Never Owe the Fae

Marie walked home humming along to the music in her headphones, crunching the orange leaves under her sneakers along the way. Her phone vibrated, notifying her that the headphones were low on battery. A few more minutes of music killed her headphones and she groaned in frustration. She quickened her pace, not wanting to stroll in silence any more than she had to. After a few minutes, faint whispers from the trees emerged over the gentle sounds of nature. “Come closer,” they chimed. She was drawn in by the eerie voices and stepped off the path as they beckoned her into the forest. Marie knew she shouldn’t meet with them but their voices entranced her into continuing. Through the winding forest she wandered, her heart pounding as the voices became closer and closer. She stepped into an empty meadow, save for a large ring of mushrooms. “Over here,” the alluring voices seemed to compel her forward. Marie stepped over the line of mushrooms with care, she didn’t know why, but it felt like the right thing to do.

The golden afternoon sky suddenly turned dark and the rays of sunlight that poured through the trees were now blocked by a thick wall of mist. She was met with a handful of dancers surrounding a campfire. Although they didn’t really look like people to Marie. Their gaunt figures were tall and had shamrock green skin that stretched over their thin limbs. The hats and clothes draped on their bodies were made out of giant flower petals and leaves. Their large insect-like wings glistened in the glow of the fire. The fae stopped dancing around their crackling fire and stared towards Marie. Their eyes were jet black with sparkling flecks that resembled snow swirling around in a snow globe. The group grinned, baring long and sharp teeth. Marie wore a look of shock and confusion on her face. One of the fae stepped forward, their voice resembled the jingling of bells, “Hello, Marie Claire Nguyen.”

Well, at least they pronounced my surname correctly, Marie thought. “Who a-are you? Why do you know my name?” Their faces turned sour. “Do not tell us you cannot recognize the fae who gave you your ring! It is time for you to stop avoiding us and finally pay back what we are due!” Marie took a few steps back and noticed that the line of mushrooms that was at her feet wasn’t there anymore. “What ring? I’ve never even met you before!” The group’s wings flapped in annoyance as they crept closer. “Oh, but you did. You gave us your middle name in exchange for a ring blessed with the gift of flight. Our magic lured you in by calling your full name, there is no reason to lie!” The fae’s shrieks rang in Marie’s ears, forcing her to wince and cover her ears.

She rubbed her aching ears and then paused. Marie cocked her head, “But I don’t have a middle name.” The fae looked at each other and whispered among themselves before their interim leader hushed them. “Yes, you do. You have three names, Marie Claire Nguyen,” the leader declared with a smug smile. “That’s my first name, Marie-Claire. It has a hyphen in it. I don’t have a middle name,” Marie-Claire corrected. “Wait, are you talking about my cousin? That’s her name too.” The group didn’t move, their glittering eyes fixated on the girl. “What?” The fae leader squinted at Marie-Claire. “Yeah, my cousin’s first name is Marie and her middle name is Claire. It’s our grandmother’s name.” The fae began to murmur again. “Stop this nonsense! Fae, do not believe her, she is trying to trick us!”

The fae pointed at Marie-Claire and scowled, “You are the same person!” They fluttered their wings with a fury. Marie-Claire held a clenched fist to her chest. “What? I barely look like my cousin at all. You were the one who said I only came here because of my name!” The fae leader gestured with their arms, “Yes, you do look alike, because you are the same person!” The fae’s confidence seemed to reassure the others that they were in the right and they chirped with agreements. Marie-Claire's anger replaced her anxieties as she argued with the fae, “Oh, wow. We look the same? That’s not even racist. That’s like, speciest, or something!” They looked cautiously at each other.

Marie-Claire offered them a solution, “If you want to talk to my cousin so badly then why don’t I take you to her house? But, if I can’t prove it then I owe you two favors.” They huddled and spoke in hushed tones to each other. After a minute, they quieted down and nodded to one another. Another fae spoke up, “We accept the terms.” They floated past Marie-Claire and when she turned, the line of mushrooms reappeared at her feet. She stepped over the line and looked around. The fairies were now flying above her, their bodies now the size of apples. The bright afternoon sky had returned and the mist cleared. Marie-Claire followed the fae through the forest until they lead her back onto the gravel path. She walked in awkward silence with them until they made it to the main road. She turned left down the street and crossed it, stopping at the third house on the right. No one else seemed to notice the fae flying above her. She knocked on the door, but no one answered. “I knew she was lying!” The fae cried. “Wait! Maybe she's not home yet,” Marie-Claire took out her keychain and unlocked the door.

She stepped inside and held the door open long enough to let the fae in. “Marie?” Marie-Claire called out. No one answered. “She must still be at work. I’ll text her to ask where she is.” She walked into the kitchen and the fae followed. “Do you want anything to eat while you wait for her?” She gestured to the pantry. “Sugar, if you have it,” one fae responded. She sifted through the cans and bags on the pantry shelves and pulled out a half-full bag of brown sugar. Marie-Claire opened it, setting it on the counter and the fairies flocked to the opening. “I’ll be right back I need to get something. I promise I’m not leaving, I’m just going upstairs.” She stepped backwards with caution and they ignored her, happily chatting around the sugar. Marie-Claire went up to her room and grabbed her spare set of earbuds and a necklace. She plugged them into her phone and started playing some music. “She’ll be here in a few minutes,” she called as she walked down the stairs, pocketing the necklace. They were still gathered on the counter, wolfing down the sweet amber grains. Marie-Claire rummaged through the kitchen cabinets and stood up holding a punch bowl.

She swiftly turned around and slammed the clear bowl on top of the fairies. The bowl began to rattle and shake as the fairies angrily smacked the curved walls of their tiny cage. Marie-Claire almost couldn't contain them, even when she put her full weight on the bowl. Unable to hear their cries over the music blasting from her earbuds, she yelled, “I gave you my sugar, that is one favor. If I do you another favor by letting you go will you leave me alone?” Unable to hear their shrill cries, she took the extra fierce poundings on the glass as a 'no'. “You can stay under this bowl for as long as it takes, I don’t care!” she yelled. After a bit more rumbling they settled down and directed their attention towards one another. Faint tapping on the glass caught Marie-Claire's attention and the fae nodded. “So this will count as my second favor to you, and you promise to leave me alone?” They nodded again. “Okay, I’m picking it up,” she lifted the bowl and the hell-bent fairies began to swarm around her. They tried to latch on to her shoulders to bite and scratch at her. “Ah, crap!” She hit them with the bowl and ran to the front door. She yanked the door wide open, smacking one of the fae with it. She jumped onto the porch and continued swatting them off of her until they had enough. Marie put her hand in her pocket to grab the necklace. She snapped off the ring attached to it and put it on her finger, flipping them the bird as she grasped her wounded neck. They hissed at her from a distance and fluttered their way back to the forest.