All Nonfiction Bullying Books Academic Author Interviews Celebrity interviews College Articles College Essays Educator of the Year Heroes Interviews Memoir Personal Experience Sports Travel & CultureAll Opinions Bullying Current Events / Politics Discrimination Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking Entertainment / Celebrities Environment Love / Relationships Movies / Music / TV Pop Culture / Trends School / College Social Issues / Civics Spirituality / Religion Sports / Hobbies
- Summer Guide
- College Guide
- Author Interviews
- Celebrity interviews
- College Articles
- College Essays
- Educator of the Year
- Personal Experience
- Travel & Culture
- Current Events / Politics
- Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking
- Entertainment / Celebrities
- Love / Relationships
- Movies / Music / TV
- Pop Culture / Trends
- School / College
- Social Issues / Civics
- Spirituality / Religion
- Sports / Hobbies
- Community Service
- Letters to the Editor
- Pride & Prejudice
- What Matters
1. The Stench of Lilies
"Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water," she recited, her sing-song voice grating to my ears. She was rocking back and forth in her chair; I could hear it scrape and thump onto the ground in time with the nursery rhyme. "Jack fell down and burst his crown..."
I chanced an open eye to look around the room, attempting to find a way out. Three walls, each panelled in dark wood; the top two-thirds were papered in a dark plum, uninterrupted. The door had to be behind me, then.
"Ooh, somebody's awake," she said quietly.
I squeezed my eyelids shut, but it was too late, of course.
"Such pretty, pretty blue irises," she sang, prying my lids apart with slim, delicate fingers. "But you're not supposed to be awake yet," she murmured. She slid them closed, then leaned down over me. "And Jill came tumbling after." Her breath was warm and moist against my ear.
The smell of lilies mixed with the stench of the sweat-soaked mattress. I fought to open my eyes for a moment before succumbing to her sleep.
The London underground is full of energy at rush hour. People bustling around from one place to the next, darting to work or to home or the opposite Some go shopping or out for a drink; perhaps someone is headed to the theatre or to see a film. Everyone has someplace to go, someplace to be--always the way of the tube, but even more palatable with so many people flooding through. The tube isn't the scenic route, the prettiest way from A to B, and it isn't a destination.
I don't know why, then, I always seem keep coming back to exactly the same spot at exactly the same time, with nowhere to else to go, no destination past this stop. I have nowhere to be past eleven, nowhere but in bed, maybe with a book.
Yet I know that, even though it's five thirty now and I'm heading home, I'll be back here again at eleven eleven on the dot. Just to be sure.
Eleven o'clock. Far past time to be home. Nowhere to be but home, either.
Makeup smudged everywhere, mascara trickling down my cheek, I waited impatiently for the train.
Then I heard it. The sound of bells ringing softly in the night, echoing off the concrete walls.
I turned, and there she was. Small, defenceless. Curled up into a ball on a bench. She could have been waiting for a train, but I doubted it. Her shoulders shook like she was crying.
"Miss? Are you alright?" I walked towards her cautiously, not sure what to think.
"Leave me," she whispered, not looking up. Her black hair covered her face and arms, shiny and perfect.
I knew bad days though; I'd had a bad enough run myself. The train wasn't for another two minutes. I could spare the time to try and comfort a lost soul, yes?
"Has somebody hurt you?" I asked. Now that I was this close I could see she didn't have shoes or a coat, though it was freezing out.
"I said, leave." She looked up, her eyes boring into mine. Pitch black, coal black eyes. Her tears were gold.
I stumbled back. "What--what are you? What happened to you?"
"Leave," she insisted, and maybe it was because of the way she said it, or maybe it was because the train had come a minute and a half early, but this time, the third time, I took her advice. I looped my own scarf around her neck, twining it once, twice 'round.
"Stay warm. And... good luck."
Too late. The first time.
4. Never Ever, Again
Eleven eleven on the dot. The platform isn't full, but it isn't empty.
No faeries this time. Again.
I will sleep easy, then, tonight.
5. A Cup of Tea
"You say you're seeing faeries?"
"They're everywhere." I held my mug with white-knuckled hands. It was all I could do to keep them from shaking.
"Drink your tea," he reminded me. I took a sip, burning my lips and tongue. "What are you going to do about them?"
This was why I loved him. He didn't ask silly questions like 'Are you alright?' and 'Are you sure you're seeing these faeries?'--instead, he believed me. Or at least, he played along.
"I don't know."
He leaned forward in his chair, elbows on knees, reaching out to me where I sat, curled in my chair with a blanket stretched tight around my shoulders. 'I care,' his position said. 'I want to protect you.'
"Drink your tea," he repeated. "Then go to sleep. You need rest. I've never seen you look this tired."
I blew on my tea this time before taking another sip. "I'm scared," I admitted, staring down into the sugared depths of my Earl Grey decaf.
From under my lashes I could see him studying me. A week of looking over my shoulder and staying in after dusk hadn't done me much good, and he could surely see it.
"Stay the night here, if you want. Guest room's always open," he said finally. "Finish your tea. I'm going to bed."
"Thank you," I whispered.
That was the first night I'd slept in a week. After all, I thought I'd be safe, not being alone.
6. Travelling Home
I inspect the platform as thoroughly as my sanity, that part of my mind that tells me this whole thing is crazy, will allow. Then I get back on the subway and I leave. Headphones plugged in, I lean against the side of the car, my coat now a blanket. It's a long ride home.
7. Things That Happen In The Dark
They came for me that night, exactly a week since I'd seen the faerie--I finally called her a faerie, my certainty fuelled by his belief--and at exactly the same time I'd seen her.
I didn't put up some futile fight. Instead I just let them gather me up and take me away. But, away to where?
8. Run On
The faeries haven't visited me for ages, which I suppose I should be grateful for, but I have to say, I almost miss having them around in the shadows, because even though they frightened me and bullied me and made my life hell, they at least had the decency to add a little magic.
The first thing they asked when I woke the second time was whether I was comfortable.
"No. Not at all."
The first one, the one who had been in the room earlier, with her matching black irises and pupils and singing, placed a hand on my arm. Her fingers were unnaturally cold and long, just as I remembered them from the last time, and I flinched at her touch. Her friend helped hoist me to my feet, where I swayed unsteadily. I kept a wary eye on them, a starved dog in a bed of snakes.
"Ssh, ssh, we're here to help you," the friend soothed, stroking my hair with her free hand.
"Why have you been keeping me here?" My voice was hoarse and dry after spending who-knows-how-long without water, my lips cracked and painful.
"We needed to keep you here while we found what was lost."
"What does that mean?"
"You gave something to one of the fae, a cursed one," the first said. The second dropped my arm to strip the sheets from my mattress, replacing them with new.
I was gently placed back down onto the now-cool bed, sleep creeping back over me as enchanted hands stroked my hair.
"And now we must find it again," the second finished.
I lock the door at home, even though the faeries could get through it anyway. I am safe tonight, though. I wrap my scarf around my neck and settle in with a cup of tea and a throw blanket for an evening of reading. Something light. Something without faeries.
"Never lend something to a faerie. It's ever so much work for us to recover it again for you."