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A Fine Line (2)
ONT HUMAN YEAL FULS
ONE HUMAN YEAR LATER
Tom crawled into the enclosure and looked around. A lone butterfly with bright red wings detached itself from a flower and flew toward him.
"Hope!" Tom held out his palm and the butterfly landed on it. He gently offered a finger for it to tickle with it's tongue and giggled.
"Guess what, Hope, it's my birthday. Dad and Resa forgot, but I knew you'd be happy to see me!" The butterfly flew up to tickle his nose and Tom giggled again. Then it suddenly left him.
"Hope?" Tom's eyes grew wide as he watched the butterfly dance around the flowers, collecting other butterflies, who joined the mosquitoes dancing over the water. He tried to follow the red butterfly with his eyes, but they were soon moving so fast that he grew dizzy and had to sit down. Finally, when they were moving at what seemed to be a supernatural speed, there was a small flash of light. Tom blinked his eyes and covered his head as water from the pool was splashed into his face.
"Hope?" The butterfly hovered before him, but, looking closely, Tom saw that it wasn't a butterfly, but a tiny person. He heard soft laughter and looked around. The other butterflies and mosquitoes were circling him, staring at him with interest, but the butterflies were now tiny woman and the mosquitoes tiny men. He looked back to the first butterfly. She smiled at him and reached her hands up to the sky as if stretching. Tom blinked again as the tiny woman grew before his eyes. Her skin was pale and her hair was dark and tied back with a string of leaves. Her clothes were pale green and seemed to be made of leaves as well.
"Tom," she whispered sweetly. She held out her hands and beckoned to him.
"Hope?" Hesitantly, he took her hands. She pulled him up and kissed him on the forehead. Tom drew back and Dunell let him, staring at him adoringly.
"Actually, my name's Dunell."
“But you can keep calling me Hope. I like it.”
“A fairy.” Dunell stepped forward and steadied him. “Tom, what's your birthday?” Dunell stared at him with open curiosity, and Tom felt himself relaxing.
“It means I turned older today. I'm nine.”
“Nine? Nine in human years…” She furrowed her head in deep concentration. A moment later she began to shimmer, and when Tom blinked, the fairy was his size.
“That's better, isn't it?” She asked and leaned closer to him.
A small fairy perched on Dunell's shoulder and whispered into her ear. Tom took a step back when the fairy grinned at him.
“I know, Inna, calm down. I…” She turned to look at the pool. All of the fairies were disappearing into it.
“Where are they going?”
Dunell turned back to him and smiled. “Would you like to find out?” She held out her hand. Tom stared at her and took another step back. “We can celebrate your birthday.”
“Yeah, we'll celebrate together.”
Tom smiled wide and grabbed her hand. She pulled him toward the pool.
“Now, take a deep breath and don't let go.”
“Ah!” Tom leapt from the fairy pool.
“Are you okay?” Dunell followed him and wrapped her arms around him. “Here.” She fanned him with her wings and he was suddenly dry. Tom leaned away from her, looking around curiously.
“Where are we?”
“My home.” Dunell stepped away from him.
“Wait.” Tom grabbed her hand.
Dunell looked back and smiled. “I wasn't going to leave you.” She patted Tom's hand. “Come on.” She led him slowly through the trees a short ways, in the opposite direction from the other fairies, then into a small enclosure.
Tom blinked. It looked almost like the enclosure with the pool, but it was smaller. Dunell led him over to a far tree, where a circle of tree roots had collected water. She knelt next to it, cupped her hands into the water and drank deeply. “Drink.”
She watched him closely as he gathered a handful of water and drank it. His eyes grew wide and she leaned back and smiled.
“It's sweet,” he said, bending down for another mouthful.
“Of course. Now, tell me how you celebrate a birthday.”
“Well, my mom was the only one who really cared about my birthday.” His face fell for a moment. Dunell reached out to squeeze his hand, and he smiled at her. “She would make me a chocolate cake and sing to me. Then she'd give me a present, a book or a new ball, and then we'd play baseball.”
Dunell nodded. “My friends will get everything we need.” She turned to look behind them. Two large fairies and a few small ones were lounging near the opening. They nodded at Dunell and smiled crookedly at Tom before leaving.
“I don't like it when they smile. It makes me shiver.”
“Yes, we have that effect on humans.” Dunell thought of something suddenly and jerked around. “I don't scare you, do I?”
“No, you're different,” Tom reassured her.
“Good. How do you play baseball?”
Dunell did her best to give Tom the birthday he described, and Tom soon stopped thinking of his mother. Dunell urged the other fairies to join them and a few did, but they rarely addressed Tom directly. He found that they knew his language well enough, but preferred to communicate silently among each other.
Tom was just beginning to wander if night ever fell in these woods, when Dunell turned to him. “Are you tired, Tom?”
“You, aren't you?”
“Yes, but not in your way.” Dunell clapped her hands together and the lights in the trees dimmed. “Come.”
Tom glanced suspiciously at the other fairies. Dunell shooed them away. One fairy gave her a questioning look and Dunell cocked her head. They stared so long at each other, that Tom knew they must be communicating in some way. Dunell laughed suddenly and the other fairy nodded at him before leaving.
“Come, my dear.” Dunell took Tom's hand and led him toward another tree whose roots formed a shallow basin.
“Warm,” he said, as he pillowed into the soft center. Dunell climbed in beside him.
“Of course,” she whispered and kissed him lightly on the forehead. She began to sing softly. At first, the words seemed unfamiliar and when he opened his eyes, he saw that her lips weren't moving, but her voice soothed him and he soon fell asleep.