he launched into the air, his butterfly-like wings snapping open and carrying him lopingly up toward the sunlight seeping through the leaves into the clearing. Two purple-skinned fairies with small, translucent wasp-like wings zoomed past, locked together at the hips in the act of sexual intercourse, something Robbie still only vaguely understood. A small brown...still Robbie didn’t know what to call it. A goblin? A troll?...creature, the one that had appeared to be a bullfrog before his eyes had been opened, relaxed in the sunlight filtering onto the fallen log in the middle of the pond.
An enormous grin spread across Robbie’s face. The fairy sight was still with him. Not sleeping, nor eating human food, nor the passage of twenty-four hour’s time, nor anything else that he’d done in the past day had made it go away. He could still see fairies, and he was so glad that he wouldn’t have been able to express it if someone had asked him to. A great weight lifted off his mind, and his whole demeanor changed. Where his shoulders had been slumped, they raised and straightened. Where his face had been tight and tense, it loosened and relaxed. Where his heart had been constricted and filled with dread, it opened and softened. He jauntily walked to the large rock that Brinlee had occupied yesterday, and sat down to watch the fey creatures of the fairy glen.
It was fascinating. The variations in fairies was unlike any creature in the world. Sure, humans had skin color that varied from extremely pale white to extremely dark brown or even black, with every shade of brown in between. But these fairies had skins of every color of the rainbow. Some had shining green skin, others pale blue, others glowing purple, or yellow, or orange, or red. There were colors that Robbie couldn’t even name. Were they chartreuse, or periwinkle, or puce? He knew those were the names of colors, but he couldn’t say which colors they named.
The fairies were all so beautiful and graceful. He longed to be able to swoop and dive alongside them. He’d thought flying insects to be neat before, but he’d never imagined himself in their place. After all, who would want to be a chitinous, segmented, hairy insect? But seeing humanoid creatures with shimmering, translucent wings soaring and flying through the air made him envious.
As he sat with his chin in his hands staring at the scene the way most kids would be transfixed by their favorite TV show, he was abruptly kicked in the nose. The fairy that he’d caught in his net the day before had seen him, and come down to continue her attack on him. It didn’t hurt much, her miniscule size made that impossible, but it was surprising nonetheless. Robbie jerked his head back, retreating from the blow, but way overdoing it with the motion, and managing to send himself tumbling backwards, head over heels, off the rock. He performed a graceful somersault, and popped back to his feet like an acrobat or a gymnast, immediately searching for the fairy that had kicked him, what he thought of as his fairy.
She found him first, however. He felt and heard her wings buzzing by his ear. His hand instinctively swung up to swat at her like he would with a mosquito or house fly, and he only just barely managed to stop his blow before it was too late. He turned, but she was already gone. He turned the other way, and didn’t see her. He felt a tickle in his hair, then a sharp pain as she pulled on the bunch of hair she’d grabbed. Again, his hand shot toward his head seemingly of its own volition, meaning to swat the nuisance. It was a very hard-wired response apparently. Again, Robbie only barely managed to stop himself from crushing the pretty little fairy. He didn’t want to destroy her, he wanted to know her if that was at all possible. Crushing and killing was what other little boys did when they encountered new things. Skyler might respond that way, but Robbie refused to.
He spun around, trying to get the fairy in sight, but again she was way ahead of him. There was nothing but empty air. Robbie spun around further, 180 degrees, then 360. He looked up and down, searching for a glimpse of his fairy, but to no avail. At last, he decided that he had to admit defeat. His attempt to get the fairy was a failure. He was going to have to let her get him, and maybe, in so doing, come to him. He sat down on the rock, and waited.
He felt a small pinch on his back, then another on his shoulder. Several more small pinches, punches, and kicks. None of it was painful at all. He’d seen Brinlee plucking her eyebrows the other day, and she’d plucked one of his eyebrow hairs to show him what it was like. That pain had been at least ten times worse than anything this fairy had done to him. She was as small as an insect, and had nothing like a stinger to cause damage with.
Then she proved him wrong when she bit his ear. Robbie leaped to his feet.
“Oww,” he shouted. That had actually hurt. It might be enough to compete with a bee sting. He slowly brought his hand to his ear to rub it. Gently, he probed the side of his head to be certain that the fairy wasn’t still there. He didn’t want to crush her when he massaged the bite. Finding her to be fled from the area, he rubbed at his ear. When he pulled his hand away, he saw a speck of blood. It was just a tiny speck, but still, the fairy could apparently do more damage than he’d originally thought. How could he win her over, show her that he was a friend and that their introduction was just a misunderstanding?
He looked about him, searching for the fairy. Several fairies zoomed here and there, but they were purple-skinned or red-skinned, not blue-green like his fairy. Where had she gone? Maybe she’d satisfied her lust for vengeance with the ear bite, and had flown away. He certainly hoped not. Despite the way she had greeted him, he liked her. She was beautiful and magnificent. The other fairies were nice, but she was just something more. Maybe it was just that he had interacted with her and not with any others, he wasn’t sure, but he just wanted to know her more. He was hoping there was some way to communicate with her.
At last he spied where she’d gone. Across the pond and several feet above his head, she hovered among the leaves of the willow, watching him. Robbie made his way around the water carefully. He walked very slow, feeling his way across the uneven, rocky ground with his feet, while never taking his eyes off his fairy. Eventually, he arrived beneath her, and raised his open palm to her, inviting her to settle there. She merely looked at it disdainfully, and continued hovering high above.
Robbie didn’t give up, he held his hand to her until his muscles could no longer bear it. He lowered his hand, but immediately replaced it with his other hand. Then, when that hand could no longer bear it, he replaced it with his other, now rested, hand. He did this so many times that he lost count, but he was pretty sure it was upwards of a dozen. The whole time, he smiled pleasantly, hoping that fairies, since they were at least similar to human beings in shape, knew what a smile was supposed to signify.
He began calling her soothingly, speaking as if he were trying to calm a skittish animal. “Come on, don’t worry. I’m not going to hurt you. I want to be your friend.” It seemed to make no difference. He wondered if it would backfire. Once, he’d encountered a doe in the woods while out playing. He’d tried to coax it to come to him, but the sound of his soft voice had only served to put the animal more on edge, and eventually sent it running away. He definitely didn’t want a repeat of that performance.
“Hi,” he said, “you remember me, right? I was the one you bit the other day. That whole thing with the butterfly net was just an accident. I didn’t know you were a fairy. I just thought you were a bug. But now I see. Now I know. Are you willing to give me a chance? I’m actually nice. I swear I am.”
He spoke slowly and softly, raising the pitch of his still prepubescent voice another notch, like he was talking to a baby or a puppy dog. At last, when both arms ached so much he expected he would start to cry soon, the fairy ever so slowly began to descend. His heart leaped in his chest, and he almost screamed with delight. He was only able to bite it back just barely. He knew that it would be a big mistake, and would surely send her flying away like a rocket.
“Yeah, that’s right,” he said instead. “Yeah, I’m not a bad guy. You don’t need to be afraid of me. Come on down, and we’ll...uh, I suppose you don’t talk, but we’ll get to know each other somehow.”
The fairy settled ever so slowly, then changed her mind and rose quickly back up, “No, no,” Robbie said, making an effort to sound soothing, rather than alarmed that she was flying away again, “I’m nice, I swear. Don’t fly away. Come back.” And it worked, or something did anyway, because she started descending slowly again. She changed her mind several more times on her way down, but either Robbie was reassuring enough or the fairy was curious enough that at last, her her tiny narrow blue-green feet settled onto his palm.
Her feet tickled his skin, but he didn’t flinch. He fought against all the innate urges that he had. His mind raced with ideas. I should grab her, put her in a bag, and take her home, he thought. But as his mind suggested it, he raged against it. That was the last thing that would earn him any trust from this creature. Instead, he lowered his arm to a comfortable level as slowly as he could, all the while staring at the fairy and marveling at having a creature of myth and legend standing in his palm.
When his arm made it all the way down, he started into the process of settling down into a sitting position on the ground beside the pond. Slowly as a sloth, he lowered himself to the ground, all the while smiling and cooing soothingly at the fairy to keep her on his palm. At last, he arrived at a comfortable position, and could turn his whole attention to his fairy.
“Hello, fairy,” he said softly, “It’s nice to meet you. I’m sorry I scared you yesterday. I hope you got enough revenge that you’ll stop biting me. It would be nice if we could become friends somehow.”
As he prattled on, the fairy whistled, chirped, and chittered her own string of sounds. She also settled to a cross-legged sitting position on Robbie’s hand matching his own seated position. She seemed to be getting more comfortable and more trusting with him. Perhaps she’d come to realize that he meant her no harm. That’s what Robbie hoped it meant anyhow.
She sat in his right hand, so, with his left hand, he touched his chest and said, “My name is Robbie.” Then he thought he’d probably better simplify that even more, considering that she didn’t speak English at all. He pointed at his chest again, and said, “Robbie.”
The fairy squinted tilted her head sideways, like inquisitive dogs sometimes do.
“Robbie,” he repeated, tapping his chest, “Robbie. It’s my name. Robbie. Robbie.”
She lifted her own hand, and tapped on her own impossibly narrow torso. She whistled...or chirped or whatever he was supposed to call it, none of the words seemed to really quite fit the actual ethereal sound she made...twice. Robbie realized she was imitating the sound he was making as he announced his name to her. This was good!
“Yeah, that’s it,” he said, excitedly, “Robbie.” He tapped on his chest again and again, “Robbie. Robbie.”
His fairy whistled her two blast call, copying Robbie, tapping on her chest. Then she suddenly rose to her feet, and launched into the air. Oh no, Robbie thought, I’ve scared her off. What did I do? But he hadn’t scared her off at all. She didn’t fly away, but instead flew to where Robbie was tapping on his chest, and started tapping there as well, still chirping her two note call.
Robbie pulled his hand away to ensure he didn’t accidentally hit her while she hovered there, but continued repeating his name. He over enunciated the word now, pronouncing it as if each sound was made by five letters instead of just one.
The fairy seemed to catch on. Her chirp changed from sounding like birdsong to something else. Her mouth stretched comically large just like Robbie had been doing himself as she tried to make word come out of her own mouth. Her voice was so tiny and cute. It was high pitched and sing-songy, like Alvin from the Chipmunks or Chip ‘n’ Dale from those old Disney cartoons his parents liked. Now he could hear the R sound. She didn’t seem to have as easy of a time with the B though.
“Buh, buh, buh,” he said, making the sound slowly, and demonstrating clearly how he put his lips together and then popped them apart to make the B.
Then, all at once, she seemed to grab the word and make it her own.
“Rrrr-aaah-bee,” she said.
“Yes, Robbie,” he said, nodding his head animatedly, and tapping his chest.
“Rrr-aah-bee,” she said, nodding her head comically, and flying over to tap his chest.
“Yes, Robbie. That’s me! Robbie,” he said.
“Rrr-aah-bee. Rrr-aah-bee. Robbie. Robbie.” It was starting to sound more like his actual name and less like a child saying its first word now.
“Wow, I can’t believe it. I wonder if you understand that Robbie means me.” He sat back and sighed, satisfied with his victory. “So, what’s your name?” he asked. He pointed at her, and repeated the question. She settled back down, this time landing on his knee, and looked at him. She didn’t seem to understand what he was after now.
“What’s your name?” he asked again, pointing at her.
She pointed back at him. “Robbie.”
Robbie sighed, this time in frustration instead of contentment. “Well,” he mumbled, “I guess it’s probably still too much to ask.” Robbie didn’t have any younger siblings, or older siblings for that matter, so he had no idea about how someone learned to talk, and what kind of a process it involved. He decided that he would just teach her as many words as he could. She’d picked up on his name really quickly. What else could she learn?
He pointed to a wildflower blossom. “Flower,” he said, then repeated it again and again. Soon, the fairy was saying her own passable version of the word. It sounded more like, “Fower.” She wasn’t really getting the L in there, but it wasn’t bad. So, Robbie moved on.
He went from place to place around the glade, teaching his fairy the words for leaf, tree, grass, log, cattail, lily, pond, and water. It was a little exhausting, and by the time he finally got her to say pond when he pointed at the whole body of water, and water when he scooped up a handful of it and poured it out instead of saying pond again, Robbie decided it was time to call it a day. His stomach was growling like an angry dog since lunchtime had passed hours earlier, and he was beginning to even feel a little faint because of lack of nourishment.
So, he waved his hand at his fairy and said, “Goodbye.” She tried to repeat it, butchering the word pretty badly. It came out sounding like, “Goo-why.”
“No,” said Robbie, “I’m leaving. I have to go. So, goodbye. I’ll come back again tomorrow.”
Again, the fairy repeated as best as she could.
“No-why-LEAF-haff-go-so-goo-why-cum-bah-too-worroh.” She practically yelled the word leaf. Robbie guessed she was excited to hear a word she’d already learned, even though she was wrong about that. He knew he couldn’t really explain what was going on to her. Her vocabulary was still way too limited. So, he simply walked out of the glade to the path, and headed back toward home.
The fairy followed him, shouting the words that he had taught her as they went.
“Leaf! Fower! Pond! Tree! Log! Gass!”
Eventually, Robbie made it back to the street, and still she followed. Her recitation of the words she’d been taught had sped up, and taken on a musical quality, like a child’s nursery rhyme.
“Wa-er! Leaf! Log! Gass! Pond! Li-leee! Cat-Tail! Fower! Robbie! Robbie! Robbie!”
They walked past a retired couple out working in their yard. The couple glanced up as Robbie passed, but didn’t seem to notice anything strange. They certainly didn’t see the fairy circling Robbie’s head, nor did they hear her shouting baby versions of about ten different words in a singsong chant.
At last, they reached Robbie’s house. He strode up the walk to the front door, and pulled it open. He’d expected the fairy to dart inside, but she didn’t. Instead, she hovered in place, making no movement to enter.
“So, I guess this is goodbye then? You’re not coming in? I wonder if you’ll stay out here or go back to the glade. I guess we’ll see.” He closed the door behind him, and headed into the kitchen. His stomach growled loudly, as if to spur him to walk faster. He passed the living room on the way, where Brinlee was watching some sort of reality show. Robbie didn’t know for sure, but he thought it was that Kardashian one.
“There you are,” said Brinlee, “I was wondering when you were going to come back. Were you at that pond again?”
“Yeah,” Robbie said. “I forgot to bring a lunch. Is there something to eat?”
“Sure,” she said, grabbing the remote control, and pausing the TV show. “What do you want? A sandwich?”
“That’s fine. A sandwich is good.”
Brinlee slapped some ham, a Kraft single, and a dab of mayonnaise on two pieces of Wonder bread, and put it on a plate for him.“Thanks,” he said, “I’m going to eat on the deck.” He took his sandwich out to the table on the deck, and chewed, waiting for his fairy to see him, and swoop down to show off the words she’d learned a little more, but she never came. With a sigh, Robbie decided she must have flown back to the glade, and he’d have to wait until tomorrow to see her again.