Princess of Fereylind
She followed the road that had always been. She walked along it just as she’d done nearly every day of her childhood. It was here somewhere. She was certain of it.
Where had it been. She closed her eyes, feeling the dirt road beneath her feet. Step, step, step. The rhythm of her sneakers thwap, thwap, thwap as they kick up dust behind her.
It had been thud, thud, thud back then. She’d lived in those boots. Those heavy combat style boots, blue jeans, any of a number of t-shirts, and a flannel tied around her waist.
Thwap, thud, thwap… Thud. Thwap. Thud.
She settled into the bootsteps like she’d never outgrown the old, raggedy things. Thud, thud, thud. She walked further, certain it was here somewhere.
There was no sense of urgency. She knew she’d find it when the time was right. It was always the way with magical things.
That’s what it had been, right? Had to have been. Magical was the only way to explain it. The only way to describe what happened there.
The other option was unthinkable. It couldn’t have been her imagination. It had to be real. She needed it to be real.
Her steps slowed, her feet almost dragging along the dusty side of the road. The road ended there at the corner of another.
She walked on, letting her feet carry her to where she knew the road had been. Through the green grass of a small field, overgrown but not terribly so, her feet remembered. They followed the road that used to be.
She almost missed it. The sign was nearly buried. It was tucked in along the tree line. The woods had begun to grow out around it.
She came to a stop in front of it. This was it. She was certain of it. The magic of it vibrated in the air. It almost shimmered with it. She sat and leaned her back against the sign.
She definitely had not been able to do that back then. The sign had been taller. It had stood at its full height.
She looked around at how things had changed. She saw the upcropping of houses that hadn’t been there before. The woods had grown and flourished, but they’d been kept back with regular pruning and mowing by the surrounding homeowners.
A frightening thought came to her as she watched the day shimmer in and out before her eyes. What if they’d cut back the woods just enough to clip the delicate thread that connected the two worlds? She could feel the quiet vibration of it humming away in the peripheral.
The day was bright and sunny. The sky so blue she thought it looked surreal. It was much more like a painting with white wisps of barely there clouds that floated lazily. The green of the grass and trees was so bright and vivid she could see the various shades in every blade, needle, and leaf.
The day flipped and stretched and folded in on itself before righting itself again. It had happened in an instant. She was almost convinced that she had imagined the entire thing when it happened again. The day shimmered, shivered, and rolled over itself. It stretched and let out a loud groan.
The ground beneath her changed. It felt spongy and soft beneath a carpet of the greenest grasses. The grasses were cold and silky beneath her hands and she pet it like a small animal. The day in front of her settled in on itself.
It was the same, but it was different. A blueish hue hung over everything like a thick gauze. She heard tittering and whispers coming from the trees. She squinted in the softer light. Seeing no one, she cautiously got to her feet.
“Hello?” she whispered into the breeze.
The twinkling of giggles carried back to her along the breeze. It was musical and magical, and she wanted to be enveloped by it. She wanted to stay in it forever.
“What are you doing here?”
The harshness with which the words were spoken brought her crashing back to herself. She hadn’t realized she’d been being carried away by the melodic laughter.
She gasped at the sight of him standing there before her. He was tall and lean and beautiful. His silken hair hung raven black down his back. He secured it with a blue ribbon at the nape of his neck. His alabaster skin was nearly translucent. Her fingers burned to touch his smooth cheeks.
He glared at her. She was staring into those beautiful violet eyes. They’d burned with passion once, but now anger was all she saw.
“Why did you come back?” he growled when she didn’t answer him.
“Your daughter needs you,” she blurted without thinking.
She watched the emotions play across his face. Shock. Confusion. Hurt. Worry. Fear. She hadn’t meant to tell him this way. Hadn’t meant for him to ever find out. He’d cut her out of his life. He’d banished her.
Weeks later she’d learned she was pregnant. She’d fled to California and not looked back. Until now. Until she’d needed him.
His back was turned to her. His wings hung limp and colorless. She reached for him. Wanting to comfort and be comforted.
He spun on her. The full fury of his anger pulsed the air around them. Her hand dropped to her side.
“How long until her birthday?” the softness of his voice belied the anger he held.
He let out a sound of pure exasperation. Then, with a wave of a hand he unfolded the day. One quick unfolding, none of the shimmering and flipping that had brought her into his kingdom.
“Where is she?”
Taking a deep breath, she tried to explain. Their daughter had been ill for most of her life. She’d been born dying. Doctor after doctor had tried to find the reason, tried to find the cure. Doctor after doctor had failed.
“I came because she wants to meet you. She wants to tell you goodbye.”
Tears welled in her eyes. She’d sworn she wouldn’t cry. She’d promised to be brave.
“Oh, my silly girl,” he wiped a tear from her cheek with his thumb. “How you’ve burdened yourself unnecessarily.”
She dashed away the tears from her eyes.
“What are you talking about?”
“Come,” he slid his long slender fingers between hers, “take me to our daughter.”
Her car seemed to be parked miles away as they walked back to it. He held her hand. She dared let it warm her frazzled heart a little.
They drove for hours. They drove in silence most of the way. They drove through the night. As the sun broke over the horizon he broke the silence.
“Just how far away did you take her?” he exclaimed.
“I was young, I was scared, I was hurting. I needed to get as far away as I could.”
“And you just couldn’t understand why she was dying?” the bitterness in his voice surprised her.
“What are you going on about?” confusion gave her words bite.
“Why couldn’t I leave everything and live in your world with you?”
“Because you were a prince who would someday become a king. What’s that got to do with anything.”
“Are you a bumbling idiot?”
She summoned up every ounce of patience she had left.
“I am not,” she barked.
“Yes, it’s true. I am the king of Fereylind. Did you truly think I wouldn’t have given it all up for you?”
“I loved you,” he continued without letting her answer. “I would have given up everything. I would have stayed here in your world with you. I would have grown old with you happily. But I couldn’t. I wouldn’t have grown old. I would only have grown sick. Even now, as you drive, I can feel my life force being pulled and tugged from me. I feel a sickness deep in my very being. I yearn for the safety of Fereylind.”
“But you never…”
“Yes, I never,” he growled. “And you were gone. You left and you never. You never told me why. You never told me goodbye. You never told me you were pregnant. I woke up and you were just gone.”
“Now wait just one damned minute,” she demanded. “Your mother said that you asked her to remove me. She told me that you said I was to never come back again. ‘Humans can’t spend so much time in Fereylind,’ she warned me.”
He didn’t respond. They pulled into the hospital lot. Visiting hours weren’t for two more hours. Parents of terminally ill kids didn’t have to follow silly rules like visiting hours.
“Hi, Pete,” she greeted the security guard as they waltzed passed his desk.
“Hey, hey, hey, Miss Sally May,” he greeted her. “Who have we here?”
He looked her companion down and up before meeting his eyes.
“Mr. Fereylind,” he supplied. “I’m…”
Pete waved his hand, “no need to tell me who ya are. It’s plain as the nose on my face. Violet eyes like those, you must be Vialait’s father.”
“We’re here to take her home now.”
“You’ll have to talk to her doctors about that.”
“I don’t have to talk to anyone about that,” he growled angrily. “She’s my daughter.”
She slid her hand into his. She tugged gently.
“How about you start with meeting her,” she suggested.
She coaxed him to the elevator. They rode up alone. She listened to his breathing. It was perfectly timed as he calmed himself down.
“You can’t say things like that.”
“Like what?” aggravation dripped from his words.
“Threaten to take Vialait.”
“I didn’t threaten anything.”
“Sounded like a threat to them.”
“How’s it a threat? They’re just letting her die, I want to help her live.”
“They aren’t just letting her die. We aren’t just letting her die. We’ve tried everything.” She was exasperated. “We’ve exhausted all of our options. All of her options.”
“Not all of them,” he snapped.
The elevator dinged and the doors slid open. They argued in hushed whispers as they walked down the corridor. She silenced him as they approached the nurse’s station.
“Oh, I’m so glad you’re here,” a red-headed nurse with a large bosom and even larger behind greeted them. “She’s waiting for you. Told us all her daddy was comin today. This him?”
She gave him an assessing look, then pursed her lips in disapproval.
“Go on in then.”
The third door on the right was left slightly ajar. Dawn’s light slipped through the crack and cast a peachy hue into the hallway. All of the other doors were closed up tight.
Placing her hand on the door, she paused and looked up at him. She needed him to be strong. She needed him to be gentle. She needed him to not make any stupid promises he might not be able to keep. She needed him to be right. She didn’t say any of this.
“I know,” he promised.
She gave a reserved nod and pushed the door all the way open. The peachy hue made the hospital room look a little softer around the edges. The personal touch of bedding and stuffed friends made it look almost homey.
There in the middle of the bed sat their tiny and frail princess. Her skin was much paler than her father’s. It was nearly transparent. Her blonde hair hung in dark clumps. Her violet eyes were dull and greyish. Nothing like his bright and vibrant ones. He sat on the side of the bed and took her small hands in his.
“Is it time?” her throat creaked as she spoke.
“It’s time,” he squeezed her hands.
“You’ll have to carry me.”
“I know. I don’t mind.”
She watched this exchange from the doorway. It was as if they’d been planning something even though they’d only just met.
“Is Mommy coming, too?”
“Of course she is. You tell Mommy what you want to bring with you.”
Mentally shaking herself, she entered the room.
“What are you two talking about?” she kept her voice light though she felt tight and anxious.
“I have to go home to get better, Mommy. I thought Daddy explained it all to you.”
“I didn’t get the chance,” he admitted.
“Mommy wouldn’t listen, would she?”
“She’s always been so stubborn,” his eyes danced with laughter.
Vialait laughed out loud. Her laugh was melodic. It sounded much like the windchimes that hung on the porches near Fereylind. Locals used them to mask the sounds of fairies laughing because their laughs were said to be enchanting.
“Mommy, I have to go home to get better.”
“How do you know that?”
“I dreamed it.”
“I dreamed I was a fairy princess, and there was a party with lots of food, and I wasn’t sick anymore.”
“I don’t understand.”
“That’s okay. Daddy knows. Right, Daddy?”
“That’s right, Princess.”
“You mean it’s true? I really am a princess?”
“You really are a princess. And you’re right, there’s going to be a huge feast to celebrate. And you’ll be feeling so much better once we get you home.”
She hesitated only a little as she packed up beloved toys and trinkets. She held up items for inspection as Vialait declared keep or leave.
“How big will my room be?”
“Oh, Princess, as big as you want it to be.”
“And will Mommy be queen?”
“I don’t think Mommy wanted to be queen,” sadness in his voice.
“How come you didn’t wanna be queen?”
“No one ever asked me to be queen,” she answered plainly and then quickly changed the subject. “All packed up. Who’s ready?”
“Me!” the two shouted in unison.
She smiled sadly at the two beautiful fairies in front of her. She wished she could have their faith. She wanted so badly to believe it could be that easy. Was she a terrible mother if it was just that easy? Self doubt clogged her throat.
“I just need to sign some paperwork at the nurse’s station, then we can go.”
“We better go with her,” Vialait whispered in his ear. “Or else Nurse Kady might talk her out of it.”
“You got it,” he picked her up and settled her easily into his arms.
“I’m afraid Doctor Avery won’t be here until his afternoon rounds,” the nurse was saying as they walked up.
“I don’t care when Doctor Avery will be here. We’re taking her with us.”
“But I don’t know if he wants you to do that,” her voice had grown nasaly.
“I don’t care what he wants me to do. He wants me to sit in that room and wait for my daughter to die. He wants my daughter to sit in that room until she dies. We want to take her and show her a little bit of her father’s world. We want to give her the chance to know her father. Now give me the damned paperwork.”
“Oo-oo-ooh, Mommy said a swear.”
Nurse Kady was pecking away at the keyboard. The printer whirred behind her.
“This is what’s known as signing out ‘against medical advice.’ You’ll have to sign this form saying you won’t hold the hospital liable.”
She snatched a pen off the counter and scribbled out a semblance of a signature. There was a wheelchair parked beside the desk, and she took it.
“Do you want to ride in the chair or should I put your bags in it?”
“Let the bags take the ride. I wanna stay right here,” she nestled deeper into her father’s arms.
She piled the bags into the chair. They looked around the room one last time, checking for any lost or forgotten items. They bid it a final farewell and walked away without looking back.
In the elevator, Vialait spoke animatedly with her father. They were getting to know each other. They were falling in love with each other. It was beautiful. She was a terrible mother.
“Say goodbye to Security Guard Pete,” he said disdainfully.
“G’bye S’curity Guard Pete,” she repeated dutifully.
Pete watched them go without a word. He bundled her into the backseat and tucked her blankets around her. She kissed his cheek and asked for her favorite unicorn. He kissed her cheek first with the unicorn and then with his own lips. She smiled sleepily.
“I’ll drive,” he held out his hand for her keys. “You look exhausted. When’s the last time you slept?”
“I don’t know,” she answered honestly as she handed over the keys.
She was too tired to fight with him, and a nap did sound pretty good. She settled into the passenger seat and was asleep before they’d made it out of the hospital parking lot.
When she awoke, they were parked in the field that had once been the dead end road. Vialait was standing in front of the woods beside her father. They had their backs to her and she couldn’t see what they were doing. She opened the car door quietly, hoping she wouldn’t disturb them.
“Mommy, mommy! Come see this!” she exclaimed with childlike delight. “It’s so beautiful.”
“I know it is, punkin.”
But she didn’t care how beautiful Fereylind was. She was looking at her daughter. Her skin had a pinkish glow to it that she’d never seen before. Her violet eyes were bright and shining, little mini versions of her father’s eyes that twinkled and danced beside hers.
She wanted to cry out when Vialait began twirling in the evening light. She wanted to tell her to be careful. She wanted to remind her how weak her legs were. But none of that was true anymore. Her daughter was flourishing before her eyes.
Vialait was dancing barefoot in the greenest grasses. Her face was turned up to the sun, and she was laughing. Her hair hung dull and greasy in clumps. She wore a tattered nightgown. These were the only signs of the illness she’d left behind.
“Are you ready, Princess of Fereylind?”
“Ready?” she dared not get too excited.
“To see your kingdom?”
She turned her sparkling violet eyes on her mother, “am I?”
“You were born ready,” she said with false bravado.
She slid her hands into her parents’ hands, “Okay, ready.”
With his free hand, he gave an almost imperceptible wave and the folding over was quick. They were in Fereylind. She was tense and nauseous. He slipped an arm around her waist and pulled her close.
“Relax. You’re with the king,” he whispered in her ear. “Mother…” he greeted a tall, silver-haired fairy before she could reply.
“What do you think you’re doing?” his mother did nothing to hide her disdain.
“Bringing my daughter home where she belongs. You’d do well to mind your business before I banish you for meddling all those years ago.”
The sliver-haired fairy swallowed audibly and said nothing.
“Come,” he lifted his daughter into his arms. “Be my queen like you were always meant to be,” he held out his hand for hers.
She slid her fingers between his and felt a sense of coming home. She knew that her and Vialait would remain here forever.
Feeling inspired? Write your own short story using this dead end photograph. Post links to your stories in the comments section below.
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