Cora ran from the house, her father’s drunken rage following her with the sounds of furniture and crockery smashing. As she ran through the forest, her father’s curses faded until, gasping for breath, the only sounds were the wind in the trees and the birds and insects. She dropped to the leaf-littered forest floor and rested, arms on her knees and her forehead on her arms. Why does he do it? Raging when he comes home from the village pub only to apologize the next morning and set to work repairing whatever he’d broken. It made no sense to her.
She flopped back to stare up through the leaves of the oak providing her a dappled shade. It was a beautiful day out here in the forest. Why couldn’t she stay out here? Away from her father. Away from the drudgery. That reminded her she’d left the washtub full of Anna Reed’s washing in the back yard. Cora sighed. Anna was the new priest’s wife, dainty and of ill-health. It was easy washing, the priest and his wife didn’t do hard work so their clothing was practically clean already and the coins the wash brought in helped keep Cora and her father in food and supplies for the winter. That is when papa didn’t give it to the pub-keeper.
Another sigh escaped. By the time she got back, papa would be collapsed across his pallet, sound asleep. She could finish the wash then clean up the mess in the house. But she didn’t move. Cora stared up at the clouds, drifting across the blue sky. She could feel herself relaxing, her mind drifting as her body felt as though it were becoming one with the earth.
“Miss, don’t do that.”
Cora jerked, her mind snapping back. She sat up. A small girl stood a few feet away, staring at her. But no, not a girl, a very small woman, dressed in shades of green, her staff hardly a foot high. “Why not?”
The woman shrugged. “Well, I suppose you can if you want to, but you’d get pulled into the earth spirit realm.”
“Is that bad?”
“You wouldn’t be able to come back.”
Cora nodded. “It seemed peaceful.”
The woman took a few steps toward Cora. “It is, for humans. At least at first. Then unless you really are looking for peace, it is too slow, confining. A human spirit doesn’t usually have the temperament for being an earth spirit.”
“Oh. No, I expect not. We do like to move around. I’m Cora.”
“Nice to meet you, Cora. I’m Lavendar. Fairy.”
A fairy! “I’ve heard stories about fairies.”
“Good ones I hope.”
“Yes, though mischievous, too. But mostly nice.”
“You were feeling sad. Angry, too. I could sense you from a long distance. Is that why you were moving into the earth?”
“I was angry, and sad. But I wasn’t thinking about sinking into the ground. That was just happening. I just didn’t want to go home.”
“Why not?” Lavendar sat down beside Cora.
Cora told the fairy about her father. “So you see, I don’t know what to do about it.”
“That would be a problem.” The fairy tapped her fingers on one of the fallen oak leaves, then jumped up. “Follow me. I have an idea.”
Cora nodded and followed the fairy for several miles until they entered a small glade. A pool was at the center, the water’s surface still and reflecting the woods around it. On the north edge a small waterfall, only about three feet high, poured water into the pool. A stream on the southwest side let the water out with hardly a sound. She looked into the pool. The water was so clear she could see the sandy bottom and tiny fish swimming. “It’s lovely.”
“One of my favorite spots. But it’s the waterfall that I brought you to see.” She led Cora to the falls where a flat stone stuck up out of the water at the edge of the pool. The fairy stepped onto the rock and she motioned for Cora to do the same.
“The water as it falls is magic. Once a year you may come and cup your hands and drink from the falls. As you drink, make a wish or visualize a dream, and it will come true.”
“Oh, my.” Cora stared at the water flowing from the ledge to the pool. It was mesmerizing as the water caught the sunlight and sparkled. “What should I wish for?”
“Whatever you want. But take care. Think about the consequences of your wish.”
Cora thought about her father, reeking of ale, face distorted into something horrific, smashing the bowls and chairs. Her stomach knotted with the remembered fear. “I can make a wish now?”
Lavendar nodded. “It will be this year’s wish. You’ll get no other until next year.”
“Fair enough.” Cora held out her cupped hands and in a moment, they were full of water. She drank, her eyes closed.
“What did you wish for?”
Cora stepped back onto the bank. “For my father not to be a drunkard.”
Lavendar nodded and led Cora back to her hut marking the way so Cora could return. “Farewell, Cora,” the fairy said at the hut. “Take care.”
“I will.” Cora went into the hut.
A year later, Lavendar met Cora at the pool. “How did your wish turn out.”
Cora burst into tears. “Papa died over the winter.”
“Without the drink, Papa just got sadder and sadder. One night he went out and didn’t come back. The woodcutter found him in the forest, frozen to death.”
“I am so sorry, Cora.” The fairy hugged the girl.
“The priest told me papa came to him. Papa drank to forget. Without it, the guilt of losing Mama was too much. It’s all my fault Papa is dead. Now I have no parents. You were right. I didn’t know the consequences.”
“We never do.”