“Roger, come on! Mum says you have to go with me.”
I sometimes wonder how this started. The insistent tugging on my arm whenever the moon rises full and bright. I look down at my sister, already dressed for bed with a sweater pulled over top. Her voice is urgent, afraid she’ll miss it because I move so slow.
“I can’t take you anywhere without shoes, silly.”
She dashes off, yelling for me to come on. I stand from the dinner table, sighing as I look at the clock. Homework is done, but I can’t go read my book until this is over and Cadence is in bed. Or perhaps the moonlight is strong enough to read by. I take along just in case.
It’s a short walk to the gardens, and Cadence pulls me the entire way. My long legs have nothing against her excitement and determination. It’s going to cost me an arm someday, if she doesn’t slow down. I don’t think she will.
She doesn’t want to miss the fairies.
A light breeze brushes over the gardens, causing them to sway in shades of blue and silver. There are arbors and benches and little bridges for crossing over trickling streams, crickets and wind chimes and the occasional sleepy night bug that crashes into my face mid-flight. We don’t always go to the same spot, and I have no idea what directs Credence to each place, but tonight we end up amongst bushes of blooming white evening flowers.
There’s a bench there, too. I sit there, under an awning, young vines just beginning to climb their way up the sides. “Are they here yet?” I ask.
“Sush!” She holds an urgent finger to her lips. “You’ll scare them away.”
I shrug and open my book, listening to her move around the bushes as I begin to read.
I’ve never seen the fairies. Not even when she points them out. Still, I say hello to them when she does; she just looks so expectant of my acknowledgment, and anyway, it’s polite. I wonder sometimes if I could have seen them when I was younger. Of course, I hadn’t had someone to take me to see them, what with dad working nights and mum’s principal of never going near the gardens herself. And I’d never known to look until Credence begged to go see them.
After some time, my eyes wandered from the pages, trailing after my sister instead. It was as if we were in different realities, overlapped and paper thin. Me, sitting in the gardens not far from home; and her, playing with fairies in the dancing moonlight far, far away.
Far, but still close by me, because she couldn’t come otherwise. It was a strange thing, the way the fairies could pull their world so close to ours so Credence could join their play. I watched her run in circles, and then break off to come straight to me. “Do you see them?” She’s pointing to the air above her.
I don’t think it’s something I’d ever share with another person—how much I wish I could say yes. Instead I smile and say “Hello”, imagining a small spark of light in the air, on the other side of whatever barrier stands between worlds. I look back at Credence, and with all my might I hope she never has to lose this. She’s looking at the air, grinning at what I cannot see, her eyes darting with its movements until she is looking right above me.
“Well?” she asks, and I know the fairy has said something to me. I’m staring blankly at her, wondering how I’m ever going to break it to her that I am at least a whole world away. Maybe more. I think she misinterprets the words I’m about to say as she leans in close. “It’s just fairy dust. It isn’t scary.”
I give her another smile and forget my confession. “Sure. Dust away.”
Credence starts giggling, and I suppose that means I’m getting dusted. A tiny hope inside me makes me look around the gardens, looking for a sparkle, a streak of light, the faintest sound of a fairy playing amongst the evening flowers. I don’t feel anything falling onto my head and shoulders, though Credence certainly sees something. She grabs my hand excitedly and then waves goodbye to the gardens; or perhaps, I suspect, to the somethings that fly in them. “It’s time to go.” she says.
And so we go.
The gardens fade into slumber as a cloud passes in front of the moon. I catch myself glancing over my shoulder as we leave, my arm slowly but surely getting pulled off.
Home is a strange place by the time we get back, soft and sleepy and extremely present. I hadn’t thought my mind was elsewhere until the sound of our front door shutting behind me yanked it from there. It was time to get ready for bed, to set down my book, to prepare for the coming day.
I don’t remember those tasks being so foreign to me.
I stop in front of the bathroom mirror, toothbrush hanging loose in one hand. I’m not quite remembering what to do with it. Perhaps the barrier between worlds will soften for me, and maybe it already has. Just a little bit. There’s a restlessness growing inside my ribs. Perhaps someday I may still see more worlds than just this one.
I really think I might.
For in my reflection, there’s the faintest shimmer of sparkling dust in my hair.