Coming of Age Bedtime Contemporary

“Just promise you won’t tell mum.” Evie had me by the wrist now and was pulling me out of the back door. “You know I can’t promise that sweetie,” I replied, trying to stay light-hearted in the face of my daughter’s obvious anxiety. She was taking me toward the garden, with a real sense of urgency in her tone, through the glass doors away from where I had been working at the dining table. I had terminated the call early when, no matter what I did or faces I pulled, she continued to tug at my sleeve. “Daddy! You have to promise! I’m not supposed to be telling you either.”

I was starting to get concerned now. “Evie, just tell me what I’m looking at.” She said nothing and continued to tow me, like a reluctant ship out of harbour, toward the back of the garden and the shed. It was her little den, a secret space just for her where her little three-year-old mind could explore and seek stimulation. The grass was spring green, and by the time we reached the shed my navy slippers were soaked through with dew. She took me round the back of the shed and pointed at some stones on the ground.

“Look!” She said tearfully but firmly, “Look! She’s hurt!” Feeling, I must confess, relieved not to find anything more sinister, I knelt down to examine what she was trying to show me. In the small gap between the shed and the fence at the bottom of our garden, was a wild garden and what she called “Jungle”. The grass grew tall and moss was thick on the ground, with insects burrowing in and out of the moist soil. She was pointing to a ring of stones that she made made, a very neat ring for a three-year-old. It was a perfect circle and in the middle was an empty green space, clear of mud, dead insects, twigs, and anything else.

“Can you see Daddy?”

“Yes, I can darling. It’s very pretty, how did you get the stones so neat?”

“It wasn’t me it was Fairy.” I nodded my head with a half-smile.

“Ah, I see.” There was a pregnant pause and I noticed that she still seemed upset.

“So? Can you see?” She was almost pleading with me now, pointing at the ring with more and more ferocity. “Yes Evie, I can see your ring. I just said it’s very nice.”

“No not the ring!” She shouted. “In the ring! Can you see Fairy!?” I looked back at the ring, wondering if there was a toy within it, I was supposed to be looking at but I still couldn’t see anything apart from perfectly flat green grass. “There’s nothing in there sweetheart. Is this a game?”

“No Daddy,” She begged, bouncing her knees in anguished frustration. “Fairy’s in there! She is hurt, or poorly, I don’t know. But she needs help. She said not to get you, because you’re a grownup, but I didn’t know what else to do. Please Daddy, you have to see her.” The scales were falling from my eyes. “Is she pretend?”

“NO!” I’d seen tantrums before, and I’d heard Evie shout when she was cross or particularly upset about something, but this was on a whole other level. I tried to soothe her with gestures and a cuddle, but she pushed me off and knelt by the ring. “Come here Fairy, let me show him you.” She gathered up the air in her tiny palms as if it was a timid forest animal, then held it out to me. “Please Daddy look. Don’t just look with you eyes, look with your mind.”

I started at that. She was behaving with such gentility that I began to believe in the creature she held in her tiny hands. “You have a grownup mind Daddy! And that doesn’t let you see Fairy! You have to use your child mind. You have to imagine!”

Imagine. She said the word, not like it was a child’s game, but a facet of myself that I was missing, and I felt a pang in my chest. But I did as I was asked. I let go of my preconceptions of childhood games and fantasy. I let go of my zoom call, and my water bill, and the pandemic. I let go of myself and looked down with naked eyes and beheld my daughter’s new pet.

It had purple-pink wings, shaped like a butterfly but puffed up, iridescent and clear as if they were shaped from bubbles. There were two tails that hung limply over the sides of my daughter’s palms that reminded me of a manta ray and both stemmed from a body of a deep, deep ruddy violet. The body was insectoid as opposed to humanoid, with layers of coloured carapace that refracted light softly like silk. Its round head and face had recognisable features, a mouth and eyes but no nose. The eyes gazed upon me fearfully, like a puppy caught in a trap and what could have been my fear was melted by pity.

I looked the strange creature up and down with my open mind. It had no visible wounds, but I could tell somehow that it was ill. “She’s been getting worse Daddy.” Evie said softly and sadly, “The bigger I get, the sicker she gets.” She held the strange creature out to me. “Fix her Daddy.” My throat tightened at the look on her face, and I reached out to touch the creature, but instead held her hand. “I don’t think I can fix her darling.” I began gently. “I think the only one, who can fix Fairy is you.”

“But how Daddy? I can’t do it!” I smiled gently to try and reassure her as she fought back her tears.

“Fairy isn’t real, but that doesn’t mean you can’t believe in her.” She shook her head.

“But I don’t know if I do anymore. The bigger I get, the farther away she seems. She doesn’t make sense like she used to. There are questions in my head and the more they ask, the more she seems to disappear!” As she said this, I watched as the strange fairy writhed and winced as if in pain and I squeezed her hand.

“You’re getting older sweetheart and you’re learning the rules of the world. As you get older, you’ll realise that things like fairy don’t belong in it. They aren’t, in so many words, real.” For a moment she seemed to despair, and her pet coiled up in her palms like a sick dog, but I squeezed her hand. “But that doesn’t mean they can’t be real to you.” I tapped the side of my head with my finger. “While you believe in her, she can always be real. She will never get ill.”

“Forever?” She asked and I nodded.


Evie looked down at Fairy, and Fairy looked back at my daughter and it seemed like they were smiling at each other. The mysterious creature faded away out of her hand, becoming more and more translucent until there was nothing left. Evie closed her fists and looked up at my face. “I’ve got her safe now Daddy.” And she tapped her head back at me. I held her hand as we walked back to the house.

“Thank you for helping me Daddy!”

“No sweetie,” I said watching a translucent dragon circling out the corner of my eye and I watched it loop away through the sky. “Thank you.”

January 28, 2021 20:36

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