A Sprinkling of Murder - Daryl Wood Gerber
Do you believe in fairies? If you do, clap your hands!
—J. M. Barrie, Peter Pan
“Do you see her? Is she down there?” I tried not to let my five-year-old customer hear the panic in my voice. Of course Fiona was down there. She wouldn’t have flown the coop. Okay, she was mad at me for telling her to make herself scarce, but honestly! “Look hard,” I said.
After a breathless moment, the curly-haired girl—Lauren—who was peering into a huge strawberry terra-cotta planter, popped upright, and spun in a circle. “Yes, I do, Miss Kelly. I see her.”
Once upon a time, when I was five, I’d danced among the flowers and twirled to my heart’s content, too.
“Call me Courtney,” I reminded her. Children who came into Open Your Imagination, my fairy garden and tea shop, didn’t have to be formal. The more familiar, the more fun. “And keep your voice soft. You don’t want to scare her.”
“Courtney,” she said. “I do see her. I really do.”
“What does she look like?”
“She’s... she’s...” Lauren wiggled nervously as if I’d really put her on the spot.
I’d felt the same when I saw my first fairy. A week after my mother planted a fanciful garden filled with yarrow, lilac, and a host of herbs to attract butterflies, I met her. I had been dressed in something similar to what I was wearing now, denim overalls, a lacy shirt, and a gardening apron. She had been as pretty as the sunrise.
Lauren waved her arms. “She’s green and silver and blue and... and...”
“Go on,” I encouraged. I hadn’t wanted to trust my eyes, either, but my mother had told me to believe. Meadows, rivers, and mountains, she said, were alive with spiritual beings who would give a helping hand to those who asked nicely. I stroked the silver locket that held my mother’s portrait. She’d given me the locket that Christmas. An image of a fairy was etched into the lid. The word Believe was engraved on the underside.
“Mommy,” Lauren called.
She and I were standing on the slate patio, a roofed outdoor garden space. Her mother was sitting at one of the many wrought-iron tables. She smiled indulgently and whisked her hand, encouraging her daughter to speak. Muted sunlight filtered through the skylight in the pyramid-shaped roof. The ornate fountain carved with fairies and gnomes burbled in the background. A number of customers browsed fairy figurines on the verdigris bakers’ racks and spoke in hushed tones. A few others chatted about how pretty they thought the twinkling lights were that we’d woven through the vines and the potted ficus trees. A cluster of women was checking out the miniature Pink Splash hypoestes plants and golden Monterey cypress we had in stock.
“Tell me about her wings,” I prompted.
“They’re teensy,” Lauren chimed.
I noticed a lot of activity inside the main showroom, the French doors and beveled casement windows of the L-shaped space providing a full view from where we stood. One woman was scrawling her name on the sign-up sheet for the upcoming tea. We didn’t serve tea every day, only on Saturdays. So far, the response for this week’s tea had been tremendous because we’d decided to pair it with a book club event. We were going to discuss The Secret, Book and Scone Society. Scones and tea... a perfect fit.
“And her dress?” I asked.
Lauren twirled in place, her tresses fanning out. “It’s silver and looks like my ballet dress.” She grabbed the seams of her pink tutu.
“So her dress is lacy?” I asked.
Lauren bobbed her head. “And she has blue hair and sparkly silver shoes, and she glows.”
“That’s Fiona,” I said. Her hair was actually gossamer and caught the light, much like a prism or the lens of a camera. At certain angles, her hair could become a variety of other colors.
Lauren stopped moving and splayed her arms. “Why are her wings so small? She can’t fly with those.”
“She’s able to fly but not long distances. She has to earn three sets of adult wings first, in addition to her current pair.”
“How will she earn them?”
“By...” I tapped my chin. How could I explain it?
Fiona, for all intents and purposes, was a fairy-in-training. She should have been a full-fledged fairy by now, but imp that she was, she’d done one too many pranks in fairy school, so the queen fairy had booted her out and subjected her to probation, during which time Fiona had to get serious. By helping a human, she could earn her way back into