I didn’t burn the village down.
You don’t believe me. Very well: on the night in question, I was in a tree, standing at the center of a jade kaleidoscope of shifting leaves. By the light of your bonfire beyond the woods, I picked mulberries for my tea. I could see your folk below, jigging to the tune of a violin in your village square. I didn’t mind you, that wasn’t the problem. The problem was you not minding the wee lass in your midst.
I saw the child wheeling, away from the formal dance, her face turned up to the moon. When she grew too dizzy she fell to the grass. When she rose again, she weaved like a drunk into the forest. It was only then I intervened, lest she stumble into danger. Responsible of me, wouldn’t you say?
I jumped down, landing on my feet before her.
“You’re a faerie,” she said, and she was not afraid.
“I am,” said I, for I was not up to tricks.
“What are ye doin’ here?” she wanted to know, and I saw no harm in saying I was having tea. But then she wanted to see me brew it.
“Ye’d better go back to your parents,” said I, but she made her case: she had never seen a faerie before, might never see a faerie again, and if she could watch then she would go home. She wouldn’t tell anybody, not even the neighbor boy. She would never want another thing in her life, she said.
So we sat by the fire I made, me with mulberries and juniper leaves shook out into my palm. These I wrapped in the net of a spider’s web, and dropped the sachet in my cup.
“May I try it?” the girl wondered.
“Ah, no,” I said, “it’s magic tea.”
Where did the magic come in, she wanted to know. So I showed her. Would you call that kind of me, to share my people’s sacred secrets with a wee curious outsider?
I showed her how all the elements were at work together in the making of my tea: the twigs of the earth feeding the fire, the fire boiling the water, the water whisked away by the air as steam. And then I stuck one finger into the cup and stirred my spirit in like sugar. “The spirit,” I told her, “that’s an element, too.”
“Can’t I try the tea?” the girl asked again. This was my fault. I had told her she could watch when at first I’d said she shouldn’t.
But I stood firm on this. “Magic is dangerous in human hands,” I said. “This drink is just for faeries.”
“But I’m a faerie,” she said, dropping her shoulders and raising her chin, proud and wild like me.
The tea was to my lips, then, you know. I had but to tip it into my mouth. But over the cup I regarded the child, and I asked her: “Are you now? What makes you think so?”
“I’m pretty like a faerie,” she said, fluttering her lids.
“And I’m flighty like a faerie,” she said, and hopped up on two feet again to do another twirl the like of which I’d seen already. “I climb trees, and you were climbing that tree, weren’t you?”
I nodded. She had me there.
“And this morning, I wanted the pretty shawl at the market, wanted it so much I cried, and Mummy told me that I was one. Mary, she said, you’re as greedy as a faerie.”
I set down my tea. I thought it over.
I realized how greedy I had been in keeping the tea to myself. I let her drink the whole cup down, and I wished her well as she went on her way, back to the village square. I watched, benign, as in her fugue she lit a torch, and set the village aflame to match the bright, frantic heat of the magic pumping through her.
I gave her what she asked for. Generous, don’t you think?
Briana McGuckin lives in an old Connecticut Colonial. If it looks like magical things happen inside, that is because they do. She has cerebral palsy, two husbands, and an excellent life. She even almost has her M.F.A. from Western Connecticut State University. Find more on her and her writing online.