And so, on the Easter afternoon about a year after I’d begun seeing fairies, I couldn’t hold in my knowing any longer. As my uncle and I walked along, I saw a group of brownies harvesting buttercups. Even though my uncle had said fairies didn’t exist—maybe he would be able to see the brownies. He was, after all, the nicest of my mother’s relatives. So maybe if he saw the fairies and believed that I saw them, he would tell my parents.
And, my young mind reasoned, if he believed me about the fairies, maybe he’d finally believe me about the other stuff—the nasty stuff that went on between my parents. It’s funny, but even though I was sure—and as an adult, am still sure—that fairies are real, getting my uncle to believe me was more about being a stepping stone to lifting the fetid blanket of denial about the everyday violence my parents created.
“Look, uncle!” I cried, pointing to the brownies working in a patch of buttercups. “You can see those brownies, can’t you? They’re carrying away the buttercups! I wonder what they’ll do with them?”
My uncle looked where I was pointing. He curled his hands against his hips, tilted his head one way, then the other, and sighed.
“Krissy,” he said, squatting so he could look me in the eye, “the wind is blowing through the flowers, but there are no brownies there. You have to stop talking about this. Your parents are very worried about you.”
A dark flash of betrayal flooded me, overwhelming my young psyche.
“No they’re not!” I exploded.
All the pent-up fear and pain flooded out of me. I turned away from him, not trusting him enough to let him see the tears that flooded my face.
“They hate me!”
“Now, now, that isn’t true,” my uncle said in a wheedling voice.
I saw through his insincerity. I wasn’t very old, but I’d had adults use that fake placating tone on me hundreds of times.
“It is too true!” I snapped. “Do you want to know what they do? They yell and hit each other, and hit me too! They don’t feed me. I know you know that because when Nana gave me the whole bag of jelly beans, her face looked really sad. She knows but she won’t do anything about it.”
I turned to face him, no longer caring if he saw how much pain I was in.
“You don’t care either, do you?”
We stood there for a few seconds, looking into each other’s faces. I looked for any sign of understanding, or of courage strong enough to break the code of silence my family lived by. He saw my raw pain and a magnitude of anger well beyond what I should have been able to fathom or express at my age.
“I do care,” he said, in the same placating tone. “And you need to know something. Something very important.”
As my ears prickled with hope, the hair on the nape of my neck rose, as if one of the fairies had crawled onto my shirt collar and was whispering, Watch out!
So I dampened my hope, for what felt like the millionth time, and waited for my uncle to speak.
“You need to appreciate your parents and stop lying about them,” he said. “You know that little girls who lie go to Hell after they die.”
I stared at him, then shook my head. He thought I was agreeing with him and took my hand, leading me back toward the rolling hills dotted with chrysanthemum flowers in my grandmother’s back yard. I managed to stay silent, but you probably know that I shook my head because my uncle had shown me an important truth about grownups in general and about my family.
Denial ruled. Anything they could do to not see what was going on was all right by them. And so, I learned to live my life in silence, taking in the messages from the natural world, but having no where to express them.
I continued to see fairies. Sometimes I’d talk to them, since no on else seemed to understand me. It made sense that the universe would send someone who did. Just because no one else could see the fae folk didn’t mean they weren’t there. One day, I saw a little garden with a black and white dog who liked to say hello, and yes, I could hear the hello in his body language—even in how he shaped his mouth—though I knew better than to say so out loud. It seemed logical that I should name him, or at least give him a nickname, since the woman who owned him probably had given him a name.
“Hello, Carrot Nose,” I called.
Yes, my mother heard me. And, of course, the woman who owned the dog chose that moment to come into her tiny yard. And yes, the woman thought I was calling her Carrot Nose. And she was extremely offended because, as my mother said later, after nearly yanking my hair out by the roots to get me away from the woman’s yard, the woman had a big nose.
“I didn’t see her nose,” I said. “I don’t care much for people.”
It felt big and grand, at eight years old, to reveal such an intimate truth. But my sense of accomplishment only lasted the few seconds between the ending of my words and the resounding slap of my mother’s hand against my cheek.
“And that’s why no one cares about you!” she snapped as I rubbed the sore spot.
Really, it was the other way around. People had never shown me understanding or tried to support me. Yet if I didn’t somehow love them so much that I was willing to deny what I saw with my own eyes, it was my fault.
And so I grew up feeling as if I was living inside a cocoon. As long as I didn’t breathe too hard or stretch too far or shout too loudly, I got by. I knew that if I just outlasted the years I was forced to spend with my parents, that I would be all right.
How did I know? The fairies, my silent, secret friends, told me.