“Yeah,” Josie agreed, “Siblings.”
Her friend Annie, who worked at the station next to her in the munitions factory, had just finished reminiscing about a time her little sister had stolen all her makeup and drawn all over their parents’ mirror with it, and of course blamed it on Annie. The parents hadn’t believed a fifteen-year-old girl would do this, assuming it was likely the work of the eleven-year-old sister. But it had given them the munition – ironically, Annie had pointed out as she boxed a pack of twelve bullets – they needed to ban makeup from the house of their teenage daughter once and for all.
Annie twisted around on her stool to look at Josie, her curly hair holding up well even under the little hats they all had to wear as part of their uniform.
“So what about you?” Annie asked. “You got any brothers or sisters?”
Josie watched with bubbling glee as her brother Eric took in the shimmering orange form in front of him. To be fair, she wasn’t set on her classification of it as fairy. The shape was flat, like a piece of paper, but made up of little dots, like dust. Yes, that was what it was like, dust floating through the air when it catches the light. Except dust moved slowly, drifting around. This form was sort of curling one way, then the other, and there was just that one thin layer of it. Plus, it was bright orange.
“What in the world…” Eric said. But for once he stopped there and didn’t start going on and on at her about actions and their ‘consequences’, whatever those were.
“Do you think you can see a face?” Josie asked. “I’m thinking if you take those two dots as eyes, that thick line as a nose, that gap as a mouth.”
“Don’t touch it!” Eric shouted.
Josie had extended a finger towards it across his stomach but she drew her finger back with a fright. “That was right in my ear!”
“Sorry,” Eric said, “I just think we should be careful. We don’t know what it is.”
Josie shrugged that casual shrug that wound him up so much. “Sorry, too late.”
She extended her arm out in the opposite direction, away from the shimmering form, and as she straightened it out, her finger reaching as far away as it could, the form jerked towards Eric. He yelped and jumped up, dusting off his trousers.
“What the hell!” he cried. “How are you doing that?”
Josie doubled over with laughter at how high up his eyebrows had shot. He looked so pale, the poor thing. “Ooh, Eric, you swore!”
“How are you doing that?” he repeated. He looked down behind him at the form, which had settled back into its original position as Josie had clutched her sides with both hands. His eyebrows settled, and he even crouched down to look closer at the form. Not even Eric’s world-renowned aversion to mud could withstand the draw of this mystery, Josie thought.
“I don’t know,” she admitted, with a genuine shrug this time. “I touched it, then it just started following me.”
“Of course you touched it,” Eric said, but he took forever to say it and barely blinked as he stared at the form. “Wait, how did you get away from it just now?”
Josie grinned. “I didn’t. It was in my sleeve the whole time! I put it in between the roots when we got back down here.”
Eric nodded, then stopped abruptly and stared at her. “Then why did I have to come down here? Why did I have to jump across the burn and get my shoes muddy?”
“I didn’t want Mum to see,” Josie said.
Eric’s eyes widened again. “Oh no, Mum. What are we going to tell Mum?”
“Nothing…?” Josie suggested. “I’ll just put it back in my sleeve.”
“We can’t lie to Mum,” Eric said.
“But she’ll take it away!” Josie moaned, just like Eric did when he was worried about something.
“What?” Eric asked, standing up.
“Mum won’t let me have a fairy stuck to my arm. She’ll take me to the doctor and then they’ll take the fairy away.” Josie kept the moan going and splayed her arms to show her helplessness.
“I really don’t think it’s a fairy,” Eric said.
“I don’t care. I want to keep it.” Josie folded her arms and the shimmering form jerked up into the air a bit. “And also if you tell on me I’ll tell Mum you got mud on your shoes.”
Eric took a deep breath. He crouched down again and reached a hand out towards the form.
“Touch it,” Josie said. “It feels tingly.”
Eric looked down at his shoes, his heart presumably wrenching at the sight of the dirt.
“To hell with it,” he whispered, and reached out and touched it. His fingertip glowed orange for a moment, just like Josie’s had. He grinned one of the widest grins she’d ever seen on his face and stood back up.
“That was brilliant,” he said.
“Uh… Eric?” Josie said, glancing down at the form.
“What?” he turned around to follow her gaze. “Oh. Oh no.”
The form was now suspended halfway between the two of them, about a foot in the air. Whenever either of them moved the form was jerked along with them, as was the other person. It was like they’d caught each other with a fishing line.
Eric turned to face Josie. “Josie?”
“We have to tell Mum now.”