'...and the Fairies Ran Away with their Clothes' by Charles Sims
Vedie’s sister arrived flush and screaming, her unfettered features distorted in dismayed shock against the unrelenting reality of space and noise. Vedie was soon ushered in to greet his squalling sibling. He hopped between his father’s legs, crooning to Farren’s quivering back as she bawled beneath her first blanket. He tugged his dad’s pants and announced that the dancing was making Farren dizzy, that she cried because they were making her head spin. His father shushed him and frowned at his nonsense, but Vedie insisted. A nurse eventually grabbed his fingers, chubby, sticky, and barely through their fourth year, and hustled him out of the room.
When his mother brought Farren home the next day, she was gurgling and laughing in her green onesie. Vedie laughed with her and let her grip his finger while she drooled. Their mother sang softly to them, her dark voice lilting against their wordless chatter. Vedie told his mother he was happy the fairies were being more gentle today. She smiled and gave him her serious eyes.
“What fairies, Vedie? Where are these fairies?”
Vedie, pleased to be heard, said, “They are always moving and sometimes they move really fast and then Farren cries.”
His mother nodded and asked, “Where do they live?”
Vedie pointed to Farren’s head.
“Inside her head?”
Vedie laughed, “No, Mama, if they lived in her head then I couldn’t see them!”
Mama laughed, too, and said, “Ok, Vedie, then where?”
“They live in her hair but they’re easy to see because Farren doesn’t have hair like mine. Farren’s hair is small.”
“Thin,” Mama corrected automatically, as she turned her attention to the now fussing baby.
“Thin,” Vedie repeated. He added, “See? Now the fairies are dancing faster. See how she cries?”
“Mmhmm, I do see that!” Mama murmured as she nuzzled Farren to her breast and forgot to notice Vedie slipping through the doorway and into his playroom.
Vedie watched the fairies’ various dances with less angst as the weeks passed. He often told Mama about their antics, but never with the same urgency. They waltzed slowly around her head while she slept, lazy somersaults across her undimpled forehead as the night ticked by. They kicked and whirled when she was hungry, and flung their arms into their leaps when she awoke to the rudeness of consciousness. Vedie watched their dances with ever dimming curiosity until it was time for Mama to return to work.
Mama marched Vedie briskly through their breakfast routine, looking only occasionally over her shoulder at Farren, rocked gently in her baby bouncer while her father read the paper and nudged the cradle with his toe every so often. Mama was grinning broadly, humming through her happy teeth as she filled her travel mug. By the time Vedie noticed the fairies, Mama was halfway out the door.
“Come back!!!” He screamed, staring, not at his mother, but at his sleeping sister’s head. Mama trotted quickly back to the entrance and poked her head in. Vedie was sobbing, tears soaking the collar of his polo shirt and filling his nose as he choked, “They’re so mad, Mama! Please don’t go, they’re so mad!”
Mama hugged Vedie in firm, steady arms, and whispered that she knew it was hard and that she would be home soon. She glanced pointedly at her husband, drops of warm peppermint tea smacking Vedie’s pants as she released him. His father checked quickly to make sure Farren was still sleeping soundly and then folded Vedie into his chest as he kissed his wife goodbye. The door shut and Vedie screamed, shrugging out of his father’s embrace so he could run to his sister’s side.
Farren’s funeral was simple and small, like her life. Vedie couldn’t pronounce the thing the doctors kept saying, but he didn’t need to. The house was still without the fairies, but the walls squelched with grief and sagged as the three of them shuffled from room to room. The weight of the little one that left clung to their ankles and slid down the sodden grasping walls of their home, and Vedie found himself regretting he’d ever seen a fairy.
He pretended not to notice their sunshiny somersaults around Mama’s forehead when they appeared a few weeks later at the company picnic. He turned his face away when they waltzed around her temples as she dozed in her reading chair, in the middle of story time. He stoutly ignored their cartwheels through the tired frayed wisps across her grief-dulled crown while she pored over paperwork at the dining room table.
But he finally caved, as they finished lunch one day. Mama told him to grab his swimming goggles and Vedie confessed,
“Mama, the fairies…”
And Mama’s face turned a color he’d never seen before. She clenched her fists, and Vedie shrank, because Mama’s hands looked so strange, like round stones of fury that might burn if he got too close. She spoke, and the once soothing song of her words clawed his ears with the jagged edges of its pain,
“Vedie, I can’t hear about your fairies! I cannot! No more fairies, do you understand?”
And Vedie did understand, meager against the tile of the kitchen, looking at the tempest around her eyes. He nodded, and he took her fist and made it a hand again. He held it and whispered,
“Okay, Mama. But…can you first just tell me what you did to make your fairies so mad?”