Healing the cracks

Submitted into Contest #97 in response to: Write a story in which a window is broken or found broken.... view prompt

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Fantasy Happy

Bella bobbed along the path, counting roots. She had picked some berries, and eaten some berries, and then picked some wildflowers. At some point, the path she was following became forest. Bright yellow mushrooms drew her eye, and then feathery ferns. She heard a rustling in the trees above and a hoot. She looked up, surprised to see it was getting dark.

Suddenly, nothing looked familiar. Her chin trembled and tears welled. 

Katrina never would have let her wander so far away, but Katrina was gone and Mommy said she wasn't coming back. Bella had explained to her cat Tummy, "We mustn't be sad, Mommy says. Katrina just must like living at the Hot-spital better than with us." Tummy had allowed himself to be held, half-heartedly purring. 

Bella played alone more now. But today she had gotten lost. 

The owl hooted again. She saw him sitting on a low branch, looking at her with enormous eyes. His head swiveled, looking at something farther down the path, then back at her. 

"Okay, Mister Owl," whispered Bella, who found friends everywhere. "I will go look. Thank you."

She stepped more carefully now over the roots, heading farther along the faint path that led between fir trees and birches. She saw a faint glow. The glow was coming from the window of a tiny cabin. The cabin's door had a round top, like a fairy door. The warm glow suggested fire light. 

Bella turned and thanked the owl again, and stepped up to the door, tapping three times. She peered at the window, noticing a jagged crack running uphill across its surface. The door swung open and a dark-haired lady peered down at her. 

"What now? Fairy child come to take my house, I suppose? All the mushroom huts full up are they?"

Bella blinked. "Please, ma’am. I am lost."

"Spose you are. Long way from fairy land, you. Best come in. Don't spose you'll like some soup and crackers, poor earthly food like. Still, best offer you some. Don't want to be bewitched."

Bella stepped into a cozy room, decorated with drying herbs, driftwood, and warm blankets. Through the window of the small woodstove a fire leapt to peek out, snapping briskly. An armchair, bed and table filled the space and cupboards lined one wall. 

The lady quickly filled a bowl from a simmering pot on the stove and set it in front of Bella, now seated at the rough wooden table, lit with five big candles that gave off warm light. The rich soup was full of barley, mushrooms and vegetables, and Bella tucked in without a second thought. After a few spoonfuls, she paused and politely thanked the lady, who watched her with bright sparrow eyes. 

"No, thank you for joining me. Not many visitors here. Phyllis. That's my name. Do you have a name, creature?"

"Bella is my name. I'm not a creature, I'm an Ettinger. I live in the big meadow with my Mommy."

"I see. So. You're one of those Ettinger girls, and you don't think you're a magical being. You wandered into the woods, I guess. Owl send you here?"

Bella's eyes grew rounder. "Is he your owl?" she wondered. 

"Owl is his own keeper, but he's a friend." Phyllis gestured out the window. "Got lots of friends out there. Not many little girls though."

Bella stared out the cracked window as the firelight played along the jagged line. "Poor window is sick."

Phyllis cocked her head, curious. 

Bella walked up to the window and put her hand on it. As she peered at the crack, a motion beyond distracted her. She tried to focus, expecting to see the owl. For a moment, she thought she saw another girl's face reflected, a pale, wan face, eyes closed. 

"Katrina...?" she whispered. The jagged edge was rough in one spot, and Bella's baby finger slit open as she ran her hand along it. 

"Oh gracious, bless us, the child’s gone and cut herself!" Phyllis grabbed a tea towel and took Bella's hand, pressing the small cut. Bella was distracted by the window, seeing another movement.

Phyllis followed her gesture, and both watched in wonder as the window crack sealed itself in one small spot. 

There was silence for a moment. 

Phyllis shook her head. "Well, unless you’re already in communion with your fairy flock, we'd best call your mother, child. I expect she's worried."

Bella curled up in the one armchair and drowsed as Phyllis talked on the phone, promising to walk Bella back home in the morning, after assuring Sandra Ettinger she was fine. 

"Just one little cut on her finger, otherwise she's unscathed," said Phyllis. Hanging up, she stared at the child sleeping. 

"Fairy child indeed, poor wee thing." Then Phyllis lay down on top of the bed that filled the rest of the room and stared out the window a long time. 

It was another week before Bella headed back into the woods. This time she started earlier, and walked with purpose. She walked what seemed like a very long time and found the little house again. She knocked at the door, but this time there was no answer. She peered at the window. There was less reflection now, from this side, at this time of day. 

She closed her eyes and pulled out the magical wishing penny she had found on the street last Tuesday. She rubbed it in her hands. Then she slowly opened her eyes and tried to unfocus them. Sure enough, the long, pale face of Katrina reappeared. This time her eyes were open and she managed a tiny smile.

Bella smiled back and pulled a handful of leaves from her pocket. She waved them at the faint reflection. Katrina had told her about the healing properties of the broad-leafed plantain. She remembered practicing saying the name, amazed that something so valuable would be growing wild all over her meadow. She mimicked what she had seen Katrina do, stuffing a leaf at a time in her mouth, chewing it up, then spitting it out. Then she smeared the mush on the window crack. She had applied three leaves when Phyllis found her.

"Hello, what's this? Lost again?" 

Bella started. 

"No, Mrs. Phyllis, I came back to help your sick window." 

"What are you gumming up the crack with there, child? Is that a weed? Was that in your mouth?" 

Bella held out the plantain leaves. "These are medicine leaves. Broad Leafed Plantain," she carefully enunciated around tiny perfect green-stained teeth. "Katrina told me all about how they fix it when you get a hurt. She chewed some up and put it on when the wasp stung me and it got all better right away."

Phyllis was touched by the child's thoughtfulness. Of course she knew about the other Ettinger girl, kicked off a horse three months past. Her skull had been nearly crushed. She was in a coma. Made sense the young one would be trying to heal broken things. 

“I’ll get the tea on then. You're going to need more spit to finish that whole window."

Bella nodded and looked back at the window. The faint Katrina, split jaggedly by a green hedge, was smiling wider now. Her face showed more colour. She nodded at Bella. 

After a big mug of mint tea, Bella headed back to the porch, chewing another plantain leaf. Phyllis pulled a kitchen chair up to the window to help her reach. 

"What do we do now?" Phyllis asked as the last chewed up leaf was smoothed onto the window. 

Bella thought gravely. 

"I think we need to say a magic word."

Phyllis raised an eyebrow. “I’m afraid that’s your department, fairykin.”

Bella raised her hands at the window. "Boola koola benny boo, heal up heal up, I love you."

"Those are good magic words, Bella." Phyllis stood quietly with the young girl, looking at the window. A hoot came from nearby as Owl settled on to a low branch. 

If you looked at the window just right, it almost looked like there was another girl's face reflected, a funny trick of the green paste and the light. 

"Now we have to wash it carefully, Phyllis. With mint tea."

Phyllis silently prepared more mint tea and cooled it by pouring it long, cup to cup. She handed Bella a soaked kitchen towel. "Careful you don't cut yourself, now."

Bella reached up and scrubbed off the plantain. Phyllis watched in wonder as the leaves came off a smooth perfect window. 

Bella smiled at her sister, watching the silent girl's hands clap. Phyllis' phone rang. 

"That's Mommy," said Bella dreamily. "She's calling because Katrina's coming home."

June 09, 2021 11:53

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