It was Christmas Eve, and the snow was falling hard. Lizzie used to like the snow when she’d had a warm home to go to. But since then, she, for the most part, hadn’t been fond of it. She was glad of it that night, though.
When the sun went down, she found her way to a specific gazebo. There, a handful of other children had collected.
There was Toby, the oldest after her at 10. His little sister, Lisa, who was just six, was leaning against him, coughing.
Alex was there too, her arms crossed over her chest. She had a raggedy scarf wrapped around her face.
“Did you find any food?” Toby asked, by way of a greeting. “I only got a loaf of bread, and I think it’s got mold.”
“I couldn’t find anything,” Alex said, looking sulky.
“I did,” Lizzie said, reaching into her bag. “I got this, too.”
She pulled out a bottle of cough syrup and tossed it to him. “This should help Lisa,” she said.
Toby and Lisa looked at the bottle. “I hate cherry,” Lisa muttered.
“Shut up, Stupid,” Toby said. “It ain’t supposed to taste good, it’s supposed to make you feel better.”
Lizzie took out a box of gingerbread cookies. “I got these, too,” she said, “for Christmas. And, I’m going to tell you a story.”
Alex and Toby had brightened at the cookies. Together, the three of them sorted out the bread, picking off the moldy bits. The three of them got Lisa to eat some, and take some cold medicine.
Finally, with cookies in hand, the four of them cuddled together for warmth. “You said you had a story?” Alex asked.
“Yeah,” Lizzie said, putting her arm around Lisa. “It’s about a group of lost fairies.”
“Fairies are for girls,” Toby said, “I don’t want to hear a story about fairies.”
“Hush, there’s other stuff, too,” Lizzie said. “Anyway, these four fairies got caught out of their circle when it vanished. So, they had to disguise themselves as human kids.
“The problem was, so long as they were in their disguise, they couldn’t use their magic. And since there was only four of them, and they needed at least six to make a fairy circle, they were stuck in the human world.”
“Sucks for them,” Toby said.
“Shut up,” Lisa said. “What did they do?”
“They couldn’t do anything,” Lizzie said. “But the fairy queen knew that they were lost. And so, she sent a knight to find them. The knight was worried, though, that he wouldn’t know the fairies. He was also worried that the fairies wouldn’t know that they could trust him. But the queen said she would give him a gift so that the fairies would recognize him.”
“What did she give him?” Alex asked.
“A red poinsettia flower, to wear in his coat,” Lizzie said.
“What’s that?” Lisa asked.
“It’s those red flowers everyone’s got around now,” Lizzie said.
“But how was he supposed to tell who the fairies were?” Toby asked.
“The queen took care of that, too,” Lizzie said. “She gave him a charm, that let him see their footsteps. They would always leave silver footsteps so long as he had the charm.”
“Did he find them?” Alex asked. But before Lizzie could answer, a flashlight shone over the gazebo.
All the kids went quiet. The light bounced back and forth over the area, accompanied by the sound of footsteps crunching in the snow.
Alex bolted before they could even see who it was. Lizzie and Toby watched her run, only to see what they’d feared worst catching up to her.
A police officer.
Toby looked at Lisa. Lizzie knew that she was too sick to run. He wouldn’t leave her, she knew.
Lizzie took his hand and waited.
A moment later, a second officer shone his light into the gazebo. “What are you kids doing out here?” he asked.
“Sorry,” Toby said, standing up. “We’ll go home now.”
“No, nu-uh,” the officer said and pointed at Lizzie. “I recognize you. You’re the one who stole stuff from the Walgreens. I’m taking you all down to the station.”
“But our folks-,” Toby said, but was interrupted by Lisa giving a huge, wracking cough.
The officer’s face softened. He put a hand on Lisa’s head. “You’re burning up. Come on, let’s get you kids inside.”
He picked Lisa up before either she or Toby could stop him, and headed for his cruiser. Lizzie and Toby followed. Alex was already in the back seat, looking furious.
“Lizzie, Lizzie,” Toby said, pointing at the officer. “Look what he’s got.”
The police officer had a red poinsettia tucked into his coat pocket, right over his name. Lizzie put an arm around him, glad that the officer had followed the silver footprints she’d left in the snow.
Copyright © 2017 by Nicole C. Luttrell
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.
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