Faeries existed all around us. I knew that. Mum made sure I did.
She said, “stay away from the ring of toadstools that stand alone on the hillside. ”
“Don’t step inside it and count to three, spinning so that your skirts fly.”
“Don’t make a wish.”
“Don’t believe in it.”
“Don’t ever go by yourself.”
That’s what she said. Those were the rules. They were always the rules. Maybe I thought they were bull. Maybe I believed in them just a tiny bit. But overall, I wanted to see the ring for myself.
“Oh come on Emma, this is what you wanted.” I looked to my pretty but senseless friend. Robyn Puca Lokianna was her name. Or at least so she said. I wondered if it was true. Who had a name like that these days?
“Oh come on Emma,” she said, drawing me to her with her hand. Her wide pretty grey eyes focussed only on me. Just beyond the next meadow was the hill that mum warned me about.
“I don’t know Ro.” My voice quivered unexpectedly. Hardening myself, shaking away whatever fear it was that was holding me I looked at her. “Mum said…”
“Pooh! Screw your mum! This is the twenty-first century Emma, not the fifteenth. Like there are such things as faeries!”
Robyn was so convincing. Her argument made some sense, or at least that what my brain was agreeing with as it forced me to nod my head, however jerkily it may have seemed.
“Okay…I guess you’re right.”
“Yay!” She said gleefully jumping up and down clapping her hands. “You won’t regret it!”
Somehow I doubted that. The thing with Robyn is that well, she’s perfect. I mean she’s not the hottest or the most beautiful girl at school, but she is pretty. I always called it her ‘charm’, her ability to get people to listen to what she had to say. Because believe me, they always listened.
One time she didn’t do the essay we had three weeks to do. Later after she spoke to the teacher, she told me that she got an extension. I believed her. Even though I never saw her hand it in.
When we were small, a little boy fell of the monkey bars, Robyn was right beside him when he fell. The teachers asked if anyone saw what happened, but no one did, even though we were right there. All we knew was that the kid had been sitting cosily on the monkey bars talking to Robyn. He also happened to be the guy I liked. So I was jealous enough to imply that I might have seen Robyn do something.
But later when the teachers took Robyn away, she came back flouncing, her skirts flying like she was the happiest person in the world.
She stopped in front of my desk and just looked at me. I didn’t like the look of sadness and defiance on her face.
“I thought we were friends Emma.”
“Because you know why!” I remember whispering harshly. God I was only eight then. Even so, I didn’t forget the blossoming amusement on her face. She laughed then she asked if I could keep a secret as though we hadn’t argued at all. Since I regretted telling on her I nodded, and she said, “People like listening to what I tell them. Besides he wasn’t worth it!”
Maybe I looked horrified, maybe I looked like I didn’t know what I was hearing, but I knew something was not quite right. I knew because the teachers never mentioned the little incident again. Just like the guy in year nine English three years ago had a scared look on his face every time he saw either Robyn or I.
He’d tried to kiss me when I hadn’t wanted to be kissed.
Robyn had saved me.
It was a shame, I’d liked him too. But turns out he didn’t like me as much as I thought he did. He just wanted some action more than anything. So he forced himself on me.
It was Robyn barrelling through the bedroom door like it wasn’t locked, crying, “touch her again and you’ll wish you never did.”
The thing is, to me, Robyn looked like Robyn when she was angry. And I was so bloody grateful she’d come barrelling in. But when I looked at him. He looked terrified. I was so sure he pissed his pants because I could smell urine in the room.
He never spoke to me after that.
Robyn pulled me through the meadow, not caring about any earthy potholes or my ankles for a matter.
“Robyn! Slow down! What’s your rush?”
“We have to hurry Em! Being by the faerie ring when it’s not exactly noon will make this a pointless venture.”
“What’s so special about noon?”
“Noon is the faerie midnight. The toadstools become a portal then. They sparkle!” Her eyes gleamed. I didn’t like that gleam. It frightened me.
Robyn was frightening sometimes when she was determined.
“There it is!” I followed her pointing arm. Yes, there is was, a solitary ring of toadstools. It circled the hill top. This ring of tiny red toadstools.
“Let’s stand inside.”
“Robyn! No!” I pulled my hand out of her grip at last. “What about what mum said? What about noon?”
“Oh come on.”
Robyn was reckless. Mum was cautious. And I, well, I was timid. “But what happens if I forget one of mum’s rules?”
“I’ll make sure you don’t.” She was already standing in the centre of the circle. Her skirt billowed about her.
I shivered. The sun had disappeared for a moment. If we only stood in it for a moment, it should be okay, right?
“Your mum said never to go by yourself, right?” She asked. I nodded. “Well you’re not alone. I’m here. I’ll keep you safe.”
Her smile was dazzling. There was something about her words that made me believe everything she said.
“Okay then.” I took her offered hand and stepped into the circle.
“Oh wow.” Everything about the hilltop changed the moment I stepped in. The light was brighter, the air was warmer, and the toadstools, the toadstools sparkled.
Horrified I tried to get out, my head was empty but for the fear.
But when I turned around, Robyn wasn’t there anymore. Instead, a shining, inhuman figure stood outside the ring. “I’m sorry Em. But you should have listened to your mother. Even if most of her rules were fiction. You should have at least listen to the first rule.”