That night I’m awoken by a loud clanging in my and Faylinn’s room. I roll out of bed to investigate; what I find is surprising.
Faylinn is gathering everything she thinks might be important and stuffing it in her canvas sack. She pulls books off shelves, yanks clothes off of hangers, grabbing everything in sight.
“Fay, what are you doing?”
She freezes before turning around. She takes in my tired appearance and allows the corners of her lips to twitch upwards.
“Nothing, Fidget. Go back to bed.”
“Are you going somewhere?” I ask.
The tone in my sister’s voice is strangely soothing. “Yeah, Loxy changed her mind and gave me permission to go exploring. Isn’t that great?” Her cheery smile is so fake it hurts.
“Loxy never changes her mind; she says it’s a sign of weakness. You know that; we all know that” I say.
The grin is wiped away, a frown now set firmly in place. “Go back to bed.”
“No, you know you can’t come back if you do this.”
“Why would I want to come back here? Especially now that Loxy’s taking over. But don't worry; I'm sure I'll see you again soon.”
She steps out the doorway and flies out into the darkness of the night.
I watch her for what feels like hours before running out of my room, down the hall to the kitchen where I know Loxy will be pacing.
She shifts her gaze from her feet when she feels me come in.
“What are you doing up?” She asks.
“I should be asking you the same thing, Chief.” I match her tone.
She sighs and pulls herself up onto the counter. She taps the spot next to her, signaling for me to join her.
I watch her blank face for a couple seconds. She’s struggling to hold her eyes open to focus on me. I hesitate to tell her, but she needs to know.
Fear clouds her eyes. Their silver light twinkles in the dark rooms. She slides off the counter and storms out the kitchen up to mine and Faylinn’s room. I follow after her.
“She’s not in there. She’ll be halfway to the river by now.”
“Exactly; I know what she’s up to.” I resist the temptation to scream. As always Loxy tells only the tiniest bit of information possible.
“What could she want so badly she’d run away for? The humans won’t let her in without your blessings.” My frustration seeps into my voice.
“She’s not going to the humans.”
I grab Loxy by the shoulders and spin her around, forcing her to face me. “Where is she going then?”
Loxy growls and brushes my hand away. Too shocked to react I can only stare as she destroys my room, searching for any sign that Faylinn changed her mind and came back.
When I regain my senses I storm over to Loxy.
“Where did she go?”
She barely misses a beat. “She’s planning to cross the river to the lair of the fire fairies.”
“Why?” I stay on her heels as she frantically flutters around the room.
“Because she doesn’t believe that Mother died.”
“She’s not stupid Lox. Why is she really going? And how do you know all of that anyway? She’s never talked to me about any of this.”
Loxy pauses in her searching before responding. “Did you ever consider that she didn’t tell you everything?”
“You told us even less,” I say, giving the open door a final glare before racing out of my room, down to where I know some of my other sisters will be sleeping.
When I got there I shove open their door and the three girls in the room all bolt upright.
“Fidget, what’s wrong.” The oldest, Hemlock mutters in the silence after noticing me.
“We have an emergency; Faylinn left the forest.”
They spring out of bed as I smack the lightning bugs awake. The girls all squint in the sudden brightness while I leave to go to the next room.
I tell the rest of my sisters to gather in Hemlock’s room. Most of them gather on the three plush beds shoved against the walls.
The girls that don’t make it to the beds are sprawled out on the floor. I lean against the door with the others facing me.
“What’s going on, Fidget? Where’d Fay go?” Lunette’s high voice pierces the stunned silence.
“She’s crossing the river.”
The girls gasp.
Chanter, one of the youngest girls, tilts her head in confusion. She runs a hand through her short white hair. “So, is she looking for Mother?”
“I don’t know. Loxy thought she was keeping secrets.”
All the girls start talking at once. Their normally soft voices pounce on top of each other in a symphony of panic. Their voices continue to rise and I’m worried that they’ll wake the neighbors.
Hemlock is the first to speak again. “But why can’t Fay come back?” She raises an eyebrow.
They all stop talking and look back at me, their eyes all shine with worry.
“You all know that when a fairy leaves here they’re never allowed to come back. She’s been exposed to the outside.”
“What if she does try to come here?” Chanter’s wide sea-green eyes are filled with tears waiting to fall. Her white hair slaps her face as wind rushes around her.
The other girls around her scoot away, afraid of its force.
“I don’t know.”
I hope they’ll never learn what really happened to Mother. They’re all considered adults now, but they’ll always be my little sisters.
It’ll always be my job to protect them.
Even from the truth.
Later that night, Lunette sneaks into my room. Admittedly, I could hear her as she crept down the hall.
“You can take Fay’s bed tonight. I don’t think she’ll mind. You’re the one that misses her the most.” Of course, that’s not true.
Faylinn and I spend almost every second of our lives together. We shared a room for as long as I could remember.
“It’ll be okay, Fidget. She’ll come back eventually.”
“I’m sure she will.” Hopefully, she could believe that even if I couldn’t.
She lies silently after that and must have fallen asleep.
I’m woken up by the whole forest screaming.
Lunette sits up in bed and looks me straight in the eyes; pale pink irises swimming with terror. Neither of us has ever heard anything like this.
Ignoring her, I roll out of bed. I grab a robe and throw it around my shoulders, hopefully hiding my damaged wings.
If there’s someone here trying to hurt us, I don’t want them to know they have an advantage over me.
I turn back to Lunette to tell her, “Stay here.”
She watches me slip past the doorframe before she disappears back under the blankets.
I run into Loxy a few steps into the hallway. She has the rest of our sisters behind her. Their white skin glows in the dark.
“We need to escape through the hole in the back of your room.” She insists.
“Why? What’s going on?”
She growls, not satisfied with my hesitation. “I’ll tell you while we’re flying to safety. All of our fairies have already left.” She pulls me aside and whispers, “I saw some fire fairies and…”
I interrupt her. “I don’t want to hear it if no one else knows.” She needs to stop only telling me things. “You know how much Fay hated that.” I ignore anything else she tries to say to me.
Unfortunately, the lack of frightened crying from anywhere else in our forest proves her right. I can’t help glancing behind her to see the other trees nearby being eaten by starving flames.
So I nod and turn back to where I had come from.
We all storm into my room, urging Lunette out of bed. She joins the rest of us in watching Loxy stomp over to the blocked hole on the far end of the room.
Months ago Faylinn and I accidentally fell through our wall, making the opening.
“Wait,” I shrug off my robe. “I can’t fly anywhere, sis.”
She glares at me as if it’s my fault I’m injured. Which, I guess it kind of is.
“I’ll carry you.” I hesitate, but I know she’s right. There’s no time to think of another solution.
Loxy tells all the girls to jump out but not to fly anywhere yet; she has to show them the way. One at a time they all spring out the window, with varying degrees of enthusiasm.
Finally, only Loxy and I are left. She rolls her eyes and gathers me in her arms.
The other’s gather around as closely as they can. Everywhere we can see there are other fairies jumping out of their own windows. Hopefully, they can find their own way to safety.
The wind fairies always have somewhere to go.
For a moment, I see a couple red fairies not too far away from the trees.
Unfortunately, there isn’t anything I can do about them, as Loxy takes that moment to announce it’s time for the two of us to make our own escape. We have our own family to think about, after all.
So we soar to the front of the pack and the other girls follow us to our escape.