Chapter 1: Tigris and Rose
“You take that back, Brett!” Rose shrieked.
Three children stood facing off across the street from each other on their way home from school.
“Take what back? That you’re dumb enough to believe in fairies?” Brett laughed in response.
Rose stood with fists clenched at her sides, her blue eyes blazing. Her friend stood a step behind her, casting nervous and quick glances between Rose and Brett, causing her long, brunette hair to swish back and forth like a mop. A small, floppy-eared dog at Brett’s side barked in agitation. Both Brett and his dog looked scrappy in appearance. Brett’s cargo pants were covered in dirt and his hair stuck out at odd angles. His mangy companion had patchy fur and drooled as his tongue lolled out to one side of his mouth.
“I heard you going on and on about fairies at lunch. What are you, six?”
Brett scrunched up his face in a mocking expression, and Rose took a threatening step forward.
“Fairies are real!” The brunette blurted out, upset that Brett had been eavesdropping on their secret conversations.
“Fairies are only real in your stupid brain, Tigris!” He goaded them.
Rose dropped the bag she’d been carrying to the ground, no longer able to control her temper and ready for a fight, as Tigris stood stiffy with a beet red face. Brett burst out laughing, and Tigris felt tears fill her eyes.
“No wonder everyone in our class thinks you’re both whack jobs.” Brett crowed.
“SHUT UP!” Rose screamed, and hurtled forward.
“Rose, wait! Look both ways!” Tigris watched in horror as her friend raced across the street without checking for cars first.
“RAGHHHHHHHHH!” Rose descended upon Brett with flailing fists.
Brett swung at her as she came into range, but Rose was faster and knocked his hand away before delivering a swift punch to his gut.
“OOF!” Brett doubled over, shielding his head with his hands. “Ow, quit it, you crazy girl!” He wheezed.
His dog, Patches, jumped up and down in excitement and barked loudly, but was otherwise of no help to his master.
“You don’t even have any friends!” Rose pounded on his back in anger. “No one even likes you!” She continued to pelt him mercilessly.
“Ah! Ow! Oh yeah? Well you- Oof! You- I’m going home!” Brett jerked away from Rose’s angry fists, and hid his tears as he made a hasty retreat.
Without another word, he ran back to his house with Patches following behind him.
Tigris had nervously kept her distance during the fight, but now ran up and gave her friend’s shoulder an urgent shake. “Rose, you shouldn’t hit people! Violence isn’t the answer because then we get in trouble!”
“It’s fine. He never tells on me, and I don’t tell on him.” Rose shrugged. “It’s like an unspoken rule.” She smiled, completely unconcerned that she would get punished for fighting again.
“Well…still, we should avoid fighting.” Tigris’ voice trailed off. “And you should try to use your words first.” She added as she handed over Rose’s book bag, which she had picked up for her friend.
“I did! I told him to take it back!” Rose protested loudly.
Tigris frowned, but didn’t say anything.
“Anyway, don’t worry about Brett. Let’s go.” Rose insisted, and they continued walking down the sidewalk.
A warm breeze wafted through the old growth trees lining the clean and even pavement. The tall elms cast cool shadows and yielded the soothing sound of rustling leaves.
Rose stood slightly taller, and swung her backpack in a large, gentle arc as she walked. Her long blonde ponytail bounced from side to side as she kicked any small stones and pebbles that happened to be in her way. Tigris followed along beside her, while constantly rubbing at her eyes, trying to hide the fact that she’d been crying. She would often have to jog a few steps in order to keep up with her companion.
After a lengthy silence, Tigris remembered something she had wanted to bring up all day. Taking an excited breath, she turned to Rose and announced,
“So I found a fairy ring in my backyard a few days ago!”
“What’s that? Rose gave her friend a curious look.
“Fairy rings are when mushrooms grow in a circle on the lawn. The rings mean that fairies dance there at night, which means they might come back. I want to see them!” Her green eyes shone as she imagined seeing the elegant creatures dancing in the moonlight.
Rose stopped suddenly and turned to face Tigris, her eyes wide.
“Maybe if we stay up late, we can see them and make friends with them!” She was hopping up and down with excitement.
“Duh. That was my plan.” Tigris rolled her eyes.
“Don’t sass me!” Rose repeated a phrase she often heard from her mother.
“Fine. But you can’t come to my house for a sleepover, then.” Tigris continued on ahead of her friend with her chin thrust up in the air huffily.
“Hey, what?” Rose ran to catch up. “I want to come to a sleepover!”
“Well, then maybe you should be nicer to me.” Tigris remained aloof.
“How’s this?” Rose got behind her, gave her an enormous bear hug and twirled her around in circles. “Friendship bear hug!”
“I don’t like this at all! Put me down and I’ll let you come over!” Tigris yelled.
“Heh heh.” Rose smirked, and let Tigris down. “Well, I’ll go home and ask my Mom if I can sleep over.” Rose ran the last few paces of the street to the front of her house.
Rose’s home was a plain grey house with a neat lawn decorated with a few chipped lawn gnomes and a plaster fawn. Rose barely missed hitting it with her bag as she ran up the walk to the front steps. She paused at the door to wave goodbye to her friend. Tigris, who lived next door to Rose, called out to her as she climbed the steps to her front porch,
“See you around five, Rose!”
Living so close, they often had sleepovers on the weekend, and Tigris was confident that their parents would have no objections to Rose staying over that evening. Rose nodded with a grin before disappearing inside her own house.
Tigris ran to the door and opened it wide to behold Rose with all of her overnight gear carted under both arms. Rose refused to make more than one trip between their homes, and Tigris was always amazed at how much stuff Rose could carry without dropping anything.
“You can’t bring that in here!” Tigris suddenly noticed the large stick that Rose was holding against her pillow and sleeping bag. “Mom says she doesn’t want it in the house anymore because you break stuff when you play with it.”
“I said I was sorry.” Rose muttered, but then deposited her pillow and sleeping bag in the front entryway before going around the side of the house to put her stick against the fence in the backyard.
“I hope you’re hungry!” Tigris’ mom said cheerily as Rose hurried back inside, announcing her presence with quick, thunderous footsteps. “Because I made borscht, cabbage rolls, and pyrogies.”
Tigris’ mom was tall and had long, brown hair just like her daughter, and large, beautiful brown eyes. She gave Rose a wide smile before pulling out a chair for her to sit down.
“Yayyy! Pyrogies!” Rose cheered, ignoring the other foods because she automatically hated anything that contained vegetables.
Tigris’ dad snorted in amusement, but then quickly went back to attempting to spoon feed Tigris’ baby sister, Desna, when Tigris’ mother put her hands on her hips.
“Rose, your mother gave me specific instructions to make sure you eat your vegetables. No pyrogies until you eat this bowl of borscht!” She said firmly.
“Aw, man!” Rose’s dismayed shoulders slumped and she dejectedly eyed the bowl of red beet soup.
Rose watched Tigris’ family eat in silence for several moments before dramatically plugging her nose and spooning the borscht into her mouth. Tigris’ family was used to her antics and took no offense, largely just ignoring her. Tigris’ dad made airplane noises as he tried to convince his infant daughter to eat pureed carrots and apples with a small plastic spoon. Tigris and her mom discussed their upcoming summer vacation plans as they ate. Rose decided to change her tactics, and drank the borscht as fast as she could so she would taste as little of it as possible. Taking a deep breath, she used both of her hands to tip the bowl up, gulping down the vegetable-ridden soup.
“There!” She gasped, catching her breath, “I finished it! Now I would like some pyrogies, please!” She purposefully set the empty bowl off to her side.
“You can help yourself, Rosie.” Tigris’ Dad passed her a plate heaped full with the little potato and cheese dumplings.
Rose wiped her mouth on the back of her sleeve, and then started piling her plate high with pyrogies, topping them with a healthy dollop of sour cream.
“WAHHHH! WAHHHH! WAHHHH! WAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!”
Desna suddenly started to cry from her high chair. The child was a little over one year old, and couldn’t really talk yet. Tigris hoped that her little sister would learn to speak soon so that she wouldn’t have to cry all the time.
“Oh, what’s wrong, Desna?” Tigris’ mother stood up and then took the baby to another room for a diaper change.
By the time she returned, the pyrogies were already all gone. She laughed quietly to herself and returned Desna to the high chair, and Tigris’ Dad continued trying to feed her the lumpy, orange baby food which she seemed to mostly be spitting back out.
“So what did you girls do at school today?” Tigris’ mom asked.
“We learned about tadpoles today,” Tigris smiled.
Rose piped up and interrupted, “And I beat Brett in a race in gym class! And we got our essays back, and Mr. Bradford said that mine was the most imaginative one he’d ever read!”
“Oh, that’s wonderful. What did you write about?” Tigris’ Mother asked.
“I wrote about how the Queen is the prettiest person on all the money!” Rose exclaimed.
“Our essay was supposed to be about the Prime Ministers of Canada.” Tigris muttered.
“My report got amazing out of awesome percent.” Rose insisted.
“But you didn’t read the book!” Tigris felt annoyed, knowing that Rose was telling tales.
“I set up the tent in the backyard for you girls.” Tigris’ Dad interrupted, as he began to clear the table.
They hastily thanked Tigris’ parents for supper and then raced outside.
Tigris’ family had a large backyard with an immaculate garden kept by her father, who loved flowers. A cobblestone path from their back door led to a circular fire pit covered by a sooty metal grate. Three stone benches had been set in a semi-circle around the pit. A little ways away from the fire pit, a small orange tent was ready and waiting for them.
“I can’t believe Brett ran away again. He should just leave us alone if he’s going to be such a wuss.” Rose smirked and put her sleeping bag in the tent.
“Heh…yeah.” Tigris giggled and threw her stuff into the tent, too.
The two wandered over to the brick patio and started to place little pieces of wood in the fire pit so they could roast marshmallows. Tigris’ dad came out to light the fire for them, and once the tiny flame had grown to a cheery blaze, the two began skewering marshmallows onto roasting sticks.
“So when do the fairies come out?” Rose asked once they were settled, the light of the flames casting dancing shadows on their faces.
“I don’t know. I’ve been listening at night, but I haven’t heard anything yet.” Tigris admitted.
“Oh.” Rose seemed a little disappointed.
“We’ll probably hear them now that we’re outside.” Tigris reassured her friend. “We’ll see them for sure, no matter what stupid Brett thinks.”
Rose sat bolt upright at the mention of Brett.
“Brett is such a jerk! I wish he didn’t live on our street. How could he say those things about fairies?” She kicked her feet against the stone bench.
“Maybe because he’s only got Patches as a friend.” Tigris suggested. “Patches doesn’t seem very open-minded.”
Rose looked down and scuffed her feet in the dirt.
“That’s no excuse.” She mumbled.
“Ah, Rose! Your marshmallow!”
Rose looked up and saw that her marshmallow was on fire.
“Awesome!” She smiled, as this was what she was waiting for.
“Be careful!” Tigris flinched, moving out of the way.
“YEAH! I am the fire master!” Rose waved her stick rapidly in quick arcs until the fire went out, leaving a crispy black marshmallow. “Its charred outside protects a gooey white trove of deliciousness!”
She ate it in a single bite, leaving a huge mess on her face.
“I like mine golden brown.” Tigris gave her friend a pointed look, nibbling at her marshmallow.
“That takes too long. This way’s faster and you can eat more marshmallows.” Rose stabbed another one with her stick. “Anyway, you’re always reading those books about fairies; what do we do to make them come out?”
“I don’t know.” Tigris looked sheepish.
Tigris loved to read about fairies, and she’d always wanted to see one in real life, but no matter what she and Rose had tried, they hadn’t been able to track them down. They’d snuck out late at night with butterfly nets into the ravine behind their homes, only to return empty-handed and to a lengthy grounding. Another time they had bought some glitter labeled “fairy dust” at a local crafts fair and sprinkled it all over Rose’s front porch, hoping to lure out the tiny creatures with shiny wonders. All that happened was Rose’s mother yelled at them for five minutes and they accidentally tracked the annoying glitter all over the house. Although Rose was starting to become frustrated, Tigris never lost faith that someday they would find the fairies.
“Well, what would make me come out is presents! If someone gave me presents all the time, they’d be my best friend.” Rose chirped.
“What?” Tigris looked a little hurt.
“After you.” Rose gave Tigris an apologetic glance. “My best friend after you.”
“Oh, okay.” Tigris relaxed, finishing her marshmallow and reaching into the bag for another one.
“What do fairies like?” Rose asked.
Tigris thought for a moment as she impaled her marshmallow and held it over the crackling flames.
“Well, I remember reading a story where people left dishes of milk out for fairies as presents.” She said at length.
“Great! That’s easy. And we probably won’t get grounded for doing it.” Rose laughed, causing Tigris to smile with enthusiasm.
“Alright, I’ll go get some milk from the house.” Tigris slid from her stone seat, propping her roasting stick against the side of the fire pit, and disappeared back into her house.
Rose sat in silence for a few moments, trying to remember what she knew about fairies. It wasn’t very much, and she quickly grew bored. After eating her own marshmallow and then Tigris’ when it caught on fire, Rose lost patience and picked up the large stick she had brought from its resting place against the fence, giving it a couple of swings. She had wound some cloth around one end so she wouldn’t get splinters when she held it anymore.
The long, knotted stick had been stripped of bark from frequent use and was not very impressive-looking to the untrained eye. Rose had first picked up the stick in the park and had used it to fight off some bullies who had been picking on her. Even though her mother had yelled at her afterward and demanded that she throw it out, she had kept it hidden in the bushes of her backyard because she knew it was her destined weapon: Excalibur. Rose didn’t like to read, but she had learned about King Arthur from Tigris.
“The balance is perfect, mighty Excalibur.” Rose began to pantomime a battle against evil knights.
“Pow pow pow!” She yelled, swinging her stick around wildly. “Get away from my Guinevere, Sir Lancelot! This is my castle and you can’t have it!” With a mighty swing, she grunted as she pretended to cut off the head of the offending knight. “The day is won!” She cheered.
“What are you doing?” Tigris asked as she walked back into the yard. “Guinevere is a lady, not a castle.”
“Why would I fight for a lady? She can do it herself. The castle can’t fight - I must protect it.” She held her hand against her chest in a resolute fist.
Tigris sighed, really not sure how to reply.
“Well, I brought the milk.” She said at length.
“Good! Where should we put it?”
“In the middle of the fairy ring. My Dad said that would be the best place.” Tigris explained. “And he’s a professor, so he would know best.”
Rose nodded in agreement. Tigris carefully put the bowl of milk in the middle of the circle of small brown mushrooms, and then took a few steps back.
“Now what?” Rose was bouncing up and down.
“We have to wait for them to come and get it, but I think fairies are shy. So we should hide in the tent and pretend we’re sleeping!” Tigris whispered, hoping that the fairies couldn’t hear them from wherever they were hiding.
“Okay!” Rose raced into the tent, changed into her pyjamas, and snuggled into her sleeping bag.
“Wait for me!” Tigris struggled to keep up, cramming her feet into the bottom of her cold sleeping bag a minute or so later.
“BOY, I SURE AM SLEEPY!” Rose said loudly enough for the fairies to hear. “I’M GOING TO GO TO SLEEP NOW.”
“ME TOO!” Tigris quickly peeked outside, because she had heard a sound.
Her father had come out from the house in his rubber boots to put out the fire that they had carelessly left burning.
“I’M SURE GLAD THAT THOSE TWO LITTLE GIRLS ARE SLEEPING INSTEAD OF BEING NOISY AND ARE PUTTING OUT THEIR FIRE LIKE RESPONSIBLE PEOPLE.” Tigris’ dad played along, his deep, rumbling voice gently teasing them.
“WE CAN”T HEEEEAR YOU! WE’RE ASLEEP.” Tigris yelled back.
“OH, OKAY. WELL, I’M GOING TO GO BACK INSIDE NOW. GOODNIGHT.” They heard his boots clomping along the cobblestone path toward the house.
“GOODNIGHT!” The two girls chorused, and then lay as still as statues so the fairies would be tricked.
An hour later, both of them were sound asleep.
Tigris slowly started to wake up because she could hear a strange noise. At first, she thought it was Rose, who was breathing softly with her mouth open. She had moved in her sleep and was sprawled out all over her sleeping bag, almost taking up half of the tent. But then Tigris heard the sound that had woken her up. It was a fast lapping sound. Someone was drinking the milk!
Too excited to wake up Rose, Tigris quickly and quietly unzipped the tent door partway, peered into the darkness, and saw…
A black cat was sitting next to the bowl of milk, hungrily lapping it all up.
“Hey! That’s not for you!” Tigris’ indignant cry popped out of her mouth and broke the still quiet of the night.
The cat looked up in alarm, and then, with a careful eye on Tigris, went back to drinking.
“Rose, Rose, wake up!” Tigris fell back from the doorway and shook her friend. “A cat’s drinking the fairy’s milk!”
“Wha?” Rose sat up, still a little sleepy. “What’s happening?”
“Look!” Tigris pointed and Rose’s eyes went wide.
“WHAT?” Rose scrambled to her feet and tripped out the tent door. She grabbed her stick, which she had left just outside in case of an emergency.
“THAT’S NOT FOR YOU!” She chased after the cat, whose yellow eyes widened in terror, and bolted.
“Ah, it scared away the fairies.” Tigris was examining the area around the bowl. “And it stole all the milk.” She held up the empty dish.
“What if it comes back? How can we give the fairies their present if the cat keeps on drinking it?” Rose was stumped, and sat on the ground in frustration with Excalibur resting against her shoulder.
Tigris stared off after the cat, an annoyed look in her eyes. It was much too fast to catch on foot, and they were too noisy to catch it by surprise. Her face suddenly lit up.
“We’ll trap it!”
Tigris and Rose woke up early in
the morning to the sound of robins chirping merrily in the birdbath. After
sleeping through the night on the ground, both girls felt a slight chill and
stiffness in their bodies. Rose rolled over in her sleeping bag, curling up
into a ball and hoping that the cold would just go away. Tigris forced herself
to sit up, convinced that once she got moving she would feel a lot warmer. She
tapped Rose’s shoulder gently.
“Are you awake?”
“Yep.” Even though she was lying still, Rose was already wide-awake, her mind abuzz with schemes to trap the cat.
“Oh. Well, it looks pretty early.” Tigris noted that the colours of dawn were still lingering in the sky and the house seemed quiet as she peeked through the tent door.
“I’m hungry.” Rose complained, turning to face Tigris as her stomach rumbled.
“Well, I guess if we’re quiet we can go eat some cereal in the kitchen.” Tigris suggested.
“I want Coco Puffs!” Rose sat bolt upright.
“We don’t have Coco Puffs, but we do have Organic Bran Plus De-lite.” Tigris offered.
“That doesn’t sound like marshmallows.” Rose narrowed her eyes suspiciously.
“We can cut up some strawberries and put them in! They’re nature’s candy.” Tigris smiled.
“Gross. I can’t believe you said that.” Rose wrinkled her nose.
The girls dressed quickly and then dashed across the yard, their bare feet getting wet in the dewy grass. They quietly opened the porch door and tiptoed into the kitchen.
They tried to eat their cereal quietly, but this seemed to be a difficult feat for Rose. She was joyfully kicking her feet against the counter while her eager spoon clinked noisily against the bottom of her bowl. Tigris continually shot her pointed glances, which she failed to notice.
“How come you put your cereal in yogurt instead of milk?” Rose asked while her mouth was still full, spraying milk and cereal bits across the pristine countertop.
“I don’t like milk.” Tigris said defensively and pulled her bowl closer.
Rose eyed Tigris’ bowl with a strange look. Her friend had scooped several spoonfuls of yogurt into it and then mixed in bran cereal. Tigris claimed to eat it every morning.
“That’s weird. You know yogurt’s just rotten milk, right?”
“No, it’s not. There’s more to it than that. It involves complex bacterial cultures.” Tigris glared at her.
“Nu-uh. It involves rottenness and lots of sugar to make it taste better.” Rose continued eating loudly as she spoke.
“No! I read a book about making yogurt and that’s not what happens!” Tigris’ face started to turn red with frustration.
“You read a book about yogurt?” Rose couldn’t believe her ears. “Why would you do that?”
“Because! Shut up!” Tigris was starting to get upset at Rose’s teasing, and her voice was growing steadily louder. “I just like yogurt and wanted to know where it came from, okay?”
“That’s fine, but it’s just rotten milk.”
Tigris slammed her spoon down on the table. “Alright, fine. If you think it’s just rotten milk, then I’m gonna leave this carton of milk hidden in the back yard for five days.” Tigris lifted up the carton of milk in question and held it in front of Rose’s face, “Then you’ll drink it and tell me how much it tastes like yogurt!”
“You bet I will. I never back down from a challenge.” Rose crowed. “But remember, I said rotten milk and sugar.” She was certain that anything containing enough sugar would taste good.
“What’s going on?” Came the sleepy voice of Tigris’ mother. “Why are you girls yelling so much?”
“Oh no!” Tigris instantly felt horrible. “Did we wake you up?”
Tigris searched her mother’s face, looking for any signs that she was upset.
Tigris’ mother smiled. “It’s okay. I had to be up for my work conference, anyway.”
“Oh…Sorry, Mom.” Tigris looked downcast, and shot a guilty glance at the carton of milk that she held in her hand. Worried that her mother had overheard their plans to waste food, she hastily put the milk carton back in the fridge.
Rose just shrugged.
“Mrs. Zelenko! How would you trap a mean, thieving cat?”
“Oh,” Tigris’ Mom put down her scientific journal and started the coffee maker. “Did you girls run into a cat the other night?”
“Yes! And it was stealing our milk that we left for the fairies!” Rose huffed.
“Ah, I see. Well, you should know that that’s a part of nature. Animals need to scavenge and get food wherever they can to survive, so their idea of stealing is different than ours. You should leave it alone. It’s probably the neighbour’s cat, anyway.” She poured herself some coffee.
“Oh, okay.” Tigris nodded, giving Rose a sharp look. Not sure what it meant, Rose decided to remain silent.
“Alright, well you girls play nice and I’ll see you when I get home this afternoon.” Tigris’ Mom started putting on her shoes, taking her travel mug of coffee with her.
“Bye, Mrs. Zelenko!”
“See you later!” Tigris’ Mom walked through the door and shut it quietly behind her.
Once the deadbolt turned, Tigris turned to Rose.
“Mom always says no, but Dad usually says yes. Let’s go ask him!”
“But what about being quiet?” Rose asked, trying to be a good guest.
“He would have heard the coffee machine. He’s up now.” Tigris started charging up the stairs and Rose followed.
Tigris’ dad did indeed say yes, and had even suggested they use food as bait to lure the cat out. Further discussion on building plans had been halted when Desna began her morning screaming fit, and the girls were then left to their own devices.
It was now the early afternoon. The trap itself hadn’t taken long to make, however they’d spent a good deal of time arguing about how to build it. After a lengthy lunch break, they had finally come to an agreement.
Finished, they stepped back to admire their handiwork.
“I think we’re geniuses!” Tigris announced, satisfied with their creation.
A dome-shaped sled was propped up by a stick. A string, tied to the stick, trailed off to a crop of bushes, behind which they intended to hide until the cat came to drink the milk. Then, they would pull the string, and the sled would fall swiftly down to trap their quarry.
“That took longer than I thought it would, but I think we’ve outdone ourselves.” Tigris smiled.
“I don’t think it’s a lie to say this is the best thing we’ve ever made.” Rose allowed herself a small, prideful smile.
“You’re kidding, right? What is that supposed to be?” An unwelcome voice called out to them from the gate to Tigris’ backyard.
Tigris and Rose turned to see that Brett had trespassed into their territory with Patches in the lead.
“What are you doing here, Brett?” Tigris screamed, instantly losing her temper. “This is my house and you’re not allowed!”
“Is this a trap? You know this isn’t going to work, right?” Brett made no move to leave.
“What do you know? And I told you to leave.” Tigris insisted, trying to keep her voice calm.
“It’s a free country.” Brett taunted her.
“Okay,” Rose cracked her knuckles, “then, why don’t I make you leave!”
Rose was furious that Brett had insulted the trap they were so proud of.
“Oh, I’m so scared!” Brett mocked her, “What are you guys gonna do? Is Tigris gonna cry at me again?”
Tigris’ face turned crimson in humiliation and her eyes welled with tears.
“Go away!” She choked out, grabbing Rose by the arm.
Forcibly dragging her friend along, Tigris retreated into her home at a dead run, slamming the door behind them.
Sneaking into the kitchen, Rose cautiously peeked through the blinds and saw that the backyard was now empty.
“He’s gone,” She called back to Tigris, who was sitting on the couch in the other room.
“Good,” Tigris responded in a shaky voice.
She had her knees drawn up to her chest, hugging them tightly, and stared fixedly at the wall as she tried to will her eyes to stop watering.
Tigris hated that she got so upset by the things Brett said, or at the things she heard the girls at school whispering behind her back. But no matter how hard she tried, she was never able to stop herself from crying.
Rose stood awkwardly at the doorway for a few moments, watching tears continue to stream down her friend’s face, entirely unsure of what to say. Finally, she plunked down next to Tigris on the courch. With a strained smile, she said,
“Hey, it’s okay. Don’t worry. We’re going to get to see fairies and it’s going to be amazing! Just like in your books.”
Tigris gave a faint smile,
“Yeah, you’re right.” She sniffed, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand and then wiping her hand on the fabric couch.
“Let’s watch TV.” Rose suggested, and Tigris nodded.
The drama with Brett was forgotten by the time evening rolled around, as Tigris and Rose stuffed their sleeping bags with pillows to make it look like they were asleep in the tent.
“Now that cat will be fooled into thinking we’re inside!” Tigris laughed.
“Cats are so dumb.” Rose giggled.
Sneaking and snickering, they climbed behind the bush and peeked out through the leaves at where they’d strategically placed a new bowl of milk beneath their cat trap as bait. Tigris had brought a large book of fairy pictures that her Grandmother had given to her, and she flipped it open as they settled down to wait for the cat. Rose had faster reflexes, so she held the string firmly in her hand as she sat ready and eager to trap the fiend when it appeared. Tigris opened her book to the page with her favorite picture. The beautiful, luminescent fairies were dancing around bluebells as dewy sparkles floated in the air. The short paragraph on the page explained how fairies were peaceful guardians of nature.
“Do you think they’ll look like this when we see them?” Tigris whispered.
“Shh! We have to be quiet or else we’ll never know.” Rose whispered back intensely.
Tigris nodded her head, a determined look in her eyes.
And they were quiet. However, within the span of an hour, both girls had nodded off and were dozing in the grass.
SLLP! SLLP! SLLP!
Tigris woke up first again, hearing that familiar licking sound. She carefully peeked out from the bush and saw the same black cat licking up the milk. She quietly shook Rose, her eyes wide.
“Hm?” Rose mumbled groggily as she woke up.
The cat looked up nervously and the two girls went silent. Satisfied that nothing funny was happening, the cat went back to drinking the milk. Tigris and Rose looked at each other, and then nodded.
“NOW!” Rose yelled, pulling the string.
The cat looked up in alarm as the wooden stick was pulled out from under the sled.
Instead of falling on the cat as they had intended, the sled tipped sideways and rolled in a half circle before falling face-up, an utter failure. The cat’s body went rigid as it looked back and forth in conflict between the milk and the sled.
“I’ll get you, cat!” Rose yelled, grabbing Excalibur from her side and charging at the beast.
The cat darted away from Rose, who was violently brandishing her stick. Tigris, a little slower, ran to cut off the cat’s escape. She clutched her book in front of her and made shooing motions, trying to herd it back towards Rose. As soon as the cat saw Tigris, it turned and sprinted into the centre of the yard, stopping almost deliberately in the middle of the fairy ring.
“Get it! It’s trying to escape!” Rose shouted as she and Tigris ran to the ring of toadstools.
Instead of dashing off, the cat sat in the fairy circle with panicked, yellow eyes.
Suddenly, there was a loud crack and a vertical ellipse appeared in the fairy ring. It looked like a black tear in the scenery with a faint white light around the edges that shone eerily in the girls’ eyes.
“What?” Tigris and Rose took a few steps to slow down, extremely confused and suddenly terrified.
With a final wild-eyed look back at the girls, the cat jumped through the tear and disappeared. As soon as it passed through, the portal started to close. Tigris and Rose were knocked off of their feet as a rush of wind blasted into the vanishing ellipse with the roar of a vacuum. Tigris felt the wind being sucked out of her lungs and Rose tried to cover her ears against the deafening sound.
Before they could even blink, they were sucked into the portal behind the cat. The ellipse disappeared with another loud crack, leaving behind an empty backyard and silence.