Thursday, 22 September 2011
Where Flowers grow
Mary did not believe in Faeries at the bottom of her garden. It was probably lucky given that she stated it so bluntly that she wore a steel brooch that was very modern looking. For Mary believed in her garden and in all things modern and new.
One weekend her grandmother came to stay with her. Grandmother was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed so she said. Mary did not point out that her gran might be bright-eyed but unless she had any squirrel in her, she was unlikely to be bushy-tailed. Grandmother was wiry and small with a very down to earth attitude to everything. Mary recalled being shocked at the first time she heard her gran swear after stubbing her toe on the doorstep. Modern as Mary was, she could not believe somehow that Grandmothers swore. It seems that she had forgotten that to become a grandmother you had to first have been a mother. There are very, very few mothers who have never had a reason to swear. In fact they are so rare as to be practically mythical. This is why all mothers state "I love my kids, but..." and are both driven mad over their children's lifetime as well as driving their children mad by loving them. Hence, Grandmothers are exceptionally good at swearing.
The only other thing that shocked her was that Grandmother certainly believed in Faeries. She told Mary as if she were reporting local news that there was a brownie in the house on the first morning she stayed with Mary. Mary smiled but the smiled died on her face when her Grandmother did not smile.
"You'll need to leave milk and bread for it. Don't whatever you do go and do something daft like leaving clothes for it. Brownies don't want favours done, if they did, they'd ask. So anyway, what are we doing today?" Grandmother asked, helping herself to another slice of toast.
She barked a laugh when Mary stated categorically that she did not believe in such superstitions.
"Well you'd better start Mary, your house has bluebell woods on one side and flower meadows on the other. You'll need an old iron horseshoe over the doors and windows or the faeries will get in and you'll know about it then, believe it or not," Grandmother told her.
Mary humphed and drank her tea. They went into town after breakfast which Mary enjoyed for the town was all bright lights, plastic, concrete and relentlessly human. Nothing to do with faeries at all. She bought a pair of white shoes and white stockings, for she did not care for tights. She liked fastening her stockings in the morning and wearing a dress. She felt as she thought she ought to. A modern woman with elegance. Grandmother bought some old iron horseshoes from a bric-a-brac stall in the marketplace, a very charming set of fish knives and forks and six books with beautiful frontispieces. She was resolutely un-modern. Nonetheless, they sat and had coffee and cake at a gleaming modern cafe and Grandmother remarked that she was glad to take the weight off her feet for a while. The coffee was good and the cake calorific, which Mary was glad of for she worried about Grandmother.
When they got home Grandmother settled in an armchair with one of her books and snoozed. Mary took advantage of this to go out into the garden. She thought about what Grandmother had said and told herself that a meadow was no more than a meadow. She liked the pretty flowers and the few trees on the further side of the meadow, but she did not believe for a minute in faeries. As she was thinking she wandered across to the gate and passed through into the meadow. She did not feel the breeze pick up nor hear the faint laughter coming from the grasses in the meadow. She did not notice the slight darkening of the light or the intensity of the greenery becoming more intense. She felt a light free feeling and laughed. Standing in the middle of the meadow, she put her hands on her hips and wondered if she might make an extended garden of it. As she thought of it, she gazed about her and suddenly felt a light movement about her ankles and shins. Flowers seem to be growing out of the dark earth and along her legs. She cried out in surprise and leapt about, but still flowers seemed to grow along her white stockings upwards. She smoothed down her dress and backed away from the flowers, but where she walked, flowers sprang up in her footsteps. She cried out again and suddenly she heard a voice and the breeze died away, the laughter was silenced, the air lightened and a sudden dizziness she had not been aware of, faded away from her.
Standing in her garden was Grandmother with a stern look on her face that had at back of it, something of fear too. Her hands were extended before her and it dawned on Mary that her Grandmother was not the ordinary old lady she appeared to be.
"Come along Mary, let's have some tea," Grandmother called to her.
Mary found herself walking with her whole body trembling as if in fear of something nameless. She took her Grandmother's hands and was pulled through the gateway back into her garden. Instantly she felt as ordinary as if she had been dreaming and woken up. They went indoors and Mary remarked on her stockings that were now decorated with flowers. She did not ask her Grandmother if she was a witch, she did not quite know how to and it did not seem very polite. Grandmother for her part did not tell her either.
That evening when she undressed for bed, she saw that not only the stockings, but her legs were covered with a decoration of flowers that did not look as if they would wash off. She frowned and rubbed her legs until they were sore, but the flowers remained. Grandmother moved in with Mary a little later and after a few months, the flowers on Mary's legs had faded away. Mary does not speak of faeries any more and she always leaves bread and milk for the brownie of whom she also never speaks.