Chapter 1: The Fairfolk
Jane had always been able to see them... the Fairfolk. When she was little she would spend all of her time with the gnomes that inhabited the garden in her backyard. They were odd, funny little creatures with quick tempers and a tendency to make everything in your garden wilt if you annoyed them. There were other Fairfolk too, spiteful pixies in the trees, shy brownies in the pantry, mean sirens in the pond, and grouchy trolls under the bridge in the park.
Her mother would tell her stories about them, and Jane would reply with an excited, “I already know that, Mommy! Chuck told me about the elves yesterday!”
Her mother never asked her who Chuck or Rinny or Pebbles were. She never reprimanded her for saying that she believed in Fairies. She would just tell her beautiful tales about them, yet her stories were always laced with caution. Then she would watch afterward with worried eyes as her daughter frolicked in the garden with invisible friends. Her husband, Jane’s father, would just laugh when she told him about their daughter’s playmates.
“The Fairfolk aren’t real, darling,” Dr. Anthony Hart would chuckle. “Let her have her fun.”
So Jane grew up playing with things from stories, never knowing that they shouldn’t be real, and that she was the only one who could see them…
This went on for years. But as Jane grew older, she began to notice other things about the Fairfolk. They were indeed funny and sometimes beautiful, but they could be ugly and cruel too, demanding payment for simple things like the gift of a flower or a story. Jane learned to never ask promises from the Fairfolk or to say ‘thank you.’ She learned to stay away from the bodies of water with sirens and not to cross a bridge without dropping a small token down into the shadows beneath it. She began wearing a small clover-leaf necklace that her mother gave her for her birthday one year, it was small and bright green, suspended off a delicate silver chain. Jane also made sure to stay away from the beautiful elves that liked to frolic through the fields and never went out at night, for she knew that the wiry goblins liked to crawl out of their trash cans and snatch away little children wandering alone.
But there were the nice ones too, like her old friend Chuck. But even the nice ones could be mean. If you annoyed them then they might make all the plants in your garden die, leave mud tracks down your clean hallway, or turn your milk sour so that you got sick when you drank it.
Jane adapted with the new knowledge that she gained, continuing to remain happy among the colorful, odd, strange, beautiful creatures that were called the Fairfolk.
Yet Jane continued to grow older, soon becoming engaged with other things. Schoolwork instead of singing in the garden, piano instead of blowing on fake flutes made out of sticks, reading instead of playing tag, attending friend’s birthday parties instead of having imaginary tea parties in the flowerbeds with her dolls, going to watch her father work at the hospital instead of having mud fights.
Jane Hart was growing up. Happy. Normal.
Then her mother died.
Everything changed after that. It was like a light had been snuffed out. Darkness descended and, with it, the little time left that she had spent in the garden. She still saw them, but she didn’t play with them anymore. She became her father’s life line when her mom left. “She got sick,” was what Jane was told. She wasn’t sure what to believe anymore. So she believed in her father. They grew close, so close that Jane quit school and was tutored at home. Instead of going shopping with her friends she would go traveling with her father. Instead of going to holiday parties, she would stay home and read book after book, a lot of the time she would read them aloud to her dad. They would take turns. Reading aloud to each other became their most treasured times together, as well as when Jane would play the piano while her father listened in tranquility from his chair by the window.
Jane noticed the brownies would listen too every now and then. She would see their small little faces with their beady black eyes peeking around the corner to the living room as she played Mozart or Beethoven, but she ignored them.
Life seemed to be going back to normal. They were almost happy again. That is until Jane’s father got the idea into his head that she needed a mother to look out for her and married Pricilla.
Pricilla was indeed a beautiful woman. She was tall and thin with long dark hair and hazel eyes. She owned a high-end clothing store in London and told Jane she had always dreamed about being married to a doctor.
Jane might have been able to put up with her, managed to share her father with Pricilla, might have even become friends with the woman. But Pricilla made it clear she didn’t want that. She didn’t want Jane to share her father, she wanted him for herself. She didn’t want to be friends with the skinny, pale thing that now called her Stepmother. She wanted to gossip with her prissy friends, kiss her dad in public even though she knew that Jane was looking and hated it, she wanted their big, beautiful house and kind butler for herself. But she had to share them with Jane, and she hated it. She was spiteful to her when her oblivious father wasn’t looking, jealous and mean when her father thought she was kind.
But Jane put up with her nonetheless. Her father seemed to be happy with her and, if not happy, then satisfied. “You have a mother to look out for you now,” he would say. But he didn’t know that no one would ever be able to replace her own mother, he didn’t know that Pricilla didn’t look out for her, didn’t even look out for him.
Jane was the one who continued to do that. She made sure to pick up his newspaper and put it by his chair in the morning, made sure he ate when he came home, made sure to play the piano for him to help soothe the head aches he got from the stress at the hospital. Despite Pricilla, Jane was still happy. She still had her father and he still took her to work with him, still took her on horse back rides through the country side, still read aloud to her at night while Pricilla sat brooding in their room down the hall. They still went Christmas shopping together to look at the lights that decorated London and still gathered the berries in the garden to try and make jam. They never did it right, but a new batch would always be waiting on the counter in the morning for them. She knew the brownies had put it there for her, frustrated that she couldn’t get it right. But she never acknowledge that they did it, and she didn’t put plates of cookies out for them anymore.
She pretended that she couldn’t see them at all, in fact. And it started to work. Life went on. She had her father, they were happy together despite the commotion Pricilla would make occasionally. And Jane grew up thinking that everything would turn out okay.
And then the accident happened.
She had been out riding her horse, happy to be in such a peaceful place, feeling free as she seemed to fly with the help of her Palomino’s long legs. But when she got back home, Pricilla was waiting for her. Jane was instantly on edge, Pricilla never waited for her, never gently led her into the living room and sat down with her without saying something rude about how she looked that morning.
It was then, when they were sitting down together in the living room, that Jane noticed Pricilla’s usually pristine hair was in disarray, her face smudged with mascara, her eyes puffy and red. She expected it to be something stupid, like her spoiled poodle had died or her store hadn’t been given the golden star of the month. But she wasn’t prepared for the soft words that came out of Pricilla’s full lips.
“Your father’s dead.”
It was a simple sentence. Just three words, and Pricilla had said them without sounding like she hated Jane’s guts. But with that single sentence, those three plain yet devastating words… Jane’s entire world came crashing down around her.
“It was a car accident.”
She didn’t cry, didn’t scream, didn’t shout. She didn’t even say anything as she got up and escaped to the garden that had brought her so many extraordinary memories when she was but a little girl. She sat in the old swing her parents had put up for her under the tree where she insisted pixies hid and swung back and forth rhythmically. She didn’t notice the Fairfolk around her, didn’t notice them slowly fading, didn’t notice Pricilla’s loud bawling from inside, didn’t notice that her heart was going as cold as the air around her. All she knew was that there was a deep cavern that had suddenly opened in her chest. It hurt, a lot. It was cold, empty, hollow. She fumbled for the inhaler that had become like a friend since her mother’s death and breathed deeply.
Her father was dead.
She couldn’t even process the words. She was like a zombie moving through the house as the preparations for the funeral were made. She began looking for the Fairfolk, though, without fully realizing it. She wanted the ones that had filled her life before her father had become the sole center of it. But she couldn’t find them. Panic filled that void for a while. They had disappeared! She didn’t see them anymore. It was like they had faded from existence.
Yet, the day before the funeral, she noticed them again. But they were different. Cold, angry, distant, dangerous.
She ran from them again. On the day of the funeral, she blocked them from her mind, denying the fact that she had ever played with them, ever laughed and giggled in the mud, ever heard the beautiful voice of a siren, ever played pranks with the hob goblins to make the trolls mad.
They were gone like they had never existed. Just like her father. Just like her mother. Just like her girlhood.