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The girls sat at the table; their feet, unable to reach the floor, swung in rhythm. They began telling their parents about the fairies they had met in the garden. Mr and Mrs Freemont exchanged an exasperated glance; this was not a new tale.
“And then Mrs Piddleton.”
“She’s the blue faery,” Carol, the younger one chirped in.
“They already know she’s the blue faery. Mrs. Piddleton, the blue fairy, told us that we were faeries too. Only the faeries traded us when we were just wee babies. They took your real kids and left us in their place. And Mrs. Havershank,”
“She’s the red one,” another interruption.
Suzie kept going, “Mrs. Havershank, the red faery, said that if we wanted they would come and steal us away. We could spend the rest of forever dancing in pretty dresses and drinking honey all day and talking to the birds and butterflies, but not the dragonflies because they’re ornery.”
“Then Anna came into the garden.”
“So Mr. Wembledon,” Suzie continued the story, “the green faery, tipped his hat at us and they all disappeared. But first Mrs. Piddleton winked at us. Anna wanted to know what we were doing, so we said we were playing cat’s cradle.”
“But you can only play with two people.”
“So she had to leave or someone would be left out and she didn’t want to go but if she had stayed the faeries wouldn’t have come back. So we made her leave.”
Mrs Freemont interrupted the story right then, “You were mean to Anna? Tomorrow you two will go straight over to her house and invite her to play. And you are not to be mean to her again, especially for your pretend games.”
“But mamma, they’re not pretend. Zecelia said, she’s the pink one and she’s in charge, and she came back after Anna left, and she said that they would come for us tonight, then she kissed our thumbs. She said it was to mark us so the hobgobs…”
“Hobgoblins,” Suzie corrected her sister.
“Hobgoblins, that’s what she called them.”
“Oh, she kissed us so the hob…”
“Would know who to grab.”
“Otherwise they might grab Anna instead!”
“And if you look at our thumbs there’s now a little tiny mark on them.”
“Right where she kissed us.”
“And it looks like a strawberry.”
Mr. and Mrs. Freemont had heard quite enough of these fairies. The girls had been talking nonstop about them for weeks. They had blamed the fairies for any disobedience, this being mean to Anna was only the latest in a string of incidences where the girls had been rude, unthoughtful, mean, or sneaky.
After dinner and baths and quick goodnight kisses the girls were in bed and the parents were downstairs cleaning up dinner.
Mr. and Mrs. Freemont could hear the girls up in their room. Between cracks of thunder their peals of giggles wound down the stairs and tickled the parents ears.
There was a particularly large clap of thunder and the neighborhood dogs started barking. The dogs stopped barking, the storm instantly died, and the girls were utterly quiet. Mrs. Freemont was the first to notice the complete silence. She looked at her husband, his voice broke through the silence, “I hear it too.”
It was foolish, both Mr. and Mrs. Freemont knew their girls were upstairs, they probably fell silent because they fell asleep. But the parents needed to see their baby girls just to release the foreboding feeling that pressed down on their chests. They swiftly went up the stairs and quietly pushed the bedroom door open.
The girls’ beds were empty, the sheets tossed about the room. The window was open and the curtains rippled in a soft breeze. There were two tiny strawberries on the window sill.