✨ Chapter 9 ✨

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Light—soft and blue—emanated from the inside of a house.

Marian peeked through a crack where the window had been propped open. She squinted, willing her eyes to adjust. A night-light shone from the corner of a room, tucked neatly beside an end table. An IV drip hung from a pole on wheels. Marian's eyes followed the tubing from a plastic bag to a bed, where someone lay asleep. The tubing ended at a needle attached to a hand covered with bandages. Marian cringed when she noticed that the person's other hand was also wrapped in gauze and medical tape.

Buzzing crackled in Marian's ears and inside her chest. She swallowed a gasp, and then clamped a hand over her mouth.

The figure on the bed stirred.

Marian held her breath. I don't want to wake anyone up, but how else am I supposed to figure out who's calling me? This must be my ward; he or she is sick. She frowned. But this doesn't look like a Glisten's home. Who could it be?

"Please make it stop," a voice called out.

Tingles ran along Marian's arms. She'd heard the voice before, earlier that day. A female voice, smooth and silky. But instead of being mocking and rude, the words held weariness and pain. Pity flooded Marian's chest, drowning out the buzzing, the song that had brought her to where she was now.

The figure in the bed sat up and moaned. "Please," a girl whispered. Mussed and clingy with sweat, locks of silver shone in the blue light.

Marian ducked her head below the windowsill and covered her mouth.

It is Minx. She shook her head. How is this possible?

A rustle of covers could be heard through the window, followed by footsteps and the creak of an IV cart slowly being dragged across the room. "I know you're there," the voice called out. "I can feel your presence just as you must have felt my call."

Before Minx reached the window, Marian dropped the blanket and shrank until she was no bigger than three quarters of an inch. She unfolded her wings, and began to glow.

"Are you in your firefly form?" Minx's voice was nearer now.

Marian looked up as a head popped out the window. Inwardly, she frowned at the depth of the circles beneath Minx's eyes.

"Ah, there you are."

The girl and the firefly stared at one another.

"You're quieter than I imagined," said Minx.

Worried her voice might give her away, Marian kept silent.

Looking out into the darkness, Minx continued, "I haven't been able to do that—transform—since the sickness started. I feel as if I'm missing part of myself." She sounded hollow, half delirious, very unlike the Minx that Marian knew from school. "That's how we got our name, you know...Glistens. A race of guardian fairies who live among humans. Night allows us to turn back to our true physical form—that of the firefly. The bioluminescent glow reveals only a spark of the light we bring to others. But when you see us all together, in a field under the night sky, we are as we appear. We glisten."

Marian knew this story, recited it in her mind while Minx rambled. Transforming into a firefly was the only Glisten ability she'd learned that felt natural. Even more so in the summertime.

Slowly, she flew upward, grateful that the firefly form also provided anonymity. In this form, all Glistens looked alike.

She landed in the center of Minx's outstretched hand; the clawed feet of all six legs met the bandages with a whisper of touch. The buzzing in her chest crackled at the plea for help buried within the golden glow of Minx's eyes.

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