A short story by Manelle Oliphant
The day I agreed to marry Jonathan was also the day I met two faeries on the road to town. Mother sent me to the post office for a package. My grandmother sent it from back east. She said it was very important. I knew better. Mom wanted me to visit Jonathan Tippets. He worked behind the counter every morning before going out on deliveries. She hoped by putting us together Iâ€™d agree to marry him. Heâ€™d asked twice. I hadnâ€™t actually said no, but I hadnâ€™t said yes either.
I liked Jonathan, but when I thought about being married, I could never quite picture myself in my motherâ€™s shoes. The way she kept the house and bossed us kids, didnâ€™t seem like something I was ready for. I knew how to do all those things of course. My mother taught her daughters well. The real problem was, I didnâ€™t want to grow up quite yet.
Weâ€™d had a warm winter. As I tramped down the road with my skirts billowing about my legs I wished I didnâ€™t have to be so responsible. Only a few years before, I would have run about on a day like this with my younger siblings and a few kids from town. We didnâ€™t worry about adult type things like less snow now would mean less water in the growing season later.
As I dreamed about my childhood I noticed a chill. I picked up my pace and pulled my jacket closed. I pushed against the wind, as it grew stronger. The townâ€™s main street was around the next corner. If a storm came I could wait it out in the post office. My stomach squirmed when I thought about spending time there, possibly alone, with Jonathan.
The wind picked up. I leaned into it and prodded forward. Then I almost fell flat on my face. The wind stopped in a snap. I looked up, and blinked. On the roadâ€™s left side a blanket of soft snow covered every surface. On the right, the trees looked two months younger, full of red and orange leaves that hadnâ€™t yet fallen. Golden light bounced through the trees of a bright autumn morning.
I looked back the way Iâ€™d come. As far as I could see, snow lined the road on one-side and fall trees lined the other.
â€œAsk the stupid mortal, but by the grotesque way her mouth hangs open I doubt youâ€™ll get much sense out of her.â€
â€œShe is probably smarter than she looks, but what if she sides with me?â€
â€œIf she sides with you I will concede my claim, for this year at least.â€
I heard voices before the speakers appeared. As they spoke two beautiful beings appeared before me. The tallest looked down on me with disdain. Thick chestnut waves of hair surrounded her head. She wore a crown of leaves and a dress of rust-colored velvet. The second was quite the opposite of the first but just as beautiful. A cloud of hair surrounded a dark walnut face. She wore a dress of glittering white. On her head was a crown made of ice.
I squinted against the light radiating from them and shut my mouth, for it did indeed hang open.
The faerie dressed in white smiled down at me. â€œMortal, my sister and I disagree about how to execute our work. We call upon you to settle the argument for us.â€
They watched me, waiting for an answer. I stared. What could two great beings like this need my opinion about?
The faerie in red smirked. â€œI told you sheâ€™s not sensible enough to help us.â€
The other ignored her.
I nodded. â€œOkay, Iâ€™ll listen and give my opinion.â€
She smiled. â€œYou see, sister? She has some wits about her.â€
The one in red scowled. I got the idea she hoped I was a halfwit.
â€œHere is our dilemma.â€ The faerie in whiteâ€™s voice sounded like snow crunching underfoot and it made me shiver. â€œMy sister is the mistress of autumn. She is older and stronger than me. She insists that despite it being mid-winter, humans would prefer the fall weather. I know my duty as the mistress of winter. Itâ€™s time she turns the season over to me for the good of all. What is your opinion?â€
I glanced over at the trees covered in a beautiful rainbow of browns and yellows. Autumn, with the harvest and the lovely cool days, was my favorite season. On the roadâ€™s other side snow blanketed the world. The sleeping quiet of winter brought a different lightness to my heart.
I turned back. â€œMy Ladies, I, like many, love the fall. After the hot summer we can harvest our potatoes, carrots, squashes and many good things. We work together to store this food to last the long, winter months.â€
As I spoke, the autumn faerie smiled. She thought I would side with her.
â€œBut, without the snow that falls through the winter there wouldn’t be enough water for the growing season. Without the long cold winter, the fall season would be useless for we would have nothing to harvest.â€
I felt quite proud of my thoughts and the poetic language I used to express them. The autumn faerieâ€™s countenance changed completely. The air grew dense and sticky around me. Dread crept into my belly. Maybe I shouldnâ€™t have spoken so bluntly. Would this great being trap me in the faerie realm? I would never see my family or, or Jonathan again?
We stood on the road without moving for some time. The autumn faerie stared me down. My knees trembled but I held my ground. Finally she said, â€œSo be it,â€ and disappeared.
The other faerie nodded at me as she faded away. The strange landscape disappeared soon after. The road looked as before. The ground was dry and the trees stood without their leaves in the same half fall, half winter weâ€™d had for weeks.
I took a deep breath and continued on my errand. Flakes of snow began to fall. As I rounded the corner into town they didnâ€™t melt as they hit the ground.
At the post office I stepped up to the counter and told Jonathan what Iâ€™d come for. He smiled at me and a bit of the fear lingering after my adventure drained away. I suppose if I were to marry anyone Iâ€™d prefer it were him. He rummaged around under the counter and went to look in the back.
He shrugged. â€œI donâ€™t see a parcel for your mother here.â€
I smiled at him. â€œThanks, I suppose it was a wasted errand.â€
He leaned toward me. â€œWell, I do like seeing you.â€
My face grew warm. â€œThanks.â€ I turned so he couldnâ€™t see my blush.
The thick falling snow obscured the view through the window. Not even the buildings across the street were visible. I couldn’t walk home in this weather.
Jonathan came around the counter and stood beside me. â€œItâ€™s too bad you wouldnâ€™t marry me those two times I asked or youâ€™d be my wife by now. Youâ€™d only have to head upstairs and youâ€™d be home.
I blushed. It was strange to think about living above the post office. It also sounded exciting to live in the villageâ€™s heart rather than the outskirts like my parents. â€œYes, itâ€™s too bad.â€
Jonathan looked at me. â€œI wish you meant it.â€
I couldnâ€™t meet his eye. I kept staring at the snow. â€œIâ€™m not ready to grow up quite yet, is all.â€
â€œI donâ€™t think you have much choice. Look at the weather. Fall held on for a while but even she had to give way to winter eventually.â€
I smiled. â€œI met two faeries on my way here.â€
He looked startled at my abrupt change in conversation. But, I told him about the faeries, and what I realized about winter needing to come.
When I got to the storyâ€™s end, he looked rather smug.
You canâ€™t hold off growing up forever.
He stepped closer and took my hand. â€œSo, you agree that you canâ€™t hold off growing up forever.â€
I looked at him. He had a nice face. â€œMaybe.â€
â€œWe should get married at the beginning April.â€
The flopping in my stomach turned into a comfortable warmth that spread through my chest and down my arms. It told me marrying him was a good decision. â€œWell, I refuse to grow up until April then.â€
Jonathan grinned, leaned forward and brushed my lips with a kiss. I found I liked it. When he pulled back I leaned toward him, hoping for another.
He stepped back but didnâ€™t let go of my hands. â€œI just realized I shouldnâ€™t kiss a little girl like you.â€
I blinked. Little girl? I jabbed his arm with my fist. â€œOk, you win. Maybe, growing up won’t be so bad. Iâ€™ll do a little of it right now.â€ I put my arms around his neck and kissed his mouth. After all, I didnâ€™t want to be like that mean and stubborn faerie who refused to let matters take the course intended.
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