Once upon a time, in a forest by a river that always shone with the most promising of sparkles, there dwelled the faeries. Now, you cannot see them during the day, for they are secretive creatures; they hide amongst the leaves, disguising themselves as flowers.
They are a quiet and graceful people who like to speak in riddles. The next time you are walking through a forest, close your eyes and listen carefully, you might just hear the light fluttering of a faerie’s wings…
Fynn perched on the branch, eavesdropping upon the travellers’ conversation. It was interesting to hear how the humans thought of them. He fluttered his wings to see if they would look up. He watched as they bent down, examining a ring of mushrooms at the base of the tree.
“What are you looking at?” That frightened Fynn enough that he wobbled. He held desperately onto Fabien’s tunic for support, hoping that the branches wouldn’t fail him. Unluckily, with a dreadful snap, the branch gave way, and Fynn tumbled out of the tree, dragging Fabien down with him.
Fabien beat his wings, trying to stop them from hitting the ground, but he wasn’t strong enough to carry the both of them. They fell into the faerie circle. Fynn hit his head hard on a mushroom. Fabien was sprawled on top of him, looking equally as disoriented and humiliated.
Fabien let his wings take him up. Fynn remained on the ground, looking at the sky – away from Fabien – to save himself the embarrassment. That disproved what the humans thought of them, they were definitely less graceful than they might have thought.
“Are you all right down there?” The fluttering of wings neared. Fynn switched his gaze to Fabien, not prepared for the breath to be stolen from his lungs.
Fabien hovered over him, flashes of his wings shimmering in the light. His hair was dark brown with streaks of lighter tones; residues of the warm weather where the sun almost bleached it golden. It swept across his forehead in loose curls. His eyes were lilac, pale against his mahogany skin that held a light sprinkling of freckles across his cheeks.
Fynn had known those features almost his whole life, but he supposed that was the moment when he found beauty in them, it drew him in like a bee to a flower.
They were laughing about the incident by the time night fell, but Fynn couldn’t quite shake the feeling he had whenever he looked at Fabien. How the brightness of his smile could almost compete with the fireflies, and the colour of his eyes not only reflecting the colour of the flower, but the beauty as well.
They remained the fondest of friends. They laid by the river in summer, playing hide and seek with the water nymphs. In autumn, they gathered the fallen leaves, building them into enormous piles to dive into from the treetop. In spring, they hopped around from tree to bush to vine, picking whatever fruit and berries were ripe. And in winter, they threw snowballs at each other, and then nestled in front of the fire in the warmth of their treehouses.
Slowly, but surely, with every laugh and smile, from summer to winter, Fynn fell in love with him.
One night, Fabien flew Fynn to his door. He gave Fynn a hug before he left, like he always did. “I’ll see you tomorrow,” Fabien said. There were fireflies circling his head, enveloping him in a warm glow. Fabien snapped his fingers in front of Fynn’s face. “Fynn, you there?” Heat rushed up his neck. He had been caught staring again.
“Yes,” Fynn replied. “Tomorrow.”
Fabien ruffled his hair, Fynn was sure that he was floating. “Just try not to fall out of any trees before then.” That was years ago now, Fynn was shocked that Fabien would still remember.
Then, Fabien dove from the branches, waving at Fynn as his wings caught the breeze. Fynn clutched at his beating heart, the warmth of Fabien’s touch still lingering.
“You love him,” his Mother, Jelena said as Fynn was warming his hands by the fire.
Fynn’s eyes widened, feeling like a deer at the mercy of a hunter’s bow. Jelena was a cold and stern woman who rarely left the house. She was one of the remaining few faeries who had magic so faeries came to her from minor maladies to death draughts. She wasn’t exactly well-liked, but she was his Mother.
“It is nothing, I promise,” Fynn stuttered. Jelena narrowed her eyes.
That was the only feature they shared. Eyes the colour of rusted copper, flecked with gold at the edge of the irises. Her waist-length hair was stark white against her dark clothing. Her features were hawklike with sharp cheekbones and thin lips. She was elegant and poised in the way Fynn was clumsy. He must have taken after his Father, but Jelena never spoke about him.
“He does not love you,” Jelena said, rising from her chair.
Fynn felt those words like pinpricks in his heart. “I know,” he said. Fabien would never see him as anything more than a friend, and he wasn’t blind to all the girls who felt the same way he did. Over the years, Fabien had blossomed like the prettiest of flowers, but beyond that he was caring and kind to all that he encountered, his heart was genuine and true.
“He will break your heart,” Jelena said, softer this time, an almost worried tone permeating her voice.
“You don’t need to warn me, Mother,” Fynn said. “I know that we can only be friends, nothing more.” He shrugged, ignoring the numbness in his chest. “And I am fine with that.”
“Do not lie to me, Fynn,” Jelena said, pulling Fynn uncomfortable close. “How long?”
“A long time,” Fynn replied, swallowing.
Jelena turned, tearing her fingers through her white hair. “I never wished for this to happen. I should never have let you befriend him.”
“What are you talking about, Mama?” Fynn asked.
“This is my fault,” Jelena said, collapsing back into her chair with her face buried in her hands. Fynn had never seen his Mother like this; shivering, seemingly on the verge of tears. “That bastard.”
Fynn flew to his Mother’s side, tentatively putting his arm around her. “It is all right, Mama.” He didn’t know what else to do. “Nothing is going to happen between us, you don’t have to worry.”
She straightened up. “But what happens when he finds a girl to love? When they marry? Have children? What happens to you then? You will be forgotten, thrown to the back of his mind. Will that not break your heart?” Fynn stood back up, wiping frustratingly at the tears those words had elicited. “See? You cannot take it.”
“What did you mean when you said that this was your fault?” Fynn asked.
Jelena took in a shaky breath. “I never talk about your Father because he broke my heart. We spent a blissful few years together, but there had been another woman the whole time. They ran away together, and he left me with nothing. Faeries only truly fall in love once. I loved him truly, but he did not. I was young, rash and so very angry. I concocted a spell that would curse him to die of a broken heart, make him pay for what he did to me. I was unaware that I was with child, that the spell would latch onto you instead, for you had his blood.”
Fynn was holding onto the mantel for support because that was the only way he was remaining upright. “So, this… curse, it dooms me to die of a broken heart.”
“The only way to stop the curse is for the one you love to return your feelings,” Jelena said.
“He will not,” Fynn said. “He fancies another.” Her name was Eolande. He knew before Fabien had told him. One could see the lovestruck look in his eyes.
“I am not going to let you pay for my mistake,” Jelena said, standing up suddenly and grabbing Fynn by the shoulders. “You have every right to hate me, but I will do anything before I lose you.”
“I could never hate you, Mama,” Fynn said. His Mother had raised him. He owed his life to her. “Is there a way?” he asked. “For me to somehow stop loving him.” Not loving Fabien seemed like an awful thing, but what could he do?
“I cannot take away your feelings for him,” Jelena said. “But love potions are easy to brew, he will fall in love with you in an instant.”
Fynn shook his head. “No, that is wrong,” he said. “I will… I will not do that to him.”
“He will not know,” Jelena said.
“But that is a lie,” Fynn said, feeling uncomfortable at the prospect of it.
“It is better than having your heart broken,” Jelena snapped. “Now, go to bed, while I brew this potion.” Fynn knew better than to argue with his Mother when she used that tone.
The next day, Fynn waited for Fabien outside his treehouse, the love potion hidden in his pocket. The cool glass warmed beneath his fingers, the contents sloshing around inside. Fabien came out, eyes still misty with sleep. He gave a yawn.
“Late night?” Fynn asked, his night had certainly been eventful.
“Eolande and I may or may not have gone and enjoyed the festivity down at the river,” Fabien replied. “And I may or may not have proclaimed my love for her.”
Fynn bit his lip awkwardly, the twisting in his stomach becoming increasingly prominent. “And what did she say?” he asked, trying to stop his wings from twitching – it was a nervous habit of his.
“She said she would think about it,” Fabien replied, the corners of his mouth turning up. “Come on, we should go to the river, I’m sure there are still some people partying.” He must still be on a high after making his proclamation of love to not see Fynn’s discomfort.
Fynn put off using the love potion for as long as he could. He had almost managed to convince a part of him that it wasn’t real. That last night had just been a wild dream, or that Jelena had been ill and spouting nonsense.
Halfway through the day, Eolande came and dragged Fabien away.
“I’ll see you tomorrow then, Fynn,” Fabien said.
Fynn managed a smile. “Yes, tomorrow,” he replied.
Fynn spent the rest of the day alone. He shouldn’t be so selfish. He should be happy for Fabien. He couldn’t give his best friend a love potion and make him live a lie purely for his own benefit. But the pain grew in Fynn’s chest the more he thought of Fabien and Eolande together.
He stumbled home in a daze, his head too dizzy and his heart too heavy to fly. The love potion remained in his pocket, unused.
“Why did you not use it?” Jelena chided because she could read Fynn like an open book.
“I’ll ruin him,” Fynn said. “He loves Eolande and Eolande loves him.” He clutched at the sleeves of his crumpled tunic. “It would be a mistake.”
That night, he was awoken by his own coughing and a deep, cutting pain at the bottom of his ribcage. His hand flew to his mouth to try and muffle it. Something wet dripped between his fingers. The coughing ceased, and holding up his fingers to the sliver of moonlight coming through his window, he saw his pale skin slick with blood.
The curse was real. He was dying.
“You don’t look good,” Fabien said the next day.
Fynn gave a weak cough into the crook of his elbow. “I’m fine.” The love potion was still in his pocket. All he hoped was that it would work and the guilt clawing at him would cease.
So, when they paused by the river for fresh water, Fynn poured the love potion in Fabien’s leaf. Nothing happened for a good few minutes, but Fynn’s heart was drumming out of control. Then suddenly, a mist came over Fabien’s eyes when he turned to Fynn.
“Has anyone ever told you that you have beautiful eyes?” Fabien inched towards him, holding his palm to Fynn’s cheek. He was so close, warm breath defrosting Fynn’s chilled skin.
“No,” Fynn replied. Butterflies fluttered in his heart.
“They’re golden and pretty like jewels,” Fabien said.
They spent the night watching fireflies dance across the night sky. Fynn still couldn’t get used to the feeling of Fabien so close to him. He had wanted this for years, his heart had yearned for it. But that didn’t make the sinking sensation in him any more bearable.
Fabien pressed a sleep kiss against Fynn’s jaw. “I love you,” he murmured. He closed his eyes, with his arms wrapped firmly around Fynn’s waist.
It was everything he had wanted. But Fynn knew he couldn’t have it forever. Just one night, he told himself. Just one night to give me everything I will never again experience in a lifetime.
One night with my one true love.
So, he held Fabien close to him, breathing in the delicate scent of the pink-flowering thorn, and all his deepest loves and desires – the only thing keeping his heart from shattering.
“I love you,” Fynn whispered to Fabien. Perhaps, in his dreams, Fabien could hear the sincerity of his words and forgive him for his lies. He had lied about being fine, but he hadn’t lied about nobody ever telling him he had beautiful eyes, and he would never lie about loving Fabien.
The effects of the love potion faded away in the morning. There were still contents remaining in the vial, and judging by the expression on Fabien’s face, he didn’t remember anything. But Fynn couldn’t do it again. He would rather go through the pain of heartbreak honestly than love in a lie.
“You didn’t come home last night,” Jelena said when he walked through the door.
“I was with Fabien,” Fynn replied. “I gave him the love potion.”
Jelena raised an eyebrow, suspicion in her eyes. “What is it?”
“I can’t,” Fynn said. “If I were to live every day of my life like that, I think I would drive myself mad.” He threw the vial before Jelena. “I won’t do that ever again.”
Fabien didn’t greet Fynn at his door the next morning, but Fynn found him easily enough. He was by the river, running his fingers against the current.
“Fabien,” Fynn called.
He didn’t turn around. “What did you do to me last night?” he asked.
“I’m sorry, Fabien,” Fynn said.
“You gave me something,” Fabien said. He stood up and turned towards Fynn, hurt and betrayal written all over his face. “Look, I have known about your feelings for me, but I never thought you would stoop that low, Fynn.”
The guilt was rising up Fynn’s throat, becoming harder and harder to swallow. “It was a mistake,” he said, but Fynn was already walking away. “Please.” He grabbed at Fabien’s hand desperately, his fingertips cold from the river. “Just let me explain.”
“There is nothing to explain,” Fabien said, wrenching his hand from Fynn’s grip. “Stay away from me.” Fynn didn’t go after him that time because he knew he deserved all the pain of bitter regret, every fibre in him wishing that he could take it back.
That night, he watched Fabien and Eolande dancing, caressed by the moonlight, lit up by the stars. Oh, the love he had had for one night. It just came as an ache in his heart.
“I found another way to break the spell,” Fynn jumped at Jelena’s voice beside him, and then at the glinting metal of a knife.
“What are you doing, Mama?” he asked.
“If I stab him through the heart and mutter a spell as his blood drips on you, you will be free,” Jelena said. The look in her eyes was manic. She stood, a dark shadow in the night.
Fynn shot up, making a grab for the night. But Jelena kept twisting her arm, making the blade bite into Fynn’s skin. “Give me the knife, Mama.”
“I am doing this for you,” Jelena said.
Fynn couldn’t let his Mother hurt Fabien. But he couldn’t keep fighting Jelena because he was bound to lose, and then Jelena would kill Fabien anyway. So he closed his hand over Jelena’s and drove the blade through his own chest.
“I’m sorry, Mama,” Fynn said as he collapsed. The blade was so cold in his flesh. Blood soaked through his tunic, warm. His heart pulsated weakly.
Through the small leaves of a strawberry bush, he saw Fabien’s wings glittering in the night, like how they had glittered on that day they had tumbled out of the tree and Fynn had fallen so hopelessly in love with him. Fynn hoped that maybe one day, Fabien would find it in his heart to forgive him.
And then he died in his Mother’s arms.
Jelena, despite her distraught state carried her son’s body all the way to the river where the water nymphs took him away.
Fynn’s blood nurtured all the seeds dispersed in the grass by the wind. And a field of flowers grew from as a result his undying love. A field of lilac, sprinkled with a pink rose or two. They never wavered against the wind, and always provided shelter for the heartbroken, showing them that beautiful things could still exist.
But it was also a place to celebrate love, where Fabien and Eolande pledged their lives to each other under a warm spring afternoon when the flowers bloomed at their brightest.
And they lived happily ever after.