The Fairy's Thumb
'Hey! Hey, I say! Are you awake?’
It was a small, ringing voice that Emma could have sworn came from somewhere around the tip of her nose. But that couldn’t be right. She hadn’t even opened her eyes yet. She was simply, she thought with blurry thoughts, on the edge of a vivid dream, almost, but not quite, awake.
But that did not explain the tickling feeling on the end of her nose.
‘Hey!’ the voice tinkled.
Emma’s eyes flew open to a sight that made her blink twice and stare narrowly. For perched just in front of where her eyes crossed sat a small creature. A small creature with wings.
Every muscle in Emma’s body froze. She didn’t even blink.
‘Are you up? Of course you’re up! You have to be up. Your eyes are open.’ As quickly and as fast as the tiny creature with the small tinkling voice spoke, it stopped. The creature bent forward toward one of Emma’s eyes.
Suddenly Emma heard the sound of a tiny hand against skin, and felt its sting.
‘Ouch!’ she exclaimed.
‘Aha! I knew it. I knew humans only slept with their eyes closed.’
The small creature fell backward with a laugh, and before Emma could grow alarmed enough to stretch out a hand, the creature righted itself all the way around and until it was floating in mid-air. No—not floating. Flying. The tiny wings beat fervently in the still air.
‘Come on,’ the fairy said suddenly, as though it had just remembered why it wanted Emma, and tugged on her hand. ‘Please!’ The “please” seemed to be more of an afterthought, though urgent all the same.
‘Stop pulling,’ Emma said, crinkling her brow in annoyance. There were a hundred and one things Emma might have imagined herself saying to a fairy, and that was not among them. But that was before she had actually met one. They were more annoying in person.
Emma pulled her hand back with a jerk, and the fairy went tumbling into the air again.
‘But… please?’ the fairy asked, her face looking quite dejected and forlorn.
It appeared Emma had no choice. ‘Oh, alright,’ she said, resignedly moved to pity. After all, she thought coming to her senses, how often did a fairy ask her for help? Never!, came the unbidden answer, and excitement began to unfurl in her belly. ‘Are you a real fairy?’ she asked, after she opened her bedroom door, bending down to look at the tiny creature who beckoned her, forgetting all about the urgent plea.
The fairy turned her head and looked at Emma, as though suddenly questioning both Emma’s sanity and her ability to render assistance.
‘Yes. And if you’re a real human, there’s a matter of life and death happening in your kitchen!’ the fairy said, and flew out the door and down the hall.
‘Oh!’ Emma exclaimed with great concern, and raced after the fairy.
When they arrived in the kitchen, the fairy stopped and looked about haphazardly. Emma, looking around too, saw nothing amiss.
‘“Life and Death” you say?’ said Emma with a raised eye.
‘Well…’ said the fairy as she flew about the room, ‘She was here a minute ago…’ The fairy was knocking things here and there in a frantic search.
‘Who was here a minute ago?’ asked Emma, running behind the fairy and trying to put everything to rights.
‘Thumb,’ said the fairy.
This did not make things more clear.
‘Thumb?’ asked Emma, her nose screwing up as though she had just experienced a bad smell. ‘You’ve lost your thumb?’
‘Yes!’ the fairy said, and then threw up her hands in exasperation. ‘Now, if you wouldn’t mind…’ the fairy gestured about frantically, ‘She’s here somewhere.’
Emma watched the fairy moving about erratically, and then sat down at the kitchen table. Crossing her arms one over the other, she said, quick and to the point, ‘I don’t think I’d like very much to look for your thumb.’
The fairy suddenly flew very quickly toward Emma, who flinched.
‘THEY will be awake soon!’ the fairy was whispering, but it felt like she was yelling. ‘And if THEY find her, it’ll be bad. THEY aren’t supposed to see us. Ever. If THEY even can. I have to find her, don’t you see? What if she’s trapped? What if she can never get out? What if THEY smash her like a bug and,’ and now the fairy peered very closely into Emma’s right eye, its own eyes so wide Emma worried they would pop right out, ‘THEY kill her? Dead?’
Abruptly, the fairy flew back, and ran her tiny hands through her frazzled hair. She looked as though she might cry. ‘Oh, where can she be?’
Emma really was moved to pity, but she just didn’t understand. ‘Why do you keep calling your thumb a “she”?’ she asked. This was, according to Emma, really at the heart of the issue.
‘Because “she” is a she! My sister is around her somewhere, and we’ve just got to find her!’
Emma’s eyes flew wide. ‘Your sister is your thumb?’
‘Thumbelina, yes,’ said the fairy with great distraction. ‘But we call her Thumb,’ the fairy added, and Emma wished she would have said so earlier.
‘You should have said…’ Emma started to say, but a sound thumped upstairs.
‘Hurry!’ the fairy cried in a whisper. ‘THEY’RE up!’
All at once Emma knew exactly who THEY were.
And Thumb needed help. Emma stood and moved quickly about the room, searching.
The fairy nodded in brief satisfaction, and then proceeded to tear apart the kitchen. The sounds were moving more thumpingly upstairs, and Emma knew there was very little time left before the great decent, when suddenly she said, ‘Hush!’
‘Why?’ the fairy said, but in a whisper.
‘Just hush,’ Emma said again, for she had noticed that a small sound of tinkling bells followed the fairy wherever she went. And where one fairy sounded of bells, well…
A moments silence was all she needed, for coming from the shiny copper kettle atop the stove came the ever so slight sound of the tinkling of very tiny bells.
Emma rushed as the fairy flew to the stove.
Lifting the lid off the kettle, Emma saw the tiniest fairy she had ever seen. It did dawn on her that she had only seen one other fairy, but this one was much smaller. And she was bathing, and looking at her reflection that beamed in her own glow off the kettle walls.
‘Oh, Thumb,’ said the fairy sister, peering into the kettle with great exasperation.
The tiny face looked up. ‘Oh, Evie. There you are,’ came a very tiny voice. ‘I gots trapped.’
‘Of course you did, you silly,’ said Evie rolling her eyes.
‘I flew in the spout, and couldn’t get back out,’ continued a wide-eyed, though thoroughly delighted, Thumb.
‘Naturally,’ said Evie, tiny hands on small hips. ‘Come on, we’ll get you out,’ and she put out a small hand to help her sister.
‘Can’t. Alls wet,’ Thumb said, floating around to reveal two very sodden wings. ‘I’s made lemonade and took a bath. Looks at how pretty I’s am, Evie,’ she said preening to the kettle’s gleaming inner walls.
Evie had to think quickly; the thumps were becoming quite constant. ‘Give us a hand,’ she whispered to Emma.
Emma had to give herself a little shake, for during this exchange between fairy sisters, the awe of seeing two fairies struck her like a great big hammer.
‘Of course,’ she said, setting aside her awe, and lifted the tiny body out of the kettle.
‘Thanks,’ whispered Thumb.
‘Don’t mention it,’ said Emma, holding the wet fairy in the palm of her hand as the three raced back to her room and closed the door behind them. Just as another one opened. Breathing heavily, Emma gave Thumb her handkerchief, and the tiny fairy proceeded to dry her wings with Evie’s help.
Footsteps made their way to the door. Emma knew it was only a matter of seconds.
Evie looked at Emma, then gave Thumb a final pat.
‘We’ll be going now,’ she whispered. ‘You’ve rendered the fairies a service, and we don’t forget. Call on us if you need us,’ Evie said as she and Thumb moved toward the window.
‘Thanks,’ whispered Emma, who couldn’t believe her luck.
The fairies flew away with a wave, just as the door handle turned.
It had really been the most interesting morning.