By Kaitlyn Emery
“Can you help me?”
Charles blinked several times to make sure he wasn’t dreaming. He was proud to be among the skeptics who placed fairies into the same category as little green men, ghosts, and the Man in the Moon.
Yet there she was, collapsed on the ground in the middle of the rose garden, whimpering pitifully.
“Please, help me.” Resplendent violet and pink gauze, reminiscent of a spider’s web, cloaked her.
“What are you?”
“My name is Thistle.” Her voice was magical, like church bells carried by a zephyr. She looked up at him with green eyes and wispy lashes. Two moth-like antennae poked through her curls and sunlight caught in transparent wings.
His girls would be thrilled. Their speech was littered with references to fairies, elves, pixies, and gremlins. He was convinced no two girls believed more wholeheartedly in them than his own. “What are you doing here?”
The fairy flinched as he bent to examine her. “Not too close, please. Your eyes are very hot and burn me when you stare too hard.”
Charles quickly averted his gaze, feeling confused. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be. Would you be willing to help me up?”
Charles reached out his hand and tried not to look directly at the winged creature. The fairy carefully pulled herself off the ground and climbed into his hand. She weighed nothing at all, and Charles could hardly believe she was sitting in his palm rubbing her injured leg.
“I’ve never seen a fairy before,” he said, trying to make conversation.
“We’re not easy to see.”
“But I see you clearly now.” Or he was having a bad reaction to those new meds his doctor gave him.
Thistle fluttered her wings until they became a blur. A mist of violet and pink hovered before him and his eyes felt like they were playing tricks on him. It was like catching a glimpse of a faraway flower but failing to find any real detail. She stopped beating her wings and perched back in his hand, a smug smile on her face.
“That’s some talent you got there.” Charlie rubbed his free hand through his hair. He really needed to make an appointment with his therapist. “So… what happened to you?”
“I wasn’t looking and crashed into a branch,” she said, shaking pollen out of her luminous hair. “I don’t think it’s that bad, though. Mostly made me dizzy! I just needed to rest a moment.” She rubbed her leg again, creating a sparkling vapor from the friction.
“So, are you a Tinkerbell kind of fairy?”
He couldn’t see the look on her face, but he could hear the confusion in Thistle’s voice. “I’m not sure what you mean. I’m a Rainbow Rider.”
“I didn’t know rainbows had riders.” He looked around. If his wife were to see him, she’d probably think he was going insane!
“Have you ever heard there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow?”
Charles eyes widened. “Wait, that’s true?”
“No, of course it isn’t! Don’t be ridiculous.”
He huffed at the irony of that statement.
“That’s just a story made up to keep kids busy,” Thistle continued. “The truth is that my people live at the top of the rainbow arch. After a storm we ride down the arches and tend to gardens—like yours.” She gestured to his wife and girls’ handiwork.
His girls! Wouldn’t they be delighted with what he had found? “My girls are mad about fairies. I should call them out to meet you.”
“Oh, no,” Thistle said quickly, her eyes widening. “Human eyes are very hot, and there’s a danger that I’ll be burned up in a puff of smoke!”
“Then how will I tell them about you? They’ll think I made you up.”
“No, they won’t. I’ve seen your children playing in the garden. I think they know about us, or at least they suspect we exist. They seem quite lovely and imaginative.”
Charlie felt a sense of pride hearing Thistle talk about his girls. “They are, always going on about fairies and elves, pixies and gobli—wait, they don’t all exist, do they?”
Thistle stood up, testing her leg. “What do you imagine?”
“I certainly hope not!”
Thistle laughed, fluttering her wings and hovering into his peripheral vision.
“Thank you, Sir Charles. I’ll be around, even though you’ll never notice me. But think of me whenever you see a rainbow and share in your girls’ wonder, okay? The best magic in the world is memories shared between parents and their children.”
Before he could reply, she was gone, faster than the eye could follow, swallowed up in the borders of the garden where the plants and flowers grew best.
“Daddy!” Ruthie, his youngest, called to him as she ran out of the house. “Mommy said I should come to the garden and look for gnomes. Will you look with me?”
Charles looked down at his hand, unable to believe a fairy had rested there moments before. He was a cynical man, after all. A man of reason. But there, on his palm, was the remnants of sparkling dust. Carefully, he pinched it between his fingers to examine it more closely. As he brought it to his face, a tiny puff of pink smoke billowed in the breeze. From somewhere close, but not too near, he heard faint tinkling laughter.
Looking down into the hopeful eyes of his daughter, he made a mental note not to schedule that appointment with his therapist after all. If this was madness, he’d rather not be cured. “How about we search for fairies? Did you know that they ride rainbows?”