The Fairy Garden
By: Robin Gagnon
It had been years since I had seen my grandmother. My parents had stopped taking me to see her after they had been convinced that she had lost her mind.
“Why can’t I see grandma anymore?” I used to ask them when I was younger.
“Because she’s not feeling well.”
And then, as I got older, my parents told me the real reason.
“She believes that fairies exist and they live in her garden.”
So for a long time, I never visited grandmother. Eventually, when I turned seventeen, I decided enough was enough. I wanted to go see her and I demanded to my parents that we go. They were hesitant at first, but finally gave in. After all, it had been a long time.
“She probably doesn’t have that much longer to live,” my dad had told my mother. “What is she now? Seventy something?”
“I think so. Just remember that she’s probably going to say a lot of crazy things.”
On the way there, I tried to remember what she was like when I was little. I remembered baking and laughing with her, but there was something else. Something I couldn’t quite remember.
When we finally reached my grandmother’s small, white coloured home, she was sitting on the porch in a rocking chair.
“She’s looking well,” my mom commented nervously, as I remembered that there had been a fight between the two of them the last time we were here. “I wonder if she’s still talking about fairies.”
We all got out of the car and greeted her. She was old, frail and much shorter than me now.
“Oh look at you and how much you’ve grown,” she spoke in a slightly quavering voice. “You’ve become such a beautiful young lady.”
“Thanks Grandma,” I smiled. “You look like you’re doing well.”
“I have been, dear,” she replied. “Been keeping busy.”
My mom and her own mother looked at one another a little awkwardly, but all seemed to go fine. Fairies were never brought into the conversation once and, after a while, everyone seemed to relax like there had been no gap in time since we had seen each other at all.
When dinner time rolled around, my grandmother looked at her watch and back up at my parents before suggesting, “Why don’t you two go to the diner and pick us up something to eat?”
She tried to hand my mom some cash, but she waved it off. My dad insisted that they would pay and then they left, leaving me alone with my grandma.
“Can I show you something dear?” she asked me suddenly. “Come to the backyard with me.”
We headed outside and into the shed, which was littered with paint and all sorts of little items.
“What are these?” I asked, picking up what looked to be a miniature tea set that was no bigger than the top part of my pinkie. “Are they for a doll house or something?”
“These are for the fairies,” my grandmother smiled, holding up what looked to be a small house. “I make all these by hand.”
I tried not to look too disappointed. After all the progress that my parents and my grandma had made on their relationship, I didn’t want it to get ruined.
“They’re really nice grandma,” I remarked carefully. “But I wouldn’t mention them to mom…”
My grandmother sighed before putting the small, unfinished house down.
“I know,” she agreed. “I never should have told your mom about them. I knew she wouldn’t understand, but you…you used to play with them all the time. Come darling. Let’s go say hi together.”
An uncomfortable feeling swirled in the pit of my stomach, as my grandmother grabbed my hand and took me back outside to the giant, overgrown garden that resided behind her house.
Walking over to the tree, she rang a little bell that hung from one of its branches. She put the little tea set that I had held earlier back in my hand and told me to hold it out as I crouched.
For a long time we sat there and nothing happened. Eventually, my arm began to hurt.
“Can we go back inside now?” I asked a little impatiently. “It’s getting kind of cold out.”
“Just hold on a minute, sweetie,” she replied, looking eagerly around the garden. “I think they’re just scared. It’s okay. You can come out. You remember her, don’t you? She’s all grown up now. You used to play with her all the time.”
Another moment later and I was really beginning to lose my patience, but suddenly, something that looked like a butterfly flew onto my hand.
“You remember her don’t you?” my grandmother smiled. “She has the new tea set that I made you.”
“Grandma, that’s just a butterfly…”
I trailed off as it started to shift around in my hand. It’s clear, iridescent wings moved and a tiny face peered up at me.
I screamed, sending myself falling backwards onto the ground. My grandmother just laughed and, as I lay there, more of the tiny fairies fluttered above my face and peered down at me. I finally remembered what else I used to do when I visited my grandmother when I was little.
“They are real,” I muttered in disbelief.
Suddenly, they all disappeared when the sound of tires in the driveway was heard. We greeted my parents at the front door, as the smell of salty fries and greasy burgers filled the air.
“What were you two doing while we were gone?” my father asked.
“I was just checking out the garden,” I replied as nonchalantly as possible. “That’s all.”
My grandmother looked at me and, for just a moment, we both shared a knowing smile.