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The Faerie Net
'I cayun't see! I cayun't see! Somebody help me, I cayun't see!' Tirabelle leaned against a tree, her old fashioned calico dress covering her legs, watching Mary Lou stumble around with her eyes closed, shouting in an offending voice. Eventually Mary Lou stumbled on a root, and fell in the lap of her friend. The whole group laughed, but Tirabelle, hidden under the shadow of the drooping willow tree, scowled from under her sun hat. They were pigs, the whole dirty lot of them. What would Mother say? Tirabelle's nose wrinkled in disgust.
The hot sun beat down upon the prairie, heat waves blurred her vision and brought tears to her eyes. Tirabelle bit into peach, wiping off the juice that spilled onto her chin with the back of a cotton sleeve. Oh, how she wished to go wading in the stream by her house like she and her brother used to do when they were little, or to at least roll up her sleeves for goodness sake, she was melting. But no, Mother said that if she unrolled her sleeves her delicate skin would burn, and that it was improper of a young lady of thirteen to go wading in a creek like a boy. On days like today, Tirabelle could almost wish she was a boy, she glanced at them over in the field, kicking around a home-made hackie sack. Peder was among them somewhere, playing with his friends, not having to worry if it was proper or not.
The other girls were laughing again. Oh how Tirabelle envied them, with their thin T-shirts with glittery words on them, and their tiny shorts, most in shades of hot pink or green, and their flip flops, with their bare feet showing, they drizzled water from the bottles in their lunches over their heads, or squirted it at others, not caring how they looked. Tirabelle longed to join them, to have fun without a care, to go to the pool and cool off, and to be able to go out with other girls and go to stores just to look, even if she didn't need anything.
Oh, all these things sounded lovely, but Tirabelle simply couldn't. It wasn't because of Mother, although that played a large roll, it was because of Ana. The schoolhouse door opened and Ana stepped onto the top of the stairs, taking a moment to position herself and remember which side the ramp was. The other girls immediately burst into guffaws, laughing and pointing, with more snorts of 'I cayun't see!' and 'Oh god help me, I'm blind!' said in stupid hick voices, but that was the point.
Tirabelle jumped up, peach in hand, and ran to Ana, jumping all three steps at once and landing by her side with a thump that made her ankles ache. Ana glanced around nervously, the laughing confused her, there were so many voices she couldn't make out where they were coming from, and now the boys were joining in, running in from the field to laugh and make fun her too. Where was Peder? Couldn't he see that Tirabelle needed a boy's help? Peder was nowhere in sight and Tirabelle knew that she would have to handle this on her own.
She quickly pulled Ana's skirt out from her underwear and straightened it down around her ankles. Dragging her sister down the wheelchair ramp, she pushed through the crowd of children, laughing and pointing, a million hands shoving her rudely, Tirabelle's eyes stung with tears of humiliation, she ran out of the schoolyard, the peach forgotten in the dirt.
'I'm sorry I embarrassed you,' said Ana, swishing her feet in the creek. Took you long enough, I always have to look out for you, why are you like this? Why can't you just be normal? Why do I have to care for you?
'It's alright, you didn't embarrass me,' Tirabelle said, unbraiding Ana's hair and brushing it out, counting the strokes on the pale, pale blond hair. She could feel the hot tears singing her cheeks, the sting would never go away. Ana would always be her problem. Poor, stupid, slow, Ana. Her cursed sister, the one her Mother barely cared about. If she wasn't there to take care of her, what would happen to Ana? Tirabelle feared the answer to this, that was why she stayed, that was why she couldn't leave and go somewhere where she could wear shorts, and flip-flops and dance and sing and swim and laugh all she wanted. Ana yelped, and she let go of the hairbrush, counting the seconds until it was carried around the bend and out of sight.
Tirabelle had known for minutes already that someone was coming, though she had known only for seconds who it was. Peder ran right past them and cannon-balled into the creek, splashing cold water over all three of them. Ana screeched, though Tirabelle was rather grateful to her brother, she no longer felt so hot.
'Where were you?' she asked, putting Ana's hair back into braids. 'We needed you back there.' Peder had never made it fully underwater in the shallow creek, and he turned to her now, drops of water glimmering like fairy dust in his faded brown hair, his green eyes sparkling.
'You didn't need me. Besides, I was busy, because I found this.' Peder reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out a white ball, it was about the size of a soft ball, the texture of a spider sack, and it too was sparkling with water crystals.
'What is it?' asked Tirabelle, leaning over to examine the item.
'It's a faeries net,' said Peder, looking at her with a childlike excitement beside his fifteen years. 'Faeries use it to capture magic out of the air. There's enough magic in here,' he said, in a hushed voice. 'To fix Ana completely.'
'Is that true?' Tirabelle asked, but Peder never got to answer. Mary Lou ran up in a fit of maniac laughter, and stomped on Peder's hand, he dropped the faerie net, and Mary Lou stomped it into the ground, until all that was left was a flat pulp like homemade paper, and a small scattering of pink dust floating in the air. Mary Lou laughed harder, spit flew from her mouth and landed on Tirabelle's face.
'You're so stupid!' Mary Lou gasped. 'You're all alike! 'Oh! I'm blind! I'm a retard! Oh, I believe in faeries! I believe in magic!' You people are such idiots! Ha!'
The growl began somewhere low in Tirabelle's throat, the growl only made Mary Lou laugh harder, and the growl erupted into a roar. Tirabelle leaped onto Mary Lou, dragging her into the water. She couldn't control herself, was this some other being sitting on top of the most popular girl in Yarold County? Was this some other being forcing May Lou's head into the water and holding it there, while bouncing on her belly and watching the bubbles rise? She made no attempts to stop, this was what she deserved, she took away her one chance to fix Ana, to be able to live a normal life. Tirabelle felt like some kind of wild tiger, coming in for the kill. Her siblings stood in shock, watching and listening to a form of anger they had never experienced before.
Finally, Peder splashed up to her, and pulled her off Mary Lou, but there was no more struggle, no more bubbles rising to the top, just the glimmer of pink shorts and a red T-shirt, unmoving under the water. Tirabelle, Ana, and Peder stood and stared in eerie silence at the body spread out before them.
Suddenly a distinctively pink buzzing filled the air, the hairs on the back of Tirabelle's neck stood up.
'Ana,' she whispered. 'Run.' She heard the splash as her sister climbed out of the creek and sprinted through the forest. Peder was still behind her, his hands on her shoulders.
'Tirabelle,' he asked, his eyes locked on the pink haze forming in front of them. 'What is that?'
'Faeries,' she said. 'The person who destroyed their faerie net is gone, so now they've come for us.'