A Fine Line (1)

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“Tom! Tom!"

Tom looked around him frantically and almost cried out in frustration.

"You get back here right now!"

"Ah..." There, a small gap in the hedges. Tom wiggled through the hole and repositioned the tree branches so it was hidden.

"Tom!" The voice came from farther away and Tom smiled.

He turned to examine the enclosure farther. It was a good size, ringed by hedges and trees, and there was a small pond at the far end.

Tom inched closer and sat next to the pond, staring wonderingly at it. The surface sparkled in the sun that slanted down from the holes in the trees. Mosquitoes danced over the water's surface and butterflies fluttered around some flowers that were planted around its edges.

"Oh..." As Tom looked into the water, he felt his anxiety leave him. Then, suddenly, he remembered why he'd ran from the house. "Mother..."

One of the butterflies flitted closer. Tom's eyes grew big. For a second he thought he saw a tiny figure reach its hand toward him, then he blinked and sat that it was just the butterfly resting on his nose.

"Ah!" He fell backwards and curled himself into a ball. "Mother..."

The butterfly landed gently on his forehead and stayed there until he picked himself up and returned to his house.

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"Dunell!"

With a last look at the place where Tom had vanished through the hedges, Dunell let her image return to normal and sighed.

"Dunell, are you alright?" Someone placed a hand on her shoulder.

"I'm fine, Inna."

Suddenly, a hand gripped her harder and pushed her roughly toward the ground. Dunell, taken off guard, fell haphazardly toward a flower and managed to regain control only just before she landed.

"Hey, what was that?"

Inna hovered just above her. "I could ask the same thing to you?"

"Oh." Dunell dropped her fists and looked down.

"Oh!" Inna pressed her face into Dunell's. "Oh! You let your disguise fall!"

"Only for a second. It was an accident."

Inna shook her head. "What were you thinking?"

"I was thinking..." Dunell sat down heavily and Inna, seeing the distressed look on her face, sat down beside her.

"I was thinking that he sounded so sad. I wanted to cheer him up. Don't humans have a saying about butterfly kisses..."

"I don't know, he seemed really startled by you." Inna smiled slightly, a little of her natural fairy mischief returning. When Dunell smiled back, Inna sighed.

"But you let your disguise fall! Dea's going to find out about this."

"Inna, please, don't say anything. I...”

Kueth!

Dunell and Inna turned to look at the pool. Every other fairy was throwing off their disguises and diving into the pool.

Kueth!--Come!

Dunell's face fell. "She knows...but..."

Inna stood and held out her hand for Dunell to take. "She calls...we must go."
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Dunell and Inna dove into the pool and swam easily toward the hole in the bottom. As they emerged from the human pool and into the fairy pool, they laughed.

Kueth,mu kilten.--Come, my children.

The two smiled despite themselves. They reached their hands up into the sky and felt their bodies stretch. Dunell carefully smoothed her skirts around her body and shook her wings dry. Then Inna took her hand again and they hurried into the trees. They followed the others, taking one of the forest paths that were carefully cushioned with flowers, though they barely allowed their feet to touch the ground. The pull in their minds led them to an enclosure, one that was very familiar. The trees surrounding it twinkled in the twilight sky and the grass and flowers seemed to laugh in the breeze.

"Dea!" All of the returning fairies shouted and curtsied low when they saw her. The dancing fairies already there broke up their groups and welcomed them.

Dunell and Inna went immediately to their queen, Inna half pulling her.

"Remember," she whispered, "she knows, and it will be easier for you to just ask for forgiveness."

Dea was sitting on her thrown, a large tree at the far end of the enclosure that had grown white with age. She had been watching the dancing fairies avidly while stroking one of the white flowers that only grew around her throne. When the rest of her court entered her enclosure, she straightened with a smile and shouted in their minds, Mu kilten, wasten! Mos ujuyus vielal tu!--My children, welcome! I'm overjoyed to see you!

She turned to stare at the approaching Dunell and Inna, her smile fading. The two curtsied deeply and knelt at the base of her throne.

Dea, Dunell called hesitantly in her mind.

Dunell. Dea reached down and placed a hand under her chin. Dunell looked up and floated slightly off the ground to look her more in the eye, a smile escaping her at the touch of her queen's hand. Dea smiled gently at her, then her face returned once again to its frozen mask. Her grip turned icy. Quil adoinal vu?--What did you do?

Dea. Dunell reached up a hand to gently pull at the Dea's grip on her chin. Noten!--Nothing!

All of the fairies stopped dancing and they came to kneel behind Inna, curious. It was impossible for a fairy to lie in their minds, and when Dunell had spoken, they'd all known she had.

Dunell looked back up into Dea's eyes. "I...I let my disguise slip in front of a human."

Everyone narrowed their eyes.

Bi, Mo vuni Danal.--But, I didn't mean to.

Dea nodded and released her. Tauvu, Dunell, bi vus conirea musit. Vunne vilal puta agiet…nif forev, bi alfore.--Thank you, Dunell, but you're too curious. Don't go to the pool again...not forever, but for awhile. This last she added after she saw the stricken faces of Dunell and Inna, but Dunell's face fell farther and she returned to kneel next to her friend.

"Please, Dea, don't punish her. She didn't mean to show herself, and it was a small human, a child, he didn't even notice."

Ni, Inna. Nus vunu leta ru huppa agiet.--No, Inna. We can't let this happen again.

The others nodded, but some grew thoughtful.

Inna lowered her head, but she gave Dunell a determined look. Plean, Dea. Quil Dunellal aproc nil al intera humans agie?.--Please, Dea. What if Dunell promised to not interact with humans again?

Dea looked at her, then turned to Dunell. Bi, wondlea?--But, would she?

Mo tearal.--I think so.

Dunell? Dea held out her hand. Mos ni madso al vu. Aproc, az Nus forgiu.--I'm not mad at you. Promise, and we'll forget it.

Everyone nodded, leaning toward their queen's hand unconsciously.

Inna inched closer to Dunell. "You promised almost the same thing to me, didn't you?"

"No," Dunell whispered. Inna frowned and glanced worriedly up at Dea.

"No!" Dunell jumped up. "Dea, I can't promise!"

Dunell?

Dea. She hurried to take Dea's hand before she drew it back. Plean, unertea.--Please, understand.

Dea stared at her for a moment, then nodded, allowing Dunell to keep her hand.

"The human, the child, he seemed so sad. I've never really experienced sadness before. I couldn't just leave him alone. Humans have a saying that, uh..."

"A kiss from a butterfly means that fortune is smiling on you." They all jumped slightly when Dea spoke aloud.

"Yes. All he saw was me as a butterfly. I promise, he wasn't looking at me when my disguise slipped. If he comes to the pool again, I don't think I could stay away."

Vu casreal lean?--You care for him?

Na!--Yes! Dunell shouted in her mind as loud as she could.

Dea leaned back and looked up at the sky. Dunell knelt back down next to Inna and they shifted uncomfortably, Inna glaring at Dunell.

"Dunell." She jumped and looked back up into Dea's face. "Wait a year. Your human will be back, he really is a troubled one. Stay with him when he comes to the pool, but add a bright mark to your butterfly wings. If you don't let your disguise slip again, and if he comes to recognize you in that form, then you may keep him."

"Keep him?"

Ont human yeal.--One human year.

Na, taovu, Dea.--Yes, thank you, Dea. Dunell knelt lower in front of her thrown and kissed the white roots. Dea smiled obligingly at her and waved to the others to leave her alone.

Dunell turned to follow them and when they turned to stare at her, she said, Mo wonz hahlean!--I will have him!
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