My husband and I head out in our hiking boots when the dawning sky slides from lavender to blue. He treks up the hill ahead of me, and we squint when the sun twinkles through the trees.
“Stop!” I shout, too late.
My husband shrieks and bolts behind me. “What?”
“Oh my God, you stepped on it.” I suck a breath through my teeth.
“On what?” Nature boy peers over my shoulder and then checks the soles of his boots for dog turd or deer duds. But poop isn’t the problem.
I creep forward and squat down for a closer look. The thing is squashed, imprinted with his zig-zag tread, opalescent wings mashed into the pine needles. I poke it to see if it’s alive.
“What is it?” he asks from a safe distance.
I look up at him, the horror of our situation congealing in my chest. “We’re in such big trouble. You stepped on a fairy!”
“A what?” He inches forward as if the fairy’s going to leap up, whip out a wand, and shrink him into a toad. “Is that bad?”
“Of course, that’s bad!” A wing flutters, and we share a glance. “It’s not dead. We have to do something.”
“Throw it in the bushes.”
“No! We have to help it.” I gently scoop the fairy onto a fern, and we head downhill. “We need to call someone for advice.”
“Take it to the vet,” Mr. Helpful suggests.
“The vet?” I shake my head. “I’m calling Colleen Chesebro. She knows about fairies.”
“The swamp-fairy whisperer lady?”
“She doesn’t live by a swamp anymore. I think her fairy knowledge has expanded.” We push through the screen door, and my husband fills a shoebox with toilet paper as if he’s adopting a gerbil.
“Really?” I blink at him. “Toilet paper?”
“It’s soft and fluffy,” he explains.
I rest the fern on the soft, fluffy toilet paper and call Colleen. With the phone on speaker, we chit chat our greetings and get to the issue at hand. “Colleen, my husband crushed a fairy and—”
Hubby jumps in, giving me the skunk eye. “I stepped on it by accident.”
“Anyway,” I say, “It’s still alive, but it’s sort of squashed, and we don’t know what to do.”
“First thing,” Colleen says, “leave it in the woods where you… squashed it.”
The hubby and I wince in unison and look down at the shoe box. “Umm…” I say into the phone.
Colleen sighs. “Okay, scrap that. New first thing, bring it back to where you found it and leave it there.”
I grimace at the phone. “That doesn’t seem very compassionate.”
“Fairies are magical,” Colleen explains. “Trust me.””
“What if the raccoons get it?” my husband asks.
“The raccoons won’t bother it?”
“Cougars?” he asks.
I worry he’s going to list off the entire contents of the animal kingdom, and apparently, Colleen does too because she nips that recitation in the bud. “Animals don’t harm fairies. Nature is symbiotic. You probably have a forest fairy, part of the same ecosystem as the ferns, moss, and trees. The Earth will heal it or transform it.”
“Oh,” I say. “Well, I guess that makes sense. Are you sure?”
“If I’m wrong you’ll only be cursed for life.” She chuckles. “Just kidding.”
Great, a comedian, but I have to ask, “How will we know if you’re right?”
“We won’t be cursed,” my brilliant husband replies.
“You’ll know.” Colleen smiles through the phone line. We give her our thanks and hike back up the hill with the shoebox. The sun shoots spears of warmth through the evergreen, and we gently rest the fairy and her fern a little to the side of the path. The least we can do.
The next morning, coffee in hand, we climb the leafy path to check on our charge. The fairy is gone, but the forest is alive with butterflies.
Thanks to Sue Vincent for her Thursday #Writephoto prompt, and to Colleen for letting me insert her in my story. I hope you enjoyed my fairy tale.