Every fairy has a gift. A magical gift that is with them at birth and they know of instantly. It’s their strongest talent and at times, as has happened with each of my sisters, they have saved lives.
My gift is one that many wish for themselves and hate me for possessing. At times, I hate it myself. No one else knows what a burden my gift can be. No one else understands what pain it can cause. No else seems to wonder how I manage to go on, when I know so much―too much―about those around me. When I finally mastered tuning it out, I was grateful.
A family like mine is rare for fairies. Eight children, when you count me and my brother, Freider. The common fairy family has only one child, causing the fairy population to diminish over the generations. In the time preceding the birth of a fairy, the mother and father spend their time praying for a son. Sometimes, their prayers are answered in the way they were hoping. Other times, they’re not. Every once in a while, as was the case with my parents, the couple is gifted with many children. My family was the only family like that in fairy history.
Every time my mother had another daughter, she spent the next few weeks in silence, giving anyone who bothered her the evil eye. After my sixth sister, Nai, was born, my mother lost it. All she wanted was a son and she would do anything to have one. Mapping out her plan in her mind, where it was hidden from everyone but me, she decided to visit the Dark Fairy.
The Dark Fairy was an evil fairy―the only one of his kind. No one knew how he became what he was, but everyone knew that he had strange magical powers, different than any other fairy’s. Most fairies would only use their magic once in a while, but the Dark Fairy used magic in everything he did. Rumor had it, he’d use his magic for others if they gave him something of theirs, that he no longer had.
My mother, outraged that she had only daughters, decided she’d pay anything to have a son. She left early one morning and returned the following night with a glowing disposition. Weeks later, Freider was born. As soon as he came into the nurse’s arms, my mother was gone. Dead.
She’d given her life in return for a son. My sisters all thought that was the only thing she’d given, but I didn’t think so. I was sure there was more she’d promised him.
We all spoiled Freider. We had many reasons to: he was the youngest, the only boy, child of our mother’s death. When my sisters thought back on it, they’d blame themselves for what happened to him, but I thought there was more to it than that.
When Freider was fourteen, he ignored every chore assigned to him. All he did was sit in his room and move things with his magic. Unless it was nighttime, he wouldn’t leave the house. His laziness angered me. Constantly, I wished I could hurt him, punish him for it, but Flu with her gift of mercy always stopped me.
Then the Dark Fairy died. The night of his death, I woke to disturbing thoughts coming from the next room―Freider’s room. It wasn’t his usual thought voice: normally, his was young and foolish. This thought voice was ancient, evil, and completely new to me. I don’t remember exactly what he was thinking, but I remember being extremely worried and flying to my oldest sister’s room. Prezo. Because her gift was foresight, I thought maybe she’d be able to tell me something. But she didn’t. Thinking I was being silly, she told me to go back to bed. But I knew something was going on, and I intended to find out what.
When Freider left the next day, I was sure whatever was happening was serious, but he never came back. And I never investigated it. He was gone for so long―years―we eventually thought he’d died.
We nearly forgot him.
Everyone in the entire palace, and probably the kingdom, was excited. An announcement had just been issued, spreading the word that Her Majesty, the Queen Gloreea, was expecting. It would be the first child born to King Garty and his wife in their twenty years of marriage.
“I just can’t believe I’m finally having a baby,” she said to me once more, her face illuminated with excitement. “I’ve been waiting so long.”
I nodded. She’d been repeating those two sentences to me ever since she’d learned of her pregnancy. It was starting to get old. Sure, it was exciting, I knew that, but. . . I don’t know. Ever since I’d heard the news, I’d had this disturbing feeling in the tips of my iridescent wings. I couldn’t call it an encouraging sensation.
“So. . .”
The sound of a new word coming from Queen Gloreea’s mouth caused me to focus on her thoughts, rather than my own. Sometimes, my gift was useful.
Has Prezo seen the birth, yet?
Yes, I thought back. Catching myself, I cleared my throat. “Yes, she’s seen the birth. Sometime in the winter. As the date draws nearer, she’ll see it clearer and be able to give an exact date.”
Slightly startled, she breathed in slow and deep. Though I’d been her paid companion for several years now, she still wasn’t used to my ability to hear her thoughts.
At first, hearing them constantly bugged me, but as time passed, I taught myself to drown out all thoughts but my own. This skill had especially proved helpful in the past few hours, when every thought in her mind was flowery, perfect, and honestly, stupid. It may sound mean, but it’s true. In her mind, she was fantasizing about the things she’d do with her little girl or boy. I could see her mental pictures in my own head: walks along a glittering beach with the sun sinking low on the horizon, the water reflecting all the colors found in the sky; a picnic on a lush, green pasture with a silken tablecloth laying completely smooth on the ground, as fluffy marshmallow clouds danced in the clear blue sky. Every image was flawless. No thought of danger existed in this mother’s mind. Believe me, I looked for one.
What I found especially curious about the pictures was the fact that wherever she placed the child, there was a blank spot with no color or shape. Obviously, Her Highness had no idea if the baby was a boy or a girl. She didn’t know which she wanted, either, or the only thing missing would have been a face.
Seeing this is in her dreamed-up photographs, I almost laughed out loud. It was good she couldn’t read minds.
Fairies aren’t much smaller than humans―a few feet shorter and slimmer bones―but our perspectives on size are completely different. When I first started working for the king and queen, they offered to let me live in the palace. I, however, refused. Not because I was afraid they’d make me work constantly, but because I could barely stand the size of the place for how long I was there on a normal work day. The height of the ceiling, along with the endless expanse of countless rooms, nearly caused me to have a fit of hysterics. I don’t know how I managed to work there at all. It was a relief ever day to come home to the human-sized cottage and fairy-sized mansion that I shared with my sisters.
Silently, I opened its door and stepped inside.
“Good afternoon, Miss Lal,” said a little girl with small, blue wings from inside the house.
“And you too, Nissa,” I replied, smiling at her. Nissa was one of Nai’s students. Nai’s musical talent had served her well, making up for the guilt she holds over herself for our mother’s death and what happened to Freider.
Hanging up my jacket, I shook my wings and began to make my way to Prezo’s room.
For most of the day, Prezo sits in the square and foresees people’s futures. Because of how positive she is, rarely does she ever see a bad thing coming. When she does, it’s almost certain that it will happen.
Bare feet dangling outside, she was sitting on her windowsill, head resting easily on the frame. Her eyes were closed, as if she was sleeping, but I knew she was really looking for something in time to come. Maybe for herself. Maybe for our family. Maybe for someone else. Every day she did this, always searching for someone different. It was the one time I couldn’t read her mind.
Trying to be quiet, I sat on her bed. It was billowy, like clouds. As I watched her, her face was peaceful, lips drawn in a huge smile.
“How long today?” It was Flu, my merciful sister. She gestured to Prezo.
“I don’t know,” I replied, blowing a wisp of my hair out of my face. “I just got here.”
Flu sat next to me.
“How was your day?” I asked.
She shrugged. “All right, nothing too out of the ordinary.”
“Did you let any inmates out?” I asked, watching for her reaction in the corner of my eye.
“Ha, ha,” she answered sarcastically. Flu worked at the fairy prison, where she spends her whole day making sure no one put any spells on the employees or animals, or “mysteriously” causes cell doors to open. It’s a challenge for her, even though she’s a fairy herself. Every night, she’d come home exhausted. Since her gift was mercy, I thought it was funny she worked there at all.
“What’s she looking for?”
We turned to see Riyu in the doorway. Out of all six of my sisters, Riyu was definitely the most vain. Constantly, she was changing her clothes, coloring her wings, and playing with her hair. She didn’t even use her hands when doing her hair―she’d use the wind. Her gift was control over the wind. She bothered me just as much as my sister who’d just appeared next to her.
Stur. Stur’s gift was wit. She’s very clever with words and always was making jokes―usually stupid ones that make fun of people. When we’d been looking for jobs, I’d suggested that Stur be a court jester. Of course, she loved the idea and ended up working for King Garty as the head jester.
“Blow her off,” Stur whispered to Riyu.
As well as being able to read minds, I also have ears that work exceptionally well, especially when it comes to Stur―whose dizzying thoughts I subconsciously block out―and her disastrous schemes.
“No.” Riyu replied. “Now cut it out, Stur, would you? You’re such a clown.”
“It’s my job. Get it? It’s my job?” Stur poked Riyu’s upper arm repeatedly. “Like I’m a court jes—”
“Yes, I get it, Stur,” Riyu interrupted, pronouncing Stur’s name longer and harder than anyone else in our family could ever manage. “Now leave me alone.”
“Oh. . .” Stur whined. “Come on, just blow her out of the window once.”
“Just once! She won’t get hurt or anything.”
“You’re no fun.”
Tired of Stur’s prodding, Riyu left the doorway for―I guessed from her thoughts―the kitchen.
Watching her leave, Stur rolled her eyes, then came into the room, the bells on her hat and curved shoes jingling as she walked. Unlike most fairies, Stur loved to walk, because of the amount of noise she could make. Every other fairy would rather fly and does unless they physically can’t. “What’s she thinking of?” she asked me.
“Why do you even bother asking? You know I can’t read her thoughts when she’s looking forward.” It wasn’t a lie―I could see what Prezo was seeing, but I couldn’t hear her thoughts when she searched the future.
“No, not Prezo. Flu.” Further defining her meaning, she nodded her head towards the merciful one.
I looked over at Flu. Staring out the window, she looked like she was in another world entirely. A dreamland.
I can’t believe he spoke to me, she repeated in her thoughts over and over again. And he knows my name!
Instinctively, I blocked out her thoughts and turned away. It was none of my business what she was thinking and most definitely not Stur’s.
Her eyes huge and curious, Stur watched me, her wings fluttering excitedly, as she waited for an answer.
“I’m not telling you,” I replied, shooting her a look that told her she was crazy.
“Hmmph.” She crossed her arms over her chest, causing more bells―this time on her wrists―to ring.
Sighing wistfully, Flu came back to the real world and left me and Stur where we were in Prezo’s room.
Though I didn’t really want to stay with Stur, I didn’t leave. Who knew what kind of trouble she’d cause by herself?
Silently, Deri floated into the room, leaving a trail of glitter from her dark, tight-fitting dress fluttering in the air behind her. “How’s it going?” she breathed, her lips sparkling with every movement, her deep blue wings edged with silver that reflected the rest of her sparkly costume.
“Good,” I replied, trying to ignore Stur’s fidgeting.
Deri’s job was more glamorous than the rest of ours put together. Every day, she’d deck out in one of the sparkliest dresses that exist and soar to the capital pavilion, a silver and gold structure that shimmers with every movement of the sun and moon. There for the entire day, she’d grant wishes for money. Big money. Not every wish, only the ones she agreed to. And it wasn’t cheap, so very few people actually bought wishes, but it was more than enough. Whenever one of us would lose our job, Deri’s money kept us afloat.
“Do something to her,” Stur pleaded to Deri. What was up with her today?
Deri was grinning mischievously and as I watched, she lifted up her hands, beginning to swirl them in the air, her fingers gathered at her thumb.
“Stop, Deri,” I said, my face stony.
Deri rolled her eyes. Then swirling her hands a final time, she spread out her fingers and pushed her hands at Prezo. Immediately, Prezo’s feet came up and she kicked her in the face. Spinning slightly, she fell backwards onto the floor. Just as her head crashed down, her eyes popped open, wide, hard, and angry.
“What is your problem!?!” she roared, her face blazing. “I almost had something! Do you understand the sort of concentration it takes to look that far ahead? Do you?” She was staring, her eyes flicking back and forth between Deri and Stur.
I knew what was coming next. Not only because of my mind reading ability, but also because I’d seen it happen so many times before. Always with these two accomplices-in-crime, sisters of mine. Swiftly, I fluttered out of the room, eager to leave the scene.
I headed for my room, a place I didn’t like to spend too much time in. When I did go there, I’d try to busy myself with some mind-and-time consuming task, as an attempt to keep myself from thinking of the empty, dark room next to mine.
My sisters had all seemed to move on and put whatever had happened to Freider behind them. But for some reason, I couldn’t. Maybe it was because of what had happened that night, five years ago—the strange, disturbing thoughts. Or maybe it was something else: the cold that now seeped out from under the door, the closeness of his room to mine, the tingle I felt run through my wings, whenever I thought on the subject.
Or maybe it was something completely different. Some intuition that led me to believe that things weren’t all right. And wouldn’t be for some time. Not until something happened that would shake us from the dust and change us. For eternity.
I thought on this as I took the long way to my room, avoiding the doorway of Freider’s like I had since he’d disappeared. Even though I tried hard not to look toward it, I found myself staring at the door, while I stepped into my room, wondering exactly what had happened in there five long years earlier.