So Cold In Faerieland
Stephanie sniffed slightly and shuffled her feet across the floor. She wasn’t sure why she was here. She could be home studying, or even studying here, but she had left home and had left her books there as well.
The yellow Usul lifted her head and wiped a tear from under her eyes. Her hand lingered by her face and fell softly down her cheek, resting lightly against her neck, a spectre’s touch. She shivered. He was only a spectre to her now. He’d disappeared with no last goodbye. He had said goodbye, but he had never given her the chance.
Stephanie sniffed more loudly this time and forced her feet to walk forwards. She saw the wooden desk loom ahead of her and saw the purple-winged Faerie paging through a large tome. She could count the strands of her burgundy hair by the time she had stopped walking.
“E-excuse me, ma’am.”
The Faerie looked up with a tight, stern smile. “Yes?”
“I’m looking for books about love and forgiveness.”
“Third floor,” the librarian said. “Aisle eight.”
Stephanie turned away as the Faerie plunged back to her book, and the Usul looked once more at the floor as she wound her way to the stairs. The golden tiles swept underfoot, and as she gripped the railing, the steps did the same.
She found aisle eight.
* * *
I should hope that you’re happy. I stood at the kitchen sink all night long cleaning the mess that you made. I should hope that you realize this when you wake. It breaks me inside when you walk past the dishes drying in the morning and ignore them. You could at least thank me. I lost sleep to wash them so that you could rest instead.
I hope the floors feel soft underfoot. I swept them, too. I know how you like them clean. The room’s brighter that way, and I know you like the light. My back aches from carrying the broom, but I don’t mind. I just wish you’d say thank you once in a while.
I still love you. I like to think you think the same of me.
* * *
Stephanie shut the book and shoved it back on the shelf. The love inside her was not such as this. It was deeper, or else of a different kind of depth.
She grabbed the next book and let it fall open in her hands.
* * *
He bent down and felt the grass beneath his paw. He fell to his knees and rested his forehead on the ground.
I’m sorry, he whispered. I didn’t mean to hurt you. I was angry. I felt hurt. I felt forgotten.
Tears ran down his face now and he coughed.
You got so worked up in your own life, in your work, in your school, in your feelings and friends, it felt like I had lost you from my life. Everything I needed, you ignored. It felt like you didn’t love me anymore.
He shook his head and buried his face in his hands.
I acted out and I’m sorry. I never should have shoved the china to the floor. I never should have smashed your favorite doll. I was wrong, and I’m ashamed of that now.
I just pray you forgive me.
* * *
Stephanie wiped the tears from her eyes and returned this book as well. She did not seek forgiveness from her friend; she sought to forgive him instead. But how could she forgive him, he who had hurt her so much?
* * *
You said you never wanted to see me again, so I left. I didn’t realize you were dizzy on grog. I hadn’t realized you’d been too thirsty to feel sated with seawater.
Our voyages are long and trying. The open seas are cruel and vindictive. The water rocks the boat and nothing seems steady, on the outside looking in or on the inside looking out. Only outside looking outwards or inside looking in can you ever see any semblance of balance. But closing our eyes halfway only blinds us.
Only blinds you, I mean. I told you it was best we not to go sailing. I told you the water would be too cold after the storm. I can’t count the weight of gold we lost fishing for fish that had all swum away. I know you were eager to leave, but I should’ve said no. I, at least, had known better.
I came back. You’re still dizzy, but I’m still here. I hope you understand, even if I’m still angry, I forgive you nonetheless.
* * *
“Excuse me, ma’am?”
The Faerie looked up at her again, but this time her smile was shorter than before. “Yes?”
“I’m looking for books about heartache and hope.”
“Floor four, aisle ten.” The Faerie returned to her book, deaf to the world.
“Thank you,” she whispered and walked away. Stephanie climbed the stairs once more, wound her way through the aisles to the one marked ten, then dove in and swept her eyes across the titles till one grabbed her interest, and then she grabbed it.
* * *
He longed for a friend and reached out to anyone who passed him by. Year by year, he met knew people, befriended each and every one of them. But they grew up and grew distant, and he stayed the same.
No one saw the pain inside him. Why burden others when the weight was his to carry? He hated yesterday for the memories it carried. But he looked toward tomorrow, hoping always that even one name would carry on to the next day.
* * *
Stephanie slipped to the floor and doubled over. No answers lay here. So much knowledge, so many stories, and she could confide in none of them. None of them understood how she felt, none of them cared for her.
She strode from the library and followed the cloud-cobble roads to the gates of Faerie City. The path beyond was more rigid and less paved, but the cloud-rock remained firm underneath her.
She saw a bench nearby and frowned. The blue Mynci still sat there, accepting spare coins from anyone who passed him by, and she wondered where her friend lay now, if he lay at all anymore. He had been in Neopia Central, and then he was gone and she hadn’t heard from him since.
Stephanie sighed and kept walking. She turned to her right when the road branched outwards and she soon saw a sign for the Healing Springs. Pets drank from the smaller puddles scattered across the cloud shelf, but she walked past them and toward a group of pets gathered at the center lake.
A Water Faerie sat at the center atop a raised mound and motioned for the pets to enter one by one. She waved her hands through the air and a soft blue glow arced through the water and into the pet. Then they would emerge, thank her kindly, and depart. Then it would all begin again.
“Welcome,” said the Faerie when Stephanie moved to the front. “What ails you, my dear?”
Said Stephanie, “A broken heart.”
The Faerie frowned, but nodded for Stephanie to enter.
And she did. The spring water was warm around her, but she still felt cold inside even as it came up to her waist, and her neck, and then over her head entirely. She held her breath and shut her eyes and lingered in the stillness. She felt a wave of static run through her and the weariness in her limbs melt away. Her mind stilled and her sore feet softened. But when she emerged from the water, her heavy heart lingered.
“I wish only I could have done more,” said the Water Faerie. “I shall keep you in my prayers, young one.”
“Thank you,” Stephanie said and walked away.
She found herself at the Wheel of Excitement. The Light Faerie there spun around and beseeched the crowds for players. Stephanie dug into her pocket for spare Neopoints and then stepped up to the Faerie, who quickly took her fare.
“Spin the wheel, see what fortunes lie for you!”
Stephanie pulled one of the spokes down as powerfully as she could and the wheel began clicking and spinning, around and around until it finally slowed to a halt. The silence beckoned her to look upwards, and she saw the arrow pointing towards a question mark.
“The mystery prize,” the Faerie said and held out her hand. Light melted together into a small bag of Neopoints and she handed it to the Usul. Stephanie took the bag, but didn’t bother to count her winnings and just walked away.
She found another bench nearby and sank into it. After a while of wishing she’d just disappear, or else she’d finally forget him, she turned to the side as another pet joined her.
“You look lonely,” said the red Wocky. “But you’ve got a pretty face. Smile more.”
Stephanie blushed, and the Wocky took her face in her hands, her warm touch cradling her.
“Things will get better,” she said. “Time has many secrets to tell, just wait. They’ll come.”
The Wocky let go of her and smiled. “Have you written him, told him what you’re feeling?”
Stephanie looked away. That’s how it’d all begun, wasn’t it, a letter? They’d been pen pals, best friends, and then he’d moved away and stopped writing. “I... I don’t know where he is anymore.”
“Why let that stop you? Throw your words to the wind. He’ll get them.”
Stephanie turned back to say thank you, but the Wocky was already walking away to join a pink Aisha and a blue Usul across the street. None of them looked back at her, and all three were soon lost in the crowd.
Stephanie rose and forced a weak smile as she walked deeper down the path to the end of the clouds. The sky opened before her, bright azure over the unmoving and dark ocean far below.
The wind blew, and she shivered. Did it have to be so cold in Faerieland? Did it have to be so cold in Faerieland, for her?
She closed her eyes and felt a tear trickle down her cheek.
“I hope you’re happy,” she said to the wind. “I’m suffering an awful lot for you not to be.”