Haven Sneak Peek: Fairies
That’s what Mama calls our town. Cause there’s nothing to do and it’s where nothing ever happens.
Where I grew up, Mama says, now that was a city. State fairs, drive-in movie theaters (those barely exist anymore; the one we went too closed years ago), roller skating rinks; there was always something exciting to do.
Here, there’s the swimming hole that not very many people know about because it’s on the land we own. There’s the train tracks and Shady Sal. There’s school, if you want to call that exciting. There’s the city park, but it’s only got a swing set and it’s too far away to walk which means we almost never get to go. There’s a Dairy Queen at the square. It’s also too far to walk to.
And there’s the wharf. Living on the river means boats, some little ones and some great big ones with loud horns, come by the town. The village next to wharf – that’s a busy place. There’s the fish market, the bread shop, even a bakery.
The wharf is at the edges of where we’re allowed to walk. We can do it, but we have to stay at the river, we can’t wonder past the wharf. My favorite thing about the wharf are the people.
I like sitting on the dock and watching the people come on and off of the boats. Most of them don’t live in this sleepy town, so I like to make up stories about where they are from and what they are doing here.
Poppy’s favorite thing about the wharf is the boats. She loves watching them glide into the wharf and anchor down; she likes watching them release the sails and glide out of town. She likes the boats themselves, too. Especially the Morning Glory. The Morning Glory comes once a week, every week, always on Wednesdays.
I think she likes it because it’s painted a pastel pink and Poppy likes anything pink. Poppy says she likes it because it’s big enough to have a deck and several workers but not too big. We both like it because of Grey.
Grey is Morning Glory’s owner. She’s actually not grey. She looks like a runner, she’s very tall with brown skin and deep dark eyes. She’s older than Mama, but probably not by much. She always wears her black hair tied back in a ponytail and a white bandana.
Whenever the boat’s here and not busy, she’ll let me and Poppy play on it. One of the boys who works on the boat, his name is Lincoln, he’s teaching me and Poppy how to fish.
It’s the best part of today.
“Why did Grey paint the boat pink?” I ask Lincoln as he hands me a worm and watches me bait the fishing pole.
“She says it’s her favorite color of the sunrise. It’s why it’s called Morning Glory too.”
“I bet that’s pretty to see, the sunrise on the water,” Poppy adds. Lincoln nods, tossing a piece of his auburn hair off his forehead. “Oh yeah. Do you remember how to cast it out?” he asked.
“I think so,” I give it a good try and the line sinks into the water. Lincoln nods, smiling. “Not bad, squirt. Not bad.” Someone calls his name and he tells me he’ll be back later. As he walks away, Poppy smiles at me.
“I’m gonna catch more fish than you.”
“No, you’re not.”
The bad thing about fishing is that it takes forever. I lay my fishing pole down against a nearby pail. Putting my palms on the deck, I let my feet hang off the side of the boat. The boat is too high, and my feet don’t touch the water, but I like swinging them anyway.
“I want to take some of these worms. Song will eat them.” Poppy says, peeking into the can of worms used as bait.
“We have to ask Lincoln.”
“Yeah.” She reaches into her pocket and pulls out a handful of pebbles. I have no idea when she collected them or from where. But then again, Poppy does a lot of things I don’t really understand.
She gives me a few of the pebbles and says, “Watch this.” Without even trying, she tosses one and it literally skips across the water. I don’t know how she does it. I try to do the same thing but can’t, of course.
“We’re never gonna catch a fish,” Poppy says. She puts her arms over the railing of the boat. “I love the water.”
Poppy wants to go exploring. We don’t come to the wharf much because it’s kind of far away. I’m curious, too. I’m surprised when Poppy leaves the boat, though. She’s running ahead towards the trails.
We really aren’t supposed to go on the trails. People say they aren’t really well marked, and you can get lost. Mama’s told us to stay off of them. Poppy must have forgot that, though, because she’s skipping onto the dirt path. She picks up a long stick and starts swinging it in the air.
“I’m a pirate!” she exclaims. I laugh. I think she’s funny. We swerve off the dirt path into the woods when we see a huge log stretched out over the water.
“Look at that!” I say.
Poppy’s right behind me. We race each other through the fallen limbs and piles of leaves into the muddy area. The log stretches out into the water. One side is along the ground where we are, the other end is propped up against the outstretched branch of another tree, farther along the path.
“Watch this, Haven,” Poppy says and climbs up onto the log. I don’t think this is a good idea. The log is thick, but the water is probably deep.
“I don’t know…” I trail, but Poppy doesn’t listen, same as usual. Instead, she walks out on the log, arms outstretched, putting one foot in front of the other.
With the changing leaves around us and the water in front of us, the sunlight streaming through the trees makes it real pretty. She looks like a picture. I won’t admit it, but part of me wants to try walking out on the log, too. The other part of me is scared.
“I dare you,” Poppy says, jumping back off the log next to me on the ground.
I sigh. “I don’t want to fall.”
“You won’t fall, it’s real easy. Double dare you.”
So, I put both my hands on the rough bark of the log and climb up. It looks like it stretches out forever. I wobble more than Poppy did, but I hold my arms out to the sides, like I know what I’m doing, and focus on putting one foot in front of the other. I go slower than Poppy, but I get about halfway across the log before I decide to turn around. The jitterbugs in my belly have had enough.
It isn’t until I’m back on the ground that I start laughing. Poppy laughs, too, and gives me a high five. “I knew you could do it!”
Poppy scavenges the area for big acorns or other treasures. I find a couple of rocks that are really neat. One looks like it has a heart carved into it. When we hear one of the boat’s horns, we look at each other and realize it’s getting a little late.
“Worms! I need worms!” Poppy cries. She’s afraid the Morning Glory will leave before she can get a cup of worms for Song.
We run the whole way back off the trail to the boat. It’s still there and I don’t like running. I am out of breath when we barge back on board. The fishing poles are still propped where we left them.
“There you are,” Lincoln says, coming out from around the corner. “We thought y’all had headed back home already.”
“Nope, not yet.” I plop down on deck and lay on my back. “I still don’t have a fish.”
Poppy kicks me with her foot in my ankle. I sit up. “Lincoln, can I have a few worms in a cup? We have this pet bird.”
“Sure. Let me get you a Dixie cup.”
When I look at Poppy, she is grinning from ear to ear.
***** ***** *****
Haven.” He isn’t screaming, but Daddy’s voice is very firm. It makes my heartbeat skyrocket. I jump up from the bed as though someone has pushed me and open the door.
“I’m not asking again Haven. Come here.”
My legs feel like jelly as I walk down the hall to the living room where I hear his voice. He is pulling his brown leather belt off as I walk into the room. He tells me to lean over the arm of the chair.
Even though my whole body is shaking, I do what he tells me to. I can feel the arm of the chair pushing into my stomach and I squeeze my eyes closed, waiting. The first strike jerks my whole body and I cry out. He is talking but I don’t hear what he’s saying, only feel the burning of my backside and the backs of my legs.
A flash of metal and leather fly past me and I hear the belt land on the floor. I feel my body being picked up, feel the world moving, but all I can think about is the stinging.
Daddy is murmuring about how much he loves me, how nothing can happen to me. “You’re mine, Haven,” he says, and his hands squeeze my blistered legs. When he puts me on the couch and pulls my gown off of me, my teeth start chattering.
Panic rises in my chest, makes me want to lash out. I’m going to scream and that will make him mad.
Ash…I think his name, looking for him. He will come, I know he will. I feel hot breath tickle my belly and squirm, trying to scoot away from it. Hands hold me down. I start sobbing, hiccuping through my tears, using my tiny hands to push at Daddy’s head and shoulders. No matter how hard I try, nothing moves away.
From the corner of my eye, I see something and turn my head.
“Look!” He says, holding up a mason jar. “You know what this is?”
I can’t answer him, but the panic in my chest is melting. I can pull in a breath.
“A whistling elephant gave it to me yesterday. It’s got magic fairies in it. Can you see?”
I shake my head, whispering, “No.”.
The long thing pushes into my mouth. I gag and he grips my hair, pulls it back and forth. Fresh tears sting my eyes, I can’t see Ash, the panic comes back. Roaring rips through my head, I feel shaken. Suddenly, my head falls back to the couch.
“Keep watching it,” Ash says, tossing blonde hair off his face. He’s walking to the open window. “The fairies—there! Did you see?”
A soft yellow light flickered in the jar, then went off. I see it! My real voice is gone, stolen by tears. Ash hears me, though. He smiles really big and says, “Fairies! And these are special fairies, they can make your wishes come true. You just have to make a wish right when they light up. Then you have to let them go, so they can bring your wishes back to you.”
Is this real?
“All I know—oh look, there’s one! All I know is that, one-time, last year, we didn’t have any food.”
The sticking part makes me scream, rips my eyes back to Daddy. Roaring in my head makes it hard to hear anything, makes it hard to see, or think. I feel like one of the skinny sticks me and Poppy found at the train tracks, the ones that were too small to use for our fort because they would break too easily. It feels like I’m breaking now.
“Haven, look! Do you see it? There’s three fairies!” Ash pulls my focus back to the mason jar. When I see Ash, I don’t feel anything, don’t see anything, don’t know what Daddy’s doing.
I don’t see fairies, they look like bugs to me.
Ash rolls his blue eyes and says I’m not seeing, then, I’m only looking.
Are they really fairies?
“Last year, we didn’t have any food. And we hadn’t had any for a real long time. I was starting to think we all might die, all I could think about was food. I dreamed of spaghetti and pizza and juicy hamburgers. But those weren’t real, only in my dreams. During the day, I’d raid garbage cans for the food people threw away.
Then, I found a fairy. She landed on my hand. I asked her to get us some food and I made the wish right as she lit up. She flew off, then, and I went back to being hungry. But, a few days later, my mama got a job at a Waffle House and we haven’t been hungry since.”
I’m glad you’re not hungry.
“The fairies take your wishes to the Wishing Tree, tie it to a branch and it waits there until it’s the right time for the Wishing Tree to grant it. Then the fairies bring it to you.”
I don’t think the Wishing Tree would grant a wish from me.
I feel the earth shaking, hear the groaning. No one would want anything to do with me.
“If you don’t try, you won’t know.” Ash says. He pulls the lid of the jar open and holds the jar up to the window.
“As soon as one lights up, make a wish,” he says. My eyes glue to the jar. Just when I think the fairies aren’t going to light up or fly away, two of them light at the same time. I make a wish, the only one that ever matters, and watch the tiny lightning fairy soar out of the window.
The earth is not shaking.
I don’t remember him leaving the room but he’s not here. I look again for Ash, but I don’t see him, either.
Walking hurts. My legs feel stiff. But I can’t leave Poppy at the swimming hole. I told her I’d come get her, so that’s what I have to do. Tears soak my face the entire walk. But I notice that I am also looking for fairies.
***** ***** *****
It hurt more than I thought it would.
I think part of me always knew that that was The Plan. For only one of us to go. I think it’s why I was never really excited about it, why it took me so long to gather up the food. Why I kept putting off the date for it to happen. Part of me always knew that The Plan was always about getting you out, getting you to safety. Not me. Even if there were room beneath the swim ladder for both of us… I couldn’t get past the questions. What if he found us? If he found us, both of us would get in trouble.
I couldn’t let that happen.
Maybe you were younger than me but, the truth is, you were the person I wanted to be. When you did cartwheels across the grass, I wished I had that much coordination. When you had friends come over to play with you, I cried. Not because I was jealous, but because I was happy that you had friends. We were so close, two bodies with one mind, and yet we were so different, too. You lived in a world I’d never know.
Even if I got away.
Cause, the thing is, getting away wouldn’t erase the nightmares I woke up with every night. It wouldn’t make the ants stop crawling in my skin. Getting away wouldn’t make me you. But staying might make you me. All it would take was one time. Just one time feeling yourself unable to move, whether you were sitting on his lap or he was on top of you, would be enough to make you change.
I didn’t know how you’d change, only that you would. And I couldn’t stand that thought. You were perfect the way you were. Brave, fearless and perfect. You fought for hope even when you knew better. You laughed and made up silly games even when I didn’t feel like playing.
Sometimes I’d watch you, watch you sleeping. You could sleep through anything. You did sleep through everything. I’d watch you and wonder how someone could sleep so deeply. Were your dreams that good? What did you dream about? When you did wake up, how were you happy, wearing the same things to school and coming home to a quiet house that didn’t have electricity?
You were magical.
You spent all your energy trying to save birds. “Birds sing and birds fly. They don’t hurt anything – except worms – and they don’t give up. When they fall down cause they don’t know how to fly, they keep on trying.” Sometimes you’d stare at Miracle and whistle. Miracle would whistle back at you. Back and forth the two of you would go, whistling at each other. “What are they talking about?” I was convinced that you were talking, and that you had a special gift of understanding what she was saying.
I didn’t have any special gift.
Except for telling stories. Sometimes, when there was loud fighting or when there was a violent storm outside our window, you couldn’t fall asleep.
“Tell me a story,” you’d ask.
I told you the story of Rapunzel a million times, but you liked the story of Ariel the best. But you didn’t ask for a princess story mostly. The story you asked for mostly was about the blind man and the rainbow.
It was a story Ash told me, the little boy I sometimes see when Daddy is hurting me. He told me the story and, one night, I don’t know why, I told it to you instead of a princess story. You loved it.
“Tell me the story of the blind man,” you’d say.
“Once upon a time, there was a man who was color blind. He could see shades of white and black, and sometimes he could see grey, but he couldn’t see color. He heard people talking about how sharp red was, but he didn’t know how it could make an apple look like a picture. He’d heard people talking about the softness of pink, but he couldn’t understand how a color could be soft because he’d never seen a pink rose. He didn’t know how the color yellow could make people happy – he only knew that people said it did.”
I was the colorblind man.
You were the one telling me how bright the world was, how fun it could be. You were the one telling me to take risks, like saving Miracle even after we lost Song. It felt like I was watching a movie sometimes, watching you live every day. When you laughed, your eyes crinkled, and I could tell that you were really happy. When I laughed… did I ever laugh? If I did, it was quietly, because I was afraid of being too loud.
You were never afraid of being too loud.
“One day, the man heard a story about how rainbows are magic. A pot of gold sits at the end of the rainbow, just waiting for anyone who can find it. Most people don’t know this, but the pot of gold isn’t the only magical thing about rainbows. Rainbows are made up of all the colors in the world. They are powerful, so powerful they arch across the sky, high enough that everyone can see them after a violent storm. The colors of a rainbow… they’re alive. If you can get to the bow and step onto the arch, the colors will seep inside of you. You’ll see things you’ve never seen before.
The man was very excited. All he had to do was find a rainbow. He listened to the radio, waited for the perfect spot. Soon, he found it. There was going to be a huge storm not too far from where he was. He packed all of his belongings into a small suitcase, hurried across the land. All he could see were shades of grey, black and white. The flowers were black. The grass was grey. The sky was a dark white. Before long, he reached the town where the storm was to happen the next night. He got a motel room and waited.
When the rain started coming down, the man grew very excited. When the thunder crashed and the lightning tore through the town, he laughed. He opened the motel door and stood outside, waving his arms like a maniac. It stormed all night.
The next morning, when the rain stopped, he could see an arch across the sky. It was shaded in white and grey, but it was an arch. He knew that that was the rainbow. So, he set off. He walked for a very long time. The journey was very hard. Sometimes he fell, stumbling over rocks and uneven spaces on the ground. Sometimes he grew very tired and had to sit down. Other times, he almost quit because he didn’t think he was getting any closer to the rainbow than he had been when he started out.
But he wanted to see color.
He wanted to be alive, to be like everyone else.
So, he kept going. When he got tired, he kept going. When he got hungry, he kept going. When he stumbled and fell, he kept going. Soon, he could see it right ahead of him! It still looked grey and white… and he didn’t see a pot of gold. He figured he must be on the wrong side of the arch for that. But he took a deep breath…”
Here, you’d always gasp, like you were expecting something awful to happen, even though you’d heard the story a hundred times and knew the ending. Your eyes would be wide as saucers. You gave me the joy I needed to keep telling the story.
“… and he stepped very cautiously onto the arch. At first, he didn’t feel anything. Until… suddenly… a giant bolt of burning pain shot through his feet, up his legs and through his arms. He screamed, the pain was really awful. He felt himself swirling around, caught in what felt like a tornado. He could see clouds of grey and black and white swirling all around him, making him dizzy. Just when he didn’t think he could take the pain anymore, he noticed that the swirling was slowing down. Just as quickly as it started, it was over. He found himself lying on the ground, thrown off the rainbow.
When he sat up and opened his eyes, the first thing he noticed was the grass. It was…vibrant! It was green. He started laughing and then crying as he looked all around him. The sky – that’s what blue looked like! The bird that just flew in front of him — that was red!”
You usually interrupted here, and the end of the story changed every time I told it. Sometimes, the man ran home and told his family and friends; they celebrated with ice cream (strawberry). Sometimes, he raced back onto the arch – it wasn’t painful anymore because the colors had seeped into his skin already – ran across to the other side and found the pot of gold waiting for him. Sometimes, the story ended with him sitting in the grass, laughing and crying happy tears because he could see, because he felt normal.
I was the colorblind man.
But you were the man who could see.
There isn’t really a magical rainbow. Running away wouldn’t really help me any because I was already colorblind, I was already broken. Running away could keep you free, though, it could help you find all the magical rainbows. And I knew you would find them. Because you’re special. You’ve got what it takes. You could find the rainbows and you could be something. All I could be was your shadow.
I didn’t tell you at first, that day when I realized for sure that you were the only one who would make the trip on the Morning Glory. I didn’t tell you because I was afraid you’d talk me out of it.
I was the older sister, I knew best.
At least I thought I did.
I just didn’t know how much it was going to hurt.
Sometimes people say words like, “I love you” but they don’t ever have to find out whether they do or not. They think they love the other person, but they never have to find out for sure. And then there are the people like me and you. Me and you, we didn’t say those words much at all. You were never one for big shows of affection. When it came time to put one of us on the boat, though, there was never any question for me who that one would be.
I was scared for you.
The colorblind man stumbled, almost quit and then, when he thought he’d reached his destination, there was a lot of pain for him in the swirling vortex of the colors. I didn’t know what you’d face by yourself. And you were so little. There were lots of bad things that could happen to you. I was scared because I wouldn’t be there to make them better, you’d have to do that on your own.
The truth, though…
The truth is that you never really needed me. And you wouldn’t need me now. You were smart, much smarter than me, and I knew you’d be able to figure pretty much anything out on your own. The colorblind man didn’t give up or collapse or any of those terrible things. He kept going and he found what he wanted.
I knew you didn’t really know what you wanted. I only knew what you didn’t want, and that was enough to make me send you away. I thought maybe you’d grow up to be a dancer (you always liked to dance) or maybe you’d be a doctor (you were very good with broken wings). Maybe you’d grow up to be a teacher (you’d taught me more than I even knew) or maybe you’d grow up to tell your own stories, happy ones (I’d always be watching for them). Maybe you’d end up like Grey with a boat of your own, sailing across the oceans.Whatever you ended up being, you wouldn’t be scared, like me (I’m the one who had to sleep with the flashlight on). Whatever you ended up being, you wouldn’t be shy because you’d know you’d stowed away like a pirate in a book, you’d conquered the seas so you could conquer anything (whereas I… I couldn’t even put my shoes on the right feet half the time). Whatever you ended up being, you wouldn’t walk around with your hands clenched into fists, waiting for the next bad thing to happen. Whatever you ended up doing, you wouldn’t feel guilty for breathing. Whatever you ended up doing, you’d be free.