It rained again during the night. I spent hours putting bucket and bowls and cups under all the leaks in the rotten roof. One of these days it will fall on our heads and then we’ll have to move again, but I can’t fix it myself and I certainly can’t afford to hire someone to do it for us. I’ve got a little money saved up from working down at the watch shop, but anyone who came up here to work on the cabin would meet Lara.
I glanced over at the bed, where Lara was wrapped in the blankets like a little caterpillar in its cocoon. She was dreaming, her eyes flicking back and forth under her pale eyelids. Lara has always had very vivid dreams.
The sun was just rising over the ridge, rays spilling in through the cracked windows of the cabin and reflecting off the knife in my hand. Lara would be up soon – she always woke with the dawn – and I had to leave for work. The watch shop opens at nine but it’s a long walk down the mountain to town. I went back to the sandwich I was making. Peanut butter and strawberry jam, cut into quarters with the crusts removed. It’s what she’s had for breakfast and lunch every day for the past eleven years, and she cries when I don’t take the crust off or use jelly instead of jam. I suppose I should be lucky that she eats any food at all. She only stopped breastfeeding when our mother died, and she was three years old then.
I finished the sandwich and went to draw a bucket of water from the well. I didn’t have time to empty the things in the cabin, but if I filled a pitcher and added lemonade mix, maybe she would drink that instead of the rainwater. Maybe not.
When I returned Lara was sitting up in bed, clutching Bunny to her chest. It was my toy first. I can remember giving it to Lara the night after Mother died, to get her to stop crying. She hasn’t let go of it ever since. It even bathes with her. The white fur is grey now, and patchy, the glass eyes are dull, and the lavender ribbon is shredded, but if you try to take bunny away from Lara, she’ll scream until she makes herself sick. Lara was looking out the window, blue eyes wide, not blinking. Sometimes she’ll go for days without talking, without even looking at me, just staring at things that aren’t there.
“Lara, come eat breakfast.” Suddenly her eyes focused on me.
“A witch tried to take Bunny away.”
“What witch?” I dropped lemonade mix into the pitcher and stirred.
“She was pretty, but her hands were black and her teeth were green. She tried to take Bunny but I kicked her, and then she screamed.” Lara got up from the bed and came to the table. I brushed her messy curls out of her face as she started on the sandwich.
“You were just dreaming, Lara,” I replied.
“No I wasn’t.”
It’s hard to argue with Lara, but I tried. “I was watching you. You were sleeping.”
Lara put down the sandwich and turned to look at me, her expression earnest. “I was asleep here, but I wasn’t asleep there. On the Other Side.”
The Other Side. The land of the faeries. I sighed. “I have to go, Lara-bear. I’ll be home later. Try to stay out of trouble.”
Lara gave me one of her rare, gorgeous smiles. “Don’t worry sissy, Bunny will keep me safe.”
I took one last glance in through the window before I left. Lara was having an animated conversation with the air.
The sun was setting by the time I returned to the cabin. I was usually back much earlier, as I only worked part time and left in the early afternoon, but – well. I’d been working on his watch when he came in, a complex piece with a fish that moved around the watch face and acted as the hour hand. It had taken me the better part of two weeks to build it and he’d been using it as an excuse to come see me. The shop’s bell rang, and that was all the warning I got before he was sitting in front of me.
“Come to dinner with me tonight.” I confess I was shocked. I thought I’d been doing a good enough job of discouraging him, but it seemed not. “Come on! It’ll be fun. You never do anything for fun, do you?” His tone was light, teasing, flirty even, but I made myself keep working on the watch, kept myself from looking at him.
“Why not? What excuse is it this time, Ivy? There’s always something.”
“I – I don’t feel well.” My heart was beating double-time, and my palms were starting to sweat. He smelled like cinnamon, and I wanted him to lean in closer.
At the same time I wanted him far, far away.
“So let me drive you home. Where do you live? Not in town, or I’d see you a lot more often. Up on the mountain?”
I stood up so quickly my chair fell down, slamming into the floor. The noise startled him, and he jumped up.
“Your watch is done.” I was out the door before he recovered enough to chase me. He wouldn’t want me once he met Lara. I’d be the girl with the crazy sister. And then he’d tell his friends, and word would get around, and people would bring up doctors and hospitals and Children’s Services. Maybe it was time to move again.
It took me a long time to calm down, so I didn’t get home until sunset. It’s no use going home when I’m angry; Lara tries my patience enough as it is. So as I walked up the path to the cabin I wondered, with a slightly sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, what Lara had gotten up to while I was gone.
I pushed open the door of the cabin and gasped. Lara had picked hundreds of flowers, pulled off the heads, and set them to float in the rainwater buckets and pots and bowls. And she had taken out every candle we owned and lit them. It was magical, and beautiful, and crazy, just like my sister.
Lara came over to me and tugged my hand.
“It’s for the faeries,” she said. “They won’t come inside unless there are flowers.”
I felt like I was sleepwalking. “Of course…faeries…”
“They’ve mostly left, but you can meet Violet.”
I looked down at her. “What?”
“Look.” She pointed to the table, were my tea mug sat, filled with tiny violets. I peered in, preparing myself to converse with Lara’s imaginary faery.
But then, over the far rim, a tiny head appeared. Emerald eyes met mine.
“Oh my God.” I closed my eyes and opened them again, wondering if I was dreaming –or hallucinating. But she – brown hair, emerald eyes, and delicate violet gossamer wings –was still there.
I looked at my sister in disbelief. “A faery.”
Lara smiled. “I told you,” she said, “It’s all real.”