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Addy's Fault

By Genevieve Ann Atwater Maxwell

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It wasn’t Addy’s fault.

She kicked the rocks as she sulked down the dirt-paved road, her hands in her skirt pockets. She was an odd sight, a girl of fewer than twelve years, dressed like a doll in frills and pink, her short, black hair sticking out at all angles, stomping down that path, lush, green fields on either side of her stretching on as far as the eye could see. The only other creatures in sight were the cows, all brown and black, who were munching on the grass without paying the little girl in their midst even the slightest bit of attention. Too small to see, chiggers hopped through the grasses and attacked Addy’s legs whenever she stepped near the road’s edge, and she found herself scratching the bites with growing irritation.

It wasn’t her fault, none of it was. It never was, but she was always the one they sent on their stupid errands. Addy had hardly been home a whole season since the last time her “parents” had decided they needed something from the mortal realm, and Addy had been sent off then too, as if she were there for the sole purpose of playing fetch for them.

“It’s not fair,” the child grumbled, but she didn’t stop walking. She never complained to them, and she never refused to go, when they sent her. She didn’t want them to let her stay because she was annoying to get rid of: she wanted to stay because they wanted her there. And if they didn’t want her, she would go. That was the hard part though: going. The child chewed her lip as she thought about it, pausing to scratch at her legs again. She had been to the mortal realm many times in her life, but she did not know it well like she did her “parents’” world. She had lived longer than she looked, because time was different there, but she was still a child, and she knew it. And she knew that the mortal world didn’t let children wander around forever, on their own. Someone would have to take her, and raise her, and feed her, and they would never understand her or like her, because she had been raised by sprites first, and she couldn’t be like ordinary mortal children.

That wasn’t Addy’s fault, either. She had been taken from her mortal parents- her real parents- when she was too young to speak or walk: she hadn’t asked the sprites to do it. But that was their way: if they liked something, they usually took it. And if there was a price to pay, they’d hide from it, and pretend it wasn’t there, until the price was forgotten. All very well for them, but the things they stole weren’t always so pleased with arrangements. And it didn’t always work, which was why Addy had become so endlessly useful to them.

She was off to see someone for her “parents”, this time. A mortal, one they had angered somehow, long ago. She didn’t know the details- the sprites had forgotten them, and could’t tell her- but she knew that this mortal was causing a great many problems for the whole of the fayre world, and the elves and nymphs had been complaining, and even the pixies, who usually got along splendidly with Addy’s “parents” were angry, and had tried to set Addy’s “Father” on fire, and had trapped her “mother” in a thorny rosebush for a week, to get back at them for all the trouble. And so, as if whatever it was wasn’t entirely the fault of the sprites themselves, they had told Addy to be a dear and go ask the mortal woman what she wanted to stop tormenting them, and then to get it from her. A boring, potentially dangerous task, neither of which facts seemed to bother Addy’s “parents”. Or the fact that she had been playing with her sprite “sisters”, and would fall out of all the games while she was gone. Sprite games were complicated, and ever changing. It would take weeks to rejoin a game after she had left it.

“Why does she have to live here?” Addy wondered angrilly, out loud even though no one cared to hear here. Not even the cows. “In this stupid place, with its stupid itches… and the stupid sun…” It was hot out, and sweat dripped down the girl’s neck. Her feet pattered against the dirt path, sending tiny dust clouds up around her and turning the bottom of her dress into a muted, sludgy pink color instead of its clean brightness from before. Filthy, stupid… she should just leave, ignore the mortal she’d come to find, and go look for other humans who would take care of her here. Her “parents” would probably forget her soon enough, and she could be a proper mortal girl like she was supposed to be. But instead she kept walking, wondering grumpilly if the mortal had decided to live out here just to spite the human child sent to contact her.

Just as Addy decided at last that this was ridiculous and her “parents” must have dropped her off in the wrong spot, the sun actually starting to set even though it had been high in the sky when she’d started walking, she caught sight of a little house overtop the hills. It was red, with a dark roof, and had large windows and a white fence around its porch. There was a pond- really just a big puddle, about as far across as the little house was, and covered with pale green water plants- and a little garden that appeared to be rather wilted. Wild flowers grew up in a lawn that hadn’t been mowed recently enough, giving the house a wild, unkempt look, but the only thing that really set the house apart as the home of someone who might interfere with the feyre was the clear, white smoke that pillared from its chimney, as if their fires were making clouds instead of ash. Addy stood still, gazing up at the place. It was nice. She felt a certain longing for it- a mortal home that looked a bit more like a feyre one- but of course, the mortal who lived there was sure to hate Addy. She hated Addy’s sprite family after all. So the child sighed and tried to let go of the longing, then trumped up the hill towards her destination.

She waded through the grasses in the lawn, noting that it was far softer than the grass on the sides of the road, and clambered onto the porch. Several cats of various colors peered up at her with bored expressions, and one of them let out a whiny meow before rolling onto his belly and gazing up at her with wide eyes.

“I’m not here to play with you,” Addy scolded. “I came to ask your human what she wants.”

The cat gave her a reproachful look, and another one started pawing at Addy’s leg, his claws catching on her stockings. The child pressed her lips together and knelt down on the porch, rubbing the first cat’s soft belly while the other one pounced into her lap and began to aggressively rub its face into her armpit.

“Hey!” Addy giggled in protest. “That tickles, Kitty! Stop it, stop it!”

The door flung open and the cats jerked around to give their full attention to the little boy who was dashing outside, two other children right behind. Addy stood up quickly, embarrassed to be caught playing with their pets, but the children didn’t even look at her as they ran into the yard, laughing together, and began to chase each other around with loud, happy cries. Addy stared at them, feeling very strange as she watched their game. It was clearly a game: a simple one, that her “sisters” would never have played, that they could just start and all enjoy. A very mortal game. Addy let out another sigh, wistful, and half hoped they would invite her to come and chase with them. But they didn’t, and she turned away to knock at the door.

A cry of “Come on!” was hollered from inside, and then a muffed, “You don’t even know who it is, Hannah!” A moment later, the door opened, and a young man looked out, peering from side to side.

“Excuse me, I came to talk to someone my ‘parents’ have bothered,” Addy said. “Is she here?”

The man continued to look from side to side for a moment. “Hey, guys!” He shouted. “Did someone come up here and knock?”

“I’m right here,” Addy scowled.

“No, no one,” one of the children called back, to Addy’s surprise. Were they just ignoring her? Sprites did that, sometimes, and it was a great insult. Her cheeks burned with indignation.

“Funny,” the man muttered. Then he went inside and shut the door.

Scowling, Addy pulled the door open herself, and stepped inside. It led into a room with a table, where two women sat with some kind of craft in their hands. One of them looked up and raised an eyebrow at the door Addy had left open.

“Ed, you didn’t close the door properly,” she scolded the young man, who shrugged and pushed the door closed again.

“Well, I’m going to go write,” he said, strolling past the table and to an open doorway on the left side. “Have fun with your sewing, Mom. Hannah.” He offered a mock bow, and the women nodded.

“Enjoy,” the older one said.

“Don’t forget about dinner,” the younger one warned with an eager grin as the man left the room, and the older woman glanced at her with a questioning look. “Oh, did I not tell you?” The younger asked in a surprised tone. “Ed said he’d drive out to eat with me, if I could pay for myself. That’s okay, right?”

“Sure,” the older woman agreed. “That’s awfully nice of him.”

“He’s the best big brother,” the younger cheered.

Addy cleared her throat, shifting her weight from foot to foot. It was much cooler in here, despite the fire that roared happily in a fireplace at the end of the room, and should have been more comfortable. But Addy couldn’t help feeling small and out of place as she listened to this easy conversation. “I’m looking for an enemy of the feyre,” she announced.

“You’re all the best,” the older woman said, patting the younger woman’s hand. “I couldn’t have better children.”

“I’m talking to you!” Addy called, waving a hand.

“Aww, thanks mom,” the younger woman giggled. “I guess we are though…” she suddenly grew quiet, and glanced around as if to make certain no one was listening. “How’s Addy doing?”

Addy started, shocked to hear her own name. Her hand fell to her side and she turned to look at the older woman, waiting for a reply.

The woman pursed her lips together and lowered her voice. “I don’t know, Hannah. I don’t know what to do with her these last few… well, ever, I suppose. She was such a happy baby.”

“Yeah…” Hannah glanced towards the doorway, where her brother had disappeared. “I remember. Mom, do you think she’s getting worse?”

“I don't know. It could just be a difficult time for her, right now.”

“But she seems… I mean, yesterday, with the rosebush. It took literally an hour to get all the thorns out of her hands and feet, Mom.” Hannah sat back in her chair. “And she had matches a few weeks ago. I’m not scared or anything, exactly, but I’m worried about her.”

“I am too,” her mother sighed. “But I don't know what to do about it. We could just babyproof everything, but she can climb onto the counters and shelves; I don’t know anywhere to hide things from her, where she can’t get to them.”

“... maybe someone just needs to be with her,” Hannah suggested, glancing at the doorway again. “Like, all the time.”

“I’ll talk to your dad about it. You might be right.”

Addy slowly stepped around them, still listening intently. It must be someone else, someone in their family who shared her name. But she wanted to see who it was. All their glances gave her direction, and she slipped through the doorway, peering into another room, this was filled with couches and a tv. On the floor, a girl was laying on her belly, a crayon in one hand and a paper held in the other. She was drawing with a fierce expression of her face, and there were bandaids all over her hands and legs. Her hair was black, sticking out in all angles, and her features thin and long. She couldn’t be older than twelve-- she looked like she was probably younger, in fact, and she was dressed in pink, like a little doll.

Addy stood still, staring down at herself. The other Addy finished her picture, and a tear fell from her chin-- that was when Addy realized the girl was silently crying-- onto her art. The picture showed a rather awkwardly drawn sprite girl, with spiky hair, surrounded by other sprites. Addy could identify her “father”, “mother” and one of her sprite “sisters”, before the other Addy let out a choked sob and tore the paper up, threw the crayon, and screamed.

“Addy!” Hannah dashed in from the other room. “Addy, what’s wrong?” But the other Addy just curled up, still screaming with all her might, and pressed her face against the floor. Hannah stood still for a long moment, her look between concern and irritation, and finally she strolled forwards and picked the child up. Other Addy thrashed in her arms, but Hannah haule her to a couch and sat down. “She’s fine, just a second!” she called to her mother, and wrapped her arms around the little girl, holding her in place with a firm hug Other Addy couldn’t escape from. “You’re okay,” she said reassuringly. “It’s okay. You’re gonna be fine.”

Other Addy let out an especially shrill shriek, and Hannah cringed. Her brother appeared from a back door and peered out at her.

“You okay?” he asked.

“Yeah, I got her. I think she messed up on her picture again or something,” Hannah sighed. Ed nodded and disappeared again, and Hannah put her chin on Other Addy’s shoulder, murmuring reassurances.

Addy sat down and watched, her whole body feeling numb. She watched as the other Addy finally calmed down and Hannah let her go, promising to bring her a treat from town, and left with their brother to go out to eat. She watched as Hannah’s mother called everyone in to eat, and they all feasted eagerly on mashed some kind of casserole, except the other Addy, who stabbed the table with her fork, glowered at her food, and cried into her plate when the mother forced a bite down her throat.

Addy slincked to their rooms with them, once their teeth were more or less brushed, and the mother had read some story books to the younger children. She watched them climb into bed, and a man called Dad come in and kiss them goodnight. No one reacted to her, but she didn’t think they were ignoring her anymore. Because they couldn’t see her at all. Because she wasn’t a human.

It’s the way of sprites, when they saw something they liked, they usually took it. But Addy had never thought before that her “parents” were far too little to carry off a whole human baby, and too delicate to feed one and care for it. And the Other Addy, who was now in bed, kicking off her blankets and crying for her daddy to come back, and disturbing the other little kids’ sleep, was not a whole human either. She was a human body, missing the rest of her. The part of herself that a sprite could easily touch and carry. No wonder she was angry, and tormenting the feyre people. They’d stolen her.

But Addy didn’t want to go back into the little girl on the bed. That was what her sprite “parents” had sent her to do: appease the angry mortal. But then she couldn’t go back home. She might not even remember it. There would be only one Addy, and she would live in the mortal realm, and even though that was exactly what Addy had always thought she wanted, ever since she realized her “parents” sent her there to run errands, and never her “sisters”, now she didn’t want it anymore. She wanted to go home. She didn’t want her “Mother” and “father” to forget her; her “sisters” to play their games without her forever, and never even miss her because she was just a mortal who had a mortal family and didn’t need them anymore. Addy needed them. She needed them to love her, and want her, and take care of her, but they wouldn’t, not ever again, because she was just a thing they liked, so they took it.

And Addy sat on the floor of the little bedroom and cried.

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About Genevieve Ann Atwater Maxwell

Genevieve is an aspiring author who has been dabbling in the arts of storytelling and writing for almost as long as she remembers. She writes mostly in the fantasy genre, and has received an Honorable Mention in the 'Writer's of the Future' contest for her short story 'A Faerie's Will'.

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