Home and a Fae

Millie stood in Edda’s study, shifting from one foot to the other as Edda dialled Millie’s mother’s phone number.

It started to ring, the sound echoing tinnily through the speaker, Edda handed Millie the phone. Her mother answered. “Hello?”

“Hi Mum. It’s me. Edda says it would be nice to call you once a week and I was wondering if this sort of time was okay, or if you’d rather not.”

“Hello darling, it’s lovely to hear from you and this sort of time would be perfect. What have you been up to this week?”

Millie settled in. “Well…”

At the end of the recitation, her mother was silent for a long time. Millie said. “Mum? Are you still there?”

“Yes, I’m here. I’m just worried that you’re not where you should be. All those events and upsets, it sounds far too chaotic for learning.”

Millie glared, but tried to be grown up. “I’m learning heaps already. Quoth says I’ve made a very good start on Raven, and I’m studying herbology, and geography, and school starts tomorrow and then I’m going to have healing training on Saturday afternoons as well. Heaps more than what I would have learnt with Mrs Honey.”

Her mother sighed. “Yes, well, it seems Mrs Honey has gained a new apprentice, and she says she can’t look after more than one at a time, so I’m afraid you won’t be able to go there.”

“Good. I’m far better off where I am. And you should come and visit so you can see for yourself.”

“Oh, well, I’m not sure. I can’t really take time away from the business you know.”

“So you don’t want to see me.”

“Of course I do, but you can come and visit me.”

“You don’t want to see where I’m living?”

“I’m sure you’ll be telling me all about it every week.”

“I don’t have to call if you don’t want me to. I wouldn’t want to you to take time away from your business on my account.”

“Now Millie…”

“No, I’ve had enough. If you want to take an interest, you can phone and if you want to see me you can visit. I’m the kid here, not you.”

With that, Millie hung up the phone and marched outside. She needed to go and help some plants.

Edda didn’t mention the conversation that evening, or the next day. She focused on making sure all the things heading to school were clearly named and any mention of her mother was carefully avoided.

At lunch on Sunday, Millie asked. “Are you going to make me phone my mum again next week?”

Edda sighed and shook her head. “No, I heard what you said and, to be honest, I think you have a point. Don’t tell Adam I said so though, for heaven’s sake.”

Millie smiled at that. “But it’s you that phones him anyway.”

“We phone each other. And message, and email. Different families have different communication habits.”

“So I suppose it’s up to Mum now, to work out what our communication habits are.”

“I suppose so. Now have you got an outfit planned for tomorrow, or are you going to see what you feel like when you wake up?”

“I sort of know, but I might change my mind. I don’t know what the other kids are going to be wearing so it’s all a bit weird.”

“And in the meantime, we still have afternoon tea with the fae. It’s considered good manners to take a guest gift when you’ve been invited to an occasion, shall we go through what we could take with us?”

Millie gulped. “Should I have bought something at the market? I don’t have anything nice to give them other than my crystal and the sunbeam was so happy with that this morning.”

Edda patted her shoulder. “The crystal is yours and the fae like the type of gifts we make ourselves. A batch of home-made biscuits, a potted plant, especially herbs; they have trouble growing some of the most useful varieties.”

Millie thought. “But doesn’t that mean the plant doesn’t do well once it’s over there?”

“We often have to bring them back for holidays.”

“How about a bouquet of herbs then? Would that be okay?”

“I think that’s a lovely idea.”

They set out a short time later, in fresh outfits suitable for tea in the woods with royalty, and with Millie cradling a fragrant sheaf of assorted herbs in one arm.

It seemed like the paths had been deliberately shortened, or maybe they were just that tiny bit familiar now, but Millie and Edda arrived at the Fae clearing exactly on time and Millie squinted at the group around the twin thrones.

“I recognise the lady who measured me for my clothes, but I don’t know any of the other three, do you?”

Edda replied. “The man in the long multi-coloured robe is Garen, the building mage, but I’m not sure about the two others. I think you’re being shown off.”

Millie gasped. “Oh! I’m known as Little Greenwitch here, I didn’t want to even give them my nickname last time, just in case.”

Edda smiled at her. “Always better safe than sorry.”

The bluebird, in girl form, danced towards them. “Hello. We have human drinks and cakes and interesting visitors. You should come to tea more often.”

Millie asked. “Who are the interesting visitors?”

The girl shrugged. “I don’t know, that’s why they’re interesting.”

They walked on together, pausing at the edge of the cleared space around the thrones. The king waved them on. “Greetings and welcome. Come guests, and meet our other guests.”

The queen sat forward. “But first, our little greenwitch needs to try on the dress we made for her or we’ll all forget.”

Millie gave a little curtsy. “The clothes you’ve already given me have been wonderful.”

Edda nodded. “Very practical, and pretty at the same time. I was a little put out I didn’t have the chance to shop for a girl. Adam’s wardrobe preferences are rather defined after all, but you’ve chosen beautifully for her.”

The queen looked sympathetic. “Next time, we three shall all discuss it together. I have decided choosing clothes for girls is a great deal of fun.”

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