The entire house shook as Mr. Lovely rushed upstairs with a hot cup of tea in hand, and he quickly shut the bedroom door behind him seeing that Mrs. Lovely had gone into another one of her coughing spells; this one sounded especially awful. Matteo sat loyally beside her on the edge of the bed, softly rubbing her back as she clinched to a crimson stained cloth. And while Eleanor nobly attempted to muffled her sounds so that her daughters might not hear and become distressed, it was sadly done to no avail. The girls were standing deathly silent in the candlelit hallway, listening to every sound coming from the other side of their parent's door.
Maria had gone pale in the face, and Sarah's fear covered her like frost on a window. Both flinched at every cough and stomp. It was then that Sarah caught a rare glimpse behind her sister's porcelain mask, and saw Maria's lips begin to quiver; that scared Sarah the most. When Maria caught her staring, she quickly feigned indifference.
"H-hurry up and find a dress to wear," she said, annoyed. "You're not going to make us late tonight."
Maria walked away and Sarah stood alone in the hallway in more ways than one. She barely heard a single word coming from her sister's mouth, though even if she had, we doubt she would have cared at all. All desire to attend this year's festival had flown out the window, chased away by a fear she had never once before encountered. It wasn't until Plie came softly brushing up against her leg that Sarah finally snapped out of it. She and her kitten then made their way back into their bedroom, as she tried focusing on happier thoughts.
"What do we have here?" Sarah said, knelling in front of an old, wooden chest. The curious, wide-eyed kitten watched from on top her bed. Inside was an old handy-down; a green and white laced frock that Maria used to wear on special occasions until the day she finally outgrew it. "Well, what do you think, Plie?" she asked, holding the dress up against her.
"Brings remembrance of ye ol moth, it does," said the kitten.
In all honestly, it was a simple meow she let out, but in the Feline-to-English dictionary this was how it roughly translated.
"I think it looks nice," Sarah replied.
We our proud to say that in a single sentence, Sarah did what took her sister several hours to do that day. And the dress fit so well too. Well enough that when Maria saw her, she was slightly upset she had to give it away. Sarah smiled in front of the mirror and spun around in circles hoping it would bloom just as Maria's had done, but it would do no such thing. She pouted. "Perhaps its not the blooming type," she said.
After a child's eternity "" which equates to roughly half an hour "" Maria had successfully tamed that last stubborn strand of hair and was ready to reveal herself to the world. She waltzed past Sarah and the kitten, both of whom had already fallen asleep while waiting. Maria touched Sarah gently on the shoulder and whispered for her to come away quietly so as not to disturb the slumbering cat that she was quite fond of too.
"Maria," Sarah whispered, as she sat on the edge of her bed with her head hanging low. She had just had a very bad dream, you see. And after one has had a bad dream, it is usually followed by a period of deep thought about things. "Do you think mother will be okay?"
Maria paused, and then she looked quite irritated. "We don't have time for this, Sarah," she said. "Mother just has the flu. Father is with her, she'll be fine. Now lets go." Amazingly, Maria's 'comforting' speech did nothing to uplift her little sister's spirit.
"Perhaps I should stay," Sarah said.
Maria scowled. "Get. Up. Now." she said, managing to intimidate Sarah off the bed. Sarah then kissed the kitten lightly on the head, and then followed her sister out of the room.
The original plan was that some of Maria's friends were to meet them at a nearby neighbor's house, and then from there they would all head off to the festival together. But shortly after the two girls left the house, they were halted by their father. Mr. Lovely came outside and instructed his daughters to wait a while, as he had made arrangements for their escort.
Matteo tried to hide his feeling but Sarah had a knack for reading faces, and upon his face she kept seeing the same word written in bold letters: Afraid.
Moments later, an old carriage came rolling onto their hill, and out of it spilled Mr and Mrs Comfort; long-time friends of the family. They greeted Matteo wearing thin smiles, speaking quietly while sneaking glances toward the sisters. The whole ordeal felt strange to Sarah, and as for Maria, she just kept on with that blank expression of hers, staring off at the horizon as if she were half-expecting something to come soaring across it.
Sarah's eyes then met the emptiness between their front door which was left slightly ajar, and a bad feeling come over her. That emptiness rang even louder than the whispers of the adults, but soon, both were silenced when Mrs. Lovely stepped out. She was a vision, almost phantasmal in a thin white shawl that seemed to bask in the moonlight.
Matteo was quick to be upon her, attempting to lead her back into the house. But Eleanor was insistent, and after shooing him away, she called out for her youngest. "Come here, lovely girl," she said, speaking just above a whisper. Mrs. Lovely reached out for her Sarah's hand, and when she had it, she pressed it gently on her face and then kissed it three time; each kiss being more heartfelt than the last.
"Why are Angelo's parent's here?" Sarah asked, timidly.
Eleanor looked away and smiled softly. The answer was written plainly upon her face, but the words were in elegant cursive, you see, and Sarah was never any good at reading cursive. "I have something for you," Eleanor said, taking off the white shawl and wrapping it around Sarah's shoulders. "There, you see? Fits like a charm." She wrapped her arms around her daughter, and pulled her in close. "In fact, it's quite like a charm," she whispered. "Whenever you wear it, know that I am right here on this hill, hugging you."
Needless to say it surprised everyone there when Sarah pushed herself away from her mother. Even Maria stood speechless. Sarah glanced around in quiet desperation, as if wanting to run, yet at the same time, afraid to take a step away. The moment was too strange and she, quite honestly didn't know how to respond to it. She stared helplessly with her amber eyes, now filled with a tears that hurt Eleanor to see. "What's happening?" she whimpered.
"Oh, Sarah," said Eleanor, but before she could say another word, she started coughing again.
This time Matteo wasted no time and had her taken inside immediately. He then loaded his daughters into the carriage, and spent two borrowed sentences telling the driver where to go. As the girls pulled off their hill, Sarah watched from the back window and saw her father in front of the door, rubbing his head nervously.
For a long while after they pulled off their hill, the carriage was filled with quiet sobs all coming from Sarah. Maria said nothing at all. It was just as well, as Sarah wasn't feeling up for another one of her pep talks. Appearing like a very elegant statue, Maria simply stared out the carriage window as the moonlight shined on her solemn face.
Soon, all that could be heard was the rattle of the carriage as they rode through the hills. Sarah had calmed herself long enough to let her mind wander. And so, she left the carriage, not physically, but mentally. She let her mind drift as far back as memory lane would take her. At the end of it she found herself on a cone-shaped hill with many kinds of flowers growing in spirals all the way to the top. This was the Flower Spear, home to the Comforts.
Sarah was just a tot back then, perhaps four or five, and the house upon the Spear looked as big as a castle tower from one of the fairytales her mother used to read to her. It stood a three stories tall, adorned with long vines cascading from the two balconies like a green waterfall. Mrs. Lovely was full of energy back then, and Maria was much more sprightly. They held Sarah's hand and pointed out every flower they could name along the way.
"There's a yellow rose, Sarah," said Maria. "Those mean friendship."
"Oh, and there's a pink rose," said Eleanor, elated. "They are my favorite. Matteo, my love, do you remember when you gave me one on our first gondola ride?"
"We shall have to do it again this year," he said.
"Can I go on the gon'da ride," asked Sarah.
"Perhaps," he replied, "but only after I"ve had a long talk with the young man first." Mrs. Lovely promised him that that day was far away, but he reminded her that days like that love to creep up on unsuspecting fathers, thus he had been keeping a keen eye on it ever since his daughters were born. They both laughed, though Sarah didn't understood what they were talking about.
Suddenly a voice called out.
"Matteo! Eleanor!" It was the lady of the flower spear, Mrs. Comfort, who now came rushing out the house to greet them.
"Ciao, Adriana," said Eleanor, as the two women shared a warm embrace.
"How is it you never seen to age, Eleanor?" she said.
"Oh, if only," replied Mrs. Lovely. "But its you putting these flowers to shame today, not I."
With a mocking smile Mrs. Comfort turned her attention to Mr. Lovely who simply smiled. Her nose went up at him. "Still as quiet as a fish, I see," she said, and Matteo grimaced as the women shared a laughed on his account.
Maria sprang out of the group as if it were a surprise she was there. "Ciao, Zia," she said.
"Oh, Maria, you have grown into quite the lovely indeed," she said. "Give us a hug." And as they hugged, Adriana's eyes widened when she caught a first glance at Sarah. "This Lovely I know," she said in reference to Maria, "But who might you be?"
"I am Sarah and I am four," replied the little girl as if it were her full royal title.
Adriana stood up straight and proper. "Four, you say?" Sarah nodded. "Well, I am Mrs. Comfort and I am ever so much more than four," she replied. "It's very nice to meet you."
"It's very nice to meet you too," Sarah replied.
"Say, you know who is four?" said Adriana. Sarah shook her head. "My youngest, Angelo. He is four also. Be a dear and see if you can bring him inside? He's probably on the other side of the house running amok."
Eleanor gave Sarah a reassuring nod and off she went as the others entered the house.
When Sarah ventured out around the large house her eyes widened in disbelief. As beautiful the front of the house was, it paled in comparison to the back which served as home to a bright flutter of butterflies flying from flower to flower; a slice of heaven. Among them ran a silly little boy doing his best to grab one with his hands. This was Angelo Comfort.
Angelo was a small boy with comically chubby cheeks just begging to be pinched, and a light in his eyes as sprightly as any fairy. He was Sarah's very first friend, which is to say that he was also her first adventure. "Stay still!" he shouted aggravated, as he vainly leapt at the swiftly flying creatures. He was so into what he was doing that he ran circles around Sarah without even acknowledging her presence.
"What are you doing?" asked Sarah, finally garnering a glance, but just one.
"Fairies?" she said. "But "" those are butterflies."
He sucked his teeth and pouted. "Only just now they are."
His words must have both greatly confused and intrigued Sarah, for very soon she would force him to sit down and explain himself. And oh was she glad she did. Afterward, Sarah forgot all about going inside the house.
The story Mrs. Comfort told her son was that, just as all caterpillars eventually go off making cocoons for themselves to emerge later as butterflies, on rare occasions, some butterflies will also go on to make cocoons from which when they emerge, it is as a fairy. Sarah was awestruck to say the least. She had never heard that lore before, and as it turned out, Angelo happened to be as captivated with fairies as she was. He went on to tell her about how the Burnt Festival was on June 21st, and how that day was a special time in which one might hope to catch a wild fairy.
After that, the two quickly became as thick as thieves, even going so far as to stealing his mother's thunder, so that when Mrs. Comfort asked them to come inside, it held less weight and they continued to play in the garden. It was quite the adventure indeed. By the time she had to leave, Sarah begged her mother for two more minutes, which turn to ten, which turned to twenty. After that, Eleanor insisted. She still had her thunder, you see. And just before they entered the carriage, Angelo pluck a yellow rose and gave it to Sarah.
"My, my," Mrs. Comfort said, "I can't remember the last time a man gave me a rose."
"Don't you start," replied Mr. Comfort. "I gave you a hole hill of em!"
While the two engaged in playful squabbles, Angelo leaned in very secretively and whispered into Sarah's ears. "Sarah," he said. "Did you know there's even a Fairy that will grant wishes?" Sarah's eyes widened.
He nodded. "Next time we meet I"ll tell you all about them."
Sarah flinched out of her thoughts as the rattling carriage pulled to an abrupt stop. She could hear celebratory music and the wordless noise of a hundred chattering voices. She could also smell the strong scent of wine in the air. They had arrived at the Burnt festival.
Sarah peeped out the other window and saw a very large bonfire with a greenish tent. Wild children were running amongst a crowd of adults in packs of four or more, but Sarah's eyes searched for one in particular.
"We're here," she said aloud, but Maria was still in a fog, and didn't respond. Sarah said it again, louder this time. Maria finally snapped out of it.
"Hm?" she replied. "What is it, Sarah?"
"I said, we're here."
"Oh. Already? We should probably get going then."
Sarah took the door first, and stepped out of the carriage that night of nights with a stern look of determination. Tonight, she would find a fairy, but not just any fairy; special wish-fairy. Thus, on this fateful night of nights, Sarah Lovely had finally found something meaningful to wish for. And though that might sound like a small thing to you and I, know that it is a travesty for a child. For this now meant the end was nigh.
"First things first," said Sarah, glancing to her left and right. "Where's Angelo?"