For Travis and Lark, can fairy legend prove stronger than parents, prejudice and the inevitable parting that must come with summer’s end?
Travis Cho and his father were sitting on the deck of their summer house when she first fluttered by. Every summer since he was five, his family had escaped Chicago to the Door County peninsula. Most important to his father were the professional quality golf courses. Golf was everything to his father. There was also a pristine Lake Michigan shoreline, abundant wildlife, colorful cherry trees… But never a fairy.
Travis stared, dumbfounded. He glanced quickly at his father, but his father was reading his paper, oblivious. The fairy dipped and rose. She was about a foot tall, with pearlescent wings, wearing a short white dress. Her blonde hair fell loosely about her shoulders. She landed ever so lightly on the deck rail then immediately lifted off again and flitted about the hanging flower pots.
She returned his gaze, as if noticing him studying her. She hovered in the air before him. “You can see me?” she asked in a light bubbly voice.
Travis merely nodded.
He hesitated for a moment. “Dad, do you see that?”
Mr. Cho didn’t look up from his paper. “See what, son?”
“Dad,” Travis insisted. “Look up. Do you see that?”
With immeasurable effort, his father lowered his paper to his lap and idly glanced around. “See what, Travis? What am I looking for?”
The fairy’s wings beat rapidly as she flew to Travis’s side and landed on the arm of his chair. “He can’t see me. Very few humans can see fairies.”
“Why is that?”
“Why is what, son?”
“Oh, nothing, Dad. I thought I saw something, but it’s just the sun in my eyes.”
The fairy laughed and lifted into the air again. She flew around Travis’s head, and he shifted in his seat to follow her path.
Mr. Cho tsked. “Travis, if the sun is bothering you then move your damn chair.”
“Really, Travis,” said the fairy. “Is the sun bothering you?” Her laughter sounded like a bubbling brook. “Then move your damn chair!” She laughed louder.
Travis glanced nervously at his father, who was engrossed in his paper again.
“He can’t hear me,” the fairy said. She drifted in front of Travis’s father’s face for a moment then zoomed over to the mountain ash tree next to the deck. She alit on a branch and grabbed a berry. As she ate, she periodically spat out seeds.
She beckoned when she finished. “Come with me, Travis.” She fluttered her wings lazily, waiting for him.
Travis stepped off the deck and followed the fairy to the side of his house.
“Going to practice your swing?” his father called out.
Travis exhaled. “Um, yeah, Dad.”
The fairy soared in the air then flew to within a foot of Travis’s face, her eyes twinkling like sunlight. She smiled. “Follow me.”
Travis held up an index finger, motioning for the fairy to wait. If his dad thought he was practicing his swing, he needed his clubs. He ran into the garage, grabbed his golf bag and ran back to the side of the house. But there was no sign of the fairy.
“Fairy,” he whispered. “Fairy, where are you?”
No response. He looked around. She was gone.
His shoulders slumped in disappointment. How many people got to meet an actual fairy? Now he’d wasted his chance. Then he shook his head in derision. Idiot. There were no such things as fairies. He was hallucinating, obviously suffering from dehydration or sunstroke. No more playing a full eighteen holes of golf on a hot day.
Travis headed back to the garage, carrying his bag, when he glimpsed a flash of pearlescence over the house near the back yard. He dropped his golf bag, pivoted, and leapt around the corner of the house, nearly colliding with his father.
“What is your problem, boy?” his father demanded. “You on drugs?”
“No, Dad.” Travis rolled his eyes.
“Well, then, where’s the fire?”
“It’s nothing, Dad. I was, um, chasing a bird.”
Mr. Cho gave his son a dismissive look. “I’m going inside. Your mother said dinner is at six. Don’t forget to wash up before.”
Travis waited until his father closed the patio door before returning to the side yard. There he picked up his golf bag with an embarrassed frown. He had no idea what he’d actually seen in the yard, but he couldn’t believe now that he’d thought it was a freaking fairy. What a doofus.
He walked to the edge of the field near the house and took out his seven iron. After dropping a ball at his feet, he positioned his club. Adjusting his stance, he glanced up briefly to eye his expected trajectory. He swung his club back and—
“Be careful where you aim that!” the fairy admonished.
Startled, Travis smacked the head of his club into the ground, missing the ball entirely. “Damn,” he muttered.
“Aww, you’re cute when you’re mad.” The fairy giggled and flew over his head, landing on the edge of his golf bag. “By the way, how old are you?”
Travis leaned against his golf club and peered at her curiously. “Sixteen. How old are you?”
The fairy sighed. “I’m not really sure. Fairies are created, not born, so we don’t change or grow old. I’ve been like this since I can remember.”
“Oh. You seem sort of sad about that.”
“Since fairies aren’t born, we have no need to marry and have children the way humans do. And I’ve been a fairy for a long time.” She wrapped her arms around her legs, hugging her knees to her chest. “I will never date. I will never have a cute boyfriend.” She raised her head. “Like you.”
Travis’s mouth pulled into a slight smile and he scratched his ear. He’d never had a girl say he was cute, not even if she was just a doll-sized fairy.
“So, do you have a girlfriend?” the fairy asked, twirling her hair around her finger.
Travis shook his head. The girls at school didn’t seem to think he was cute. Maybe they just thought he was a dork. He wasn’t a popular kid, didn’t play football. He was on the golf team and earned high honors every semester.
“If I were human, I could be your girlfriend.” The fairy’s expression was wistful. She rose from the golf bag and hovered mere inches from his face. “You have such exotic dark eyes. And I love your curly hair.”
Travis shrugged, embarrassed. “My dad is Korean, my mom is Irish. I don’t really fit in.”
“Well, I like the way you look.” The fairy’s wings vibrated and she darted to the side, eventually landing on his arm. He was surprised at how light she was. “Tell me about yourself.”
“What do you want to know?”
“Anything and everything. I have been observing humans my entire existence, but you are the first one I’ve ever talked to. Will you stay and talk with me for a while?”
Travis took a quick glance around. Satisfied his eleven-year-old brother was nowhere in sight to interrupt or annoy, he relaxed. “So, what do you want to talk about?”
She cocked her head. “Tell me what you like most about school.”
“You mean besides lunch?” He laughed. “Well, I can tell you that Advanced Biology was my least favorite class. We dissected unpreserved rabbits and they stunk something awful.”
The fairy jumped, her tiny wings quivering. “Rabbits? You kill—”
“Oh, no. We didn’t kill them. They were laboratory rabbits, the kind used for research and animal testing. Though, I think animal testing is a terrible idea.”
“Yeah, they get all nervous and give the wrong answers.”
The fairy tapped her foot, a slow smile building. A glow warmed his stomach.
“You know, speaking of animals…you better be careful around here. There’s a stray dog running around that recently gave birth to puppies on the side of the road over there. The police came by to investigate and cited the dog for littering.”
A burst of sparkling laughter surrounded the fairy. Travis liked the sound of it even more than he’d liked her smile.
“But seriously, my favorite class last year was U.S. History, studying political parties and governmental policies. I know that probably sounds lame but…” He shrugged.
“Why would that be lame? Is your country crippled?”
“Oh, snap,” he said with a laugh. “Though some people probably think so. So, do you go to school?”
She shook her head. “No. The fairy world is very different.”
“In what ways?”
“We’re never hungry or lonely, and it’s never too hot or cold. Of course there’s always the right amount of sunlight and moonlight.” Her feet dangled over the edge of his arm. “Our days are spent laughing and playing.”
“Sounds great. Why come to our world?”
She gave him a mischievous smile. “Because fairies are naturally curious.”
He heard his mother call his name, and he fought back disappointment. “I have to go,” he told the fairy. “Time for dinner.”
The fairy rose effortlessly into the air. “You know, Travis,” she said after a moment. “There is a reason you can see and hear me. I was meant to find you.”
He searched her tiny perfect face for an answer, and his voice grew quiet. “Why?”
“You’ll see, Travis. You’ll see.”
“Wait! What’s your name?” he called as she danced away, her laughter lighter than air.
She was no longer visible, but her voice carried in the wind. “My name is Lark.”
Travis gazed into the early evening sky and smiled. Her name was Lark.