Houses for Fairies

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Of the many things Marie's mother taught her, making houses for fairies was her favorite.

Yes, she knew how to tell how far away thunderstorms were. She knew not to track mud in the house, although she needed reminding sometimes to take her shoes off after playing in the heather field. Marie knew how to tell when horses were mad just be their fuzzy ears. Houses for fairies though; that was special.

"You must use the most beautiful paper because fairies have high standards," her mother would say, as she laid out sheets of Creamsicle orange, buttercup yellow, and dazzling bright blue. They'd sit in their secret spot, under a giant, old willow tree that fell over between the edge of their property and the wild, dark forest beyond. Ivy spread over the canopy, making little shards of light filter through and dance on their crossed legs as they sat on a soft bed of pine needles and dried leaves.

"You have to think only happy thoughts because your body radiates your mood and they won't come out if you're in a bad one," she said with a smile, poking her nose, making Marie giggle. Her mother's long, elegant fingers would then begin folding the paper with perfectly crisp edges as Marie watched wide-eyed and eager.

When they were done, it was Marie's job to place the bright paper houses along the fence and decorate them with little strips of bark, berries, and flowers because according to her mother, fairies won't move into unfurnished houses. There they sat, day in and day out. Sometimes the rain would turn them to mush, and they would rebuild, waiting for the day the fairies moved in.

As Marie grew older and her mother grew sicker, their secret spot overgrew with ivy. Marie needed to be taught other things, like how to cook for herself and get ready for school on her own. On the day that felt like the end, she ran crying through the field of heather to the fallen down tree. Taller now, Marie had to bend down and pull away ivy and branches to reach their secret spot.

Marie tore open the metal lockbox stashed there from years ago, revealing two sheets of cherry red paper. She set to work folding and creasing the sheets just like her mother did. Once finished, she gathered some strips of birch bark and buttercups for decoration, placing it all at the edge of the forest.

Marie took a deep breath and closed her eyes. She thought about the smell of her mother's hair, the warmth and firmness of her fingers on Marie's while she led her up the bus steps, the sweet sound of her laughter, and the tightness and pain left her chest. When she opened her eyes, Marie could just see through the tears blurring her vision, a small set of bright, clear eyes looking at her from around the cherry red fairy house. 

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