There were faeries in the air, pelting little Ashleigh with pebbles and acorns. They laughed that obnoxious way only fae can, a little high-pitched with sounds like chipped fingernails on a glass window.

More acorns.

“Let me in to play, please?” little Ashleigh begged. At the time, all of her “friends” were hiding in the trunk of a tree they claimed as a fort. It sat in an open area of the forest, where a circle of sunlight made for a welcome doormat. Ashleigh was alone in the dark, with only miniature shrieks to comfort her.

Inside, Delina, Misty, and Clarice brought stools from home, hung lanyards of flowers they wreathed together, and set up a few resewn pillows in the corner so they could sit on the ground and gossip about the cute boys in the village.

Something they believed a little 9-year-old “baby” like Ashleigh would not be very good at.

Still more acorns fell.

“Please, let me in. The faeries are throwing things. They hurt. I think they’re going to search for bigger things to throw.”

The older girls laughed. Delia had sweet talked Jonah, a wood-working apprentice, to build them a small door they propped up with a spare stool to keep unwanted guests out. Parents. Brothers. Ashleigh.

The faeries were now throwing sticks.

“What’s that? Is there someone at our door?” Clarice mocked, preceding even more giggles.

“Please. You know it’s me. I just want to come in,” pleaded Ashleigh.

“Why?” Delia asked. “You know we’re only talking about grown-up stuff. You wouldn’t like that.”

“But you girls are only two years older than me. I can learn to talk like you. It’ll be easy. I promise.”

“Easy, you say? I don’t know,” Misty said, long and drawn out to make sure the faeries had time to pelt Ashleigh with more items from the forest floor. “You can’t just learn to talk anyway you want.”

“That’s right,” added on Misty, hoping to score some popularity points with Misty, “it takes time and practice to speak with such elegance.”

“Maybe you can prove to us you’re a grown-up by talking to the fae. Get them to stop hitting you,” Misty said.

The older girls laughed some more. This was perhaps the cruelest joke they could make. No one could talk to, much less control, the fae. Not a soul in their village in five generations had any luck communicating with the beautiful little pests. This most often led to luck curses or stolen left shoes.

But, Ashleigh really wanted to join their game.

Little Ashleigh turned to face her attackers. There were about a dozen faeries in the air, glowing different colors, like moonlight through flower petals, laughing.

“Please, stop,” Ashleigh said, but the faeries only screeched and laughed louder. They started throwing river stones a new faerie brought to them.

Still, she tried again.

“Please, stop throwing things at me,” Ashleigh asked.

Nothing. More throwing.

Then, from somewhere inside of Ashleigh, where dark thoughts live and anger is born, she felt it. A tug. A crunch. A shatter.

Something had awoken inside of her.

“Stop!” Ashleigh yelled.

And then, the faeries stopped.

The way the older girls tell it is first there was a brilliant flash, as if the sun had landed next to their door. Then, the small door Jonah built for their fort shattered into splinters. Delia, Misty, and Clarice fearfully peered from behind one of the stolen stools and claimed they saw Ashleigh surrounded by faeries.

And she was glowing. They were listening to her.

Thanks for reading,

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