It was the flutter of wings that captured Emily’s attention.
She had been toddling about the chrysanthemums and lilies as her mother worked in the dirt nearby. Her mother pushed the dirt around with her bare hands, never opting to use gloves to separate her from the earth she took such care of. Emily had no interest in pushing dirt around, burying seeds, or even sprinkling them with water from the yellow spouted can she thought was so beautiful. Emily just liked being surrounded by the colors of her mother’s garden.
As she turned a corner at a rosebush, in the corner of her eye, Emily had seen the fluttering in only a moment. When she turned towards her blind spot, she only saw the green leaves of the hydrangea staring back at her.
But she knew she had seen something more than just the butterflies she had spent so much time chasing.
“Emmy!” She heard her mother call out. “Daddy will be home soon. We should get cleaned up.”
Emily ducked down to the root of the hydrangea, resting back on her haunches to get a better look at the leaves. One leaf in particular seemed to stand out. It was a deeper green than the ones surrounding it. Emily focused on the leaf, waiting to see it move independent of its companions.
“Emily Jane! Come on.” Her mother’s voice was not impatient, but tired. They had been in the garden for hours, and Emily knew she would spend the evening hearing how her mother’s back ached.
She was about to give up. She was ready to look away and join her mother for washing up and putting away the garden tools, when the deep green leaf finally shuddered. A breeze had not swept through. Emily squinted her eyes and saw the small head appear as if from behind a veil. She saw the bright blue eyes gaze up at her, a furrow in the brow to match Emily’s own curiosity. The leaf spread out like one of the evening dresses her mother wore to the charity galas in the summer. Soft, flawy, and now Emily could see the twig-like legs stretching from beneath the leaf-skirt. Arms stretched out to her, the palatinate eyes focused on her own celadon ones. The little winged creature seemed to be beckoning to Emily, asking for something the six-year-old couldn’t quite understand.
Footsteps from behind her broke Emily’s concentration.
“Emmy, what are you doing?”
Emily looked up and blinked twice at her mother. She whipped her head back towards the hydrangea. The winged creature was gone. She couldn’t even be sure it had been there to begin with.
“Emmy.” Her mother’s tired voice came to her again.
Emily stood up and followed her mother back towards the house, glancing back once at the greenery but seeing no hint at wings fluttering about.
“Daddy will be home soon. I need you to get in the tub right away and wash up. Daddy will want to leave for Poppa’s pretty quick.” Emily trudged her feet up the wood steps to the small house. “Emmy, are you listening to me?”
Emily looked up at her mother and nodded.
“Is there something on your mind, bug?”
“Are fairies real?” Emily blurted out, even though she knew the answer any grown-up would give. They had reached the top of the steps where the porch met the front door. Her mother turned around to look at Emily, and then she glanced out at the garden she spent so much of her time tending.
“I don’t know, bug. Do you think they’re real?”
Emily thought about it. She thought about the winged creature, about the fairies she’d read about in books with Daddy before bedtime. Did she believe what she’d seen was a fairy? What would her mother say if she told her about the winged creature she’d seen in the hydrangea?
She didn’t know what to believe. But she knew she would be paying a lot more attention while her mother worked in the garden next time.