“You were found, a pink pearl under jade leaf. Bluebell eyes and I knew your destiny.” My mother was always good with destiny, destiny and gardens. She loved paths. She made an art of them. I was almost as tall as our red roses when I understood the masterpiece of our garden.
Under a leaf became the way she could find me. Our private joke. The way she would coddle my fears of being fairy or worse not. I never grew tall and I had a love for the shaded spots in the garden. I slept under blankets of woven Jasmine and honeysuckle in the nights shortened by lazy suns, only the bite of Fall would send me and mine indoors.
Mine being my shadows, my pack found near the pond and the gate. My mother had told me of infant ravens fed by her finger tips, the last of the dragons healing at her hearth, and of Griffons who taught her the art of riddles. That had been long ago.
My fox and hound were no less magic to me. I never slept or stepped without their company. The pack my mother called us. Fur and hair flying in Spring and Summer.
Our warm company came in all manners of fairies, sprites, and town’s women. Those without wing or old magic came in the evenings. Young and old they would sit and unburden over carefully selected teas. I loved their stories, watching their mouths and foreheads loosen with their tales. Someone’s fingers always in my hair, weaving their words or cares.
Then there were the nights when the air turned chill and the apples became sweet and red. When the first moon lit the stars around full and proud. That is the night of the bonfire. The night my mother’s sisters come to stay. I wait all year, skin prickling for the first signs of the cold, eyes to the sky searching for the round, tongue set to drive the tang from the crunch.
On the night of three when the fires would reach the sky; fox, hound, and I would run to the cottage. Heat, cackling, and open arms would meet us at the hearth. The towns women would hold their own council until Spring came again. This was the time of family. The time of sisters.
The fox and hound while creatures of this time and place held to pack rules in the house, harm none of our own. The sisters did not travel lightly and their friends would remain unmolested by my own. There was a rabbit named Benny who gave chase in the day and would curl deep in my lap if I would read to him aloud. There were always cousins changing age and shape followed by two harried geese.
The daylight was for gossip and work. I liked the evenings best when the sisters who could would show off. “When can I preform?”
“When your talents outweigh your use as audience.” My mother’s answers were always short in the Fall and Winter.
“What talents will I have? When will I get them?”
“Those have their own time and way of appearing Poppet.” Words here in the cold and dark were clever, quick, entertaining but rarely comforting. Only my pack brought belonging as I watched and waited for talents to appear.
The cousins who began to show were folded in. Even the subtlest grasps, wisps of magic were applauded. They would be risen from watcher, cousin to sister. A toy that would take a step with out string or gear. A mouse caught by a cat twitch to life in an unnecessarily cruel and to be honest messy trick.
My secrets were many. I hid them well, as well as I could hide myself. They started out as small things. Sneaking things. The first tea I made had steam rise into a a story of the dragon conquered knight but only fox, hound, and I were there to delight. I did not want the sisters to judge it to be big or a small thing. I wanted my gift to be mine. Mine and the packs. Other secrets grew large as brambles but those would have to wait. Like the mermaid in the pond at the center of the garden or the last of the wyverns everyone thought everyone else had forgotten about in the guest cottage.