Red, or pink, or . . .
Taeyeon stared hard at the colours, trying to picture how the flowers would turn out. Red? The flowers might look too intimidating. A lighter red, maybe. But pink would make the flowers look softer, gentler, and she wanted that. She wanted cosy. She wanted mild. Pastel pink would do it.
“Pink . . .” Taeyeon murmured to herself since there was no one else to talk to. There hadn’t been anyone to talk to for a long time so she was used to talking to herself. She could have an entire conversation all by herself, in fact, but that seldom happened. After all, it was easier to think thoughts than to speak them.
With a careful hand, Taeyeon applied the colour onto the wall, within lines depicting the flower petals. She had to be careful. The petals were the size of little pebbles and reckless colouring would spoil them. So, without hurry and without rush, Taeyeon gave colour to the little flowers that lined the base of the wall, just above the flooring.
She must have fallen asleep while colouring. The flowers were only three quarters of the way done, but it was already daybreak. Taeyeon stood up and stretched. The sun was rising outside in the chilly air. It was the one time in the day when she had to go outside to get her dose of tsaodein, better known to humans as morning dew.
Returning to the house after sipping her fill of tsaodein, Taeyeon sat down to resume her colouring. A quarter of the remaining way in, Taeyeon stopped to admire her handicraft thus far. Pastel pink was the right choice as the flowers were certainly sprucing up the house with warmth. Satisfied with the results so far, she was just about to continue when a loud noise disturbed the peace.
The loud noise was followed by four more bangs. Then, voices. And footsteps. Taeyeon put her colour sprinkles away and pressed her nose against the window pane to look. A nondescript grey car was parked in the driveway and two tall people and three short people were busy hauling bags out of it. Or rather, the two tall people were hauling bags while the three short people were standing together, looking at the house.
The little world of peace and quiet in Taeyeon’s mind fled amidst the panic that was taking over.
What’s happening? Why are humans coming into this house? What’s gonna happen to me now? Wait. Why am I panicking? Wouldn’t it be nice to have humans moving in? Especially the smallest one. She’s short and cute and kinda chubby. And the little fluffy pink unicorn she’s hugging is about my size so she will like me too! Or, might. Hmm. So, maybe . . . we can be friends?
Taeyeon spun a few rounds to shake off the sprinkles and waited by the door to welcome them. But as they walked right past her without as much as a glance in her direction, she remembered that humans were blind to faeries like her. Feeling a little disappointed, Taeyeon hung her head and was going to return to her sprinkles when a sweet voice called out to her.
“Hello, I’m Tiffany.”
Turning around, Taeyeon realised the smallest girl was talking to her. With widened eyes, Taeyeon asked, “Y-You can see me?”
The sweetest, widest, most heartening smile greeted Taeyeon and the little girl answered, “I can see you!”
“Honey, who are you talking to?” asked the taller woman, most likely to be Tiffany’s mother.
It then occurred to Taeyeon that the little girl was the only one in the family who could see her. Strange. And it wouldn’t do for the little girl’s parents to think she was seeing things. “Shh,” she whispered, pressing a finger on her lips. “It’s a secret.”
The little girl’s pretty brown eyes widened at the sound of the magic word. Secret. It was a word that opened a magical world in the eyes of a young child and Taeyeon could feel the thrill rising in the little girl. “I can’t tell you, Mommy.” She giggled. “It’s a secret.”
A tinkering laugh full of motherly amusement sailed through the air. “Alright, honey. Come on in. Remember to kick the muck off your shoes.”
Taeyeon stood by the door and watched as little Tiffany diligently kicked and scraped the muck off her shoes before stepping into the house. Then, she sat on the floor and proceeded to take her little pink boots off. They looked cosy and warm with all the fluff inside it. A whisper brought her out from her thoughts.
“What’s your name?”
Taeyeon looked into the eyes of little Tiffany and smiled. “My name is Taeyeon.”
“Do you live here?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Why are you so small? You’re as small as my unicorn.”
“If I tell you, you have to promise to keep it a secret.”
Little Tiffany’s eyes widened again and she leaned closer to Taeyeon. “I promise.”
“Okay.” Taeyeon stepped up to Tiffany’s lowered ear and said, “I’m a faerie.”
“Ooh . . .”
“Don’t tell anyone.”
Tiffany shook her head in earnest. “I won’t.”
“It’s our little secret.”
Tiffany’s smile was as bright as the sun in the sky on this cool winter’s day. “It’s our little secret!”
“Taeyeon! Taeyeon!” A frantic faerie with translucent golden wings came flapping out from the fireplace squeaking.
Taeyeon knew the voice to be Jessica’s, a faerie of the winter’s icy wonderland. “I’m here,” she replied. “Why are you here so late at night?”
“Oh no. Am I late? I’m late. I’m late. The humans are already here.”
“What do you mean?”
“I was supposed to tell you about the humans coming but I fell asleep. Were you able to finish the flowers before they came?”
“I only have a little left to do. I can finish it before the sun rises.”
“That’s a relief. I think.”
Taeyeon smiled at the frazzled faerie. “Don’t worry.”
“Okay, I won’t. Phew.” Jessica folded her wings neatly on her back and smiled. “Are the humans here nice?”
Taeyeon nodded. “They’re very nice. Especially the little girl, Tiffany. She can see me and talk to me.”
Jessica’s eyes widened. “She can see you?”
“Wow, that’s special.”
“Do you know why she can see me?”
Jessica pursed her lips. “Mmm . . . sometimes these things happen. When it happens, it’s for a special reason.”
“What special reason?”
Jessica shrugged. “I don’t know. But you’ll find out.”
“Weird. I swear the agent didn’t mention any flower paintings on the walls when he sold us the house.”
“I’m sure it was always there, dear. We probably didn’t notice it in the hustle of moving in.”
“But how could we have missed seeing it?”
“Come over here, dear. Let me give you a hug. You’re worked hard, my dear woman. Now, rest. Don’t worry your pretty head over these pretty little flowers. They look nice, don’t they? Mhm. Good. Mmm . . .”
Tiffany, who had stopped on the stairs to watch her parents, cringed. Ergh. With the grimace still on her face, she entered her bedroom and jumped on her bed.
“What happened to you?” asked Taeyeon as she put her colour sprinkles away.
“I saw my daddy kissing my mommy.”
“Eww . . .”
“Well, check this out,” said Taeyeon, pointing at a corner of the wall.
“Do you like it?”
With a huge grin tugging on her lips, Tiffany nodded. “I love it. I love unicorns. And I love—”
“Pink!” Taeyeon finished for her with a grin.
“Yeah! Thank you!” Tiffany gave Taeyeon a gentle hug, careful not to squash her. She had been too excited when Taeyeon agreed to give her a present on the wall and almost squashed the little faerie to death with a hug. Ever since then, she was mindful of Taeyeon’s puny size and how fragile the faerie was.
“I’m glad you like it.”
The cheerful, caring Tiffany that came home from school today wasn’t quite the same. Taeyeon put her cleansing sprinkles down and went to Tiffany’s side. “What happened?”
Tiffany sniffed as she put her little pink school bag away and shook her head. “I can’t say.”
Sensing something bad brewing, Taeyeon hopped onto Tiffany’s thigh and looked up at the little girl. “You can tell me everything because I’m a faerie. Nobody else can see me, remember?”
Tiffany looked at her for a moment, her big, round glistening eyes blinking and blinking as her little mind thought about what Taeyeon said. “Nobody wants to be my friend,” she said at last.
“Why not?” Taeyeon couldn’t imagine it. Tiffany was the sweetest girl. How was this possible?
“They don’t like me. They say I talk funny. And then they laugh at me.”
“Who are they?”
“That’s not nice of them.”
Tiffany’s shoulders sank lower. “Do I talk funny?”
“Of course not. I don’t ever laugh when you talk, do I?”
“But everyone in my class laughs at me and calls me names.”
“What they do isn’t right. Did you tell an adult?”
Tiffany nodded sadly. “I told my teacher.”
“What did she say?”
“She asked me who. I told her it’s everyone then she told them it’s bad to laugh at me but now Jenny is angry.”
“Why is she angry?”
“She told me not to tell the teacher or she’ll tied me up and beat me.”
Taeyeon could barely believe her ears. Was Tiffany talking about an eight-year-old here? “Jenny sounds dangerous.”
Tiffany nodded solemnly. “She’s very dangerous.”
“Try your best to stay away from her. Don’t let her come near you.”
Tiffany nodded again. “I run away from her during playtime. She always wants to bully me.”
“Keep running and keep telling your teacher. Don’t let her bully you.”
A sense of calm settled into Tiffany’s eyes as she nodded yet again. “Okay.
It was late in the morning, some days later, when Taeyeon felt something amiss. Her sprinkles didn’t feel right. The house didn’t feel right. Nothing felt right. Taeyeon put her sprinkles away, leaving the Tiffany’s bed undone. She didn’t feel like continuing her daily faerie duties, a sign that something was definitely wrong, because despite staying indoors all day, Taeyeon could hardly be labelled as a sloth—many things were accomplished in the house each day.
As minutes went by, the urge to find out what was wrong grew stronger and stronger. And finally, the thought of leaving the house struck Taeyeon. This was even more peculiar for Taeyeon. As a house faerie, it was natural for her to stay at home most of the time and the urge to venture out was a fairly foreign one.
Standing at the fireplace, Taeyeon contemplated going to Jessica’s perch. Jessica would know what was wrong with this winter. It was worth a shot. With her decision made, Taeyeon opened her wings and flew over where the fire would be. Then, with a flap of her wings, rainbow sprinkles floated into the air and surrounded her. Seeing that, she closed her eyes and flapped again.
Strangely, she didn’t end up at Jessica’s. It was a foreign place that she opened her eyes to as her wings held her up in the frosty air. It was a noisy place. Full of children in thick winter jackets running around. Oh. Of course. Where else could she be? This must be Tiffany’s school. But why did she end up here? Did it mean Tiffany was in danger?
Taeyeon flew over the playing children in search of Tiffany at once. She flew to the left, the right, one whole round but Tiffany was nowhere to be found. Taeyeon flew another round in the opposite direction and this time, she spotted a girl huddled in a quiet corner. A taller, bigger girl was standing over the girl, pushing her against the wall. A single sob reached Taeyeon’s ears and she knew at once who it belonged to.
Without as much as a split second of hesitation, Taeyeon dived towards the taller girl, wings spread wide open. She shook as her sprinkles fell over the taller girl, flaring angry red. It didn’t seem to stop the taller girl from holding Tiffany against the wall, but Tiffany spotted Taeyeon suddenly and called out her name. The taller girl turned, her face twisted into an angry knot and eyes, unkind. Taeyeon doubled her sprinkles and shook them down into the girl’s eyes.
The girl let out a bark and released Tiffany to clamp over her eyes. “Ow!” she howled. “Oww!” And with her finger waggling wildly in Tiffany’s direction, the girl said, “I’ll tell Mrs. Park. I’ll tell Mrs. Park!”
“I’ll tell Mr. Lee!” Tiffany retorted with seemingly newfound ferocity.
The taller girl rubbed her eyes and started to cry. “You hurt my eyes. You hurt my eyes!”
“You bullied me!”
Taeyeon didn’t hear the rest of the quarrel. A fainting spell had taken over her and she was losing her ability to flap her wings. She was losing . . .
“Taeyeon! Taeyeon!” Tiffany lost interest in arguing with Jenny the moment Taeyeon faltered and sank to the ground. “Go away, Jenny!”
“My friend!” Tiffany shouted as she ran to her fallen faerie friend. “Taeyeon, Taeyeon!”
“Who are you talking to?”
“My secret friend!”
“I’ll tell Mrs. Park you have a secret friend!”
“Go away!” Tiffany shouted at Jenny one last time before turning back to Taeyeon. She cupped her hands and scooped Taeyeon up onto her lap.
“I’m going to tell Mrs. Park now!”
Tiffany ignored Jenny. “Taeyeon, Taeyeon . . .” She tried to shake the faerie gently to see if she would wake up but Taeyeon remained out cold in her hands. Tears brimmed rapidly as a sense of helplessness overwhelmed Tiffany. How was she going to get help for Taeyeon when nobody else could see the faerie?
“Oh sprinkles,” went a tiny, high-pitched and somewhat sleepy voice by Tiffany’s ears. “Taeyeon?”
Tiffany turned but saw nothing beside or behind her. “Who is it?”
“You can’t see me. I am a faerie like Taeyeon. My name is Jessica.”
“Oh, oh. Can you help me? Taeyeon fainted.”
“That’s because she left her house for too long. House faeries can’t stay out for too long or they’ll lose their energy.”
“But school’s not over. I have to wait for Mommy to fetch me, I can’t go home yet,” said Tiffany, another wave of helplessness hitting her shore of despair. “Will Taeyeon die?” she whispered as tears streaked down her cheeks.
“Tsaodein would help but there’s none at this time of the day,” said the voice by Tiffany’s ear.
“No . . .” Tiffany cried. “Don’t die. Please don’t die.” Turning to the voice, she sobbed, “Taeyeon came to save me . . . please don’t let her die . . .”
“Ti . . .”
“Ti . . .”
“She’s not dead!” Tiffany shrieked. “She’s not dead!”
“Taeyeon needs to go home soon,” said the voice of the faerie Tiffany couldn’t see. “But don’t worry. I’ll bring her home.”
“O-Okay . . .” Tiffany stroked Taeyeon’s cheek gently with the tip of her finger. “You have to go home, Taeyeon. Wake up.”
An extra cool gust of wind swept Tiffany’s hair into her eyes and a speck of white floated down, coming to a rest on Taeyeon’s cheek. Tiffany wiped it with her finger and gasped.
“—no?” Taeyeon said in a faint voice as her eyes fluttered open.
Tiffany nodded with joy as she blinked her tears away. “First snow! It’s the first snow! Daddy says it’s lucky to see the first snow.” Another tear fell on Taeyeon’s cheek and she wiped it gentle with her finger. “Lucky first snow. So you won’t die.”
Taeyeon’s eyes reflected the glistening twinkle in Tiffany’s eyes as she smiled and sat up in Tiffany’s hands. “Your tears saved me so I won’t die. Thank you for saving me, Tiffany.”
“You came out to help me fight Jenny. You saved me.”
Taeyeon smiled. “Jenny won’t bully you again.”
Tiffany hugged Taeyeon gently as more snow flakes fell around them. “You’re the best home faerie ever!”
A shrill laugh tinkled beside Tiffany’s ear and the invisible faerie sang as shimmering silver sprinkles surrounded them, “Tis the season to be giving, helping all our friends, en-en-en-ends . . . ‘tis the season to be jolly, ‘cos we have our friends, en-en-en-ends . . .”