She came upon it at the edge of the lake, hidden by an old willow. She would have missed it, had she not tripped over a large root and somehow landed face up, her head thrust through the hanging branches.
A fairy garden, its heavenly scent somehow confined to this small area, no hint of its aroma escaping into the world beyond, lay before her.
Amalyn scooted further into the clearing before rolling onto her stomach and rising to her feet. The brilliant blues, yellows, pinks, purples, and greens blended together in a harmonious whole of flowers both familiar and strange. Fairies perched among them in a hundred different poses, suspended by what, she knew not.
Engrossed in the beauty surrounding her, she didn’t, at first, notice the old woman or the bench upon which she sat. Seated at the far end of the garden, which, as she now realized, was larger than she had initially believed, the woman moved no more than the fairy figurines, though Amalyn felt keenly that she was watching her. She wore an old, brown coat, though the day was warm, and a yellow kerchief over grey hair, above brown eyes that never blinked.
“Hello,” Amalyn ventured, timidly, for she did not want to alarm the woman. “Is this your garden?”
When no answer was forthcoming, Amalyn took a step back, feeling uncomfortably like she was intruding. She glanced back toward the willow, thinking to leave, but it was no longer there. Instead, a forest stretched out beyond the garden, as far as she could see. Her heart skipped a beat.
“Really, Amalyn,” she chided herself, “You must have got your bearings wrong.” She spun in a slow circle, looking for the willow and the way out. But she saw nothing but forest beyond the garden in any direction. Frightened and confused, she turned back to the old woman. Only she wasn’t old anymore, and she was clearly watching Amalyn with sparkling green eyes, set in a decidedly young, stunningly beautiful face. Her clothing had transformed as well. She now wore an ethereal gown of what appeared to be some kind of pink tulle.
Amalyn took all of this in in a moment before terror loosed her feet, which had been rooted to the ground. She turned and fled. The direction mattered not at all, as she had no idea where she was or where to run. She only knew she needed to be anywhere but here.
She ran until she could run no more, bending over to catch her breath. When she looked up, the woman sat before her on the bench, the garden again surrounding her. Tears pricked her eyes, as she despaired of ever leaving this place.
For the first time, the woman moved. Her lips lifted in a kind smile. “Why have you come to my garden, child?”
Her mouth dry with fear, Amalyn stammered, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to intrude. You see, I fell, and then, when I looked up, I saw it, and it was so beautiful…”
“It is, isn’t it?” The woman’s smile became a grin and she rose from the bench. “I’m Kiriana, queen of the Fae in this part of the world. It takes a special person to see us.”
“Fae?” Amalyn noticed for the first time that the fairies were also moving, darting in and out of the flowers, tending the garden. “Please. I just want to go home.” She had heard tales of Fae kidnapping children. She would be fourteen next month and had thought herself all grown up, but, at that moment, she felt very young indeed.
Kiriana laughed, a tinkling sound that somehow calmed Amalyn’s nerves. “Child, we do not steal children. Those who stay do so because they choose it.”
“And if they don’t choose it?”
“You may return to your own world if that is your desire. But you will not remember us.”
Amalyn looked around at the fairies, happily buzzing among the flowers and laughing together. She remembered why she had been running when she had fallen into this magical world. Another foster home. Another abusive situation. How many times had she run? How many more before she aged out of the system? And then what? She turned back to the fairy queen.
“What if I want to stay with you?”
“You will become a fairy, like those you see before you.”
“Are they happy?”
Kiriana’s tinkling laugh brought the fairies zooming to her side. One by one, each told Amalyn their sad tale and how the Fae queen had saved them from lives of misery in the human world.
Amalyn looked once toward the edge of the garden, where the willow tree once again waited. She heard voices beyond. The police, searching for her. Desperate to escape the revolving door of foster homes, she said, “Yes. I want to stay with you.”
Kiriana reached out a hand, gently taking Amalyn’s hand. “You are one of us now, daughter.”
Amalyn found herself floating in front of the fairy, looking into her green eyes with a lightness of spirit she couldn’t remember ever having experienced before. “Thank you, my Queen,” she said before flitting away to join her sisters among the flowers she would now tend.
This story was inspired by a post from one of the members of my Gratisangha, a group of people joined together on Insight Timer (a meditation app and so much more) by a common desire to express our gratitude for all that life has given us. She had described a magical fairy garden she had visited many times. On this particular day, she had found an elderly woman there who, it turned out, had created the garden. I asked her if I could use her experience as a starting point for a story, and she graciously agreed. Thank you Mel!
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