Once upon a time – that’s how these stories usually begin, but that’s not quite right. Once upon our time, that’s how this story begins. Our world. Our time. Not some far away place with rules different than ours. This is our story.
Once upon our time, there were fairies.
Oh? Fairies aren’t real, you say? How can this take place in our world if they don’t really exist? Well, listen to the story and maybe you’ll find out.
As I was saying: once upon our time, there were fairies. They weren’t exactly like the fairies you see in picture books. Most looked like animals or plants. You might recall that humans are a type of animal, so some looked like them too. Humans like things that look like themselves – that’s why you usually see the human kind in cartoons and pictures.
There was one particular fairy that looked like a little wild violet. Her name was Rose because, as you’ve probably heard, fairies have a sense of humour. Rose lived under a big oak tree in a little park, tucked away in a distant corner of an enormous city. She was never stepped on by any of the children or dug up by any of the dogs because… well because she was magic, of course. In the day she watched the children play and at night, with the evening dew crowning her purple head, she would dance and sing with the breeze and the rustling of the leaves.
There was also a lonely little girl named Taylor. Some of the other children would pick on Taylor for silly reasons like the way her teeth weren’t quite straight, or how that one strand of hair never sat quite how they expected it to, or how she wore clothes that she liked. Of course, to Taylor, these were not silly reasons at all and they hurt her very much.
On this particular day, Taylor sat alone on a shady bench in Rose’s park. She watched the other children play, rubbing her salt-stained eyes. An older woman with wrinkled brown skin, grey hair, and a twisted cane limped over to sit beside her.
She said, ” Do you want to talk about it?”
To which Taylor very seriously (and correctly) replied, “I’m not supposed to talk to strangers.”
“You’re right,” the lady replied, “but there is a lovely little violet over there. You could try talking to it. I don’t think it will tell anyone your secrets and I don’t think it really counts as a stranger.” She then got up and plodded along down the path. By the way, she was a fairy.
Taylor thought it was a very funny idea, talking to a flower, but she did want someone to talk to and the shade under that big old oak tree looked very inviting. This was how Taylor met Rose. Taylor talked for a long time to Rose, and sometimes she had this peculiar sense that Rose answered. A funny tingling deep in her tummy that felt like commiseration and sympathy and laughter all at the right times.
The next day, Taylor returned to the park with a little plastic flower pot and her mother’s garden trowel. Rose could have stopped her. She could have distracted the girl with thoughts of some other pretty flower or make her worry that she might get into trouble. But she didn’t. Rose let Taylor dig her up from her pretty little spot under the oak and carry her in the plastic pot all the way to a run-down triplex downtown.
Her new home was the sunny window in Taylor’s bedroom. (Generally speaking, violets are fond of shade, but Rose was a fairy so this suited her just fine.) There was no breeze at night and no oak leaves to rustle, but there was a little human who loved her very much. Rose wouldn’t have traded her new home for a whole grove of oak trees.
Every night before bed, Taylor would tell Rose all her woes, her wishes, her triumphs. And Rose would whisper into Taylor’s mind, as fairies do, her sympathy, encouragement, and congratulations. The wishes Taylor shared often came true. And when Taylor slept, Rose would whisper her own dearest secrets, weaving them into gentle lullabies that soothed the tumult of the young girl’s heart.
Taylor often dreamed of Rose. This was how she learned her name.
“Rose is a silly name for a violet, don’t you think?” Her mother said one day.
“Well, she’s not really a violet, mom. She’s a fairy.” Taylor knew she shouldn’t have said it. She knew her mother would think it was a childish fantasy, but something tempted her to say it anyway.
“I thought you grew out of fairies years ago. No wonder you have trouble getting along with the other kids.”
“They tease me.”
“All kids tease. You’re just too sensitive. Have a sense of humour. Or ignore them. You’re old enough now. Besides – sticks and stones.”
Taylor loved her mother and knew she meant well. Their conversation played over in her mind, looping in the background of her everyday thoughts. She asked Rose to speak a little louder. So that her mother would believe her. So that Taylor could believe herself.
Rose sang that night, willing her tiny fairy voice to its limits, but Taylor only felt something in the pit of her belly that wasn’t altogether unlike doubt. Uncertainty gnawed at her heart like a worm in an apple.
Not much longer after this, Taylor made a friend at school. She was a year younger than Taylor and treated her like a goddess. Taylor invited her new friend over for dinner. She brought her into the sacred grove that was her bedroom.
“What a beautiful flower,” her friend said.
“Her name is Rose.”
“You name your flowers? Well, that’s kinda cool I guess.” She didn’t sound like she meant it. In fact, Taylor was pretty sure she was just being nice. Taylor hated when people said things just to be nice. It made her feel like she had done something wrong.
That night, Taylor didn’t have anything she wanted to share with Rose.
Time passed and Taylor talked to Rose less and less. Only during her most desperate moments did she resort to taking to her old friend. One time, Taylor really wanted a girl at school to be her friend.
“She mostly just ignores me… But I think she’s so cool. Please, I wish she would be friends with me. I wish she would like me.”
“Talk to her,” Rose said, “She might be shy and not ignoring you at all.”
But Taylor was so busy wishing, she couldn’t hear the little fairy’s words of wisdom.
Weeks went by and more and more Taylor began wishing for things that didn’t come true. Finally, the night came when she said it:
“I guess I am stupid for making up something as silly as a violet that’s a fairy.”
Taylor stopped talking to Rose after that night.
Rose could have convinced Taylor to put her back under the oak, or anywhere she wanted. But she didn’t. She stayed in Taylor’s window and listened to her troubles from afar. On nights when Taylor cried, Rose sang as though her heart would burst. When she laughed, Rose danced even without the wind.
Though Taylor watered her every day and cared for her just the same, the little violet began to droop. Her leaves dried up and she withered away to nothing. (“I told you violets like shade,” her mother said.) Taylor was sad that the violet died, but she replaced it with a fancy orchid and chucked the old plastic pot in the trash. The orchid was not a fairy.
Taylor grew up and was happy in the way that most people are without really realizing it. We must not wish ill on her – Rose would not want us to.
What was the point, you ask? What’s the moral in all of this? I’ll tell you.
Some of you might be reading this in one of those fancy school readers — the ones with the reflection questions at the end to see if you were really paying attention. One of those questions might be “Was Rose really a fairy?” Joey might answer “Yes! The whole point of the story is that we should believe in magic and that fairies are all around us!” and Shirley might answer “No! Rose was just the name that Taylor gave her violet and the whole fairy thing was in her head!”
Now, there’s another child with her hand in the air. Let’s call her Sheila. Sheila might answer “Why should it matter?”
I’ll tell you a secret. Sheila is a fairy.